Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

4. Le vecu - the lived through experiences


Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



4. Le vecu – lived through experiences

4.1 Experiences

4.2 Cultural Compatibility verified by Cultural Impact Studies

4.3 What people can sustain over time

4.4 Reforms as decentralization of power


4.1 Experiences

Culture is an expression of human experiences; at the same time, culture traces evidence of human aspirations as based on experiences made into poems and art works. There is as well the new problem with which culture has to deal with, namely ‘poverty of experience’. At the same time, cultural tourism extends dreams of any visitor by promising special experiences. They can be of exotic kind but also be linked to adventure sports like extreme hiking in the mountains or else shooting rapids in a canoe.

Street Fear

A Polish video documentation producer started his career in America by selling all kinds of nuts at a street corner in New York. Significantly he survived by looking the other way when something was happening around him. Street fear! Or accepting certain conditions?

Since 1945 and the end of Second World War ‘ethics of seeing’ has taunted our perception of things about what people saw or not when Jews were dragged out of their houses and put onto trucks. The disappearance of people haunts still today streets not only in Berlin but in other cities as well; it means the safety of the street as public space is gone especially when military forces take over and impose curfew.

Still what took place in the Warszawa ghetto reminds that resistance existed. At every street corner plaques remind of those who fought and were killed there. Looking back a survivor of the concentration camp said Auschwitz university taught him people should never let themselves be separated from others for then selection can begin first at home, then on the ramp and finally at the gate of the death camp. It is said that students and others turned terrorists in Germany as the Baader-Meinhof group feared to stand on that ramp again. They took then not to the streets but to the underground and directed their violence against individuals they singled out. It was terror but devoid of mass murder.

Of interest for an encompassing approach to street fear is that the Expressionists painted the city and its street as a big urban lie. They filled streets with all kinds of screams. On the other hand Robert Musil described ‘street fear’ of those not in the streets, but those in power who watched from their office windows what happened below when the people took to the streets to topple governments. Waves of the masses seemed to press forward while ahead the police was awaiting them. It can invoke memories of many street fights, including the barricades in the French revolution. In terms of history of art, once avenues became streets, one can be reminded by the Impressionists what Moulin Rouge looked like or Van Gogh what is urban loneliness.

Indeed people have filled streets with different meanings and expectations. More often they are frightened into submission by something mightier ruling the streets. Habermas calls it the structural changes of public space. Others would describe it as the impact of technical revolutions such as cars and motorization of mobility leaving their imprint. Streets are, therefore, historical imprints of these changes manifesting themselves. They allow a reading of the Times and even fears are subject to change when entering Fifth Avenue compared to a darkened street in the Bronx or downtown Detroit after its inner core was burned down.

The existence of street fear means people do not give up easily. One  writer compared people to ‘blind ants’: they continue despite all odds but then like Kafka puts it, fear can make even the sparrow be afraid to eat the crumb next to him especially if a person stands nearby. Such vicinity to survival and yet inability to take that final step, explains many prevailing gaps between the poor and the well off people. It fills streets in London, Paris, Johannesburg or elsewhere with anguish and despair about such contradictions. If left unresolved, the wealthy end up fearing differently streets from those forced to live in them.

The twentieth century has witnessed many transitions in how life in streets is perceived. Martin Jay called it the ‘disenchantment of the eye’. It made life in the street since Walter Benjamin’s ‘flaneur’ into a showcase of dilemma between mere consumption and what kind of protest is possible since only idleness or doing nothing was left as alternative. Bunel in his film ‘The obscure object of desire’ shows in a surrealistic way how things end up being resolved: suddenly bombs explode in the passage of consumption to evaporate all traces of love. It was the beginning of the play with not fire but a kind of terrorism that the bourgeoisie enjoys and dreads at one and the same time, namely a kind of different game to what war entails and romantically labelled as the anarchy of the street. But that was about to change.

Once the more serious game prevails, then streets are converted again into demonstrations of those favouring outright war. At the beginning of First World War they marched into war as if an adventure and everyone cheered. Einstein said already then that those without feelings cannot be helped. By the time of Second World War, such demonstrations of power became streets filled with Nazi uniformed soldiers all marching in one direction; fear of sheer and naked power accompanied them and left the people in silence. After Second World War, tanks crushed the pavements as they made their way through cities just bombarded. It was the time for the parade of the victors in the streets and many feared what will come next. Only in New York these victories took on a different tone with the ticker parade a good example on how the victorious ones can be celebrated.

