Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Europe in the 21st Century - in memory of Vimy Ridge by Hatto Fischer


How well Europe is performing after the fall of the wall, an answer to that question depends upon what one understands under performance. It is doubtful that it presupposes the smooth running of the motor of a Formula 1 racing car. Nor is it certain if the same term is meant when looking at a performance of the Schaubühne in Berlin in 2009 compared to when the theatre still existed at the Hallesche Ufer and Michael Gruber directed 'Hölderlin Lesen' (reading Hölderling). In any case the question is more comprehensive than what is conceivable as an answer.

Remembering that recent performance at the Schaubühne, it took place upon a fast moving stage and seems in retrospect to be like a musical similar to West Side Story only told in contemporary terms. As such it depicts a city no longer performing well. Rather the city comes much closer to a junk yard where an abandoned youth recollects what has happened to them since they moved to the big city. In one scene a girl phones home to tell daddy just before he hangs up that she has contracted Aids.

Already development in dance theatre indicates something. For instance performances choreographed by Jasmine in London show that dancers have started to mimic the militant approach. It reflects concerns about the war in Iraq but touches as well upon the role of Israel in the Middle East. And then there is terrorism since 911 with bombs going off in crowded streets. Consequently discipline comes marching onto stage, people fall over, bodies collide and vanish. It seems that the extreme commands the language of the bodies now reduced to sweeping the floors.

Indeed many performances demand a lot from the body of the dancers. They become actors who become singers who become spectators. In a string of events everything is spun out to make the therapy work. It is the apparent answer to the missing catharthis. At the same time, it has all the making of a merry go around with musical chairs. However, the ending is no merry go round. This is because gender, identity, profession etc. are all thrown together. Different identities are blended out just as man and woman, woman and woman, man and man can dance together till they all become entangled bodies. That leaves performance to become a bunch of categories thrown around if only to be collected again. Nothing remains standing when the actors and dancers leave the stage. The spell bound audience remains fixed to this uncertainty.

Theatre since 1989 goes well beyond Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'. Even if he intended theatre to be the end game, Adorno observed society realizes the ending only when it is too late, no rescue from own decadence possible. That would make any performance and dance into an act without hope of finding any reliable future.

Revolving doors as entrance to DG Education and Culture building in Brussels

At European level performance takes on quite another meaning. Once through the revolving doors at the entrance of one of the buildings of the European Commission, one may think of the world of Kafka but in reality it is not so bad as it seems. The bureaucrats in Brussels are much more forthcoming than what the usual talk in the media tries to make one believe. There are even some who are literally speaking 'souls of Europe'. They dedicate their lives to Europe like Ana Magraner. But performance at highest level of competence requires to be just, forthcoming and without being provocative direct to the point.

A friendly attitude helps all the time to find a way through this world in Brussels. Only there is one sad aspect to this work in a 'golden cage'. Too many devote all their energies solely to secure their job rather than doing what they supposed to do, namely uphold the high performance capacity of the European institutions. Their insecurities can be explained. It is because a career in this domain can be quite vicious. If one is not careful it can become also vindictive especially if one has made the mistake and overlooked someone. For this artificial world in terms of rank and importance is highly sensitive as to who has influence, is heard and admired.

It is like Daniel Cohn Bendit looked upon by his fellow MEPs in the Green Party with great admiration. The reason of admiration is more telling than anything. For this legendary figure of the student movement is capable of finishing off his opponent with one, two sentences while able to look innocently around as if he is just a boy having fun in politics. Always on the look out for new coalition partners, he can successfully polarize the other side with his provocative comments while ignoring his fellow politicians. In short, he knows how to survive well within European institutions while taking advantage of his double cultural background as it gives him another angle on things. He is a citizen in both France and Germany and can decide where he runs for the European Parliament.

Naturally there is much to be criticized how the European Union is being run and shaped by the Council, Commission, Parliament, Committee of Regions and countless other institutions, including the lobbyists. Some like Bertelsmann keep in Brussels an entire foundation running to ensure the EU performs in a way that takes care of their interests. Right now that means dealing with copy right issues and the like, issues in other words linked to the new digital age and therefore to the Information Society.

While it is always possible to agree with the Euro-Sceptics in some crucial points, it is much more important to realize that Europe needs in a much more active and vigorous cultural and economic policy. While admittedly the EU has little competence for culture, the recent crisis has revealed a need to reformulate the competences of all EU institutions, including those of the Council and of the Commission. Quite another governance is needed if Europe is not to run aground due to huge state deficits linked to squandering of resources and overspending on the wrong things.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to fear the superstate. Rather a better governance is needed to ensure economic and cultural policies match all other actions and policy measures to ensure equality and social justice prevails throughout Europe. It is not an easy task and not a matter of having merely competition per say to ensure the function of the single market. Rather advocates of a more coherent economic policy should match that with a much better accountability of EU policy implementation. What is demanded for EU projects, the same should apply to the EU as a whole, namely an improvement in the monitoring and evaluation system. Also a further going European debate is needed in order to distinguish between setting the right framework conditions and giving although illegal direct subsidies. If the EU is not to distribute resources according to failed system of political favoritism then much more transparency must prevail. Civil society recommends as well before demanding more money from the tax payer, the EU should prove itself that the existing amount of money is well spend.

The European superstate has been painted often against the wall while not really recognizing what amazing feat it is that European citizens can cross borders without noticing them. In terms of a dream come true, it links up to the times when Goethe travelled to Italy without any difficulties. Freedom of movement and mobility is after all a prime interest of the European Union. Thus the extreme negative case of the European Union overtaking everything and thereby depriving the member states of their sovereignty, that would only hold if Europe does not stay on a democratic path. For sure as long as there are people who do care and who make a difference, the 'moral impulses' Jürgen Habermas speaks about in his 'Ach Europa' shall have a chance to be heard. Still it will take a lot more involvement of civil society to further the democratic process in Europe. For this to take place is needed a full constitutional treaty understood by all is the basic principles by which Europe seeks to govern itself. So far the sovereignty of Europe remains undefined.

Let it be said, therefore, if EU institutions are to perform well, cultural policy makers must be able to respond if what is taking place needs drawing practical consequences. There are in terms of culture immediate responses needed while a long term viewpoint would be crucial to affect the overall cultural development.

Nowadays an authentic culture is at risk to be replaced by a technically induced communication culture. Michael D. Higgins has been here one of the most critical voices. He reminds constantly as to the failure of EU cultural policy, namely with regards to cultural diversity. He is also of the opinion that the EU has not been able to prevent that everyone is being reduced to a mere consumer. By saying culture is wider in scope than the economy, he iterates his belief that there should be promoted public spaces to allow for the articulation of public truths. Culture is after all about sharing of true stories.

If these cultural truths can be questioned, so the philosopher Bart Verschaffel, that freed possibility would be a true sign of cultural development. It would allow the squaring off of the Right to speak with the Right to remain silent. It would take thereby the older democratic principle, namely to agree to disagree, to the next higher level of democratic discourse and include governing together according to mutually accepted cultural truths.

Advertisement in the London Tube: Dishwasher urgently needed! (Sept. 2009)

Unfortunately the European Union has not been able to off-set this trend to deny public spaces where cultural truths can be questioned. Instead there has come into existence a virtual world filled with over simplified images. These images are propelled by a media not caring about the impact thereof. Since it is linked to the most advanced communication technologies the exploitation thereof has intensified. Once this communication technologies are mastered, anyone can easily outdo the old propaganda techniques.

Despite everything going digital nowadays, there are still notable differences between a printed book and an e-book. If current trends hold true, people will not just succumb to what is merely in fashion and consume whatever is available on the market. Rather they do seek and make their own experiences. That difference is, however, a cultural quality in need to be experienced. It can be to let people gain in self-confidence as has been the case in Cork after having been European Capital of Culture in 2005. Throughout the year the city and its people performed well. As a result the people gained in self confidence so that now they are more ready to take on even greater cultural challenges.

However, this wish to make a difference and to ensure an authentic culture strives on what people can do, all that is off-set unfortunately by political decisions which do not make sense at all but seemingly comply to pressures of certain interest groups. For instance, the European Parliament caved in by allowing placement advertisement in films shown on television e.g. when the actors drink a certain beer whose label can be clearly seen or else they drive a fast car of a definite brand. Pyrrhus Mercouris working closely together with European screen writers could explain further what is entailed in the production of screen plays. He would also draw attention to the Green Paper about the Potential of the Cultural Industries. It is a trend within the European Union to perceive culture merely as an innovative force for the economy and therefore a possible source for new jobs. In the end MEPs serving on the cultural committee of the European Parliament seem not to know what to do. Their inactivities speak a much louder language than what they actually decide to discuss and to do. And this despite an over ambitious Doris Pack its president.

Equally the European Capital of Culture institution, although one of Europe's most successful projects, is threatening to become according to Bob Palmer a part of the cultural industry. If so, it would mean to depend heavily upon such a type of communication that requires Public Relation companies to do the job, otherwise the cities would have not chance to appear as being successful. Even worse is how the participation of the local population is handled. Even though a key criterion in need to be satisfied when making the bid, once the designation has been granted other powers take over and the participation of the civil society sidelined. That means any audience remains at best passive while being served with an event calendar hardly understandable or possible to be followed throughout the entire year since simply too much all at once. In some cases like Linz '08 20% of the budget was spend on communication strategies with doubtful outcome.

On the other hand, this increasing over commercialization of culture has been perceived already a long time ago as a growing threat to cultural identities. At least the European Commission took it into consideration as early as 1996 when the Article 10 ERDF program was formulated. The DG in charge of the structural fund became interested at that time in culture. It wished to know how culture could contribute to the creation of new jobs while helping to avoid over commercialization as this would destroy cultural identities.

That paradox was a crucial departure point for a fruitful implementation of the program since most of the financed projects were newcomers such as the CIED (Cultural Innovation and Economic Development) project with Volos as project leader and the cities Cardiff, Galway, Palermo and Leipzig as partners. While Palermo restored the entire historical centre, Cardiff as well as Leipzig had to confront industrial redudancy and seek through culture new investments to refurbish industrial heritage buildings. The project aimed to give the cultural sector a voice in the decision making process when a city was planning for the future. In Galway a cultural heritage officer became a part of the permanent staff in the city's management. His approval of any business or urban intervention plan was needed before it could be implemented. It was a direction outcome of the population of Galway having become anxious about too many changes occuring in the city. They wished a development path that kept their sense of a continuity of identity in place. Preserving cultural heritage in a sea of change became as important as are a common set of values ensuring that the revamping of the city can be managed.

There is something else which curtails people from making experiences of the new Europe. With the public discourse ever more restricted to national spaces and even European elections taking place merely in perspective of national outcomes, there is no real experience made as to what Europe needs. Furthermore the media landscape is largely dominated by figures like Murdoch and Berlusconi. Jürgen Habermas calls the latter a media mongrol who does not care about the need for public discourse so that citizens can accompany and were needed shape the political decision making processes. Instead his control of the media brings about according to Habermas a 'pathology of communication'. One sign of that is the transformation of news into mere info-tainment sound bites mixed in with a lot of advertisements.

Jürgen Habermas challenges in his book called 'Ach Europa' (the title is taken from a book with the same title by Enzensberger) as well Merkel's assertion that with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty real progress within the European Union has been made. Rather he sees it as a top down treaty and instead of furthering democracy, the treaty fails to bridge the huge gap between EU institutions and citizens. Indeed the democratic legitimacy of the European decision making process shall be one of the greatest challenge for years to come.

The journalist Bernard Conlon in Belfast points out one reason why this system of communication does not work. People simply do not trust these communication structures and therefore the information even if relevant to them does not reach them. That lack of trust means Europe is not performing well enough to be convincing in both the short and the long run.

Some critical questions can be asked in conjunction with questions leading on to some other, even more unusual observations about changes going on. They can explain why certain things are forgotten and Europe not performing as well as it could. The usual political answer to this observation is either time will tell or we shall wait and see what will come. It is a non commital answer and leaves many more questions open. Yet the theatre knows very well how to respond to such a challenge as it reflects itself the treatment of the audience. Of interest is, therefore, what has followed after 1989. Most interesting, so it seems, is that the theatre has the confidence of being capable of take down walls. There has to be added, however, the precautionary note, for everything depends upon the audience if it can and does participate in this change.

Given this thesis some questions can be formulated:

1. Memory work in Europe and in Canada - First and Second World War

Since the topic of this conference is about ‘Europe performing after the fall of the wall’, we have to ask ourselves to what extent the experiences made due to German reunification and Poland gaining sovereignty after 1989 can explain something on how Europeans behave towards each other and the rest of the world? Naturally within the European population the memories are linked to what was experienced during the two world wars while mine are related to having crossed the Atlantic as a twelve year old when my parents immigrated from Germany to Canada in 1957 and returning to Europe in 1969, that is after having completed high school and undergraduate studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

To return, therefore, to Canada and to Toronto means not only that these memories are invoked, but also the chance to reflect upon the experiences made on both sides of the Atlantic. For this opportunity I would like to thank Pia Kleber. These experiences include living in London (1969-70),in Germany, in particular in Munich (1971), Heidelberg (1972-75) and in Berlin West from 1987 until 1988. In between Heidelberg and Berlin I spend a lot of time in Genoa, Italy where I did a study about the economic conditions of the port and then travelled throughout Europe to write about various issues. I landed in Hamburg and Kiel for a while as well. Naturally Berlin meant a follow-up to the wish to get to know post war Germany in view of the question how was Fascism possible.

After having completed my Ph.D. in Berlin at the Free University, I ended up in Athens, Greece where I am staying off and on since 1988. From there my experiences of Europe extended by doing European projects. This cumulated finally in unfortunately a short lived work for the Greens in the European Parliament and this as advisor to the Committee for Culture, Education, Media, Sports and Youth. After that two year stay in Brussels (1999-72) I returned to Athens to continue doing European projects while building up together with Anna Arvanitaki Poiein kai Prattein ("to create and to do"): a NGO of civil society dedicated to improve the lives of people living in cities.

As writer and philosopher I always wanted to come to terms with Europe. Already during studies of economics in Canada the question was examined whether a single market will bring about a favorable scale of economics. Clearly needs of Europe have to be clarified insofar as perceptions thereof are conditional upon the cultures in which we move, live and experience. In this process of learning to adapt to the new Europe it becomes crucial to see how others come to terms with a changing reality.

