Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Cultural moralia by Hatto Fischer


In memory of Adorno's 'Minima Moralia'


In midst of everything while contradictory developments characterize our times very few people can still think in terms of contradictions. Cornelius Castoriadis maintains the iterate process of computer logic and system orientated thinking has driven out this notion of contradiction. In Hegel's philosophy the sentence about contraction could take two years by the philosophical seminar at Heidelberg University, and still not figure out if contradiction lies in the concept, in reality or in the relationship between concept and reality. Definitely a contradiction between claim and what was done in practice meant a moral issue but then it depended whether or not that politician or person acting on behalf of an institution like the university was ready to stand up to such a contradiction and begin to work out with others in order to attain at the very least some consistency between words and actions. Naturally there is the Shakespeare question in Hamlet: 'should you suit the words to the action or the action to words?' That is more than just a moral dilemma but further analysis thereof would need to take up as well the study of Jean Pierre Faye who described how in the Weimar Republic there sprung up everywhere 'TAT-Kreise' (circles of the deed) due to a general sentiment politicians would be only talking while actions were needed to resolve, for instance, the problem of unemployment. Disbelief in system and in decision making can lead to loss of trust as social capital, but then the mistake would be to believe actions speak louder than words. That is never the case. Words are always needed in order to reflect what one or the others are doing and everything does depend on how things are named e.g. making people unemployed by firing them is one way of describing this process while public relations experts advising management of the company would suggest the apparently less harmful term of 'personal adaptation'.

The moral issue: calling things by their name

Certainly the way things are named makes a huge difference in political and practical terms as demonstrated especially by the term 'terrorist' and what the US government is using according to Jimmy Carter (see International Herald Tribune, 25.6.2012) to justify use of drones even if collateral damage means killing innocent civilians as well and without any possible verification that the person killed by the drone attack was indeed the terrorist sought. How a system comes to identify an enemy which justifies killing without standing trial, never mind what society uses still the death penalty as deterrent, this then raises more than just a few moral questions. If anything has contributed to the crises at the beginning of the 21st century, then this kind of action without any kind of ethical base and moral vision.

Economic Crisis

While the cultural economy has gained in significance as of late, the world wide economic crisis leaves more often culture aside, especially when politicians scramble to safeguard jobs by introducing measures aiming to uphold confidence and trust in the banking system and therefore in the money used as decision carrier in all transactions. This then touches not only upon the valorization chain within a public-private funded state economy, but also upon what can still be considered as the working of the so-called 'free market' when compared as to where the state should intervene by imposing regulations and where other measures are taken to off-set any possible regulation. The answers to these questions vary according to which ‘rationality’ it appears to be logical when following presupposed assumptions. That then marks public debates and how societies arrive at such decisions which aim or at least proclaim to safeguard the way people wish to work, live and communicate together.


Culture covers the yearning of people for a true and authentic life and thus includes dreams as much as stories about deep human pain incurred after a loss of love. Here poets and writers, but also film makers, painters and musicians contribute to the human saga and forms of expressions. The singer Miriam Makeba said:

“You sing about those things that surround you,” she said. “Our surrounding has always been that of suffering from apartheid and the racism that exists in our country. So our music has to be affected by all that.”[1]

Consequently culture results out of not being indifferent to the pains and fears of others. Through it empathy is developed which make dialogues possible, even if this assumption developed over centuries within the Western World are doubted by now as not holding world wide. The dialogue between cultures is doubted in the face of Muslims not agreeing with Christians and vice versa. It seems as if the mass protest in the Islamic world against the Danish cartoons points only in the direction of still further, because hardened misunderstandings with the one side feeling insulted in their religious feelings while the other defends the freedom of expression as a basic human right. Mediation between these two sides are possible, but only if the time is taken to take into consideration the views of the other side.

