|Message from: , - |
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2005-03-16 10:09:53|
Subject: The Reggio Emilia Approach in Early Childhood Education
by Francesco Bonavita : Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Kean University, Teaches World Language Methodology for teachers of French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish..
One of the most successful stories in Early Childhood Education is the Reggio Emilia project, which, for years, has been forging its own path worthy of greater consideration among educators and parents. Spearheaded by the visionary founder, Loris Malguzzi and a host of daring practitioners as well as receiving the support of courageous parents, this Early Education design, which begins at the infancy level, has become a true bastion of schooling for the child where excitement for learning is generated. Situated just a few miles south of Milan, the Reggio Emilia experiment has sought to promote a new vision of education that strongly defies the traditional canons of schooling, conceived within the usual classroom walls, characterized by a desk and pupil chairs, and the dominant presence of the teacher as if he or she were the ultimate oracle ready to dispense knowledge.
In a typical Reggio Emilia-inspired setting, - this concept has begun to spread like wild fire across the globe. There are now some hundreds of Reggio Emilia centers in Europe, Asia and in the U.S., most notably in Burlington, Vermont, Lincroft, New Jersey, Miami, Michigan and Washington, D.C. where innovative learning strategies in Early Childhood education are well on the way – one senses immediately a deep respect for the child upon entering any of these schools.
In an age whereby the culture of childhood is quickly undermined for the sake of imposing a more rigorous training program so that the child can get an earlier grip on standardized testing, thus accelerating the process of becoming an adult, the Reggio Emilia concept is a welcoming stride forward. It promises to challenge traditional approaches while focusing on the childhood, exploring all its dimensions and, above all, instilling in the child the pleasure of learning.
One of the temptations facing the initial observers of the Reggio Emilia experiment is the desire to label this as just another Montessori school. While the two approaches are strikingly similar on the surface in that they both foster a climate that is conducive to the overall unfolding of a child’s potentials, the latter does not fully recognize the inherent expressiveness that the child brings to the educational cadre that is not limited to the linguistic component but rather it extends itself to a multitude of conditions, such as the imagination, communication in its wider dimension, ethnic, and cognitive occurrences. Both methods advocate a smaller class-size and a highly stimulating learning environment whereby the child is allowed to explore without feeling inhibited. The Reggio Emilia mode is truly a constructivist approach, whereby the child gives meaning to its fantasies, creativity and to the way it perceives the world.
A 1996 exhibit of the Reggio Emilia experiment, titled The One Hundred Languages of Children,” is probably pivotal in understanding its philosophical orientation in that it accentuates the importance of the child’s total composition, be it psychological, physical, spiritual, cultural and otherwise. In other words, the one size fits all approach runs antithetical to this pedagogical notion.
On a recent visit to L’Atelier School of Miami, I had the privilege of observing first hand the vitality, the excitement and the pleasure with which children try to shape the world around them. Upon accessing the building, one has a sense of entering a habitat occupied by children, with its colorful decorations, plants and flowers, birds, photos of each child attending the school, designated by a flag, making specific references to one’s ethnic background and, most importantly, children’s work, posters, collages, artifacts ubiquitously displayed in every conceivable area of the school, clearly manifesting a reverence for the child and its work.
The drop off procedure, when the parent accompanies the child to school, is fairly atypical in that it becomes highly personalized. Parents are encouraged to stay with the child for a while and to partake of the morning assembly, by singing in a variety of languages so as to reduce any separation anxiety that the child may experience when saying goodbye to a loved one. The transition from home to school is highly softened for the child encounters a nurturing ambience, designed to strengthen whatever insecurities may surface away from home. The traditional separation of school and society is quickly diminished here for there is a sense of the continuum in that the learning process is being conducted in another venue, without the child ever feeling angst away from home.
Once inside L’Atelier, children begin to interact with one another and to observe the world around them. The teacher’s presence is nonconforming in that learning activities are not predicated on what the learners are expected to accomplish at the end of a learning segment, rather it is the child who elects to partake of an activity. The learning menu is highly diversified, ranging from dancing, coloring, painting, shaping clay, discovering one’s shadow, role playing and a whole host of stimulating experiences, such as helping one another, sharing a game, making friends and analyzing how things works so the child can find an appropriate comfort zone, which would allow optimum levels of expressions.
L’Atelier is also a laboratory whereby children learn to make discoveries about themselves in a variety of stimulating settings. If errors are made in their assumptions, they are given the opportunity to refine their self-expressions. But it is equally a collective experience whereby children learn to socialize, to get along with one another and to respect diversity in all its forms. This is a school where everyone is engaged in the creative process, be it a mural, a dance, a game or a learning activity, without ever competing with one another. On the contrary, it is the celebration of the self within the collective effort of teamwork.
The relationship between the child and the teacher reaches a new plateau in that the dialogue is highly interactive, based on the notion that through synergetic education, by infusing joy to the learning process, a child’s capacity to create is unleashed. Teachers in this setting have the uncanny ability of inviting the child to become expressive, to recognize the childish in the child and to reaffirm it rather than suppress it. In other words, the child’s curiosity and its inquisitive nature are fostered in every segment of a learning activity, for teachers do not talk down to the child.
If Jean Jacques Rousseau were alive today, he might say that Emile has been truly liberated not in the sense of roaming the wild natural habitat, rather liberated to make inquiries, to explore his sensory perceptions to the fullest extent possible and to give meaning to the world of his imagination. Indeed, Emile would not be the least obstructed because the Reggio Emilia approach is naturally conducive to a learning mode which leans heavily on the learning style of the child, which in turn enables the child to unfold its optimum desire for learning. Perhaps, a poem by Malaguzzi himself says it best when he contemplates the strength that each child brings to the learning environment and which too often is ignored by school practitioners in their blind zeal to implement rigid state curricula:
Il bambino The child
È fatto di cento. Is made of one hundred.
Il bambino ha The child has
cento lingue a hundred languages
cento mani a hundred hands
cento pensieri… a hundred thoughts…
cento mondi a hundred worlds
da scoprire to discover
cento mondi a hundred worlds
da inventare to invent
cento mondi a hundred worlds
da sognare… to dream…
Translated by Lella Gandini
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-25 03:27:34|
Subject: One of our British reader sends us this very interesting article from The Economist, comparing EU and the US
Mirror, mirror on the wall
America is widely admired as the beauty queen of the economic world. But the euro area's figures are more shapely than its reputation suggests
AS AMERICA'S economy has bounced back, the economies of the euro area still seem to be crawling along. This perception has reinforced pervasive gloom about continental Europe's economic future. A great deal has been written about America's superior performance relative to the euro area. But wait a minute: the widely held belief that the euro area economies have persistently lagged America's is simply not supported by the facts.
America's GDP surged by 5% in the year to the first quarter, while the euro area grew by only 1.3%. Europe's GDP growth has consistently fallen behind America's over the past decade: in the ten years to 2003 America's annual growth averaged 3.3%, compared with 2.1% in the euro area. Yet GDP figures exaggerate America's relative performance, because its population is growing much faster. GDP per person (the single best measure of economic performance) grew at an average annual rate of 2.1% in America, against 1.8% in the euro area—a far more modest gap.
Furthermore, all of that underperformance can be explained by a single country, Germany, whose economy has struggled since German reunification in 1990. Strip out Germany, and the euro area's annual growth in GDP per person rises to 2.1%, exactly the same as America's. Germany does represent around one-third of euro-area GDP, but still the fact is that economic statistics for the 11 countries that make up the other two-thirds look surprisingly like America's (see chart 1). (Were Britain part of the euro area, this effect would be even more striking.)
The most popular myth is that America's labour-productivity growth has outstripped that in the euro area by a wide margin. America's productivity has indeed quickened in recent years, but the difference between productivity growth in America and the euro area is exaggerated by misleading, incomparable figures. In America the most commonly used measure of productivity is output per hour in the non-farm business sector. This grew by an annual average of 2.6% over the ten years to 2003. For the euro area, the European Central Bank publishes figures for GDP per worker for the whole economy. This shows a growth rate for the period of only 1.5%. But unlike the American numbers, this figure includes the public sector, where productivity growth is always slower, and it does not adjust for the decline in average hours worked.
Using instead GDP per hour worked across the whole economy, American productivity has risen by an annual average of 2.0% since 1994, a bit faster than the euro area's 1.7% growth rate. However, a study* by Kevin Daly, an economist at Goldman Sachs, finds that, after adjusting for differences in their economic cycles, trend productivity growth in the euro area has been slightly faster than that in America over the past ten years. Since 1996 productivity growth in the euro area has been slower than America's. But it seems fairer to take a full ten years.
But has not America combined rapid productivity growth with strong jobs growth, whereas continental Europe's productivity growth has been at the expense of jobs? This may have been true once, but no longer is. Over the past decade, total employment has expanded by 1.3% a year in America against 1% in the euro area. Again, excluding Germany, jobs in the rest of the euro area grew at exactly the same pace as in America. And since 1997 more jobs have been created in the euro area as a whole: total employment has risen by 8%, compared with 6% in America.
It is true that, during the past decade, productivity growth has accelerated in America, but slowed in the euro area. Alan Greenspan, chairman of America's Federal Reserve, blames Europe's rigid labour and product markets. Structural barriers to laying off workers or to new methods of work may have prevented firms from making the best use of IT equipment.
However, there is another, less worrying reason why productivity growth has slowed in continental Europe. Reforms to make labour markets more flexible have deliberately made GDP growth more job-intensive. Firms now have more incentive to hire new workers, thanks to lower labour taxes for low-paid workers and a loosening of rules on hiring part-time and temporary workers, which allow firms to get around strict job-protection laws. The flipside is slower productivity growth for a period, as more unskilled and inexperienced workers enter the workforce. This is exactly what happened in America in the 1980s. In the longer term, more flexible labour markets should help to boost growth.
Another popular misconception is that the return on capital is much lower in the euro area than in America, because European business is inefficient and hobbled by high wage costs and red tape. This argument is often given in defence of America's large current-account deficit. America's higher return on capital, it is argued, attracts a net inflow of foreign money, so it has to run a current-account deficit. But according to calculations by Goldman Sachs, the return on capital in the euro area has actually been roughly the same as in America in recent years. The total return on equities over the past decade has also been broadly the same—which is what you would expect given their similar pace of productivity growth.
Nonsense in, nonsense out
So far we have established that, based on official statistics, productivity growth over the past decade has been virtually the same in the euro area as in America, and although GDP per person has grown a bit slower, the gap is modest. However, using official statistics can be like comparing apples with pears, because of differences in the way that GDP is measured in different countries. For example, American statisticians count firms' spending on computer software as investment, so it contributes to GDP. In Europe it is generally counted as a current expense and so is excluded from final output. As a result, the surge in software spending has inflated America's growth relative to Europe's.
A second important difference is the price deflator used to convert growth in nominal spending on information technology equipment into real terms. In America, if a computer costs the same as two years ago, but is twice as powerful, then this is counted as a 50% fall in price. Though logical, this is nevertheless a contentious issue among economists. Most euro area countries do not allow fully for improvements in computer “quality”, so again official figures probably understate Europe's growth (in both GDP and productivity) relative to America. This reinforces the argument that the euro area has not been doing that badly.
Despite such statistical quibbles, however, it is undeniable that the average person in the euro area is still about 30% poorer (in terms of GDP per person measured at purchasing-power parity) than the average American, and this gap has barely changed over the past 30 years. Thus even if income per person is growing at almost the same pace as in America, Europeans are still stuck with much lower living standards than Americans.
Olivier Blanchard, an economist at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, offers a more optimistic view†. The main reason why the income gap has not narrowed, he argues, is that over time Europeans have used some of the increase in their productivity to expand their leisure rather than their incomes. Americans, by contrast, continue to toil long hours for more income. Who is really better off?
In fact, Europe's GDP per person is no longer lower than America's because its economies are much less productive. Average GDP per hour worked in the euro area is now only 5% below that in America; 30 years ago it was about 30% lower. GDP per hour in Germany and France now exceeds that in America. Income per person is higher in America largely because the average person there works more hours. In the euro area, fewer people work and those who do hold a job work shorter average hours. By one estimate the average American worker clocks up 40% more hours during his life time than the average person in Germany, France or Italy.
The narrowing of the productivity gap between America and the euro area over the past 30 years has not been reflected in a catch-up in the euro area's GDP per person because hours worked have fallen sharply. Compare France with America. Between 1970 and 2000 America's GDP per hour worked rose by 38% and average hours worked per person rose by 26%, so GDP per person increased by 64%. French GDP per hour rose by a more impressive 83%, but hours worked per person fell 23%, so GDP per person only increased by 60%. Chart 2 shows for the whole of the euro zone how its improvement in productivity relative to America has also been fully offset by a fall in hours worked.
If leisure is a normal good, then it is surely appropriate that demand for it increases in line with income. A broader analysis of living standards based on economic welfare rather than GDP should place some value on longer leisure time. The tricky question is whether the decrease in hours worked is due to employees' preference to take more leisure rather than more income, or due to distortions from maximum working hours, forced early retirement or high taxes.
Mr Blanchard's analysis finds that most of the fall in hours worked in Europe has been due to a decline in average hours per worker (thanks to longer holidays or shorter working weeks), rather than a rise in unemployment or a fall in the proportion of the population seeking work. Furthermore, most of the reduction in average hours worked was due to full-time workers putting in shorter hours, not because of an increase in part-time workers who might not have been able to get full-time jobs. Mr Blanchard concludes that the fall in hours worked is mostly voluntary.
But that does not settle the matter. Perhaps Europeans choose to work fewer hours because of high taxes. Marginal tax rates have indeed risen by more in Europe than in America over the past 30 years. Taxes reduce the incentive to work an extra hour rather than go home, once a reasonable standard of living has been reached.
This is a hotly debated issue. A study** by Edward Prescott, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, claims that virtually all of the fall in hours worked in the euro area can be blamed on higher taxes. But the flaw in this theory, says Mr Blanchard, is that within Europe there is little correlation between the fall in hours worked and the increase in taxes. Ireland has seen a 25% fall in average hours worked since 1970, despite an even smaller increase in tax rates than in America. Other studies have found that taxes have played a more modest role, accounting for about one-third of the fall in hours worked per person.
Mr Blanchard concludes that most, but not all, of the fall in hours worked over the past 30 years is due to a preference for more leisure as incomes have increased. Europeans simply enjoy leisure more. Americans seem more obsessed with keeping up with the Jones's in terms of their consumption of material goods. As a result, they may work too hard and consume too little leisure. Their GDP figures look good, but perhaps at a cost to their overall economic welfare.
Robert Gordon‡, an economist at Northwestern University, agrees that GDP comparisons overstate America's living standards, but he goes even further. America has to spend more than Europe, he says, on both heating and air conditioning because of its more extreme climate. This boosts GDP, but does not enhance welfare. America's higher crime rate means that more of its GDP is spent on home and business security. The cost of keeping 2m people in prison, a far bigger percentage of its population than in Europe, boosts America's GDP, but not its welfare. The convenience of Europe's public transport also does not show up in GDP figures. Taking account of all these factors and adding in the value of extra leisure time, Mr Gordon reckons that Europe's living standards are now less than 10% behind America's.
Flexing the macro-muscles
But even if the euro area has not lagged far behind America, does not its pathetic growth over the past couple of years bode ill for the future? Surely America's stronger rebound since the global economic downturn in 2001 is proof of greater flexibility in its economy? In fact, both suggestions are questionable. The main explanation for America's more rapid recovery is that it has enjoyed the biggest monetary and fiscal stimulus in its history. Since 2000 America's structural budget deficit (after adjusting for the impact of the economic cycle) has increased by almost six percentage-points of GDP. Meanwhile, the euro area has had no net stimulus (see chart 3).
American interest rates were also cut by much more than those in the euro area. Without this boost, America's growth would have been much slower over the past three years. In other words, America's much faster growth of late may mainly be the result of looser (and unsustainable) fiscal and monetary policies, rather than greater flexibility.
While this might have been the right policy to support America's economy, it means that America's recent growth rate says little about its likely performance over the coming years. Indeed, the super-lax policies of the past few years have left behind large economic and financial imbalances that cast doubt on the sustainability of America's growth. From a position of surplus before 2000, the structural budget deficit (including state and local governments) now stands at almost 5% of GDP, three times as big as that in the euro area. America has a current-account deficit of 5% of GDP, while the euro area has a small surplus. American households now save less than 2% of their disposable income; the saving rate in the euro area stands at a comfortable 12%. Total household debt in America amounts to 84% of GDP, compared with only 50% in the euro zone.
America's recent rapid growth has been driven partly by a home-mortgage bubble. As interest rates fell and house prices rose, people took out bigger mortgages and spent the cash on a car or a new kitchen. House prices have also been lively in some euro-zone countries, with house prices rising at double-digit rates over the past year in France, Italy, Spain and Ireland. But in general, households have not borrowed to the hilt against those capital gains. Some European policymakers hope that America's bubble will soon burst and that Europe could then sprint ahead. That may be wishful thinking: a sharp slowdown in American consumer spending is also likely to dent Europe's growth rate. It is true, however, that the eurozone's consumer finances are in much better shape.
So, America's superior economic performance over the past decade is much exaggerated. Productivity has grown just as fast in the euro area; GDP per person has grown a bit slower, but mainly because Europeans have chosen to take more leisure rather than more income; European employment in recent years has grown even faster than in America; and America has created some serious imbalances which could yet trip the economy up badly.
“Bullish on America”
Indeed, one might say that the economic performance of the euro zone and America has not been hugely different over the past decade, but that American optimism has disguised this. European policymakers are forever fretting aloud about structural rigidities, slow growth, excessive budget deficits and the looming pensions problem. In contrast, American policymakers love to boast about America's economic success while playing down the importance of its economic imbalances.
This does not mean that the euro area can be complacent. It still needs to push ahead with structural reforms. Its average jobless rate of 9%, against 5.6% in America, is too high. Contrary to the beliefs of many Americans, there has been labour- and product-market reform in continental Europe over the past decade, which is why employment has perked up. But unemployment remains a problem and, sadly, economic reforms now seem to have stalled in France and Germany.
The biggest snag, of course, is that because of its less favourable demographics, Europe has an older economy than America. With lower birth and immigration rates and an ageing population, Europe's labour force will soon start to shrink as a share of the population. That will make it harder for Europe to maintain its current pace of growth in GDP per person—and thus harder for governments to pay pension bills. Without faster growth, Europe will be unable to afford its welfare system.
If Europeans do not want to slip down the rankings of GDP per person in future, then they will need to work longer hours during their lifetimes. Alternatively, they may continue to attach more value to leisure and the quality of life, rather than hard cash. That is their choice. A truer picture of their economy might help them make it in an informed way
* “Euroland's secret success story”. Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No. 102, January 2004.
† “The economic future of Europe”, NBER Working Paper No. 10310, March 2004.
** “Why do Americans work so much more than Europeans?” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Research Staff Report 321, November 2003.
‡ “Two centuries of economic growth: Europe chasing the American frontier”, October 2002.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-08 12:46:20|
Subject: With reference to Mr Franck Biancheri’s article entitled “ USA 2004: the sickman of world’s democrac
by Helena Arouca
I would like to say the following:
– I no doubt belong to “New Europe” instead of “Old Europe” as in my Europe the voters turn out has been decreasing year after year (and in the States there was a huge turn out) and I can’t see Europeans standing in queues for nearly seven hours to cast their vote (perhaps in Kosovo or Bosnia …) and as for the demonstrations the following day I also have my doubts. But I have no doubt that in the States there are already some civil groups dealing with this issue.
– As for the election system I find it very comforting that in a Federation such as the USA each Federal State has it say on its election laws because if in the so-called “United States of Europe” you are thinking of implementing the uniformity of the election system count me out. See, that’s another difference between the two sides of the Atlantic – they like the differences.
– Isn’t it wonderful not to have an identity card??? It’s pure freedom. And you know why, because if you are caught you will be evenly punished and I like to be treated as an adult that assumes its responsibilities, not as a kid that needs “The State” to tell him what or not to do.
- In respect of machines and not enough polling stations I agree that there were a few flaws and I am sure there are already some lawyers and concerned citizens looking into it but saying that “Somehow it puts this US election closer to the recent election in Afghanistan” is an attack to my intelligence.
As a European I do not see this example as the growing rift between Europe and America. The rift arises from the fact that Europeans tend to see Americans from their own point of view and Americans tend to see Europeans from their own point of view. Europeans complain of the arrogance of the Americans but we behave just as arrogantly. They don’t own the truth but neither do we. Well, we have to meet half way. As for American Democracy, it is well and kicking because it’s based on the civil society and rightly or wrongly it is the civil society that dictates politics – the politicians just represent them. You are worried because no journalist, politician or concerned citizen is talking about this issue. Of course not, this is a “minor” issue because if you read the op-eds in the Washington Post of the New York Times they are more concerned about the fate of America as they know it, about values, ideas, principles of the Constitution and that’s what Europe should be doing – thinking Europe – and not wasting time and our money deciding the size of apples, the right recipients for olives, banning the good old cheeses or trying to rule us from Paris or from Berlin.
Considering myself as part of “the rest of the world” I have no doubt, whether we like it or not (and I don’t like it), that it was the will of more than half of America that was expressed in these elections (majority of popular and electoral vote). You see this once it wasn’t “It’s the economy, stupid”, it was “it’s principles, stupid”.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-08 11:44:50|
Subject: Outrage in Ohio: Angry Residents Storm State House!
Massive Voter Suppression and Corruption - Democracy Failure
By David Solnit
November 3, Toledo Ohio -- Hundreds of angry Ohio residents marched through the streets of Columbus, Ohio's Capital, this evening and stormed the Ohio State House, defying orders and arrest threats from Ohio State Troopers. "O-H-I-O, Suppressed democracy has got to go," they chanted.
After troopers pushed and scuffled with people, nearly a hundred people took over the steps and entrance to the State's giant white column capital building and refused repeated orders to disperse or face arrest. People prepared for arrests, ready to face jail, writing lawyers phone numbers on their arms, signing jail support lists and discussing noncooperation and active resistance (linking arms, but not fighting back).
A freshly painted banner held on the steps read, "ONE VOTE DENIED = DEMOCRACY IN TROUBLE! 100'S OF 1000'S OF VOTES SURPRISED = DEMOCRACY FAILED. An unprecedented massive grassroots voter registration and get out the vote effort and widespread opposition to Bush went up against the
massive coordinated Republican effort to suppress, intimidate and possibly
steal millions of votes. In addition to the voter suppression and intimidation is the fact that Bush campaign co-chair Secretary of State
Kenneth Blackwell is in charge of the election and vote counting. But much
deeper questions about fundamental flaws in the system hang in the air.
CNN's exit poll showed Kerry beating Bush among Ohio women by 53 percent
to 47 percent. Kerry also defeated Bush among Ohio's male voters 51
percent to 49 percent. Investigative reporter Greg Palast in an article
today details how the deciding states, Ohio and New Mexico, if all votes
were actually counted, should have gone to Kerry. Palast explains,
"Although the exit polls show that most voters in Ohio punched cards for
Kerry-Edwards, thousands of these votes were simply not recorded. The
election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called
"spoilage." Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of the vote is
voided, just thrown away, not recorded."
TESTIMONIES OF DISENFRANCHISEMENT
The Ohio State House takeover was the culmination of an eight-hour long
afternoon of protest at the state capital by Ohio student and youth groups, including the Columbus and Toledo Leagues of Pissed Off Voters,
Reach Out--Bowling Green, and the Central Ohio Peace Network. The earlier
speak-out featured a litany of people who experienced or witnessed voter
suppression, intimidation and disenfranchisement before and during the
election. Thousand of Ohio voters had been disenfranchised by partisan
poll challengers, intimidation incidents, voters polling places opening
late, lines up to four and five hours long--often in the rain.
Here are a few of their stories:
Holly Roach of Toledo, Ohio spoke of her 74-year-old father, Frank Roach
and her 89-year-old grandmother; Hazel Thompson requested absentee
ballots in early October. Hazel Thompson is homebound and Frank Roach has been scheduled for heart surgery on November 2. Absentee ballots never
arrived. They were told by the County Voting Commission that they could
not vote with either regular or provisional ballots, because they had
already requested absentee ballots and Secretary of State Kenneth
Blackwell has issued a directive forbidding provisional ballots by people
who have applied for absentee ballots for them and not received them
(including some US service people who returned from Iraq). A lawsuit late
in the afternoon of November 2 by a voter in Lucas County led to a late
afternoon order by Judge David Katz of the Northern District of Ohio
instructing the Ohio Secretary of State to immediately advise all county
boards of election to advise polling precincts in their counties to issue
provisional ballots to voters in this situation.
Evan Morrison, a young get out the vote volunteer, told of polls opening
late. One poll at Glenwood Elementary in Toledo, OH opened more than half
and hour late.. During that time, from 6:30 to after 7AM, more than 50
people left without having voted. An hour and a half after the polling
site opened, the Republican election official said they had run out of
pencils, bringing voting to a halt. Evan ran to the store and bought a
bunch of number 2 pencils out of his own pocket so voting could resume.
Voting continued until 11AM, by which time up to 100 more people had
Suzie Husami, a University of Toledo student said in a press conference
that her voter registration challenged by Republicans along with 35,000
other mostly newer registrants. She received a letter from the Board of
Elections reading NOTICE OF HEARING Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section
3503.24: your registration is being challenged. The reason stated as the
basis for this challenge is that you are unqualified to vote because you
are not a resident of the precinct where you can vote. A hearing has been
set at the above stated place and time. You have the right to appear,
testify and call witnesses and to be represented by an attorney. The
letter was addressed from Paula Hicks-Hudson, Director of the Toledo Board
of Elections. Although the challenges to her were thrown out in court the
day before her hearing received such letters were likely discouraged from
Alli Starr, also being a get out the vote volunteer told about how 25
minutes before polls closed in Toledo, Ohio, Republican challengers were
witnessed harassing voters at the Mott Library, Central City polling
station, a low-income African-American community. Observers said that they
believed these challengers had repeatedly called the police producing
absurd stories in order to intimidate voters. One of the Republican
challengers was recognized as Dennis Lange, a prominent local business
owner who owns Pumpernickels.[???] Mr. Lange aggressively tried to push
back African-American community members who were poll watching and voting
at the site. At one point more than four police and sheriffs officers,
including undercover officers, were witnessed at the site for no apparent
reason. For a photo go to
PRE-ELECTION VOTER SUPPRESSION
But even before election day, the Baltimore Chronicle reported November 1
that "Through a combination of sophisticated vote rustling, ethnic cleansing of voter rolls, absentee ballots gone AWOL, machines that
'spoil' votes---John Kerry begins with a nationwide deficit that could
easily exceed one million votes."
Troy, Michigan Republican State Rep. John Pappageorge, a Michigan Bush
campaign Co-Chair, was quoted in July 16 edition of the Detroit Free Press
as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a
tough time in this election." Blacks comprise 83 percent of Detroit's
population, and the city routinely elects Democratic candidates by
substantial margins. The British Broadcasting Company has also disclosed a memo to top Republican officials in Florida identifying voters in
predominantly black precincts for possible challenge.
The secretaries of state, usually the chief election official at the state
level, in four battleground states--Michigan, Missouri, Florida, and Ohio
have all taken top campaign posts for Bush and have been accused of
manipulating state election laws to restrict voter access on behalf of
Republicans. Ultra-right Ohio Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell,
the co-chair of the Ohio Bush campaign, together with the Ohio Republican
Party are at the center of this nationwide effort to steal the election
through voter suppression, intimidation and corruption. In the months
leading up to the election, Blackwell attempted to require that
registration applications that were not posted on the correct weight paper
be canceled. His efforts to suppress the vote have continued. Blackwell
sought to restrict access to provisional ballots: he challenged of the validity of over 35,000 new voter registrations in the state (recently
thrown out by a Federal Judge): he issued unclear directives regarding the
right of ex-felons to vote.
"In state after state, Republican officials and operatives are working to
deny American citizens the right to vote," charges Wade Henderson,
executive director of Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (the country's largest civil and human-rights coalition). Miles Rapoport, former Secretary of the State of Connecticut and President of the nonpartisan public policy organization Demos, says "As the election approaches,
chilling reports continue to surface of major efforts to prevent people from voting. Legions of partisan challengers' are being readied for the polls on Election Day; Latino registrants in rural Georgia are being targeted; and tens of thousands of new Ohio registrants have been challenged. All appear to be organized campaigns. These antidemocratic activities must be stopped."
Additionally, the new touch voting machines being used in 29 states and
the District of Columbia, have been widely criticized by elections officials and computer scientists and as susceptible to hacking and
malfunction. Election Data Services, a consulting firm, predicted 29
percent of voters would use touchscreen machines on voting day.
According to the November 3 Globe and Mail, "several dozen voters in six
states -- particularly Democrats in Florida -- said the wrong candidates
appeared on their touchscreen machine's checkout screen, the coalition
said. In many cases, voters said they intended to select John Kerry but
when the computer asked them to verify the choice it showed them instead
opting for President Bush, the group said. Roberta Harvey, 57, of
Clearwater, Fla., said she had tried at least a half dozen times to select
Kerry-Edwards when she voted Tuesday at Northwood Presbyterian Church.
After 10 minutes trying to change her selection, the Pinellas County
resident said she called a poll worker and got a wet-wipe napkin to clean
the touch screen as well as a pencil so she could use its eraser-end
instead of her finger. Ms. Harvey said it took about 10 attempts to select
Mr. Kerry before and a summary screen confirmed her intended selection."
On November 9, 2003, the New York Times reported: "In mid-August, Walden
W. O'Dell, the chief executive of Diebold Inc., sat down at his computer
to compose a letter inviting 100 wealthy and politically inclined friends
to a Republican Party fund-raiser, to be held at his home in a suburb of
Columbus, Ohio. 'I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral
votes to the president next year,' wrote Mr. O'Dell, whose company is
based in Canton, Ohio. That is hardly unusual for Mr. O'Dell. A longtime
Republican, he is a member of President Bush's 'Rangers and Pioneers,' an
elite group of loyalists who have raised at least $100,000 each for the
2004 race. But it is not the only way that Mr. O'Dell is involved in the
election process. Through Diebold Election Systems, a subsidiary in
McKinney, Tex., his company is among the country's biggest suppliers of
paperless, touchscreen voting machines. Judging from Federal Election
Commission data, at least 8 million people will cast their ballots using
Diebold machines next November. ... Some people find Mr. O'Dell's pairing
of interests -- as voting-machine magnate and devoted Republican
fund-raiser -- troubling."
*Co-founder of the Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections, Susan Truitt
said today: "Seven counties in Ohio have electronic voting machines and
none of them have paper trails. That alone raises issues of accuracy and
integrity as to how we can verify the count. A recount without a paper
trail is meaningless; you just get a regurgitation of the data. Last year,
Blackwell tried to get the entire state to buy new machines without a
paper trail. The exit polls, virtually the only check we have against
tampering with a vote without a paper trail, had shown Kerry with a lead.
... A poll worker told me this morning that there were no tapes of the
results posted on some machines; on other machines the posted count was
zero, which obviously shouldn't be the case."
Across Ohio other demonstrations were held in Toledo, Cleveland, Oxford,
Athens and Cincinnati. Across the United States on both elections night
and November 3 people erupted in protest with marches, direct actions,
disobedience, vigils, breaking of bank
windows in San Francisco and rallies were held in at least 40 cites and
likely many, many more. Many of the outreach flyers for November 3 actions
were headlined, "NOV 2: VOTE! NOV 3: MAKE IT COUNT!"
Most of the actions planned by groups were planned to take place
regardless of the election outcome and were focussed more on the deeper
issues of democracy not empire, healthcare, not warfare and education not
The day of action was initially called for by the Beyond Voting network,
whose call for actions read in part, "When your government has troops
stationed around the world, lets big corporations write the rules of the
global economy and pushes racist policies that promote fear, undermines
civil liberties, and rips off working people, you are living in an EMPIRE!
Empire is as system of global control that combines international
aggression with domestic repression to create a deeply undemocratic world.
REAL DEMOCRACY means we the people have direct control over the decisions
and resources that matter in our lives. Real democracy means that we make
the decisions that impact our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and the
state of the world we hand off to our children. This year the world is
counting on us to expand the election year debate beyond Democrats versus
Republicans to the larger issue of whether the US will be a Democracy or
Two other networks, This Time We Are Watching (a project of the League of
Pissed Off Voters, the Truthforce Training Center and the Ruckus Society
with many other groups) and No Stolen Elections (Global Exchange, Code
Pink, United for Peace and Justice, labor organizers and others) had also
begun to prepare a people power response for November 3. No Stolen
Elections publicized a pledge of action to stop a stolen election, but on
election night they chose not to call on people to take to the streets.
The Election Protection Coalition an umbrella group of volunteer poll
monitors that set up a hotline and planned to monitor and make public
voting irregularities. They may have missed one opportunity to make a
difference when Ralph G. Neas, president of the People for the American
Way which helped form the coalition, said to the media, "Overall, the
problems of outright voter intimidation and suppression have not been as
great as in the past."
The massive grassroots participation and activism -- the highest levels of
activism since before the Iraq invasion-- are hopeful. But electoral work
and single-issue campaigns without a broader systemic analysis are a
recipe for disappointment or failure. Moveon.org has reportedly not
returned press calls for two days after the election, perhaps because they
had naively thrown all their hopes with Kerry and lacked a deeper vision
or longer-term strategy.
The League of Pissed Off Voters was one of the most hopeful efforts within
the massive grassroots efforts to unelect Bush. Catalyzing activism around
the election among youth, especially youth of color, they had a vision of
building power and organization beyond the elections using creative
tactics and rooting themselves in hip hop and youth culture. Other local
grassroots efforts like Ithaca, New York's Bush Must Go Coalition, used
the energy of anti-Bush election build their organization and campaigns
that started before and will continue after the election gone.
Let's be honest. Kerry would have been an improvement to Bush and sent a
much better signal to the world, but he is more reactionary than Nixon; a
pro-war, pro-corporate capitalism millionaire who wants a more
multilateral approach to wars and US empire building. It's also an
important to remember what makes deeper changes in the world is movements
and communities and people power, not politicians. And if we step back and
look at things globally, Bush and his gang are fringe extremists whose
empire is overextended, and lacks any global legitimacy. While we are part
of a global majority, an ever growing movement of movements that is
creating common sense alternatives that will undermine the empire from
*Quote from the Institute for Public Accuracy
David Solnit volunteered with the Mobilization for Democracy Not
Disenfranchisement and local anti-bush groups in NW Ohio in late
October/early November and is the editor of Globalize Liberation: How to
Uproot the System and Build a Better World
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-08 04:15:59|
Subject: Dear Mr. Bianchieri...
I am beginning to agree with you on this more and more. Here the news
which our media "prevented" us from seeing wasn't the assassination of
Theo van Gogh (the sty in the other democracy's eye??) but the
widespread instances of irregularities in the voting process. 3500
votes were erased in one ohio district alone! Thank for making me
think about it and investigate it for myself.
My reference to Old-ropeans wasn't a reference to Washignton's
defintition. For me I think to truly be a New-ropean one's
defintition of Europe has to come from the inner commonalities of the
nations of the EU, not a contrast with other countries, esp. the US. I
think we both are in agreement about European unity and greater
democracy in Europe and the U.S.
Take care and best wishes
Prof. Christopher Larkosh
University of Connecticut
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-08 04:12:58|
Subject: Franck Biancheri answering to Mr Christopher Larkosh
thank you very much for your feedback to my article 'USA 2004: the
of world's democracies'. First of all let me say that it is far from
idea to circulate any kind of stereotype whether on Americans or
Second, nothing can be further from my mind than supposing that the EU
model of democracy. If you sometimes read the articles I write on this
topic, you may know that I am one of the harshest critics of the lack
democracy at the EU level. So my comments on the US should not be seen
any promotion of the EU democractic model (which is still to be
You are right here: the EU faces a huge democractic challenge in coming
About Theo van Gogh, it may indeed be a misunderstanding because I was
saying that because of the coverage of US elections, this news went
unnoticed in many EU countries. Nothing more.
Coming back to the core content of the article, I feel nevertheless
completely entitled to underscore the massive flaws of the current US
electoral system. Part of my article was an attempt to attract our US
audience attention on a very simple fact: seen with a foreigner point
of view, this election, scrutinized by foreign press as never before a
US election, has been showing the complete inadaptation of the US
system to basic requirements of modern democracy. I do insist: basic
requirements (not just some side problems).
Having long queues at polling stations is not a sign of healthy
it is a sign of a crumbling voting system. It is also a known technics
election manipulation. Whether US citizens want to confront or not the
that their 200 years old electoral system is obsolete is the sole
of US citizens (or leaders) themselves. But as a friend of the American
people and a dedicated democratic commentator, I feel necessary to
the rest of the world has now noticed the problem.
If nothing is done to fix it, most probably this will affect more and
the power structure in the USA, while worldwide the credibility of the
as a champion for democracy will tumble extremely fast.
To conclude, I just would like to mention that those concepts of Old
Europe do not exist but in the fantasies of a few Washington's
and politicians. When it comes to democracy or global governance,
public opinions do massively converge around similar values and
shown repeadly by polls and surveys. This trend, combined with the
one affecting today the USA, should be a major concern for all those,
us, who do care about the future of Transatlantic relations.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-08 04:11:33|
Subject: Reaction to F. Biancheri's article ( by Christopher Larkosh)
Dear Newropeans :
I take issue with Franck Bianchieri's view of the U.S. as the sick man
of the world's democracies. Although the voting system in the U.S. is
by no means perfect, and although I may not be entirely pleased with
the results of the U.S. elections, I do believe that just because I
may not agree with the majority of Americans who voted that doesn't
necessarily mean that the system malfunctioned. The EU is facing its
own challenges in creating truly democratic institutions (think of all
the unelected officials in Brussels; is that truly democratic?) and
still people wonder why Eurosceptic attitudes have become so popular.
In the same vein, I think it is little farfetched to fault the U.S.
elections as having "prevented" the media from covering the murder of
Theo van Gogh! (This is probably a result of a bad English
translation, but all the same). Exactly what media(s) are you talking
about? If they didn't cover it, then perhaps you should criticize
them directly. I live in Connecticut and I have spoken with a number
of people about his murder, and if you look at even the most
mainstream U.S. websites (e.g. CNN) you'll find references to the
I think that most of your articles only serve to uphold stereotypes of
U.S. Americans as ignorant and backward. I support the idea of
European unity, but does anti-American sentiment truly the most
effective means to that end? Ultimately such scapegoating is
"Old-ropean" ! and is sure to backfire (look at Bush and Blair's
duo-lateralism and war on terror as an example); as a
European-American, I suggest that perhaps both sides of the Atlantic
could use a healthy dose of self criticism.
Coventry, Connecticut USA
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2004-11-08 02:13:36|
Subject: USA 2004: the sickman of world’s democracies?
by Franck Biancheri (Paris)
While I was looking at the huge queues outside polling stations on November 2nd, I wondered about two very simple facts: how many Europeans would have left such queues, refusing to wait for 2, 3, 4, or even 7 hours (like in some places in Ohio) for casting their votes? How many Europeans will the next day take the street to denounce such a flaw within the electoral process? I came to the conclusions that in both cases the answer will be the same: a lot. But looking at the USA today, we still do not know how many Americans decided that they did not want or could not afford to wait for many hours in order to be able to exercise their voting right. And we can see that nobody demonstrates against the amazing situation we saw during this election day.
I believe that this example says a lot about the growing rift between Americans and Europeans. It also says a lot about the current status of US democracy, which has become the ‘sickman of world democracies’. As were stating the OSCE election observers, the US election system is worst than many in Third World countries and is totally unable to match the basic criteria for a 21st century democracy.
First, it is not a national election, neither a 50 states election, it is an election organized in 13000 different ways, one for each district. Therefore, without one or just a few election laws, there is no way to ensure its fairness. Fraud is already part of the game because of the obsolescence of a system dating from the early 19th century. For instance, due to local regulations, OSCE observers could not enter polling stations in one state … guess which one …. Ohio!
Second, without a proper ID card system, securing the identification of voters is almost impossible. As one of the OSCE observer was pointing out, the US should be using the ‘ink on the thumb’ system, as in Africa for instance, to prevent people to vote twice. Meanwhile, such a lack of a credible identification system (people use drivers license or social security numbers which are known to be exposed to huge frauds in the US) generates the messy attempt of control through the voters lists, and paving the way for all sorts of litigation while not preventing multiple votes.
Third, the US voting system is unable to deliver anything but machines which cannot give any warranty on their reliability (electronic voting with no paper printing control system), nor on their accuracy (some of them looks like you need to be an engineer to understand how you must cast your vote). Meanwhile the belief that private companies can do a better job than publicly owned voting system is casting a big doubt on the whole process, especially when those companies have direct political connections with one candidate.
And fourth, which is most certainly the shocking image most Europeans have kept in mind from this election day, the insufficient number of polling stations which generated a denial of access to the election itself for a large number of US citizens who could not wait for such a long time, or would not. There we have a core problem with several worrying aspects. Contrarily to what the US press (and experts or politicians) is repeating, the fact there are huge queues obliging people to wait for hours before casting their vote is not the sign of an healthy democracy, but rather the opposite, a sign that the democratic system is unable to match the demand from its citizens. It is not due to a large unpredictable number of voters (everybody knew that turnout will be higher than last election) because the scale of US voters (between 100 and 120 millions) is nothing exceptional.
Somehow it puts this US election closer to the recent election in Afghanistan than to one in any developed world democracy.
A question then immediately comes to mind: how, and by whom, was the number of polling stations decided upon? It would be interesting to know because limiting the number of polling station is a very well-known “trick” for those willing to deny access to the election of large segments of their population. Workers with low income, who cannot afford to miss a day work, are for instance part of such a group. Young voters are another one, who, unless they are highly politically motivated, are most likely going to turn away from a 3 hours waiting election line. And so on. This is pure voters’ discrimination in action.
But, and that what is making Europeans very worried about the status of US democracy, nobody reacts in the USA. Journalists, politicians, experts, citizens …. stay mute. They seem to consider such queues as part of a normal election process. But it is not, at least for a wealthy country (5 billions $ have been spent for the electoral campaign) with a long electoral tradition. The next day, in almost any European countries, citizens would have demonstrated against what would have been perceived as a massive fraud, a de facto disenfranchisement of entire groups of voters. But in today’s USA, people grumble on their own, or cheer the success of their own candidate, as if democracy was not, first of all, depending on the quality of the electoral process, rather than who is the winner.
From this November on, the rest of the world is wondering whose will was exactly expressed during this US election, observing that it is very uncertain that it was the American people’s will. This is what is heavily discussed since yesterday throughout Europe. This is what I have been discussing with my US friends. This is what I want to share with you today even if it brings very transatlantically incorrect topics on the agenda, because this is part of the new image of the USA in the world.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-10-14 02:00:09|
Subject: Changing the Mask
Concerning Franck Biancheri's piece in today's Transatlantically incorrect, may I offer a modest suggestion? Merely as an exercise in imagination, democracy and free speech, why not reverse the exercise and have a Turkish intellectual come to France wearing the mask of a French leader to explain to his/her own people the cultural, psychological, political motivation for keeping on hold Turkey's entry into the EU.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-07-23 01:39:02|
Subject: A STORM IN A TEA CUP?