That celebrity mood fuelled by the myth of invulnerability changed, however, after 9/11. Then streets were filled first with fear after the planes had crushed into the Twin Towers, and then soon afterwards by shouts: ‘Go bomb them’. It made the war against Afghanistan and Iraq one out of revenge. Such war of revenge was demanded by the US government in the name of all Americans being transformed into victims as if again Pearl Harbour. Yet it was not an army but ‘terrorism’ that had struck America. By going to war it meant giving legitimacy to something that has no reason. For revenge is revenge as war is not just imposing military power to set the terms anew, but is a form of punishment for those declared collectively guilty and therefore the enemy. Hence war has to be seen as a way of passing on the death sentence, the highest form of revenge as stated by Albert Camus and Arthur Koestler. To be quite clear about it, in the absence of not knowing those who did the deed, such a war makes innocent people pay for what they supported apparently willingly or not over the years, namely their toleration of rulership of the Talibans or the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The language of occupation converts then the invasion into a liberation of these people from dictatorship while refusing to see how many innocent people are killed, their lives transformed.

In fact, the ‘war against terrorism’ is a massive deception especially if it is claimed to bring to people democracy when to free them means bombing them first and then occupying their main resources of power while leaving them over exposed to all kinds of direct and indirect violence seeking to rule the streets of Baghdad. By now ‘the war against terrorism’ has dissolved itself into ‘state terrorism’ against ‘terror of the street’. It leaves people in constant ‘street fear’. As one resident of Baghdad said to CNN in September 2005, he no longer goes out into the streets; he has become a prisoner in his own house.

What then is the difference between previous wars and the war against terrorism in terms of ‘street fear’ as expressed by that citizen of Baghdad, a city meant to be freed from dictatorship when Iraq was invaded in March 2003 and Salmun Rushdie adding that he no longer fears for his own life, for “we all have become targets!” Simply terrorism evades the incoming army by invading the streets of every city in this world. That then is blanket bombing in reverse in order to fill people’s hearts and minds with a much greater uncertainty than they had known until now. And no one seems to know, politically, how to stop this cycle of violence.

To remind Second World War had a definite end in 1945 with the surrender of both Germany and Japan (Italy having capitulated already earlier). People longed for the end of the war and took to the streets to celebrate once the news reached everyone. That is very different now for after 9/11 our minds are still numbed today by what Baudillard calls the energy loaded images of those two planes crashing into the Twin towers. Television images showed everyone fleeing in the streets in New York on 9/11. They ran as the dust came down and covered everyone. Many people knew no longer in which direction to run. It reminds of the story by Andre Malraux about the first time gas was used on the battle fields during First World War. Malraux wrote “the enemy picture ceased to exist and everyone ran crazed everywhere and nowhere with some carrying still alive soldiers on the back but many others the dead ones as if still alive.”  Translated into the present, and especially since the ‘war against terrorism’ has started, there is no end of feeling being just a victim. As Grace Boggs puts it in Detroit, being made into victims prevents us from making a critical analysis. Instead something keeps the fear alive, blinds people, drives them if not into frenzy, then further blind making hatred. All kinds of arbitrary rules over others are justified just out of fear and the regard for human rights becomes secondary as suspicion of the ‘stranger’ closes borders and transforms home land security into an act of Patriotism. The terrible thing is people have stopped wishing for the end of war. That is the calamity and difference to before.

It is clear that even when wars ended in the past, these wars had been waged also against civilians and therefore altered warfare. The attack against civilians is clearly on the increase. In the Middle East who ever moves through the streets of the West Bank fears to be shot. A young Palestinian boy would describe that even poking the head out of the door would be dangerous. One could never know whether or not a stray bullet would hit one. By the same token, in Israel every pizza bar or bus stop is marked by that invisible fear that yet another suicide bomber will strike. The tragic dimension in these streets is made up by the realistic attitude to expect always the unexpected and yet go about your life with business as usual.