Intellectual standpoint and references used

Louis Baeck, the economic historian, believes the Western world is at risk not to practice this as almost all references made in debates about culture and world affairs can be traced back to the specific West, namely the United States of America. This prevents, so Louis Baeck, western scholars and especially economists to comprehend the Islamic view of globalization. [2]

Measures of Success

Artistic independence and autonomy of cultural management

It has to be remembered that cultural planning strategies work only successfully as long as they remain differentiated out of respect for works of culture and in particular how culture works. The strategies must be validated primarily by the work of independent artistic directors and artists. Usual mistakes are made once the process is over politicized. The political mistake is often done in order to get culture produce overtly mere images to promote the city and to ensure private gains. Once images and financial gain play only a role, then culture will be considered merely at purely functional level. There will be no guarantee that culture works on solutions needed. Overt images suit the media and the modern communication process. They do not convey any substantial knowledge on how culture works.

Time given for culture and the arts to truly develop

Always in politics timing is vital. By contrast culture follows a unique sense of time linked to creative processes becoming authentic in a public way. This is reflected by what fills the public space and therefore influences public opinion. Evaluation thereof can be made along a specific time line of development. It is called coming to age. When a soprano voice is listened to, there can be recognized immediately how mature is the voice and what further training is still needed to take out the sharp edges or to overcome a wrong breathing technique. A sense of time can be combined with timing once cultural horizons are set. This is the case once people have collectively something to look forward to e.g. the European Capital of Culture in Turku, Finland in 2011 or in Volos the Mediterranean Games in 2013.

Management of the cultural sector and cultural events: cultural knowledge

Many problems are caused by lack of knowledge leading to treating culture only superficially. Equally problems are caused by people wishing to draw attention to their own person as if they are exasperated by not playing any significant role in society. Some of them like juvenile delinquents can be called trouble makers. They have to be distinguished from the radical losers with a far more dangerous drive to prove to everyone what a loss really means. But altogether many get simply trapped in the system. When trying to free themselves they get ever more entangled. All of this is signified by a ‘guilty conscience’. It means that the concept of culture as force of redemption has to be improved upon. Important is to see what else is needed to ensure a continuity of human relationships. Certainly it will include efforts to make culture become more responsive to human needs for all kinds of dialogues e.g. dialogue between generations, intercultural dialogues and dialogues with the imagination.

Cultural diversity and cultural rights – cultural work, redemption and memory

As exemplified by post war Germany cultural redemption is needed when haunted by traumas and extreme, even collective guilt feelings. If not resolved, it can keep generations thereafter trapped in vicious cycles of violence and self defeats. Still today in reunified Germany historical memorials linked to the need not to forget makes the relationship of culture and history into a special one. For how to remember if so many never saw what happened? Now that victims and perpetrators of Nazi Germany are slowly passing away, what shall be the cultural orientation for future generations? Here the most crucial question has been posed by George Steiner in his book ‘Language and silence’: how is it possible for someone to play on the piano Schubert’s songs and then go the next day into the concentration camp to kill Jewish people? For those who had internalized German culture linked to Goethe, it was a deep cultural shock once the atrocities of the Third Reich became known. It has silenced too many in its wake while the politics of silencing especially those with a critical voice has continued.

Cultural dignity and safeguarding children and the vulnerable ones

There are other kinds of atrocities committed against humanity and which deprive culture of its humanistic foundation when it is impossible to prevent especially abuse of children, but also women and men. Those who are involved in women trafficking or child abuse, they make things still worse by exploiting those to be found already in a dismal situation. Without prospects of earning money in an honest way, there are formed negative collisions of interests with the abusers. Those who enter dubious businesses like women trafficking exploit exactly those who are lured into far off countries by thinking they will finally earn some money. They never anticipate under what conditions this might be nor do they really known what everyone else knows, namely what has always been in all cities in high demand: sex slaves. The most dangerous component in these cases of abuse seems to be not only a general lawlessness but the fact that people are left alone. Once they do not experience any solidarity in times of need, they tend to give up. They enter this collision of interest, namely to earn money by undignified means, by swearing silence.

Aesthetics of resistance

Consequently any active politics has to face these problems in a two pronged way: while developing remedies in the short run there have to be found workable solutions in the long run. All along people have to be convinced that a life without corruption is possible. Human dignity is what culture has to uphold at all times. Here human resistance as described by George Orwell in ‘My Catalonia’ or Peter Weiss in ‘Aesthetics of Resistance’ can give an idea as to what upholds not only self esteem but equally high regard for others as fellow human beings. Only under conditions of mutual respect can people find an overall solution. Integration of everyone on equal terms requires a culture based on recognizable values valid for all levels of society.