A Tempest in a tea-cup?
Reflections on the NM’s Editorial of 22 July 2004 on the Michael Moore Controversy
Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
“I am imprisoned with a perception that will settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time.”
Were I to have been asked thirty years ago who might be the author of such a statement I might have answered: Edward Said. At the time he was still an aspiring literary critic. He would later coin the language of “cultural imperialism” and how it affects nations and individuals. Were I to be asked today, I might reply: Michael Moore. It turns out that it is neither of the two. The quote belongs to Norman Mailer. He wrote a widely acclaimed war novel titled The Naked and the Dead, and then went on from there to chronicle the 60s in several magazines with literary pretensions.
In our post-modern era, the screenplay has largely replaced the novel as the default medium of “literary” protest. So, Michael Moore makes documentaries. He has been anointed by some “journalists,” and even some film experts of Cannes fame, as the flip-side of Leni Riefenstahl: the anti-war action man for our time; in other words a sort of post-modern Norman Mailer. At first glance one might even mistake him for another Fellini, presenting us with life as a circus, clowns and all, with himself as the greatest buffoon and circus master, making us laugh while exploring some serious social issues. But when one takes a close look one begins to realize that we are confronted, not with serious criticism, but with titillation, manufactured controversy and sheer distortions. I once gave a course on Italian neo-realistic film but I am not a film critic and frankly I have not seen the movie yet. So, I will refrain from a review of the film’s content and message, which has already been done in NM in any case, and simply look at the messenger and the medium.
Let us expand a bit on this idea of the medium is the message and sometimes the massage too. Some forty years ago Marshall McLuhan taught us that sometimes the medium is the message, and sometimes it is the massage… One of his last books was titled “The Medium is the Massage.” What gets massaged is Truth itself. Which reminds me of that other blackbuster named “Titanic”, and presented not as an historical fiction but as a sort of documentary; i.e., the medium was the film and the genre within that medium was the historical narrative, in film language, a documentary.
I remember some of my students at the time eager to discuss the film and sympathize with the third class passengers, mostly immigrants with many women and children, who were left to die in the middle of the Atlantic while the rich and famous (Hollywood celebrities?) saved themselves in the few available life-boats. I remember assigning those students a research on the Titanic’s disaster, sweetening the task with extra credit. Most of them did the research, and lo and behold, they discovered, to their great surprise, that in reality most women and children (even those in the third class of the Titanic) were in fact given priority on the life-boats and some 90% of them were saved.
So the men of the time (1912) did act honorably after all, by letting women and children first. The director of the movie on the other hand did not act so honorably; he had manipulated the medium by presenting it as history when in reality it was historical fiction. But there is a further reflection and it is this: the events seen through the eyes of modern Man, and the manipulation, as done by a modern director, showed much more how men think of themselves and esteem themselves nowadays, how they would act today, and much less on how they actually acted 92 years ago. Which is to say, McLuhan was correct: sometimes the medium and how it is manipulated, is the message, and even the massage. I suppose the case can be made that the movie gave the opportunity to a few students to learn some history and even debate the issue to arrive at the truth of the matter. Which begs the question: what about those millions who never got that opportunity and now continue to think that men at the beginning of the 20th century were just as they are today?
But let us return to Moore. Andrew Anthony, of the London Observer, observes that Moore likes to portray himself as the little guy championing and giving a voice to other little guys. The reality is that he is a millionaire, a walking symbol of American waste and consumption, originating not from a working class family but from a well to do middle-class family living in the suburbs of Flint, Michigan. A family who could afford a two car garage and sent three children to college.
Moreover, there is an intriguing connection with Fantasy Land and Mickey Mouse. On his way to Cannes, Moore told reporters that Disney was attempting to kill his film because the governor of Florida (Jeff Bush, brother of President Bush) had threatened to withhold millions of dollars of tax breaks to Mickey Mouse. This sounds like one of Eco’s hyper-reality descriptions. The reality is that Disney never agreed to distribute the film and so told Moore a year before the completion of the movie.
There is also a connection with Mel Gibson of Passion fame; another made up story. Moore has reported that Mel Gibson got a call from the White House, from “someone” who warned him that if Icon Productions (Gibson’s distributing company) dared to distribute the film, he would never get another invitation from the president. When asked who the mystery caller might be, neither Moore nor Gibson, nor anyone else could identify him.
So, Moore likes to manipulate the medium and massage the truth, and perhaps even see it naked, something that Eco says should never be done since Truth is a very modest maiden. He likes to make up stories, or at the very least to rearranges them by manipulating chronology in order to make his points. He calls his films documentaries supported by the facts as they are. Dave Kopel of National Review in reviewing his previous film “Bowling for Columbine,” called it a “mockumentary.” Norman Mailer had a name for those facts. He called them “factoids”: things that seem to be facts bur they are not actually true. However, Mailer was more honest about it and never called his novels historical writings.
But there is something in common with both men: they both have mistaken fleeting celebrity with lasting influence. Mailer thinks of himself as another Said or Umberto Eco. Moore thinks of himself as another Rossellini or perhaps Fellini. To borrow an image from Aristotle, they are like pugilists swinging away with no opponents, appealing to spectators in love with the form and blissfully ignoring the content. There is an essay by Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner which says it all much better. It is titled “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon: The Case against Celebrity.” They make the case for hypocrisy among the entertainment elites of Hollywood. The problem is perhaps best expressed by an editorial op-ed piece in the Washington Times by Suzanne Fields which ends thus: “The likes of Barbara Streisand and Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Michael More see themselves as thinkers. Intoxicated with celebrity status, they confuse their talent for fantasy with real-life significance. The prizes they win say more about the prize-givers than about the fantasizers they celebrate. Moore’s the pity.”
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-07-13 10:59:37|
Subject: UMBERTO ECO AND LALA LAND: A REVISITING AND AN UPDATING
UMBERTO ECO AND LALA LAND: A revisiting and updating
An early description of the way contemporary culture is now full of re-creations and themed environments was provided by Umberto Eco. In a brilliant essay, Eco saw that we create these realistic fabrications in an effort to come up with something that is better than real -- a description that is true of virtually all fiction and culture, which gives us things that are more exciting, more beautiful, more inspiring, more terrifying, and generally more interesting than what we encounter in everyday life. In his description of Disney, Eco also saw that behind the facades lurks a sales pitch. Put these ideas together and you have a succinct characterization of the age, which is forever offering us something that seems better than real in order to sell us something. That makes Umberto Eco one of the forerunners of contemporary thinking on this subject.
Umberto Eco went on a tour of America to get a firsthand look at the imitations and replicas that were on display in the nation's museums and tourist attractions. The essay that he subsequently wrote describing his trip, bore the odd title "Travels in Hyperreality," which made it sound more like science fiction than a brilliant work of culture criticism. The essay, which is dated 1975, also had an anomalous quality to it. Looking at it, today, it reads like a strange combination of Postmodern philosophy and something out of the Sunday travel section, full of sardonic descriptions and exaggerated denunciations that focus on the cultural shortcomings of America.
In the essay, Eco plays the role of both social critic and tour guide, taking the reader across an American landscape that he says is being re-created in the image of fake history, fake art, fake nature and fake cities. Along the way, he examines a reproduction of former President Lyndon Johnson's Oval Office, and goes through a reconstruction of a Medieval witch's laboratory, in which the recorded screams of what sound like witches at the stake can be heard in the background. He travels to wax museums, where artistic masterpieces are re-created and, often, reinvented in unexpected ways, resulting in such cultural mutations as a wax statue of the Mona Lisa and a "restored" copy of the Venus de Milo, with arms. He also enters what he refers to as "toy cities," including Western theme towns, where the buildings are stage sets, and actors in costume, engage in mock gunfights, for the benefit of visitors.
As Eco explains it, his trip is a pilgrimage in search of "hyperreality," or the world of "the Absolute Fake," in which imitations don't merely reproduce reality, but try improve on it.
Not unexpectedly, it leads him to the "absolutely fake city" of Disney World, with its re-created main streets, imitation castles and lifelike, animatronic robots. Here, he takes a boat ride through artificial caves, where he sees scenes of pirates sacking a city, in the attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean, and he travels through a ghost story that appears to have come to life, with transparent, dancing spirits, and skeletal hands lifting gravestones, in the attraction, the Haunted Mansion.
It is in Disney, where he finds the ultimate expression of hyperreality, in which everything is brighter, larger and more entertaining than in everyday life. In comparison to Disney, he implies, reality can be disappointing. When he travels the artificial river, for example, he sees animatronic imitations of animals. But, on a trip down the real Mississippi, the river fails to reveal its alligators. "...You risk feeling homesick for Disney World," he concludes, "where the wild animals don't have to be coaxed. Disneyland tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can."
He also discovers something else in Disney: a place that no longer even pretends it is imitating reality, but is straightforward about the fact that "within its magic enclosure it is fantasy that is absolutely reproduced." But, perhaps his most interesting perception occurs when he discovers, behind all the spectacle in Disney World, the same old tricks of capitalism, with a new twist: "The Main Street facades are presented to us as toy houses and invite us to enter them, but their interior is always a disguised supermarket, where you buy obsessively, believing that you are still playing," he writes. He similarly finds in Disney, "An allegory of the consumer society, a place of absolute iconism, Disneyland is also as place of total passivity. Its visitors must agree to behave like robots."
But what is most remarkable about Umberto Eco's essay is that, in the three decades since it was published, many of its more extreme observations, if not all its attacks on America, have been confirmed. America, today, is in the midst of a building boom in fantasy environments far more elaborate than anything Eco described, which are giving us a fictionalized landscape and a culture, that has many of the qualities of theme parks.
It seems that wherever one looks in this new landscape, one sees exaggerated variations on Eco's fake nature, fake art, fake history and fake cities. There are now replicas of rain forests, for example, which have been re-created on a massive scale, throughout the nation, along with future cities, and Jurassic parks, with animatronic dinosaurs. Los Angeles, the city, now includes Los Angeles, the themed mall, with facades that re-create the city's famous neighborhoods. Even the movies, where America's love affair with illusion started, are beginning to surround audiences with electronic images and stage sets, in a new generation of special effects theaters, creating another kind of fantasy environment that is starting to look a lot like fake reality.
The two capitals of this new culture of illusion are Las Vegas and a vastly enlarged Disney World. In just the last few years, Las Vegas, with its Egyptian pyramid-hotel, reproduction of the Empire State building, and fantasy version of the Grand Canyon, has become the city of imitations, that is turning itself into the world's first urban theme park. Meanwhile, Disney World has expanded, in typically orderly fashion, one module of imaginary worlds, at a time, becoming not a city that is a theme park, but a theme park that has become a city. Disney World has even developed its own suburbs of fantasy, that are filling central Florida with theme park sprawl, as miniature and not-so-miniature attractions, featuring Medieval knights, re-created Chinese buildings, and an animatronic King Kong, spring up around its outskirts. Is Lala land about to go global as Disney in Paris would suggest?
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-07-05 11:07:57|
Subject: De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America"; America through the eyes of a Frenchman
De Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”: America through the Eyes of a Frenchman
Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
While Leo Strauss may be the inspiration of American neo-conservatism, as I have argued in another message, behind Strauss there may well be the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. In 1831, at the age of 25, he traveled to the United States to observe an American democracy still in its infancy, barely 55 years old at the time. He came up with a number of perceptive and insightful observations which he then wrote in a two volume book titled Democracy in America. Like Strauss, he too expresses some serious reservations on what he observed in America. Those reservations may well deserve a second look, to better understand the difficulties of the present transatlantic dialogue.
De Tocqueville defines the American character as a wholly new and unique phenomenon, “unknown in the old aristocratic societies.” What did de Tocqueville mean by that statement? What exactly was unique, new and different from the old world? De Tocqueville was convinced that to understand any phenomenon one needs to look at its origins. This is an Aristotelian as well as a Vichian axiom. As he wrote: “Peoples always feel their origins. The circumstances that accompanied their birth and served to develop them influence the entire course of the rest of their lives.” The first important observation made by de Tocqueville was that “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile. Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes.” He also noticed that Americans liked to import capital from the old world and invest it in the new. Not many people know that this state of affairs was the case till 1914, and that moreover by the year 1740, way before independence from England, the American colonies had the highest per capita income in the world. The next thing that de Tocqueville’s sharp eyes observe is the spiritual side of what may at first appear as a purely materialistic propensity: that many of the original colonies were founded as religious havens, notably that of Massachusetts as a Puritan enclave which shapes the very identity of the nation. The question then is: do these origins continue to shape the US? Let us see.
At the time of the bicentennial in 1976, it was believed that America was converging socially toward Europe; that the two societies would eventually resemble a similar welfare secular state; that such is the inevitable evolution of advanced societies. A quarter of century later we notice that in fact it is Europe that has moved toward American entrepreneurship and away from the welfare-state. Religiously speaking, America not only has not become more secular, as the theory went, but has seen a veritable surge of evangelical Christianity which continues to baffle most secular Europeans. And yet, if one were to pick up de Tocqueville and read how he describes the origins of America one would be far less surprised. As he wrote way back in 1831: “What I have seen among the Anglo-Americans, brings me to believe that democratic institutions of this nature, introduced prudently into society, that would mix little by little with habits and gradually blend with the very opinions of the people, could subsist elsewhere than in America.” In effect de Tocqueville is advocating for Europe what he sees in America. He is hinting at what Paul Valery will express later: that the universal democratic ideals of Europe, that is to say, the idea of Europe, will be fulfilled first in America and then in Europe. That explains why a Lincoln could later dare say that America remained, despite its flaws, “the last best hope of the world.”
But de Tocqueville saw dangers as well. Most of the problems lie in societal attitudes and tendencies, but there are a few institutional difficulties as well. The first of these is the preponderance of legislative power. Because the legislature is most directly representative of the will of the people, democracies tend to give it the most power of all the governmental branches. Yet if there are not sufficient checks on this power, it can easily become tyrannical. A related constitutional issue that weakens the independence of the executive and therefore indirectly increases the power of the legislature is the ability of the president to be re-elected. At first glance it is not obvious why this feature of American government weakens the president's power. It would seem, in fact, to increase his influence by allowing him to remain in office longer. The problem is that if the President has hopes of being re-elected, he will lose much of his ability to make independent decisions based on his judgments. Instead, he will have to bow to the whims of the people, constantly trying to make them happy although they may not have the knowledge to judge what the best action for the country as a whole might be. Indirectly, therefore, allowing the President to run for re-election increases the danger of the tyranny of the majority. Another problem with the constitutional organization of American democracy is the direct election of representatives and the short duration of their time in office. These provisions result in the selection of a mediocre body of representatives as well as in the inability of representatives to act according to their best judgment, since they must constantly be worrying about public opinion. By contrast, the Senate, whose members are elected indirectly and serve longer terms in office, is composed of intelligent and well-educated citizens. Perhaps it will be necessary to switch to a system of indirect election for representatives as well. Otherwise, the laws will continue to be mediocre and often contradictory. If the state of affairs continues, people may tire of the ineptitude of the system and abandon democracy all together.
The overriding but more intangible danger facing democracies is simply their excessive love for equality. In fact, even the institutional problems are really only symptoms of this deeper mindset which all democratic peoples tend to have. The doctrine of the sovereignty of the people and the power of public opinion are corollaries to the idea of equality. If all are equal, then no one person has any basis to claim the right to rule over another. The only just way to run a society, therefore, is to base decisions on the will of the majority. Yet the problem with this idea is that it can quite easily lead to despotism. Despotism can come at the hands of a single person or a multitude, the tyranny and the will of the majority as mob. A Napoleon may then be necessary. If there are no checks on the power of the majority to influence the government, then it will have absolute power and those in the minority will be helpless to resist. Perhaps even more insidious is the sheer moral force that the opinion of the majority has on society. If all opinions are equally valid, the logical conclusion is that the opinion held by the majority must be the best one. As a result, there is a tendency to abandon freedom of thought in democratic societies. Going against the opinion of the majority is seen as an indirect claim to the superiority of one's own opinion, which is directly contradictory to the principle of equality. Under the absolute government of a single man, despotism, to reach the soul, clumsily struck at the body, and the soul, escaping from such glows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics that is not at all how tyranny behaves; it leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul." These thoughts, as I have observed at the beginning of this essay are redolent of the thoughts of Leo Strauss in the 1960s regarding the pessimism he harbored about American democracy. Let us not forget that de Tocqueville was an aristocrat and Strauss an academic elitist.
Two other side-effects of equality, both of which also increase the likelihood of despotism‹are individualism and materialism. As Tocqueville points out, "individualism is of democratic origin, and threatens to grow as conditions get more equal." De Tocqueville is the first to point to the phenomenon of individualism in America and to point out that a community of rugged individualists may well be an oxymoron. He points out that “our fathers only knew of egoism.” Europe, with its cast system, had never had much use for individualism. The reason for this phenomenon is that equality tends to make people's interests focus in on themselves. There are no societal bonds or duties as there are in an aristocracy. De Tocqueville warns that the tendency of Americans toward individualism, to do their own thing could doom the country, unless people remembered that the founding fathers advocated the common good and involvement with community affairs more than individualism.
Actually, to have a full fledged individualism we need to wait till Emerson and Thoreau. Emerson first advocated retreating from the group and conformism in his famous essay “Self-Reliance,” writing there that “Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist.” The self and “the infinitude of the private man” is for Emerson much more interesting that the group. Thoreau went even further by physically parting from society for a few years in order to develop his whole humanity, not to speak of Walt Whitman “Song to Myself.” From there to Horatio Alger’s “rags to riches” tales advocating that money should never be wasted on the poor, (integral part of the Calvinistic Puritan ethics which sees poverty as God’s curse) the road is short indeed. Guilt about this abandonment of the poor may explain why 3 in 4 Americans even today donates to charity and why “faith based initiatives” are widely accepted, while some forty million go without health coverage; it’s as if charity can somehow take the place of social justice. And so we arrive at the “me generation,” the baby boomers about to retire which Crhistopher Lasch in his famous Culture of Narcissism brands as those who can perceive other only as a mirror of the self. Professor Putnam, of Harvard’s Public Policy Department, writes however in his Better Together that we ought not to despair; Americans, as ever, are finding new ways to come together in communities, which includes the internet.
In conclusion, let me say here that a close reading of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America would greatly benefit to the present day transatlantic dialogue. Not as a nostalgic looking back, history as archeology, which would benefit nobody, but as a way of recovering one’s origins, i.e., one’s democratic origins, and coming out of one’s obsessive narcissism to see the other and thus see oneself in the other’s opinion. For that to happen the dialogue must be respectful, the voice has to be subdued, at times silent, and we ought to admire what is best on both sides of the Atlantic without fearing the worst.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-06-30 04:54:16|
Subject: An Open Critique in the Agora of Ideas
AN OPEN CRITIQUE IN THE AGORA OF IDEAS (as an attempted at dialogue)
Re: John. A. Gueguen, Jr.’s essay “Plato and The Modern Escape from Political Responsibility”
Egregio Signor Andreacchio,
I have finally read the above essay you forwarded me some time ago. No doubt it is a good working paper for undergraduate discussion of Plato vis a vis his times as well as modernity and political philosophy in general.
That said, let me preface my critique, for whatever it may be worth, with my understanding of perennial philosophy which is pretty much in line with that of Gadamer: philosophy is dialogic by its own nature, when done in a closet, so to speak, and when it becomes mystification, it betrays its own origins and ideals.
That also said, permit to point out what I consider the major flaw of the essay and its assumptions: Mr. Gueguen wants the cake and eat it too. By that I mean that he wants both universalism and esoteric elitism. The two are incompatible. While he declares that the philosopher qua philosopher has a general responsibility for the polis in as much as it is integral part of the law of nature, including human nature; at the same time he declares the whole philosophical enterprise not something that is part of human nature but something precious reserved for few elites (see p. 19), that is to say a few esoteric elect initiates, “disciples” so called (see p. 21) who learn the art of “veiling,” of speaking obliquely and hiding the truth as one would a pearl from pigs…; they deal with the mysteries of a secular religion presided by a sacerdotal cast (the philosopher-priest) who lord it over the dumb Forrest Gumps of this world. (see p. 22). All this oblivious of the fact that original sin may accrue to the philosopher as well as Forrest Gump, in fact more so when reason becomes what Vico calls “the barbarism of the intellect.” Oblivious also of the fact that the philosopher too has to work out his own salvation in fear and trembling rather than in cavalier arrogance, and that Paul may have it more on target than Socrates when he says that “I know the good but I do evil.” To be sure, that is hinted at on pp. 9, 12, 22 but the essay fails to draw from this insight its proper conclusion; namely that, as Levinas has well taught us, Forrest Gump may be in better shape spiritually and even intellectually than a rationalist such as Leo Strauss ever was with his elitist neo-Platonic doctrine and its attendant intellectual neo-conservative cult as practiced by the like of Paul Wolfowitz, and Perlman, just to mention two prominent “disciples” who now have the hear of the powerful of this world. Indeed this is not Platonism but Machiavellism at its best.
If indeed Mr. Gueguen want to agree with Annah Arendt that the question of how one ought to live is also the question of political philosophy, that secular life and spiritual life are inseparable for a philosopher, then he ought to carefully consider Christian Humanism whose premises lead one to the conclusion that Jung was on target when he proclaimed that authentic religion when thrown out the window as the Englightenment and Secular Humanism do, it comes back the back door as an ideological cult, or Epicurianism, or narcissism (the worshipping of one’s cleverness; something well known in academia), to wit the Straussian cult of the “priests of the mind” 9see pl. 28), and its cohorts which includes also the likes of Allan Bloom, Eric Voegelin, who speak in parables in order to be more diplomatic and not have to tell one that he may be speaking within the grammar of lunacy. There was another man but he did not come from Greece, but from Palestine. He too spoke in parables but not obliquely, even children and unsophisticated Forrest Gumps could understand them, and he was no Cartesian rationalist and when confronted with insincerity and hypocrisy he did not hesitate to call such perpetrators “white sepulchers.” I’ll choose that attitude any time over Straussian Platonism.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-06-28 07:59:24|
Subject: Divorce or Temporary Separation in the NATO Alliance?
An open politically incorrect letter by was of transatlantic dialogue
Divorce or mere temporary separation in the NATO Alliance?
Once again we hear rumbling about an imminent separation in the NATO alliance. Some are advocating a divorce, others a rapprochement, others a temporary separation, at least till November. Not surprisingly, anti-Americanism becomes the convenient red herring to distract from the real issue. On this side of the Atlantic the suspicion continues to grow among a vast section of public opinion, promoted by some politicians, that the phenomenon of anti-Americanism may be due more to resentment of American hegemony and less to protest of unilateralism and love of peace. Unfortunately both positions are deeply flawed, and sound-bites like “Europeans from Venus and Americans from Mars” are hardly helpful.
In all fairness it must be pointed out that the more thoughtful European citizens (for example, the French Jacob Feflaive who a few months ago contributed a lucid posting in the Debate on the Future of Europe titled “France, Europe and Anti-Americanism,”) have been arguing that one should never brand a whole people with a negative label at the risk of collapsing bridges of understandings and common values that took two generations to build. Many European citizens, the ordinary people more than the elites and the politicians, are hard at work repairing those bridges before they collapse. Mr. Leflaive himself writes this in the above mentioned contribution: “maybe the only solution is some kind of mediation trough Tony Blair.” Moreover, Franck Biancheri, who heads the Paris based Think Tank TIES, organizes Transatlantic Conference in Miami (two have already been conducted) for the very purpose of taking a hard look at the above mentioned bridges and see how they can be repaired. Perhaps a solution can still be found to re-establish a dialogue based on mutual respect, admiring the best and not fearing the worst in each other; for indeed nothing can be built on fear and mutual suspicion.
One modest suggestion, which I have advocated in the forum for some time, is the following: let us abandon rationalistic Machiavellian power-play considerations of “real politick” and focus rather on the common cultural roots that both Europe and America share. Let us look for new paradigms which can be the new wineskins for the new wine. I remain convinced despite the bad news on both sides of the Atlantic, that the mediation of culture can be even more effective than the persuasive eloquence of a Tony Blair. Indeed it can be the cement that unites many disparate heritages and traditions shaped by different languages and experiences in the European continent. If there are new Europeans at the moment, they are the ones in East Europe (once under Soviet domination) and it does not take long to realize that they do not speak the same political language as the Western Europeans. Just read some of Havel’s political essays and you’ll soon be convinced. They are less secular and more apt to understand that it may be misguided to ignore the fact, supported by the latest research on the subject, that religion, devoid of fanaticism and properly understood, can be a centripetal force within a vibrant and diverse culture. For indeed, for better or for worse, we still share a common destiny and to a certain extent a common identity, that of Western Civilization. We are in the same boat and should we be on the Titanic navigating the icebergs of nihilism devoid of a moral compass, we shall unfortunately suffer a common fate: that of perishing in the middle of the Atlantic (where Dante’s mountain of Purgatory lies in the Western’s imagination, not to speak of Plato’s Atlantis) as a great civilization that forgot its identity and is no more.
What is to be done then? Giambattista Vico, way back in the 18th century pointed out the microcosm reflects the macrocosm in the story of Man, in the long arduous development of cultures and civilizations. Man is a child first and before the age of reason she/he imagines and intuits more than reason. The story of mankind reflects the story of man. When reason arrives that is a further step forward, with one caveat however, that imagination and creative intuition is not abandoned. For to do so is to fall into rationalism and be worse off than before. It means to go from what Vico calls “the barbarism of the senses” devoid of imagination to “the barbarisim of the intellect” also devoid of imagination but much more lethal and dangerous.
Aristotle in his Metaphysics tells us that the abstract universals of reason need to return to the individual images (he calls it phantasms) from which it sprang and reconnect to imagination (literally: the forming of images) or it runs the danger of being mere theory without experience. Theory without any experience will insure that the man with some experience and little theory will be more successful than the one with much theory and little experience. He uses a doctor as an example. And indeed, a doctor who prescribes good medicine without a proper diagnosis will turn out to be a failure. Aristotle was probably thinking of the colossal failure of Plato in Syracuse where Plato tried to apply in practice his theoretical Republic. Within post-modernity “the barbarism of the intellect,” a reasoning process divorced from “poetic wisdom” (to which Vico dedicates a whole section of his New Science) insures that eventually rational intelligent men with Ph.D.s after their names will make train run on time without asking where they are headed for and will rationally plan an Holocaust in less than two hours. Which is to say that intelligence is not only the power of rationality and logic, but also the power of imagination, of the emotions, of the spirit. A reason divorced from imagination ends up in barbarism. And then the gods (and poetic wisdom) return.
In the Divine Comedy there is a powerful image that illustrates this state of affairs in which modern Western Civilization finds itself at the moment. Dante finds himself in the deepest part of hell and enters a cave in which he sees a man who is holding a lantern. As he gets closer he realizes to his horror that the man is decapitated and what he holds in his hand as a lantern is his own head. The decapitated man is the poet Bertrand del Bornio who has abused the power of reason, imagination and eloquence by creating dissensions and mischievousness among people and has thus turned “poetic wisdom” upside down. Dante says that “he did light to himself.” This intelligent man doing light unto himself is in a greater predicament than primitive cave man ever was in his cave in the barbarism of the sense but with his imagination and a primitive social life and religion interacting holistically. This is the height of arrogance and narcissism not only for an individual but also for a collectivity, not excluding a whole society or civilization.
I am willing to wager that these general considerations, will be cavalierly dismissed by any ultra sophisticated “serious” cynical rationalist, especially those with a Machiavellian propensity, on both sides of the Atlantic. And that is the problem: not EU vs. US power plays which is a mere red herring. It seems to me that what needs to be done urgently is to abandon the old putrid wineskins (the Machiavellian categories) still being bantered about, so that the new wine being prepared (called the New Europe) will not spoil and we do not end up repeating some of the negative aspects of European history, the worst one being “the barbarism of the intellect.” If a warning was needed, we got one only six years ago in Bosnia. Which is to say, what is needed is a Europe that is not merely old, and not merely new, but NOVANTIQUA: a Europe that knows itself (its cultural identity) because it is still capable to imaginatively reconnect to the particulars of its own identity (its history and culture) and in those origins can find the confidence to confront its future. Then Europe instead of competing for the addictive power drug called “real politick” will have a real alternative to offer the world to American geopolitical hegemony based on sheer military power. I am afraid that the failure to search for and implement alternatives to the old wineskins is also an abysmal failure of imagination on both sides of the Atlantic.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-06-22 02:42:25|
Subject: Religion and Western Secularism: a follow-up
Religious Transcendence as Integral Part of a Vibrant Cultural Identity and a challenge to Western Secularism
In a previous article on Religion and Secularism, I have attempted to demonstrate that religion and democracy need not be mutually exclusive; that in India (the biggest democracy in the world) we have a powerful example of how religion and democracy can coexist harmoniously. From four possible models as examined in the article, India has adopted the one of “religious politics and secular government,” as the best suited to her cultural identity and for preserving a vibrant cultural milieu.
I often share articles with trusted selected friends, even before publication. Often it results in a semi-private pre-debate on the ideas I, and them, put forth. As a sounding board, I find the exercise very helpful in clarifying, and sometimes even revising, my ideas on a particular issue. The final form of shared ideas is usually much better for a pre-publication dialogue. That is why I also post them on the TIES forum. Sometime I am surprised by a reply. In any case, this time too, a perceptive critique was moved against the above mentioned article by a friend and it was this: while proclaiming the desirability of choosing model n. 4 (religious politics with a secular government), the essay fails to fully demonstrates the reasons for this desirability and why it would be superior to model n.2 (secular politics with secular government dubbed “laicism” in Europe), a model widely prevalent in democratic Western countries.
The criticism is on target and is well taken. As a response to it, I have decided to follow-up with an article addressing the above objections, while examining more thoroughly the reasons why model n. 4 may be the most suitable for building and cultivating a culturally vibrant society. Moreover, I will also attempt to demonstrate that when all is said and done, religion may prove to be the remedy not only for a pervasive loss of cultural vibrancy within Western civilization, but also for its loss of the sense of the transcendent due to a wholly secular horizontal, immanent society that assumes that it is possible for Man to live by bread alone, and has difficulty in imagining cultural paradigms that reach beyond considerations of material prosperity; paradigms that are not based on mere power considerations of real politick.
It seems to me that the very first question that needs to be raised on this issue is the following: What is the cause of this reluctance within Western development thinking to engage in a discussion which would bring in the same field of vision political and religio-cultural components? I will first advance a preliminary answer: the cause of this myopia is a Western Civilization which, beginning with Descartes’ rationalistic philosophical paradigm and the subsequent advent of the industrial revolution, has opted for a system of cognition and a structure of knowledge which is partial and incomplete in as much as it privileges the socio-economic component. The result of this reductionism leads development specialists to function as one-eyed giants, purveyors of science bereft of wisdom. They analyze, even prescribe and act, as if human destiny can be stripped down to its mere material dimensions.
It is worth considering that the high rate of suicide in developed countries may well suggest that material abundance, even for survival, may be less essential than the presence of meaning in one’s life. That people lose the willingness to survive once they have lost the meaning of their destiny (See Man’s Quest for Meaning); that ultimately, it may be that a meaningful existence is the most basic of human needs, and that awe and mystery are as integral to human existence as bread and reason; that the future prospects of the human species depend upon internalizing an essentially religious perspective that transforms what is now a dominant materialistic secular outlook.
It would be enough to read a book such as Jeff Haynes’ Religion in Third World Countries (1994) to become convinced that indeed most people in developing countries derive their primary source of meaning from religious beliefs, symbols, and mysteries. They sense that no ideology or promise of material paradise will ever abolish life’s tragic dimensions: suffering, death, wasted talents, hopelessness; that to insist that it can be done is to trivialize life itself. Moreover the sociologist Peter Berger in analyzing the link between modernity and secularization arrives at this conclusion in his book titled A Far Glory: The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity (1992): “there are vast regions today in which modernization has not only failed to result in secularity but has instead led to reaffirmations of religion…It may be true that the reason for the recurring human outreach toward transcendence is that reality indeed includes transcendence and that reality finally reasserts itself over secularity” (pp. 28-29).
A similar judgment is expressed by Ramgopal Agarwala, a World Bank officer, when he declares in an essay which appeared in Friday Morning Reflections on the World Bank: Essays on Values and Development (1991) with the title of ”A Harmonist Manifesto. Hindu Philosophy in Action,” that “A society based on harmonism will be more than just a ‘sustainable society.’ There have been many primitive societies which were sustainable. Instead, it will be a sustainable society, with a cutting hedge at spiritual advancement that will provide the excitement that has been so painfully lacking in recent years. Spiritual advancement is the antidote to the boredom that lies just below the surface of many of the ills of the modern world.”
What we have discussed is rather easy to express in theory, the harder thing is to find ways to promote development in practice, while respecting religious and indigenous values. In attempting to do so one should be careful not to treat values in a purely instrumental fashion, as means to goals which are outside the value system in question. This is the equivalent of using religion to engineer popular compliance with a modernization program. A better stance is the non-instrumental: one that begins with respect for the inner dynamism of traditional values which then serve as springboard for modes of development which are more humane then those derived from outside paradigms. This is more desirable because indigenous values are the matrix from which people derive meaning in their lives, a sense of identity and cultural integrity, not to speak of the experience of continuity with their environment and their past.
Let me offer here an appropriate example derived from the Islamic religious tradition. Because the Qur’an condemns interests as usury, Islamic banks neither pay interests to depositors nor charge it to borrowers. Since banks need to operate as viable economic enterprises, one may wonder as to how they are able to solve this modern conundrum. They simply spread the risks flowing from their borrowing and lending. They receive a share of the profits earned by their borrowers and pro-rata shares of these profits are then distributed to depositors. This is a clear example of how a religious norm can alter a modern practice, instead of the other way around. The next difficulty is the identification of those secular matters that already exist within religion as such. This is not an easy task, given that since the stigmatization by Marx of “religion as the opium of the masses,” it is looked upon as inimical to a secular humanism attempting to destroy man’s religious alienation. As is well known, Marx contended that it is such religious alienation that turns Man away from the building of history on earth. He denounced religion on the grounds that it abolishes history by making human destiny ultimately reside outside history as a sort of pie in the sky. For him Christian humanism was nothing short of an oxymoron. Perhaps the French surrealist poet André Breton expressed this philosophy best when he branded Jesus Christ as “that eternal thief of human energies,” not to speak of Nietzsche’s outlandish view of the same. In effect this is the challenge of secularism to religion often ambiguously disguised as separation of Church and State; of the secular from the sacred, or of neutrality on religious matters.
The question that religion needs to answer is this: can it supply men and women of today with a convincing rationale for building up historical tasks within a humanistic philosophy of history, while at the same time bear witness to transcendence? In order to answer this crucial question one needs to analyze the secular commitments which all authentic religions already implicitly posses. Teilhard de Chardin did exactly that for Christianity. He once compared a contemporary pagan with what he called a “true Christian humanist.” The former, he said, loves the earth in order to enjoy it; the latter, loving it no less, does so to make it purer and draw from it the strength to escape from it. That escape, however, is not to be construed as an alienating flight from reality, but the opening, or the issue which alone confers final meaning on the cosmos. This is the basic difference between an Epicurus and a St. Francis of Assisi. The first proposes a closed, deterministic immanent world; the other proposes a world with windows to transcendence. All one needs to do is look around to discern that indeed Epicureanism is alive and well in Western Europe. The convenient scapegoat for the phenomenon is usually American pragmatism. In any case, De Chardin insisted all his life that it was a Christian duty to build the earth and history and to contribute to the solution of pressing secular tasks dealing with justice, wisdom, creativity, human development, solidarity, peace, ecological balance, as penultimate responsibilities and goals to be achieved right here on earth. Another example is the concept of “liberation theology” which embraces the struggle for a more just world that better responds to human needs; the building of history in other words without forgetting the witness to transcendence. A creative tension needs to be kept together; not unlike the horizontal of a cross (the historical) intersecting the vertical (the transcendent).
From what we have argued above, perhaps it is a bit more apparent that it is a mistake to assume that development is incompatible with religion, just as it is a mistake (as I have argued in my previous article) to assume that democracy in incompatible with it. This is especially so today, when most religious institutions allow for and even encourage “religious freedom.” If one manages to overcome those stereotypical prejudices one may discover that a respectful dialogue between religious values and social development plans, usually proves beneficial to both. In the final analysis the bigger challenge is not that of secularism to religion but that of religion to secularism to become more humane, to open itself to a greater gamut of values thus leaving history and human endeavors open to the transcendent.
Emanuel L. Paparella
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-06-16 04:15:40|
Subject: Relgion and Secularism: a revisiting
RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE: a revisiting
Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
As I have argued in my previous essay on the subject of religion and Humanism, we live in a post-modern Western world which since the age of Enlightenment has tended to see religion as an obstacle to genuine progress, a mere vestige of bygone times, the so called times of Christendom. I have also argued that Christians are partly responsible for this view when they nostalgically harken back to a Medieval Christendom and forget the new Humanism in the making that the Church herself is encouraging.
What is even more puzzling and disturbing, however, is a mental attitude (also derived from the Enlightenment) which declares that religion automatically excludes democracy. The other side of the coin is that capitalism automatically excludes totalitarianism; the example of present day China proves otherwise. Idem the example of present day India, the biggest democracy in the world, also contradicts the former proposition. But let us take a close at this phenomenon of Religion vis a vis democracy.
Before we do so I’d like to also suggest that since 1980 or so phrases such as “liberation theology,” “solidarity,” “moral majority,” were heard in diverse political circles in Latin America, Iran, Poland and the United States; they at least hint at the fact that the topic or religion and politics is alive and well and far from being boring and passè. There has been, as a matter of fact, a veritable resurgence of interest in the phenomenon of religion and the secular state. For example, in the last fifteen years or so, an eminent scholar of sociology and religion such as Jay Demerath has been examining the relations between religion, politics, and the state in some fifteen countries around the world. Besides the United States he has visited and observed the phenomenon in the following countries: Guatemala, Brazil, Norther Ireland, Sweden, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan. This monumental project spans various forms of religion and non-religion: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism.
One of Demerath’s findings is that while few countries have the kind of formal legal separation of church and state that characterizes the U.S., an informal de facto separation is almost a commonplace. The most conspicuous exception is the “state religions” in which government seeks to control religion, as was the case of Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
Demerath investigates four types of situations implied in the intersection of two basic distinctions: one between the religious and the secular (in Europe it goes under the name of “laicism” and it ambiguously straddles the nonreligious and the religiously neutral), and the other between politics and the state. Thus one can imagine the four situations as: 1) religious politics with a religious state, 2) secular politics and a secular state, 3) secular politics and a religious state, 4) religious politics with a secular state. Those four combination have empirical standing even if the boundaries are not always clear cut. In any case, let us look at each of these manifestations as suggested by Demerath
1. Religious Politics with a Religious State
This is the most pure of the possible combinations and perhaps the most common stereotype of non-Western non-secular societies. But even here, the two spheres are rarely if ever symmetrical. Nevertheless this is the pattern that lends itself to the most widespread religious and cultural violence. It is however a rare category. In the past we have had Catholic states as proclaimed in their constitutions, such as Brazil. Such a proclamation involved the subjugation of indigenous religious alternatives. Fortunately that is no longer so in most countries. In this matter, Italy too has abrogated its Lateran agreements signed with the Church by Mussolini’s state in 1931. Israel, despite Zionism seen as a secular movement, is nevertheless perceived as a religious state given that Israeli politics often take religious forms. But the clearest example of a religious state with religious politics is Northern Ireland, perceived in Protestant terms, de jure and de facto. In all those countries the violence is high. It stands to reason that this is the least desirables of combinations.
2. Secular States with Secular Politics
At the opposite pole we have secular states with secular politics. This can be considered the most stereotypically Western form. It represents in many people’s minds a realization of the Enlightenment’s vision of the de-sacralization of the state. It is associated with Western Europe in particular. This is so even when you have, in countries such as Germany Italy and France, the existence of so called “Christian Democratic” parties. It is also true for Anglican England and Lutheran Scandinavia. They are religious nations only symbolically and those symbols are usually defended on non-religious grounds, as cultural vestiges from the past. The influence of the secular state model is most apparent in Turkey which has been tilting toward the West throughout the latter days of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century which had a fascination with the secular theology of Emile Durkheim proclaiming that an ethical society could be sacred without being religious. Hence Ataturk banned religion from both government and politics.
China too qualifies as a doubly secular case on the basis of an imported Western ideology, namely Marxism. This may explain partly slogans seen on the debate of the future of Europe which proclaim loudly and proudly “viva la France, viva la Cina” oblivious of the fact that China is no democracy, despite its pretension to be a “people’s republic.” What can be said of the combination secular state-secular politics, is that in its purity, as even Chinese leaders are becoming increasingly aware, it risks cultural sterility; a society where only money has currency.
3. Religious States and Secular Politics
In this combination, while the state is formally religious, it actually reflects a culture and political scene which is highly secular. Lutheran Sweden is perhaps the best example here. But there is another model, found in countries such Thailand, Pakistan and traditionally Catholic Latin American states wherein religion is embraced by the state for legitimacy’s purposes, not out of conviction. Religion is banned from politics precisely because it is such an emotionally charged component of the culture at large. In Indonesia however, an imposed civil religion has attempted to co-opt the loyalties of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and animists as well as Muslims. The whole idea was to stifle Islamic fundamentalism. This combination does indeed produce strange partnerships.
4. Secular States and Religious Politics
This is the most intriguing combination because it gives the lie to those enlightened people in the West that proclaim that democracy cannot co-exist with religion, and that in fact religion destroys democracy. This is the case of India which happens to be the most populous democracy in the world. Since independence in 1947 India has managed to remain a stable democracy with a Constitution that insists that he government while guaranteeing and protecting religion which is integral part of the nation’s identity, remains neutral and above the fray of religious contentions. However, since 1980 there are complaints within India that the Independence fathers were perhaps too quick to apply Western secular forms to an Eastern cultural reality, that while a secular state may work well enough in a country like the U.S., it is discordant in an Indian society that remains non-secular at its core. Two such intellectuals are T.N. Madan and Ashish Nandy. Others however continue to defend a reading of the Indian Constitution that is a-religious, not anti-religious, claiming that communal violence proceeds not from the fact that the state is too secular but from the fact that it is not secular enough.
In a strange way, the reading of India depends upon one’s reading of the United States. On the one hand the U.S. has been construed as among the most religious nations in the world, with some 95% of Americans claiming belief in God” and more than 60% claiming attendance to religious practices. On the other hand, the U.S. can easily be portrayed as the secular nation par excellence with its separation of Church and State. Hence the culture wars among the orthodox and the progressives religious forces. In a way this is democracy at work. Because there is clear separation between Church and State, we can have in America highly vocal religious politics. The separation itself would be not acceptable without an opportunity in the society to express one’s religious preference. So the U.S. remains a paradox and the exception which commends the rule concerning the virtues of a secular state and a religious polity. For, that combination may not work in other parts of the world.
