Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Political challenges in future

Bulletin board to park in Exarchia, Athens                                                 Dec. 2011

 Political challenges ahead 

The technocratic way of ruling Europe is depriving its cultures of a much needed oxgyen only made available by people being engaged in critical dialogues. That used to be the strength of European cultural diversity. Dialogues would start with a poetic metaphor and then go through various levels - social, political, international, universal - to claim a truth in the name of universal values linked to recognizing the other as a human being. That universality has been put into dispute and with time most of those who had the courage to speak out lost that sense of truth to be understood as a system in need of constant challenge. Instead acquiescence to pragmatic negotiation styles left those with the demand for at the very least consistency out and thus the failure of the system is marked by people no longer able to work through contradictions when coming with solutions. Rather the norm is set by the technological definition of what works. That leaves human commitment far behind current developments, and only heard is the kind of silence Ernst Bloch identified as being very similar to what prevails in cemeteries. 



Challenges, not threats are meant when false assumptions are questioned 
Political configurations can become confusing once old tension fields are replaced by efforts to neutralize traditional party politics in favor of technocratic measures. The latter are adopted more and more to face the crisis. Meant is restoration of the confidence in money and therefore in the financial sector. However, the way banks have been making profits while providing almost unlimited loans until things crashed with the Lehmann Brothers setting a precedent in 2008, it calls for another perception of what challenges lie ahead. Many think all the recent problems have to do with what many call an unregulated free market. Still these advocates of new forms of regulation contradict themselves. For they vent their anger against an administration they label as inefficient but do not envision a democratic way to arrive at such decisions which can be implemented because everyone understands what needs to be done. Rather they prefer unchallenged autocracy or the kind of executive managerial approach taken by a certain elite wishing forever to make decisions in ignorance of what are afterall needs of society to sustain itself over time. In other words, they hardly show any wisdom when it comes to heed rules of an economy which could be linked to the claim to be moving towards a sustainable development. Basically this latest development gone into crisis mode raises the crucial question as to what is happening to democracy and more so political life in Europe? Democracy supposed to be based not only on free elections of representatives, but on true dialogues out of which can be followed a political discourse in all publicness. As constantly reference is being made in this regard to Jürgen Habermas and his understanding of publicness, there is a need to substantiate his demand to bridge the gap between citizens and institutions within which decision making processes supposed to take place in a transparent way. Hence the model of representation as enabling those who have been elected to be accountable to those who elected them, holds only under the condition of 'active citizens' capable of upholding that overall politcal debate by which the agenda can be formed and be made consistent in terms of needs and resources available to society. All this takes on a still greater meaning when speaking about human beings as making up society and not merely as the Social Democratic jargon may want to allude to as 'citizens' who should take up a specific role vis a vis their elected officials. Such pre-set notions of roles in need to be played out makes it hardly open to the questioning of such roles that prevent the political debate from reaching any conclusions. Moreover this demand for substantial democracy is not covered when general reference is made to 'people' or in German even more provocative to 'Volk'. It will also not suffice to demand 'more democracy' since such a quantitative increase is but an illusion giving way to the very dilemma any society faces, namely how to improve the quality and not quantity of life. Needless to say quality itself is conditional upon the real freedom people can experience not merely privately, but above all within the public sphere and therefore come to hear things even if unpleasant truths but in need to be articulated if everyone is to know what is going on. This should be made possible by a press capable of doing investigative journalism, but that is hardly the case nowadays when a 'pathology of communication' (Jürgen Habermas attributes this to figures like Murdoch and Berlusconi) lets even the BBC drop its concept of relying on local correspondents to have background information for news spread, and instead engage in what can be termed as new forms of propaganda. Altogether there are those who prefer to count themselves to some kind of elite with better means at their disposal to survive the crisis while the rest or common people face cut backs in salaries, pensions and health protection measures while all other things and services tend to become more costly. It is clearly a system gone insane by building on the illusion of the consumer being the most sovereign subject for in reality all that is undermined by putting every individual ever more so into debt if not directly, then by default of the state mechanisms as to what can be described as the burden of future generations when faced by a mountain of debt. This can be seen already when students must pay ever more for their studies and to do so take up loans which shall burden them for the next twenty five years or more so. If that is considered to be a head start for a professional life ahead once entering the work force, there is but one expression for that: 'my foot!' Since the crisis has evoked above all the term 'sovereign debt', implied is that certain member states like Greece and not Europe as a whole are identified as holding the whole responsibilities in their hands. Accordingly the approaches taken follow the illusion of national governance and it is at this level austerity measures are applied. The best contradiction is demonstrated when the European Commission proposes to increase the budget to spend on European programmes and the cultural sector follows suit by demanding more more money for culture, and this during a time of acute crisis with almost everyone asking for a cut back or at the very least a freezing of the budget. If money dictates everything, and even the most clever politicians are trapped in a system threatening to spin out of control - the word 'contagion' has been used quite often - then, looking back to identify what mistakes have been made, then it is not clear what shall be the solution. For it is first of all not at all common sense as to the mistakes made in terms of over spending equal over consumption although some suggest this may explain why no enough money was saved and provoked this kind of new uncertainty. But then it is suggested a crisis exists due to a negative impact upon the money