Success stories, heroes and role models

While remedies have a short term impact (e.g. stricter controls makes people temporarily more careful for the time being) workable solutions require time. It takes many efforts and stations of life to promote honesty. By setting good examples and by showing that dealing at all times fairly with different disputes matters to everyone, children can then develop out of these experiences from an early age on concepts for not merely a just, but equally an honest society.

Here recently the football and media star Beckham defended sprinter Bolt from Jamaica against criticism by IOC president Rogge for showing how much he enjoyed winning his races at record times and still managing to do some jogging towards the finish line. Beckham said Bolt shows kids this can be done with fun. Later, at the closing ceremony Beckham kicked a football into the crowd gathered in the Bird’s Nest and a volunteer caught the football as if a symbolic reward for those 70 000 who worked endlessly to make the Olympic Games be as friendly and efficient as possible. Volunteerism is deemed a prerequisite for success while millions if not billions are earned at the same time off TV rights, sponsorship and donations etc.

One crucial cultural value: honesty

Honesty is not just a matter of telling the story truthfully. It has also to do with charging prices for if done in an honest way it connects to the collective wish that no one cheats the other. Honesty is practically derived out of the insight since all earn their money the hard way everyone should get their pay’s worth. Honesty and recognizable values on the market place are, therefore, linked to a culture based on values. It matters therefore if these values are established by all in public and not behind closed doors. Today naturally conditions have changed. Many stocks are traded via internet and mobile phones around the globe. This has reduced enormously the visibility of what takes place while at the same time the virtual world has grown. As this issue shall be taken up again when dealing with how images are produced in public spaces due to digital technology, attention has to be given to how it has altered the concept of the market and culture. It is indicated already by what communication takes place in public spaces i.e. flashes of images representing identification processes with trade marks being sold as latest trend.

No sacrifice, just doing things in freedom from coercion

Doing things without sacrifice: a means and end debate

Before going further in that direction, one more thing should be added to the crucial matter that prizes are set in an honest way. It seems that once people start to think money can be earned cheaply then they do not mind to take advantages of others whenever they can e.g. the taxi driver of the tourist, the teacher of the parents if their child needs extra lessons, the supermarket branches of the farmers etc.. Then, it does matter how people perceive the way money is both earned and spend. Once it reaches that stage as pointed about by Bataille, wastage of goods shall dictate the price. It explains overcharged items like fur coats since life has been put at risk to obtain it e.g. the hunter chasing wild wolves or bears. The same goes with so called ‘blood diamonds’. [3]

Once linked to an economy not meant to relate to scarcity but to abundance, Bataille develops further his thoughts by introducing the ever evasive notion of ‘sacrifice’. If based on overturning economic and human rationality, as many interpret Bataille, it can mean to dip into the irrational but at a price, namely by giving up one’s identity.

Usually sacrifice means that people are asked to give up something in order to make ends meet. Generally those advocating sacrifice claim it needs to be done for the sake of collective interest. In the past people clinging to ideologies or religions were prone to make sacrifices. Many communists gave up everything just to support the revolution. Similarly Nationalism made people ready to go to war. Always sacrifice went with an appeal to serve if not the nation, then a myth or a belief. Many a times individual freedom was forsaken, especially if the entire society felt threatened and the need to make a collective stance dictated the political rationale.

By contrast, modern society seems to be dominated by self interest. It shows that it is willing to uphold individualism at all costs. Moreover it was thought in affluent societies the need to make sacrifices has been put behind. Parents need no longer to give up everything so that their children can get a good education and thereby attain a better life than they have currently.