There is another state that qualifies as a secular state with religious politics, and that is Poland. But here too rampant secularism is on the ascendance and many Poles are mere cultural Catholics. The government is currently enacting a liberalization of many Church prohibitions. In short, Poland too will eventually join the combination of the doubly secular category of its European sisters.
So, what can we conclude from the above analysis? Several conclusion are legitimate in my opinion: 1) a religious combined with religious politics is the most potentially violent. 2) by contrast, on the other side of the spectrum, the doubly secular combination may provide political stability at the price of cultural vacuity. 3) the conjunction of a religious state with secular politics is either a symbolic anachronism or an imposed religious anti-democratic religious orthodoxy. 4) It would appear that a secular state with religious politics (n. 4) is rare but it may well be the most promising type for promoting cultural vitality and political stability. Those who claim that religion is by its own nature anti-democratic may have to re-assess their thinking.
A final comment: the late Edward Said alerted us Western scholars to the dangers of “Orientalism,” or cross cultural stereotyping. Those distorted perception occur in both directions as James Carter “Occidentalism” has proven. This problem is exacerbated when our cultural and political leaders seek not only to understand but to prescribe their own medicine for every patient, or, on the other side of the coin, to pull back into relativism that treat every society only changeable in its own terms; what Charles Taylor has referred to as “the obligatory hypocrisy” and false cultural respect in today’s “multicultural world.”
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-06-08 03:58:49|
Subject: Another point of view for debate in the TIES Forum
Another point of view from Le Monde for an open and frank Transatlantic Debate (from the notes of Emanuel L. Paparella).
(The exerpts below are from a memoir which has recently appeared in the forum section of the May-June Yale University Alumni Magazine (pp.22-23). The author is Farid Laroussi, a son of immigrants to France from the Maghreb (Francophone Northwest Africa), and a former citizen of France who is currently an assistant professor there teaching French and Francophone language and literatures at Yale. It was originally published in Le Monde; the translation is of Francois Jaouen.
"…Our integration into the French Republic, we were told, was our own responsibility. 'Integration' is the key word. Latin etymology tells us that to integrate is to make whole. We were half-citizens. We were the trash of the Republic.
We tried every argument. They said it was our culture that interfered. But we said, the Chinese and Vietnamese didn’t have these problems “integrating.” Well, actually, they said, the real problem is language. But didn’t we learn ours in the public school system? Our parents had heavy accents, but aren’t the first-generation Iberians just as bad?
The truth is simpler, and more remote. The dark place, the great divide standing forever between us and la doulce France, exists in religion. A centuries-old dialogue between two sides that are deaf to each other—between the Crusaders and the Levant, between Venice and the Ottoman empire, between continental France and French Algeria—took a turn toward the extreme once Islam, by virtue of our existence, put down its roots for good within the borders of France.
When France was confronted with so many Ahmeds and Djamilas, fantasies that had long remained hidden and latent blossomed into ignorance and xenophobia, poorly disguised as cultural bickering. The French Republic ill-conceived version of secularism returned in full force. Didn’t they know that the Islam of the Maghreb, which had been isolated for so long from the ideological currents of the Middle East, was among the most tolerant strains of Islam? It was impossible for France to take us seriously, to recognize that we were part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because we cherished rituals and cultural traditions different from those taught in Sunday school, we were frauds. Worse: we were ingrates. (You don’t eat our ham sandwiches? Fine. But don’t talk to us about prayers and head scarves!).
France chose exclusion instead of acknowledgement. In doing so, it allowed Islam to disappear into cellars and run-down houses, which have now served as Islam’s places of worship for decades. Even Marseilles, which boasts one of the oldest and most important Muslim communities in France, still lacks a mosque worthy of the name.
The Maghreb…appeared to its former colonial power in the symbolic guise of the “Arab”: incapable of democratic achievement or of social and economic success. In the context of this charade, the new French—the immigrant from the Maghreb—came to embody a cultural failing. The archaic paternalism of the Republic was reinvigorated. No appeasement, no dialogue; the response to us was, and still is, contempt and demonization. We are labeled a “dangerous class” by a portion of the right and by the media…
And there is a question that will not go away: how can young girls who wear Muslim head scarves be considered a threat to the democratic and Republican order? Isn’t their determination to go to school proof enough of their desire for integration? Aren’t their good grades a sign that they hope for executive positions in a multicultural France? I wonder whether, at the end of the day, French society sees any other alternative for us besides torching cars or becoming religious fanatics. After denying our past, after trying to undermine our present, they want to define us by, and confine us in, delinquency or the international anti-Western conspiracy.
Like our parents, we are vilified, but for different reasons. They were stigmatized by being born under colonial rule; we are stigmatized because we have refused to bear the yoke of monoculturalism, to accept the dogma of uniformity, CEOs, state executives, lawyers, or engineers, we have to believe we are in the wrong without ever knowing where our guilt lies….
…Diaspora probably marks for me, as for others who have decided to leave France, the moment when one comes closest to being the person one has dreamed of being…Here, in my new country, I find many things to question. But they are far less lacerating than submitting to the judgment of five million of my ex-fellow citizens who voted for the candidate of the extreme right in the last presidential election, and in so doing told me that they would never accept me. How could this be happening? Let’s just say: it has happened."
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-04-16 04:12:09|
Subject: A follow-up on Esoteric Straussianism
As one would have expected, I have already received a private rebuttal from a devout Staussian calling Shadia Drury book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss mere propaganda. This is a book, mind you, that is merely interested in exploring the ideas of Leo Strauss and their influence on the present day neo-conservatives, i.e., those who are now advising Bush and Rumsfeld. She has been dubbed by some Straussian devotees "The Bitch of Calgary." The one who wrote to me refrains from doing so but sends me her address and E-mail advising me to look into what she does on the side...; which is quite an interesting insinuation...worthy of a classical sophist... One begins to wonder: why all this animosity? Are we indeed dealing with an academic cult of sort? Be that as it may, let me follow-up to the previous notes with some notes and direct quotes from the book itself , and let the reader judge for themselves if indeed Drury deserves all that "scholarly" aspersion from some of the Straussians.
The book consist of an introductory chapter on Strauss that introduces Strauss, then a neutral deciphering of his philosophy without commentary, and finally ten pages on how one might criticize his ideas. Drury's treatment far from being biased,simply seeks to explain Strauss'philosophy, the one that is buried through his various works.
Preface: Where Drury introduces Strauss and the technique of her treatment. This is a great introduction to the controversy surrounding Leo Strauss:
"Leo Strauss is generally regarded as an historian of ideas, albeit a very unusual one. He has written many commentaries on the major figures in the history of political thought; among these are books of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Machiavelli, Spinoza and Hobbes. What is unusual about these works is that their author insists that all great political philosophers conceal their true thoughts or leave them unsaid. What the philosophers wrote clearly and explicitly was their exoteric philosophy, hiding behind which is their real and more complete esoteric philosophy. Straus therefor introduced a [method of interpretation] intended to unearth the hidden thoughts of the philosophers. The method he used seemed unusual: he attributed great significance to the numbers of chapters or paragraphs in a work, he focused on what was literally in the middle of a book to shed light on the heart of the matter, and he drew important conclusions from the silences of philosophers. It is not surprising that he has come to be regarded as a most enigmatic figure among scholars. What is most baffling of all is the number of young scholars eager to follow in his footsteps." [pg. ix]
Shadia Drury explains that she will not use Strauss' technique of interpretation on his own work, although she is not sure that he has not hidden ideas this way. Instead she believes that to understand Strauss you must listen to him literally, she relates the story of the pious ascetic from Plato:
"The pious ascetic is the symbol of the esoteric writer. he lies in deed or manner or style of expression, but does not lie in speech. It is my contention that Strauss is like the pious ascetic: if we are to understand him, we must learn to take him literally. Strauss's own noble lies, like the lie of the pious ascetic, are not simple falsehoods. They are misleading not so much because of what they say, but because of the pious manner that Strauss generally adopts when he makes his most radical statements. Moreover, what Strauss actually says seems to contrary to his reputation that we are inclined not to believe him." [pg. xi]
A way of thinking about this is to think that maybe the "devil's advocate" is actually the devil himself and believes the things he is saying. Also, one is not sure what Strauss's "reputation" actually is, because the only times most people will have heard him mentioned outside of the esoteric halls of academia, are with references to this book. This to be alright, because if Strauss does not actually believe or promote this philosophy that my commentary can be retroactively modified to say "the ideas of The Political Ideas of Strauss" because they are interesting regardless of whose mouth they come from.
In this chapter we see the first inkling of Leo Strauss's ideas: "That philosophy and truth is not meant for all. Strauss regards political philosophy as the hard outer shell that hides a soft kernel at its center. The soft kernel is philosophy, for which only the few are fit, whereas the many are harmed by it. Political philosophy is the public face of philosophy that hides the truth, not so much to avoid persecution, but in order not to wreak havoc on society, any society." [pg. xiii]
Every idea of Leo Strauss's relates to this fundamental conjecture. They either serve to prove that is true or they are implications of it being true.
Leo Strauss: Teacher and Philosopher: Mostly about the character of Strauss and how his influence developed, the style of his work.As a prelude to his ideas, Drury introduces the first implication of the destructive nature of truth: If truth is necessary to rule and run a society, and it is only accessible to the few, then the few must rule over the masses.
"For Strauss, the task of political philosophy in the world is to educate a special elite that will exert its influence in political life. Democracy understood as mass rule is for Strauss an absurdity simple because 'the mass cannot rule': history shows us that only elites have and can rule. Therefore it is necessary to 'found an aristocracy within democratic mass society'. Strauss and his followers believe that Plato's republic in which philosophers rule over the city is the best regime. Even though Strauss referred to this republic as a 'city in speech' [ed--Generally meaning "just an idea."], he did not mean that it is unattainable. he meant only that it is improbably because it requires the happy coincidence of philosopher and political power, or the existence of princes friendly to philosophy: it requires that philosophers win the ear of the powerful." [pg. 16]
The second part of this is where worry begins. If Strauss directly advocates influencing government, and it seems that Straussians are very successful within conservative circles, then the answers to certain questions become important: "What are they whispering in the ears of the powerful? How do they hope to change the world? What vision of a better world do they share? Unless we understand the political ideas of the man behind this fantastic project, the very meaning of the contemporary conservative movement will remain elusive." [pg. 17]
Esoteric Philosophy and Ancient Wisdom: Why Strauss writes esoterically and his interpretation of ancient Greek philosophers.
One of Shadia Drury's great talents and shows of integrity is the way that she does not seek to hide Strauss's ideas at all and tries to make them as clear as possible: "I will state more explicitly what Strauss expresses only with the utmost reserve, even in this [ed--Should be "the"?] most explicit of his statements on the matter. Esoteric writing is not necessary simply to protect the philosopher against harmful ignorance and bigotry. There is a deeper and more important reason that corresponds to a deeper and more important aspect of the conflict between philosophy and society. Philosophy does not only offend society, it 'endangers' it. There are two reasons for this. The simpler one is made explicit by Strauss, the deeper and more significant one is apparent only to one who understand the passage in the light of the corpus of Strauss's work." [pg. 19-20]
Those reasons are seemingly simple: "Society cannot withstand the questioning of philosophy because it is based on 'noble lies' and illusions that are necessary for it to function properly. Is there a truth so terrible that it threatens to wreak havoc on society unless it is kept secret? What is this deadly truth? Let me come straight to the point: in the course of this work I will show that for Strauss, religion and morality are two of the biggest but most pious swindles ever perpetrated on the human race. But paradoxically, there would be no human race were it not for these swindles. It is therefore of the utmost importance that they be sustained and nurtured. If this is true, then Strauss is right, philosophical truth is as deadly and as dangerous to society as he says it is. For surely, no society could survive in the absence of religion and morality. (As we shall see, Strauss believes that morality depends on religion.)" [pg. 20-21].
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-04-15 03:34:51|
Subject: Re. Philosophical Esoterism & Modern Sophistry
In a recent on-line interview Shadia Drury who has written several books critizing Leo Strauss (among which The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss) has declared that the neo-conservative cadre currently advising President Bush have come out from the school of Leo Strauss and his rationalistic ideas on the esoterism of philosophy. She implies that there is a sort of cult of Leo Strauss; there are even some of his unpublished articles being passed around to the few esoteric initiates for their eyes only...Bizarre indeed! I took the trouble to do a bit of research in the subject and came up with what follows. I am intrigued by it all. I am also curious as to what kind of response if any it will receive in this European forum. Here are my notes on Straussianism.
Leo Strauss & the Esoteric Straussians
The greatest peculiarity of Straussianism is that there is such a thing. One liberal scholar, Shadia Drury, has made a career of writing anti-Straussian exposés: The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (1988), Alexandre Kojeve: the Roots of Postmodern Politics (1994), Leo Strauss and the American Right (1997). The Straussians believe that premodern philosophy is better than modern philosophy. This turns the whole "progressive" view of history topsy-turvy, and provides a very distinctive point of view, and line of criticism, about modernity. The Straussians are anti-modern, not in the name of religion (like the various forms of religious fundamentalism all over the world) or of tradition (like conservatives since Edmund Burke), but in the name of reason, of philosophy: an understanding of reason and philosophy different from the Enlightenment's. The teaching of Leo Strauss is "political philosophy" in a very special sense: his primary, if not exclusive, concern is the relation of philosophy (and the philosophers themselves) to society as a whole. Moreover, he imputes this primary concern to the premodern philosophers.
The lesson of the trial and execution of Socrates is that Socrates was guilty as charged: philosophy is a threat to society. By questioning the gods and the ethos of the city, philosophy undermines the citizens' loyalty, and thus the basis of normal social life. Yet philosophy is also the highest, the worthiest, of all human endeavors. The resolution of this conflict is that the philosophers should, and in fact did, keep their teachings secret, passing them on by the esoteric art of writing "between the lines." Strauss believed that he alone had recovered the true, hidden message contained in the "Great Tradition" of philosophy.
With Machiavelli, however, there came a shift in emphasis. He was the first to deviate from the esoteric tradition that began with Plato, thereby initiating the Enlightenment. Machiavelli de-moralized political philosophy, and thereby created "political science." Virtue, whether defined in classical or Christian terms, was dethroned, because no regime could live up to its demands. Instead, a new regime could and should be created, by accepting, understanding, and harnessing men's lower, self-interested nature.
The modern world is held to be the deliberate creation (with some unintended consequences) of the modern philosophers -- namely, the Enlightenment, which gave birth to both scientific-technological progress and the liberal ideology of social-political progress. The Enlighteners argued (though still covertly) that instead of hiding philosophy, philosophers should reform society to make it more hospitable to philosophy: in particular, by undertaking the "project" of modern science, by which reason masters nature and provides material gratifications -- safety, health and wealth -- to common men, bribing them into acquiescence to philosophy. Physical science and technology would provide the know-how, while a new kind of regime, liberalism, would provide the conditions of liberty and equality enabling men to pursue their self-interest.
The problem with this (in the Straussian view) is that it exposed philosophy once more, and ultimately prostituted philosophy itself into the service of common men. The esoteric tradition was forgotten, and with it philosophy as such. At the same time, philosophy inadvertently exposed men to certain hard truths, truths too hard for them to bear: that there are no gods to reward good or punish evil; that no one's patria is really any better than anyone else's; that one's ancestral ways are merely conventional. This leads to nihilism, epitomized by the listless, meaningless life of bourgeois man, or to dangerous experiments with new gods -- gods like the race and the Fuehrer.
Now, this unique interpretation of Western history depends on the existence of a "hidden agenda" in the history of philosophy. If there was, in fact, such an esoteric tradition, it has escaped the attention of most scholars. Of course, that might only prove how well-hidden it is ... which goes to show how seductive esotericism can be, once you start flirting with it. .
There are several problems with his "teaching." First, is the philosopher (in the original, literal sense: a "lover of wisdom") really a superior type of person? I think that he is -- but not that he is a superior being. The difference between the philosopher and the ordinary person is one of degree, not of kind. His impulses are the same, but ordered differently. No matter how rational he is, he is still a rational animal: a sexual one, for instance, and a social one. His curiosity is more fully developed than theirs, but unless his other faculties are at least as well developed as theirs, this one trait does not make him better than they are.
The ancient philosophers did believe that the philosophic life is the highest and best, but only a few are suited to it. The Straussians concur, and go on to imply that the major evil of modern egalitarianism is that it makes philosophy impossible. The main difference between the Straussians and Left-wing nihilists is that the former think the "truth" of value-relativism should be known only to the few. All the philosophical problems with relativism apply to the Straussians' Right-wing version, and in spades. Suffice it here to say that the Straussians, too, have to introduce quasi-objective standards of judgment, covertly and unintentionally: e.g., the social utility of religion and patriotism. Surely, the very fact that society requires certain things -- communal loyalty, for instance -- in itself justifies these things: they are rooted in nature, the social nature of humanity.
Then there is an evident contradiction between the idea of philosophy as the pursuit of truth, and the idea of philosophy as a body of esoteric lore. If the Straussian reading is correct, it would seem that the history of philosophy consists of practically nothing but pondering the relation of philosophy to civil society, rather than pondering philosophical questions themselves. All the important questions have already been answered, or declared to be unanswerable: this is what created the tension between philosophy and civil society in the first place. So what is there for philosophers to do? The Straussians themselves are not even philosophers, but historians of philosophy, custodians of the esoteric lore. The perceived need to write obscurely also tends to obscure thought. This is the great weakness of the Straussian method: so careful is he to hide the point of his argument, he nearly fails to make it. Certainly he fails to support it. Strauss puts his students to such a mental effort to try to understand him that they are too exhausted to make the mental effort to criticize him or read his critics such as Shadia Drury. Given the inherent obscurity of the Straussian teaching, one should only be surprised if it did not produce conflicting interpretations. There are in fact two schools of Straussians: . one might call them the esoterics and the exoterics, but it is hard to tell which is which. It may be that the seeming exoterics are just better at hiding their esotericism, which makes them the true esoterics. Both of them challenge the prevailing relativism of twentieth-century thought, harking back to classical standards of truth and justice; but the esoterics only do so because truth and justice are salutary myths, while the exoterics (perhaps) really do believe in truth and justice.
The two schools are also divided on their interpretation of American history, and particularly the American Founding. Both follow Strauss's division of philosophical history into the (good) "ancients" and the (bad) "moderns." According to the esoteric version, America was wholly modern from its inception: it is entirely the creation of the "modern project." The exoteric Straussians, like conservatives, prefer to emphasize America's continuity with the classical and Christian sources of Western civilization.
The esoterics, then, basically agree with the libertarian and (pre-1960s) liberal understanding of American history: we are a "proposition nation," liberal to the core, and conservatism is un-American. The cult of the Founding Fathers is just a salutary myth. The truth is that the Founders, under the tutelage of Hobbes and Locke, deliberately created a squalid regime ruled by self-interest, sacrificing virtue to liberty and equality, and are ultimately responsible for the philistinism, mediocrity, and deracination of contemporary America.
Both esoterics and exoterics seem to agree that we need to try to refurbish the old notion of "natural rights," on which the republic was founded. Bloom regards "natural rights" as illusory, and bourgeois society as distasteful; but they are at least preferable to the nihilism of the New Left. The question is whether the New Left was the inevitable culmination of the ideology of liberty and equality -- and he strongly implies that it is. His only hope seems to be the cultivation of a tiny remnant to pass on the old lore through the new Dark Age. Now, conservatism might or might not be un-American, but this sort of quietism certainly is.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-03-16 01:52:50|
Subject: The Origins of European Culture: a follow-up
RELIGION, SCIENCE AND DEMOCRACY AS SINE QUA NON OF EUROPEAN CULTURE
"A European community grounded only in political and economic cooperation of the member states would lack an intrinsic common bond. It would be built upon sand."
Klaus Held, from the University of Wuppertal, has recently written a brilliant essay on the identity of European culture. It was translated into English by Sean Kirkland of Goucher college. It can be found in the journal Epoche', Vol. 7, issue 1 (Fall 2002) and its title is THE ORIGINS OF EUROPE WITH THE GREEK DISCOVERY OF THE WORLD. This essay ought to be a must for anybody seriously investigating the origins of European culture and concerned about its future.
Held begins his analysis by observing that it was by no means a mere coincidence that science and democracy arose in the same age among the same people, that is, among the ancient Greeks. Heraclitus is identified as the very first thinker who begins to seriously reflect upon the earliest scientific activity and at the same to contemplate communal life in the Greek polis. He credits him with the designation of the word "kosmos" as encompassing the whole world. He also designates the word "logos" as the relation among everything there is in the world and the openess to this relation among human cultures, Europe being merely one of those cultures. What however is unique to European culture is its readiness to remain open to the relation of belonging together, that is, the logos.
The next important insight comes from Parmenides and it is this: the human perception of things (noein) and the existence of things (einai) belong inextricably together. As far as Held is concerned these two insights of Helaclitus and Parmenides mark the beginning of European culture characterized by a basic openess to other cultures, a going out, so to speak, from one's own culture to other foreign cultures and having as its foundation the life-world of humanity, that is to say, the "kosmos." Thus begins a type of investigation which is characterized by freedom from bias (the measuring criterion of science) and called "historie" or exploration. At this point of origin scientific exploration is indistinguishable from philosophy.
The twin institution which is born together with science in ancient Greece is that of democracy which according to Held "can be spoken only where a free space in the general freedom of opinion among the citizens is expressly institutionalized." These two institutions are the outward form of the "inaugural spirit of Europe." At this point Held utters a warning, namely this: "The temptation of Europe, and in the modern period, for the whole Euro-American Western culture, lies in identifying the one world discovered here, a world of all human beings that provides a place for all their various life-worlds, with one of these worlds...namely equating the one shared world with our own European Western home world." Neverthless, Held asserts that "no other developed culture has managed to perceive the proper claim of foreign life-world with such a lack of prejudice as that which occurs under modern international law." It is this lack of bias that may eventually allow for the "europeazation of humanity", which sounds like a very eurocentric assertion but valid if the proper openess to foreign cultures is maintained; for as Karl Jasper has aptly put it: "Europe is peculiar perhaps only in that it is, in possibility, everything." Which is to say that Western Civilization (which includes the Americas and Australia) distinguishes itself by the fact that it is never finished, it is always coming-to-be; there is always a next renaissance, a re-birth, on the next horizon; a new synthesis is always in the making. Europe's self understanding is provided by foreign cultural forms.
Here Held arrives at what I would consider his most important insight concerning European cultural identity, and it is this: "...the Christianization first of the Roman Empire, then of the people pouring into the Mediterranean region from the other side of the Alps, constituted the second great beginning of European culture." He is alluding to that great synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity culminating with Christian Humanism (prepared partly by Irish monks) then soon afterward followed by the Italian Renaissance. Constant change and re-birth constitutes in fact the paradigm of a religion that has as its most important symbol that of the Resurrection ('Behold I make everything new"); a capacity to begin anew which (and this may surprise eurofanatics)which Held individuates in "the founding fathers of North American democracy, who brought it from Europe in the 18th century; these men elevated federalism to the principle of the American democratic constitution, as is demonstrated in their 'Federalist Papers.'...European culture, due to its openess in natality [i.e., re-birth] to the universal world as place for many particular life-worlds, has the chance to show the world how its own multiplicity can be kept alive."
The essay in itself is a model of a lucid historical survey of a complex culture which manages to remain unbiased because it does not fall into mere Machiavellian considerations of "real-politik". The question arises: " can this hoped-for model become a future reality or is it a mere chimera, an utopia, never to be reached?" To my mind, it can happen on two conditions: 1) that the principle of federalism is respected and implemented on the political level, 2) that Europe's cultural identity as a "novantiqua," that is to say, a synthesis of antiquity and Christianity is recognized and acknowledged as part of the cultural patrimony of Western Civilization. Held himself gives a dire warning in this regard: "A European Community grounded only in political and economic cooperation of the member states would lack an intrinsic common bond. It would be built upon sand."
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|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-03-14 11:19:59|
Subject: Secularism and Humanism in Western Civilization: a politically incorrect view
This essay was inspired by the interesting article of Franck Biancheri on Secularism and Political Correctness which has appeared recently in Newropeans Magazine. I'd like to offer a different take on the relevancy of a Humanism rooted in Christianity within Western Civilization, independent from one's practice or religion of even belief in God.
After participating for three years now to the debate on the future of Europe, I am now more convinced than ever that post-modern secular culture looks upon the possibility of an authentic Christian Humanism as problematic at best if not an outright discredited and anachronistic concept. This is a culture born of the French and Russian revolution which tends to look at religion as a sort of mystification diminishing Man’s human stature, blunting his creativity, and retarding his growth toward full maturity. Margaret O’Hara used to go around lecturing that it is the lame who need crutches not healthy people, and therefore healthy mature people ought to throw relgion out the window. But as Jund has demonstrated in his world-wide research, throw religion out the window, and it will come came the back door. To wit the former Soviet Union and the present so called People's Republic of China which substite ideology for religion.
The temptation on the part of those who believe that religion can be the cement to unite diverse people (and we have the example of Islam that united the Arabs 1300 years ago) is that of resorting to the praise and evocation of the Medieval Christian humanism of the past: a sort of nostalgic look back to the thousand years between the Patristic Age and the Renaissance when allegedly life, joy, sanity and creative abounded. All one needs to do to help one’s imagination perform this trick is to listen to the late medieval music of the 14th century. If that music does nothing else, it will forever relieve the listener of the 19th century positivistic cliché that the Middle Ages were times of darkness, not to speak of its cathedral, its literature (Dante, Petrach), its painting (Giotto), its architecture (Brunelleschi), its philosophy (Bruno, Ficino). Even an atheist such as George Santayana could not deny that the culture of Medieval Christendom and the humanism of Christian and European Renaissance were decisive steps in Man’s growth and that in fact such a culture is the very foundation of our present post-modern world with all its blemishes and glories.
But such an appeal would be ambivalent, ambiguous and even misguided. How so? Not so much because of the paradox of at the same time denying and affirming the world, something which applies to most great religions besides Christianity, but because of the complexity and ambiguity of Christian culture. Unfortunately, it has become all too easy for Christian apologists to have things both ways and advance a ready explanation for almost any issue including those revolving around science and technology. They will simply point to a Christian that has distinguished himself in a field, usually a saint. Do we want an example of Christian Humanism: voilà Thomas More the friend of Erasmus, the layman, the statesman, the family man, the student of the classics. But we gave however better examples of Christian openness to all forms of profane knowledge in the Middle Ages. For example, the school of Notre Dame with Abelard and St. Bernard of Clairvaux debating fine points of pagan philosophy, the School of Chartres with its patronizing of scholars deeply intrigued by the natural world, the School of St. Victor which declared, “Learn everything, you will find nothing superfluous.” And above all there is St. Thomas Aquinas and his openness to Aristotle, to Moslem culture, and the claims of reason, nature and man. But to declare that Christian humanism is a living force in the world today simply because this world remains in cultural continuity with the Christendom of the past, would be quite equivocal in a secular world which has coined the phrase “post-Christian world.” For the post-Christian world Christian values are a mere residue. What obtains is Stoicims at its best; at worst, one notices rampant narcicism or worship of the self individually or collectively, soccer games on Sunday, Epicurianism, life-style, and even hedonism, among ordianary people; edeology among the intellectuals. Dostoyevsky describes this kind of nihilism quite well in his "The Devils" a hundred years before its arrival.
So the problem is not so much to celebrate the glories of an eternal humanism stamped with classical reason and ennobled by Christian faith. No, the more difficult and disquieting task is the inquiry as to what conditions Christians can establish today by their outlook and action the claim of being true participants in the building of a new humanism. Which is to say: can our Christian Faith suggest appropriate and original answers? Is there a certain unique light which Christianity alone can provide? Is this light shining all by itself, self-evident, or rather is it made evident by the creative activity of Christians in the world as it is? What are the insights that Christianity can contribute as to the value of Man and his/her intrinsic and inalienable dignity as a free person? Is it the truth that makes one free as humanism believes, or the other other way around as secularism seems to advocate?
To even begin to answer those questions would mean to recognize that a subjective sentimental disposition to love everyone does not dispense anyone, believer or non believer, from social action to restore violated rights, so that the oppressed, the hungry, the workless may have a chance. Just sentiments will not do the trick here. Mere almsgiving without social action is hopelessly inadequate in today’s social world. The very dimensions of Christian love must be expanded and universalized as the Second Vatican Council has suggested, by proclaiming that “ …we are witness of the birth of a new humanism, one in which man is defined first of all by his responsibility to his brothers and to history.” (Constitution on the Church and the Modern World, n. 55). After this proclamation, to continue to appeal only to the medieval form of Christian humanism, cannot but render the message of the Council downright confusing. How do we then get rid of this confusion that identifies the Christian culture and world view of Western society and civilization from the fall of Rome to the French Revolution with “Christianity” pure and simple? We canno forget that such kind of Christian culture was more often than not opposed to the dynamism of historic development and social change. Even Providence was often conceived as a rigidly predetermined plan in the mind of God to be imposed on Man. Where is the freedom here for new creative ideas? The unfortunate treatements of Bruno and Campanella and Galileo by the Church are the witness of this kind of mental rigidity. And yet if one reads the Prophets and the New Testament seriously one has to recognize that if Christianity is a religion of love, then it is also at the same time a religion of change. The very word metanoite (repent, in the Christian message of salvation) means to change one’s life individually but also socially. The summon is to a permanent newness of life. Christian order ought to mean something much more dynamic than the classical hierarchic pyramid with God at the top, man halfway down, and prime matter at the bottom—all predetermined. One of the historic paradoxes resulting from this fixation with a static concept of the Christian world view, is that the dynamic aspect of Christianity was left to be rediscovered and emphasized by thinkers who were highly critical of it.
Feuerbach and Marx were two such thinkers. But their criticism had occult Christian elements which need to be taken seriously. For Marx religion is a process of mystification and alienation wherein Man projects his own reality outside himself, impoverishing and dehumanizing himself and ending up with a fantasy life centered on an abstract idea of God. Marx insists that it is not in constructing a religious system of ideology and worship that intervenes between himself and his real world that man can find truth and happiness; rather he must enter into a direct and concrete relationship with the world of matter, with his brother, and with himself. Man humanizes both himself and his world by working to better the conditions of all men in the world. Religious ideologies and forms of worship merely prevent Man from being himself, from being human. Consequently, there can be no such thing as a religious humanism; that is an oxymoron. The first step to an authentic humanism is the rejection of religion.
So it would appear that, unless the Christian is willing to face this criticism, there is no further point in talking about Christian humanism today. And when we face it, we ought to discern that Marx’s criticism rests on a gross misconception about the essence of Christianity. Marx was not only following Feuerbach’s critique of Hegel’s essentially un-Christian theology, but also accepting as “Christian” the superficial and decadent manifestations of Christianity which he saw around him in early-nineteenth-century Germany, without bothering to read the criticism of such respectable middle class Christianity in Kerkegaard. Now, if this pseudo-Christianity is mistaken for genuine Christianity, one can easily destroy its claims to being humanistic. If Marx had instead taken the trouble to open the New Testament at random, he would have immediately discovered that Jesus’ preaching is directed precisely against what we have come to know as religious alienation. A typical one is “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 27). In working miracles on the Sabbath Jesus is emphasizing the priority of human values over conventionally “religious” ones. Throughout the New Testament we find the contrast between a mere interior religiosity, abstract, mental, intentional, or even a matter of fantasy, and that long-suffering love which in uniting man to his brother of flesh and blood, unites him to the truth in God (see John 13: 34-35; 1 John 4: 7-11). The Christian loves because God is love and because God is manifested in actual love, not only in pious ideas and practices. This is a God that far from remaining isolated in a remote heaven, has “pitched his tent” among men in order to manifest himself in man. He has become Emmanu-El. Furthermore, She wills to do this only with the free cooperation of the human being her/himself. As John aptly explains it (John 17: 3-23), it is the free decision of men to love one another in Christ that enables them to cooperate positively and creatively in the definitive manifestation of God on earth. Men are now free from the domination of abstract religious systems; they are sons of God and such brothers to one another, united in a community of freedom and love, guided by the Spirit dwelling in the Church and each of its members, the spirit of Sonship. This is a far cry from an abstract proclamation of "fraternitè" For Paul the whole meaning of the Cross is that Christ has died to the law and risen to a new life of liberty. One does not have to keep an ancient ritual law in order to please God.
The above confirms that the very heart of Christian humanism, in its full theological dimension, is to be sought in the revealed doctrine of the Incarnation, man’s sonship of God in Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit as a principle of divine life and love in man. Another crucial factor within the heart of this kind of humanism is that of forgiveness. Christianity is not an explanation for evil but a life of dynamic love which forgives evil, thus enabling love to transform evil into good. This is the dynamic of Christian love: a dynamic of forgiveness. Thus the true secret of Christian humanism is that it has the divine power to transform man in the very ground of his being into a son of God. This is forgiveness and mercy. The whole meaning of Christian teaching is that man far from being alienated from himself has now a new relationship to God and everything that is God’s becomes ours, provided that we love.
And here we come to the crux of the issue: the question of love and the problem of narcissism which is related to that of alienation. Narcissism is regressive, undeveloped, infantile love. In Christian theology this regression is called original sin. The narcissistic personality is centered on the affirmation of itself and its limited desires. It sees others as real only in so far as they can be related to these desires. Primitive forms of religion tend to be associated with narcissistic thinking. But this is even a bigger problem in highly developed modern technological cultures which has its own form of superstition, idolatry and magic, its obsessions, neuroses, parading as religion. Erich Fromm points out that much of modern society is nothing else but organized narcissism. There is a fascination with the self is at the root of all idolatrous forms of religion. Narcissism spontaneously projects itself onto an idol from which the satisfaction of its desires is thought to be obtained. It is the projection of a selfish and infantile need for love or power. This narcissism is essentially anti- humanistic. It is hostile to the true development of man’s capacity to love. It reduces man to a slave of things: money, machines, commodities, luxuries, fashions, pseudoculture. This produces a sort of fake humanism deifying man and enslaving him to “the rat race” for riches, pleasure, power. Whole societies can fall into narcissism and idolatry: the worship of the products of one’s mind or hands. Collective self-worship was not unknown to the Romans or the Nazis or the Communists or to modern sophisticated Man. Hence this Faustian narcissism and self-idolatry is perhaps the greatest single threat to all genuine humanism in our post-modern world devoid of transcendence. We have seen that the mythologies of totalitarian societies are a much more powerful “opium” than any of the traditional religions ever were. For indeed, despite the genial social diagnosis practiced by men like Marx and Feuerbach, and in spite of the theoretical optimism of Marxian eschatology, with its hope tha Man will finally free himself from alienation and create himself by humanizing his world, we have seen serious limitations to this vision. Like the Hegelian eschatology from which it stems, this modern secular humanism is merely concerned with Man in the abstract, with the human species. It is abstract Man who will one day reveal to the world the Absolute made conscious of Itself, not the free and concrete human person, the man of flesh and blood, but man in general, as a collective totality manifesting in himself the latent divinity which the Hegelians say is his. Or, for Marx, it is again Man, scientific and objective man, who will one day humanize himself and the earth; but it is well known that Marx had little patience for the claims of fallible human persons and no interests in such values as love, compassion, mercy, happiness. The abstract and scientific doctrines of modern humanism become means by which the individual person is reduced to subjection to man in the abstract. This secular humanism is so fair and optimistic in theory but so utterly merciless and inhuman in practice. Pasternack described it so well in his Dr. Zhivago that his book had to be banned from the Soviet Union and was published in Italian first, in Milan, Italy. This secular humanism is in fact so abstract that it easily lends itself to idolatrous interpretations. One ends up loving abstract humanity as an idolatrous projection of self while hating and persecuting one’s concrete fellow man. Mercilessness is not only permitted but it becomes a duty within every form of totalitarianism and ideological fanaticism. The particular is sacrificed to the Absolute. The fathers of Humanism, Dante and Vico turn this upside down and begin with particular Man in its own particular existential conditions to arrive at the universality of humanity. In that sense, they are much more faithful to the Humanism in its origins, than Hegel ever was. Within Hegelian-Marxism philosophy you have the love of an abstract good and ideal to justify relentless hatred of certain men in the concrete. Social Darwinism becomes acceptable and even desirable: no mercy, just rational inevitable progress. Even genocide can then be contemplated.
It is true that today Man is in the midst of a revolution that is scientific, poltical, economic, cultural spiritual and affecting every aspect of human life, but the hopes of modern secular eschatology can contribute nothing to the building of a new humanism as long as it pretends to attain its ends by purely objective positivistic application of science without consideration of living human values incarnated in men of flesh and blood. No humanism has retained the respect for Man in his personal and existential actuality to the same extent as European Christian humanism, for at its center is the idea that God is love, not power, and being love She has becomes human and through the Incarnation this love becomes manifest and active, through Man and the history that the human being makes.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2004-03-11 05:00:10|
Subject: European Studies at Rollins College, Florida
European Studies at Rollins College
I’d like to share with the readers a recent intellectual experience at Rollins College, Orlando, Florida, which I’d characterize as an experience in cultural anthropology. On March 4-6 the XVIth Southeast Conference on Foreign Languages and Literatures was held there under the expert Chairmanship of Professor Richard Lima. This institution of higher learning, founded in 1885, is considered the oldest in the State of Florida. It is situated on a small, serene, idyllic campus punctuated by a charming and evocative Hispanic architecture overlooking lake Virginia. In its center one is met by the imposingly beautiful Knowles Memorial Chapel where Bach is played every Sunday. A site which reminds one of an ivy league college up north.
The designation of Conference on Foreign Languages is somewhat of a misnomer at Rollins College. For the college has in fact eliminated its foreign language major without however eliminating foreign languages; they have been placed within the more inclusive framework of a major in European Studies, a field which by its own nature requires knowledge of foreign languages and cultures. The foreign languages offered are Spanish, French, German, and Italian. The grouping of subjects around a core theme is a trend on many American campuses, designed to promote an interdisciplinary approach to learning and teaching within an international academic milieu for an increasingly interdependent and global civilization. It also promotes a vision of the whole of knowledge. Since it is Man who creates culture and knowledge, then any subject can be studied humanistically, as the story of that which Man has created throughout the ages. Indeed history itself becomes the story of Man. In Italian the very word “storia” carries the double meaning of history and story.
Presently, Professor Nancy Decker, who teaches German, coordinates the European Studies program. Her husband, Bernard Decker, a former colleague and friend of mine at the University of Central Florida, who also teaches German, kindly urged me to attend the round table special event of the conference. We had previously cooperated on the same panel at the European Studies annual conference at the University of Omaha. So, accompanied by my wife, I ventured forth on the three hour week-end trip to Winter Park, Orlando. I was not to be disappointed.
Sitting at the round table were Professors Agustin Coletes Banco, an eminent philologist at the University of Oviedo, Spain, who was also the keynote speaker, Bernard Decker, Luigi G. Ferri, Jean-Pierre Lalande and myself. Professor Lima was the moderator. I suppose Italy was a bit over-represented with two Italianists at the table, but the reader can be reassured that no gaffe a la Berlusconi, as that of last summer at the EU Parliament, ensued. To the contrary, the dialogue was friendly and enlightening throughout.
This special round table event took place right after the luncheon where Dr. Blanco had spoken on “Language, languages and Education: An European Perspective.” I found his keynote address very interesting and intellectually challenging; it echoed several Vichian themes on language and culture which are, in my view, fundamental to understanding the birth and development of any kind of civilization. It was indeed an European perspective. In any case, the issue that Dr. Lima introduced for the consideration of the panelists was this: can the EU continue to operate in the same manner after the accession of some ten new Eastern European countries (the former satellites of the former Soviet Union) on May 1, 2004?
The dialogue was indeed polite but lively. One of the participants contented that the access of the Eastern European countries was quite inevitable even if a bit rushed. Another countered with the example of East Germany which has yet to be fully integrated. At this point another thorny issue was introduced: that of the barriers being erected to prevent the populations of the new member to move about in search of benefits and a higher standard of living. One participant brought out an alarming statistic which has came out of a French based Think Tank recently; namely this: that due to declining demography, Europe will need some 80 million new workers by the year 2020 to man its industries. That may never come to pass but it is an alarm bell. Which means that in the long run barriers make no sense and may in fact be harmful to the union if they create second class citizens. From there the dialogue almost naturally passed to the issue of the disturbing xenophobia and anti-Semitism and anti-Roma community apparent in several countries of Western Europe: the examples of La Pen n France, Bossi in Italy, Heidi in Austria, were mentioned; all extreme-right nationalist politicians out to keep the race “pure” and at best conceive of Europe as a social utopia reserved for the Europeans. At worst, as is the case of Bossi of Italy, they’d like their region to secede from their country. Another participants pointed out that what may be behind this rush to accession, devoid of a warm welcome, may be the drive to surpass the US economy by the year 2010 as declared in Lisbon a year or so ago. Here the dialogue passed to the issue of cultural identity. The question was asked: is this union merely the union of a bank, driven by mere Machiavellian “real politik” considerations wherein one defines oneself by one’s anti or pro Americanism? Or should Europe for a soft kind, non-coercive, kind of power. Here we saw reflected a bit what is going on the international stage, with the Spaniard at the table urging that Europeans stop blaming America for their disagreements for which they only have themselves to blame. Then another participant pointed out that indeed, for better or for worse, we are in the same boat called Western Civilization and all the money and all the power in the world will not save it if it loses its cultural identity; that the cement for the union needs to be cultural and its constitution ought to contain certain common cultural denominators on which all can agree. The vehement disagreements on the draft constitution may be indicative here.
And so it went for a good two hours. My wife who was present at the dialogue told me later that she was impressed by the quantity and quality of information and ideas that were exchanged in such a short time. Such is the nature of dialogue. As the ancient Greeks well knew, a symposium at a round table where friendship (philia) predominates can go a long way in the discovery of truth. In fact, it can open up unimaginable vistas. Hopefully, the students present at the conversation also gained more than mere information and had an inkling that indeed the romance and adventure of ideas is what education at its best is all about.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-11-09 04:02:07|
Subject: From Machiavelli to Umberto Eco
FROM MACHIAVELLI TO UMBERTO ECO
An historical exploration of old
wineskins in the Western
by Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
In order to pour the new wine called the New Europe into new wineskins we need to know first what exactly we wish to replace. In this short contribution I will attempt to explore briefly the nexus between truth, tolerance and morality and how Giambattista Vico was one the first European philosophers to individuate the errors of Cartesian rationalism regarding such a nexus. His alternative philosophy of "fantasia" which is neither Leben nor Geist but lies outside the Western philosophical tradition is still waiting for a fair attentive hearing. The exploration will be mostly an historical overarching survey that will go from Dante and Machiavelli all the way to Umberto Eco. It is not meant to be an in depth philosophical analysis of the problem, something I deal with in my book on Vico (Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of Giambattista Vico, Mellen Press, N.Y. 1993) but perhaps it will furnish the reader with a clue of what underpins much of modern nihilism and relativism: two cancerous growth eating aways at the very tissue of the Western cultural tradition.