The clearest justification for the European Union has been what Europe went through in Second World War. That war came about despite horrific experiences made during First World War. And it remains true to date that without understanding the First World War, it is not possible to comprehend the reasons for the Second World War. The combination of the two was a healthy shock, so it seems. Since then Europeans realized that they need to end war games and cooperate with each other. The European Union is testimonay of a way no one could have imagined in 1945 would be conceivable or possible. By all short comings the European Union has, it is still a feat where Europe stands in 2009.

So let us look back at Europe and this out of a Canadian and European perspective brought into dialogue with each other through memory work. In honor of the involvement of Canada in these two wars, we can say Europe falls into two time periods. From 1945 until 1989 Europe had been determined Europe by the iron curtain drawn as sharp border between East and West. After 1989 this border has become open, more fluid, but is still there. The reunification of East and West Germany is still not a self-understood matter. The United Kingdom still follows its desire to remain exceptional even though Thomas Moore said 'no man is an island'! There is the sharp division on Cyprus and the new borders of Southern Europe have been erected to stem the waves of many immigrants. This migrations are connected to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as to other areas of conflict from which people attempt to escape in order to survive. Greece is facing that border issue directly and daily as its many islands lend themselves easily to landing possibilities of the socalled boats people. It makes the challenges within Europe that much more acute as many are willing to declare after 911 and more so after the bombings in Madrid and London and the killing of the film maker Van Gogh in Holland that the multi-cultural model is dead. European integration has become complex and many layered. Michael D. Higgins would refer to the multiple stories in need to be told.

In view of my connection to Canada but also in being for the most part of my life in Europe, I think it is most appropiate to undertake these reflections 'in memory of Vimy Ridge'.

In memory of Vimy Ridge and First World War


The First World War (1914 - 18) is remembered in Ottawa, Canada with war veterans gathering around the war memorial standing close to Parliament hill. They carry red poppies with them for every soldier who has died on those battle fields in far away Europe. Now, whenever I drive in the spring time to Porto Heli and Costas vis a vis the island of Spetses in Greece, I see these poppies on the side of the road. Always they remind me of that yearly ceremony held in Ottawa.

Canada had no other choice in 1914. It depended upon the crown. Once England decided to enter the war, Canadian troops had to tag along. Only after Pierre Eliot Trudeau had brought about a constitutional reform that some degree of formal independence of Canada for her Majesty was attained but still the Governor General has remained as symbolic representative of that link of a former colony to that mother in Europe. Canadian sovereignty is an important achievement realized in the years after I had gone back to Europe in 1969. Still with Canadian troops being now present in Afghanistan and discussed very much precisely these days, it seems that this tradition of sending troops abroad has not ceased in Canada. Rather it is being continued only under different premises and with some other justifications, if there are any possible. Roger Simon wishes very much that this theme, can wars be justified, is discussed. He does so within a gallery space. He calls these discussions 'perceiving war from a distance'. Meant is the viewing of videos which Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan have uploaded onto YouTube to mark the presence of this new communication culture and then letting the fact of being in a gallery affect both the observations made and what subsequent discussion there can follow. It is hoped that through the art context other observations are made and more differentiated viewpoints can be articulated on the subject of war.

There are some things which cannot be forgotten, surely war itself one of those traumatic experiences people do remember the most. When we attended Lisgar Collegiate during the years of 1961-65, we were not far away from Parliament Hill or for that matter from that war memorial reminding of First World War. That war was very real as well at the school. For the fourth floor was no longer used for class rooms. Instead it was a kind of museum since it retained a relict of First World War: a shooting range where they had trained cadets before being send overseas.

And there was our physics teacher, Mr. Meng. He had served as soldier in First World War and experienced the battle at Vimy Ridge. Often memory thereof overcame him. Instead of continuing to teach physics, he would push suddenly aside all the equipment laid out for a demonstration experiment in order to sit on the labtable. He started to tell us about his experiences as soldier at Vimy Ridge. He recalled how around Christmas everyone dropped their pose of being an enemy for the other and all started to climb out of the trenches they had dug at Vimy Ridge. All soldiers from both sides of the enemy line crossed over to approach each other with open arms to celebrate Christmas together. Only on the third day mistrust would return: you will shoot first, no you! When they left the Christmas celebrations, he narrated, they did not walk away but backed off to keep the others in sight just in case they would shoot first. This story has been made by now into a movie called 'Christmas' but it is doubtful if told in the way Mr. Meng meant it, namely to underline the absurdity of war.

That story impressed me. How can people shoot at each other when just before they were friends who had studied together at university in Paris? It was a puzzle depicted by the film ‘Jules et Jim’: a German and a French student, both madly in love with the same girl, ended up during the war facing each other as enemies who would shoot at each other.

Once back in Europe, first in England and then again in Germany, I undertook studies of philosophy in Heidelberg (1972 -75) and while doing so attended other courses, including one offered by the historian Reinhard Koselleck about 'political iconography'. At first I did not know what to make out of it. Upon entering the seminar I could not find at first my way. My eyes had to get first used to the darkened room. Someone near the front was using a projector to explain certain monuments he had made out in the course of his studies. It was Hans Haufe, a Dadaist from Dresden. There he had made a kind of monument in DaDa style. It consisted of a pig's head and had attached to it wings from a goose. It was called 'peace angel' which he hung up at the entrance to the big park of Dresden. It was his comment after troops had moved into Prague in August 1968 to squash any hope to give Socialism a human face. Consequently the police was after him. He had to flee and crossed the border by swimming across the Danube. He used branches to fake a deer swimming through the waters. Later on he became an expert on Mexican culture and praised Erasmus for having educated Jesuits to save what was possible of the culture of the Indios and Mayas.

The course by Reinhart Koselleck was in reality a study about what the political iconography of wars or what legacy they left behind in the form of monuments. Many of them suppress and indeed as Andre Breton witnessed silence possible protest about all the horrible decisions made by the generals. An example of this is described in Solshenitzyn's August 1914 when generals wished to test the fitness of their troops and thus ordered all of them out of the trains which were taking them to the border with Finland. They had to march alongside the tracks. After a three day march they arrived exhausted and were naturally defeated by the Finnish troops.

Other mistakes made in the course of the war are even more serious. They all indicated a cynicism amongst the elite, most of them having an aristrocratic, equally snobbish background. Life seemed something worthless, equally something to be thrown away during one day of ill conceived battle plans. The film 'what a lovely game war is' captures this absurdity of those deciding but having no regard for the lives of thousands of soldiers they endanger unnecessarily lives. Often their military decisions were an outcome of betting amongst themselves while at the dining table whether or not their troops can move the trenches five meters further on. The contradictions between the brutality on the battle field and the squalor of abundance of the rich safely tucked away in their clubs for gentlemen could not have been greater. It was a cruelty of an inconceivable disorder of both society and minds.

By invoking over and again waves of patriotism for which war veterans are famous for monuments serve they overlooked these contradictions. Memorials of these kinds serve more often the purpose of rallying the troops around the flag and more important to comfort the survivors of the war that they had not merely served their country well, but done so with honor and for justifiable reasons even if in reality there were none for going to war and to kill fellow human beings. Often war is reduced to the readiness to die for your own country as if defending of one's own freedom can be equated by not speaking but killing the other. This made Michel Foucault say we begin to speak only then with the other when there is no need for a victory. A test of strength as one common reason for going to war but an artificial one not to be compared with the moral strength needed to safeguard peace.

To remember the dead while still glorifying war makes many monuments into an odd contradiction. To find out more and to come to terms with political iconography, Reinhart Koselleck went with the entire group of students taking this course to Verdun. On the way there we stopped at several places where monuments recalling 1871 stood in silence. They reminded that Bismarck had started artificially the war with France to unify Germany by having such a common external threat. He was named the chancellor with the iron fist but he contributed thereby to an artificial unification of Germany the consequences of which spilled over into both the First and Second World War.

Reinhart Koselleck stressed that the handling of monuments as public art works is crucial. They intend to send a certain message but which one is always problematic. When we arrived in Verdun a still greater silence overcame us. There were the huge battle fields. It was a nature full of scars. My thoughts went out to Viet Nam being bombarded around the same time when we visited Verdun in 1973. I could image in view of this destroyed landscape in front of my eyes how nature must look like in Viet Nam with a war being waged with still greater fire power than what was available during First World War.

In looking at the mass graves of Verdun, we became aware that a monument can also be considered as showing evidence of the atrocities caused by war. The First World War was an absurd one. Thomas Mann called in 'Magic Mountain' boredom as main reason for going to war. Indeed before people realized what it means to die in the trenches, they all looked upon going to war with joy. It was looked upon at first as a pure adventure, a welcome change to the otherwise boring work behind a desk in some stuffy office. Little did they anticipate the ugly side of war. That shock set in as the years passed by and still no clear outcome in sight and may that be in the form of a definite victory during one battle in order to renew negotiations.

Significant is what Paul Klee said about his experiences made as soldier during First World War. He felt all sense of beauty had been destroyed inside of him. He concluded that if he wished to paint something beautiful, then he would have to do it out of memory of what existed before the start of First World War and that would make any expression thereof by necessity 'abstract'. That is an interesting observation which Hegel formulated in the way of 'Aufheben' - lifting something up and carrying on in memory. Implied is that we cannot carry everything and thus knowledge based alone on memory is necessarily already an abstraction from reality.

This trend in art of the twentieth century towards abstraction especially after 1918 was captured by the famous thesis of Worringer in his book called 'Abstraction and Empathy'. He meant there was another trend, one which would embrace the cult of figures depicting nature and be linked closely to what the propaganda in favor of National Socialism would call retainment of the creativity of the people. That was then the aesthetical twist which prompted the exhibition in Munich Hitler ordered so that 'entartete Kunst' - the disfigured art - could be shown to demonstrate how art should not look like.

But to come back to First World War, it was dictated by generals who were safe in the background and could order their soldiers to move the trenches forward. In the end they may have succeeded by five meters but it left 20 000 or more dead. It was a mass slaughter. How this ordering about became possible, here Bertrand Russell provides a clue. Accordingly the experimentations made during the war prompoted the discovery that through technology power could be gained over masses of people. Otherwise 20 000 could not be send to their certain death.

There was made one particular experimentation described best by Andre Malraux who became later Minister of Culture under President Charles de Gaulle and had to brave the student protest movement in 1968. He wrote about the first use of gas as a weapon in First World War. This entry of scientists into war by developing new techniques is what prompoted Nathalie Sarrautte to understand Kafka responding to the absurd and abstract world brought about by scientists researching and doing experiments which no ordinary citizen could comprehend for the scientists went beyond the borders of common human understanding. Once the gas was used, so the account given by Andre Malraux, the wind turned unexpectedly and hit as much the own soldiers as it was intended to kill the enemy. In the end everyone was running in different directions as all had become confused and disorientated. The panic was so great that some carried a dead man on their back or else it was a wounded enemy for all delineations had broken down. It was horrible to see these men struck down by something unknown: that invisible gas but as deadly as a bullet if not worse since gas robs the human being of any possibility to breathe fresh air. In Second World War gas was used to exterminate the Jews on a massive industrial like scale. First World War had already this forebearing.

Second World War 1939 - 45

The Second World War came about despite the horrific experiences made during First World War. How was that possible? Many say the Versailles Treaty was at fault. Hitler used the apparent unfair conditions imposed upon Germany in terms of war reperations to be paid as an issue to make his stand. He not only cancelled this agreement, but violated it by re-arming Germany. Unfortunately amongst the German population there were many who wanted to have again a strong German state. Also in terms of politicians, the popular sentiment was that they would want one politician who would not only talk and promise everything, but never deliver. Hitler became in their eyes believable because he did not only say that he would create jobs but did go ahead and gave jobs by having build the autobahn and other infrastructures needed to go to war. That indicated already while everyone was glad to get out of the recession, no one asked under what conditions and for which purpose. It is a political truism in retrospect that many Germans gave up their own internal freedom for a pseudo-security. It meant following orders even if that led directly to going to war again.

The forces which brought Hitler into power started to use even before the election in 1933 terrorist methods to intimitate anyone not willing to give in. That election date has also to be questioned. Hitler did not win outright and in one decisive area of symbolic meaning for the Fascists they clearly gained the victory by doing everything possible, including manipulation of the outcome. This is said because after Second World War it became too readily an accepted myth that Hitler was voted into power by the majority of Germans. If one thinks how President Bush won his election against Gore by a margin of 150 votes or so in Florida, one can easily image likewise in 1933 not everything that was counted or not counted as a vote was a true expression of the will of people. But once something is declared, it takes on a life of its own.

This was all the more the case if a collective disposition wants to believe any other alternative is in vain. Weimar collapsed because people did not believe in discourse and that means as well disputes and differences of opinion. Rather they wanted a leader as expressed in the philosophy of Heidegger.

Heidegger meant a leader who is willing to take the risk to make everyone become innovative again. What he added to this is most fatal because it is based on pseudo heroism. Heidegger claimed the question of the real being has never been posed before. There are always those who think they are the first to have discovered the world! What made it worse in Heidegger's mythology of who can be a leader and therefore a hero is that the being will not reveal itself in peace time. Only by entering conflicts and more so 'fights', that is war, the true being is going to be tested and therefore shall reveal itself. Heidegger added in 'Zeit und Sein' (Time and Being) that since no one wants conflict, a fight needs to be provoked by 'etwas vom Zaune brechen' (breaking something off the fence of the neighbor and therefore provoking him). He recommended before doing such a provocation, care should be taken to have armed oneself beforehand in advance of such a fight. What did Hitler do: he rearm Germany and provoked the war by crossing the border with Poland.

Under such conditions of a pseudo-philosophy justifying really things for which no one wishes tro be held responsible for, it is really amazing that only viewed the philosophy of Heidegger for what it was: a self infatutation with pseudo heroism but with the most serious consequences. And since everyone believed that Heidegger was most learned since he would deal with Ancient Greek texts, something that made already Hegel believe the Prussian state was the most enlightened one because its civil servants were asked to write their Ph.D's about Ancient Greek in the Greek language, they could not perceive the lack of knowledge he represents in reality. Interesting enough was what his student Gadamer observed once 'Time and Being' was published in 1929, namely that immediately all other discussions in philosophy went silent or were silent. Gadamer himself felt for the first time he was learning arguments with which he could beat his father. That is significant since the break between generations and lack of dialogue thereof is in political history always alarming as young people can without orientation and wisdom catch very quickly 'fire' and radicalize them in a direction often disasterous if unchecked. They do so because they want to believe in something firm and nearly absolute since everything else in their lives proves to be uncertain and shacky at best.