Curiously enough Barack Obama in his bid to be nominated as Democratic candidate for the Presidential election in the United States, November 2008 speaks about the need to work together and to make sacrifices if the needed change of American society is to be brought about. When Senator Dodd endorsed his candidacy, he stressed very much this point as reason for giving his support to Barack Obama:

“Put simply, I believe Barack Obama is uniquely qualified to help us face this housing crisis, create good jobs, strengthen America's families in this 21st century global economy, unite the world against terrorism and end the war in Iraq — and perhaps most importantly, call the American people to shared service and sacrifice.” [4]

But this is not how culture works. For when referring to sacrifice, there has to be distinguished between culture and cults. The latter are derived from highly hierarchical civilisations with human sacrifice at the peak of their drives to avoid uncertain death. By including certainty of death in their games, as in the Maya cult, the winner of the game was killed and not the looser. It can be easily imagined what people did to loose or else if they knew to have no alternative but to be victorious, they acted like fanatics in the end game. [5] In order not to reveal their inner most emotions, they all started wearing masks. Cheating became thereby the rule and with it flourished dishonesty. It led in the final end to betrayal. The latter brought about the collapse of the Mayas. [6]

Learn to use, not abuse culture

Overcoming systematic exploitation and abuse in the cultural sector

With cheating and corruption there develops itself a kind of anti-system even so it is wrongly called ‘systematic’ exploitation. When it comes to exploitation and even worse to abuse there is nothing systematic about it. On the contrary anti-system means everything thing is done out of fear and arbitrarily. Under such conditions people tend to do things without morals and without relating to their free conscience. But by following blindly the mechanism of exploitation they think no rules exist judging by how they are treated. In turn they adopt the norms of the anti-system and seek to exploit others. A woman entangled in trafficking would promise to recruit more women in exchange for her freedom to go back to where she came from. She would still be under the coercive force in case she did not keep her agreement. But then she has become an integral part of the anti-system by seeking advantages only for herself. In short, the very logic of exploitation lies in the perfection of exploitation to be done better than anyone else. It includes naturally self exploitation.

One more thing has to be added to this observation. By making people when they enter this collision of interest to swear that they keep silent about what they are doing, they do not really notice that they start to conspire against themselves and all others. By not telling the truth they abandon themselves. Many are so ashamed of themselves for having given in so easily that they do not think to be worthy of any recognition both as member of society and as a human being. This double self denial puts them into such a negative framework that they become over aggressive if approached other than for what they are asked to submit themselves to: the act of abuse as way to survive. Instead of developing over time positive binding powers in their contacts to others they subjugate everyone, including themselves, to such an unbelievable aggressive negativity. Whenever attempts are made to approach them positively they lash out against a simple, but unconditional way to seek mutual respect and understanding. They do not know how to relate human self consciousness to a self understanding based on human values to be shared while upholding dialogue and respect for others in society. These people are marked by the difficulty to say ‘yes’ to the others. They have no trust and therefore no positive value of themselves.

how to deal with corruption - the robbers of liang shan moor

When it comes to break out of this jail of self denial and to start not fighting, but working in and through culture against loss of honesty and ethical behaviour, there are many pitfalls to which attention must be drawn. In the Chinese novel called ‘The robbers of Liang Shan Moor’, it is shown that even bandits in the bush knew if they acted without sense for justice, they would fall victim to their own rough nature and end up without any human compassion. They were wise enough to take as their leader a judge and moreover someone who was respected by all people. They called him ‘the spender of rain’ due to his benevolent nature especially towards the poor and the hungry. That gave them the guarantee that they were never cut off completely from society. They also knew if they were to return to society, they needed redemption. The only one who could do that would be the emperor. He alone had the power to grant them ‘grace’ or pardon for their deeds while in the bush so as to allow them to return to normal life. Many had left families, including wives and children behind when they fled into the bush to become the robbers of Liang Shan Moor.

Of interest is that the novel depicts how honest civil servants were driven by corrupt ones into the bush where they formed a gang which grew in strength to the point that the emperor’s army was unable to defeat them. The emperor did grant them in the end the grace. He did so after obtaining from them the agreement that they would join his army to face off another invasion by the barbarians. Nearly half of the robbers’ leaders were killed in that battle. The rest handed in their weapons thereafter and started to live a normal, but what many experienced to their agony a boring life.

Unfortunately the corrupt civil servants were still around and still very much afraid of them. Thus they conspired to kill the leader by offering him as birthday gift poisoned wine. Once he realized his immanent death, he called for all his fellow leaders to join him. They came eagerly in the expectation finally some action was planned. Before saying anything to them he asked all to drink from the same wine. Only afterwards he told them what had befallen him, namely that he had been poisoned. Most of them wanted to grab immediately their weapons and seek revenge. Sun Wang told them it was too late. They had drunk from the same wine. He explained why he did it for in the past they were strong but now they could be easily outnumbered and end up being defeated. He preferred that they all die but with their name and reputation still intact.