Up to Machiavelli, the philosophical-theological tradition of the West had basically two preoccupations: the care of the body and the care of the soul which in philosophical terms were expressed as desire and virtue. Man ought to desire virtue and the attainment of virtue would lead him to the whole of his humanity. This holistic approach would make him happy, even if it was agreed that complete happiness was unattainable in this world of time and space. Western philosophy begins with the famous Socratic dictum “Know Thyself,” which is to say, know who you are as a human being so that you may live as a human being. A corollary to this is the wonder the observer feels at the observation and reflection upon the created phenomena, not excluding the phenomena calle Man and its varied cultural constructs.
Thomas Aquinas does not write the Summa to overcome the dichotomy between the city of man, the polis, and the kingdom of God. He considers that dichotomy insuperable. He simply wants to proclaim the fundamental unity of Truth. Truth is not divisible; there is no such thing as a natural truth (ratio) and a revealed truth (fides). Consequently the philosophy of Aristotle can serve as foundation for the truths of faith. Which is to say, Thomas is proclaiming a nexus between reason and faith, between what belongs to heaven (the things of the soul) and what belongs to the world (the things of the body).
It is interesting that the semiotician Umberto Eco begins his academic career with a dissertation on Thomas Aquinas, then he journeys on the post-modern Nietzschean road so in vogue in the sixties and ends up conceiving language not as an instrument for the attainment of truth but as an instrument of desire to close the circle with his book Truth and Irony, a book well reviewed in Catholic circles since Eco is currently in search of a concept of truth which is redolent of the Being of the Italian Catholic philosopher Rosmini. Could this intellectual journey be a modern parable concerning the prostitution of the concept of truth in Western history? Let us see.
The parable begins with Signor Niccolò Machiavelli who turns everything up-side-down reasoning thus: if happiness can be attained by the fulfillment of one’s humanity, then why not attain it in this wordly life? If we arrange things so that everything that is not bodily and material in man helps him in the satisfaction of earthly desires, then the ancient dichotomy between body and soul will be overcome and we will have assured the unity of Man. For after all virtue is a chimera, pure fantasia, a perversion of desire (later called sublimation by Freud) imposed on us by society. Thus Machiavelli throws out his challenge: to reach the completion of his humanity Man should simply ignore the soul and the possibility of eternal damnation which had always been considered integral part of free will. By implication he is challenging Dante and the whole Humanistic tradition which was a synthesis of Graeco-Roman antiquity and Christianity. Dante is in fact ignored for several centuries in Italy and is rediscovered by the Germans. Which is to say, modernity has accepted the challenge in both theory and practice and has adopted Machiavelli rather than Dante while continuing to proffer pious pronouncements regarding Dante’s poetry.
This new way of thinking reaches it culmination with the Enlightenment. Hobbes encourages Man to pay attention not so much to what he thinks but to what he feels. He is the first propagandist for the authenticity of feelings. He observes nature and notices that desire is rampant and with no limitations imposed by virtue or thinking. Young people in Italy think that Gavino Ledda has invented this primitive animal-like form of thinking. That is because they have never read Hobbes.
Pure desire becomes the oracle to consult to know who we are as Men. Knowledge is knowledge of Man’s desires so that he can live them freely without any limitations imposed by virtue. Enter Locke on the historical stage: he also assumes that having abolished the ancient Greek virtues the common sense of Mankind will naturally and spontaneously arrive at the conclusion that human desires are intimately connected to the survival of the species and will always prevail on any desires that may lead to its extinction.
The implications as to the origins of Man are quite obvious. Human nature is conceived without any kind of original corruption and therefore to allow the desires of such a nature to come to the fore without any social restraints is what is needed for the building of a society based not on virtuous Man but on industrious Man a la Benjamin Franklin. Thus we arrive at that “enlightened egotism” of Adam Smith which aims at possible realistic goals a la Machiavelli, not idealistic goals a la Don Quixote.
This “enlightened rational” Man acts for his own “enlightened interests.” Any action can be good or can be bad. It is all relative to the circumstances. This individual self-interest together with the “enlightened interests” of society would naturally contribute to the common good. And so we arrive at the modern assertion that greed is good because it motivates man to hard work and that a Bill Gates is much more useful to society than a Mother Theresa. Here it is important to keep in mind that within this enlightened philosophy any final purpose or “telos” of nature, which was evident for an Aristotle, is eliminated. Nature is nothing else but bodies in motion and has no purpose or final destination and teaches us nothing regarding human behavior.
Enter Descartes: he tells us in fact that Man is another body extended in space which behaves like other bodies within space. Man is part of nature but a nature completely different from the Aristotelian conception wherein the soul is at its center representing what is most significant in nature. For Descartes Man is only part of nature, not its microcosm. Nature does not possess any hierarchy of Being and therefore is without a goal (the Aristotelian teleology).
Enter Rousseau: he makes another great leap in modern Western thought by bringing down the framework on which rests the naturalism devoid of idealistic aspirations of a Hobbes or Locke. Rousseau believes that Man is a complex creature but this complexity which before Machiavelli was sought above Man now is to be sought below him, in the abyss. Eventually we will arrive at the Marquis De Sade. Rousseau does away with the simplistic harmony between nature and society as exemplified by a Ben Franklin: the new American Man. With Rousseau begins that tortured search for what is below Man’s rationality and an orderly civil life. The search for the subconscious and how to balance id and superego begins. Neverthless this natural man is unable to answer the question: Why is Man different from animals and why does he create a complex society? Which is to say: Why does he have a history?
He is unable to answer such a question, in fact he is unable to even formulate the question because Descartes has reduced nature, including Man’s nature, to extension into space, with the exception of the ego which observes it from outside. How is this observed Man a unity outside of natural science remains a great mystery for Descartes. Which is to say, we may know everything about nature except he who knows nature. This great philosophical mistake will later on lead to rationalism (and corrections to rationalism on the part of existentialism and neo Platonists galore) and is immediately identified by Giambattista Vico in his New Science (1730). He points out that this ego of Descartes is nothing else but the tip of the iceberg floating on the agitated sea of Man’s id.
Vico is ignored for more than 200 years. Can philosophy be born in Naples? And yet that Naples gave Europe its second oldest University founded by Frederick II where both Aquinas and Vico taught. Be that as it may, these philosophical underpinnings give rise to modern psychology which accepts the Machiavellian idea that Man’s greed is a value and that the good man is not he who sacrifices for the common good, but he who knows how to take care of his sacrosanct interests. While for an Aristotle or a Thomas Aquinas or a Vico good governments were those which had dedicated themselves to the common good and not those who were out to grab power for their own interests, for Locke there is no such distinction. For him, as for Adam Smith later, a good government has all the structures to satisfy egotistical men which constitute it, and a government is bad if it cannot do so. Egotism is now an assumption. Man is not how he should be but how he is, as Machiavelli the realist well teaches. Transcendent realities are left to the Church to preach about on Sunday. Problem is that most people prefer soccer games on Sunday. So we are left with a closed immanent world redolent of the crooked cross of 60 years ago with no vertical beam. Christianity is subsumed under Antiquity by the neo-Platonists and no possible conception of a novantiqua creation (the New Europe) as in the Renaissance is therefore possible. Moroevoer, modern psychology can only distinguish the good from the bad forms of egotism. The cure for our existential ills is to be found not in the nature of things, that is to say in the truth about what exists, but within ourselves. Hence the plethora of New Age self-help books in our book stores many inspired by Eastern esoteric doctrines in competition with esoteric neo-Platonic doctrines for the few initiates into the mysteries.
Indeed we have come a long way since Machiavelli but few suspect that we may be on the wrong way as the Titanic traveling among the icebergs of nihilism and rationalism. That doubt might lead to despair but also to hope if we dared to imaginatively confront it. But unfortunately our preoccupation with life-style and distraction of all sorts prevent it. It is lack of "fantasia" but also lack of courage. Indeed there is an enormous philosophical abyss between Aquinas and modern philosophy. Perhaps an apt image may render the idea of such an abyss. I am thinking of that humanity revealed that is the David of Michelangelo revealing the tension between the real and the ideal, destiny and free will, the corporeal and the spiritual. The tensions there are not denied but kept in creative tension: transcendence/immanence, light/darkness, rational/imaginative, body/soul, matter/spirit. Compare that with the modern Terminator, the perfect Man, perfect in all its rationale operations exactly because he is not human. He is predestined to Paradise and therefore not free and consequently unable to love or refuse to love. Those who have seen the movie will remember that at the end of the movie the mother sees her child playing with this “perfectly rational Man” and declares herself happy that finally her child has a friend. I would prefer that my child befriend a dog rather than a computer. That may sound slightly medieval, but it is certainly more humane.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-11-04 12:07:04|
Subject: What Qualities for Tomorrow's Transatlantic Leaders ?
By Franz Iseman, Mehr Demokratie, Germany.
This is really a question of the highest importance. The transatlantic leaders, as far I can imagin, can only be the best scholars of Universities, both in Europe and in US. Great Historians and great Philosophers, great Theologists and great Sociologists. People who are not bending their knees facing the power elites of politics and of economics.
I wonder where they are. They cannot just vanish. There must emerge, the sooner the better, those bestseller writers like Norman Mailer and Noam Chomsky, but many more of them, who inspire the elite of the young generation. They must succeed in obtaining control of the scientific and media world. This will happen anyway sooner or later. It would be better for all of us, if it could change the climate pretty soon.
The political and economic elites, as they are today, are doomed to complete failure on the long run. It is an unnecessary catastrophy, that they dont have the strong opposition against world government, an opposition as would be needed to shorten the miserable times of change of paradigma. So many people have to die and to suffer, just because the intelligentia is asleep. I cannot believe the gifted people to give way to the present monster regimes. There must be a way to shock the present power holders to such a degree, that they get intimidated. That is the only chance.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-11-04 12:05:33|
Subject: CUBA AND EUROPE: MOVING CLOSER, MOVING APART
by Francesc Bayo.
After a period of relative calm and tolerance, on March 18, 2003 the Cuban Government launched an new selective offensive against internal dissidents arresting 75, who were sentenced to long prison terms after summary trials. The repression has been directed mainly against a group of independent journalists who have long been trying to create channels of information outside the official ones in Cuba. Among them is poet and journalist Raul Rivero, a leading figure on the contemporary literary scene in Cuba. Among the other victims are collaborators of opposition leader Oswaldo Paya, who was awarded the Sakharov Human Rights Prize by the European Parliament in 2002. All of those arrested were involved in or sympathetic to the Varela Project, an initiative promoted by opposition groups for the purpose of reforming the Cuban Constitution to broaden liberties, which had gathered enough signatures to meet the legal requirements for petitioning the Government to carry out a referendum.
Among the arguments Cuban government used to justify the wave of repression, the most serious was the accusation that those imprisoned had worked with the enemy to destabilize the country offering as evidence contacts that some of them had openly maintained with the head of the United States Interest Section in Havana, James Cason. Other accusations were the publication abroad of articles which, according to the authorities, showed a desire to subvert the Cuban regime, for example on web site (Encuentro en la Red (www.cubaencuentro.com) and that of the French agency, Reporters Without Borders (www.rsf.org). They were judged under the harsh legislation passed in 1999, Law 88 for the Protection of Cubas’s National Independence and Economy, known among the opposition as the Gag Law.
About this time, hijackers had seized two planes and used them to flee o the US, which made the authorities fear that there might be more such incidents. Then there was an attempt to hijack a ferry in the Havana’s harbor for the same purpose. The hijacking was foiled and the three hijackers were, after a lightning trial, sentenced to death and executed, the first application of the death penalty in Cuba in three years.
In both cases the sentences were perceived as extreme and were met with international protests from governments, human rights organizations including Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch and public figures. Particularly noteworthy were the protests in countries all over Latin America, outside of Venezuela, and in countries which had in recent times maintained closer economic and cooperative ties with Cuba such as Canada and members of the European Union. The Cuban government took the criticism very badly and responded with charges of internal interference in its affairs. The intellectuals protesting included many who had traditionally supported the Cuban regime unconditionally: Jose Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner, who issued a particularly resounding criticism; Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano; and well-known leftist intellectuals in the US such as Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. To counteract these protests, a substantial group of Cuban intellectuals published “A Message from Havana to Our Friends Faraway” (link) which some personalities abroad signed onto. And so the international debate on the political and human-rights situation in Cuba was revived. As always, passions have run high and there is a tendency for opinion to break down into those who see only positive aspects and those who see only negative aspects of the Cuban regime.
One should keep in mind what is at stake is the fate of a people which has been stoically bearing up under a constant crisis for the last ten years. After a recovery in the mid-1990’s, the Cuban economy entered a new crisis and many economists are arguing that the reforms implemented a decade ago have accomplished what they could and will not produce any more growth. In the midst of this crisis, the need to cover the needs of everyday survival have produced a lack of discipline among the population, businesses and institutions with an increase in the underground economy, corruption and crime.
Since September 11, 2001, the US, alleging the need for tighter immigration policies, has greatly reduced the number of visas granted to Cubans. While 20,000 would have normally been granted in accordance with the agreements worked out in 1994, in the last year the number dropped 2,000, limiting the effectiveness of a traditional safety valve. This coincided with a campaign by the US Interest Section to increase both the frequency and visibility of contacts with the internal opposition.
Amidst all these difficulties, it seemed Cuban government might, as it often has in such situations, stage a crisis to bolster its authority. It launched a campaign against crime and corruption, which affected not only dealers and other criminals but small private businesses and other unauthorized activities. At the same time a warning went out to the population regarding the limits of tolerance for dissenting voices in the form of persecution of supporters of the Varela Project and of the independent press and libraries. Finally, the regime has made use of external pressure to present itself as the victim, a strategy that has worked well in the past.
This time circumstances have led it to focus its wrath on European governments, particularly those of Spain and Italy, even though the reason for the wave of repression was ostensibly the stirring up of the internal opposition by the United States. One needs to keep in mind that the invasion of Iraq gave the US government enough to handle without a crisis in relations with Cuba. At the same time, a breach in Europe’s international position in Europe’s international position had been produced by the decision of some countries not to intervene and of others to participate without the support of public opinion (Spain and Italy).
Background to the Conflict
After independence in the early twentieth century, Cuba continued to form a part of the US sphere of influence and only maintained less significant relationships with some European countries such as Great Britain, France and Spain, the former colonial power. After the revolution of 1959, the situation changed radically as a result of the break between the governments of Cuba and the United States, which since that time has maintained an economic embargo on the island. Throughout the Cold War, Cuba’s international connections functioned for the most part via the USSR. The Cuban government did show itself quite adept at using what space this subordinate role allowed it, for example by maintaining limited economic relationships with some capitalist countries, such as those European countries mentioned above.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which brought with it the loss of privileged economic relations with the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe, Cuba entered a deep economic crisis from which it never emerged. In order to alleviate the situation, the Cuban government has over the last decade given priority to new sectors of the economy, particularly tourism, but also mining, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, while loosening controls over the holding and circulation of dollars. There have also been attempts at internal and external economic reforms, which appear highly contradictory. Internally there have been changes in the structure of agricultural property holding with the goal of increasing productivity and farm produce markets have been liberalized to the end of broadening consumption. Private exploitation of smaller plots has been legalized in order to reduce unemployment among workers of state enterprises and to incorporate into the economy activities that would otherwise constitute a black market. Externally, there has been a very timid move to allowing foreign investment (mainly from Canada, Mexico and Europe) under fairly tight regulations.
While these modest economic reforms were being undertaken in an attempt to ensure the overall survival of the model of development that came with the revolution, on a political level the government launched a series of campaigns aimed at strengthening the unity of the elites and support for the political leadership and its ideological tenets. On the strategic level, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc put Cuba in a new international situation which might not have been all that dramatic. The loss of the Soviet Union as an ally was to a degree made up for by the disappearance of the East-West conflict. This meant not only a more relaxed environment but also a redirection of the vast resources that had gone into defense to the productive economy. While Cuba was no longer seen as a security threat for the United States, the political conflict continued since Washington has played for a domino effect and pursued a policy, varying over time in its level of aggressiveness, aimed at ousting the Cuban regime.
Since the earliest Cuban moves toward an economy more open to the outside world, Europe has shown great interest in participating, given the liberalism that marks the foreign economic relations of all the European countries and the fact that the US embargo has reduced competition for European countries. The countries of the EU have become Cuba’s main trading partner with about one-third of total volume. They also participate in over half of all the different types of investment contracts allowed foreign companies by the government in various sectors. The most important is investment in tourism where European participation is far greater; over half of all tourists visiting the island come from Europe. Finally, European countries are among Cuba’s principal foreign creditors.
On a political level, relations between Cuba and Europe have in recent years been marked by an alternation of periods of moving closer and moving apart. Favoring relaxation have been Cuba’s policy of opening up to foreign countries and Europe’s desire for constructive involvement in Cuba. Tension is produced by Europe’s policy in defense of human rights and in favor of a political transition, while the Cuban government tends to react with suspicion to any act it sees as external interference in its internal affairs. Cuba has exploited the contradictions in the strategies of European countries in their relations with other countries with authoritarian regimes and a significant state economy, such as China, Vietnam or more recently Libya, to level charges of a double standard.
Then there is the position of the United States toward Cuba, which is a third element in play. The Europeans have never accepted the US embargo and have voted in favor of resolutions condemning it in various international organizations such as the United Nations. The US has passed a number of laws aimed at impeding economic cooperation between Europe and Cuba, specifically by penalizing businesses or individuals who enter into negotiations involving property confiscated from US citizens, which the US considers to still be a matter of dispute (the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts). Europe does generally agree with the US on the need for a transition to democracy on the island. The two policies tend to cancel one another out but even when situations have arisen that might have allowed movement in the same direction, events have always gotten in the way.
The clearest case occurred in early 1996 when approximately a hundred opposition groups were planning a meeting to organize a program called the Cuban Council. Cuban fighter planes shot down planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue. The Clinton Administration backed the Helms-Burton Act, which provides for serious measures against third countries negotiating with Cuba, which threatened to produce a crisis in relations with Europe. Thus far, semi-annual presidential vetos of the extraterritorial aspects of the law have kept differences between the United States and Europe from deteriorating into open, long-term conflicts such as the one which loomed after the EU filing of a complaint with the World Trade Organization and was headed off by the negotiation of an agreement between Washington and Brussels in 1997.
To sum up, political relations between Cuba and Europe over the last decade have been marked by a period of good will followed by a phase in which the European position has grown more skeptical. The turning point came in 1996 when the EU adopted a common position on Cuba in response to a combination of circumstances. Following a mandate from the Council initiated by Spain, the EU Commission had drawn up a plan aimed at working out an agreement on cooperation with Cuba over 1995 and early 1996. While it clearly criticized the human rights situation and lack of freedom in Cuba, it also called for closer relations through cooperation in the area of humanitarian action and supported opposition leaders and groups in favor of a political change. Despite enthusiastic support, the strategy failed, which produced a great deal of frustration.
In the spring of 1996, the planes were shot down and the People’s Party was voted into power in Spain. The party, which had been highly critical of what it saw as appeasement of Cuba by the previous Socialist governments, shifted to a more harder-line policy also aimed at bringing it closer to the United States. The Cuban government likewise adopted more inflexible positions, leading to a temporary breaking-off of diplomatic relations, which were not reestablished until after the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998 and just in time for the Ninth Ibero-American Summit held in Havana in 1999.
The Spanish government sponsored a closing of European ranks, which took shape in the common position on Cuba, in effect since December 1996, which set out a number of conditions for expanding relations with Europe. Since that time, there has been a semi-annual assessment of the civil liberties and human rights situation in Cuba, which forms the basis for European policy. This mechanism has produced repeated votes to censure Cuba at the annual meetings of the UN Human Rights Commission.
Still, the EU member countries and Commission have over this period maintained cooperation and humanitarian aid programs with Cuba, through which contacts are maintained on an ongoing basis. While Cuba has participated in both summits held by the EU and Latin America and Caribbean area countries it is also true that it is the only Latin American country which has no cooperation agreement with the EU. For this reason, Brussels has been trying to work Cuba into the scheme of relations it maintains with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The task is not easy though as the Cuban government has been quite reticent to accept the conditions regarding democracy and a market economy implicit in membership of the ACP group, whose principles were reaffirmed in the Cotonou Agreement of 2000.
After the failure of a first attempt, which brought Cuba’s move toward the ACP group to a halt, a series of measures was undertaken by the different sides to relax the situation during 2002. The Cuban government formally applied for admission to the Cotonou Agreement in January 2003. A new phase of rapprochement began and the Commission responded with the inauguration of a delegation in Havana on March 10, 2003 presided over by Poul Nielson, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.
This honeymoon unfortunately lasted only a few days, being interrupted by the launching a wave of persecution against the dissidents on March and the execution of the ferry hijackers. The EU’s immediate response was a statement by the Presidency issued on March 26 condemning the arrest of the opposition figures, whom it called prisoners of conscience and calling for their release. A European Parliament resolution of April 10 affirmed the position enunciated by the Presidency and called for the release of the prisoners. Its was clear that Europe would again vote to censure Cuba at the annual session of the UN Human Rights Commission held in Geneva in late April.
In June and July, the Council reassessed the common position on Cuba adding mild diplomatic sanctions such as restrictions on visits by high-level government officials, gestures in support of the opposition including invitation of dissidents to celebrations of national holidays, and new conditions for the expansion of relations while proposing a strengthening of cooperation in areas which would favor a transition to a pluralistic democracy that respected human rights.
The Cuban government reacted by rejecting all interference in its internal affairs and accusing the European governments of kowtowing to the US. But this time, the attacks were aimed personally at the Prime Ministers of Spain and Italy, Aznar and Berlusconi. These were expressed in demonstrations held on June 12 outside the embassies of the two countries in Havana and led by high-ranking officials. The Cuban government also denounced the cooperation agreement which allowed the Spanish Cultural Center in Havana to operate, accusing the Spanish government of using the site for subversion rather than cultural activities and proceeded to close the Center.
On July 26 in his annual address marking the anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, President Fidel Castro publicly announced that the Cuban government would reject any official aid from the EU or its member states for reasons of “dignity”. He did say that Cuba would accept aid from other European sources including lower-level governments since it did not come with the political conditions that applied to aid from the national and European governments. The renunciation was officially communicated to the Commission and the European governments on August 1. Previously it was announced that political differences with these governments would in no way affect investments or business dealings by European businesspeople on the island.
The Cuban authorities have with these measures shown a preference for more fluid relations. The relative isolation resulting from the cooling-off of intergovernmental relations is to be made up for by the promotion of relations with non-governmental actors, a possibility given the complexity and variety present in European and North American societies. Cuban authorities have lately been very busy dealing with the large number of US politicians and businesspeople who have visited Havana to talk negotiate contracts related to economic cooperation of a humanitarian nature, one of the few loopholes in the embargo. They also gladly receive remittances sent by Cuban emigrants or exiles to family members in Cuba, the value of which greatly exceeds the total of foreign investments. They are also hoping the US will relax restrictions on travel by its citizens to the island as the measure would greatly increase tourism.
Finally, it would seem that under present conditions, the Cuban government is trying to work out a new strategy for survival by taking advantage of the complex web of foreign interests. While the new crisis might mean a temporary setback for Cuba’s international relations, the government has once again opted for the safety of isolation over an opening and all the risks it would imply.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-10-31 03:40:07|
Subject: MORE ON VICO'S RELEVANCY FOR WESTERN CULTURE
By Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
The New Science begins with an image, a frontispiece which Vico placed there so that the reader could, at a glance, recollect the whole opus. That image was not placed there for mere aestheticism. It informs the whole of Vico’s philosophy. The art of memory and recalling is indeed fundamental for a proper understanding of Vico’s speculation, one that is free of distortions, misrepresentations, misreading or subsuming. Within this image, very familiar to those who know anything about Vico, one soon notices that the universe within time and space has been divided into three the observed and perceived phenomena: the divine, the human, and the natural world. Observed by whom? By Providence represented as an all seeing eye, but most importantly by man who needs poetic wisdom (represented by Homer) and metaphysics to ascend to Truth. He distinguished them, but the image holds them together holistically. Hence the first important observation of Vico’s thought is that it represents a philosophy of recollective universals generating philosophical understanding not from rational categories but from the image. In other words, imagination becomes anew a method, rather than mere subject matter for philosophical thought. A corollary to this observation is that were we to use the rationalistc method of the category to understand Vico, we would ipso facto distort him and misunderstand him. Another way of putting is this: Vico’s thought can only be understood from the inside. The human mind has to apply the same methodology that Vico used to arrive at an understanding of itself.
In his oration on “The Heroic Mind” (1732) Vico tells us that the heroic mind is the basis of a true education and in seeking the sublime has as its goal human wisdom oriented toward the common good of the human race. Not too dissimilar it would appear from Plato’s Republic. However, in his address of 1737 to the Academia degli Oziosi (not a graduate school, but an intellectuals’ Club) Vico has recourse to Socrates as exemplary of someone who could reason about all parts of knowledge, human and divine. What Vico deplores in modern education is the perspective of the whole. Which of course an ancient Vico does not make since Vico always insists that the flower of wisdom is the grasping of the whole through the particular and the specific. What Vico is suggesting is that the reader of his work needs to be heroic too but in doing so he ought to not consider the New Science something esoteric, reserved to a select few initiates into the mysteries, but rather exoteric in the sense that the human mind has certain common traits and can therefore narrate to itself the New Science and arrive at the same conclusions as Vico; that is, discern within itself the ideal eternal history narrated by Vico and thus experience the same divine pleasure. For after all the story is the story (“storia” in Italian) of mankind, and Vico, like Virgil with Dante is a mere guide for the reader to attain the “dilettoso monte.”
Which are the ideas to which Vico guides the reader? Basically they are wisdom, heroism, tragedy, barbarism (of both sense and intellect), memory, providence imagination, ingenuity. All ideas which the Western philosophical tradition believes it has superseded and discarded. And yet these ideas contain principles which are basic to the shaping of any modern humanistic thought. The greatest danger to those who would interpret Vico is that of placing his thought at the service of a position that is not his own or pigeon-holing him into a school of thought or a discipline. One such is the philosophy of history, another is cultural anthropology. Croce, for example, while attempting to promote Vico’s ideas tried to see Vico as the Italian Hegel. He went as far as devising an imaginary conversation between Hegel and a visiting Neapolitan scholar titled “An unknown page from the Last Months of Hegel’s Life” (The Personalist, 45 (1964), pp. 344-351). Thus Croce insured that for the first half of the 20th century Vico would be seen through the eyes of a philosophy of the idea. In turn that inhibited an open reading of Vico’s own views. Indeed Vico’s ship has been sailed under many flags: idealism, Catholicism, Marxism, historicism, modern methodologies galore, contemporary epistemology, emphasizing Vico’s influence and reducing Vico to a mere precursor of more thorough philosophies; the most notable being Vico as precursor of Hegel. Thus Vico is robbed of his own originality. In his Autobiography Vico speaks of his hope to be an influential thinker but in Vici vindiciae he warns of the distortions of his thought already afoot (in the Acta Eruditorum where his book was reviewed). Later he writes to Abbè Esperti (1926) lamenting that the reception of his book was like that of an infant dead born, then musing that indeed a book that displeases so many people cannot possibly have universal applause especially in a world dominated by the “chance” of Epicurus and the “necessity of Descartes. Both are still alive and well in Europe. And how could Vico expect otherwise? His ideas were already considered not modern enough, passé, anachronistic. His conception of “verum factum convertuntum” could be traced back to St. Augustine’s doctrine that God creates by knowing (argued against by Croce), or to Aquinas’ statement that “ens et verum convertuntur” (truth and reality are convertible), or the Renaissance Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, or the experimental method of Galileo (see Rodolfo Mondolfo’s Il verum factum prima di Vico (Naples, Guida, 1969). To go from these antecedents to the principle of history made by humans, man who is his own history, was not an easy nut to crack within the prevalent Cartesian philosophical approach of the times. He was considered an anachronistic ancient, “the owl of Minerva or Renaissance humanistic culture” as Karl-Otto Apel defines Vico in his Die idée der Sparche in der Tradition des Humanismus von Dante bis Vico echoing Ernesto Grassi Macht des Bildes (power of the image. Cologne: 1970, p.194). where Grassi connects Vico’s thought to Salutati, Landino, Pico, Valla, Poliziano. But these men are usually regarded as mere literati and accorded little if any philosophical study.
Sicne Bergin’s translation of the New Science into English (1948) it has come to be regarded as a tool to confront the fragmentation of contemporary thought. But once again his ideas have been connected to seminal thinkers in semiotic, phenomenology, structuralism, genetic psychology, myth analysis, literary criticism, linguistics, and so on. In other words, there seems to be a concern to seek the foundations of knowledge through Vico’s thought. And here indeed Vico has been most helpful. In grasping what Vico calls “the barbarism of the intellect” as symptomatic of the deep solitude of spriti and will of modern man [“la soma solitudine d’animo e di voleri”] which Vico associates with the end of the third era of the ideal eternal history of the era of men where pure reason reigns uncontested; a sort of decadence when men “finally go mad and waste their substance” (N.S., 241 and 1106). This is what Vico defines as reflective thought devoid of the poetical, what he calls “sapienza poetica.” A thought this that has forgotten its connection with the imagination of the whole, a loss of the human image of itself; the inability of the thinker to reflect its own wholeness into the products of his own thought. This barbarism of thought is a kind of human experience deprived of a cultural guide or center,without a perspective on the human mind. As Elio Gianturco used to comment in his magisterial lectures on Vico at New York University (1970) it is a Cartesian world dominated by procedures and technological know how.
From what we have said above, it would appear that using Vico’s thought to seek the foundations of social humanistic knowledge fits quite well with Vico’s own concerns as stated in his orations: to connect knowledge with wisdom, heroism and eloquence. We should remember that Vico was for most of his academic career an Assistant Professor of Eloquence at the University of Naples. This is all well and good, but there is a caveat of which Vico himself warns us about; namely that the human mind has propensity to reduce what is unfamiliar and distant to what is familiar and at hand. And Vico goes pretty far back into the origins of the human world. In other words, the propensity is to merge the meaning of Vico’s ideas to those developed more fully by later thinkers. Donald Phillip Verene calls this propensity “Vico’s Achilles’ heel” thus identifying the facility with which Vico’s thought has been transformed into viewpoints that are not his. This is astonishing indeed when one thinks that Vico himself takes pains in his De Antiquissima Italorum sapientia to declare that he belongs to no school of thought as such.
So the crucial question is this: How should the reader approach Vico? The simple answer is this: on his own merits, as the originator of a new original orientation for philosophical thought. The originality of his philosophy consists in placing the image over the concept. For a tradition conceiving of its origins as Aristotle’s rationality this sounds topsy-turvy; for indeed “reason” continues to dominate it together with scientific thought. But let the reader pay attention to the title of Vico’s work: it is not a New Philosophy but a New Science. So Vico is far from abandoning reason and science. In any case the tradition begins with the Platonic quarrel (which some have misguidedly resurrected as the quarrel between ancients and moderns) with poetic images; although Plato’s language remains poetical and he uses myths and images when it suits him. Aristotle reinforces the tradition by defining man a rational animal with no clue that integral part of reason even at its most developed stage may be feelings and emotions from which it originally sprang. But in reality, despite Croce brave attempt at integration through Hegel, Vico stands outside the Western philosophical tradition.
Cassirer who like Croce had a great affinity for Vico, also attempted an integration by distinguishing the philosophy of spirit (Geist) and the philosophy of life (Leben). A distinction this that may prove useful for understanding Vico’s position via a vis modern philosophy without subsuming him the ancient philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. However, the fundamental model of the symbol in Cassirer remains cognitive. It is a brave attempt to extend a cognitive model of thought to other form of experience: language, art, history, myth. Something that Plato would have vehemently condemned. Cassirer give due credit to Vico by calling him “the true discoverer of the myth” [der eigentliche Entdecker des Mythos in Erkenntmisproblem inder Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neuern Zeit, 1973, IV, p. 300. As translated in The Problem of Knowledge by William H. Hoglam and Charles W. Hendel, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1950, p. 296), but he remains different from Vico because he discovers the myth through the rational concept and in so doing he has to necessarily identify Vico with the philosophy of Geist. As with Croce the attempt here is to try to incorporate Vico within the Western rationalistic tradition. How so? In the sense that Cassirer see philosophicl idealism moving from Leibniz to Kant and Held within the philosophy of Geist all the way to his own conception of symbols (see his Introduction to The Symbolic Forms). He sees the role of the imagination in the schematism of the Critique of Kant and the Critique of Judgment as important aspects of Kant’s thought. And indeed Kant has a great interest in the bond between intuition and the concept and the existence of the “unreflective judgment” [reflektierende Urteilshkraft) and organic form pointing in the direction of a concrete philosophy of all areas of human culture. Cassirer also appreciates Hegel’s effects within the philosophy of the concept as something abstracted from experience in order to create by means of the speculative propostion [speculative Satz] a new sense of the concept as “concrete universal” [begriff] within the Western tradition of reason. He transforms reason from simple understanding [Verstand] into reason as the inner form of experience [Verneuft] in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Cassirer himself point out that their transformation ends up as the reduction of the idea to the simple form of logic in Hegel’s Science of Logic.
On the other side of the spectrum of the Western philosophical tradition there is the philosophy of Leben, of life and existence and even the irrational which Cassirer sees as a reaction to Geist, an attempt to come to terms with the immediate. It is most apparent in the thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sheiler and Heidegger. Here one waits for the appearance of Being. Spirit (Geist) is seen not as a transformation of life but as alienation, an inauthentic relationship to Being. So, Western Philosophy presents us with a disjoint: either we pursue philosophical understanding in terms of the principles of evidence, the concept, the syllogism, the argument; or we think directly from the situation of life, we “transvaluate values” as Nietzsche suggests, or wait for Being, as Heidegger advices. Vico offers an alternative to both traditions because his thought begins outside this disjoint. It begins neither with Geist nor with Leben but with fantasia as an original and independent power of the human mind. Here images are manifestations of an original power of spirit which gives fundamental form to mind and life. Vico calls these images “universali fantastici” but they are not concepts in poetic cloaks as rationalists assert. The image is not understood in relation to the concept but on its own terms.
By building his philosophy on fantasia Vico creates a position outside Western philosophy as traditionally understood. His is the kind of thought that teacher the art of memory and recovery. A friend of mine who is a trained philosopher would even suggest that it was the invention of writing that began this forgefulness of the original capacity of the human mind to recollect, which indeed is another fascinating area of investigation. Suffice to say here that philosophers of memory have had not respectful standing in the general histories of philosophy. They are seen as literary or rhetorical and not philosophical in nature because they are not conceptual. What is not conceptual is denied philosophical standing. Within this rationalism imagination is at best conceived as the handmaiden of the concept, an element of the mind subject to investigation by a theory of knowledge (standing between perception and concept) or perhaps viewed as part of a theory of aesthetics. Within the latter imagination is seen as apart from the concerns of theory of knowledge; the image is free only apart from the concept seen as supreme achievement of reason fully developed [“ragione tutta spiegata” Vico calls it]. In other words, imagination is considered a mere subject matter, never a mode of philosophical thought. At best the image and the metaphor become devices to illustrate conceptual philosophical meanings. Plato is exemplary here. In his dialogues, the image remains outside the form of philosophical thought to be used only when conceptual reasoning rises toward what he considers a view of the whole, or it is used as a simple instrument of communication to liven up the thought. Paradoxically, without imagination, a view of the whole cannot be reached. See the image of the charioteer and the two winged horses in the Phaedrus and then read book X of the Republic where the rational idea is separated from the wisdom of Homer (a figure most prominently displayed in Vico’s frontispiece). This contemptuous cavalier attitude toward the image considered inferior to the idea, has dogged Western philosophy for twenty four centuries now.
In conclusion, I would like to propose that Vico’s philosophy offers a fresh new starting point. It is not a question of siding with the poetic wisdom of Homer against the rational wisdom of Plato, but of interpreting wisdom (and therefore reason too) in a new way as “sapienza poetica.” It is a sort of synthesis, a novantiqua; a blending of the two to arrive at a new understanding of both image and idea. That is what Vico shows the reader: he works his way back to the world of original thought (the myth) since for him “verum factum convertuntur.” Through his discovery of the imaginative universal, of fantasia as a way of thinking and acting, Vico finds a new origin for philosophical thought. Heidegger calls it “originative thinking” without however giving much credit to Vico for this insight, but then he did the same with Kierkegaard. In any case, it is Vico who with his conception of fantasia creates a novantiqua outside of the above mention disjoint between Geist and Leben and the ancient Platonic disjoint between idea and image. I suggest that Vico in the 21st century ought to be accorded a fair hearing on his own merits as an Herculean hero of philosophy.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-10-28 02:51:02|
Subject: VICO, LANGUAGE AND WESTERN CULTURE
More on Vico and Language om the context of Western Culture
By Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
A rectification is in order on what I wrote yesterday on the third Vichian era of rationalism (the era of men) when men make trains run on time without asking what is their destination and plan the Holocaust rationally in less than two hours. That was followed by this statement:“Ernst Cassirer is one of those.” As it stands syntactically "one of those" can be intrepreted as implying that Cassirer was one such rationalist. In point of fact that statement refers to the previous assertion regarding modern humanists who have identified Vico as the 18th century philosopher who best clarified the philosophical meaning of the humanistic Western tradition. I should also have added that Cassirer is the modern philosopher perhaps best known for his theory of symbolic forms and thus would naturally have had a great affinity for Vico. In the postscript I referred to an essay by Edward Kessler and a chapter from my book on Vico. Let me therefore take this opportunity to further expand on Vico’s understanding of language as primary for the understanding of the human world and as such can be considered as none other than the culmination of Italian Humanism at its best. I will do so by summarizing the main ideas of chapter 6 of my own book on Vico (Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press, Distinguished Dissertation series, N.Y., 1993). I should add that the book issued from my Ph.D. dissertation at Yale University (1990) which was on Vico’s concept of Providence (The Pardadox of Transcendence and Immanence in Vico’s Concept of Providence) and how it had been distorted by the idealists and the rationalists of the 20th century, notably Benedetto Croce.
Vico is indeed one of the first European philosophers to put forth the notion that language is not the vehicle of thought but its determining medium. Man makes language, with language man creates a cultural world, but the opposite is also true: language makes man and his cultural world. Hence properly speaking philology is the key to the Scienza Nuova, in as much as it considers the study of the evolution of speech faculties a study of the evolution of mind. Metaphor in particular is for Vico a universal factor in man’s acquisition of active sensibility and cultural self-awareness and all civilizations traverse the same major phases of linguistic developments: from the sensory to the abstract.
At the same time Vico’s opposition to Cartersian rationalism makes of him the first genuine “linguistic historicist.” Some have called him a relativist. But Vico is no rationalist and no relativist in as much as he possesses the consummate ability to encompass both the particular and the universal, the immanent and the transcendent. He holds that although all men look for expression through what he calls “generi fantastici” (“imaginative universals’), these universals acquire very different configurations or infinite particulars that makes up the syntactic and lexical corpus of different languages. And it is those particulars that engender diverse world-views by races and cultures. Hence a universal grammar of language of the Cartesian mathematical model is at best reductionist. Indeed the universal has its origins in the particular just as abstract thought has its origins in the ordering of the senses and the invention of language by the imagination of primitive man.
Each particular language is an “epiphany” or articulate embodiment of a specific historical-cultural landscape. The forms of a language are inseparable from the complexity of a culture from which it springs, but at the same time the language itself has shaped and determined that culture. This is Vico’s paradox that allows him to keep together (as both and) what may look antithetical to the logic of the rationalist. The process is dialectical with the formative energies of a language moving inwardly and outwardly in any civilization. In fact, for Vico there is no civilization, not even a primitive one, unless three institutions are present: language, marriage (family group), burial of the dead (religion).
Even national characteristics are imprinted on speech and vice versa carry the stamp of a particular language. Vico points out that when a language is bastardized there is a corresponding decline of a civilization or a body politic. Hence one of the vital cultural tasks of a great poet (such as Dante or Shakespeare) is to ensure the vitality of the native speech.
Language is for Vico the only verifiable and a priori framework of cognition. Different linguistic frames define different world-images, each is a form (which at its origins is one and the same with the content), and in as much as each language differs from every other, the resulting shape of the world is a local selection from a total but random potentiality. Hence the native language of an individual determines what he perceives of the world and how he feels about it.
Each language constructs its own “thought world” made up of the microcosm that each Man carries within himself and by which he understands the macrocosm. Hence the world in which two different societies live are indeed distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached. The dialectic is this: language generate different social forms, these form further divide languages. Later on Ernst Cassirer (who unlike Heidegger acknowledges his debt to Vico) will coin the term “inner form” of each language which distinguishes it from all others.
Benjamin Lee Whorf, who had the same inquisitive mind-set as Vico, begins with Vico’s linguistic insight that there is no such thing as “universal objective reality” but only an aggregate of “segmentations” made by different language-cultures. But he goes farther with this insight (which was also Humboldt’s to a certain extent) in detecting civilization traits in the very grammar of a particular language. For example Greek syntax casts a network of relations over the currents of life. This explains the diacritical genius of Greek thought and poetry, as well as the divisiveness of its political life. On the other hand the sobriety, the laconic modes of speech, the inbuilt masculinity of Latin explains much of the pragmatic and no nonsense Roman way of life. These language patterns function mostly at the unconscious level. Whorf has applied comparative semantic analysis to Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Kota, Aztec, Shawnee, Russian, Chinese, Japanese.
For example, when this analysis is applied by Whorf to the Hopi languages of Arizona the conclusions he arrives at are arresting. He finds that the metaphysical framework imposed by Hopi grammar is better suited than that of English to the world picture of a modern science based on the wave-particle theory of relativity physics. The Hopi treatment of events, inferential reasoning, intuition, action at a distance is susceptible of provisional postures as required by the wave-particle theory. Which is to say, the Hopi have a language that better reflects the phenomena as modern science describes it.
What can be concluded from the above? At least this much: it is consummate cultural arrogance and bias to base any theory of languages on what are assumed to be the natural, optimal typological languages, such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin or English. Moreover, a picture of language, mind, and reality based almost exclusively on Cartesian-Kantian logic and on the semantic conventions of Standard Average European is a hubristic oversimplification. We would do well to heed Vico's warning that a logic that becomes an idol to itself, a sort of reason biting its own tail, ends not in more clarity but in sheer confusion, in the tower of Babel or perhaps a Fellinesque circus. As he aptly puts: alla fine impazziscono: at the end they go mad.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-10-26 10:48:18|
Subject: WHICH NEW EUROPE?
Which future Europe do we wish: a rationalistic or a humanistic one?
by Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
Were one to read carefully the more thoughtful contributions to the debate on the future of Europe one would have to come to the conclusion that culturally speaking , whether we are aware of it or not, we are dealing with two different Europes: one rationalistic beginning with Descartes and ushering in the Enlightenment, and one humanistic attempting to synthesize antiquity (the old) and modernity (the new) and proposing a Europe that is Novantiqua. I submit that the foremost proponent of this novantiqua Europe is the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), a philosopher of European stature and author of The New Science (1725). A few brief notions in this forum may perhaps furnish an idea, and hopefully motivate those in search of the cultural identity and the cultural guide for the New Europe in the making (the “leitkultur”) to read and ponder carefully Vico’s New Science.