One other difference can be observed as to what consolidation of power under Hitler meant in Germany after 1933. This time the collective mentality with this pseudo heroism mixed in with aspirations to make it in life (and many identified with Hitler having made it from low status to power) wanted to do everything in a much more disciplined manner. Such enforced collectivity conformity towards discipline at work and in the military organisation meant automatically removing all those who would disturb such a functioning whole, including gypsies, writers, outsiders, democratic minded personalities etc. This mass conformity made people castigate shame on those who were ready to go into exile rather than serve under such condition the one and only leader. It included Thomas Mann and many others.

True to date is also the saying that Fascism crept first into power and then seized it. The trade unions learned it the hard way. While they still marched on the 1st of May in 1933 three days later all their leaders were arrested, killed or driven into underground, if not exile.

There is something ugly in the choices people had to make in Germany around that time.They could join voluntarily the Wehrmacht, the newly created army, to escape being selected to join the SS. Jean Amery who survived Auschwitz after being there for three years would write after the war a note of redemption insofar as he saw both the Jewish people and the German soldiers being driven on by the strict command to survive: the Jew by not touching the electronic wire of the concentration camp, the German soldier by shooting faster than his opponent. Yet the distinction between Wehrmacht and SS holds only conditionally. Many SS served in the Wehrmacht to obtain the uniform which they used like Himmler to make their attempted escape once the war was over and the Allied troops started to occupy Germany. Also in many cases the Wehrmacht gave support wherever the SS was about to liquidate places such as the Jewish Ghetto in Warszawa. Alone in mentioning just these aspects of the war it indicates that other, more internally orientated atrocities were committed when compared to what took place during First World War.

There was the failure of the League of Nations and the stock market crisis in 1929 which reminded everyone how interdependent the world was in reality. Even German civil servants thought to have safe jobs found the ground under them had become wobbly. But one clear reason was identified by Bertrand Russell who wrote in 'The Fathers of German Fascism' that during First World War there was made the discovery that technology could unfold enormous power over the masses of people willing to follow a simple cause. After 1918 many capable, highly intelligent persons entered the field of science and started to do research. It was not only Einstein, Heisenberg, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker oder Niels Bohr but many who devoted themselves to advance the sciences and thereby technology. Bertrand Russell pointed out that despite all of them showing the highest possible form of intelligence, they lacked on main thing, namely ethics. They sought power through technologz and served that purpose without asking the political conditions under which this knowledge would be applied. Exemplified was that what Reid described as the missing conscience of scientists. The construction of the atomic bomb was just a matter of time. Einstein and the others who had fled to the United States were extremely worried what Weizsäcker and Heisenberg were doing in Hitler's Germany.

When the first two Atomic bombs exploded over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it meant a huge amount of energy of destruction was unleashed. Since 1945 no further such attempts were made to determine the outcome of an armed conflict but instead nuclear power stations have been producing nuclear waste or contaminated uranium which the EU Commission does not know how to handle insofar as the only recommendation for safety reasons is to store it underground rather than above ground.

The tasks after 1945

"Rebuilding the City after the Bomb", Nagasaki Kids' Guernica mural

While in Japan the consequences of Nagasaki and Hiroshima led to a questioning of their imperial order with an emperor able to command his soldiers to commit suicide if that would help to defeat the enemy, in Europe another kind of drama unfolded at first slowly and then ever more so by Peter Weiss staging 'Marat-Marquis de Sade'. Simone de Beauvoir responded by asking the pertinent question about violence: was it or not a part of human nature or an inherent principle of all political forces seeking change?

After 1945 begins the struggle to comprehend what has changed in Germany and Europe before the wall came down in 1989 and what continues to be a problem to date. There is first of all the prophetic prediction by Adorno and Horkheimer in ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ (1944) that “even when Fascism has been defeated, there shall still be active xenophobic forces”.

An understanding of Fascism is never easy as it poses a practical question but how to stop it in time especially if its outer aggression against the 'other' whether Jew, Roma or just foreigner was matched by an inner drive towards self-destruction. At the Free University of Berlin there took place a colloquium about Fascism under the auspices of Prof. Klaus Heinrich, author of the book called “the difficulties of saying ‘no’” (to self destruction of someone about to destroy another life). They came up with the conclusion that “Fascism has not been defeated but learned to mask itself better.” This thesis can be articulated further after reading Kaszimierc Moczarski’s “Talks with the henchman” (Juergen Stroop). It was further affirmed when the world was suddenly confronted by the confession Guenter Grass sixty years later on and after he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature that he was in his youth a member of the SS.

The ethics of seeing

One of the most puzzling thing for the post war generation was a saying by almost all previous generations which had lived through Second World War, namely that they never saw the Jews disappear. Peter Weiss in 'Aesthetics of Resistance' describes how people on their way home from work would look the other way when children would beat up a Jewish child in some side street. A possible explanation between seeing and identifying what is going on is that any political challenge to what was happening when Gestapo came with their trucks to load onto them the Jews which had been rounded up, would immediately mean entanglement with the authorities. Even the older Jewish people debating in the Warszawa Council prior to the German attack on them would council as long as they would behave and follow orders given by the Germans nothing would happen to them. Only the younger Jewish members argued against such passive behavior. They foresaw that the liquidation of the Jewish Getto was planned and nothing would avert the Germans from doing just that. It left but the option of fighting back.

There is the story about the Dutch theologian Herring who helped Jews to escape during Second World War until he was betrayed and had to go himself underground. After the war he commenced a series of lectures on the topic: 'The ethics of seeing'.

The constant denial of not having seen Jewish people disappear explains as well the poem written by Zbiegniew Herbert in 1956:

What I Saw (1956)

To the memory of Kazimierz Moczarski

I saw prophets tearing at their pasted-on beards
I saw imposters joining sects of flagellants
butchers disguised in sheepskin
who fled the anger of the people
playing on a block-flute I saw I saw

I saw a man who had been tortured

he now sat safely in the family circle

cracked jokes ate soup

I looked at the opened mouth

his gums - two bramble twigs stripped of bark

I saw his whole nakedness

the whole humiliation


a solemn meeting

many people flowers


someone spoke incessantly about deviations

I thought of his deviated mouth is this the last act
of the play by Anonymous
flat as a shroud
full of suppressed sobbing
and the snickering of those
who heave a sigh of relief
that again it has worked out
and after clearing away the dead props
raise the blood-drenched curtain

Zbiegniew Herbert

There is another side to the fact that Germans lacked the Polish experience of resistance. In foreseeing that the war would be lost, the SS ordered studies to be made of Polish resistance in order to learn from them as to what they should do after the war would be over. In anticipation of defeat and the occupation by the Four Powers, they took such precautionary measures as serving in the Wehrmacht for a short period of time. This gave all SS men the Right to obtain as well the Wehrmacht uniform. When many of them, including Himmler were arrested while attempting to flee the approaching Allied forces, they did not wear their SS but their Bundeswehr uniforms. This prompted Klaus Heinrich to conclude after five years of Faschismus Colloquium that 'Fascism had not been defeated in 1945 but learned to mask itself better'. This kind of deception has to be understood in the context of any discussion about 'ethics of seeing'.

The promise never again war

All post war generations especially in Germany made the promise expressed best with slogans like “never again war” or else “never again war which would enemate from German soil”. In the meantime this promise is being articulated ever more subdued in Germany once Adenauer went ahead to create the Bundeswehr as entry ticket into NATO and a Social Democratic. It would be too much here to describe the gradual softening of that once resolute position “never again war”, but it suffices here to castigate the SPD/ Green coalition under Schroeder / Joschka Fischer for not only agreeing to the bombardment of Kosovo in 1999, but also to start off the entry of German troops into Afghanistan.

Jochen Gertz in Bochum attempts to revive the notion of promise, but this time to Europe.

A major advise of Brigitte Fischer (mother of Hatto Fischer) has been 'never promise too much for then you risk disappointing other people'.

Ethics of Change: revolution or reform, tradition or change

- in memory of the symposium held in Kingston, Ontario with Rene Dubos, T. Meyerson and Arthur Koestler -

“To keep tradition without change is constipation, while change without tradition is diarrhea” – Arthur Koestler, 1969

During that symposium three areas were covered: biology, city and intellectual discourse. It was the time when Darwinism was discussed but also Monod's 'coincidence and necessity' not yet out to be discussed while cities were burning especially in the United States and urban planning offering the best interdisciplinary courses ever to be imagined. At the same time, Arthur Koestler stands for the kind of intellectual standpoint vis a vis Communism and socialist Realism as expressed best by his book 'Darkness at Noon' and what was repeated later in a book edited by him under the title: 'The God that failed'.

Many intellectuals, including Karl Popper, devoted themselves to reputiate Marxism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Planning (as a state system of regulation) and a political change by means of a revolution. Instead he embraced reform as if the Western system could be saved by safeguarding certain principles while making necessary adjustments so as to retain social balance and peace.

What was not seen in the entire discussion but which became most evident in the collapse of the Soviet Union was that a Communist regime and way of governing was much easier to reform than a Western type of governance. The latter was deeply entrenched politics in business affairs and vice versa whereas a totalitarian regime and its repression of freedom would only need to be removed in order to allow people to restructure their lives in accordance with their needs and wishes within economic possibilities.

Once the alternative to Capitalism was gone it has proven much harder to criticize the Western economic system since an entire knowledge base was gone or else so much discredited that it plays no longer any significant role in Western debates about the future of the economy. By the time the Lehmann Brothers collapsed the dyfunctional system of Western Capitalism had no one to challenge it. Once it collapsed due to over speculation the bailout offered by governments meant in reality for many a further evidence of political corruption. As a result they turn ever more so into anti-political agents resisting any forms of collective responsibilities for the sake of public goods and public truth.

By 2009 a truly intellectual Barack Obama had made into the White House and become the first black President but with hardly any chance at all to implement his ambitious program since it was articulated independent from the need to bring about and to recognize first of all another model of existence not based on over consumption but on a true economy of time and resources when it comes to satisfying needs of all people.

Apart from not wishing to invoke uncontrollable changes ending up in violence and revolutions eating its own children and instead focusing on knowledge and cultural adaptation as prerequisite for thought through political policies, the slogan became 'work with changes before trying to induce any yourself'.

The prerequisite for change being realized is the cultural accommodation of the changes brought about by certain means and measures. Here Johannes Agnoli preferred to challenge by saying the difference between a revolutionary and a non-revolutionary is while the former works on conditions to make it happen the other gives explanations as to why no revolution can take place. This being said in the spirit of Rosa Luxembourg, it means having confidence in the masses as they can become creative if given the chance.

Anti-mass theories propagate the political lie (Heidegger, Time and Being) and are anti-humanist (see here the difference between the letter written by Camus to his German friends prior to entering the underground to fight German occupation and the ‘letter of Humanism’ written by Heidegger after 1945.

Jean Paul Sartre was himself a part of this dilemma between theory and practice since he believed for quite a long time changes are brought about only by a party ready to use violent means. He retracted from this position and left the Communist Party after the invasion of Budapest in 1956.

Illusions are not the same as disillusionment

Illusions by Andre Maurois meant to escape from the inevitable, namely not to be able to come to terms with reality due to a rich imagination and therefore being disillusioned by what follows. Ernst Bloch picked that up with his 'Principle of Hope' when he distinguished between unfounded hope leading to absolute disillusionment once disappointed and founded hope allowing to learn out of failures. This culture of failure became a side stream for some who knew whatever they tried, they would fail. That included Neils' Summerhill experiment with another type of education at his school for most of his pupils ended up being happy but without a career as they never did complete their studies. One mistake was to let everything be spontaneous. A child would play on the piano as long as it made fun but once a talent needs further development, then there is at times the need to go through the desert so to speak before that pleasure of playing the piano well returns. Spontaneity and intuition at the beginning is important but equally the breath of the long distance runner if to make it in the long run. Yet it was Albert Camus who dented everything with his saying 'to hope is to resign and to live is not to resign'!

Michel Foucault took up that challenge when he said in a programmatic way that we have to get rid of illusions but leave those which things need in order to exist. That had indirect an impact for those who became disillusioned with all kinds of utopias and after experiencing life under real Socialism or socialist Realism. That includes Anna Segher's saying 'people need a horizon if to become creative', something most vivid when walking in Berlin West or East as long as it was partioned within a confinement of one main wall running through the city to separate the two halves, but also in living in between walls as most of the time the poor ones ended up in some back court yard which let in but very little light especially during the dark winter nights. Kreuzberg was a basis for such reflections of Alternatives. The symbol of expression became not the sun used by those protesting against Pershings and nuclear power stations but the hedgehog for ever a visitor at night when fast tracking food in garbage cans as much in kitchens when the backdoor was left open. The Alternatives of Berlin merged later with the Greens altogether but it took some time until 1989 to overcome this sense of being a part of another reality meant to be concrete utopia when understood as Commune 1 during the heights of the student movement and before the squatters came along.

Articulationproblems and search for a new identity in Berlin (West)

Jean Pierre Faye, “Totalitarian Languages” provides an important entry point in what can be understood as a possible explanation for what went wrong in Germany 1917 – 33. He describes how everywhere Tat-Kreise were created: Tat = deed. It reflects what is a common saying by both the people and the media: they do not wish to hear endless talks but what to see action, indeed deeds which fulfill promises. The praise for Hitler was after all as being the only one who promised to create jobs and who did it by building the autobahn, rearming Germany despite the Versailles Treaty and preparing altogether for war as had advised Heidegger to pose the question of being based on the assumption the true being shows itself only in a fight, but which no one wants and hence must be provoked.

Totalitarian language describes how everyone is pushed further and further to give up his own identity and become malleable to forces of power wishing that the society gears up for war. More and more humane language disappeared. It was replaced by a command language ensuring that people begin to hate themselves for being so malleable. Jean Pierre Faye says rightly so the totalitarian language works like loading a gun only people with hate until they are ready to unload it by finding a scapegoat like the Jew or the intellectual who did not subscribe fully his alliance to the state as had demanded already Hegel in his “Philosophy of Law”.

Identity questions in anticipation of changes

People in Poland would say Totalitarianism as a system can only be recognized when one lives in such a system. It attempts to annihilate one's identity completely. This total destruction was considered to be the biggest of all threats of such a system. It was far more threatening than being thrown in jail or surveilled by the secret police. With it goes the conversion of personal stories so that even the memory track existing within the family is destroyed. If things cannot be passed on from generation to generation, then the present appears like an evasion of crucial questions but if one had not seen this before? Since nothing was strong enough to remind oneself of other incidences, the thing noticed escaped immediately into an obscure sense for things and what matters to people.