Robbers of Liang Schan Moor: Source: Wikepedia [7]

In a ruthless anti-system the weaker ones experience no justice. Rather they end being beaten up constantly and disadvantaged permanently. They will be left out by the social equation. The latter is established to make ends meet or more precisely names those who have the Right to sit at the table in order to have a share of the common pie. If these ongoing bad practices can continue unchecked, they will certainly contribute to a rapid deterioration of society’s ability to uphold the work of culture.

In all cases the work of culture can be linked to literacy to ensure a fair distribution of resources. Literacy includes the ability to address the others in public as to own needs and to resolve problems of fair distribution peacefully.

The risk of staying silent

The usual mistake made by disadvantaged, in particular victims of over exploitation and abuse is rather than finding solutions they tend to victimize themselves and even worse others. While emancipation needs conscious decisions, those caught in the anti-system will follow blindly mechanisms by which they perpetuate non-voluntarily themselves all the negativity. It was pointed out before that scepticism leading to cynicism will drive everyone into resignation. They only thing they will have left is hope while being asked to make still more sacrifices.

Albert Camus, author of the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, stated on the contrary ‘to hope is to resign and to live is not to resign’. This should be kept in mind as well when seeing how Barack Obama in the United States takes this illusionary power still a step further by calling one of his books ‘The Audacity of hope’.

Nevertheless Albert Camus too ended in silence. Despite his early engagement in politics based on morality and openness to his German friends even after they had invaded France, he went silent when the war in Algiers was looming. Ronald Aronson in his book about the friendship between Camus and Sartre said in the final end Camus could not grasp the fact that the colonial system left no other choice but war. Rather than see the reality of Algiers Camus preferred in contrast to Jean Paul Sartre not to tell the truth to the people in Algiers and therefore he opted to stay silent. He did it, so it seems, as if only love of a mother could save the children but no recourse to some abstract system of justice or to a philosophical reflection justifying action linked to violence as did Sartre. In a way he indicated through his silence that nothing could be done to avert the looming danger of violence exploding in the face of every human being in Algiers. [8]

fear of violence leads to violence

If political consensus breaks down, then violence explodes. This tendency can be observed all around the globe. Fear of violence begets even more violence. Of significance is how particular nations and interest groups take advantage of this situation of lawlessness. All war or similar situations will attract profiteers. At the same time, no one will really notice that war spells artificial needs even though the looming danger seems to suggest as if reality. It is not. It is an artificial compound resulting out of over exploitation of fear transformed into violence. It is a sick mechanism ready to transform itself into a chronic system apparently beyond man’s control and more so political accountability.

A society without truth will depend upon propabilities at the end of which is terrorism

Most telling is what Robert Musil predicted with regards to terrorism. In his book ‘The Man without Attributes’ he anticipates ‘a society without truth will rely on probability at the end of which shall be terrorism’.

The unleashing of war in the name of anti-terrorism happened during the Presidency of Bush junior. By invading Iraq March 21, 2003 countless innocent people have been killed and maimed. And even if claims are made in 2007-8 that the surge of sending extra troops into Iraq to squash the insurgency has brought improvement to the Iraqis society, it does not alter judgment of a policy gone terribly wrong right from the start. For what success can be claimed in view of all the traumatized children by this war? They shall be marked for life.

There are other absurd measures of success e.g. ever more cars being sold per year when in fact the environment cannot take more of them. A system prescribed to mere quantitative measures has anyhow difficulties with qualitative matters, and this is where culture sets in both as a reinforcement of qualitative, i.e. aesthetical criteria and as well as mediation between one and another kind of success story. The matter of linking up with the economy is therefore both a question of rationality as it is the intention of culture to listen to wisdoms expressed best in an Ancient Greek drama by the chorus.