If we survey the Italian tradition of Humanism which begins with Petrarch, widely acknowledged as the father of European humanism, we will soon discover that it was fundamentally concerned with the question of the primacy of the poetic word and metaphor. For this tradition the metaphorical image is not a “reproduction: of reality”. In the image “another” reality is expressed which can only appear under the velamen, the veil of the senses. This is the new human reality of Humanism. It is the sensory “veil,” as the Humanists say, that we make use of in metaphor and which in no way is a hindrance, but rather a necessary and appropriate instrument for the realization of man’s existential act of “being –there,” what Heidegger calls Dasein. Hediegger should have been more frank in acknowledging his debt to Vico regarding historicism. Be that as it may, in De laboribus Herculis (ed. B.L. Ultmann, Zurich, 1953, II, 12) Salutati writes this: “Sed omnium poetarum una singularis et praecipua invention est, ut per illa, quae narrant…penitus aliud intelligatur in sensu.” Even Aristotle points out that in his De Anima that imagination is prior and in fact necessary to thinking.
In other words, the metaphor is that which cannot be derived by logical inference and cannot be expressed through rational language. It expresses that which is beyond the grasp of rational logic: the particular and the concrete. Paradoxically, Vico never gives up the opposite pole of the Universal which he calls Providence. He holds them together in a complementary and paradoxical mode. He also holds together the transcendent and the immanent within his concept of Providence, something lost on idealists such as Croce, but that is another story. The point here being that Vico is far from adverstising the dichotomy made by Descartes between rational and humanist modes of thinking with his famous “Cogito ergo sum.” He considers that a colosal philosophical error.
Vico’s problem is fundamentally one that deals with origins, the archai of historicity of the human world. A discovery in which he uncovers the indicative semantic principles that are at the basis of the “humanization” of nature. We can only attain a “humanization” and “historicization” of nature by giving meaning to the phenomena that our sensory tools offer to us and with regard to the realization of human existence. As Vico himself elegantly puts it: “And the order of human ideas is to observe the similarities of things, first to express oneself and later for purposes of proof.” (The New Science of Giambattista Vico, trans. Thomas Bergin, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1948, par. 498). Ingenium is for Vico “the capacity to unite things that are separated.” (De Antiquissima Italorum sapientia , an oration of Vico, in Opere di G. Vico, ed. Fausto Nicolini, Naples: Ricciardi, 1953, p. 295.)
Let me merely point out here that in accordance Vico’s position we are dealing with two Europes and two philosophical traditions. Hence, it makes sense that traditional logic, as well as the a priori thinking of German Idealism from Kant to Hegel, and formal logic including formalistic structuralism, are all forced to deny to the Humanist tradition every philosophical relevance and to put aside the problem of imagination and ingenium as unessential, since they have no place for these questions in their general scheme of things. Most modern and post-modern humanists however, assert that it is Vico, with his theory of the topical, ingenious and imaginative form of thought, who truly makes clear what the philosophical meaning of the Humanist tradition is. That when man arrives at the third cycle of history (that of pure reason) there is a real danger of falling into what Vico calls the “barbarism of the intellect” a rationality devoid of the poetical and the imaginative that makes the trains run on time without asking what their destination is , plans an Holocaust in two hours and then logically rationalizes that monstrosity with an ideology. Ernst Cassirer is one of those. That phenomenon is however even better illustrated in works of the imagination: the novels of Dostoevski (The Possessed being the most exemplary), the commentary of Martin Buber on the same, Erick Fromm in Escape from Freedom and Jacques Ellul in The Decline of the West. Indeed, there are two Euopes and we delude ourselves if we think that it does not matter, which one we choose.
P.S. On the issue of topics in Vico, an essay that immediately jumps to mind is “Vico’s Attempt Towards a Humanistic Foundation of Science” by Edward Kessler; also see chapter 6 of my own book on Vico titled “Rhetoric and Language in Vico’s Historicism” (Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, pp. 67-77)
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-10-20 01:13:05|
Subject: A PLEA FOR MORE CULTURE IN THE DEBATE ON THE EU
A Plea for more Culture in the Debate on the EU
by Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
In Ay rather lenghty posting of September 3, spanning some 15 pages in the forum on the Debate on the EU, I attempted to make the case that what is regretfully missing from the debate on the future of the EU is a “LeitKultur of Europe,” a necessary guide for the attainment of a genuine identity. The thesis in some way got its confirmation by the lack of any meaningful response that such a plea for culture received. In other words, the plea fell on deaf ears. The usual Machiavellian arguments, the old paradigms (old wineskins for the new wine) resumed their pride of place in the debate.
I predicted that the quoted remarks by Pope John Paul II before the European Parliament on the 11th of October 1988 would be attacked by the children of Voltaire, Freud and De Sade. I was only half right. They were attacked all right by those mentioned, but also by the children of Descartes, those rationalists or purists who conceive of Reason as being born pure our of the darkness of the senses and of imagination and unavoidably end up in what Giambattista Vico calls the “barbarism of the intellect,” a kind of rationality that makes the trains run on time without asking where they are headed and ends up burning works of the imagination such as the works of Dostoyevsky. A rationality well described by Jaques Elull in his The Decline of the West. Predictably the attack was against the messenger, the bearer of meaning (i.e., the Pope) while the message or the meaning itself went practically unattended. The Pope was advised to sell his wealth and become another St. Francis of Assisi. Not one participant took up the issue of distributive justice in the world of which the Pope has much spoken. Chesterton said that the fact that a meaning or a person who bears that meaning is attacked or ignored on both the right and the left flank may well be a confirmation that such a meaning is not counterfeit.
Be that as it may, it is intriguing to note that more than a century ago the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard was also lamenting, to the point of despair, the loss of cultural and spiritual values in his “Present Age.” That of course assumes that Kierkegaard himself retained some kind of sense of the values he claimed were declining. But is this position a tenable one? It might have been tenable for a Plato who had no knowledge of an original corruption, or a Rousseau who thought he could dispense with it and “romantically” conceive of the noble savage born pure and corrupted by society, But after the Holocaust, can anyone write seriously about cultural decline except as a victim of it? For logically, if a person’s writing is exempt from the decline or raises above it, then the decline is not wholly real. On the other hand if it is expressive of it, then he/she is contributing to the very decline being lamented. Indeed, if the complaint about the loss of spiritual values assumes that nothing is exempt from that decline, then whomever or whatever proposes to talk about it must be expressive of and contributing to it. This is the problem of the Fall.
But Kierkegaard then, and the Pope now, are not claiming that nothing is exempt from cultural decline. In fact, it is precisely because Kierkegaard is exempt from decline that he is able to despair. He is too intelligent to overlook that crucial point. In “The Present Age” he is not concerned with meaning as such as with the question: what is the state of spirit now? It is the state of despair, the state of being witness to your own decline.
The above begs the question: What is spiritual decline? For meaning does not decay the way a body does, changing according to the circumstances. Meaning decays by losing bearers, by losing a place and thus significance in the world. However, to recognize its progressive dissolution as place, it must still have a place. That place could be Kierkegaard, or Kafka, or T.S. Eliot, or Martin Buber or the Pope. They are free from the decline but in bearing witness to it, are not free from the despair. When there are no more bearers, then the cultural sickness is “unto death.” It all goes to prove that there is nothing to prevent the spirit of an earlier age lamenting the decline of spirit in the present age.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-10-13 04:18:06|
Subject: A Manuscript Lost in Time
Deconstructing a Manuscript Lost in Time
by Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
It is the year 12003 and I have come across a lost manuscript of obscure origins. I have run a carbon test of it and it is datable to the year 2000 A.D. It seem to be the record of a debate which was taking place at the time regarding the political unification of a whole continent called Europa. I found it under the sea where lies a peninsula called Italy which returned to the sea; it used to be part of the same continent also lost in the fog of time together with Atlantis and America. It seems that Europa was a goddess in Greek mythology usually portrayed on top of a white bull which was none other than Zeus, the father of the gods. He had the ability to transform himself in any creature he wished and used that ability to get to pretty ladies. So Zeus also turns out to be the father of seducers and deceivers. Be that as it may, the manuscript has little that is relevant to our present concerns ten thousand years later. In fact, compared to ours, their concerns look insignificant and even trivial in comparison to ours. But what is fascinating in the manuscript is the revelation that at the time people were still communicating both orally and in writing through words and the media carrying words and other signs: the human voice, pens, pencils, smoke signals, radio, TV, PC, telephone, cellular, beepers, telegraph, books, pamphlets, heraldic signs, movies, means of transportation, homes, even food; the whole paraphernalia of semiotic signs. Also fascinating is the confirmation that at that time the body and all its media extensions was still a sine qua non for revealing and expressing thoughts, feelings and intentions. But it seems that there was a flip negative side: the body and its extensions (i.e., the media of communication) could also hide and distort thoughts and feelings. When that happened intentionally or unintentionally, it was called a “lie,” a “deception,” a “distortion,” or a “misperception.” When the misperception was twice removed from the body (as with a text or a sign) it was called a misreading. It seems that people could even deceive themselves and did so often. One will not find those terms any longer in any of our present mental dictionaries. We still have bodies now, we are not angels yet, but we communicate instantaneously mind to mind. There are no more books as such. Hence no lies, deceptions and subterfuges are possible any longer. We no longer know those phenomena by experience but by inference with the finding and reading of ancient manuscripts such as this one. That is what makes them so fascinating. It gives us a glimpse into a wholly different mentality; a mentality that prided itself of its rationality devoid of the poetical but capable of deception even on itself.
At one point in those ancient times, around the year 2000 A.D. they invented the personal computer together with the internet which for those times it was a super-fast way to communicate. For us moderns it looks almost ridiculous; but the ability to communicate electronically across the world in a few seconds was astonishing for our ancestors. They thought of it as a wonderful invention and called it the superhighway of cyber space. It seemed to them that Hermes, the god of instant messages had returned and that space itself had been abolished.
However, this medium too could be used for deceptions and lies. Which is to say, one could don a mask and pretend to be somebody that she/he was not by assuming a name and a far away country that best suited that name. To be sure, the ancient Greeks also used masks some 2000 years before to freeze their dramatic characters into types. Similarly, it seems that a debate participant could wear a different mask as the situation required becoming a sort of multiple personality character. It was very easy to do, and nobody would know (unless one was an Interpol snoop who knew how to break the code) who was the messenger and where the message came from. For all that the recipient of the message knew, it could be from the only puny space station which at the time orbited the earth beyond the clouds, or from one’s next door neighbor. Our ancestors were not able to travel inter-galactically yet, for they had not solved the conundrum of the time/space connection, but via the internet they had the virtual impression, a delusion really, that space had been conquered. Some even thought that the conquering of time was also around the corner. Some lunatics even proclaimed the end of history; but the story of time and of mankind continued on. Eventually, some seven thousand years later, a qualitative jump in human evolution appeared suddenly and time and space were transcended. At that moment however it was a mere illusion of a few madmen who considered themselves gods and supermen. One such was a philosopher named Nietzsche. And there were others.
In any case, on the internet it was easy to hide the face of the messenger sending the message. You can well imagine what a bonanza this must have been was for those of a mischievous bent. At that time mischievousness usually involved stealth and deception, if not fraud, terms hard to understand nowadays, and it was associated with getting one’s thrills. Some preferred it to detective stories and rollercoaster rides. From the manuscript I gather that for them it represented a golden opportunity to assume personalities, clever points of views on reality, pet philosophical theories to teach to the naïve (for there have always been wannabe professors around), and send them as trial balloon around the globe without having to put one’s name on the line, so to speak. Of course it had to be done in secret in an ivory tower with its many closets (departments and fields of study into which the so called learning institutions of the time had been compartmentalized); the ideal place for playing an hide-and-seek solitary game. Some even sent pornographic pictures in other’s names and even stole documents from other’s computers. They were called hackers and considered themselves very clever, even it the activity was a bit anti-social and paranoid; but for them it was fun and quite safe. No peer review, no danger of being dragged in a Dean’s Office, unless one got caught doing something illegal with the medium. Many declared themselves instant experts on many subjects.
Those with those devious propensities would get up in the morning, choose an appropriate mask: Pulcinella, or Arlecchino, or Voltaire, or Erasmus, or Rumi, or Shams, or St. Francis, or Schopenhauer, and match it with the appropriate country. It seems that sometimes the country does not match but that can be explained by the fact that the mask was traveling abroad: in Albania, Afghanistan, Barbados, Ethiopia, Antarctica, you name it. Voltaire would be spotted in Afghanistan, or Erasmus in Italy in the Vatican. Often, sentences and even ideas would be proffered by these virtual ghosts. Here is where the fraud came in: the ghosts were a misrepresentation because some of the statements were never proffered by the real people in flesh and blood that the masks represented; they were simply invented to support one’s theories. It was all done spontaneously and in good humor. As in the Commedia dell’Arte practiced in the above mentioned submerged peninsula; one chose sentences and mottos as they were needed. The important thing was not to search for truth but to entertain or win debating points or show off one’s cleverness. Of course nobody took those masks very seriously. Most educated people knew that those people were long dead; although some on the more lunatic fringe actually believed that those people were communicating from beyond the clouds, especially when the assumed mask was that of God himself, as it was done from time to time. After all, Zeus could transform himself into any creature and transcend time and space; for a god thinking and doing is one and the same thing.
It was the substituting of real space with virtual space that gave those masked persons the illusion of being gods like Hermes. Not only space but even time became indistinct and blurry. And indication of this anomaly was their anti-historical stance that usually went together with a contemptuous attitude toward the particulars of the created phenomena. Reality per se resided in their head. In academic circles they went by the name of misologists, or rationalists.
The game got more complicated when those masks would assume a perfectly contemporary name that fitted a contemporary country. Now the messenger was not only virtual but fictitious. All that the reader could do at that point was to take the message at its face value and deal with the ideas and concepts therein expressed. Which in a way was better for the debating of abstract ideas, without personalities it proved less distracting. However when those masks mischievously descended to ad hominem arguments, and cavalierly proffered gratuitous and unsupported assertions and even insults, a circus of sort was then the result. It is not clear from the manuscript whether or not this was done intentionally. One thing is sure, they were not interested in the least in the search for truth or a genuine dialogue; only in scoring debating points and showing their cleverness. In more ancient times (I mean those of the Greeks two thousand years before) they called those kind of people sophists.
Things got even more complicated and topsy-turvy when the readers of these misologists’ messages began confusing the masks without a face with those with a face behind; that is to say those which had in fact an author’s face behind the mask who assumed responsibility for the mask. as was done in very ancient Greece, and those masks who hid a fictitious person. The former continued to place their real name and e-mail address and a destination on top of the message (even if the internet made an authentic signature legally and physically impossible); the latter usually used only first names and first letters. Because of all this confusion, the forum which began with the idea of the Greek agora, was transformed in a Fellinesque circus. For those intelligent enough to see the distinction between the responsible and the irresponsible use of the mask, it continued to be a learning experience nonetheless. For after all something was always learned about the limitations of language and reason itself, leading the more reflective and serious to search for wisdom with the aid of imagination, the poetical, that master key proposed by Vico as the beginning of wisdom and the test for the grasping of reality (as is it is for children for a good five of six years of their life) without running the risk of falling in the grammar of lunacy.
Now, this went on for a good seven thousand years or so, as long as a body allowed for a mask with which to hide one’s esoteric intentions with words and logic. But one fine day, an evolutionary mutation occurred, quite similar to the one that happened with the advent of language; it was a qualitative jump in cosmological and human evolution. Suddenly we as a species transcended time and space. At that point the whole story of mankind, i.e., each individual life, was translated into the universal language and placed as a page in the universal book of Life. Everybody could now read and know everything about everybody including oneself; nothing was written any longer because everything was already written, all the most recondite and unconscious motivations and intentions of each individual were now in the open light for everybody to see. Which is to say, just as we continue doing today, everybody could read the others’ thoughts instantaneously without using words or a medium of any kind. Needless to say, there were many surprises at the time, all the bogus and pseudo theories of knowledge came to the fore, many that thought they would find themselves on the right, found themselves on the left. There was much embarrassment but also much laughter and joking; in the great recapitulation everybody was forgiven their foibles in good humor, just as in a Fellini movie which we still watch nowadays. The party is still ongoing, as you know, with everybody dancing and singing ecstatically. There are now no more masks for there are no more words with which to express the ineffable. There is only one Word and it says it all. We communicate face to face, mind to mind. But the fun now is not so much in the communication itself but in the journey toward a place that we left eons ago and to which we are returning. When we get there we will have come full circle and will know the place for the first time. I am sharing this manuscript with you, my students, so that you may better imagine how it was before we had faces. For the moment, file this away in your minds; we shall come back to it. See you at the next lesson. Goodbye and have a great day!
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-29 09:13:19|
Subject: AN APPEAL FOR A FEDERAL EUROPEAN UNION
What follows is a document signed below by five Italian citizens (E. Paparella has dual US/Italian citizenship) this summer while the EU Draft Constitution was being consigned in Rome. It has already appeared in its original Italian version in the local monthly journal "Da Bitonto". We wish to share it with the participants to the TIESweb Forum and perhaps debate it.
AN APPEAL FOR A FEDERAL EUROPEAN UNION
In the history of the New Europe, there have been crucial crossroads which have determined the future of whole generations. The present moment is one such. Its confrontation requires a serious, ambitious collective commitment; one that remains open toward the future.
The people of Europe have a common Parliament and currency; however they still lack a government that reflects the will of the citizens and their representatives. This is so because the national States, still attached to an empty and worthless sense of absolute sovereignty, wish to keep control on almost all issues with a “right to veto,” thus holding on to futile and temporary interests, further miring themselves in demagogy, rather than aiming at the harmonization of genuine national interests.
This is the real origin of the democratic deficit of the European Union, the root cause for its inability to act, for its passivity, for its neglect and forgetfulness of the admirable teachings of its Founding Fathers.
We wish to recall them in order: the French Jean Monnet, the German Kon Adenauer, the Italian Alcide De Gasperi, the French Robert Schuman, to whom we feel it is appropriate to add the Italian Altiero Spinelli.
Those who really wish the Union ought to request the birth of a European federal government with an elected President, of a European Parliament to which are assigned definite powers in matters regarding the economy, security and foreign affairs. Those who really wish the Union ought also to request that the decision of the European Commission, which represents the individual national states, be taken on a majority rule. This much is asked by the young who have banished, for decades now, the very idea of war and wish to live in a Europe that is united, peaceful and secure. It is asked by all the Europeans who want to regain the reins of their own destiny and develop, at last, a resolute polity of the Europeans for the Europeans. It is asked by the world at large which is hoping for a Europe that speaks with one voice. It is asked by reason and history indicating that only within the development of federal supra-national institutions lies the progressive democratic road to the control of global processes.
We cannot accept a Constitutional Charter of Europe in its definitive form, untill we recognize some clear progressive steps that go beyond those taken at Nizza. We wish a forward jump in the democratic and federal sense; and we wish it today, not in a nebulous indefinite future.
Signatories to this appeal:
Francesco Tampoia, Philosopher
Franco Amendolagine, Editor of the monthly “da Bitonto” , Bitonto (BA), Italy.
Emanuel L. Paparella, Professor of Humanities, Sunrise, Florida
Michele Giorgio, Principal of the Liceo Scientifico Statale Galileo Galilei, Bitonto, Italy
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-21 12:03:49|
Subject: How do we start dialoguing with each other?
Rivers of ink have already run regarding the split within the NATO alliance and even within the EU precipitated by the war in Iraq. Not surprisingly knee-jerk reactions have followed. In Europe, on the lunatic fringe of the political spectrum they take the form of anti-Amricanism. On this side of the Atlantic the perception, among a vast section of public opinion, is that the phenomenon of anti-Americanism may be due more to resentment of American economic and military hegemony and less to love of peace and stability in the world. Both positions are deeply flawed.
In all fairness it must be pointed out that the more thoughtful European citizens (for example, the French Jacob Feflaive who a few weeks ago contributed a posting titled “France, Europe and Antiamericanism,” one should never brand a whole people with a negative label at the risk of collapsing bridges of understandings and common values that took two generations to build. Many European citizens, the ordinary people more than the politicians, are hard at work repairing those bridges before they collapse. Mr. Leflaive himself writes this in the above mentioned contribution: “maybe the only solution is some kind of mediation trough Tony Blair.” Be that as it may, let us keep hoping that there is a solution.
One modest suggestion, which I have advocated in the forum The Future of Europe for some time now, is this: let us abandon Machiavellian power-play considerations of “real politick” and focus rather on the common cultural roots that both Europe and America share. The mediation of culture, a LeitKultur so to speak, can be even more effective than the persuasive eloquence of a Tony Blair. Indeed it can be the cement that unites many disparate heritages and traditions shaped by different languages and experiences on the European continent. For indeed, for better or for worse, we still share a common destiny and to a certain extent a common identity, that of Western Civilization. We are in the same boat and should we be on the Titanic navigating the icebergs of nihilism we shall unfortunately suffer a common fate: the end of a great civilization. In the middle of the Atlantic there are the Azores island where the war in Iraq was hatched. But there is also Dante’s imaginary mountain of Purgatory, that seven terraced mountain with the garden of Eden on top, not to speak of Plato’s Atlantis. Those two symbols; a submerged great civilization and the garden of our discontent to which we yearn to return (and we shall return where we left from and know the place for the first time, says T.S. Eliot) ought to remind us of how important it is to know oneself as an idividual and as a culture.
What is to done then? Ms.Valentine's observation that cultures are like individuals that at times need to be healed through dialogue is certainly a valid insight. Giambattista Vico, way back in the 18th century pointed out the the microcosm reflects the macrocosm in the story of Man: the long arduous development of cultures and civilizations. In Italian the word "storia" means both story and history. Man is a child first and before the age of reason she/he imagines and intuits more than reason. When reason arrives that is a further step forward, with one important caveat that imagination and creative intuition is not abandoned. For to do so is to fall into rationalism and be worse off than before.
I am willing to wager that these general considerations will be cavalierly dismissed by ultra sophisticated humorless cynical rationalists, especially those with a Machiavellian propensity and given to sophistry, on both sides of the Atlantic. And that is the problem: not EU vs. US power plays; that is a mere convenient red herring. Let us hope that the Tansatlantic TIES Miami Congress, fast approaching will aim at the restoration of the damaged bridges of understanding and lead us on the way to respect for each other’s opinion and a frank dialogue that is imaginative and beyond mere rationalistic Machiavellian considerations. That would be certainly different from a clever debate that keeps score on who proffers the more satirical and clever insults. Unfortunately there is a lot of that in the current debate, Complete with people with masks, redolent of a Felling movie, and that is too bad. Being child-like never meant being childish.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-09-17 01:18:44|
Subject: "...'after' the Iraq crisis??
When did it end?" -- And, no, the U.
S. won't be stronger till it grows up, relates constructively to
those who used to be its allies, rejoins the community of nations as
an equal, relinquishes the government of Iraq to the U.N. and the
Iraquis, and starts listening.
Our Santa Cruz, California, city government recently voted to
recommend George Bush to the US House of Representatives for
impeachment. (http://www.santa-cruz.com/index.html on September 10,
With every good wish, --Lydia Blanchard
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-15 07:07:37|
Subject: The Immigrant Experience in the EU and the US
The Immigrant Experience in the EU and the US
By Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
As per recent studies, at present demographic rates, the European Union’s economy will need 80 million new immigrants between now and the year 2015. That will represents 20% of the total population of the European Union. This is due to the fact that European populations are in serious demographical decline. If that 20% gap is not filled the EU runs the risk of losing half of its share of the total global income which is now some 24%
What are the implications and extrapolations from those dire statistics? I propose nine for consideration and debate. Surely there are others that will be pointed out by other contributors:
1.The xenophobia of current right wing European parties which unfortunately keeps gaining ground in Europe (apparent even in progressive and democratic countries such as the Netherlands and France) is misguided and myopic, not only on an ethical level but also on a purely economic level of self-interest. One of the strengths of the Federation of states that constitutes the US is that, despite the application of limiting quotas from time to time, it has always kept its doors open to waves upon waves of new immigrants. The benefits of that policy to the nation as a whole have been overwhelming. The US is a nation of nations because, with the notable exception of the Native Americans, it is, and remains, a nation of immigrants
2. Those who advocate that poor third world countries ought to start practicing birth control and limit their popul;ation so that they wouldn’t have to invade prosperous Europe and spoil its comfort, should revisit their misguided position. It is the privileging of “life-style” and luxury at the expense of life that has contributed to the overall moral cultural decadence of Western Civilization as a whole.
3.To conceive of borders as protection is to create fortress EU. An armor is something hard one puts on to fight and to die. It is bulky and unconfortable. Now, it may be sweet and glorious to die for one’s country or hyper-country as the case may be, but it is much more glorious to live and work for it. It is also divine to put truth even above patriotism and to die for that. Socrates is exemplary in that regard. He, having proven his physical courage on the battle field, taught his contemporaries that one can also be a hero in the ethical and spiritual realm. Western Civilization, having neglected that lesson, has at times betrayed its heritage and fallen into the cultural and moral confusion of senseless wars.
4.On the other hand a more apt paradigm of borders would be to conceive of borders organically as soft rather porous skin that divides the inside of an organism from the outside but permits it to live and breath through it. Globalization if it means anything, it means that either we save ourselves together or we perish together as a planet; and the window of opportunity to do so is closing fast.
5. The EU may have to consider becoming not only a nation of nations but a nation of immigrants respectful of the inalienable human rights of all its inhabitants, including non-citizens. It has in fact have no choice, if it wants to survive and compete on the global stage. There may be some lessons to be gained here from an ex colony called the US which has gone through that kind of experience and, as imperfect as it still is, has achieved a measure of admirable unity in diversity
6. Twenty per cent of one’s population with non-Western heritages cannot all be culturally assimilated; to even attempt it would constitute a neo- colonialism of sort. Rather, the new immigrants will need to be integrated; which means that their particular cultures, religions and languages need to be protected and respected under a constitution which champions inalienable universal human rights(i.e., born with Man qua Man, not granted or violated by any State). For integration to occur those immigrants will need more than just euros to swear allegiance to. A union around a bank never a people made.
7. A viable constitution that protects the inalienable human and civil rights of all, citizens and non-citizens alike, is the only hope of forming a union of “e pluribus unum” (unity in diversity) through adherence to universal principles. Purely geographical, ethnic or regional considerations, as important as they are, simply will not do. The cement ought to be a leitkulur that seems to be missing from the present debate.
8. The best guarantee of writing a Constitution that protects inalienable human rights is to be mindful of the Judeo-Christian ideas and ideals (the Romans and the Greeks did not have the concept of inalienable universal human rights and consequently found slavery tolerable). Those ideals are the foundation of Western Civilization as a whole. They did not spring ex nichilo in the age of Enlightenment from the pen of Thomas Jefferson. The Romans used to say “corruptio optima pessima.” Which is to say, to forget the origin of those ideals which are integral part of the Western tradition and identity is to run the risk of repeating the socio-political nightmares of the 20th century.
9. Machiavellian geo-political paradigms of “real politick” have ill served Western civilization in the last 400 years or so. New ones are urgently needed. To fail to do so will result in the same mistake of Italian unification: that having made Europe by dint of aping at super-power status, the Europeans will remain to be made. In effect the cart will have been put before the horse.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-11 03:57:24|
Subject: More on Novantiqua and New Wineskins
An idea that I have attempted to put across in the debate on Europe is that for Europe to have an authentic new cultural paradigm, it has to go back to the future, so to speak, and identify the new wineskins in which to pour the new wine being prepared with the Constitution of the EU. As hinted already in my piece on Dante as the first Christian visionary of a United Europe, behind Dante there is Virgil, the poet of the Romans. Humanism is basically a synthesis of antiquity with Christianity and it shapes the modern identity of Europe. Hence is Dante and Petrarch are the fathers of Humanism, Virgil is its grandfather.
To continue our dialogue on the LeitKultur of Europe, let us revisit briefly this idea of Virgil as the grandfather of European humanism. In 1931 there appeared a remarkable book titled Virgil, Father of the West by the German writer Theodore Haecker who found his inspiration in Virgil and Kierkegaard. That was to be expected in a Europe where Virgil had never been forgotten as Dante’s Commedia well demonstrates. But what is astonishing is that in the thirties, when the two thousand anniversary of his birth was being celebrated, Virgil was just as popular in the USA as in Europe. T. S. Eliot who was an American living in London had read carefully Haecker’s book on Virgil as the father of the West. The reason for that is that Americans, being mostly immigrants from Europe, could easily identify with Virgil’s story of Aeneas and his saving remnant of Trojans carrying the best of the old west to a new world and the consequent struggle to establish themselves in that new world.
There is a novel by Thornton Wilder titled "Cabala" which is the story of a young American living in Rome in the 1920s. In it, as the protagonist takes the boat back to America he invokes the shade of Virgil. This reassures the young man that his voyage home to the New World is justified because New York is the New Rome: “The secret is to make a city, not to rest in it…” The novel concludes thus: “The shimmering ghost faded before the stars, and the engines beneath me pounded eagerly toward the new world and the last and greatest of all cities.”
That passage brought me back to my own journey to the New World on a ship way back in the 1950s. But aside from that piece of nostalgia, that passage begs the question: What makes Virgil the divinely guided prophet of the West, even for an American? The argument goes something like this: Virgil was an Adventist, an anima naturaliter crhistiana (a naturally Christian spirit). The result of Augustus’ policy and Virgil’s poetry was the Roman Empire, of which all later empires were the spiritual heirs. Augustus’ work providentially made Christianity possible. Without the empire, no Christianity, without Christianity no West. Therefore, the argument concludes, Virgil is the father of the West.
The amazing thing, once again, is that the Romans accepted this new religion of slaves and outcasts not as conquered people but as victors. Here again Virgil was responsible, because Virgil consistently portrays Aeneas as “pius,” which means more than pious, it means honoring the duties assigned by your fathers; honoring traditional forms. There lies the roots of humanism. Dante intuits that much when he chooses Virgil as his LeitKultur, his cultural guide, and thus becomes the humanistic father of a new people: the Italians, the people who then give to Europe Humanism and the Renaissance: the harmonious synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity.
So goes the argument. Now, the children of Voltaire and of the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, who, considering Christianity a rival ideology, have jettisoned it from that synthesis, or at the very least are skeptical towards it, will most probably disagree with that kind of European identity and oppose to it another Europe: that of Rationalism and Positivism. But whether one disagrees or agrees, one needs nevertheless to be conscious that in the age of nihilism and scientism and technology as the fix-all, we have two Europes struggling to claim the title of European identity and few if any have so far suggested a satisfactory synthesis. The emerging Constitution will undoubtedly reveal whether the guiding principle has been Dante or Voltaire. Which begs the question: Can the two be synthesized?
It is well known that Voltaire considered Dante his mimesis and died pronouncing Dante’s name on his deathbed. Could it be that Voltaire had finally arrived at the conclusion that the light of reason, as important as it is, is like the oil lamp in a hut. As long as it remains lit one will not discern the source of all light: the stars out in the starry night. Dante’s journey does indeed begin under a starry night. It is dark but Dante has left the comfort of a protective hut and is already on a journey which will properly begin when Virgil comes to his aid and accepts to become his guide, as the sun is coming up and winning the struggle agains the night. It is interesting that the Commedia ends with those words: “ l’amor che muove il sole e le altre stelle.” [the love that moves the sun and the other stars]. Could it be that Votlaire at the end of his life had glimpsed that the Enlightenment had still to enlighten itself? Just a thought.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-09 06:05:13|
Subject: Another New Wineskin to consider
Thucydedes, the famous Greek Historian who first defined Western Civilization, has been honored with first mention in a future EU Constitution. That is all well and good. However, with all due respect to T., we ought to remember that he was no philosopher of history; merely an astute observer of human events inserted in the larger cosmological natural scheme of things. He merely compared civilizations and claimed superiority for his own, perhaps with good reasons, but that is not unlike a modern European (be she/he French, Italian, German, British, you name it) traveling abroad and, noblesse oblige, finding other cultures inferior or at best an extension of her/his own. In my opinion, to claim T. as the grandfather of European civilization is misguided at best. Perhaps a much more suitable choice, one which would then would have naturally lead to speculation on the subsequent developments of Western Civilization and the interrelationship of Greco-Roman civilization to Christianity, would have been Heraclitus, who inaugurates the spirit of European culture and can legitimaly claim to have identified its unique characteristics and identity.
The above may sound like an unsupported cavalier assertion that some of my friends have charge me with when I mention new imaginative wineskins for the new wine that is the new Europe, however it is not made glibly but in the light of a recent brilliant scholarly essay on the identity of European culture by Klaus Held, a German professor from the University of Wuppertal. It appeared in translation (by Sean Kirkland of Goucher college) in the journal Epoche', Vol. 7, issue 1 (Fall 2002) and its title is THE ORIGINS OF EUROPE WITH THE GREEK DISCOVERY OF THE WORLD. This essay ought to be a must reading for anybody seriously concerend with the origins and the identity of Western Civilization which includes not only Europe but the Americas and the Australian continent; cultures which are derivative, albeit unique in their own particular identity. I would particularly recommend it to those political leaders drafting and debating a EU Constitution, and of course the oridinary citizens who will eventually vote on it.
Professor Held observes that it was by no means a mere coincidence that science and democracy arose in the same age among the same people, that is to say, among the ancient Greeks. Heraclitus is identified as the very first thinker who begins to seriously reflect upon the earliest scientific activity and at the same to contemplate communal life in the Greek polis. He credits him with the designation of the word "kosmos" as encompassing the whole world. He also designates the word "logos" as the relation among everything there is in the world and the openess to this relation among human cultures, Europe being merely one of those cultures. That is indeed a holistic approach to cultures. What however is unique to European culture is its readiness to remain open to the relation of belonging together, that is, the logos.
As per Held, the next important insight comes from Parmenides and it is this: the human perception of things (noein) and the existence of things (einai) belong inextricably together. As far as Held is concerned these two insights of Helaclitus and Parmenides mark the beginning of European culture characterized by a basic openess to other cultures, a going out, so to speak, from one's own culture to other foreign cultures and having as its foundation the life-world of humanity, that is to say, the kosmos. Thus begins some 25 centuries ago a type of investigation which is characterized by freedom from bias (the measuring criterion of science) and called "historie" or exploration. At this point of origin scientific exploration is indistinguishable from philosophy.
The twin institution which is born together with science in ancient Greece is that of democracy which according to Held "can be spoken only where a free space in the general freedom of opinion among the citizens is expressly institutionalized." These two institutions are the outward form of the "inaugural spirit of Europe." Held has a caveat: "The temptation of Europe, and in the modern period, for the whole Euro-American Western culture, lies in identifying the one world discovered here, a world of all human beings that provides a place for all their various life-worlds, with one of these worlds...namely equating the one shared world with our own European Western home world." Neverthless, Held can still assert that "no other developed culture has managed to perceive the proper claim of foreign life-world with such a lack of prejudice as that which occurs under modern international law."
It is this lack of bias that may eventually allow for the "europeazation of humanity", which sounds like a very regressive eurocentric assertion but valid if the proper openess to foreign cultures is maintained; for as Karl Jasper has aptly put it: "Europe is peculiar perhaps only in that it is, in possibility, everything." Which is to say that Western Civilization distinguishes itself by the fact that it is never finished, it is always coming-to-be; there is always a next renaissance, a re-birth, on the next horizon; a new synthesis is always in the making. Europe's self-understanding is provided by foreign cultural forms which are perenially being synthesized.
Here Held arrives at what I would consider his most important insight concerning European cultural identity, namely this: "...the Christianization first of the Roman Empire, then of the people pouring into the Mediterranean region from the other side of the Alps, constituted the second great beginning of European culture." He is alluding to that great synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity culminating with Christian Humanism then soon afterward followed by the Italian Renaissance . Constant change and re-birth constitutes in fact the paradigm of a religion that has as its most important symbol that of the Resurrection ('Behold I make everything new"); a capacity to begin anew which, and this may surprise anti-american eurofanatics, Held individuates in "the founding fathers of North American democracy, who brought it from Europe in the 18th century; these men elevated federalism to the principle of the American democratic constitution, as is demonstrated in their 'Federalist Papers.'...European culture, due to its openess in natality [i.e., re-birth] to the universal world as place for many particular life-worlds, has the chance to show the world how its own multiplicity can be kept alive." Food for thought on both sides of the Atlantic!
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-09 03:59:03|
Subject: A follow-up on the issue of the transatlantic relationship EU/US vis à vis "real power politick"
A follow-up on the issue the transatlantic relationship EU/US vis à vis “power politick”
by Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
If one looks at the various Think Tank contributions in the Debate on Europe one will find there a hidden jewel (dated March 4, 2002): an article by Raimon Obiols, a Spanish Euro-parliamentarian. The article makes for very engrossing reading; its overarching theme is the World after September 11, 2001 and how best to combat terrorism. But there is a jewel within a jewel: the theme of the transatlantic relationship US/EU vis à vis power. A theme which from a mere debate and controversy has assumed the character of a veritable obsession after September 11, 2001. Be that as it may, there is a passage there which bears quoting verbatim:
“We Europeans should not ourselves be overwhelmed by the pessimism caused by an inappropriate comparison with the role of the US as political military superpower. We should set ourselves the target of building up civilian power, with a growing capacity for political, diplomatic, cultural and economic influence capable of exporting stability and equilibrium, encouraging and creating positive international consensus by intelligently employing Europe’s enormous potential for ‘soft power’.”
Mr. Obiols is here contrasting what he calls “soft power” with the hard coercive one of military power. He defines “soft power’ thus: hegemony by means of asserting values, cultural influence, leadership in knowledge and communications. Getting what one wants through attraction rather than coercion.
Although Mr. Obiols does not say so directly, he is by implication proposing the substitution of a Humanistic imaginative paradigm to a tired old Machiavellian one, a peace-oriented one to a power-oriented one. That may be new to ears not accustomed to such a paradigm of power but it is also as old as David Thoreau and Ghandi. In new Age circles it goes by the name of "soul power."
Mr. Obiol’s imaginative conception of power is another one of those new wineskins needed for the new wine called the new Europe. It is undoubtedly worthy of serious consideration and attention. It may not be as sexy as talk of RRF and achieving “respectable super-power” status, but it may prove to be more promising for the viable future of Europe and the world at large. It may indeed be indispensable to go back to the future and for devising a polity that is truly respectable because it is novantiqua.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-09-08 11:59:54|
Subject: DANTE’S VISION OF A UNITED EUROPE: An Example of
by Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
Some friends of mine, who have read my posting in TIESweb on New Wineskins, have responded privately suggesting, among other things, that I ought to furnish some concrete examples of thes new wineskins I am talking about and of how does one go back to the future in order to create a political entity that is novantiqua.
Undoutedly my friends have a valid objection; for what can easily be asserted with vague generalizations, can also be easily ignored and even ridiculed. To generalize without furnishing concrete examples is to become irrelevant. I do not know if the same objection will be raised in this forum but in any case let me preempt it by furnish a glaring example of a man who had new wineskins to offer and who may be the first to have a universal vision of a United Europe way back in the 13th century. That man is none other than Dante. Actually Dante has already been alluded to by Franck Biancheri when he wrote something to the effect that: here we stand halfway between hell and a vision of heaven. I don't know if he had Dante in mind, but that allusion immediately conjured up the Divine Comedy in my mind.
There is a rather naïve notion that the vision of a United Europe was born ex nichilo in 1950. With all due respect to Robert Shuman, who may one day be even proclaimed a saind of the Church, the notion is naïve because it loses sight of the fact that there is no such thing in history as creations ex nichilo. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Shuman would be the first one to admit it. It is therefore both proper and fitting to remember and celebrate those Europeans who, after the fall of the Roman Empire, began envisioning a United Europe. Those giants are in a sense the grandparents of the EU. I would submit that Dante (1265-1321) was one such giant and perhaps he has a more valid claim to be remembered in any EU Constitution than, say, a Tucydides. Allow me to explain.
While his contemporary, Petrarch, may be regarded as the father of Christian Humanism in Europe, Dante was no less of a humanist. Like Petrarch, He exemplifies the synthesis and harmonization of Antiquity (Greco-Roman civilization) with Christianity. The mere fact that he chose Virgil, the poet of Romanity, as his guide in the Commedia, points to it. In making that synthesis Dante becomes the poet of the Italians just as Virgil had been the poet of the Romans. He gives a literature to a people and with it a cultural identity. Even if the Renaissance had not followed upon Humanism, that synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity by itself would stand as one of the highest achievement of European and indeed world culture. That is a fact proclaimed not only by Christians but by intelligent atheists such as Gerorge Santayana. The same age of Enlightenment some 400 years later would not have been possible without it. To even entertain the idea of eliminating Dante from the curriculum as some have proposed in modern Italy and elsewhere, is a sure ominous sign of our times without spirit: of a return to the cultural desert of which T. S. Eliot speaks about in the Wasteland.
There is a passage in the Divine Comedy where Dante is transported in spirit above the vicissitudes of men and he flies higher and higher in the blue sky (perhaps the song “nel blu dipinto di blu” may have been inspired by it) till he sees the earth as 20th century astronauts saw it from the moon. I suppose that makes Dante the first global space walker; but then men with imagination are capable of those feats even when the technology to realize them is absent. Leonardo was one of those too.
Be that as it may, two intriguing characteristics in this passage are worth noticing: in the first place Dante does not discern any geographical or political borders on the earth: he sees the whole earth, holistically, so to speak, just as the astronauts saw it, as it represented on the logos of the UN. Thereafter Dante comments that “vidi quell’aiuola che ci fa tanto selvaggi” which translates loosely as “I saw that puny garden that makes us so vicious.” He is addressing not the Florentines or the Italians, or the Europeans but the whole of human-kind living on earth and he does it with a bit more poetry than “A small step for man a giant step for mankind,” a statement whose syntax and even logic is faulty.
In effect Dante with this contrast of good/bad, ugly/beautiful, true/false, puny/precious, is saying that this unique earth which is Man’s only home within time and space (at least for the foseable feature) is meant to be beautiful as a garden but the sad ugly reality is that in this beautiful garden brother kills brother; it is one of general viciousness and incessant warfare. It definitely sounds as the historical Europe of old representing the world at large. What Dante is suggesting is that this garden is a garden of exile and humankind’s journey is a journey back to the future, a journey of a return toward the ideal garden it originally left behind. Later Dante with his imagination will enter the earthly garden of Eden standing on top of the mountain of Purgatory, but his journey will transcend even that beautiful earthly garden as he proceeds to meet his beloved Beatrice, his guide in Heaven.
It is interisting to note that some theologians have placed the garden of Eden between the Tigris and the Euphrates. However if we follow Dante's geography the mountain of Purgaory is somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, not too far from Cuba, or perhaps the Azores. One is tempted to speculate: is this a geo-political image of the purgatory of presnt day transatlantic relations?