flow which like blood in the human body needs to circulate in a local economy, if it is to link jobs to an improvement in living standards. The latter is the vision of the mayor of Wroclaw who would define success as keeping the money as long as possible circulating in the local economy. Such spending and re-spending will attract then new investments because opportunities are being created as things are perceived in terms of a growing demand for ever more sophisticated goods and services. Linked to that has been quite often the term 'creative industries' or 'cultural sector'. While creative tensions can lead to new movements like Occupy Wall Street, they are criticized for not being clear as to what they advocate as solutions. Yet those who claim a success on behalf of this movement would argue by catching the attention of the media, they managed to alter at least the paradigm of public debate away from only deficits and debt related financial problems, and instead started to focus on the social inequality existing when 1% of the population owes 60% or more of all the wealth while 99% or the rest of society face more than mere hardships, but a disappointing outcome of their lives with savings and chances for building a decent life being evaporated the moment they are unable to pay back the loans they took to start this higher level of life and therefore consumption. Thus even Occupy Wall Street faces the demand to make its demands clear. Once the cold months came and camping outside made more difficult as well by the police, they developed a new strategy. Now the movement means not anymore to occupy public spaces, but to occupy houses left without owner due to the default they experienced as the housing bubble burst. Naturally someone writing the entire political drama must return to Greece where Papandreou departed as Prime Minister after he attempted to jolt everyone by calling for a referendum. He has been replaced after much wrangling by the banker Papedemos, just as Monti replaced Berlusconi in Italy. Here one would have to say 'as the plot thickens', something unusual takes place. The 'creative tension' created by people gathering in assemblies has disappeared and it has been done in a most neutral way. The streets in Athens are cleared for Christmas to let just shoppers appear as a crowd, and of course tourists can now circulated undisturbed by strikes and blocked streets. For gone are the heavy demonstrations and the tents on Syntagma Square. Yet this neutralization leads too much to an enforced normality which suppresses in real terms the abnormal times people have entered due to all the austerity measures leading to cuts in payments, if not loss of jobs. In this situation the real source of the crisis especially in Greece becomes most evident. Work is still demanded, but people are paid if at all at a much lower level and more so with much delay. This amounts at the very core of everything to a lack of 'morality of payment'. Everyone is expected to continue working, but without any real prospect to know what value their work has done in terms of real payment. It reflects in turn no one knows anymore where shall the money come from to make possible all these new payments needed to be made due to increase in taxes and other costs. Practically no one has made any real thoughts as to how money is not merely created – printing itself a mere mechanical procedure – but gains in value i.e. purchasing power? Only someone like Jean Paul Sartre has pointed out purchasing power depends upon the dialectic between abstract and concrete richness. An extension thereof is how people realize that they are themselves the biggest resource once pooled gives a lot of energy which can be made use of in a certain way. Again, Sartre would say the system exploits this energy by making sure the people do not gain themselves in identity so as to be able to demand to know what is being done with the energy they provide for the system not merely to function, but to advance to another level of development. Clearly enough, the gap between energy potentialities and implementation (realization) is that waste of energy reflects not only a mainly exploitative system, but also a lack of cooperation and coordination, itself an inability to work and to live together while acting in prudence so as not to enter one sided practices. An economist or financial expert would call the adoption of austerity measures a much needed adjustment of the member states to a new system of regulations. It is said further that these regulations laid down in a treaty have to be sharpened, in order to ensure that member states do not enter deficit spending above 60% of their gross national product. That means interstate relationships will be subject to affairs within Europe being regulated differently. However, as casual as all of this may sound, it is still an abstract way of putting it. For economic solutions are not equal to political rearrangements, for the latter is most often merely sand being thrown into the public eyes in order not to see where the real problems lie. The near future will tell what ways are sought to get out of the current crisis. At the same time, it is most difficult to say what lies ahead. Certainly the creative tension which went with vehement protests has gone out while the newcomers are not clearly identified as of yet. In Greece, it means the temporary unity government under Papademos does not know its own life time. There is a demand by the Conservative Party to have as early as possible snap elections, if not in February then at the latest before Easter in April. The elections are needed for another reason than advocated by Nea Democratia leader Samaras. After all, it is not possible in a democracy to have a non-elected technocrat be the fully legitimized prime minister of the government. That lack of accountability is off-set right now by the need of Greece as member state to restore confidence that the crisis can be managed under such terms which are acceptable to the Troika. Thus while things seem to have quietened down in Greece towards the end of 2011, elsewhere the Troika serves a purpose when departing from Budapest one day earlier than planned. The Hungarian prime minister Orban went into denial mode and claimed that this informal visit had any formal implications. Again, is it manipulation of words on how things are put or is it again just another display of the art linked to knowing how to put a spin on things so as not to need to be self critical as to what goes awry? Critics of Orban claimed that the early departure of the Troika signals a protest by Washington and Brussels especially with regards to undermining the independence of the Central Bank of Hungary. This move by the current Hungarian government which enjoys an absolute majority in parliament after the last election, that is another clear indication more power moves are to be expected in the New Year. It is also a question why the Hungarians voted such a government into power? Did they do so to make sure that what works as a system can rely on the confidence money shall retain its purchasing power. If that is the case, and vote out of prudence the general rule, then it makes politics appear to be really secondary to this new kind of technocratic imperative. Hatto Fischer Athens 12.12.2011  

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