In the West, in particular in West Germany, the identity question was of a different nature. Derived from nineteenth century thinking of Hegel, the 'I' was considered to be the result of the 'Anstrengung des Begriffs' - the effort of the concept. It described indirectly what efforts are in need to be undertaken before the I can articulate itself. That Fichte made out of it a tautology by saying 'I is I', equals the state, meant identification worked only once the person identified himself completely with the state. This institutionalization of personal identity had many implications later on as exemplified best by Richard von Weizsaecker who wanted in 1981 that the youth of Berlin West does military service so that they would identify themselves with the state and therefore would be inclined to rebel or to act against the interests of the state.

Given this problematic disposition to negate one's identity in order to attain a fictitious one recognized by the state, it was advisable to work with changes like a child growing up to become an adult rather than evoke changes in a political sense. The latter would but mitigate the already existing problem of identity. Adorno was one of the few philosophers who thought of a way out as conceiving identity as being non-identity, but not caught in-between an absolute being and nothing, for there is always 'something' binding the two. That 'etwas' was of a material substance felt in the psyche as the lawfulness of one's own identity.

Working with memory to notice changes

In Poland under Totalitarian regime everyone recognized immediately if a newspaper brought a story which had been printed already one year before. What made Polish resistance so strong is that people safeguarded memories and had not one but 80 answers if arrested by the police.

The legend and the need to identify with something positive

At a recent conference in Berlin June 2009 organized by the Political Cultural Society with the title “Culture making history”, a psychologist gave a talk about “remembering and understanding” to underline two things: no true stories are told over time since a grandfather who has been by the SS shall be depicted by his grandson as if someone who had been working for the resistance; and it is extremely difficult to develop a positive identity within the context of a negative history. Here especially the need of the youth to find something positive in this world and with which they can identify themselves makes clear what vulnerability to extreme or Right Wing political directions prevails all the time.

The lack of simultaneity (Ungleichzeitigkeit)

Since Hoelderlin tried to call in Germany for the start of the revolution but to no avail since his letters did not arrive everywhere at the same time.

In politics throughout various phases there had always been some vague reliance on coincidences coming together to create conditions for a simultaneous event. By all stepping out and into the present, things of historical dimenion would take place and people could relate to one another as real and not merely fictitious persons. This was the case when in Poland farmers, workers and students all acted together rather than be ruled by dividing that what belongs together.

One would think in the age of the Internet this problem would be overcome. Push a bottom and one letter goes all at once to all. Provided they all download the letter at the same time, that configuration would work.

Many demonstrations in Iran prior to the fall of the Shah in 1979 and elsewhere show how people could make use of new media. In the case of Iran during funerals the speeches by Khomeiny could be heard. Someone played a tape smuggled into the country and hidden in-between coffin and flowers.

In today's world of mobile phones and twitters to communicate the simultaneity would be even stronger but still in Europe there are important dates which underline an incompatibility. While in France the end of the Second World War is a national holiday with solemn ceremonies enacted at the cemetery, in Germany by contrast it is a normal working day. To this says Gerald Schumann, theatre director living for the past twenty years in France, that “losers do not wish to celebrate their defeats!”

Remembering end of Second World War in Ecouen, May 8th 2009

After the ceremony at the cemetery everyone walked home past spots where the Nazis had killed resisters.

Back in Germany, 2009, twenty years after the fall of the wall, there are doubts about Germany’s commitment to Europe. Why is that? Bitter sweet are not so much the memories. They are needed or said Paul Klee already after First World War, any attempt to remember beauty before it was destroyed will make any expression thereof by necessity abstract. That lead to the thesis of Worringer about twentieth century art being divided into two main streams one clinging to empathy, the other to abstraction. What shall be the trend of the twenty-first century if the trend is towards abstract expressionism on the one hand and a rediscovery of archaic signs like cave paintings in what has become a murmur about the absence of nature in our lives?

Of interest is how things develop out of a murmur. This includes modern German poetry about to remember much sharper than before where the twists of the tongue have led to before the lie was discovered and silence broken like an egg falling on the pavement. It seems almost unavoidable that everything terminates in silence again. Why?


by Gerald Fiebig

The Second War, the war of 39 to 45,
Begins when you identify your own inner Third Reich
—Momus, Three Wars, 1987

& then, just like any other aging war criminal
who suddenly knows that his time’s up
you will feel the urge to foul yourself with self-pity
& indulge your remorse.
& then, when the sugar bowl next to your cup
will conjure up the sugar loaf mountain
of your picturesque exile—then
the girl from ipanema will fail to appear.

& then, just like any other arsonist with a cause to defend
you will feel the urge to talk about what you read
in the books, what you touched in the bodies
before you burned both.

& then, on a night perhaps, on a night just as hot
as this, as hot as the sand of the copacabana, as hot
as the bodies when you touched them, in fever,
as hot as their ashes, that only cooled when you’d gone
you may want somebody to listen to you
talking about the past that you tried to forget.
& then you may want to speak in a voice with a name
known only to you, the name from the passport you burned.
& then everyone will fail to appear. & then you will start
to talk to yourself. & just then you will notice
that whatever you wanted to forget all those years
but wanted to tell now in the voice you disowned

is already forgotten. your doctor has seen you;
not mengele, not goebbels—dr. alzheimer.
& then you will pause for breath, between silence
& silence. & then you will choke..

2. Prague 1968, Berlin(West) 1981 and Poland 1979 - 89

When looking back over Europe's history as it unfolded since 1945, an analysis of the symmetries and asymmetries involved in numerous cases of historical can illuminate something about coalitions and anti-coalitions defining how things and people are governed. Often in combination with three entities such political measures are taken that aim to exclude common people from governance. Even more so those in need of protection are pushed aside or suppressed while other forces seek to transform politics into anti-political attitudes. It may be called the new brand of populism but in reality it confounds rather than clarifies the political situation.

In a classical sense these entities would be the executive, justicial and administrative branches of governance. Although everywhere 'people' are being referred to as the sovereign, in reality the systems have transformed this notion of sovereignty into something else and this despite of the French Revolution and the age of Enlightenment aiming to give a voice to the 'citoyen' of the world. Instead the citizen of the world or the one at home everywhere has been denounced by Hegel as the cosmopolitan. Primarily he meant by that the Jew who does not give his allegiance to the state. Thus the reasons for the failure to realize a democracy based on active citizenship in Europe go much further back than what the European Union itself has managed to achieve up to now.

Consequently what happened after 1945 needs to be analysed and re-told many a times before some interpretation can be given why this has not been realized. To this have to be added the contradictions between East and West. Johanna Schall would describe German re-unification or unficiation (according to which political sensibility prevails) as a love affair with both involved married to someone else. The coming together is already pre-determined to fail as it is an over complicated relationship with many twists and turns. There are still borders because invisible walls prevent the telling of the truth as it is without the risk of misunderstanding the motive of the other. Always there is the suspicion the other does not follow the agenda agreed upon but relates to a hidden agenda. Such suspicion prevails because mistrust has prevented from clarifying if the other is really a friend and not an enemy as feared. Although these borders are mainly invisible ones they are more fluid and therefore most difficult to cross.

The work of memory and experiences as presented made along the way as presented here should give some key insights into European history in the making. Some cruicial time lines need to be drawn. Just as Verdun is linked to First World War, so is Auschwitz to Second World War. And governance by fear has dictated the main rule of law if not against Jews, then foreigners and in particular in the final end against people when they are ready to enter a solidarity to each other. Thomas Mann describes best in Buddenbrooks how suppression works: the masters send laughing the carriage drivers home after they made a frail attempt to protest against how their masters treat them. Johanna Schall describes in her presentation how they spoke the slave language as part of the ingrained censorship of those who have become afraid of themselves as they believe big brother is watching over them all the time.

For instance, the Polish government like all others fretted if workers, students and farmers would come together rather than allow themselves to be divided. Power is afterall upheld by divisions even when provoked artificially. This can lead to seeming choices of alternatives when in reality there are none. But it can weaken the forces in power while strengthen a particular group right now still in opposition. Still the key force to be reckoned with in Europe is the xenophobic one. Adorno and Horkheimer predicted in 1944 that even when Fascism has been defeated, there will still have to be reckoned with the xenophobic force. The break-up of former Yugoslavia set such an example of ethnic assertiveness and the violence which can go with such exclusion policy.

The power derived out of divide and rule no longer functioned in Poland in 1979 once solidarity started to exist between all three groups: workers, farmers and students (or in the larger sense the intelligentsia). The Communist Party in Warszawa was powerless against such a coalition of forces reinforced by the entire population entering new participatory forms at work may that be in schools or in factories. Naturally a key player in this process where the intellectuals who had learned from previous attempts in all of Eastern Europe to get rid of the Communist yoke. Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron started to expound their ideas through the 'Flying University'. It was a model of resistance learned already during the German occupation in Second World War. They would give lectures on topics not taught at official universities but once they managed to do that for one year, this was adopted by the universities and became a part of the official curriculum. It was a constant test what would pass the test of the authorities. Many students carved in particular to know the history of the country. There were many distortions due to the wish to make the Soviet Union appear favorable rather than telling the truth about key incidences when Polish soldiers were killed by Soviet troops etc. At the same time, these intellectuals of the Flying University took up contact with workers in Gdansk. The latter were not turned off by 'theory' but listened carefully as to what could explain the situation they were in.

All Polish intellectuals, poets included, longed for a freedom felt already in conjunction with the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the efforts made by writers and intellectuals who were behind the Prague Spring of 1968. Also the Hungarian intellectuals articulated themselves in highly regarded but most clandestine journals published underground.

The entire movement cannot be explained without the subversive nature of the arts. It included music and hidden forms of poetry expressing desires which were officially ruled out like travelling freely to the West. Till 1989 all that remained mere bursts of people coming up for a short moment to the surface to catch a glimpse of what might be possible but it was a working away on what could not be foreseen, namely another future and different conditions for performing on stage since the audiences would change after 1989.

The asymmetrical relationship to power became always apparent that those from the West on visits to the East hardly risked anything while those who published an article in some Western journal found recognition, money and moral fame but at the risk of being arrested or punished in many subtle forms, including loss of job at the university or in the theatre. Most telling was an exclaimation by one famous actor Olgierd Lukaszewicz who said their international name and fame gave them a moral responsibility to act accordingly for they would risk less than those without such international recognition. This was behind the boycott of all famous actors and public figures in Poland after martial law was declared. They refused to appear on television asnd therefore gave the repressive regime a single face easy to be recognized by all. It was a subtle way of exposing the mask of power. It shows also that morality and opposition in the arts goes much further than what has been ever acknowledged in the West.

When it came to resistance the actor Olgierd Lukaszewicz said fame can be used to off-set repression at home. He meant a fame which gives an actor an international linkage due to the kind of recognition. Once known in the West it was a kind of protection against being isolated in the East by the authorities and a society going conform with power.

Over and again the relationship to the West of intellectuals in opposition to Communist regimes in Eastern Europe until 1989 was decisive in many ways. It meant first of all a possibility to publish and more so to gain in this way money badly lacking within the socialist countries. More so Western money translated easily into huge fortunes compared to those who would earn their living only in their respective countries. This currency conversion meant at times a two week earning in the West meant two years of easy life in the East. That then was an asymmetry working in favor of those wishing to go into opposition but who also were exposed to a double danger of betrayal e.g. working for Radio Free Europe or some other journal financed by the CIA or else being an agent of the repressive regime back home by either being directly an informer for the secret police or else indirectly an agent due to not having special privileges but then willing to toe the official party line. Always it meant being an enemy of someone while making others into enemies to keep the heat off oneself.

As the case of Christa Wolf shows, she did work for the Stasi for a while. Afterwards she became a kind of literary agent for the East German government. The latter had developed the concept of literature as another way to fight Western attitudes towards the East. Literarcy supremacy in the case of primarily East Germany or the DDR as it was then called would suggest not everything could be as bad in the DDR as its critiques would make out to believe. Indeed Christa Wolf's writings had a profound impact upon movements of the opposition in West Germany and West Berlin. In particular the Feminists were deeply affected by her book 'Cassandra' with the key thesis being that historians would not record the pains women go through during war times and therefore leave them as was the case of the women of Troy to flee into caves to seek safety and where they could but scratch their pains onto the walls of the cave. Since then 'caves of truth' have become a standard bearer for what goes beyond the ancient cave drawings but has a similar message to those who have grown afraid of the world out there.

Prague 1968

When the people gathered in the streets and in market places during August 1968, that is when the Prague spring still flourished and political demands were articulated, then it struck home that three demands were made to cover the asymmetrical relationships governing till now whereas the asymmetry was at work:

  1. free elections
  2. do something about the secret police
  3. do something about the youth

Let us consider for a moment the meaning of free elections as a breath of fresh air when democracy really lives a moment of history and no one has fear as to the outcome. That was not the case with Allende in Chile 1973 where the West demonstrated a bloody repression.

Compared with what took place in Prag in 1968, that period which started with the writers' congress dedicated to Kafka still stands today for a 'socialism with a human face' but which was suppressed, as we know it, by the Warszawa troops - it is always contested that East German troops were not involved even though the biggest pressure came from East Berlin out of fear that its citizens could escape via an open border in the Czech republic over to West Germany as they would do later. Richard Loewenthal, the political scientist in West Berlin went on record after 1968 that for the sake of peace the iron curtain must remind closed for 'hard borders' are the prerequisite for stability sold as security to justify the stationing of the Pershings in West Germany to avert a potential attack by troops from Eastern Europe. Hard borders called the iron curtain meant a lot for any European attempting to bridge the two parts and what has become today an amazing reality when taking the train from Berlin to Warszawa.

One thing I found very curious around that time while working in June/July at a Swiss bank in Zurich: a lot of money flowed East to finance the vast troop movement being prepared during those hot summer days still remembering what took place in Paris May 1968.

But let us see what has become of these three demands:

1. Free elections

World wide we experience such manipulation of elections (Bush 2000, 2004; Afghanistan 2009) to a point that voters' indifference is growing not only at national, but European level.

But there was something worse when the invasions were executed after 911 first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq 2003 for it meant not merely ‘regime change by force coming into the country from outside’, but a break with what had been the wish to uphold democracy vis a vis those countries in the Soviet Bloc which could not hold free and fair elections. A general secretary of the Communist Party was elected by the Politbureau and there other forces interacted which led to a back stabbing and maintaining power through the secret police to keep everyone in line. Even when compared to the Vatican which has an orderly transition from one Pope to the next one the Communist Party and its totalitarian regime meant no transition, indeed questioning of power was conceivable. It was the biggest argument the democracies had to practice a peaceful transition of power by holding elections with no leader being in power for life.