Here we must remember that Dante, as he writes the Commedia, is himself in exile from his beloved Florence. He is on a journey which begins in hell: the hell of exile and humiliation. He has been expelled exactly by the general viciousness of brother fighting brother; Florentine fighting Florentine; Ghibellines fighting Guelfs. Dante used to be a Guelf; they were divided in the Blacks who saw in the Pope an ally against the Emperor (Henry VII of Germany at the time), and the Whites who were determined to remain fiercely independent of both Pope and Emperor. When the Blacks, supported by Pope Boniface VIII (later placed in hell by Dante for politicizing his spiritual mission) seize power, Dante, as a White, is sent into exile.
It is this condition of exile, of constant frustration of having “to eat the hard bread of others’ homes,” of constant hardship and uneasiness and dissatisfaction, that propels Dante into a spiritual quest, the journey from hell to heaven later depicted in the Commedia ending with his famous “tua volontà, nostra pace” (your will, our peace). Had he stayed in Florence he would have probably settled down to become another obscure, mediocre, self-complacent politician aggrandizing himself wih power and wealth. His political views, in fact, begin to change and he embraces the cause of the Ghibellines. He begins to champion the unification of Europe under an enlightened Emperor and writes a Latin political tract titled “De Monarchia” where this vision is put forth. Dante has now come full circle, from the particularity of his city of Florence he is now envisioning a Europe unified by universal ideals such as justice, peace, love of the True, the Good, the Beautiful which will be privileged above and beyond mere power considerations. This is not a mere repetition of the Roman Empire. Dante's vision is not Machiavellian but Humanistic. It represents a new paradigm which old at the same time; it is novantiqua.
The Europe Dante envisions in De Monarchia keeps a strict separation between Church and State (what Italians now call “lo Stato laico”) so that what is Caesar’s will be given to Caesar and what is God’s will be given to God. That means religious freedom and tolerance for other faiths and traditions such as the Moslem, fully welcomed at the Court of Frederick II in Palermo and greatly influencing Humanism. Italy will be just another country among European countries and its preeminence will not consist so much in its militaristic Roman heritage but in its Humanistic foundations.
Dante, therefore, properly speaking, is the grandfather of this vision of a United Humanistic Europe. He offers Europe a paradigm which is an alternative to the Machiavellian real-politik so prevalent since the Age of Enlightenment and still in vogue today. As the consummate poet he is (perhaps the greatest poet Europe has gifted the world with) he is telling Europeans, in the words of that Dante scholar, the British-American poet T.S. Eliot, that “…The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started from and know the place for the first time.” But to arrive there, one needs to turn around, take a first step and begin the arduous journey.
|Message from: Emanuel L. Paparella, Italy Sunrise, Florida USA - 2003-09-02 10:12:40|
Subject: The Role of the UN in post-war Iraq
To answer briefly this week's Tiesweb Forum question (what role for the UN in post-war Iraq?), it seems to me that the UN ought to do what it is good at and what the US is not particularly adept at, and ought not to do alone in any case: nation building, something George Bush vowed not to do when he was running for President.
One caveat: nation building ought not to be synonimous, as of old, for neo-colonialism. It ought to mean instead: education of the people in the democratic process and the rule of law, humanitarian aid adn relief, peace-keeping and justice among hostile factions, and any other aspect of nation-building that helps in transfoming a repressed and depressed people into respectable members of the World Community.
As suggested at greater lenght in my piece on "New wine for old wineskins," in this week's European Visions section of TIESweb, when King Arthur decides to institute a fair and democratic process to build the future British nation he makes a round table around which even the King sits, to symbolize that from now on power is not vertical and hyerarchical but horizonatal, shared and democratic. Not "might makes right" but "might for right," which is to say power for a more just world, out of which one may hope for a lasting peace. That kind of new paradigm may appear a bit naive and unrealistic, but it certainly is not Machiavellian, contrued on the "will to power" and on real-politik considerations. It begins with with Aristotle's "will to truth" and in that sense it is novantiqua: old and new at the same time.
Unfortunately many nations (especially those wielding veto power in the UN) have not disabused themselves of the addiction to power conceived as an instrument of domination. That is what has led to the recent debacle in the UN. Until these nations decide to adopt a new paradigm (change the old wineskins for the new wine), even the UN will not be as examplary as it ought to bein the construction of a more just international society.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-09-02 01:05:40|
Subject: The ashes of Baghdad are falling upon the US
by Franck Biancheri: President of TIESWeb and Director for Studies and Strategy of Europe 2020.
After holiday recess, TIESWEB op-eds, ‘Transatlantically Incorrect’, are back on track. Significantly, Transatlantic Vision section has been merged with Incorrect one … because we believe that there is no way anymore to have any meaningful vision of future EU/US relations while staying politically correct. So much for the dominant flow of academic, think-tanks and experts contributions to major newspapers or specialized foreign policy magazines!
Here we stand: somewhere between ‘the Gate to Tomorrow’s World and the Gate to Hell’, far away from the ‘Gate to Heaven’
We are indeed back into reality, but a new reality moving away from the post WWII one. After months of intense propaganda from all sides and complex debates between experts, smoke screens are fading away and let us see the new world disorder as it stands.
Mid-March 2003 I contributed an article to EU-Observer entitled Upon whom will the ashes of Baghdad fall down? Three major scenarios for the post Gulf War II world disorder .
Some thought I was too pessimistic by having only one positive scenario for Washington. Last weeks news are showing that reality is shaping up as a combination of the two ‘bad for America’ scenarios. They were called ‘The Gate to Hell? The US Administration war nightmare’ and ‘The Gate to tomorrow’s world? The US landing painfully into history, with the UN to rebuild’. Among the main consequences I was forecasting were the following:
. the US will loose most of its moral credibility, patiently built up by generations of Americans.
. the cost of the war (which will not be paid by the allies) will drag US deficits of all kinds towards deeper negative trends, enhancing already existing tensions within the US in terms of funds for education, for social protection, for environmental protection, … and for job-creation.
. Europeans will move forward to forge a European Foreign and Security policy.
. UN has to come at the rescue of US/UK
. US weakness creates a big vacuum in world order and weakens the whole international community
. Prime Minister Blair will face major internal troubles
. in the US a major political crisis will start with two sides getting more and more at odds: the Bush side complaining of lack of support from allies and Democrats; while Democrats call for a ‘regime change’ in the US.
No need to elaborate on all these ‘possibilities’. Now most of them make the news everyday. The ashes of Baghdad are indeed falling upon the US.
Washington has thrown power, money and credibility through the window;
none come back easily
But beside Iraq crisis, where does exactly Washington’s power stand when we look at some crucial factors determining actual strength ? Let’s take a look at some core factors:
- World public opinions: lost all around the planet. A trend difficult to reverse; an important factor in a globalized world where image also speaks for business, culture, education, … .
- European public opinions: drifting away. for the first time since WWII, they think that US policy and European values may not fit together. A big blow to any future US global leadership as Europeans are both THE other big player in most fields (economy, science, trade, …) and the most likely natural ally in all occasions.
- Partnerships: trading strong ones for weak ones. France and Germany somehow in limbo; UK put in midst of major political crisis. Setting up lists of ‘coalition’ states whose size, means and power are irrelevant to most international security issues will not match those who are missing.
- Leadership role: non-existing as by putting UN aside and failing to win a strike, Washington finds itself now on the sideline, by underestimating the problems it puts the whole international community in a mess. In fact, Washington implemented a ‘reverse-leadership’ … taking its followers into troubles rather than out-of troubles.
- Vision: wishful thinking. Criticizing international organizations like UN (which indeed need reform) with no alternative being offered other than ‘just do what I say’ is no alternative vision for tomorrow’s world. While mixing God, an Imperial destiny and Oil do not build a 21st century vision of any country.
- SuperPower: showing one’s own limits. obvious limits to US power have emerged from Iraq crisis: lack of money, lack of civilian expertise for abroad operations, lack of anticipation, … .
Of course one can always say that Saddam’s army was rapidly defeated. And so what? Nobody was doubting this would be the case in the end. The issue always was ‘ the day after’, the very day when dust comes down and smoke fades away, the very day when strength or weakness do reveal themselves, when illusion or deception face reality and truth.
Post Iraq war trauma will affect deeply EU-US relations
Inside and outside the US, assessment of post-Iraq situation is only beginning. But it will definitely bear a painful cost for US power and position in the world. Many things are still unclear, especially internal costs of all this within US society and politics. But outside the US, and particularly in Europe (because more was to be lost there than in other parts of the world), US losses are big in terms of everything which creates leadership standing for democracy and freedom: moral credibility, trust, vision, prioritisation of challenges, ability to gather rather than divide.
I do not think that there is anything to compare with Vietnam because at that time most of US allies where looking at the war through the Cold War prism which in the end was giving some legitimacy to US acts. This time, no such prism exists. ‘War on terror’ is not shaping people’s mind as did Cold War. Therefore US actions are seen by the outside world for what they are. In the 70s, post Vietnam trauma was a pure internal US phenomenon; this time, post Iraq trauma will be a global phenomenon.
For all those who care about EU/US relations and try to foster a sound Transatlantic relation, next months and years will be difficult. Maybe as much as it used to be within the US to heal wounds between pro and anti Vietnam war supporters.
Some in the US may dislike what I am saying in this article as some did with my three scenarios last March. But I always shared the idea that a friend should speak the truth when tough times are coming. To me, such stormy weather is a reason to increase efforts, to ‘keep on keeping on’ building new bridges between Americans and Europeans, but not by hiding some tough realities from my friends’eyes.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-09-02 01:04:57|
Subject: New Wine for Old Wineskins? Some “politically incorrect” reflections on the old-new Europe
by Emanuel L. Paparella : Ex Professor of Italian at the University of Puerto Rico, currently on the adjunct faculties of Florida Atlantic University and Broward Community College
“It is time to break the ‘mental ice’ of political correctness which has been wrapping up the EU/US debates for the last two decades.” With this refreshing thought Franck Biancheri inaugurated the TIESWEB section “Tansatlantically Incorrect.” I reply with a loud "Amen." There is indeed an urgent need for a frank mature transatlantic dialogue, unafraid to speak the truth to each other, aiming at the restoration of badly damaged bridges of understanding. We Europeans and North-Americans ought to be capable, as of old, to admire and imitate what is best in each other without fearing what is worst. If we allow fear to predominate our relationship, we will risk not only psychological projection but also forgetfulness of our common cultural roots and identity; for ultimately, for better or for worse, we are all in the same boat called Western Civilization.
For approximately three years now I have been actively participating in the on-line Debate on the Future of Europe. If I were to describe with one metaphor the most remarkable characteristic of such a debate it would be this: new wine poured in old wineskins. By that I mean that while there is much talk of a New Europe, the paradigm within which the debate takes place remain old and even stale. It would be much preferable to pour old wine in new skins. “Old” may conjure up tired but it may also mean wise and experienced and ought not to be feared and discarded so easily. It certainly ought not be an insult. The transatlantic debate needs to go "back to the future" and recover a Western leitkultur which will provide the cement needed to hold together disparate heritages and traditions; something that is now sorely missing from the debate.. By creating a paradigm that is both old and new, a novantiqua so to speak, Europe would then have something unique and genuine to contribute to the transatlantic dialogue. Unfortunately what one perceives presently is much aping at Superpower status, much concern for globalization and little concern for national and regional cultural values. When one thinks of the vast bureaucracy in Brussels undemocratically controlling the politicians, immune from civil prosecution, disrespectful of public opinion and carrying out some 80% of the EU decisimon, the slogan “unity in diversity” begins to sound rather hallow.
Let me supply an example, picked almost at random, from the above mentioned forum of July 29 of last year. A gentleman (a Mr. Sener) argued extensively that the EU should be working toward the achievement of “respectable superpower status." I responded to the posting pointing out that given the sad historical record of Western Civilization on the abuses of power, “respectable superpower” could well be an oxymoron. Unless that is, we change the very paradigm of what being a “respectable power” means in the 21st century. At this writing the paradigm remains Machiavellian, based on military-economic realities; few dare imagine an alternate one; for to even question a rationalistic Cartesian approach to real politik on both sides of the Atlantic, is to provokes charges of political incorrectness and retrograde thinking. However, one cannot but applaud the intention behind respectability. Individuals and institutions, tribes and Clubs, regions and nations galore and even super-nations and hyper-nations and superpowers need to strive for respectability and integrity, not just power.
If Socrates taught us anything 24 centuries ago, it is just that: individuals and even nations eventually get judged by history and they die the way they live. To paraphrase from the Apology from memory: the issue gentlemen is not whether one dies, for we all die, but whether wickedness catches up with one before one dies and whether once she has caught you she will let you go. Of course the issue of the Good was of no concern to Machiavelli. Try as one may, one will not find that concern in The Prince; virtue there is conceived as mere competence, as the ability to make the trains run on time without ever asking the question as to where those trains might be heading for.
When I was in Italy this summer the question often arose as to how is the EU is perceived in the US? I had had plenty of opportunities to see how, fairly or unfairly, the US is perceived in Europe. So I began to suspect that the question hid a projection of sort. For aftr all, if two entities are competing for the same addiction—that is to say, power—projection becomes practically inevitable, misperceptions will abound, and fanaticism will be rampant. So I refused to fall in that trap and would answer that a much more interesting line of inquiry would be not how we perceive each other; how the hyper-power perceives the lesser powers desperately trying to catch up to hyper-power status, but how others, the poor powerless countries of the third world, those which are still feeling the effects of colonialism, look at superpowers such as the EU or the US. In other words, what is the legacy of Western Civilization in Africa? A question this that many would consider politically incorrect if not downright undiplomatic and unsophisticated, especially if it is asked in Europe.
A partial answer to such a politically incorrect answer was given in the EuObserver in an article by Brian Denny, Foreign Editor of The Morning Star titled “Africa—The Eurocrats’Burden?”( Debate section February 2002). The article ends with this rather disturbing thought: “He [Kwame Nkurumah, a Ghandian revolutionary nationalist] highlighted…the replacement of “national imperialism by a ‘collective imperialism’ today known as the EU.” I find this statement disturbing because what Mr. Nkurumah may be saying is that to replace a failed paradigm (nationalism based on raw power) with another more powerful one of transnationalism, (new wine in old wineskins?) may mean ultimately that what was wrought on Africa in the 19th century by individual nations may pale in comparison to what a super-nation may be able to do in the future. I hope Mr. Nkurumah is wrong in his assessment, but should he be right, then it behooves us, the heirs of Western Civilization, to find alternatives paradigms to Machiavellian “will to power.” A modest suggestion: we may consider starting a genuine dialogue with each other and with third world countries by taking a first modest step; substituting Aristotle’s “will to truth,” to Machiavelli’s or Nietzsche’s “will to power,” then we shall have a new-ancient wineskin in which to pour our new-old wine.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-07-29 04:38:35|
Subject: Is the US weaker or stronger after the Iraq crisis?
by Nonie Valentine, M.Ed., L.M.H.C., American Psychotherapist in Prague, Czech Republic
Let's start with a wider context for this question, from the point of view of an American living in Eastern Europe:
Communism has apparently spent itself as a major political force. Now I believe we are in for the testing of democracy - democracy and capitalism. Their supposed twin victory is likely to be tried severely in the decades to come.
It seems that the "false strength" of the US - its reflexive assertion of military and technological superiority for a quick fix - has been weakened by the ongoing Iraq crisis, but its real strength has a chance to emerge if the country's ruling powers will allow themselves to be chastened by their own blunders on the way to empire. Unhappy response now in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in many parts of the world, could conceivably direct the United States towards the limits to unilateral power it needs sooner or later to grasp. Such response can bring the lesson that, in the end, other nations do not like to cooperate with a country so heavy-handed militarily and arrogant in attitude that they must find ways to either withdraw or resist its aims.
But the strengthening of the United States, I think, mainly depends on the American people; whether we are able to shake ourselves from the trance induced by a media that has become an alarming fusion of government and corporate interests, and realize several things:
1. Our democratic way of life is not to be taken for granted. We can lose what democracy we have and we are losing it - inch by inch: not because of outer attacks from al-Quaida, but because of our government's increasingly distorted response to them. The civil liberties we deny the Guantanamo captives are the civil liberties we practice losing for ourselves.
2. We are fast becoming hostage to a new political agenda of America preeminence in the world, brought by a group of neo-conservatives waiting in the wings since the last Bush administration. The attractiveness of this ideology draws from the deep trauma after September 11, the imperial ambitions of a few, and unfortunately, a kind of insulation from, and ignorance about, the rest of the world which is also to be found in America. We are afraid and could obey our government and close ranks against outsiders. But do we really want to be an empire?
3. We are cultivating the loss of respect and very likely the cooperation of other nations. The ripple of sympathy for America around the globe after the attacks turned to confusion then anger after the US administration showed disregard and open ridicule for European allies who disagreed with its determination to go to war. The policy in the aftermath of Afghanistan and Iraq, articulated with a peculiar combination of fervor, naïvety, and entitlement, sows hatred, not least among the Arab world - the very sort of hatred that bewildered Americans after September 11. Do we want to alienate the world in order to protect ourselves? Can we afford to lose the last scrap of good will in order to "prevail" in a world more and more filled with enemies?
I was one of those not convinced by the arguments for the Iraq war, but not able to demonstrate against it with conviction either.
After living in post-Communist Europe for many years, I recognized how fragile is the making of a democracy and how easily it can be unmade. It was only in experiencing the psychological aftermath of totalitarianism that I understood what a marvel the US constitution actually is, and that few countries on earth have anything like the codified protections of, say, free speech, which Americans like me assumed would always be there. But fear and war media have contributed to a subtle and not-so-subtle censorship in the United States right now that is marginalizing the voices of foreigners and shaming the opinions of dissenters.
A Russian I met there last fall said of the US he recognized the signs of a press moving towards totalitarian thinking. During the war preparations, he remarked glumly that he never thought he'd see America become the next Soviet Union. The message over the airwaves at the time was essentially this: They are trying to get us, so we'd better get them first. The "they" was alternately the Washington sniper, the Anthrax perpetrators, Saddam Hussein, an Indonesian paramilitary group, and other potential enemies. The international news coverage I'd had in Europe was hard to find.
This worries me. The outcry I hear is mainly from foreigners who live or work in the US, not from my educated and perceptive American friends.
The US government thought democracy would break out in Iraq like crocuses in spring. Even in the Czech Republic, which has more cultural similarity to America as well as a bit of democratic history, truly democratic institutions are tenuous at best. America simply cannot, with a wave of the wand and a little fairy dust, remake other traditions into its own image of democratic capitalism.
On the question of the only remaining superpower becoming the new Empire: The fear of Americans is being captured for ideological purposes that have grave consequences and Americans need to decide whether we choose an imperial vision, on both moral and practical grounds. Empire generates resistance for one thing. And can the US continue to pursue such adventures without bleeding itself dry militarily and economically? And without losing the last scrap of good will in Europe and the rest of the world? Can it cajole countries' support and let them down in return, such as it did with its new friend Poland? (Poland hoped for a relaxation of visa regulations, but was told too many of its citizens seek illegal jobs in the US.)
Lots of nations know the dangers and traps and burdens of empire, like Britain, but my government is not really listening these days. It's not listening to its own military strategists who are concerned that personnel and equipment are overstretched, compromising the ability to respond to threats. It's not really listening to the foreigners in its midst - many citizens or long-term residents - who are alarmed at the measures taken against them in the name of homeland security, and who weep, earlier than others, for the loss of the American dream.
For America, that special country with a marvel of a constitution, is the repository of the dreams of ordinary people around the world. Along with American pop culture and consumer goods, citizens everywhere have looked have looked to its mythical dimensions: the openness, the inclusion, the protection of liberty. It's time now, more doggedly than before, to practice discerning the myth from the reality.
What I wonder is if our remaining superpower will use its special status and power on behalf of the world as a whole or will it simply visit its trauma from September 11 on every living thing outside its borders?
We'll have to choose. If Americans like me are skeptical of wielding power unilaterally and without restraint, we'll have to challenge the ideology of empire at the core of a government that's not really listening. We'll have to challenge that ideology with irresistible pressure and from every fiber of our being, and thereby re-earn our democracy.
And all the people outside our borders who recognize clearly what our country is becoming - who know the difference between false and real strength - can help us to see.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-07-02 10:49:13|
Subject: Iran, Turkey : democratic changes
by François Skvor: Frre-lance press correspondant, Turkey (Istanbul)
2003 : as the entire world is waiting for a democratic revolution in Iraq, Iranian and Turkish regimes are shaken on their grounds.
Iran is still stifling in the dead end of an Islamic revolution which burst out on April 1979 whereas Turkey is less or more accommodating with the remnants of a military coup which occurred in September 1980.
The reformist wing of the clergy gained a substantial majority in the Iranian Parliament on may 2000 ; the AKP(Party of Justice and Development) led by the charismatic Tayiip Erdogan came to power by an overwhelming vote on November 2002 : two significant victories expressing a real and popular need of change in these two countries. In Iran two thirds of the voters chose the reformist parties as they had supported the reelection of President Khatami two years before. In Turkey, AKP gained 34% of the votes which almost represents twice the electoral weight of precedent Islamic parties.
The present international context is not abating this wind of change : a tight European schedule in Turkey and the American neighborhood for Iran.
The Khamenei /Kilinç axis
Forced to open up the doors of a significant political change, Erdogan and Khatami must both cope with the same constraint of an institutional block.
The Supreme Leader stands at the top of the Iranian power structure : Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ayatollah Khomeney is responsible for Defense, Diplomacy, Justice. Added to his control over legislative process, he has the power to appoint half of the members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose mission is to control the conformity of the laws voted by the elected Parliament to the Islamic Rule (Shari'a). So it is almost right to state that the decision making process is far from being in the hands of the reformist clergy.
In Turkey, the block is not so obvious, thanks to a constitution that, on the surface, bears some resemblance to democracy. The Supreme Leader doesn't appear at the top of the state protocol : the General Secretary of the National Security Council, the General Kilinç heads a Prime Ministry related office : as a real conductor of upper bureaucracy in Ankara, he collects and gives information all along the administrative chain. As an official advisor of the government, he must give his opinion on all legislative or administrative project. He is the keystone of a Byzantine structure of power : the law is voted but soon emptied of all content by specific directives. On 16 June, the Turkish press echoed the administrative appeal of the TRT (Public TV and Radio) against the directive on Kurdish programs for the enforcement of a law voted last summer together with the first reform package for harmonization with political criteria required by EU.
Such a tight control over Turkish administration led to a real homogeneity of the top civil service in Ankara. And the crisis is serious when AKP heads for a comprehensive change of staff in different ministries ; or announces a deep decentralization. The crisis grows up to the spot it explodes in the traditional form of a dispute over the Islamic headscarf or alleged threats on secularity.
Shiism, mysticism and modernity
What is really in debate, along with the democratization of these two regimes, is the sense that could be given to an "Islamic" modernity. And by the way the response that could be found to the schizophrenic debate : identity /secularity, a question that was introduced in Middle-East after the World War I, the collapse of the Qadjar and Ottoman Empires and without any solution up to now.
The AKP is backed by the largest Sufi community in Turkey : the Nurcus (enlightened) whose master, Said Nursi (1877-1960) preached a modern and scriptural interpretation (Ijtihad) of Kuran rather than its old oral and literal transcription. His views on the Shari'a are known to be quite flexible, especially on the matter of the Islamic headscarf which turned to be a political obsession in modern Turkey (in a sense that is really close to the French case).
The Ijtihad is also considered in Iran by clerics and scholars like the prominent philosopher Abdol Karim Soroush. The Iranian specificity stems from a Shiit tradition with very deep philosophical roots : asserting that belief is a matter of individual spirituality, they denounce the Ulemas sticking to the letter of tradition and by the way, the Khomeynien principle of Velayet-e Faqih, establishing the legal ground for the government of the Jurist.
Otherwise, the specific role of Imams in Shiit Islam gives the Iranian clergy power and responsibilities which place it on an equal footing with government : secularity is thus more easily thinkable than in Sunni Islam.
The secularity debate reflects the century-old question of the birth of modernity in traditional societies: it is the result of long-term processes within national communities. It is also the proof that democracy is not a divine gift.
And that democracy depends very much on the social and cultural ground on which it is called to blossom.
Two different societies
Teheran, June 10 : the students began their protests against the privatization of Universities. The regime is denounced, conservatives and reformists.
The same day in Turkey : a survey disclosed and confirmed the non interest in politics of Turkish students. 46%of them don't support any political party whereas a quarter confess having no political opinion.
The Islamic regime in Iran has never been able to break off with the revolutionary movement that supported it in its beginning. The clergy didn't ever succeed in being homogeneous. Moreover the revolutionary inspiration pushed the regime to focus on social, educative and cultural matters at first : one of the most blatant example is the vivacity of Iranian film production which, by certainty, is reflecting a creative and dynamic society. 65% of Iranians did not reach the age of 25. The total number of students is around 1.5 million all over the country : born after the revolution, they try to embody the inner force of a repressed but dynamic civil society.
"Protect the state against the individual"
On the contrary, whereas figures are quite similar, Turkish University is sealed by a deep silence due to the "successful" measures implemented by the junta of the 1980 coup. Placed under the autocratic authority of the "Rektör", the prefect of knowledge, whose responsibilities are essentially turned toward security and social peace, Turkish University is constantly subjected to a purge of professors and students. By the way, University became the symbol of a Turkish society exposed to a meticulous, systematic and quite accepted repression : Turkish people are able of producing their own ideological serums.
"The 12 September regime created a constitution whose first and main goal was to protect the state from the individuals", writes Murat Belge, columnist for the daily newspaper Radikal.
In twenty years time, bureaucracy and unleashed liberalism deeply reshaped the Turkish society : deprived of a dynamic university, civil society shrank to a handful of business and trade organizations together with some not very representative unions.
Without any organized social support, the AKP can only play the European card : proposing legislative packages of "harmony" to fulfill the criteria of democracy required by the EU.
However General Özkök; the Turkish chief of staff, recently gave some hope by imposing silence within his own ranks and asserting the pro-european view of the army along with his willingness to be in good terms with the government. In the same time, he underlined the necessity of an explicit European guarantee regarding the date of the accession talks before starting reforms and concessions under the tight control of military hard-liners : as his closest collaborator, General Büyükanit, explained on May 29, "rain contributes to fertility but without an umbrella you'll get wet".
In Iran, on 12 April, the former President Rafsandjani created the surprise with his proposal of a referendum over the resumption of diplomatic relations with Washington. Such a proposal echoes the pragmatism adopted by an increasing part of the conservatives and offers an alternative to the reformist wing so as to get rid of the dire situation they have lived in since the municipal elections held in last February. As general elections are looming ahead (2004), President Khatami's friends will have to cope with the vote of two "twin laws" aiming at a substantial reduction of religious influence on electoral and judicial matters. Will the support of the conservative Rafsandjani, President of a conciliation commission between the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Parliament, be enough to the approval of these laws ? Or shall we wait for the foreseeable strikes in oil industry as a consequence of the decreasing price of barrel due to the resumption of the Iraqi production ?
In northern Middle-East some changes are being operated, toward a formal democratization on the surface in Turkey. Less probable in Iran in the short term, the end of the Mollahs'regime is virtually richer and deeper regarding social, cultural and political matters and will be by certainty of great sense for both Middle East and the Muslim world.
These two democratizations are also closely related to the attitude of international actors : UE for Turkey and US for Iran, must act so as to prevent the hard-liners of each country from resorting to their traditional anti-western rhetoric recently spurred by the war in Irak.
Before the end of this year, the fate of these changes will focus on parliaments : for the "twin laws" in Iran and for a seventh package of harmony in Turkey.
When voted, progress is irreversible. If not, no one knows what will happen.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-07-01 03:49:01|
Subject: 21st century economy : Too much short term kills the long term
by Henri de Courtivron: Executive Director of a Leading French Investment Bank
Our economy is currently particularly dull and very few are those who can see any prospect of improvement in the near future. One of the reasons possibly explaining this situation is perhaps an unbalanced mix between all the numerous parameters to be taken into account when preparing a successful recipe for a lasting economic growth, built on dynamic enterprises. It seems indeed that the short term approach is today largely overweighed to the detriment of the long term vision.
Everything straight away
Our way of life privileges the search for the most immediate possible satisfaction: "I want all, immediately". Just as a child requires that his desires are satisfied at once, the economic elite of our country wants to exert the power as soon as possible, without waiting until the experience learns, with time, how to manage in the long term. How many parachutings of allegedly omniscient but without experience managers have resulted in disasters for the enterprises, with an extremely high social cost? The risk for the pitchforked mercenary is low anyway: a gratifying package if he is successful, an absurdly high compensation in case of failure, plus the re-integration into his administrative body of origin as a life buoy.
This requirement of immediate satisfaction also appears in a particularly insidious way in the role played by the shareholder. The shareholding structure fundamentally changed over the last quarter century, under the triple effect of the generalization of the mutual funds, the development of the pension funds, mainly Anglo-Saxon, and the globalization phenomenon which internationalizes the participations in capital. The typical shareholding used to be traditionally characterized by the stability of the investor, who sought a regular profitability and privileged the placements of " good family father ". Besides, a small minority of speculators ensured the liquidity of the market.
Today the environment is quite different: a majority of investors, who manage on behalf of third parties, are obliged to show the highest possible profitability as quickly as possible. These new investors, who collectively represent the majority in many listed companies, can dictate their law and impose profitability constraints under penalty of changing the executive managers who would not succeed in meeting their requirements for short-term profitability.
The ROE dictatorship
It is there that the frightening measuring instrument intervenes which is the ROE (Return On Equity). The shareholder requires a very high ROE, often about 20%, without any reference neither to the inflation rate, nor to the growth rate of the economy, and everyone pretends to believe that it is possible for a company to create value in a perennial way at a rate eight times higher than the inflation rate or ten times the growth rate.
From there, the disaster scenario is set up. On the one hand, the shareholder requires a maximum ROE and pockets the result in the form of dividends initially, then as a capital gain at the end of two or three years, knowing perfectly that the company will not be able to sustain this rhythm of profitability over the long run. This shareholder will therefore stand together with the company in which he has invested only for the short period of time necessary to generate a maximum return, even if it means that the survival of the company might be endangered. The runner of a marathon who starts the race at a hundred meter race speed is certain not to finish the race. On the other hand, the manager of the company, badgered by the ROE dictatorship, has no choice but to privilege short-term profitability to save his job: he will consequently look for all possible cost savings (specially by laying off jobs), will concentrate on the most profitable activities, even if they are not recurring, will get rid of the least profit making ones, even if they are useful to attract and keep customers and will seek maximum capital gains by disposing of assets, even if they are strategic. He will thus succeed in satisfying his shareholders during two or three years by delivering the required ROE. Finally, the shareholder resells, the manager, after having received substantial bonus, pockets his golden hand-shake and again tries the same adventure elsewhere and the company, bloodless, is cheaply bought over by a wise investor.
In order to occult his lack of experience when arriving and to fall down back on his feet upon his departure, the parachuted manager needs the solidarity of his peers: hence the reciprocal helping hands between members of the same brotherhoods, the boards of directors too incestuous to oppose the outrageous requirements from the ROE dictatorship, the development plans polluted by promises of astounding ROE which only hide the lack of strategic vision, the recruitments at high price of mercenaries who make gleam the miraculous formula to reach the promised ROE.
Too volatile shareholders
The abuse of short term thus clearly contributed to make the shareholder, become the most volatile actor in the life of the company, play a disproportionate role compared to the other actors who are the employees, the managers and the customers. How can one entrust to the shareholder the capacity to decide on the future of a company whereas he has the possibility of withdrawing from the game by not more than a mouse click? The price to be paid for this shortsighted policy is the priority given to the tactics to the detriment of the strategy, the progressive disappearance of any corporate culture, the development of the hiring of mercenaries and the unwillingness to invest in the future through R&D, in a word, the slow and scheduled death of the company.
Let's decrease the proportion of exclusively short term considerations and let's support the long-term visions and strategies, and we will see again industrial groups managed by experienced industrialists, qualified managers who will organize a perhaps lower profitability but a more lasting one, more motivated employees who will adhere to genuine corporate projects and less greedy shareholders who will not blow any more in bubbles which always end up bursting
The United States showed us the harmful consequences of an improper use of the short term and the recent financial scandals are there for us to remember. Strong of these lessons, "old" Europe has today a great opportunity to give up its usual follower attitude to invent a new approach to management and to find a right balance between the short-term considerations and the long-term objectives. Let's hope that Europe will be able to take advantage of its perspicacity and its economic weight to open the way in leading the change.
Henri de Courtivron
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-07-01 03:48:13|
Subject: Washington and Brussels are from the Moon…
by Franck Biancheri: President of TIESWEB and Director for Studies and Strategy of Europe 2020.
… though of course they do not come from the same side of the Moon!
This is something I learned in past years and it seems to me that the Iraq crisis illustrated it. Washington comes from the bright side of the Moon and shines all over the world under global media spotlights; while Brussels, coming from the dark side of the Moon, is pretty much invisible to everybody, including European citizens. But despite these 'light' differences, the key thing is that they do not belong to Earth.
I know that some say Americans come from Mars and Europeans from Venus. But it does not match my experience when crisscrossing both continents. While one thing I know for sure is that those who write these things tend to live on the Moon too, either in Washington or in Brussels … most often moving from one to the other … like most 'specialists' of transatlantic relations.
Can we expect 'Mooners' to solve very earthly problems such as future EU/US relations?
Because in the end, when we come to the point of relations between Americans and Europeans, this is what it is all about. Can Washington and Brussels help solve the growing number of disputes between USA and EU? Well, the fact they both are from the Moon does not push for optimism, because it puts both of them very far away from us and our problems. It even seems that both their differences and similarities tend to prevent any problem to be solved soon.
Even the way Washington and Brussels look at God differs
Meanwhile as they do not see the same sky, they tend to understand differently what is going on. Washington tends to think that serious Europeans/Americans relations started with WWII (as if before they were just 'politically incorrect'). While Europeans tend to think that WWII era was definitely closed down with the end of the Iron Curtain, and a new era in EU/US relations thus opened.
They also do not consider God in the same way. While Washington expects all Americans (and the rest of the world) to believe that God is American. Brussels tend to argue that God has nothing to do with being European.
They equally differ in the vision of the future. Brussels, being on the dark side, does not know how its future will look like; while Washington is full of certainties on what tomorrow will deliver.
Washington and Brussels reflect one another across the Atlantic Ocean
Not only their differences, but also their similarities tend to separate them.
They both reflect an old dated way of organizing power, centralistic, rooted in XVIIIth century visions, more and more at odds with societies trends for decentralization, networking, autonomy.
They both nurture the Empire dream, which requires an opposing force, an opposing Empire to be able to exist and mobilize forces and people.
They both speak a lot of values and principles, such as democracy, freedom, … while caring more about power, influence and money … which fits much better with their dwellers, essentially made of bureaucrats and lobbyists.
The true 'Mooners': the 'Baby Boomers'
And last but not least, both cities are run by the true 'Mooners': the 'Baby Boomers' generation. This generation (at least in politics) never could leave up with its dreams, and keeps on confusing wishful thinking and objective assessment. They compose most of both capitals 'think-tanks' where thinking is light while tanks are full. They both can conceive 'grand strategies' where they take command of 'History'. Brussels' talks in the mid-90s about 'being Europe's makers' may echo today's talks in Washington about the 'US Empire standing the test of time'.
It took about 5 years for Brussels to brutally discover that it was much more complicated to build Europe than what it looked like from a 'Mooner perspective'. Let's guess that similar experience will be developed by Washington in the coming 5 years. And in between essential Transatlantic innovations will happen neither in Brussels, neither in Washington.
But of course, despite all that, much may be expected from next EU/US Summit in Washington!
|Message from: geta grama, France Paris - 2003-06-13 05:27:07|
Subject: More Players in the International Scenario
Message sent by Andrea Cañón Arias: Graduate Student in International Business Administration
What we are living today is focusing the world's attention towards US and EU. However, if we pursue a fully transatlantic dialogue there are many more voices, ideas and realities. More players must be considered in the international scenario than the ones in the spotlight. Due to globalization and interdependence the world is realizing that US can no longer bear the weight of being the one and only "superpower", that EU could no longer pretend to have one voice, that other countries cannot turn away so that the mayor league in G8, NATO or the UN Security Council can act.
US and EU have to take a look at neighbor countries and trade partners because the effects of what we are living will extend throughout the world. To maintain peace and world order there are many interests to consider in-between any situation and its resolution. It is not fair that "unilateral" actions may become side choosing situations for other countries without direct participation.
It is a fact that many countries, including my own, want and moreover need to be in good terms with the prime players. But, this shouldn't mean that they have to support an initiative that they may not be able to even face or that they don't agree with. A clear example is the tone of the US government declarations and following actions towards the posture of some countries that were against the war in Iraq. International public domain regrets such actions from freedom fries to diplomatic pressure on Syria. I am a witness myself of US reprisals in response to the "lack of support" from the Mexican government and the consequent reaction of people.
Countries should have a word and a choice, and the prime players should be more open to dialogue, real cooperation and sustainable actions, instead of going for armed conflicts or economic sanctions. There should be a greater effort and resource injection to achieve an international organization's update and efficient performance. We are living the consequences of the great need of true cooperation to balance power, wealth and opportunity, as well as crisis, illiteracy, disease and conflict. Or else, as we live in a globalized and growing interdependent world, we may end up experiencing and managing the effects of a crisis unchained by the huge gaps among countries and the lack of commitment to a common goal: peace, order and sustainable development.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-06-10 01:22:38|
Subject: Imploding From Within: The EU'S Foreign Policy Architecture
by Brian Murphy: Co-Director, EU Center Univ. System of Georgia, (Sam Nunn Scholl of Int. Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology)
In theory, the lessons from the invasion of Iraq are coming in a timely manner for the European Union as it debates a future constitution that will define its structure, decision-making procedures, and policies. Everything is on the table for revision and that is good as the EU's flawed foreign policy architecture experienced a collapse during the tense moments of the past few months. This embarrassing failure of diplomacy should be corrected if the EU is to have any stature in global forums. As European Commission President Romano Prodi stated in Florence, "Europe should have a role; saying that it should is exaggerated because we are not yet united to speak with one voice. But if Europe had a common goal, in these days it could have a very big influence in the world scene. But instead, we are being laughed at." Nonetheless, it is likely that national self-interest will override any serious transformation of a continent without leadership or unified leverage at the international level.
The problem is not rooted in popular opposition. A May 2003 poll-just after the war in Iraq-found the European public committed in a desire to obtain greater coherence in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. According to the Eurostat survey, 63 percent endorsed a common foreign policy while 71 percent favored a common defense policy as well. These numbers, slightly down from the previous year, reflect a willingness to submerge national prerogatives in the interest of collective influence on the world stage. This tendency is not shared by political leaders who hesitate to relinquish independent control of foreign policy for the straightjacket of lowest-common-denominator diplomacy. The advantage of greater weight that must be shared mutually is not enough to outweigh discretion in defending national priorities. As an EU official complained at the height of the Iraq crisis, "Nobody cared about Europe." National self-interest will remain the engine of the EU's foreign policy even after the constitutional revision is concluded, ensuring an ineffective global presence.
Aside from collective influence, it is difficult to identify what benefits would accrue to larger member states in the EU from a genuine common foreign policy. In the opinion of Stuart Eizenstat, former U.S. ambassador to the EU, "The principal member states are not willing to relinquish their prerogatives. ... As long as this remains the case, the European Union will not develop a diplomatic and political weight commensurate with its economic and commercial strength." While the smaller member states have little reluctance in ceding additional authority to the EU since they would acquire at least some voice in international affairs in return, the larger states would be assigned the unfamiliar status of secondary players. The exchange is hardly an attractive bargain for the autonomy that would be forfeited only to become marginalized in the process.
In foreign policy terms, the EU was not a factor in persuading the United States to amend its approach toward Iraq. Yet neither were any of the member states. A harmonized EU, on the other hand, might have possessed the capability to make a significant difference. American unilateralism might be caused as much by the EU's internal deficiencies than by U.S. preference. Quite clearly, there is no credible partner with which to negotiate. This situation is not about to change. In its current draft, the EU's constitution requires member states to do no more than to "support the Union's common foreign and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity." Failure is the inevitable outcome.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-06-03 10:43:13|
Subject: Is There an EU after the Iraq Crisis?
by Tim Erickson: President of Politalk
There is little that I can add to a discussion about the relative strength of the EU in the wake of Iraq, that has not already been said by more experienced and astute EU observers than myself. However, what I might contribute to this discussion are my own observations about the perceived strength of the EU here in the heartland of the United States.
The good news for Europe, is that the war in Iraq reminded many Americans that Europe is still out there and playing a role in international politics. For a brief moment in time, what was happening in Europe really mattered to a portion of the US public that would otherwise have had a hard time finding Europe on a map. I suppose that many Americans continued to take Europe for granted, assuming that when the US called, our allies would be there waiting for us.
The bad news, is that the focus in these parts, isn't so much on Europe as it is on individual European states. Frankly, I think that many more American's, than I would like to believe, have bought into the "New Europe" vs. "Old Europe" paradigm that US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld made so popular.
My European friends take some pleasure in the fact that "Europe" took a position contrary to the US and at the very minimum forced a debate. From the perspective of my neighbors in Minnesota, Europe did nothing of the kind. Its commonly accepted here, that France and Germany acted as obstacles, while the rest of Europe lined up behind and in support of US policies.
In the US, frustration over the war with Iraq centers not on Europe, but on France. I see bumper stickers that read, "First Iraq, then France" and get email from citizens who vow never to visit France again. I really can't imagine such hostility being directed at Europe in general.
Most of the people that I meet on a day to day basis, are not even aware of the European Convention or a proposed European constitution. One of the outcomes of the war with Iraq, is that when they hear about these revolutionary changes that are taking place in Europe, its going to be pretty hard for them to believe it. They will ask themselves how a continent that was so divided could ever agree on a single foreign policy - and they will shake their heads.
While within Europe, the war with Iraq may have served to strengthen European identity, which in the long run is good for the EU. Within the US, recent events only highlighted the differences between European nations and have encouraged a mindset in Washington DC, that Europe can be divided and individual nations played off of one another.
In the wake of the war, Europe has something to prove to itself and the world about its ability to come together and act in concert. However, the effect of the war, is that many of us have grown more skeptical that this will ever really happen.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-06-03 10:42:26|
Subject: Is the EU weaker or stronger after the Iraqi Crisis?
by Wolfgang Bücherl, Research Fellow and Project Director on transatlantic relations with the Center for Applied Policy Research (C.A.P), Munich, Germany
The Iraq crisis served as magnifying glass, making visible fundamental differences inside the EU and revealing the weaknesses of its foreign policy making.
1. Obviously there are differences among the member states over basic principles in international relations. To name just two: The use of force and Europe's relationship with the US. Despite the Foreign Affairs Council's efforts to define the use of force as a measure of last resort, the interpretations of such a formula diverged greatly. The fact that some member states supported the Iraq war - be it actively or through logistical or political support - while others opposed it, tells a story of its own. Similarly in transatlantic relations: While for some Member States one reason for siding with the US was to prevent a chasm in the transatlantic alliance, others did not accept this argument. There seem to be differing concepts of "the West" prevailing in the minds of European leaders. While some are willing to accept a unipolar West with the US as the leading power; others would like to achieve a bipolar West with the EU as a counterweight to America.