Not everything is like a circus - adorno

Adorno criticized the reduction of culture to such forms of entertainment as a circus. The latter displays to a tamed society something of its illusionary past, that is when having to deal with wild animals, fire and magic. He wanted to point out that society cannot express itself in cultural terms when it remains static and prisms no longer allowing for further going reflections about the subjective factor within social structures. In that sense he praised Samuell Becket’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ as it handed to society the kind of critical mirror needed. Cultural emancipation has for Adorno to face the fear Kant spoke about already.

friendship - the sad ending of camus and sartre

Many poets, writers, actors, painters, etc. wished to speak up when a culture went astray. Nevertheless even the most critical artists, including Albert Camus, they too ended in silence if they did not heed the need for friendships. Despite his early engagement in politics based on morality and openness to his German friends even after they had invaded France, he went silent when the war in Algiers was looming. Ronald Aronson in his book about the friendship between Camus and Sartre said in the final end Camus could not grasp the fact that the colonial system left no other choice but war. Rather than see the reality of Algiers Camus preferred in contrast to Jean Paul Sartre not to tell the truth to the people in Algiers and therefore he opted to stay silent. He did it, so it seems, as if only love of a mother could save the children but no recourse to some abstract system of justice or to a philosophical reflection justifying action linked to violence as did Sartre. In a way he indicated through his silence that nothing could be done to avert the looming danger of violence exploding in the face of every human being in Algiers. [9]

save a drop of water

In a world dominated by a global economy threats to life have become an over burdened environment along with loss of natural resources e.g. clean water. As just mentioned the situation is furthermore aggravated by wars and violent conflicts e.g. in Kenya alone it is said up to 1000 people died due to conflicts which erupted after the opposition felt cheated out of its election victory. All this affects as well the cultural resources as made available through education, museums and natural landscapes. If not careful loss of perspective to resolve questions of distribution of resources peacefully will intensify social tensions between groups. It will threaten social and cultural cohesion. Without it societies will no longer be able to hold together their communities. Gone shall be what Sigmund Freud called the libido or reformulated somewhat loosely love for humanity.

the need for an external enemy to unify a nation

If so the only alternative will be a regression to the politics of the nineteenth century. As demonstrated by Cavour in Italy [10] or Bismarck in Germany, nations were held together by instigating an external enemy which necessitated the creation of armies and the population to make sacrifices in order to stay free from the external threat.


heidegger 'Time and Being' as provocation for war

That no one wants war and therefore needs to be artificially provoked, that was confirmed by Heidegger. He gloriously announces in ‘Time and Being’ that the real question of being had not been asked as of yet for it can only be proven in a fight or in a war. [11] He admitted since no one really wants such a war it has to be provoked e.g. in German ‘den Streit vom Zaune brechen’ – an idiom suggesting a good method to provoke a dispute with your neighbour is to damage his fence. Consequently Heidegger advises but before doing that one should be prepared i.e. armed well enough to take up such a fight. In real terms it justified the rearmament of Germany by Hitler despite the Versailles Treaty and how Second World War was incited by the National Socialists.

leo strauss in the united states and use of mendacity

In the United States the political philosopher Leo Strauss who influenced many of the neo Conservatives in the Republican Party. Of interest is that he uses his views on Liberalism, Modernity and what results out of this stream of though to justify a political concept of the state resuming the role of moral authority. It is something George Bush sought to implement during his Presidency 2000 - 2008:

“He believed that contemporary liberalism contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards relativism, which in turn led to the nihilism that he saw as permeating contemporary American society. As Strauss saw it, "good politicians" need to reassert the absolute moral values that unite society and this would overcome the moral relativism that liberalism had created. To do so, they needed to propagate myths necessary to give ordinary people meaning and purpose as to ensure a stable society. Modern liberalism had stressed the pursuit of individual liberty as its highest goal, and Strauss wanted government to take a more active role in promoting morality. Perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical in Strauss's view because the populace needs to be led; they need strong rulers to tell them what is good for them.” [12]

While such a position can be linked to what Martin Jay calls a love for the political lie or mendacity, more relevant to this discussion is what remedies the entire Conservative stream of political philosophy proposes. For propagating a myth can mean at city level the promotion of an official narrative as if this can give meaning to people. It is definitely not a proposal to work out solutions by using culture to learn how to articulate needs and satisfy them. Maturity does presuppose articulation of needs can be linked to reflection about the conditions under which these needs can be fulfilled. By contrast, Conservative political philosophy is inclined to dictate what people need and therefore does not allow for articulation. That can easily end up in misunderstanding planning as an administrative method to bring order into a city. As an elitist orientation Conservative philosophy presumes to be already political if efforts are undertaken to examine human nature as proposed by Aristotle and thereby become a city planner.