Since the violent disposal of Saddam Hussein, and in the light of the financial crisis we see even further encroachments upon this democratic principle with mayor Bloomberg of New York giving himself and the entire Municipal Council a third term although against the constitution and although in a referendum all New Yorkers expressed no desire for a change of this rule of any mayor having like the President of the United States only two terms. His justification was in a time of financial crisis and security threats experienced people need to be in power.

In other countries nepotism leads to a perpetuation of certain families dominate national politics over three generations e.g. Greece with the Karamalis and Papandreous being by now the third generation leading the country.

But if we are to take election participation as an indicator as to how Europe is performing, then another dismal picture emerges with a constant decline in the number of people going out to vote.

When the last European elections were held this past September 2009, I was besides two other people the only ones out on the square in front of the European parliament and besides at least twenty camera crews there was no one showing any interest in the election outcome. Has Europe become an institutional set-up meant only to refine mechanisms for redistributing resources? The act of freedom of information has enforced as of late the publication as to who receives EU subsidies for agriculture, in the UK Prince Charles heads the list, in other EU countries companies having hardly to do anything with agriculture are recipients and fraud was just discovered in a lucrative business shipping sugar from Belgium to Russia and from there to France, and when asked why the detour, then because a longer transportation route is considered to be proof that the commodity being shipped of such high quality that it deserves an extra bonus. Not innovation promotes the European idea but inventiveness on how to obtain in reality state subsidies with the fine difference that the EU is not considered to be a state and therefore that lie is needed to be upheld in order not to get into difficulties with officials of the World Trade organisation.

Free elections - when Ireland voted against the Lisbon treaty, it was redone a second time in order to get the desired result. Instead of learning out of failure and defeat the opposite is the case for one thing holds for many fake democracies in the West as expressed by former chancellor Helmut Schmidt: parliament is there to make acceptable the decisions already taken elsewhere, that is outside public scrutiny. Indeed, there is a need to continue writing the story began by Habermas with regards to 'changes in the public structure'.

Free elections - what choices are there if people are not free to seek alternatives and thereby know they have no choice except to affirm the ongoing political business of parties seeking to secure through their networks secure working places for their members? Johannes Agnoli has called it 'the transformation of democracy'. The corrosion of political values which the German Greens have experienced is the best proof what it means to do politics under the condition to form a party recognized by the simple rule, namely that no independent political identity can determine the agenda but must go conform to the already established structures which makes the change in power something like changing the personnell in the barracks as used for letting one ascend to power only under the condition he does not touch the power and wealth gathered by those who were previously in power.

2. Do something about the secret police?

People in Prag meant the secret police which could jeopardize people's lives even if a joke was written on a post card send to the girlfriend attending a summer camp about Communist education. Trivialities ending up in Siberia. After the Russian revolution the neighborhood courts installed to bring justice down to the people meant in reality someone wanted the other's wife and let him be send off after denouncing him. It was that easy to corrupt any revolution as Jean Pierre Faye describes on hand of the French revolution leading to the creation of a health police to rid the commune of health threats. We are not far from what Adorno and Horkheimer said in 'Dialectic of Enlightenment' in 1944 when they predicted even if Fascism has been defeated, there will still be the xenophobic forces to reckon with. Racism, in the form of hygenic judgments, can easily justify unjust interventions and interferences in daily life. In Galway, Ireland the city government used this argument to get rid of the only sailors and villagers who had managed to stay independent from British rule by declaring their houses on stilts near the sea was no longer satisfactory to fullfill health standards. All the village people were evicted and the village erased to the ground. That is how cultural heritage is treated when it comes to produce a mass comformity to needs of power to get its way. It means resistance is negative when in fact no water would go through the stone but around it if only to grind it down over time.

But what is secret police if not the Savak forces in Iran when students greeted the Shah of Persia during his visit to Berlin. During that demonstration the student Benne Ohnesorg was shot by a police man. Only lately it turned out that this man was working for the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany and which has become known to a wider audience through the film 'In the life of the other'. Friends who watched this film in an East Berlin cinema frequented usually by artistic and alternative people but when this film was screened the audience was mainly composed by middle aged, well established highly conservative people. When leaving the cinema it dawned on them these were former Stasi members. And as the controversy reached a peak about this former policeman and Stasi who had shot Benno Ohnesorg, it became clear he was receiving a pension of 5000 Euros a month (compared to writers not getting more than 300 Euros a month if they paid into the artistic pension fund for over 30 years nevertheless only 100 Euros a month) and that German unification meant in fact taking over all these former Stasi members into a new form of employment within the administration. A figure of about 50 000 was mentioned but no one can be sure how many were debriefed like former Nazis by the Americans who gave official papers after 1945 to attest they were never members of the Nazi party and therefore could sue the West German state for compensation if they faced losses in terms of pension or proper employment opportunities. Most of the time those given a positive debriefing were in fact informers of all kinds. It raises the question of betrayal by whom to whom if there is no political alliagance worthy to speak off.

Let us include Arthur Koestler's 'Darkness at Noon' or Manes Sperber 'Tear in the ocean', for the problems of Communism did not begin as it did for Sartre with the invasion into Budapest but already when friends accompanied someone in Paris to the train station to say good bye to a comrade and knowing quite well he would not return from Moscow after Stalin had ordered him to return.

Betrayal has been defined in the most appropriate way by Brendan Kennelly: before we betray others and do not listen to the one identified as Judas, we should remember that first of all we have already betrayed many of our own dreams when still a child and believing in justice, freedom and equality.

Betrayal runs through history and has caused many more things than just tears. Most famous is perhaps the Quisling case but also we should not forget what Delacroix painted as 'slaughter of Anavatos' for when the Turkish troops receded after the uprising of the Greeks to gain their independence in 1821, all those in the castle till then hidden due to its grey stones blending into a landscape known for its economy of words. Till today the rumor persists someone must have betrayed those hiding in the castle.

Often betrayal is linked to seeking revenge but as shown in the film 'in the life of the other' the tale does not end if one Stasi member turns soft and prevents the arrest of the writer by getting the evidence, a hidden type writer out of the way before the police comes to search for it. Countless stories are told by those who have by now gone to the Gauck administration and took a look at their Stasi files. They are amazed to find even unsuspected friends were among those who reported regularly about everything done, the clothes worn etc. as if this would already portray the attitude. Profiling it is called in police terms.It is not so much the data collected which is so dangerous, but what profile is created to get so to speak the whole picture even though the police and secret agents failed to connect the dots in the case of 911 and it is known in philosophy that the whole is not the truth.

What has happened after no longer the spy came in from the cold or someone would imitate James Bond and seek that love which comes from Russia with mysterious murders in London, that is much more linked to terrorism and security threats which keep the agencies all over the globe busy and naturally as well in Europe.

What is so worrying about this, under cover men and women no longer work just in dubious scenes of the city but they are also in all structures of society, including universities even though here needs to be made an important distinction. When Karl Popper was hired to teach at London School of Economics, everyone knew this young Marxist turned into a radical critique of totalitarian ideology would be able to create an intellectual bulwark against any idea which could destablize the Western democracy system based on a reform process and a free market which means a give and take dictates the falsification of whatever theory is put forth to make things work. There is a difference of working directly for the secret service and writing indirectly for a journal like the Encounter which was financed by the CIA. What is so alarming about this kind of intellectual betrayal is that as the saying goes in the United States everyone has a price and with this cynicism is indirectly implied everyone can be bought and those who do not allow such a betrayal are either marginalised or else fought directly as if enemy number one. Just recently Barack Obama signed a bill which allows the payment to Talibans who are ready to defect for a price. Who said war is clean? In the process corruption even at the level of conspicious consumption is a direct outcome of those who wish to drown their guilty conscience in a mass of goods or anything else that does not belong to the real world but is suggested to indicate one has made it, needs to be a part of one's own personal belongings.

If we search for one person around whom both fame and doubt erupted, then Lech Walesa who was exempted from the normal prison where the rest of the Solidarnosc people were kept and who called themselves 'la creme extreme'. Instead he was isolated and put into a confinement at a remote place. That is like Jaruselski whose parents were banned to Siberia and who returned out of exile with a certain training behind him. Isolation is a tough school which teaches certain things no other school can communicate.

Poland has been engulfed due to its twin brothers at the helm for a while in this kind of witch hunt of everyone who had collaborated with the Communist party and its secret service. The underlining twist in the argument as to why such a new cleansing process was needed even if not so extreme as the ones under Stalinist rule, that has to be explained nevertheless. It shows the limits of trust and means someone is forced to pay the bill for what was thought to have been denied till then, namely a share in the privileges any system offers to those who master all the tricks and turns in history, political alliances and forthcoming changes.

In that sense we should anticipate the ever growing concern for security as outcome of those on the top as having a lot to hide and little to give. Once the give and take no longer functions smoothly as the case since the financial crisis has erupted, then it is best to assume several things are going to happen in due course.

Police is always necessary that people keep paying the price even if unjust and they do not really have the resources, know how and means of organisation to come up with the money to pay the bill.

But there is still another thing to be anticipated: unemployment shall be needed so as to increase not merely the competition between people and to make sure discipline is retained at the working place out of fear to loose one's job, but if ten compete for one and the same job instead of only two, then the employer knows his purchasing power increases insofar as the hiring of one person will ensure that this person subcontracts to get the job done. This hierarchy reaches into the underworld with all kinds of hidden and overt violence prevailing to bring about a disorder which functions under these disproportionate conditions.

Let it be said that betrayal is involved when no longer human reasoning in all openness allows for such discussions that decisions can be reached in a rational way. It is really a matter of civil society to ensure these things do not take overhand. It all depends whether those in power have still a sense for reality and can trust people because they take serious what they are saying. A lot more can be said about this huge problem of the secret police with all the suspicions and false rumors capable of destroying people's lives or else they end up as did Solshenitzyn and before him Dostojevsky in Siberia.

Indeed, there is a question but how will Europe perform when it has become an open prison despite all advocates speak about opening of borders to ensure unification, expansion and integration mean really an inclusion of all people and not merely those who define in an anonymous way who belongs, who does not to first the national team and then through that can enter only the European level to speak about some elusive notion of European identity.

Let it be simply said for the sake of clarification. Power seeks to influence not merely the minds of people but also wishes to affect certain patterns of behavior so that there is some predictability in the final outcome of the power games being played.

The Greek film director Angelopoulos showed an interesting case within Greek history. The film is about a famous theatre group which could never finish its play due to interventions from outside: the British occupation was replaced by the Germans to be followed by the Americans and then came the horrible civil war 1945-48 after which a kind of pacified peace prevailed in Greece with the Left holding onto its values and cherished ideas while the secret police made sure no more political conspiracy could develop to undermine the government. There is this scene in a Greek cafe with the Left sitting on the one side, the Secret Police watching them on the other side and an orchestra trying to find a tune to which both sides would dance but to no avail. If the Secret Police dictated the music, only they would dance and these were only men; vice versa, if the Left could request from the conductor to play their tune, then they got up to dance while the others receded to their tables.

If anything such powerful metaphers as to the tune to which someone dances, sings and even talks does have implications as to what performance means in these times with music far away from the poetic protest songs of the sixties and melodies asking 'when will they ever learn'.

3. Do something about the youth.

Most relevant about the youth has been a saying by the philosopher Ernst Bloch that they can catch very quickly Right Wing fire. Extremism articulates itself in many forms. Often the hidden dimensions are not perceived till too late the youth joins a radical group. They are often at the brink of rage since forced to compromise. Moral aspirations do not go well with a world in which many distortions lead to resignation, a passive way of not dealing with outrageous things and in assuming nothing can be done to alter politics.

Most of the time the youth believes it is left alone. They are out of the childhood days but not as of yet integrated into society. Uncertainties prevail while most of the time being at the threshold of life they experience almost everything at a quick pace. Life seems impossible if the girlfriend does not respond and the parents not understanding why the silence.

A strong reaction to any loss of life linkage is to take a gun and go on a shooting spree at school. Or else they become bombers on the London Underground. This eruption of violence surprises everyone. Here Enzensberger has developed a powerful thesis about the ‘radical looser’ with a prime example being Hitler himself who could only envision final victory as total defeat of a society if the people do not go out and continue to fight. That begins already in the school yard when “Schmaehrufe – denouciations” are called into the face of the other: fight, otherwise you are a coward. To stand up to yourself without getting involved in the fights, never mind in the wrong ones, that is indeed a high and tricky art of survival. The youth has to learn very fast.

Adults play a huge role in the lives of the youth even if they refute that fact. Entry into society can be cruel. It is not merely about accepting or not working conditions, often hard enough when school did not exactly prepare for such an entry, but then there is the model in Ancient Greece of Sparta: for a youth to enter the circle of the elders he had to live among the Helots, the slaves and survive by getting out alive after having killed one of the slaves. That requirement meant the elders would only accept a youth as part of their own if he had committed a similar crime. It is the best way for the adults not to be challenged by the youth with their demand for truth. Radicalism is broken by making sure the youth breaks with their own pure demands and betray the ideals they had followed until then.

Unfortunately Jürgen Hofmann, the theatre writer who introduced me to Pia Kleber and therefore thanks to both I am here, is not with us for he could reaccount how these breaking points meant a lot amongst students once they became radicalized after Benne Ohnesorg was shot in Berlin during an anti Shah demonstration. He described in literal terms how the question of violence crept like a snake through the pub where the students gathered to discuss what now after the shot. That snake was ready to bite anyone, meaning to make someone ready to take up arms. Among the students was Gudrun Enslin, Ulrike Meinhof, Baader and others who joined later the RAF known for assassinations of representatives of a state endorsing violence and which could only be countered by the slogan 'break that down what breaks you down - macht kaputt was Euch kaputt macht'. Juergen went on to describe how a student and his girlfriend just slithered past this violence. One reason he gave is that the student he described was forced to work after the father removed the allowance out of punishment for him having switched from law studies to political science and hence to something less likely to bring in money. As a result of this work the student met his future girlfriend. Both had to act for money as witness at a wedding of a rich businessman. He had also one interesting job, namely to read to a blind woman out of books she had selected. One of them was by Simmel known for rich descriptions of good food. The blind woman surprised him every next Sunday by serving exactly that excellent dish. Somehow this made him become sensitive to literature and to good taste, something condoned at that time by the student movement and if anything the student felt through such exposure to aesthetics he avoided getting trapped in the path of violence. Often youth escapes just by a hair breath some fateful decisions. It matters who are your friends and what influences make themselves felt in order to avoid latent violence from being transformed into real violence.