2. It was additionally revealed that at times of crisis some member states do not seem to be ready, nor willing, to create common positions on such vital issues. Considerations of domestic politics or national foreign policy strategy superseded the quest for a common approach inside the CFSP-framework. This fact hints at weaknesses in the Treaty provisions. Obviously the common institutions did not seem to enjoy the necessary respect among member states in order to be considered as the prime means of consultation, and they did not seem to have the means to convince member states to use them as prime forums for consultation and decision-making. This may be in part linked to the perception among the member states, who feel that dealing with the crisis inside the EU framework was too sluggish in order to keep the pace with the sheer speed of events.
3. The EU could not integrate its members, nor the accession candidates into a wider European consensus. Although the accession countries in Central and Eastern Europe are not yet members of the Union, their stance in the Iraqi crisis did matter, as it made the fracturing of Europe more evident. In this regard the crisis provided a taste of the difficulties of consensus-building and common decision making in CFSP in an enlarged EU.
So, if we take into account theses factors - has the Union become weaker?
Currently the EU's prestige appears weakened since its shortfalls have surfaced. It has also become apparent that European integration is not out of the woods in the field of CFSP. There is the risk of a "roll-back" that could make European foreign policy irrelevant.
Furthermore, the credibility of the EU as a unified actor has been weakened. The fact that member states made only scant use of the EU framework in the crisis undermined their commitment of making the Union a strong international actor. It neither increased the acceptance of the CFSP's crisis management on Iraq in the world nor among the citizens of the EU.
However, these weaknesses do not necessarily have to continue into the future. The history of European integration shows that crises sometimes had a positive long-term effect. They can create a momentum for change and trigger the willingness among the member states and institutions to undertake reforms in order to better prepare the Union for future crises.
Therefore, CFSP/ESDP has entered a crucial stage. This coincides with the Convention's proposals for a strengthening of CFSP and ESDP, and the initiative on the part of Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg to deepen integration in security and defense policy.
Keeping the EU's weaknesses in consideration, the future efforts to strengthen the Union as a foreign policy actor should center around the following aspects:
The Union has to conduct a dialogue about its basic principles in international relations. Such a dialogue should in particular refer to the use of force in international relations and also to the EU's relations with the US and with NATO. This should be channeled into a dialogue on a comprehensive strategic concept for the EU, that should encompass the goals and instruments of CFSP. It should particularly outline the conditions of use of the various instruments, that the EU has at hand in the context of CFSP/ESDP. High Commissioner for CFSP, Javier Solana, has been given the task of presenting a global foreign policy strategy of the EU by June, that could become the basis of a broader dialogue.
The Union also needs to ensure that national foreign policies are better coordinated in its institutions and to empower its institutions to react more quickly. The Convention proposal of creating a European Minister of Foreign Affairs - that has been issued earlier in a similar fashion by other actors such as the Commission or various think-tanks - is a step in the right direction. The merger of the positions of the High Representative for CFSP with the Commissioner for External Relations could aid in further improving the coordination between the Council and the Commission. There should also be a formal Council of Defense Ministers in order to reflect the growing importance of ESDP inside the wider CFSP framework. Also, there should be provisions in the Treaties for ad-hoc meetings of the European Council in order to enable the Union to react more rapidly to international developments.
Finally, the Union needs to find ways of improving its consensus building and decision making processes in an enlarged EU. A possible way of achieving this goal would be to extend the use of qualified majority voting to all non-military fields of CFSP. Another way would be to allow for enhanced cooperation in foreign and defense issues among member states. However, this should be kept under the provision that such cooperation shall always remain open to all-round participation of member states and it should be conceived as a platform on which member states can participate when they deem themselves ready.
With the adjourning of the Convention this summer and the start of the Intergovernmental Conference, the coming months shall mark a crucial time. It is after this watershed that one will once again be faced with the question of whether the EU had been strengthened or weakened by the Iraqi crisis.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-27 02:18:58|
Subject: Is the EU weaker or stronger after the Iraqi War? - a student's perspective -
by Yolanda McCollister, Student in Miami Dade Community College.
I believe that the European Union is weaker after the Iraqi War. It has been said : United We Stand, Divided we fall!
The decision to declare war on Iraq caused much dialogue among citizens of the world.
As members of this global community, we are used to hearing about border wars, conflict between Israel and Palestine and conflicts among other neighboring countries. These conflicts are either religious or territorial. However, the war with Iraq was based on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the threat these weapons presented to our global community and the issues of trust and honesty.
Trust and honesty are at the core of all societies. Each person has to ask the question : Was the war with Iraq necessary?
Some people believe, yes it was necessary.
Other people believe, there were ulterior reasons on the part of decisionmakers.
The answer lies somewhere in between. What does this mean for EU leaders and citizens? EU leaders and citizens are facing many issues at the same time. Leaders,as well as citizens, are divided on many of the issues facing the EU. The Iraqi war
exposed the difference of opinions even further, not only from within each country but also between countries. France and Germany opposed the attack on Iraq, while UK and Italy were in favor. These are four countries out of the 15 that make up the EU. France and the UK are two of the permanent members in the UN Security Council. By representing opposing views these countries neutralize their voting power in the UN. When the question is asked : Is the EU weaker or stronger after the Iraqi War? the analysis would indicate that the division among the member countries would make the EU weaker at this time.
While striving to develop is own identity, the European Union is organizing itself to emerge with a new image.The relationship with Iraq, the relationship with the US, the financial responsibility. Such innovations would rapidly test the salience and interest of the EU to its public. Combined with a genuinely clear, sharp new EU constitution, this could represent a huge leap forward in building a real European political and public space. Nor should it be forgotten, as was underlined at a recent Transatlantic Center debate, that the creation of the US political culture and demos followed, and did not precede, the writing of the US constitution. Leaps forward are possible. Moreover, the fact that the future EU will not be a federal state on the US model, but will continue to be in effect some combination of the US and the United Nations (UN), is all the more reason to emphasise and develop participative democracy and not simply institutional change.
But what about the possibility of a European constitution?
The EU is about sharing sovereignty. But we do not need to speak about a constitution because it embodies and implies a separate layer of sovereignty. Rather, we should look at having a constitutional text or Treaty, a simplified basic Treaty, which includes fundamental rights, so that everybody can read and understand the EU values, what it stands for and its basic institutional structures.Such a division of the current impenetrable lengthy set of treaties into a basic Treaty and other texts with less essential provisions, also raises the perennial issue of the national veto, with the possibility of retaining the veto only for the basic Treaty and moving to majority voting elsewhere. One of the fundamental challenges outlined by the Laeken declaration was the question of how Europe, as a power wanting to change the course of world affairs in such a way as to benefit not just the rich countries but also the poorest could shoulder its responsibilities in the governance of globalisation. Barnier is clear that Europe has a role to play in the world and must be a political power but he says this must also be part of the political verification at the start of the debate: Do member states want Europe to play a global role?
He underscores the many changes brought by 11 September: The US understood that it was not invulnerable. These terrible attacks showed there are new threats and risks in the post Cold War world and that we must all adapt in the face of the the US has made it their fight, but the fight against terrorism cannot be done just by the US. They have need of us and we have need of them. We cannot impose this change, we must explain it and show its value. We must recall the basic aims of the European project on peace, stability and democracy. And we must show that it is in the interests of all citizens and enterprises that these countries next to us in Europe have the same standards, and rules, for conditions of work, for the environment, for production and so on the challenges facing the U.N. and the world community are daunting. To meet such challenges, the world community's response must be quicker, more targeted, and better coordinated than ever before. As the world's only truly universal organization in terms both of its mandate and its membership the U.N. has an essential role in the 21st Century.
Much of the discussion by the 8 members the world's seven richest nations plus Russia centered on the peace road map and was followed by a joint statement.[It] offers a historic opportunity to solve the conflict... within the framework of two viable states living side by side with secure and recognized borders and to bring decades of human suffering to an end.
Other talks focused on North Korea, Afghanistan, India Pakistan relations and the reconstruction of Iraq.French officials said the meeting between Mr de Villepin and Mr Powell, which lasted just 45 minutes, was "friendly and frank". Relations among 8 countries were badly damaged by the Iraq crisis, when Canada, France, Germany and Russia opposed the US drive to attack Iraq a policy supported by the UK, Italy and Japan.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-20 12:35:10|
Subject: Europe after the Crisis in Iraq - Building Strength in Adverse Circumstances
by Colette Mazzucelli : Co-Founder, TIMSSE, Rotary Center for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution, Sciences Po Paris, and Deputy Director General, IBC, Cambridge
Recent disagreements in transatlantic relations have resulted in numerous lessons that member states and citizens may learn collectively and individually. In Europe's Union on the eve of enlargement, the first lesson is strikingly clear. It resonates particularly to the leaders in the European Council and the Convention on the Future of Europe. Make European citizens an integral part of the Union's reality.
Is this not already the case in light of the single European market (SEM) and the achievement of the Euro? Not exactly, in that these ambitious European projects realize another objective. As cornerstone accomplishments, the SEM and the Euro respond to an earlier, necessary historical vocation. Its message resounded no less urgently. Bring the reality of Europe's Community and its newly formed Union to the citizens of its member states.
Our first lesson is illustrated in the Draft EU Constitution that includes, in Title VI, Articles 33-37 regarding the democratic life of the Union. Article 34(1) is clear on this matter in that "Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union." Article 3, in Title I, states unequivocally the Union's objectives. According to Article 3(1) "The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples." This is a reference to the initial vocation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)- to make war between France and Germany impossible.
This is the aim to which the Union also should aspire in the world. Making war impossible is a vocation for which citizens across the Union's member states express unwavering support. It is a message that their leaders advocate in the search to create a just world order. The goal is likely to remain elusive as long as arms sales continue to make small-scale wars probable and the support of military dictators in poorer countries possible. The Iraq crisis demonstrated the citizens' alternative point of view to that of military conflict, expressed by the liberal democratic majority. This strength, rooted in participatory action, revealed itself in adverse circumstances. It is a reality on which the Union can build as it engages in constitutional reform to increase popular involvement.
Concretely, the right to participate brings us to a second lesson driven home by transatlantic disagreements. Cherish diversity in aspirations for unity. Democratic participation offers citizens a stake in the Union's evolution. It also creates a European consciousness. This consciousness is developed constructively through experiences of diverse cultures, languages and traditions in the Union. It is not merely the result of actions taken in opposition to other countries.
There are different ways to promote a European consciousness. All require the creative use of imagination, a desire to innovate and energy to realize. One idea is to establish a shared curricular offering for elementary schools across the Union. This curriculum would teach children about the lives of historical figures responsible for European integration. Simple lessons could be designed in multiple languages with biographies and photos of personalities. In a spirit of inquiry, these lessons would help us to learn about the obstacles Europe had to overcome to establish its Union. The offering could also be made available in a series of learning modules on the Web as part of civics instruction, open to Europeans across the Continent and to other peoples around the globe.
Another idea is to create a website about a conflict in Europe that has its roots in nationalism. At least one example already exists along these lines, The Cyprus Conflict, http://www.cyprus-conflict.net. This is an educational website that aims to construct a common historical narrative. Here we discover a way to use the Web to create shared "place making" to foster mutual understanding, tolerance and reconciliation.
Citizen participation in a Union requires that Europeans have a reference point early in life that orients their curiosity to its emerging political reality. In the 21st century, lifelong learning in all its forms, including the use of information technologies, is destined to impact on democratic participation in novel ways. The Union's future leaders are already experiencing Europe's emerging polity in the education they choose. By traveling to countries other than their native lands, learning third and fourth languages, including that of Web-based communication, and experiencing worlds outside Brussels, the next generation of leaders is preparing to assume the responsibilities inherent in the complex nature of unity.
In so doing, they realize that Europe is as much a state of mind as a market and a currency, constructed in daily experiences that form the thread of life. The crisis in Iraq showed this generation the need for Europe as an actor in world politics with an articulate voice and a message that is heard.
Other lessons we learn from the transatlantic disagreements of previous months are perhaps the most fundamental and groundbreaking. Renew the transatlantic partnership from the ground up. Use the communications revolution to create an extended popular family. Forge citizens' bonds across the Atlantic for the family members to stay in touch. The origins of TIESWeb emphasized this vision. The extension of the Newropeans Democracy Marathon across the Atlantic embodies these aspirations. Two initial Newropeans programs in one day recently in New York demonstrated that travel for transatlantic understanding is a reality. This reality may, in the not too distant future, make "the peoples' concorde" a necessity.
The crisis in Iraq and the transatlantic misunderstandings that resulted illustrate that European Union and transatlantic partnership are indispensable elements to sustain peace in the new century. Adverse circumstances can present us all with opportunities to realize this fundamental premise.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-20 12:34:30|
Subject: US officials in the Convention? OK, in exchange of EU officials in the Senate or Supreme Court !
by Franck Biancheri: President of TIESWeb and Director for Studies and Strategy of Europe 2020.
The CIIS just released a very audacious proposal in favour of having US top officials participating in the Convention on the Future of Europe.
It could be a very efficient way indeed to rebuild EU/US relations and prevent further Transatlantic drift ... provide it would be a two-way process. Otherwise not only does it stand no chance to be accepted, but pushed forward as such it would precisely increase the drift between the two continents as Europeans will see it as another imbalanced US approach of EU/US relations. Pushed forward this way it could only make Europeans think that the drift is rooted in the whole of US elite's vision and not only into G.W. Bush administration.
Therefore it has to be balanced. But how could it be?
As far as I know, the US do not envisage in a near future any updating of their 200 years old constitution, rooted into European ideas of the XVIIIth century. So what solution could be found on the US side to allow European top officials to join US essentiel law making process?
Maybe a European presence into the US Senate? Or a European judge into the US Supreme Court?
One or maybe both of these ideas could really be a balancing, and therefore politically meaningfull act, to rebuild EU/US relations for the longer term.
Tough to implement, some may say. Definitely! But far more realistic than the one-sided proposal coming from CISS.
The Iraq crisis catalysed major changes in EU/US relations. As TIES (Transatlantic Information Exchange System) has been warning since 1997 (with few decision-makers listening on both sides of the Atlantic), EU and US public opinions are now at odds in many ways. Including (if not even more) in the countries whose leaders have pledged full support to Washington during this crisis.
In a way the US did loose the Europeans in this crisis. I mean that European citizens now see the US with a great concern and feel reluctant to follow any US-led path. This underlines the need for bold initiatives if we want to prevent EU/US conflicts to become a daily process.
But it also asks for true innovation. American and European futures are now on separate courses. It is only by building common projects and developing interactions of a new kind between the two societies (on the political level indeed, but seen from the side of civil societies rather than from the side of those top-leaders who were unable to prevent the drift) , that Transatlantic partnership can have a constructive input into the 21st century.
One-sided approaches are not only doomed to fail; but they will increase opposition.
The key to future relations is to offer to the other side ... not to ask from it. What can US participants in the Convention bring to Europeans? What can a European member of US Senate or US Supreme Court bring to the Americans? These are the preliminary questions to bear in mind.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-19 02:21:29|
Subject: Will Awareness and Action Translate in Strength for EU?
by Andrea Cañón: Studied International Business Administration in Universidad Anáhuac del Sur
The crisis in Iraq is a turning point in history, international relations, conflict resolution, warfare, human rights. It was up to the prime players' actions, and the international community's reactions that we can actually tell results, and more important lessons.
In my opinion there is a lot to learn, this is a great opportunity to enhance international mechanisms and cooperation, instead of experiencing a domino effect with other situations that we are witnessing. To start, more attention should be paid to disarming programs, because it is the only way that this will not be the motive or the excuse for another war. And more important, there will be more resources available to invest in humanitarian projects (education, health, agriculture).
Another valuable lesson is that even though we are becoming one global community, we still should consider cultural differences and background as well as economic status, that will obviously translate in different ways to face a conflict. Maybe from now on, we could put more emphasis in our similarities and our common goal: world order and development. This way every country can contribute in it own way to a common project without leaving anyone out, so we won't have to deal with resentments that end up in terrorism, for example.
The war even ended up putting in the spotlight everything we have been believing in and working for during decades. It made us aware of the various paradoxes we are facing in what we consider to be the "free" world, that we can no longer see everything in black and white, that our globalized world is facing growing challenges and interdependence.
In the case of the EU, there is much to say. As an integration initiative it has unlimited opportunities and potential. But in order to move forward in the process to achieve its goals, it had to stop pretending to have only one voice and that all the gaps and challenges were already covered. Today, EU's countries get to choose if they want to cooperate or to annul each other's efforts by pulling in opposite directions.
EU's decision-making process and institutions should evolve. To the eyes of the world it may sometimes be reduced to a conflict among egos and sovereignties. The most important thing to have in mind is that in-between policies, there are thousands of people who experience directly the effects of decisions; and moreover, that due to globalization and interdepence, all of us in a way or another are going to feel those effects. Which effects would EU want to experience? Is it on the right path to get there? What changes must take place? These are only a few of the questions that can cross anyone's mind. What matters is how EU wants to answer them, and how history will remember those answers.
In addition, we should also take into consideration EU's role in the international scenario and world order. It is a fact that EU concentrates several of the richest countries in the world. This richness translates in terms of wealth, economy, institutions, society, culture; therefore EU has considerable strengths that members can reach out for. But it also means that each member guards their particular strengths with a certain level of understandable jealousy, and even more, if they have to make concessions to other members.
Regardless of that, we have EU as an example of integration and policy exercising. We also see it as a key player in the global balance of power. EU evens US in an evolving international diplomatic scheme, represents a trading and investment alternative to developing countries, offers endless options for superior education and professional careers.
After giving some thought to all of this, Iraq's crisis can be seen in two rather opposite terms:
a valid proof of all the voids in EU's structure and institutions
an event that has given the opportunity to realize which aspects should be improved
In my personal opinion, knowledge and awareness become a true strength when they are followed by action. That is exactly what EU is doing, so to me it can only be stronger after this crisis. Politicians and civil society woke-up to their actual reality. Everyone ended up realizing that for the first time they acted on their own, and that they should seek even more dialogue and agreement.
Europeans even decided to take one step further and expand the initiative. After this, members will indeed face more challenges and obstacles. But they cannot compare to the enormous potential of a stronger EU with even broader perspectives, strengths, and opportunities.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-15 10:09:39|
Subject: Do I Trust the UN?
by Tim Erickson: President of Politalk
In her resignation speech to the British parliament, Clair Short branded as shameful the resolution being offered by the US and Great Britain, to bring an end to the economic sanctions against Iraq. Her concerns were focused on the limited role granted to the United Nations in the shaping of a post war Iraqi government.
She seems to believe, as many people do, that the UN is better equipped to rebuild a countries political infrastructure than the United States is. I agree that the United States appears to be doing a fairly bad job of managing post-war Iraq and that our nation-building skills are limited, at best. But, the truth is, that I don't trust the UN any more than I trust George Bush, with the job of building a stable post war government in Iraq. I would like to, but I don't.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of the United Nations and a committed supporter. I'm even a little ashamed at some of the negligent attitudes that my own government has shown towards this important institution. In fact, the US may very well be partially responsible my own mistrust of the UN. But, the truth is, that I'm just not convinced that the United Nations as it exists today, is capable of dealing with problems as complex as Iraq - pre or post war.
I'm not excusing the go-it-alone attitude that is so common in the US today. In fact I strongly believe in multilateral institutions and problem solving. I find it "shameful" that the United States continues to minimize the role of United Nations and the greater interests of the international community.
At the same time, lets be realistic. I believe in the principle of involving the UN in this process. That does not mean, that I believe the UN is more qualified or likely to succeed than the US and Great Britain. In fact, there are real and legitimate dangers that UN involvement could slow progress towards a legitimate and stabile Iraqi government.
Despite this danger, I believe that US and European efforts to strengthen the capabilities and political processes of the United Nations will pay off in the long run and that the rebuilding of Iraq poses an opportunity to move this process forward. However, the US cannot do this alone. As long as so many European leaders and citizens operate under the assumption that the United Nations is capable, as it currently exists, of resolving complex problems like those in Iraq, we are not likely to make much progress.
In the spirit of being "Transatlantically Incorrect", I would like to suggest that what we need, is a common understanding of what the limitations of the United Nations are. We need a real commitment to multilateral cooperation that extends beyond using the United Nations as a rhetorical weapon against the United States. We need to rethink the "affirmative action" policies of the United Nations that gives real power and authority to nations and leaders, whose only qualification for the job are geographic or economic. As it currently operates, the UN decision making process appears to be too easily manipulated by individual countries operating in their own interest (including the United States).
I don't know how to fix the UN, but I suspect that we must start with some honest discussions about its limitations and weaknesses. Of course, to have that discussion, we need to know that everyone at the table is really interested in the long term health of the institution and not just there to undermine whatever credibility it does have.
These are the opinions of one "transatlantically incorrect" citizen looking forward to your reactions and comments.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-15 10:09:07|
Subject: Is the EU weaker or stronger after the Iraq crisis?
by Tim Rogmans, Integration Manager, Gerling NCM
As somebody who is usually naively optimistic it comes as a nasty surprise to myself to conclude that the EU is weaker after the Iraq crisis. Still, Johan Cruyff (ex-professional footbal player, amateur philosopher and a natural pessimist) once said that 'every advantage has a drawback'. Turning this around, I will conclude that every drawback presents an opportunity.
The main opportunity from the Iraq crisis for the EU is that it has highlighted a number of shortcomings in the EU that already existed but that people mistakenly believed did not matter enough in order for them to be treated with real urgency. If the Iraq crisis has served to highlight the need to act, then something good will have come out of it.
On foreign policy, the EU's lack of a common policy has been well demonstrated and has increased the pressures for reduced EU influence. Now the US 'hardliners' even mistake France and Germany as representative for the whole of the EU, trying to push the EU in a corner of anti-American, anti-Israeli cowards. For example, many US congressmen and senators recently signed a petition that cast doubt on the validity of the 'Roadmap for peace' between the Israelis and Palestinians, due to supposed lack of credibility of its signatories (which include, besides the US, the EU, the UN and Russia). Now that the true nature of those behind the Roadmap has been revealed in the Iraq war, the petition implies, the US should not take it too seriously either. Similarly, the loud calls for a dominant role for the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq seem to fall on deaf ears.
On defence, it is clear that Europe does not have its own viable defence capability or policy. Here, it remains to be seen whether the recent effort of France and Germany provides the leadership which others will join or whether it will further marginalise France and Germany in global politics. It is already clear that some European countries are willing to build a European defence capability and strengthen the European defence industry. However, Europe should make sure that the awarding of defence contracts should still be done in a fair and transparent way (even if this risks that not all defence contracts will stay with European suppliers! The process for awarding the military Airbus engines to Europrop is not a sign of strength).
On the functioning of democracy, the most striking element of Europe's participation in the Iraq war is not the opposition to war of some countries (France and Germany), but the active support or participation of a significant number of European nations (for example UK, Spain, Poland). This participation is striking because it was against the wishes of the vast majority of their populations, who saw this war as unnecessary and unjustified. As Franck Biancheri noted in his article for Tiesweb, the European populations were in fact relatively united in their opposition to war. Several European governments went against the wishes of their people to support war and thereby made Europe look divided.
The opportunity here is for European people to have more of a direct say in the decisions that are (or should be) made at a European level. The Bush administration has helped by antagonising so many Europeans that it is now becoming clear what distinguishes Europeans. Not only on the Iraq war, but also on the environment (see Kyoto) and multilaterism (see international Court of Justice). This is not to say that European-ness should be defined as anti-Amercian. Many Americans also don't agree with the most unilateralist policies of the Bush administration and democratic governments do change. Also, Europeans should remember that they have more in common with the people of the Unites States than with anyone else.
On the economic front, Europe may begin to realise that it should count on its own efforts to come out of the current slowdown. Internal reforms are needed in many fields (pensions, labour market, agricultural policy) to make Europe more dynamic. Again, Europe should not become strong 'at the expense' of the US, but 'together with' the US, opening markets while respecting the environment and workers' rights.
The Iraq crisis and the events preceding it have taken the shine off some of the EU's most impressive recent achievements, including a successful introduction of the euro and preparations for enlargement. The EU political system looks weaker as a result of Iraq but there is now increased awareness that profound changes are needed.
|Message from: hasandy, Mexico Cuernavaca - 2003-05-09 04:54:50|
Subject: The Role of the UN rebuilding Iraq
THE ROLE OF THE UN REBUILING IRAQ
UN is facing the biggest of challenges and the hardest of times. I wouldn't say it failed, but now it is pretty clear that countries left aside international organizations, that now need to deeply reform. UN definitely will not play a role at all in Iraq's political reconstruction, but it could provide some objetive experts and observers to ensure transparency in the process, and the pursue of the best interests of Iraqi people.
However, there could be a great performance in the humanitarian aid. And it could as well observe or even direct the distribution and management of this help.
Hasbleidwiey Andrea Cañón Arias
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-09 01:18:23|
Subject: Europe/Europe & The US/Europe: Risking A New Conversation
by Nonie Valentine, M.Ed., L.M.H.C., American Psychotherapist in Prague, Czech Republic.
A psychotherapist has no business meddling in international affairs. Or does she? It's just that the parallels between US/Europe and Europe/Europe conflicts and the couples struggles I've been seeing in my consulting office are too obvious to ignore.
Putin snubs Blair after inviting him to his dacha and the US burns with desire for retribution against France. Germany tries to regain a foothold in the transatlantic alliance while gathering with other anti-war nations to discuss European defense, igniting accusations of undermining NATO. France is stung by the loss of its investments in Iraq and is determined to be the alternative to American hegemonic power. The US tells Europe it doesn't really need allies and Europe tries to argue for the importance of "soft power." Everybody's asking how serious the transatlantic rift is. How long it is likely to last. Placing their bets.
It's time, guys, (because they're mostly guys) to try something else besides the posturing, verbal fencing, the speaking in code, the enactment of national wounds, and enter into a new kind of conversation that can actually help.
But who wants to try out a new conversation that might actually help? The Europeans might - they'd like to be heard after all - but not so much the US which holds the ostensible power and finds partnership a distraction. Iraq has brought to the surface not only disagreements about power and national interest, but also long-standing differences in world-view which are unlikely to melt away.
A couple doesn't normally come into psychotherapy to alter its unhappy conversations until it is suffering badly enough, or rather until the person who is seen to be more powerful is suffering enough; in traditional relationships, usually the husband. The wife will try everything to get the husband in the door early on but he resists right to the edges of his fingernails until he feels keenly enough the danger that he might lose her.
If we make the leap to the global picture, borrowing from Kagan's dubious analogy, Europe-as-Venus can't get US-as-Mars anywhere near a therapist's office for a proper conversation between partners. The relationship may be awry from the Europeans' point of view but the US is not hurting enough and may not hurt enough to engage for quite some time. Perhaps the results of overextending itself militarily and/or undernourishing its own economy will bring it to real conversation. But perhaps that, or a host of other scenarios to bring it to the threshold, won't happen, and the US is right; it really doesn't need Europe.
But I suspect you don't believe that either. I can't imagine yet what might motivate the US to enter into this new kind of conversation but meanwhile Europe has a golden opportunity to use its apparent rejection by the superpower to forge its own more coherent identity and prepare itself for any openings. In couples therapy where the wife, who is generally the one with less open power, wants to repair the relationship, you have to help her find her own sources of power: so she will be able to confront her husband cleanly on important issues, and/or to sort out how to make it on her own if he cannot be an engaged partner. Analagously, a Europe divided and weakened is no match for the US; no partner to which it would respectfully listen.
So what is to be done? First, gather the de Villepins and the Straws and the other influential persons from both "old" and "new" Europe involved in the key divisive issues for a series of daring, deeper conversations that help to build a more coherent European voice. These would be facilitated dialogues alongside the usual working structures in which persons of influence already participate - dialogues which are specifically designed to handle tensions and taboo issues differently than in diplomatic approaches. This approach is not about debate where one battles to be right while the other is wrong. It is about creating the safety to express one's experience genuinely, to listen well, and to communicate the response to what the other is saying not as an attack, but as an acknowledgment of one's own experience. There is a moment to moment quality about it. Dialogue-not-debate is on the one hand an art form that is a marvel to behold, and on the other it is a plain skill that needs to be learned and can be learned, even by persons of influence unused to such techniques. There are good people around the world who know how to do this but they are still largely invisible in the arena of international affairs.
Where I am, in Prague, discussions about the Czech expulsion of Sudetan Germans at the end of World War II repeatedly deteriorate into bitter arguments for and against compensation. The brutality of the expulsion, and of the Nazi regime in which it was embedded, has made this an extremely painful issue to speak about for both Germans and Czechs. Between the lines of the "rational" arguments can be heard the rage and pain of both sides. The powerful material precisely between the lines is what needs to be addressed in order to cleanse the atmosphere for genuinely rational discussion to take place.
Better versions of dialogue include with the rational the emotional and intuitive aspects of participants' experience, which are normally left out. In a very specific way. This is most compelling when historical wounds come to the surface and stall negotiations as between Israel and Palestine or England and Northern Ireland. Far-fetched as it may sound, the emotional history of nations simply has to be cleaned, not suppressed or bypassed, and this can only happen where emotion too is welcomed and worked with in very careful and precise ways.
Some time ago German-speaking members of the European Parliament asked that German be included as one of its working languages along with English and French. This raised for other members the spector of German dominance, too frightening and taboo a historical wound to address openly. As I understand it, the use of German was officially approved but it is not in fact used in practice. If that's so, I recognize this as a common outcome - that is, unconscious sabotage - in discussions where the underlying emotional issues have no safe or legitimate place to be worked through.
Only a few of the principles underpinning transformative dialogue can be mentioned here, so it's hard to convey the uncanny nature of the work. But the principles add up to a process in which unusually difficult differences can be aired honestly and at the same time without violence. This is no easy task for any of us and calls for good faciliation, discipline, and then practice. But in my experience participants who develop the ability to tolerate the "heat" get completely seduced by the surprising creative intelligence that shows up in such a process.
A forum was faciliated by American psychologist, Arnold Mindell, in which Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people gathered to address psychological residue from Japan's damage to China and Korea during World War II. Each group had made preparations beforehand, but when they actually came together the tension was extremely high. One Korean woman listened closely to the apologies made by the Japanese, but in the meeting's very last moments, as things seemed to be coming together, she spoke out bitterly about the Japanese attacks on Korea. She said sadly that though she appreciated the insights gained from the various sides, in her heart she knew she would never, could never, forgive them, regardless of how apologetic they were today.
There was a pause and someone spoke briefly in Japanese, then to the surprise of those in the large hall, every Japanese person present stood up and then threw himself to the ground. Face to the floor, each one admitted his guilt and vowed never to allow this to happen again. The woman could hold back no longer and with many others in the room, burst into floods of tears.
The dialogue is not a "fix." It is, though, a way of opening new and deeper ground between groups caught in conflict, prejudice, and suspicion. It taps in some inexplicable way a deeper organizing principle at work in a group, even in a group of apparently incompatible people and aims. The idea is that by adhering to particular ground rules, a quality of conversation can emerge where unexpected solutions become possible. The principles of dialogue applied skillfully are, as one facilitator puts it, an expression of "deep democracy." Isn't that what we're after? Here are a few basics.
1. Every voice is indispensable and expresses an integral part of the whole. Seek out and include the normally silenced voices.
2. Communicate subjectively rather than objectively.
3. Expect and invite tensions to reveal themselves. Proceed slowly and respectfully in order to open hard differences truthfully yet without damage.
4. Practice repeatedly including and tolerating all opposing views and seemingly incompatible experiences that emerge.
5. Acknowledge and make explicit power differences rather than bury them.
Dialogue like this is a tall order for policymakers and public figures who are used to a primarily rational, legalistic, and debate-oriented framework, but it's exactly the limitation of the known framework that is likely to keep the transatlantic and the intra-Europe relationship mired in conflict. If committed and influential Europeans start by undertaking the riskier conversation I propose amongst themselves (with help) they will be addressing all the surface issues you know better than I: post-Iraq differences, re-aligned relations with the US, the challenges of enlargement, agricultural policy, immigration, terrorism, and so on. But underneath will be a host of other issues simmering: reinvigorated rivalries, loss of former empire, suspicions between so-called old and new Europe, other national wounds, unfinished business, and unaddressed stereotypes. These need a place to be handled so they don't continue to distort policy and undermine substance. Faciliated dialogue that includes "the hard stuff" in a truthful and responsible way, doesn't inevitably spell change of policy, but it can. I think it can help alter long-standing national wounds and enmities so that policy conversation is transformed and common tasks actually work. If Europeans would be this daring, how strengthening this process will be for them in the transatlantic conversation which lies ahead.
If there is suffering enough. If there is will enough.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-05-07 02:59:34|
Subject: Is the EU weaker or stronger after this crisis?
by Franck Biancheri, President of TIESWeb
For many people in Europe or in the US, the answer to this question seems obvious: the EU comes out weaker. Just take a look at the picture: on the one hand, US forces easily defeat Saddam's army, showing US supremacy at war; on the other hand, European countries are completely divided upon the question of the course Europe should take on Iraq issues. No need to go any further: Europe is weaker than ever.
But, is a photography sufficient to assess reality? Don't we rather need to watch the film in order to understand the trends?
The only new divide in Europe is between some leaders and their citizens
Firstly, did Europe have a common foreign and defence policy before Iraq crisis? No, especially as regards to Iraq.
Indeed for more than 10 years the Iraqi question has been a divisive one for Europeans. Contrary to many foreign issues where they do converge, in the case of Iraq and since Gulf War I, the British and the French for instance never agreed on what to do next. So the current disagreements upon Iraq between European leaders are nothing new.
Strangely enough, something new emerged in the past months which is a palpable expectation from European citizens to see their leaders agree upon a European common voice on the world stage, with some clear direction assigned: key role of international laws and organisations, refusal of any kind of unilateralism, and opposition to any 'pre-emptive war' concept. In fact, if a new European divide did emerge, it occurred between European leaders and their people rather than among Europeans.
Beyond its divisions, Europe has showed that it could play an efficient role in terms of both military force and diplomatic skills
Secondly, was Europe in military competition with any other world power, or with the US in particular, and could not stand the competition? No.
The European Union has developed a power based on influence and ability to generate large agreements; it is relies only marginally on military power. Meanwhile, this crisis proved that the US had no significant military allies outside Europe, as British forces were the only US force's ally in this war. Meanwhile the other group of Europeans, around France, Germany and Belgium, did manage to show that they could prevent any power to bully the UN.
Therefore European countries, though divided, proved to be crucial both in terms of military partnership and diplomatic game.
Even divided, it is the first time since 1945 that the Europeans act on their own
Thirdly, is Europe less visible on the world scene today than yesterday? No.
Quite the contrary: Fifteen years ago, the Europeans would not have been able to say one word on such crisis. Eastern Europeans would have followed Moscow and Western Europeans Washington. During this crisis, it is the first time that the Europeans not only expressed themselves in an independent way, but actually generated the crisis by their disagreement. Would have they agreed with Washington, never would Russia or any other country have opposed the US. Would not have they opposed the US, never would Washington's hawks have rushed so many troops in the Gulf, closing the door to diplomatic solutions. Therefore, even if it is still in a negative way (as it was not able to propose a way-out), for the first time since 1945, Europe did play a key role in a major international crisis.
Putting together all these elements, and in particular the surprisingly strong convergence of the Europeans gathered for the first time into a truly European public opinion, then the answer is clearly than Europe comes out of this crisis stronger than before.
Thanks to the Iraqi crisis, the debate on Europe's future has finally met 'reality'
If one more example was needed, let's turn our gaze to the on-going debates on the future of Europe. Until the Iraqi crisis, these debates were mostly 'Brussels debates', away from political reality, conducted by bureaucrats and experts. Thanks to the shocks generated by this crisis, public opinions and politicians managed to take over the debate. The international situation acted as a sound 'principle of reality', reminding the Europeans that politics is about power and crises. Meanwhile it clarified positions and therefore allowed some countries to move forward in directions they were prevented to follow in the name of the 'common vision'. Now everybody is aware that:
. first, a common vision has to be built by visionary people, open to the others but not paralysed by them in order to move forward, as it has always been the case in the history of Europe
. second, all through Europe, a large majority of European citizens have expressed their view on what should be Europe's 'road map' to a Common Foreign Policy (72% of the Europeans are in favour of establishing a Common Foreign Policy, Eurobarometer April 2003), thus giving evidence of the fact that by 2005/2006 most European countries will be sharing this common vision (the good thing with democracy is that leaders cannot afford to go too long against citizens' opinions).
Last remark, without some Europeans taking part in the war in Iraq, Saddam may still be in power; but without other Europeans asserting the primacy of international law and refusing to sideline the UN and to regroup under a 'white man's banner', Europe has avoided a clash of civilizations and religions. It has also generated, in many parts of the world, a true desire to see more 'Europe' in future global debates and crises.
Altogether, it definitely does not look to me as signs of weakness, even if much has still to be done to make it a sign of strength.
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-04-25 02:36:15|
Subject: The Task of Rebuilding Iraq
by Tim Erickson: President of Politalk
In her recent Transatlantic Visions commentary, Nicole Schley suggested that the rebuilding of Iraq poses an opportunity to start rebuilding the transatlantic relationship. "But" she asks, "do the two partners want that?"
This is an interesting question, because while it would make sense on many fronts, it seems as if many in Europe are secretly hoping that the US will get bogged down in a quagmire of Iraqi unrest and regional tensions. Proving their own arguments about why this war was a bad idea. On the other hand, many in the US feel that to give Germany or France any kind of economic or political role in the rebuilding of Iraq, would be to reward them for their stubborn refusal to participate in the war itself.
Yet, each country does have a real and vested interest in making this a "coalition" effort, in the true sense of the word.
First of all, the security issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction is a real one. Its also a much bigger issue than Iraq or Saddam Hussein. If the US is serious about addressing the issue of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction (which is not yet clear), then the work is not yet done and will extend beyond the borders of Iraq. While we have been successful so far (at least in our own minds), with the cooperation of Great Britain, Australia, and a few other partners, there is much work left to be done and US/UK resources have their limits.
Europe on the other hand, will need US cooperation if they wish to restore trust in the international institutions that they believe so strongly provide peaceful opportunities to resolve conflicts. The UN and NATO emerge from the war in Iraq as weakened institutions. The US suggested that it was fighting the war on behalf of the United Nations, now its time that the United States sit down at the table and work to strengthen and reform the United Nations, rather than just complain about its lack of effectiveness. It will take European leadership to make this possible.
If we allow our frustration about earlier disagreements to hinder future efforts towards sincere and real multilateral cooperation, then much of what may have been accomplished will become moot. The US must emerge from our unilateral shell and recognize how big this problem is and that solving it will require more than just dropping bombs and overthrowing one or two dictators. Some very fundamental economic and political issues around the world must be addressed before the problem of terrorism will go away. This must become a multilateral effort at some point.
Europeans, for their part, must also recognize the security threat that does exist and convince the United States that they are serious partners in addressing it. I believe that the United States has a very real concern that Europe does not comprehend the dangers that lie before us and are therefore not dependable partners in dealing with it.
From my perspective, the US has not been sincere in its efforts to form a real international coalition and Europe has yet to show a sincere interest in the issue of weapons of mass destruction. A cooperative effort in rebuilding Iraq would move a long way in each direction.
|Message from: lydia_blanchard, United States Santa Cruz - 2003-04-25 01:27:55|
Subject: Books like "Great Controversy" and "Revelations" really reflecting present processes?
I can understand how present processes can be reflected in Revelations, and I appreciate
some people's desire for a governing body for all religion.
Yet I feel very sorry for any country economically dependent upon
the United States [so that it then
'will help the "spiritual power" to be governing body for all
religion']. The U.S. government is neither reliable nor competent
enough to provide such help. It is a very fallible, arrogant,
greedy, and dangerous government, questionably in power.
My government is planning to use nuclear weapons on the next
battlefield [San Jose Mercury News, 23 April, 2003, page 1]. It is
violating U.S. citizens' and residents' civil rights, encouraging
corporate crime, and harming the environment for its own and its
officials' personal gain--hence threatening the safety of the people
and violating its pledge to uphold the U.S. Constitution. It is
planning to sell Iraqi oil without legitimate United Nations approval
and to use it to control other countries' access to energy, is
turning diplomacy into mudslinging, is breaking this country's
international legal and ethical obligations, and is hiding the truth
about the terrible medical effects and death outcomes of its invasion
of Iraq. I am sure that Biblical symbols are meaningful, but I
cannot believe that they validate anything this government is doing!
I know you did not ask for my opinion, but there it is!...
|Message from: lydia_blanchard, United States Santa Cruz - 2003-04-25 01:20:07|
Subject: Opinion on US Attacks
I disagree profoundly about the U.S. attack, and still do
despite the so-called success of the invasion (sic--it's called a
liberation here) pronounced by the U.S.
U.S. television is
not showing the extent of the harm done to the Iraqi people, the
numbers or wounded in hospitals, the lack of hospital supplies, or
the journalist, Red Cross, Russian convoy, etc., attacks and
killings. No anti-war speakers are being interviewed by the major
media, though some do oppose full U.S. occupation/governance. You
can tell which side I'm on! I am upset, hurt, and angry about the
U.S. government's actions and about its attacks on U.S. citizens' and
residents' civil liberties. It is "spending" lives and horrors and
liberties as if they were dollars.
|Message from: hasandy, Mexico Cuernavaca - 2003-04-24 04:36:33|
Subject: Conflict and Interdependence
To start, I would like to say that there are more players than the ones in the spotlight. Globalization has brought an increasing interdependece among nations, among ideas. So we would have to also look around neighbor countries, trade partners, because the effects of this war will extend throughout the world.
In my personal opinion, we should take the UN and reform it so it may fit the needs and challenges of our time. It is more than clear that there is not an international organization that may look after order, but that doesn't mean that it is the United States' job. When there is an unilateral action there are many interests inbetween, and it is also a good time to say that if it is an unilateral action there shouldn't be a side choosing situation. It is a fact that many countries, including my own, want and need to be in good terms with the United States, but it shouldn't mean that they have to support an iniciative they cannot even face.
This conflict is the biggest of proof about the lack of real cooperation and the real intention of working for a sustainable peace, order and development. Today is the right time to make a decision that would avoid future crisis. First we may start investing in more important things than war and devastation. We could start substituting hatred and resentment in Irak (and other countries) by working in projects focused on health, education, agriculture.
To me, the fact that so many people are protesting and debating around the world means somenthing. It means that there are many people ready to contribute to solutions that will bennefit all, that will not leave any cultural background outside.
Hasbleidwiey Andrea Cañón Arias
|Message from: geta grama, France Paris - 2003-04-23 11:10:47|
Subject: Saddam and Ceausescu can be compared. What about Iraq War and 1989 Romanian Revolution ?
Here is a 100 point question I'm asking myself further to some TV pictures and newspaper articles comparing the "Romanian Revolution of 1989" and the "Freedom for Iraq" action led by George Bush.