“Strauss mentions in The City and Man that Aristotle traces the first philosopher concerned with politics to have been a city planner many generations before Socrates.” [13]


humanity at loss when without empathy

What Conservative developments can lead to is a loss of cultural empathy for others. Their elitist approach to culture will uphold everything as a tradition and thereby distort the perception of the present. It will deprive furthermore everyone of the conviction that peace can be upheld by letting culture work through such notions as creativity. Equally people will not be free to find solutions by following their own rhythms. Their sense of place will be distorted more and more till they loose sense of time and with it the need for public space. Without that they cannot clarify personal and social needs.

Lack of clarification makes things only worse. Both misunderstandings and failure to respond in time will definitely aggravate the situation. Rather working solutions brought about by culture should be seen as a way to overcome tight situations threatening to tear people apart. It can be done by writing moving poems or composing unique symphonies. By no means will it help to resolve all problems. However, it is a prerequisite for peaceful and non violent solutions. Still there is George Steiner’s question whether or not cultural reflections can help mankind avoid barbarity. Some believe playing music can help avoid violent acts. But given the reality of mankind the so called ‘ennui’ and the problem of violence needs to be discussed and analysed.

moralia after auschwitz

Cultural survival

Recent history is filled with such examples. It includes Adorno’s dictum ‘no more poetry after Auschwitz’ to which Paul Celan replied the visionary art is the poem to which man stands like the tree bathed in sunlight. He saw much truth in how human language survives despite it all, including Auschwitz:

"Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, 'enriched' by it all." [14]

Paul Celan survived the Holocaust but not the deep pessimism after the war.

Of interest is that the French philosopher Derrida would pick up the poems Paul Celan left behind in order to develop further his thesis about writing as difference to reality. For if mankind continues acting, the extension thereof being writing, the elongation of the thought about the imagined can become a crucial dialogue with reality.

Some philosophers like E. Husserl called it phenomenology but in terms of sense perception it is best to think about stones to be seen at the bottom of a lake. They cannot be seen by a direct glance. It leaves the best answer to be not fragmentation as breakage and used by Andre Loeckxs to describe the modern city. Rather fragmentation as spectrum of light suggests the glance travelling through the water to the bottom to see the stone is broken up into different velocities of light. As always many poetic descriptions keep abreast with scientific discoveries of knowledge. There is some basic agreement, some understanding and in a word recognition to reality. That was already the case since Pindar’s Fragment was interpreted as unity of perception in not being within the city but outside in nature.

Practical discourse and dialogue

Needless to say poetry, philosophy, planning and other thought processes depend upon a discourse allowing for people to come to terms with reality. It involves many aspects of man’s life and therefore touches upon multiple issues as well as stories. This is why Ronald Aronson’s conclusion about the failure of the friendship between Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre having affected negatively thereafter the political discussion must be followed up. It goes without saying what Michael D. Higgins calls the main foundation of culture, namely humanitarian thoughts based on integrity of memory and morality, has to be renewed and strengthened if corruption is to be faced openly.

Hidden and not so hidden assumptions: clarification process

In addition the cultural aspect of being rational not only in public, but as well in private is another way to understand what Michael D. Higgins meant by an attempt at truth. This is not dogmatic truth according to which political solutions are pressed home. Rather these attempts at truth are in need to be acknowledged in public if the debate is to contribute to how people face problems in their lives. Culture can contribute to how people judge others more fairly and just provided they allow through the arts another understanding influence their perception. The arts and culture in the broadest sense is another way of handling the complexity of life. It is linked to mankind seeking a continuity of identity over time. People have and share as well the wish for a fulfilled life. With it goes passion as signified by the life of Vincent Van Gogh but it must be balanced as well by compassion, otherwise there is no possibility to be just when in love.