That question looms largely throughout history but even more so now that terrorism prevails in the minds of everyone as security threat number one. We no longer speak of the kind of terrorism which caused apparently First World War nor how Sartre would distinguish left from right wing forms of terrorism, the former being directed always against individuals while the latter was the anonymous killing of innocent people. Rather we have to confront a new phenomenon too often linked to what some radical preacher might do to a young man's mind and not paying enough attention to what has been the unresolved question of rage or even revenge. This motive has undermined any progress made in the direction of civil society being open and civilized, that is non violent even when it comes to resolving conflicts. At the start there was the claim for democracy that it can be based on the agreement to disagree and which through many forms of cultural developments perceived truth as being no longer absolute but a cultural value which can be questioned even if that does not mean there is no truth.

How important is truth, that can be gauged out of a statement made by Robert Musil in his never fully completed novel 'The man without attributes', for he says "a society without truth will base its decisions merely on probabilities, the outcome of which shall be terrorism."

We understand best parents when they feel terrorised by their own children but should advise them to speak the truth and not conceal to their children the true nature of their relationship. Children and the youth do wish to hear the truth and not hear any lie. However, there is basic tendency to spin off truth and replace them with convenient lies. It has become an inherent strategy and has made the split between private and public truths and morality into a permanent feature of European societies.


– seven years before the fall of the wall -

The three points on the agenda of Richard von Weizsaecker seeking election as mayor of Berlin (West) were as follows:

  1. Exploit the living potential in Berlin (West) by renovating and upgrading the housing stock
  2. Become either German or get out (“when does Kreuzberg belong to us again”)
  3. Do something about the young men who do not need to do military service in West Berlin

An analysis of the link between perception and identity can indicate a structural change as described by Michel Foucault who speaks about people sharing songs with everyone knowing them by heart while any scientific observation would only be accepted if linked to a name to guarantee for the validity of the statement. Even an observation of the sun melting the ice would require a name behind it to be accepted as being true. By contrast in today's world, songs are linked to Madonna or the Beatles while scientific observations can be formulated without the need of any man.

This model of the structures behind knowledge, representation and shifts in power to explain the "order of things" (M. Foucault, 'les mots et les choses') can be used to explain the difference in Berlin (West) before 1981 and after Richard von Weizsäcker was elected then to become the first conservative mayor of Berlin West. Prior to his election people would call each other only by their first names. The national and cultural background as to where anyone came from did not matter. More important was to contribute towards the creation of a new identity but once Richard von Weizsaecker was elected this changed. Suddenly people introduced themselves no more only by their first name, but used their family names or both while everyone withdrew from the multiple level of story telling to being secluded in mere couples seeking their happiness by not staying the entire winter months in Berlin.

Weizsaecker had said three things prior to being elected which might explain many of the problems incurred today, but which are wrongly attributed to changes invoked after 1989 when the wall came down finally. His election platform contained the three points with direct relevance to how Berlin West was to develop in a direction which anticipated really what was going to happen in 1989 when the wall came finally down and the two halves of Berlin not merely reunited but the German army could show again presence in this once divided city. That meant military service was no longer exempted in the former and now new capital of Germany. The three demands of Weizsäcker meant the following for Berlin West for the years to come after 1981:

1. meant cleaning up the squatter movement which had occuped spaces left empty by house owners for various reasons and thus the modernisation of Berlin did mean instead of paying 70 dollars for 70 sqm the rent went up to 600 dollars for the same apartment now having central heating, new windows and most important a door bell. Till then, people were locked into their apartments after police hour. As a result the living space contracted with salaries being used up for paying rent with before being below 10% now reaching 70% or more. Although Berlin is considered to be still inexpensive by comparison and therefore attracts many young people and above all artists, the truth is that real time for artistic and creative processes has become much more difficult while more time is spend to earn the money.

2. that either/or to become German or get out evokes an association with what the philosopher Juergen Habermas said are false alternatives but unfortunately as the defeat of the EU Constitutional Treaty has shown especially in France, but also in Holland in 2005 means the national force for identification process is the only cultural tool applied. It defeated the multi cultural model after the bombing in London and the murder of film maker Van Gogh in Holland. Principles are established by way of killing either directly one person like Benne Ohnesorg during the Student Movement in '68 or else by being arbitrary: the best sign of terrorism. It has led within Europe to a widespread panic about loss of jobs to the new immigrants now deemed to be illegal when in fact even Greeks, Italians, Spaniards or Portugese experienced lives as 'guest workers' in Germany and elsewhere and the integration of third generations still a problem. What horrified me at that time when living in West Berlin by this election platform of Richard von Weizsaecker and which is the reason I no longer live in Berlin on a permanent basis, is that it evoked in my mind what Jean Amery realized one day when sitting on a park bench and reading the new law passed by the National Socialists under Hitler that he was no longer German, but a Jew. Jean Amery survived Auschwitz by trading in his ration cards for cigarettes. He wrote a most important essay which became relevant when the German Greens staged a cultural conference this recent June in Berlin under the title: 'homeland - we are still searching' - Heimat, wir suchen noch! Heimat as a term has many connotations as refugees know very well when coming to West Germany after 1945 and finding no receptive people but getting a hostile reception. That is different when East Germans voted on their feet and made a mass exodus possible from East to West for then 15 million participated already in a first joint election which never had asked the other 65 million in West Germany whether or not they wanted this re-unification. A lot of focus is right now on the Leipzig demonstrations which started with 'we are the people' to protest against the police and the transformation of this appeal into the political slogan 'wir sind ein Volk - we are one people'.

The latter justified unification as a fait accompli, made possible Berlin the new old capital of Germany and this despite there being the European Union which was waiting for quite another integration model, one not based on national identity and open to multi identities since all of us know, culturally speaking, we grew up as much with Pushkin, Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, Homer, Dante and for the sake of official cultural benchmarking in Germany Goethe. To understand this problem of cultural identity becoming a national one based on an allegiance to the state we need to really discuss the deeper implications of Hegel's philosophy, in particular the one defining law. So we have no bottom-up constitution in the European Union, but instead the top-down Lisbon treaty while in Germany re-unification could have been an opportunity to draft a new constitution but which was ruled out for reasons of expediency. Do we need to wonder that people resort to other forms and forces of power to uphold their rights even if their interpretation has no linkage to what Kant defined as being a good law, namely what makes possible 'good business'. Nowadays Germany faces the dilemma of not having resolved the question of social injustice while people from former East Germany have quite a different idea about freedom while facing by themselves alone an ongoing crisis which comes once the basic orientation is lost. Indeed, it is feared that the current financial crisis will produce a situation in which even more social injustice is inflicted in the name of those who have a greater fear to what they gained under conditions not favorable to everyone but just meant to ease the pain of the well off as if they have the coercive power to make politics what it is: a sign of cowardice when it comes to cutting the power of the rich and those who are in danger of getting ever more powerful.

3. When Richard von Weizsaecker complained in 1981 that the youth of Berlin West had not to do any military service, then because he felt and concluded that the young people would not identify themselves with the state and therefore would be inclined to rebel or to act against the interests of the state. This dependency upon the state explains as well why there was so little resistance in Germany against the state and more so once in the hands of Hitler who resorted to terrorist methods to keep everyone at bay or as Mitscherlich, the psychoanalyst would say, marching in the same way like all others because differences would disturb Hitler. That echoed the negation of negation principle developed by Hegel to ensure a person would first give his or her allegiance to the state before assuming some personal identity by returning from the abstract level to the concrete one. Only after having gone through the power of abstraction would an identity be recognized once the state had been recognized unconditionally. That meant on the way there differences and otherness had to be negated. Hegel did not wish that open relationships were struck with friends coming from another country or from a different social and economic backgrounds. The path to German identity has been most exclusive. No wonder when Robert Minder developed the thesis that the prime cell of German literature turns out to be the house of the preacher because the only place in society where different and other people meet than elsewhere in society.

Poland 1979 - 1989

For further information about Anna Walentynowicz see:



All that question of perception and identity through culture changes when we go to Poland. There the upheavals caused by Solidarnosc as a challenge to totalitarian rule meant on the one hand seeking safety of identity not in Europe but in America as has always been the case. On the other hand, retraction to a national identity meant cultural heritage was transformed into national heritage.

Jacek Purchla in Krakow describes very well what this means in terms of cultural heritage protection in a city risking to be on the one hand just a museum for cultural tourists while the urban development based on new forms of exploitations reflect an old problem of the Polish society as to how various segments of society seek to gain not merely identity but status within society.

Law means in Poland a difficult process to figure out what is compatible with own thoughts about lawfulness. Of interest is that Karl Popper had always admired Tarski when defining truth independent from inductive and deductive art forms needed for drawing logical conclusions while Kolakowski had to depart from Poland long before Solidarnosc was preceded by the Flying University around Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron. The challenge posed by Poland in those days was the triangle of workers, intellectuals (artists and poets) and farmers with students acting in-between to bring about conditions allowing the entire society to become creative.

Amazing were the correspondences between URSUS tractor factory outside of Warszawa and Massey-Fergueson in the UK for workers managed within one and half pages letter to explain their own work organisation, what resources they need and how to enter a fair trade agreement so that all factories would have work, supplies, markets and working conditions linking freedom with political decisions about the main parameters of the economy: circulation of resources before money itself. Jaruselski evoked the martial law in December 1980 by justifying it with avoiding thereby an invasion of the Warszawa Pact as had been the case in East Berlin 1953, Budapest 1956 and Prag in 1968. What he did not say is the wish to undercut this creation of a political economy from below. No one seemed to understand this in the West and those in East did not see the significance of this experiment when the division of power is overcome by intellectuals and workers begin to talk and theory does play a role in how society is organised. Students learn then not a knowledge to rule, but with wisdom begin to understand conditions of knowledge is also getting to know the reason to exist. When working with the BBC at Bahnhof Zoo to catch people arriving by train from Poland  in order to have some news (there was a complete black out) most significant was what one mathematician looking like Einstein said when asked by David Smeeton, the Tiger of the BBC stationed otherwise in Bonn: "the martial law was unjust and eventually resistance will come." That word 'eventually' needs to be kept in mind when trying to understand the future of Europe both East and West.

Amazing was the expression of a mathematician who had taken part in an international congress held in Warszawa when martial law was declared. He told David Smeeton who interviewed him for the BBC as he got off the train in Bahnhof Zoo that "martial law is unjust and eventually resistance will". It proved most prophetic since after all the inflicted injustices often done in the name of utopian goals but finally only in the interest to make material gains, that the system collapsed and freedom gained without a single shot being fired. That has to be recognized when speaking about these tremendous changes which were initiated by countless people but also by Gorbatshov with Glasnost and Perestroika.

3. Theatrical performances after the fall of the wall

Since we have been asked to address the major concern of this meeting, that is, what is the response of the performing arts to the cultural and social challenges, it is a challenge to turn attention to especially the theatre as key to understanding who performs what under what new conditions now that the wall and iron curtain dividing until 1989 Berlin and Europe have come down? There are many stories to be told. They are all connected with that transition allowing some performances to continue while others are suddenly cancelled. Not sure if it meant simple censorship, more uncertainty prevailed when seeing that others would continue as ongoing performance while new ones emerged with no one knowing really why this had passed the shrewd eyes of censorship. The system kept everyone on their toes and guessing what was possible. It was a constant testing to find out where were the real limits. That was the general condition in Eastern Europe until 1989.


Here Henryk Baranowski is an amazing figure. He left in December 1980 Berlin where he was staying at the time for Warszawa to attend the first meeting of all Polish theatre people. That was a great time as always when creativity makes possible all kinds of linkages and experiences. Little did he realize what happened when 'Apocalypse now' happened during that cold December night and martial law was declared. It meant the same reality could be found outside as shown in that film. It left the people forever confused. Martial law imposed by Jaruselski meant after in one sweep during the night not only all Solidarnosc people had been arrested but all signs of this movement erased from the walls. Literally speaking, Henryk Baranowski did not realize what had happened and as if in his own world he went to the place for the meeting. He wandered in and wondered why besides him there was only one other person in this huge room. Only then the news reached him what had happened that night.

Henryk Baranowski with his Transform Theater performed Heiner Mueller in West and East Berlin as well as in Warszawa. When Heiner Mueller criticized the way he showed the Hamlet Machine in West Berlin, Henryk Baranowski replied contradictions could not be shown in the same way in the West as it was done in the East.

The actor on the stage

Self confidence means a beaming voice across the stage and flung right at the feet of the audience for as you wish, my ladies and gentlemen, I shall perform for you! The willingness to give in is presumed. In reality the actor sets the stage in a way that composition, texture and passages of time begin to fade into the background as he or she steps forward to begin speaking directly to the audience.

Be yourself may be good advice but do not forget the crucial question of Shakespeare's Hamlet. For "to be or not to be" was merely second best to the question about who could suit words to actions and actions to words? If the latter is possible, then things can be made to appear as if things on the stage could never happen in reality and vice versa on stage. However, in politics that could shake a simple conviction in what was a plan and what was the real purpose of the action undertaken.

To be up to date means striving to be a contemporary actor but then Max Frisch identifies the intellectual as the 'Heutige': the person wanting to be eternally "today" as if capable of living in the present.

There is the crucial question posed by Klaus Mann's 'Mephisto' in allusion to the actor Gruendgens who performed Faust during the Hitler era. The play described in the novel reflects the history of that actor who makes his career during the Nazi time. Exemplified is his moral code when he denias his former girlfriend recognition because of her Jewish background once they meet again by chance in already occupied Paris. It says a lot about his moral fabric. But more important is the message Klaus Mann wishes to transmit. For Gruendgen seems to have acted out on stage something which can be perceived by politicians as doing something evil and yet get away with it.

There are two outstanding questions when talking about acting and actors:

1. There is Brecht's theory of alienation implying an actor has to be able to stand beside himself in order to perceive how he is acting. Again this involves a symmetrical relationship since the actor on stage being observed by himself as a normal person compares to the normal people sitting in the audience.

2. When the Student movement began to break ranks with norms of theatre, then not only as an audience attending theatrical performances without tie and proper dress, but also in allowing Peter Weiss's piece about Marquis de Sade and Marat capture the entire attention of the theatre with regards to the question of violence. By the time the no future generation arrived on stage they would only consider a slogan empty of theatrical performance as they wished merely to destroy what was destroying them.