Being born in Romania and having spent most of my life there (half of it under Ceausescu' s regime and the other half "in freedom" either in Romania or Western Europe) perhaps some explanation is in order.
The Iraqi character is known and over-known all around the world as mass media did not spare us of many details on his regard. But for those who need some reminder on the Romanian character in question, note that Nicolae Ceausescu was the nutcase dictator of Romania from 1965 till his tremendously violent overthrow and execution in 1989 (everyone may recall the horrifying pictures of his dead body broadcast over the airwaves by a jubilant Romanian people).
Both leaders were paranoid
They were both dangerously mad people with no limits in what regards their power and both "guilty" of paranoia… self-image and not only... Examples? Some say that Nicolae eventually became so paranoid convincing himself that foreigners would poison his clothes or that he would catch a fatal disease from shaking hands, so he started wearing exclusively clothes that had been under surveillance in a specially built warehouse. He even washed his hands with alcohol after shaking Queen Elizabeth' s hand and he took his own bed sheets to Buckingham palace.
While 'Comrade Corbu', Nicolae's dog (a black Labrador puppy received as a gift from a British Liberal Party leader) became a part of the dictator' s own fantasy world and soon the dog was to be seen being driven through Bucharest in a limousine and eventually given the rank of colonel in the Romanian Army.
And I can' t help myself adding that seeing on television the huge statues and poster-pictures of Saddam in Baghdad and in different building rooms and houses reminded me perfectly of Ceausescu' s self-image paranoia with his pictures imposing worship in each and every single part of the country… in a state where typing machines were banned and suicide was probably the only way of self-expression allowed by the regime.
Both leaders were anti-religion
Something to discuss as well… Ceausescu was famous for not standing his own people' s religion (Orthodoxism and Christianism in general), he could not stand any Christian cross or religious blessing of any sort. The incident in Venezuela, when he requested that the crucifix be removed from his room, was no accident. Nor was it a coincidence that, at a lunch feast given in his honour by a group of New Orleans businessmen, he left the room because a pastor "deared" bless the food. And if I may go on a bit further, I'd have to add that Ceausescu regarded Vlad Tepes "Dracula" as some national Hero (Dracula - the other "character" for which Romania and especially Transylvania became famous !? ). He even commemorated Dracula on a stamp in 1976, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Dracula' s death. And last but not least he and his wife Elena were executed on Christmas Day, 1989… the day Christ was born the dictator had to die ! Romanian Christians got their revenge !
Both leaders were coming from poor, non-educated backgrounds
Ceausescu did not have education at all… he was a shoemaker, as you probably know (scarcely able to write and read) and nevertheless ruled a 22 million people state for almost 25 years. Hussein was raised in the farming village of Tikrit by his widowed mother, started some law studies in Cairo and finished them later on in Baghdad… law unfortunately never applied under his governance.
Romanians did Romanian revolution; US soldiers did Iraq 'revolution'
That "1989 Revolution" is considered some kind of reference point for other states should be no surprise actually, but making comparisons or parallels between the two actions is a historical mistake !
Ok it's true that they were both dictators, tyrants, "blacken characters" or whatever, but this argument seems just not enough for the Americans, British or whoever dears compare the two "freedom" actions : first because in Romania there were no Americans in 1989 to help the Romanians "get" that freedom. Simple Romanians, students, workers with no other guns than wooden or steel sticks met in central squares of main cities and faced the heavy military or teargas guns of the Securitate (Ceausescu' s official troops which later denied of having shot)… there were no armoured personnel carriers or tanks with tens of thousands of regularly well trained soldiers confronting with the communist regime's army… so I wish to insist on the fact that Romanians got their freedom on their own, just by themselves.. with no other state' s help (asked or imposed)… with empty hands and nothing more than rage in their hearts !
3 days, that's all the Romanians needed to turn down the dictatorship, find, catch and kill their 25 year oppressor and wife ! With the entire world' s eyes on them ! The bleeding bodies triumphantly shown on TV as incontestable proof that the nightmare was over ! A thing that the American-British coalition could not do after weeks of "Freedom for Iraq" military operation !
|Message from: contact ties, France Paris - 2003-04-23 11:08:29|
Subject: Some consequences for EU-U.S. relations of the war in Iraq
by Nicole Schley, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Applied Policy Research, Munich.
The transatlantic crisis is reality. And it has deepened with the differences of views over the question of attacking Iraq and changing the regime there. In Europe Iraq was for a long time not seen as the main aggressor and the main threat to the western world. And after all, the United States has failed to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks of September 11, 2001. So three main criticisms have been stated by the Europeans:
Europeans thought that attempts to change the regime in Iraq could well lead to an Iraqi use of biological and chemical weapons, and therefore favoured a policy of containment.
Pre-emptive military action was also considered to be against international law since it violates national sovereignty and sets a bad international example.
A greater American commitment to solving the Israel-Palestine problem would have been a bigger contribution to stability in the Middle East region and would not have further developed anti-western feelings in the region.
These differences in strategic thinking between the U.S. and the EU have contributed to the widening of the gap in the transatlantic relations. And this lack currently seems to develop into a complete and mutual misunderstanding of foreign policy approaches of the respective partner, especially when it comes to the use of force.
The post-war situation
Since the war in Iraq is almost over now the question to deal with mainly is the question of a new order in and for Iraq. The need to implement security, prosperity and good government is undisputed. This at first sight seems to be a perfect starting point for a renewal of transatlantic relations and for an overcoming of the deep rift between the two sides. Americans and Europeans could share the task of rebuilding Iraq - with the help of the Iraqi people and the international community, represented by the international organisations - and could thus base the relations on a clear-cut division of labour. But do the two partners want that? Is there still the will on both sides to mend the relationship? Or does the U.S. think it can do it alone whereas the Europeans think that their task lies in humanitarian aid and that's it?
Concerning the future of the transatlantic relationship, basically much will depend on the answers to three questions:
What will be found with regard to weapons of mass destruction (or components) in Iraq?
Do these weapons constitute a sufficient threat to warrant the use of force?
. How will the Iraqi people react to their liberation from Saddam Hussein? Will joy or resentment dominate the scene?
If the war could - in retrospective - be justified and if the Iraqi people mainly applauded the American presence in their country, this would be a completely different situation for the transatlantic partners than a situation in which no weapons were to be found and the Iraqi people mainly resented the presence of US soldiers. In the first case the European standing would be rather weak and the US could even further establish its role as the world's only superpower. In the latter case the US will probably be forced to return to a multilateral approach - including when it comes to the control of the Iraqi oil.
Overall, the war in Iraq is a defining event for the future of transatlantic relations that will trigger a variety of consequences that cannot be predicted today. One of them can be huge geopolitical consequences of a successful military outcome in Iraq: These consequences can be positive and they can also be negative in nature, meaning they can be understood as a new system of deterrence by rogue states, or the pre-emptive nature of the war provides a dangerous precedent for other states to use force to change what is considered to be a threatening regime. Another geopolitical consequence could be the triggering of counteraction by states like Russia - maybe together with some EU member states - or China to create a strong counterweight to such a strong superpower. Seen like that, this war would definitely not solve the transatlantic crisis but only make it worse by dividing Europe even further.
What can be done to reduce transatlantic tensions?
Europeans urgently need a strategic debate about their future role in world politics in general and about their approach to the transatlantic relationship in particular. The single European nation states have all lost their role as a world power a long time ago. But instead of compensating this loss by developing a European stance to foreign policy, they still act as nation states. Only if Europeans are willing to think as Europeans, the EU'S Common Foreign, Security and Defense Policy will have the relevance that is necessary for the EU to make an impact as an international actor.
As for Americans: The US needs to reconsider its role as hegemonic superpower. Even the US could - during the Iraq war - not have dealt with a second source of crisis if the situation n North Korea had gotten out of hands. It cannot be the world's policeman and free all countries from dictators. It does not have the money for it and will certainly loose the people's commitment to waging a similar preventive war against Iran and/or North Korea. So the country's course should be toward multilateral international planning and decision-making - as opposed to multilateral action with changing coalitions of the willing that only joined the party after it had already begun.
Under these two prerogatives, I still have this vision that transatlantic relations can be repaired, that the US and the EU still have a lot in common and share basis values and interests. It is now a question of political will and of communication abilities. Only if both sides understand the necessity to commonly meet the challenges of the future will this relationship survive. Otherwise the break will be there forever.
|Message from: contact TIES, France Paris - 2003-04-17 05:22:44|
Subject: The Paradoxes that Divide US
by Gary L. Geipel: Chief Operating Officer, Hudson Institute
Two key paradoxes surround external intervention in the Middle East. Because the U.S. and much of continental Europe and the U.S. reach diverging conclusions about these paradoxes, agreement on a common approach to the Middle East seems impossible.
First, there is what might be called the Power/Principle Paradox. A majority of Europeans appear to have reached the conclusion that this paradox cannot be overcome and that power and principle are irreconcilable in foreign policy. This rejection was on display dramatically in the transatlantic dispute over intervention in Iraq. In Germany, rejection of the Power/Principle Paradox takes the form of principle without power: high-sounding goals not backed by any credible means of attainment or enforcement. In France, rejection of the Power/Principle Paradox takes the form of power without principle: a desire to "play the game" of international geopolitics without any sense of underlying purpose or values.
For their part, most Americans - clearly supporting their government in this view - do not believe that the Power/Principle Paradox is irreconcilable. Many Americans believe - to an extent considered unfashionable on the other side of the Atlantic - that their nation represents the good and the right side of most international contests and that, in extreme circumstances, backing clear goals with overwhelming military power can lead to the triumph of the good and the right side. After September 11, extreme circumstances are believed to prevail in the Middle East in the minds of many Americans. That explains U.S. support for President Bush's vision, which shows few signs of abating.
The second key paradox surrounding external intervention in the Middle East might be called the Conviction/Tolerance Paradox. Many European opinion leaders fear that a dangerous Clash of Civilizations looms in the Middle East, either because a crusading "Christian" United States deliberately seeks this clash or because a clash will be the inevitable outcome of efforts to spread liberal "Western" values in the Islamic world. At the heart of this fear is a belief that conviction and tolerance cannot exist in the same person or the same nation. An overtly Christian President of the United States leading an overwhelmingly Christian America either is not being honest about his desire to respect Islam or, at best, is hopelessly misguided about Muslims will react to his impudence.
Americans, once again, do not reject the Conviction/Tolerance Paradox, perhaps drawing on the experience of their own lives in a multi-ethic, multi-religious society that has not dissolved in internal strife. Last year's opinion survey by The German Marshall Fund of the United States found a fascinating juxtaposition of views, in which 61 percent of Americans view Islamic fundamentalism as a critical threat to the vital interests of the U.S. while 66 percent also believe that "common ground" can be found and that a "clash of civilizations is not inevitable."
Defining a new "transatlantic project" focused on the Middle East and reflecting President Bush's larger vision seems fanciful in light of these profound differences across the Atlantic. Indeed, when such a proposal was put forward last year by Ronald D. Asmus and Kenneth M. Pollack (Policy Review, October 2002), it generally received a brush-off on both sides of the Atlantic. Reconciling European and American attitudes about the Middle East will not be easy. In many cases it will be impossible. There is an outcome short of full reconciliation, however, that may accommodate both U.S. Middle East strategy and the preservation of a transatlantic alliance that remains relevant to other global challenges. This outcome does not depend on bringing all of Europe from rejection of U.S. policy to full partnership in a Middle East project. Instead, it would bring some European governments into full partnership while simply moving the rest from rejection to "wishing America well."
Achieving even this "coalition of the willing and the well-wishing" will take some doing. Strange as it may seem in this age of supposed instant awareness, the process must start with information sharing and education. To a stunning degree - not fully appreciated by an American until one spends several days talking to European opinion leaders and taking strong doses of the European media - America's allies do not understand or trust current U.S. positions and goals in the Middle East. The motives assigned to the U.S. in recent times, even by generally sober commentators in Europe, are at best a caricature of U.S. policy and at worst an exercise in character assassination. Very active personal diplomacy at the official level must be combined with frequent and aggressive discussions among opinion leaders in the time ahead, if Europe and the U.S. are to come to terms over the Middle East.
Even in places such as Germany, where opposition seems intractable, the U.S. will find natural allies once again, often among those who seek to challenge current political leaders. The European governments that opposed the U.S. on Iraq must themselves reach out to Washington, however, if a new modus vivendi is to be obtained. France, in particular, must make a "first move" of rather dramatic proportions if it is to win back the trust of Washington. Finally, closing the current transatlantic rift might be helped by some opportunistic diplomacy on the part of "New Europe," one or more of the central and eastern European countries that supported President Bush in Iraq. Poland, for example - as a newly minted NATO member and aspiring European Union member with new-found standing in Washington - seems ideally suited to the diplomatic brokerage that will be necessary to rebuild trust and a new "coalition of the willing and well-wishing" across the Atlantic.
|Message from: contact TIES, France Paris - 2003-04-16 09:55:22|
Subject: Economic relations between the EU and US after the Iraqi crisis;
by Tim Rogmans, Integration Manager, Gerling NCM
The Iraqi crisis and the resulting chill in EU - US relations is spilling over into the economic sphere. Some serious US politicians are still calling for boycotts of French and other European made goods. The EU accuses the US of giving its own firms the major contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq. On 6 April, the US Trade representative Robert Zoellick called upon Europe to 'join the US in expanding prosperity' by cutting agricultural subsidies. Meanwhile Chris Patten and Pascal Lamy have appealed for people to stop shouting in their article 'Let's put away the megaphones'. The progress over the next few months, in preparation for the WTO summit in Cancun in September, will determine whether the EU and US will sit at the table together as true partners ready to sacrifice special interest groups for the benefit of themselves, each other and the developing world, or whether they will bicker and slow down talks.
Anything less than true EU-US leadership would strengthen the underlying trend of growing US unilateralism in trade issues. Already the US is concluding more and more bilateral trade agreements. Clearly few countries have any real negotiating strength when dealing with the US on its own and the deals will be lopsided, but still better than nothing (in the absence of mulilateral deals coming from the WTO's Doha round). With unilateralists still gaining the upper hand in the White House following the Iraqi crisis, there is little hope to see the trend reversed any time soon.
The focus on Iraq is also drawing Washington's attention away from trade issues. In January, the US was planning to decide whether or not to take the EU to the WTO over its moratorium on biotech products. In the end, the EU was let off the hook; the cabinet meeting to discuss the issue could not be held because the relevant cabinet members were busy on other things. In this case the focus on Iraq served to cool down an ongoing dispute. On other occasions, the White House will not have the will to take and explain decisions that benefit society as a whole but affect special interest groups adversely. For example, don't hold your breath for any end to the US tariff on imported steel, especially when the Chairman of the International Steel Group (now the largest steel company in the US) defends an extension of the tariffs by saying "the tragic flaw in free trade is that we are the only ones who practice it". Who is going to argue with him at this time?
Optimism could arise from a study released in March by the Center for Transatlantic relations. It shows the incredible extent to which the economies of the EU and the US have become linked. The study shows that trade itself only accounts for 20% of Transatlantic commerce. Investment between the EU and US is flourishing and much bigger than any other investment flow in the world. For example, three quarters of foreign investment in the US comes from Europe. During the 1990s, US firms invested twice as much in the Netherlands alone as in Mexico. Europe accounts for more than half of all sales made by US companies abroad. Put differently, we are becoming so integrated that it is becoming difficult to label McDonald's (with its European employees, shareholders and suppliers) as "American" or to call LVMH "French". If we add to this the fact that the headline grabbing trade disputes represent less than one percent of trade between the EU and the US, we can conclude that commercial relations between the EU and US are just too deep and too important and to fail. Indeed, the US would find it difficult to finance its military expenditure and its budget deficits without European finance.
This is true as far as the EU and US are concerned. The tragedy is that many developing nations are totally dependent on exporting products that the EU and US argue about. The real victims of the disputes on steel, bananas, cotton and sugar are not so much the producers the EU and the US are trying to protect, but the nations that have little other means of earning a living. So if protection to cotton farmers serves a relatively small group of producers in 'swing' states in the southern US, it effectively ruins the economies of several African nations.
So what should Europe do? In my view, the answer is simple. Europe should take its economic destiny into its own hands by actually implementing the measures it committed to at the Lisbon summit with the goal of becoming the world's most competitive economy by 2010. This includes labour market and pension reform, as well as the overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy proposed by the European Commission. All this can be achieved in the socially responsible way that characterises Europe. Politicians have a duty to explain to the electorates why these changes are necessary. The Iraq war, US economic weakness and pneumonia in Asia are simply feeble excuses of our politicians for failing to inject some dynamism into Europe's economies.
Europe should remain the defender of the multilateral trading system as managed through the World Trade Organisation by sticking itself to the rules it wants others to adhere to. This will enable the EU to defend its rights vigorously through the WTO system and set an example for developing nations that must begin to wonder whether the WTO rules should be taken seriously. With the US still publicly subscribing to the same goals, the EU and US must take their opportunity before the meeting in Cancun in September.
|Message from: contact TIES, France Paris - 2003-04-16 09:52:26|
Subject: Forget about healing transatlantic wounds;now it's about building a new partnership
By Franck Biancheri: President of TIESWEB and Director for Studies and Strategy of Europe 2020.
Current Iraq/UN crisis between Europeans and Americans have clashed with deeply rooted European trends and will generate long term consequences
Whatever some would like to believe on both sides of the Atlantic, the consequences of the Iraq/UN crisis will have long, sustainable consequences. What they embody is the end of the post WWII order which first big crack was the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. In many ways, current Iraq/UN crisis will generate effects of the same magnitude: the US led 'West Side Story'.
Of course at first sight, everything looks completely different, if not opposed: on the one hand, we had a crumbling Empire, defeated by its inability to move forward and adapt itself to this finishing XXth century socio-economic conditions; on the other hand, we have what is commonly described as the only, or the last, 'super-power', seemingly at the perigee of its might. How comes that these two events could be in any way the two faces of the same coin?
Empires are XXIst century political dinosaurs
Well, simply because of something called History, passing time, transitory nature of human glory (Sic Transit Gloria Mundi),… all these things which powers of all sorts in History have learnt to learn … by force… Because nothing lasts forever… Because there is no such thing as the end of History… Because one of the most fragile political structures on Earth is… the Empire. About this last point, it is extremely interesting to look at the duration of empires in the past 2 centuries: obviously their life expectancy is not anymore going beyond a century, if not just a few decades. Europe was the first place where empires learnt that their time had passed. Europe was first hit by this fact in the XXth century and empires as well as dreams of eternal might had to vanish (though they did it at a very heavy cost in terms of death and destruction). Most likely this fact will also affect the rest of the world in the coming decades. Let's hope destruction and death will be more limited than in European history…
Many reasons to the progressive disappearing of those political dinosaurs called 'Empires', of course. One may be the simple fact that we now live in a full world: full of people, full of information, full of common problems and challenges. Those huge machineries that empires are (bureaucratic machineries combined with a political power always closely connected to religion and God) seem to have become unable to deal with the growing complexity of modern societies (inside and with the rest of the world). Their own management progressively becomes a fight in itself, a fight for who will control the empire. A 'power bubble' where the rest of the world and all other issues are only seen in terms of 'rapport de forces' within this 'bubble'. Such 'power bubbles' do emerge regularly in centralistic systems where power is concentrated in a precise city/region, like in Washington today.
The Europeans are facing challenges far more important to them and the rest of the world, than preservingUS power on top
But how does that affect transatlantic relations? Well in two very simple ways:
Though they agree to the importance of transatlantic relations, a growing number of Europeans, in particular among upcoming generations, do not share the assumption that the US will be anymore in the future able to lead by itself the so-called 'West', in particular its EU/US component, because they see it as a declining empire trying to rely on might to keep afloat of its own problems.
The Europeans in many ways have fought successfully in the past decade against the threat of the emerging of such a 'power bubble' at the core of the European construction process. In many ways, Brussels was tempted to take such a path in the early 90s, after the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the successful implementation of the Single Market. I remember top Commission officials at that time telling me: 'We are now the principal force shaping up Europe'. It also reminds me telling them that with a bit of candid analysis they would see that they were a very isolated bunch of people in need for long lasting political support, i.e. rooted in democratic forces (or police and military forces, which they did not control). We all know what happened to this idea in the past decade. Today the Europeans are starting to understand that they are on the verge of a major historical challenge, which implications are going much further than the boundaries of the European continent: they are coping with the problems of shaping up a 500 millions citizens, multicultural, multilingual democracy. A challenge nobody ever faced in European or Human history before. A challenge which, if successfully met, will definitely complete the European peace process started by the European Community founders after WW II; but also a challenge which could lead to major breakthrough regarding global issues ranging from other continental integrations processes such as in Asia, Africa, Latin America, … and also to Global Governance challenges which will be on top of the agenda for all of us all along XXIst century.
These are the deep European trends that current transatlantic struggles on Iraq and UN issues have clashed with. It explains why the consequences will be long lasting. It simply puts now in the open trends which were there for about a decade or so and where buried under assumptions coming from 1945.
The US is a European dream as much as European unity is an American dream: but now a new context emerges
In many ways, the US is a European dream as much as European unity is an American dream. The point today is that the dominant American dream about America is looking like a European nightmare; while the European dream about Europe is looking like an American competitor. It defines the new context in which transatlantic relations will have to be pursued in the coming decades.
It says all the obstacles which are going to be in the way of those who do think, as I am, that if we fail to build a new constructive transatlantic partnership for the XXIst century then, the world will be unable to solve many of its problems.
But those who are serious about building a long lasting EU/US partnership have to be candid about the new situation and its consequences. It is not about healing the wounds created by this crisis.
It is on the contrary by getting deeper in what created this crisis. It is not about being politically correct and not calling problems by their names. It is on the contrary by 'calling a cat, a cat' as we say in French. It is not by being afraid to 'shock' the other side; but on the contrary to say unpleasant things if we think that they deserve being said. Of course this has to be made with keeping in mind the overall objective of rebuilding a new transatlantic partnership.
Therefore there is absolutely no place for names-calling, country-bashing, hatred, … . There should be no place for arguments which prevent discussions to move forward by helping those involved to understand better the other's position; but there should be all space made available for ideas, opinions helping out to break the 'conviction bubble' in which many players tend to dig themselves into. This is definitely, by the way, the course TIESWEB will follow in coming years.
I will conclude on this very question of 'conviction'. In the past months, and until today every day on TV or in newspapers, we can hear to comments praising 'leaders' convictions' as if it had a value in itself. Hitler was convinced he was right. Petain was convinced he was right. Franco was convinced he was right. Chamberlain was convinced he was right. Gengis Khan and Attila were most certainly convinced that they were right. And so what?
One's conviction is not a proof of one's being right: it is just saying that one has no doubt. It may come from absolute knowledge (a pretty rare thing when you are not God); or from a very human ability to ignore information which may raise doubt.
In any case, as a European, I would tend to think that not to have doubts is a very specific feature, which fits better to a religious leader than to a politician. Here maybe is an entry to some more politically incorrect discussions regarding future EU/US relations.
|Message from: adrian, Switzerland Zurich - 2003-04-14 10:08:43|
Subject: After Iraq: Can We Build a Better World?
As the Iraq war fades, some repairs need to be made to Transatlantic relations. The good news is that Europeans and Americans can probably agree that:
1. the world is better off without Saddam Hussein;
2.Iraq must now be helped to become a prosperous democracy;
3.we need to find a better way of handling crises and promoting a better world.
This article focuses on how to handle the last of these questions.
The Bush Administration: Asking the Right Questions
Even many who hate President Bush’s policies admit that this Administration has dared to pose some good questions:
-Why should we continue to treat with dictators given that they are the cause of many countries’ economic impoverishment, human rights abuses and insecurity?
-How can we stop the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction?
-Why do our post-World War II international institutions (United Nations, World Bank, North Atlantic Treaty Organization...) seem so ponderous and out of step?
This is crucial, as many European have for decades posed similar questions, and pointed out that the world order, whilst perhaps “stable”, is deeply flawed and needs change.
The Europeans: Need to Start Thinking of Better Answers
The biggest failing of all Europeans in recent times – and this applies to Tony Blair and Jose-Maria Aznar just as it does to Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac – is their singular lack of creativity. It was their inability to find a serious credible alternative to the first two questions which left them the choice of either being sucked into the US’s slipstream, or being repelled by the same blast of cold air, as the juggernaut of American military might bulldozed its way to Baghdad.
Moreover, Iraq is the beginning (not the end) of the Bush Administrations plans to restructure the world order. If the European Union fails to become pro-active, Iraq may just be the first of many shocks, which could deconstruct 50 years of integration.
Finding a Carrot: Making NATO an Attractive Bride for the Whole World
The UN and NATO must change, and the EU can help
The UN is having trouble tackling the fundamental issues of our day. Whilst all blame cannot be parked at its door, a better way has to be found to bring poor, oppressed peoples the chance of sustainable democratic development. Making the world a better place cannot be done all by stick, it must be done by carrot too. NATO, another cornerstone of our post-war order, has also come under strain with the Iraq War. Indeed, its institutions (requiring consensus) are likely to find it ever harder to cohere following the forthcoming expansion of membership. Europeans thus face the risk that if NATO and the UN remain as they are, the US may simply ignore them.
Nevertheless the EU itself has created an effective mechanism for spreading wealth and democracy: it is called EU membership. Not that the main gains come from the act of joining. Rather they come precisely because (unlike the UN) the rules of the club are such that only countries respecting democracy, rule of law, and economic reform can join. By setting the bar very high, the EU galvanizes tremendous internal positive changes in aspirant countries. In exchange these then benefit from the EU’s own financial, technical and security guarantees.
The need today is for an organisation that plays precisely this same role globally. NATO, which along with the EU is already playing a galvanizing role in Central and Eastern Europe, is the ideal candidate. NATO should be renamed, and any country in the globe be allowed to join if they are functioning democratic, market economies respecting the rule of law and having solved domestic, and border conflicts. Countries like Australia and New Zeeland would likely be able to join at once. Countries such as South Africa, and Russia would have a tremendous incentive to continue moving in the right direction – not least with the prospect of Article 5 (mutual defence) guarantees, and a re-direction of financial support by existing members to these weaker candidates.
The mission must determine the coalition, not the coalition the mission
Some see the so-called “Wolfowitz Doctrine” as a threat, but the EU should recognise it to be an opportunity too. A NATO transformed into a global organization could provide democracies with a mechanism for consultation on geopolitical issues, and a platform to design inter-operable military forces. Whilst not replacing the United Nations, it would provide a useful additional framework. Moreover, whenever the UN requires military action to enforce its resolutions, the new NATO’s forces would be available. NATO already recognizes that not all countries will be involved in every mission, hence opening the door to coalitions of the willing being recruited from its ranks.
To ensure that NATO decision making does not grind to a halt, a form of majority voting could be introduced, with both the US and the EU (the latter only collectively) having a veto right. Even if individual EU Member States sat at the table, by only attributing a veto to the EU collectively, a powerful encouragement would be given to the development of a real European Security and Defence Policy. Furthermore, by broadening the alliance beyond its current geography, the notion that a single EU voice may threaten remaining members would be reduced, as in a bigger NATO, having a single EU voice would be a blessing in order to have rapid decisions.
Finding a Stick: Building a Legal System to Handle Tyrants
International law needs to protect peoples, not just states
Still, even if an attractive force for change is built, there will still be a need to handle “bad guys with bad weapons”. Europeans shrink at the idea that Syria or North Korea could go the way of Iraq. But if we are serious in wishing to avoid this, the EU had better propose a better way to rid the world of dictators seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In this context, the EU could capitalize on the recent trend in International Law to accord less weight to national sovereignty, and more to the rights of peoples living in those states. In bombing the former Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis, NATO set a precedent, drawing limits on what a country’s leader can do domestically without interference by the international community. The war in Iraq extended this logic further: the argument made by the United States and United Kingdom was that the systematic abuse of human rights in a country, when combined with WMD, is unacceptable for the international community. Most Europeans could probably agree, if a mechanism could be found for removing cruel dictators from power in a bloodless manner, and if guilt could be established. These conditions point to the need for a law-based approach.
For an International Criminal Court that the US would want to join
Hence the EU could suggest that the Security Council be empowered to indict a leader of country and order his trial before the ICC. The rules could be drawn up so as to catch only those clearly beyond the pale. Hence leaders democratically elected could not be indicted (ruling-out the US, Russia, Israel, etc), but those who are developing Weapons of Mass Destruction against international law could be subject to indictment . By making the Security Council the arbiter of who is indicted, and excluding democracies from the target list, Washington’s main objections to the ICC are removed.
Indictment may trigger change, as it did in Serbia. But it would be wise to add further teeth. In the absence of compliance by the regime targeted, the Security Council could automatically “de-recognise” the leader concerned. This would legitimise domestic opposition seeking to remove the dictator, as well as freezing the regime’s international assets, representation, and travel with “smart sanctions”. To increase the internal pressure, the Security Council could decide to spread the dragnet of indictments to other individuals in that country. As the elite feels threatened, so its interest in finding a solution (i.e. removing the dictator) increases. If after a fixed time, the regime is still in power, and not disarming, then the door would be open to “any necessary measures”. This however would authorise the use of force only for the removal of the offending individuals, hence again increasing the pressure for an internal revolution.
An interference in national sovereignty? Absolutely, but less so than invasion. And who knows, it may be that we can remove some unpleasant figures from power by encouraging collapse from within, rather than invasion from without.
Regardless of whether the ideas floated above find any resonance, the crucial fact remains, it is not good enough for us in Europe to whine about US policy. By the time we will have stopped crying, only the rubble will be left. Any solution obligatorily passes through our becoming creative – moving away from the lowest common denominator politics of what we have tried before, and suggesting new ways (and indeed processes) of doing things. Love him or hate him, George W. may be doing us a favour by destroying the foundations of what we believed in for the last sixty years.
|Message from: brian, USA georgia - 2003-04-14 10:01:49|
Subject: Repairing the Rift: An American Agenda for the EU
The United States has been battered around the world for some of its recent foreign and security actions. While many of the criticisms are deserved, some are too transparently self-serving. The crisis in Iraq does not have a unilateral cause but, instead, reflects a failure in diplomacy at the global level. The culpability is shared. Before the rift in transatlantic relations worsens, bridge-building should be initiated immediately to moderate damage and improve the framework through which interaction takes place. The direction U.S. policy should adopt in the post-Iraq environment is being debated across the media and constitutes the focal point of attention. What should also be addressed is how the European Union could operate more effectively in the future to minimize transatlantic friction from the U.S. perspective. In other words, we need to balance the discussion in a healthy and constructive way.
In the security context, the EU is not a reliable enough partner because its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has not reached an acceptable degree of maturity and coherence. Here's the agenda that an American would recommend:
Tighten CFSP: The EU will lack credibility in international forums until its ability to define foreign and security policy is strengthened. This step, if chosen, will come at the expense of member state flexibility to establish independent policies in certain areas but is a necessary element of defending continental interests. On the one hand, it could make the EU more assertive in its relations with the U.S. but, on the other hand, the U.S. would benefit by having a more dependable and competent partner. To ensure stability in decision-making, the bulk of foreign and security policies should be made subject to qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers to facilitate agreement and diminish the likelihood of policy compromise.
Streamline Bureaucracy: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright once complained that intellectuals and the French are the only ones who could understand the EU. The bureaucratic complexity of the EU's foreign policy machinery requires simplification to promote both internal and external decisiveness. Toward that goal, the positions of Commissioner for External Relations and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy should be merged and located in the European Commission. The High Representative's current affiliation with the Council of Ministers renders the office hostage to the priorities of member states. This dependence must be severed to project a uniform EU agenda in negotiations with the U.S. In addition, the representation of the EU on key bodies, including the Security Council of the United Nations and the G-7, should be reduced to a single seat. It is important-and symbolic-to appease the U.S. by leveling the playing field.
Improve Capabilities: The EU requires military resources to justify input into security activities. At the moment, some in the EU seem to hope that the U.S. will over-extend itself militarily and this weakness will act as the anchor pulling the U.S. toward greater cooperation and consultation. This recipe is shortsighted because it is making Europe more vulnerable at the same time. No solution should involve an effort to enfeeble either partner in the transatlantic equation. The EU should expand its spending on defense, consolidate its purchasing, and focus national missions on specialization of capabilities. These three steps, if taken together, will yield a better equipped and more diversified military structure across Europe that depends on continental collaboration to achieve security. NATO, however, must remain at the core of the defensive shield because the U.S. requires an incentive to continue being wedded to Europe. Neither side is served if two giants face one another with suspicion. NATO is an umbrella that provides an opportunity for dialogue.
Adapt Mindset: One factor responsible for U.S. unilateral tendencies is a perceived mindset in Europe that automatically brands America as a warmonger for any suggestion of military action. This reaction has encouraged the U.S. to act alone rather than to engage in debates that can be construed as elevating national agendas rather than principled platforms. Where Europe is suspicious of U.S. motives, similar qualms are reciprocal from the U.S. viewpoint. As former European Commission President Jacques Delors recently stated, "We cannot accept the Messianic vision of the Americans, but nor can we limit ourselves to simply opposing it." Leaders who bend to popular sentiment and who stake positions that offer no ground for negotiation have not served Europe. Popular opinion should be a barometer, not a compass, to elected officials. It is likely the situation in Iraq could have been different if discussion had not been closed off prematurely by a knee-jerk response against a proposed military operation. Let's talk!
Where security matters have dominated current transatlantic relations, the economic dimension is the glue holding the partnership together. In a real sense, the economic agenda is what matters in the long term. Here's what needs to be done within the EU:
Embrace Globalization (at least a little): For better or worse, globalization is a fact, meaning the answer is not to condemn its rough edges but learn how to tame them. In Europe, globalization has become synonymous with Americanism and its "hire and fire" mentality. The reality is that the EU's single market is propelled by deregulation and integration and these are the hallmarks of what globalization seeks to accomplish. According to the European Commission, the single market in its first decade generated 2.5 million jobs and increased the EU's GDP by 1.8 percent. Europe should liberalize more if only in its own self-interest. While Europeans will never tolerate the free market standards of the U.S., greater strides should be attempted for the sake of transatlantic harmony. Since 56 percent of transatlantic trade is intra-company transfers, Europe's resistance to globalization impacts the U.S. directly. It's time for Europe to become a responsible transatlantic citizen.
Monitor Trade: Sir Leon Brittan, former European Commissioner for Trade, warned of the danger that economic conflict could spill over into the political agenda and contaminate it. Perhaps some of the recent transatlantic tension over security issues might have roots in trade disputes. Both the EU and U.S. have sought to score domestic political victories at the expense of sound economic strategies. Each uses multilateral organizations, most notably the World Trade Organization (WTO), to appease local lobbies rather than to support fundamental rules of how the global economic system should operate efficiently and fairly. The EU, for example, retaliated against the U.S. complaint about banana restrictions by filing a claim against the American Foreign Sales Corporation Tax Exemption largely as a maneuver to gain leverage in the banana litigation. Moreover, EU intransigence at Doha over agricultural subsidies is threatening to block progress to the detriment of developing countries. The moral high ground cuts both ways.
Address Accountability: At a minimum, international commitments must have adequate institutional follow through by the parties to make the effort worthwhile and reliable. On the EU side, accountability too often breaks down at the implementation stage. According to John Van Oudenaren, many of the current economic disputes between the EU and U.S. "reflect the externalization of the uneven decision-making and enforcement situation within the Union". In most cases (with certain exceptions as in environmental policy), the European Commission is dependent upon member states to execute international commitments and compliance is therefore shaky at best since the Commission rarely punishes non-enforcement defiance. The European Commission must be made more credible to justify the U.S. in focusing negotiations with it rather than in cutting bilateral deals with the member states.
This is a scorecard for the U.S. and EU to move forward from an American perspective. Let's get to work!
by Brian Murphy: Co-Director, EU Center Univ. System of Georgia, (Sam Nunn Scholl of Int. Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology)
|Message from: Adrian, Switzerland Zurich - 2003-04-04 01:39:07|
Subject: TIESWeb News, May 2013 : Transatlantic Unity Following the Collapse of Iraq
The war and military occupation
It is now ten years since the final collapse of the Baathist regime, and no surprise to any observer that Iraq has finally ceased to be a functioning single entity.
The relatively rapid, albeit "Baghdad blood-stained", victory of Anglo-American forces in the 2003 war convinced the President George W. Bush that establishing a temporary US military protectorate would be the best means of building a democratic Iraq. Unfortunately the President did not heed his own electoral message that the US "was not into nation building". Many conservative Americans now rue the day that Iraq became their responsibility - a country of 23 million people, speaking a "foreign" language, with radically different cultural habits, located several thousand miles from the US. They now realise the irony of their supporting a government by US led administrators when they criticised the inefficiency of those same administrators back home.
Iraq quickly developed into three distinct zones, which we now see emerging as separate entities. The Kurdish North, tolerant of the US military presence, largely because it prevented the two major parties from murdering each other. The predominantly Shia South, where the Anglo-American forces managed to build a tenuous but working relationship with the local population which had never loved the Saddam regime. And finally the American occupied central zone, which has been the source of unremitting violence, turbulence and antagonism.
As a result, subsequent US administrations have been constantly torn between their desire to pull out, and the knowledge that withdrawal would prompt a collapse of Iraq, and even internal warfare, as had already been witnessed in Afghanistan in 2004 when President Karazai was chased from power. The decision earlier this year by President Jeb Bush to remove all US forces from the Central and Southern regions must therefore have been a painful one for a member of the Bush Dynasty, but was widely approved given the immediate relief it gave to the heavily debt-laden federal budget.
In any case, with this hindsight, few observers feel that the US has "won the peace" with its determined "go it alone" policies, and many question whether the war has brought any tangible benefits to the Iraqi's or the region. Whilst the Kurds now stand on the verge of independence, the risk of a Turkish invasion has twice led to a postponement of the declaration of sovereignty. In the rest of Iraq, the three coup d'Etats that followed US withdrawal is for historians, reminiscent of the mess left behind by the British every time after their previous retreats (and Iraqi's, unlike the British, have clear memories of the three previous occasions that the UK invaded Iraq in the last 100 years).
It is, however, interesting to note how transatlantic relations have been brought back on track, not least most recently by the latest Iraq crisis.
The crucial starting point was a realisation in France and Germany, already during the 2003 war, that key members of the then Bush Administration were deliberately trying to antagonize them with aggressive rhetoric. The problem was not just that of a single, individual, it was a systematic attempt to rally US public opinion behind an unpopular war, by creating a world of "us and them". By making "Old Europe" a whipping boy, domestic US dissent could be shouted down as "supporting the French". Once "Old Europe" realised this, the counter-offensive was able to start, with the stress being on supporting Americans, and even certain key members of the Bush administration, starting with the President himself, but isolating those trouble makers who had calculatedly sought to destroy the UN, the EU and NATO as unwanted constraints on US power.
On the American side, there has also been a gradual realisation that the 2002 National Security Policy was wrong-headed. The declared aim of preventing any other power from approaching the US in terms of economic or political strength was bound to irritate nations like China and India. It was also aimed firstly and principally at the only global power near reaching such status rapidly - the European Union. Subsequent US Administrations have, however, come to realize that by preventing the emergence of alternative democratic centres of economic and political power around the globe, they have made the US "the man to get". All anger, be it against globalisation, modernization or the West, automatically becomes anti-American in the absence of any other power of equal weight. Indeed, having fragmented European allies who can be "picked and chosen from" may have been a good recipe for military campaigns, but has proven disastrous when it came to fund raising- as the same countries have chosen not to pay for American efforts to rebuild Iraq (using American companies).
Technology also played a role in removing some of the barriers to transatlantic communication. Despite the repeated attacks of "patriotic hackers" on the Al-Jazeera website during the war, increasing numbers of individuals turned away from their domestic news sources during the 2003 war, seeking web sites such as this to receive alternative viewpoints. Whilst not censored, the fact that US TV only ever showed pictures of Iraqi people welcoming Anglo-American forces, contrasted strongly with European TV, where the subsequent images from the very same footage would often show Iraqis chanting pro-Saddam slogans, and screaming at the cameras "Yankee go home". The wall to wall coverage of dead women and children which was the fare of Al-Jazeera, and indeed, of much of the rest of the world's television, finally started to penetrate the US mind-set when a group of peace protestors simultaneously hacked some of the most visited US web-sites, and plastered them with pictures and names of some of the women and children who died as a result of the war. As Europeans and Americans have increasingly distrusted their own news sources, the ability to "see what the other side is seeing" and hence to draw the same conclusions, has increased.
Undoubtedly another factor that has benefited the European Union over the US was the deliberate decision by the European Council after the war to initiate a major new partnership with Arab nations. The largest single component of this policy was the massive promotion of educational exchanges and an "intelligent" immigration policy. This policy not only served to build a bridge to the Arab world at a time when it felt threatened, but it also ensured that a large mass of individuals around the Mediterranean basin and beyond had an understanding of the needs and wishes of those on the other side. The perceived erosion of Human Rights in the US, only now being rectified, including incarceration of foreigners without the right to appeal to courts, and the Patriot Act, only served to discredit the US in the eyes of these same communities, making Europe all the more attractive as an alternative. It is thus that, even for the US, Europe has become an important actor in the Middle East.
The European Union has also drawn the necessary lessons from the Iraq crisis over the past decade. The decision to maintain, but not extend, the rapid reaction force of 60,000 soldiers was initially viewed as a defeat for the EU. However, the deliberate and systematic way in which the EU has now built up what it terms its "civilian crisis management capabilities", ranging from deployable police forces and justice systems, through to humanitarian aid and medical resources has again wakened interest in having Europe involved in the real challenges that face the world today - from failing states, through pandemics and on to environmental catastrophes. The difficulty which the US experienced in converting its soldiers into peace time administrators in Iraq has just served to emphasise the gap in capability between the EU and US in this respect, with the Europeans for once leagues ahead of their American brethren.
Joining forces at last
As the new crisis of Iraqi collapse brews, it is clear for both Europe and the US that this time they must have a common line if things are to go better. After all, one of the fundamental lessons drawn from the 2003 experience, was that the Bush Administration's explicit disdain for world opinion was one of the major reasons that the regime in Baghdad was able to hold onto power for so long - leaving many Iraqi's (just like many Europeans) uncertain as to the real motives of the Anglo-American invaders. Hopefully the new generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic will have learnt the lessons of the last decade.
|Message from: Europaman, France Toulouse - 2003-04-02 06:04:20|
Subject: In no way should the UN cover up a US-led administration in Iraq !
The US/UK governments decided by themselves to ignore the vast majority of countries oppose to this pre-emptive war against Iraq. They took the responsibility to break international law and to put at risk the whole international system . Therefore they have to assume by themselves the consequences of this war. The international community and the UN should limit themselves to deal with past commitments (managing oil against food programme) and support NGOs actions to provide food and health care as in any conflict; unless the US and the UK agree to leave a full control to the UN on post-war Iraq. Under no circumstances should the UN cover up a US control of Iraq. I thought colonization was a process which ended up in the 60s!
To answer Click here !