Here then can be repeated what is of great relevance to living together. Bart Verschaffel identified it as the need for cities to clarify the common assumptions which hold people together. Such a notion of clarification takes the work of redemption a step further. By recognizing that there is a Right to speak as well as a Right to stay silent, Bart Verschaffel intended with his treatise about ‘public spaces and public truths’ to counter those structures aiming to silence people. Whether or not this silence can be resolved by letting culture work, remains to be seen. No one can know for sure what the future entails especially in terms of human aspirations to be truthful throughout life. But in terms of cultural planning it can show already a way to organize the various spaces within a city to ensure that this vital linkage between public truth and public space is upheld.

Clarification of common assumptions is important for people to realize how they can live together despite cultural and religious differences. Common truth in life has to be linked to the wish not to be cheated by others or to be overcharged. The setting of prices has to be just. It has to mean no one is engaged in exploitation a second time around, namely not only to pay less than the value for the work done but also to charge higher prices than justified. It is a serious indication already when the price for bread and milk goes up or the rent for the small apartment eats up more than 50% of the income. The conditions people are forced to live in, they become negative once they suffer so much that they cannot change it themselves. There is no reason for that or given the bend of Conservative ideology resisting change all the more reason to know that culture means both change and working with changes.

In other words, with the culturally recognizable value in work being done as part of city life it goes without saying that the insight ‘honesty pays for all’ holds. Once confidence grows that workable solutions can be found along this line of public and private truth, then problems of ‘illegality’ and corruption can be faced differently. For now it will be a truly collective concern and therefore faced by everyone. People know then how to uphold truth without becoming dogmatic nor just relativists in accordance with merely their own interests.

A workable solution involves a liveable morality. It is really a cultural way to resolve the general crisis linked to corruption, loss of values and hence lawlessness. A cultural morality aims to make people become creative. It does not prescribe moral values as done by religions and/or Conservativism. Therefore finding workable solutions by means of culture does not imply harsh punishment in case of failure to recognize the values. Rather culture promotes work on the insight that honesty is based on trust in people while there is something like a morality of creativity.

In such an approach an important feedback replaces overt forms of punishment. Instead loss of contact to other people can indicate already problems. They have to be interpreted. For one, it can mean in having deviated too much from common solutions the capacity to communicate and to uphold linkage to other people will become weaker. Similarly at the level of sense perception if that is the case no real experiences of the outside world are made. Above all there will be no experience called a positive self forgetfulness by which reality can be let in. Without it only prejudiced viewpoints would predominate and the already known be merely confirmed as if this is reality, alas an unchangeable one. If that would be the case then trust in the own creative powers of the imagination would grow weaker till finally lost altogether.

At the same time, culture will not be able to convey something authentic, equally inspirational if there is a lack of trust in people and no certainty in the way to seek happiness. Workable solutions are brought about by people who keep their word and ensure that culture stays authentic. Culture is, therefore, the expression of a moral commitment to seek together a liveable future.

Once all make the commitment to culture then society can begin the process of cultural planning with the aim to make culture work in an all assuming, equally finite and differentiated way. A solution is in sight once everyone begins to notice this city has character due to its people. By upholding a public morality they take on a collective identity being recreated all the time when they enter public spaces to meet and to exchange view points.

Creativity goes on all the time with children running around a fountain, a guide explaining to the tourists the history of the church they are looking at and someone balancing on his legs a laptop. All these activities in public do not exclude searches for the private truth of the personal identity any individual wishes to attain in society and in a life time.

If cultural clarification of common assumptions brings about creativity of individuals forming groups to interact with other groups in order to know on what they can base their cultural identities, people can find integral solutions. Communications will be based on mediation between private and public truth while listening to the stories being told. All this shall carry forward a sense for reality. It would require that the narrative of the city is like bits of truths, touches of honesty and insights into public morality. As sophisticated, equally simple reflection it will tell when people enter the warm stream of humanity. Or else if they stay at the sidelines they watch and experience things happening around them and most importantly they do not feel offended to be mere passive onlookers for they feel activated to observe what attempts at truth are made.

some true success stories

Success stories when it comes to surviving under other conditions have to do with following premises:


Hatto Fischer

Athens 2008 (revised 26.6.2012)

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