Indeed, where there are civilian casualties, there is the fear of the unknown. That is the special dimension of street fear marking the history of mankind and the fate of modern cities of the twenty-first century. Whether in the streets of Berlin, Athens, Baghdad, Tel Aviv, New York bombs and more so suicide bombers create havoc in streets displaying how normal life plays out every day. Before and after life continues as if nothing has happened, but the invisible fear has crept into the fibres of every afterthought.  Especially after 7th of July in London it seems as if a positive life with the ‘unknown’ has become impossible. A life in wonder about our existence as human beings on this earth seems no longer the source of philosophical inspiration. Instead people live with another ‘unknown’: a constant fear of not knowing when the next bomb will go off but the certainty that there will be again next time countless innocent victims without knowing if oneself is going to be amongst them because of happening to be just at that moment in this specific street.

Terrorism cannot be defeated by military power for it is not a known enemy to be engaged in war. Rather terrorism is a tactic using the force of death without reason to spread not just street fear but terror. As an expert on terrorism said to the BBC after the 7th of July bombing, nothing else matters, only the body count – the number of innocent victims killed. Those using that tactic make it appear as if a sensation of death over life. No wonder then that allusions are made that this is a holy war – Jihad – the war beyond description. Yet in the Western dispute with Islamic Fundamentalists the real reasons are obscured and street fear remains as the only concrete experience. Unfortunately it is the media which does its best to convey that message of fear through these ‘energy loaded images’ showing victims as if they speak for themselves. Left out is the analysis and therefore the important political debate. A clear sign of that is the confusion between politics, religion and culture when it is more about fake dignity being apparently offended and the law of revenge ruling over everything.

Why the war against terrorism shall not end, that can be deduced from Rumsfeld who stated after 9/11 that ‘while this war against terrorism has to be won, preparation for the next wars have to be started, for that, so he claims, we owe to our children of the future’. Yet if ‘permanent war’ is the inheritance that shall be given to future generations, then street fear is no longer just parents fearing that their children are going to be run over by cars. Rather they will fear streets for a double reason: what can happen to their children anytime when in the streets, near discotheques or pizza bars as much as they might not know what they are capable of doing. Salmun Rushdie said in a recent interview with the BBC that if a father claims not to know what his son is up to and then this son goes to the London underground to blow himself up and take other passengers with him to death, then this is a great failure of education.

Here has to be added that it is also a matter of perception: the ‘ethics of seeing’. Again this touches upon the dimension of how people survive in and through the streets of our cities since they are the arteries of life. Comparable to the suicidal person cutting the veins, terrorist attacks aim at macro level to disrupt the flow of goods, communications and people just talking to each other in trust of the stranger. Unfortunately street fear makes us into accompli of power which does not want people to really see and know what goes on in life. To recall, alone this fear justifying a huge budget to be used for safety measures against terrorist attacks during the Olympic Games, a budget beyond all accountability, for who is to judge if that extra helicopter is needed. When Sydney hosted the Olympic Games, they used 4 000 police people; the Athens Games had 80 000. It shows what happens if people become like blind ants and allow it to be ruled by fear of the ‘known unknown’.

Since Madrid, and especially after London July 7th 2005, the question posed by countless citizens is whether or not it is still save to go into the streets, to use the train, bus or underground, “for war is all around us and streets have become most scary”. As one woman puts it, “you don’t have battles, but you do have victims, direct or indirect.” And she adds: “Mankind can be selfish, and this is what scares me most.”  The most terrible thing in all of this is that countless innocent victims are targeted by these bombs for terrorism takes war to the so-called ‘soft underbelly’, to people who cannot protect themselves and are therefore vulnerable. It leads to what Brendan Kennelly expressed in his one poem taken from his Cromwell series to the use of ‘nails’:




The black van exploded

Fifty yards from the hotel entrance.

Two men, one black-haired, the other red,

Had parked it there as though for a few moments

While they walked around the corner

Not noticing, it seemed, the children

In single file behind their perky leader,

And certainly not seeing the van

Explode into the children’s bodies.

Nails, nine inches long, lodged

In chest, ankle, thigh, buttock, shoulder, face.

The quickly gathered crowd was outraged and shocked.