And then there is the theatre performed in prison. In Solshenitzyn's description of 'First Circle of Hell' prisoners mimic theatre during their Saturday evening free time. One of them plays judge, another the accused: an aristocrat who is charged with treason for having attempted to upsurge the government with his international contacts. After having been found guilty, the judge asks the prisoners now no longer just an audience but a jury what would be the worst punishment. They all said in a chorus the death penalty. The judge replies: no, that is not the worst punishment, he wants a tougher one. The prisoners think a bit and come to a second suggestion: banishment to Siberia as something they experience on their own skin. Again the judge replies: no, that is not tough enough and adds again empathically that he wants a tougher sentence. The prisoners scratch their head and ask what could be worse than death or banishment to Siberia? In the end they give up and ask the judge to tell them what is the worst punishment. The reply comes direct from his mouth: 'banishment to the West!'

As a reminder, but outside the theatre, there is this dialogue between Heinrich Boell and Stanislaw Lem. They compare experiences. Both have gone through several raids by the police, especially Boell after he wanted a free passage for Ulrike Meinhof sought already then as a terrorist by the police. In view of these harsh anti terrorist police methods both writers come to the conclusion that they face similar conditions in both the East and West. What conjoins and shall determine the future is that people are brought to adopt a certain attitude towards politics. For the two conclude that anti Communism is the best school to prepare people for becoming anti political and therefore leave their fate to be decided upon by others.

Polish theatre could be experienced in Berlin West best by what Henryk Baranowski did with his Transform Theatre. He was followed later by Andjei Woron who was originally the stage designer for Henryk's Transform Theatre but who made theatre to become an entire life painting on stage. This high artistic quality and at the same time deep human touch is exemplified by a saying of Andjei Woron when claiming that when reading Western newspapers that he is selling to himself quite different news compared to his Western friends.

Heiner Mueller's Hamlet Machine has been discussed in post modern terms as indication of identity having become fragmented, to the point of no identity being left. This may be the consequence Nathalie Sarraute talks about when comparing Kafka with Dostoevsky as she feels there is already a difference between the nineteenth and twentieth century. While in the former the bad and good can still talk to each other and relate to each other as in many novels by Dostoevsky, Kafka writes in a different world. Scientists have gone beyond the understanding of common people. Kafka tries to follow them in his imagation beyond any human border but he is as frightened by this world as he confesses to Felice in his letter to her while she stays in Frankfurt that he could never exist amongst those business people. Kafka adds he can only exist in between the lines he writes. Nathalie Sarraute still believes Kafka would have written like Dostoevsky if human relationships were not excluding each other but relate good and bad at human level to what would mean staying in contact with each other and therefore with human reality.

There is still another ending of theatre being as it used to be. Rzszard Kapuscinski describes in his book "Imperium" as to what happens in the various regions after the downfall of the Soviet Union. He begins his description by wondering how much effort, resources, time and labor it took to produce so much barbed wire for all the fences which were put up during the Communist era to mark borders. And then he is amazed to see Mother Russia still dominating in theatre. Soldiers march onto stage as if in reality everyone can still seek comfort that the greater Soviet Union empire still exists. Intended by such a play is to give to the audience the message that through patriotism and not forgetting Mother Russia and the greater Soviet Union a sense of security still exists and that despite collectivization and all the prison camps in Siberia.

The audience

The audience is a part of the performance when people knew the difference between what is being said in the street is true compared to what is said on stage and still makes a difference in how what is being said in the streets is understood nowadays as a trend, a signal or something much more alarming due to being surrounded by a perculiar silence.

In a most illuminating article, John Bennett from Liverpool Hope University writes about an unusual theatre and its audience since both intertwine outside the official program when Liverpool was European Capital of Culture in 2008. The theatre was not funded by the institution nor its playwrights recognized. The national and regional press ignored it, but which has an audience with "no compunction about answering back". This is because a case of a "drinking-in-the-auditorium, panto-trained, stand-up comedy heckling, sing-along-concert going audience". In other words, it is an audience made up of "most vocal, least self-conscious theatre goers" so that the distance between the ones watched and the watcher melts down in the laughter after every act. (see John Bennett, "Answering to the audience: opportunities and tensions in popular theatre programming with particular reference to the Royal Court Liverpool and the 2008 European Capital of Culture" in: Whose Culture(s)? Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the University Network of European Capitals of Culture, Proceedings of Liverpool Conference 16 - 17 October 2008, ed. Wim Coudenys, UNeECC Forum, Vol. 1, 2008)

4. Europe performing

Symmetry and Assymetry in the European Union

In 1999 President Santer of the European Commission had to step down after the European Parliament challenged one of his commissioners for possible corruption or conflict of interests. He was followed by Prodi as President of the European Commission. The latter is one of the three power pillars in Brussels. The other two are the European Parliament with limited power as it cannot introduce new legislation. It is a privilege granted so far only to the European Commission, and there is the Council of Europe where ministers of the EU member states meet. The latter has contributed to a duplication of every committee which exists in the European Parliament. Naturally the spheres of competence of the Council as well as of the European Parliament depends on the treaties and their subsequent interpretation in practice.

In asymmetry to this symmetry of Council, Commission and Parliament you have the citizens who do elect directly members of the European Parliament but who are mainly on party lists and therefore never allocated to one particular voting district. The country which did uphold this principle of direct representation is the UK but has diluted this principle by enlarging the voting districts into Metropolitan like areas or regions. The citizen can influence indirectly the outcomes in Brussels by voting for a distinct governmental constellation at national level. However, there is no way to influence how a minister votes in Brussels or what shall be the political outcome of the coalitions in power. Most depend upon a variety of forces which can play off each other any responsibility for European decisions.

German Reunification (1989)

In-between we had the fall of the Berlin Wall with Germany under the influence of Genscher promptly recognizing Croatia in 1991 as the only country but which allowed Croatia to immediately arm itself and thereby triggering off the most violent split up of now former Yugoslavia.

In-between we had as well 911 and in 2003 the start of the invasion into Iraq with all possible consequences for the civilian population either killed or else forced to flee in order to seek more often than not as illegal immigrants a save haven outside of Calais, that is at the mouth of the tunnel leading under the channel to the UK. Similar camps of refugees seeking new possibilities to exist on this earth exist in Patras, Greece. And it not only the Mexican-American border which has seen the erection of high electric fences but similar efforts are made along the Mediterranean bordering near to Africa. It includes Italy and Spain. And all along Europe or rather the EU foreign policy attempts to justify the clamp down on asylum seekers as if illegal immigrants without papers instead of recognizing the war fought as well with NATO troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused a huge displacement of people.

We know that all states hold another state accountable in terms of movement of people. Borders mean just that. When East Germans started to vote with their feet by seeking to escape East Germany via Hungary to the West, that started the final count down of the DDR – Deutsche Demokratische Republik – even though to date it is controversial to reaccount how the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig could be transformed with the final slogan being not “we want freedom” but instead “we are one people – wir sind das Volk.” What had been meant at first as a kind of protection against police harassment was subversively transformed into a slogan leading to German re-unification in the midst of Europe. Yet the 15 million of East Germans did not ask the 55 million West Germans whether they like to be reunified. No, it was done again from above instead of letting freedom gather momentum from below and thereby involve everyone in the all important learning process as to what politics in Europe is all about. To let it be said for the sake of history, when East Germans joined the federal elections, it was already a fact that the East German state had been dissolved into Laender for a constitutional trick was needed for the entire East German territory to be linked to West Germany. It was thought out of expediency of time that no new constitution was needed and the Laender joined individually, thereby accepting ad hoc the provisional constitution of West Germany as formal provision for gaining their own recognition as Laender in the newly enlarged state. That has so many unforeseen consequences yet in need to be spelled out, but certainly it underlined something of crucial importance for Europe altogether.

Working hypothesis:

Had Germany stayed portioned with East and West two separate states, then Bonn would have not been against European unification in the way that a Germany with a renewed capital in Berlin states simply quite another political philosophy: yes to Europe, yes to European unification equals expansion to the East and South with Turkey included, but also yes to the national state of Germany with the capital being Berlin again.

911 and the start of war in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2005)

There is one particular worrying trend underlying all of this. This is when advertisement and image loaded messages replace every other kind of communication and one image becomes the entire message. That is the case with the image depicting a plane flying into the Twin Tower in New York. It has replaced everything else what happened before and after this event of 911. The image was used successfully as if self-sufficient evidence of the claim that the United States had come under attack. President Bush used it to equate this event with the attack on Pearl Harbour to justify the going to war. Yet a closer look would immediately realise terrorists attack but once and then fade away to be again a largely invisible enemy. As a matter of fact there were no where visible standing armies comparable to the Japanese one in the case of Pearl Harbor ready to invade the United States in September 2001. It did, however, break the myth of being safe once past the statue of Liberty as had thought many immigrants who had fled terror and persecution at home to seek another life in the United States.

The way the image substantiated the term 'attack' is crucial for understanding the prevailing security agenda. For once the United States had made that claim all NATO members had to rally around and follow suit what the US government decided on how to respond. According to the NATO treaty all members have to act in unison if one of them has come under attack. The treaty calls for such demonstration of automatic solidarity.

No one in Europe questioned seriously the reason for going to war after 911. Safe for a few exceptions none of the NATO members ask the United States to explain the claim of having come under attack. The self evidence was so overpowering and convincing that no one wanted to challenge in the nuances the very use of the word 'attack' as if a full scale war threat stood before the doors of the United States. In reality, Canada next door was a friendly neighbour and at the Mexican border no troops had amassed ready to attack. To make things worse, NATO members did not even challenge the replacement of an invisible enemy by concrete ones. However everyone knows that any army needs a clear enemy picture, in order to have something to shoot at. Otherwise an army cannot function nor be united internally around this single cause to defeat that enemy. Although neither Afghanistan nor later on Iraq could be linked directly with this feat of 911 with two planes capable of bringing down both towers, they became the collective targets of the wrath of the United States.

Afghanistan and Iraq became in reality the scapegoats for a botched security defence system of the USA. For instance, nothing happened between the first and second plane even though there was sufficient time to intercept the second plane. Why no one made a move remains to date a puzzle. How strange. Even stranger were all the last minute phone made by those who faced certain death either in the planes or in one of the two towers. All calls were of the same nature with one exception. While everyone called home to say goodbye to their loved ones not this one man on the flight heading for Washington. He called his mistress who informed him about two planes having hit the Twin Towers. He concluded immediately that their plane was also hijacked for a similar purpose. Together with other passengers they resisted the hijackers and the plane went down on a field in Philadelphia rather than reach its presumed target: the White House.

Yet such stories can only be tracked in detail and clarification sought when analysis goes beyond the highly suggestive image of those two planes crashing into the tower. As horrific that was, it is also crucial to listen truly to what different people say in such tragic moments. Often they reveal a great insight. Unforgetable is the statement by an international lawyer whose husband died in one of the towers. She emphasized that he had dedicated his entire life to peace and therefore his death should not be used to justify the going to war. Unfortunately such a voice was not listened to.

Once an image can replace a complex communication process, people will miss out on a differentiated way to understand things. The latter has to be based on dialogue and on listening to different discourses. It will involve the working out of contradictions and accepting that there is not one but different opinions on how to respond. Instead Bush made his appearance on ground zero to rally, so to speak, the troops around the US flag.

With some apprehension one wanted to know how the firemen and New York policemen would react. During the Vietnam war they had been one of the most vocal opponents to that war. But the moment they started to shout not 'Bush, Bush' but still 'USA, USA, USA' all was clear. It meant literally everything to be said about 911 was going to be subsumed under one message, namely 'go get them'.

As Grace Boggs said by converting everyone into a victim, there was no longer any room for making a critical analysis as to how this act of terror came about. Instead the shout was followed by venting a thirst for revenge insofar as 'go get them' meant already going to war.

Since war can never be justified, patriotism had to blind all and make them believe they are justified to go to war. The real motive was, however, a wish to revenge. For 911 has deprived the US of the illusion of being invulnerable and invincible. This illusion is directly linked to the vague notion of feeling secure. Rather than accept the fact that every human being is vulnerable and that it would be good to loose such a dangerous illusion since it led to taking too many things for granted, US politics wished to lash out as a show of strength rather than accepting human weakness is in human reality a strength. It is provided politics comes to terms with reason and follows up the demand to free oneself from the urge to revenge by letting the rule of the law guide politics. Instead politics under President Bush played out to the full the fear to appear vulnerable in future.

Even worse, this fake fear of being a victim not once but for life gave a carte blanche to President Bush to go to war and not just any war. Rumsfeld spoke of starting a 'permanent war' - the very opposite of what the philosopher Kant had sought, namely permanent peace.

The lashing out was made worse by all the aggression being directed first at Afghanistan and when the results were not satisfactory then at Iraq. By 2009 the focus has shifted solely to Afghanistan due to President Barack Obama deciding to pull out of Iraq and to order a surge in Afghanistan in November 2009.

Looking back to events preceding March 2003 when Iraq was invaded, the entire war effort reflected the urge of politicians like Bush and Blair to deal as harshly as possible with Saddam Hussein. Blair kept demanding that he should comply and cooperate fully but it meant in reality such serviant compliance and cooperation which could only be delivered by a dead man. As long as the other is not taken for granted and removed from power if he does not comply, it would mean accepting differences of opinion and even that the other can not only talk back but also contradict the assertions made by Western leaders the like of Blair or Bush.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq had nothing to do with the collapse of the Twin Towers. Still the Western powers agreed with the United States and supported the going to war. Especially Europe performed badly in the wake of this huge American Patriotism demanding revenge at all levels even when it meant ignoring the international weapon inspectors. There was no interest in any kind of truth for the political will was to seize the opportunity to lash out. Almost everyone complied in the case of Afghanistan. When it came to Iraq there was some resistance especially by the Schröder/Fischer government in Germany. They said 'no' to sending troops there, but this was a noted exception with many consequences for post-war Germany. They were saved from the full wrath of the US government by having agreed already to send troops to Afghanistan despite the promise made in West Germany after 1945 never to start again a war or to let soldiers go on such missions abroad. Apparently there is in reality no alternative to the Nato dominated sphere of influence but sheer compliance.

During this time period something else became evident in a most regretable way. There was one letter written which endorsed fully the going to war Iraq. It was signed by President Havel and others from mainly Eastern European countries and therefore future EU members (they joined in May 2004). It is unbelievable that Havel as one who led the opposition under Communist suppression would take this opportunity to show more than mere Nato compliance but full enthusiasm for the American led invasion of Iraq. But then someone closer to the ground would know already that after giving up first the weapons industry of the Czech Republic even writers close to Havel began to think anew what should they do if they disarm by letting go of the weapons factories when others take over and continue that business? Rather than let strangers profit from this business, they concluded that it is better to stay oneself in business. This they did even though such failure to disarm is highly questionable in terms of human morality. It is also a contradiction in terms as to what notions of peace prevail in Eastern Europe and especially in Poland thanks to Janusz Korczak who narrated following story for children: one day children send their parents to school and they went instead to work in a factory producing till then weapons, and once in control of the factory they converted it into one producing chocolate. Consider that to be an utopian dream, it still matters if adults endorse the wish of children rather than follow dirty business interests.