Some children were whole, others bits and pieces.

These blasted cruxifixions are commonplace.


The poem is a reminder as to what havoc IRA bombs created, but it shows also how poetry faces violence in the streets before fear creeps in as the dust settles down again. Nowadays whether in Baghdad, Bali or Istanbul, such explosions can be everywhere, in all kinds of streets but mostly there were people gather out of trust in open spaces and civility. With the war zone shifting constantly, predictions as to where the next bomb will go off, has become a matter of probability.

However, one thing remains constant. For those who gather around the victims depicted on the television screens may be upset, outraged, struck by the horror of the event, but they will not pause to think about street fear. Rather they are inclined to go immediately to the Internet café or to their computer at home, in order to pass around the globe still further ‘energy loaded images’ of what they believe has just happened. There will be no analysis but the spread of silent panic. This is the hidden political force to be afraid of. Panic means the linkage between people is broken. Freud said this is only possible when the libido breaks down and the ‘invisible enemy’ becomes larger than what an army or religious force (both hierarchical organizations weak in human relationships) can take. If courage is lost and street fear rules, then people enterer another sphere of communication. Today, in the age of the Information Society, they enter ‘virtual reality’ only to encounter another type of street fear, namely all sorts of virus and false messages awaiting them in these virtual streets in order to mislead, if not to cause the wrong kind of perception of things. Street fear is a vicious cycle. No one knows which street will be next.

4.2 Cultural Compatibility verified by Cultural Impact Studies

While feasibility studies have been questioned already in the CIED Project (1997 – 99) by proposing ‘cultural impact studies’, and taken up by Liverpool University when advancing a special kind of impact studies with regards to the year ’08, the criterion of cultural compatibility has not been examined much or at all. As a hunting society will differ from an agricultural one with regards to having a specific culture to go not merely with any way of life, but with a certain kind of work in need to be done, so the Information Society in the digital age will favor a special kind of culture to go with. This has been best expressed by developments towards the creative industry and the accompanying emphasis upon creativity as new factor of production. All that has been questioned within the ECCM Symposium ‘Productivity of Culture’ as the latter entails ‘culture’s ability to renew itself’ (Spyros Mercouris). In the final end, compatibility with culture has to mean exactly that: making use of culture, but not abusing it and therefore not destroying culture’s capacity to renew itself.

4.3 What people can sustain over time

One of the clearest criterion for cultural impact studies of certain projects or an entire development strategy e.g. new dockland project along the Thames or in preparation of the Olympics 2012 to be held in London, is whether people can sustain the process of implementation and then live with the solutions the new environment offers. People are amazing in what they can and do adopt to, but it is another matter what people can sustain over time. This includes the crucial question, if a museum is going to be constructed on the outskirts of the city to further cultural tourism in the region e.g. Wieland museum outside of Weimar, will there be coming enough visitors to justify the costs incurred in locating the museum there.

People cannot sustain even close relationships if they cannot cope themselves with all the demands life makes upon them. Recent studies in Greece with regards to the family as extended network capable of giving support to everyone show that this is changing as well. Families become more selective and conditional when giving their support; at the same time the extended network is being retracted to fewer members. This goes hand in hand with coordination between informal and formal ways of making things work as replacement to strictly formal organizational strategies no longer functioning as used to be the case. For such a coordination to work there is needed time and flexibility, a kind of spontaneity while not taking the wrong things too seriously while on the lookout nevertheless for a strategic way to proceed to the next phase of development.

4.4 Reforms as decentralization of power

One crucial finding after having evaluated Agenda 21 was that no city proved to be a successful case unless measures to improve upon sustainable development were not accompanied by these administrative reforms. There has to be a willingness to share power.

Palermo in the CIED Project described a decentralization of administrative powers meant re-defining power by entering dialogues with citizens as to what responsibilities a city has at local level, within the neighborhood. It meant as well to give citizens a share of these responsibilities. They could enter a more decisive dialogue with local administrators to give shape to priorities set in due course of these discussions. Also the cultural consensus method meant working with people e.g. when restoring the sewage system in the old historical centre it was only possible to work on Sunday once citizens showed understanding this was the only possible way, given narrow streets and traffic congestions during week days.


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