The fact that these countries joined first Nato and then the European Union says a lot about the shift in values the European Union has experienced since 2004. It has to date deep implication of how Europe can perform internationally. With already Britain playing an exceptional role due to its close alliance with the USA, it was predictable that governance in the sense of Europe staying a soft power was going to be most difficult for the years to come. This has been born out by what marked developments up to 2009 with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty nearly jeopardized by the President who followed Havel in the Czech Republic.

Belfast in 2009 - test case since the Friday Peace Agreement

Belfast wall mural Sept. 2009

There is another way to exemplify the performance of Europe. With regards to Belfast and the violent conflict between the Catholic, equally pro an independent Ireland and Protestant, likewise Loyalists to the Crown communities, mediation has been hard to bear any fruit. The Friday agreement which brought about finally some power sharing of both to appease them into non violent disputes was brought about more by the United States in combination with Downing Street in London than with by the European Union as such. The conflict swells on for mistrust between both sides is huge and always a latent force ready to turn violent at any moment. One wrong word and things flare up.

When seeking an explanation for this unrivited readiness to be violent against those just living on the other side of the street there needs to be taken a look at one wall mural for it depicts where the Loyalists obtain their positive concept of violence, namely from having served as soldiers of the crown in First World War. There is so much glorification of this service that it silences all the atrocities which were incurred during that war. A trip to Verdun would testify to that senseless trench warfare with generals often deciding the troops should advance these trenches by five meters but then it cost again more than 2 000 lives in one day.

The puzzlement within Europe begins with this different experience of violence. It has been pointed out in the essay 'poetry and violence' by Brendan Kennelly that violence was on the contrary within Ireland a mythical concept linked to a bloody but nevertheless successful emancipation from the British yoke safe for Northern Ireland where the Loyalists held the sway in the opposite direction. Consequently in view of this mural alone it testifies that no questioning of violence as happened so far in Northern Ireland. The one side experienced it in First World War as part of the highest possible service to country and the crown while the others cannot image an empancipation without having to resort to violence.

Both sides in the conflict of Northern Ireland do not share the horrific and traumatic experiences made by those who served in First World War. Alone the expression of Paul Klee that during First World War all beauty was destroyed, says it all about this huge difference in meaning attached to violence. When the Platform for Intercultural Europe was approached by Poiein kai Prattein after experiencing on Sept. 21st 2009 the reality in Belfast and urging to test there the concept of 'intercultural dialogue', the answer by the general secretary was a no answer as if this issue did not figure very high in the priority list. It reflects once again that the concept of intercultural dialogue is but an operation with half truths and does not allow the picking up of different discourses in need to be perceived first before any thought can be given to bridge building, mediation and reconciliation, never mind redemption as memories at work when true stories are told as to what took place when bombs went off still in Belfast and before the peace line was drawn up to keep both communities at bay.

The Northern Ireland conflict until the Friday agreement and the peace process since then requires an authentic story telling so that not everyone plays the role of the victim while having been in fact one of the perpetrators. Working out such differences shall never be easy. It is linked to the problem of forgiving and getting on with your life without stroking the fire of still further hatred of the other side.

Street of Loyalists

The frenzy of the loyalists is underlined by having everywhere the Union Jack flying. It is hard to imagine people living within that community of being easily reached by any other message than what the Loyalists wish them to receive. This includes the huge wall murals which dominate the street scenes. It is quite something else when streets are cluttered either with advertisement or even better have no signs whatsoever to make visible the buildings and who lives there. Giving space is made possible by not taking space. That goes for messaging as well as for breathing.

Two possible points of entry for further analysis can be identified:

1) There is the thesis by Brendan Kennelly that if ‘convictions’ are challenged, then it is taken to mean an insult. This is, however, only possible if those holding convictions experience a challenge not as a challenge and allow therefore a questioning of the truth of the matter, but rather take it as a threat against wish they have to defend themselves best done by becoming aggressive and even violent towards the other as precautionary move. What Brendan Kennelly wishes to point out that 'learned hatred is most difficult to unlearn'. It begins by remembering that the convictions were originally just prejudices before they were converted into convictions. A solution is to be found by regaining some of those childhood dreams betrayed when growing up but not identified as such since the education system pointing always a finger at Judas as the betrayer leads to overseeing and to forgetting the betrayals of one's own dreams such as the one people can co-exist peacefully on this earth. It is a dream every child shares.

See: Brendan Kennelly, ‘Judas’

2) The Polish journalist Kapuscinski describes in his book “Meine Reise mit Herodot” the ability of each locality to develop its own culture in order to communicate with other cultures. That is the true meaning of diversity but also the need to question the myth of one’s own originality without giving recognition to where even the own Gods came from e.g. Greeks and their false claim that they had their own Gods when in fact they were imported from Egypt. But communication made simple is about two things: ‘problem’ or ‘no problem’!

A further analysis of violence in the streets, within cities, between different groups spilling over to become anti migrant sentiments reinforced by Right Wing Populists who fuel the xenophobic forces would have to distinguish between direct recruitment and effective campaigning via oversimplified images.

Reference to violence

Loyality and obedience

Enemy pictures

Silence of the dead

Europe performing in the 21st century

If anything, Europe in 2009 compared to 1989 appears strangely out of control and no longer at ease with itself. After having just confronted the first serious crisis of the Euro due to state deficits running out of control, some new revelation have to be confronted. For the crisis has one interesting impact. It deprived everyone of the illusion if Europe is united in anything, if not in cultural then at least in economic terms. Quite the opposite is now the case. National accounting prevails despite of having a common currency. It has exposed the weakness of a Europe attempting to function without any common economic governance in place.

European institutions face new challenges everyday due a systemic transformation of the entire system. It forces everyone to follow a kind of blind folded adaptation process. No one is sure if it shall work but everyone hopes to keep outside immediate spheres of influence the ongoing financial and environmental crisis. It has sparked an entire movement based on self denial that reality is not that bad. Politics without thought through measures means European performance has become a matter of patchworks, themselves relying on networks which are as much exclusive as inclusive. They all belong to the European caravan seeking to live off various opportunities offered, for example, by the institution of European Capitals of Europe. These measures for the time being leaves the European Union to focus on mobility and movement as means to further integration. Johannes Agnoli has called this already a long time ago 'the transformation of democracy'.

In the meantime, and since 2004 countries of former “Eastern Europe” like Poland, Hungary, Croatia, but also Malta, Cyprus and especially Eastern Germany now united with West Germany have gained and lost some things by their entry into the European Union. However, since 1999 and the bombardment of Kosovo something else affects the European Union and this despite the EU expansion and enlargement process still continuing with the large question of Turkey looming on the horizon. The first war since 1945 in former Jugoslavia has ended in Europe an integration process from within. Till 1999 it was based on a sense of social justice expressed best by the structural fund seeking to balance out differences between regions and this on the basis of wishing to strengthen the economic and social cohesion of Europe. After 1999 the discussion has been much more about the need for rapid intervention forces.

This new phase after 1999 was accelerated in 2004 by the entry of the Eastern European countries. They redefined due to their very strong pro American or Western orientation as counterbalance to the Russian influence the orientation of the European Union. As a matter of fact it means a pronounced greater dependency upon Nato and military intervention forces rather than relying on own social and economic forces and therefore seeks to unify Europe merely from the outside. Consequently the Lisbon Treaty foresees the naming of one top European diplomat as if Europe can be united in the same classical way Bismarck did it with regards to Germany in 1871 when waging wars to unite the internal very different Länder not at all willing to accept the dominance of the Prussian power at that time.

The question is how Europe got to where it finds itself in 2009? Its way of performing has affected identity and shaped above all memory politics at all European levels. Memory within the European Union is linked to the stretch of one to five years depending on the actions and programs being referred to while the overall vision extends to a stretch of over ten years. Thus while 2008 was dedicated to 'intercultural dialogue', 2009 is to 'creativity and innovation'. It is a kind of neutral memory politics looking forward and expressed by concepts such as 'intercultural dialogue' although in fact an operation with half truths since the concept does not capture the reality of different dialogues. Equally the strategic vision for 2020 uses fancy terms such as 'smart growth' even though such technology induced concepts say nearly nothing in real life. They are more convenient floscels to hide the fact of being just another turn over of European funds to finance projects with highly doubtful outcomes but a way to keep peace within Europe an ongoing project.

There are still significant differences between the individual countries and in regions. More than anything else it says a lot about the real Europe. Thus it is interesting to note that France observes every year in the form of a major national holiday on May 8th the end of Second World War. By contrast it is in Germany just a normal working day. Europe has still to draw up a cultural calendar to comprehend why the others are observing a religious holiday when others go to work. Nikos Stravoulakis said this was the case as long as Salonika was still diverse and no Greek stamp had been put on the city. However, that was no longer the case after the disaster in Asia Minor in 1921. It is a way to follow European history as driving out rather than integrating and respecting cultural diversity. Michael D. Higgins says here EU cultural policy has failed the most with a lack of promoting participatory forms the other great shortcoming.

European Cultural Policy (2009)

For many reasons cultural policy at EU level has remained at second level of competence. One of the main reasons for that is the weak legal basis the Commission has to initiate cultural programs and actions. Still during the phase of 2000 to 2007 a major effort was made to draw up a first EU agenda on culture. The high expectations which went along with that have not been fulfilled. Rather reductionism of cultural aspirations for Europe go hand in hand with identity formations linked to intentions of re-nationalisation of culture. Fueled by reference to cultural heritage as if no mistakes can be made by celebrating the classics or restoring old houses, it leaves modern art expressions outside any consideration when it comes to promote European culture(s). Moreover the link of culture to the economy while still having to mask the state as if a civilized instrument of making politics possible despite having gone over and again to war, means the dialectic of securalization of culture and politics has not been understood within Europe. The confusion between cultural and religious values underlines that.

A lot of the weakness marking EU cultural policy can be explained by the European Union having adopted primarily the form of cultural heritage to protect property rights. The key to that is that claims to property depend how stories are told and if part of the national inheritance than no one can doubt prevailing power structures handed on over generations. It is a way to mask inheritances. Once these national narratives take a hold everyone seems to know who owes what places due to legal rights acquired already in the past and passed on by heritary laws. This restricts identity formation within Europe. The problem for a new cultural identity in support of Europe can only be understood if one remembers a saying by Hegel, namely those without property in their possession have no identity. It goes without saying that a 'cultural free market' requires the neutralization of cultural differences in order that the product can be sold everywhere within this sphere of influence of the single market.

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with following items listed:

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Superficial measures and the real substance of things

Commission strategy focuses on three priorities - 21/10/2009

If the European Union reduces policy measures to giving prizes, then merely as a part of a Public Relations exercise to show to a skeptical European audience presence. It is said, however, among writers, poets, film makers etc. the best way to promote strife amongst artists is to give a prize. It does something to the milieu in which most of the innovative and creative forces of society move. As an architect said after first prize was awarded to the design later used to build the new Acropolis museum in Athens, non-measurable is the impact such apparently successful models have upon future architects as it provides guidance about trends in society. Such cultural orientations towards, for example, mass tourism says a lot about which strategies are adopted as a result of the priorities set by governing bodies like the European Commission.

Europe as a fiction but a necessary one (Bart Verschaffel)

When images replace communication of content, it reinforces a certain standardization of everything. The world becomes alike with all travelers knowing by now how airport systems work when checking in. This is the main thesis of James Clifford in his book called 'Predicament of Culture' prevailing once coca-cola can be seen everywhere and all cultural differences have evaporated.

Bart Verschaffel, Prof. at the University of Ghent, points out one worrying trend at unversity level for one publication standard has been installed. It contributes towards erasing the distinction between working papers, notes, research, studies, Ph.D. dissertations, scientific findings, protocols etc. That makes knowledge appear flat as is the case of much Internet based communication making no longer any distinction between public, semi-public, semi-private and private.

Treatment of knowledge in an undifferentiated manner contradicts the Lisbon strategy of the EU insofar as it was meant the creation of the knowledge economy. The aim was to become highly competitive in the world. Such high sounding phrases have literally very little to do with reality. By 2009 the failure of the Lisbon strategy had become more than just evident.

To make up for these failures to realise the Lisbon targets, the European Commission has started to articulate a vision for 2020. From now on economic success shall depend on 'smart growth'. The potentials of the cultural industries shall be tapped into. The appropriate term has become 'the economy of experience'. There are the new catch phrases everyone uses out of convenience. Such communication without communicating explains why European performance is remarkable resistent to criticism. And much what is being said in the European Parliament is a clever reinvention of what has been formulated previously. It does not make the European debate any better when things are said in such a way that it remains largely without any consequences.

Once there is no longer any dialogue taking place to reflect upon contents in need of a very differentiated approach to the reality as experienced by people in their daily lives, communication shall be reduced to short sound and visual bites of three seconds at the maximum. Already the film maker Fellini opted for doing 1 minuted commercials since the huge amount of money offered to make it gave him all the possibilities to test the newest technologies to be used for producing highly powerful images. Goeppels knew that already when presenting to the world the new Afga film in color in 1940. Once the world believes that such a highly compressed image can convey the entire message, it overrides everything else. If coca-cola can stick out in the mind due to the certain red used to mark its bottle label, the same applies when people speak about branding of culture.

More than anything such advertisement and public diplomacy strategies belie the absence of an authentic culture. While advertisement can suggest personal happiness is linked to possessing exactly such a car, if that claim goes unchallenged then people are simple in dire need of true happiness. Definitely the world has gone crazy. Since when is a jeep needed to crash through nature in a world without nature? Or why seems a twenty-floor high luxury hotel with swimming pool more enticing when the experience of swimming in the open sea is quite enough to get a taste of salty water? But then the EU is advancing the concept of an 'economy of experience'. The latter determines the performance of the economy but in such a world experiences made are not for real. Rather only those artificial experiences are meant which can be enriched by technology and which cost a lot. It goes without saying that in such a world in which no other experiences count, depends upon its entertainment industry to distract the attention of everyone from anything else. It goes without saying that such an economy produces as side product ever more a poverty of experience. People end up then in conflicts with their true nature without knowing how they got there in the first place.

Hatto Fischer

Athens, Greece




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