Beauty of European languages

By the title I do not want to express any ‘ethnophilic’ sentiment towards the languages of the old continent, I merely want to point out to the document  recently published by Brussels Studies and reported *here* by an excellent weblog A Fistful of Euros. The Brussels Studies’ document considers an interesting trend that recently appeared in Brussels, and by extension, in Belgium as such; English is becoming the city’s lingua franca and Dutch and French are only the second and the third most spoken language, respectively.

This trend might not be unexpected, as the similar development might be seen in Europe at large, yet the question whether this is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ still remains. First, ‘good or bad’ from which perspective? The whole continent being able to communicate in one language seems to be something we all desire – the idea is that people and statesmen would be able to better understand each other and many issues of our social life would be much faster to solve as the necessity to translate from one language to another would almost diminish. Thus, our beloved politicians would be able to better cooperate (and a sceptic might add, deceive), people themselves might become more benevolent and englishunderstanding to their other European neighbours, pro-European socialists would be happy that this would promote a sense of belonging to the ‘society Europe’ as such and they would have free hands to fully employ their welfare-policies at large.

‘Utility’ of having European lingua franca (or lingua britannica as suggests A Fistful of Euros) evidently seems to never end. I fully accept this and I also fully embrace the necessity to have a language, or languages, which are understood by all people in Europe, especially when taking the further integration of the Union in mind. Yet, one has to ask a question whether people are only simple automatons choosing their actions and considering ‘the best choice’ only in terms of efficiency and utility, as many liberals thinkers and economists suggest. To consider the embrace of a language which would be spoken by all European peoples as ‘a good thing’ only because its undeniable utility – that is, that it would make the operation of the Union more efficient – is, I believe, a mistake. Even more, it is an abstract kind of thinking that reduces individuals to automatons as mentioned above.

To understand this, one has to ask: ‘what is this language?’ First of all, a language is not only a means of communication, it is not only some ‘utility’ to use to get other goods. A language also contains a part of its people’s thinking – its history, its myths, its way of life (consider for instance various colloquial terms which are used in one language and compare them to another – you might even encounter such that would be completely incomprehensible without knowing the content – without living in that particular country!) and it has a substantial socializing effect on every child, which through learning a language also forms an understanding what he or she is – what is the child’s place in this large world, what happened in his or hers country before and what had an impact on his or hers surroundings and family the most. One’s mother tongue is simply not ‘a tool of communication’ – it is a part of the identity ‘me.’ My language is a part of what I am, and to start to speak in a second, or a third language, does not simply mean to find an equivalent for a word in my mother tongue to that in a foreign language, but to also find in what context this word is being used, what history the word has behind it. A seemingly innocent world ‘leader’ is, as everyone knows, directly translated to German as ‘führer,’ which has obviously much more livid images associated to it than its English counterpart.

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Carl Schmitt, Aristotle and the concept of the political

schmittCarl Schmitt, besides being one of the thinkers of the ‘conservative revolution’ of the interwar Germany, was also notoriously infamous for being a ‘Hitler’s jurist,’ thus one of those important intellectuals who provided the necessary legal framework for the brutish Nazi regime. Yet, our world is seldom such that individuals can be so simply categorized as ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ and Carl Schmitt, has an interesting concept of the political which might give, and gives, contemporary political students and academics a completely new perspective on the sphere of politics.

Indeed, what is politics and its area of interest – the political? I might well continue by countless common definitions like ‘the political is what concerns the state,’ or I might mention the argument of many radical feminists or some of the scholars as Colin Hay (2002, pp. 69) who suggest that ‘everything has the potential to become political’ – even what was considered to be solely a domain of the ‘private’ – as was a few years ago shown in the infamous ‘fox hunting case’ in Britain.

Thus, the ‘classical’ definition of the political perceives politics as an arena – as Politics with the capital ‘P’ (by equating politics with places where is politics being created ~ usually the state, the government. However, many scholars including the ‘communitarians’ Charles Taylor, Michael Walker, Michael Sandel and Alasdair MacIntyre would certainly argue that politics is today also, or even primarily, created outside the national borders of the state – for instance in INGOs, QUANGOs, TNCs and in economic and financial organizations associated with them such as WTO or Bretton Woods institutions). Nevertheless, the second, ‘less traditional’ definition of politics perceives it as a process. When conceived as a process, in terms of application of power, or as of ‘transformatory capacity’ as Anthony Giddens formulates (1981), politics has the potential to emerge in every social location.

Colin Hay specifies:

‘Power … is about context-shaping, about the capacity of actors to redefine the parameters of what is socially, politically and economically possible for others. More formally we can define power … as the ability of actors (whether individual or collective) to “have an effect” upon the context which defines the range of possibilities of others’ (Hay, 1997, p. 50; quoted in Hay, 2002, p. 74)

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Site updates and the vote for ‘the European of the Year’

Today, the section ‘About’ has been updated and I have also added there some general information about the intended purpose of this blog, so some of the readers who are wondering whether there is any ‘purpose’ behind at all might want to check it out. Besides that, the link section ‘EU blogging community’ was expanded by some new additions and there is also a completely new link collection for blogs dealing with politics outside the affairs concerning EU, which I hope to expand in the nearest future. Any link suggestions are obviously more than welcome. merkel

Besides that, you might find interesting that European Voice holds the vote on 50 individuals who have most influenced the European political agenda during the last year. There are exactly 9  categories, each having 5 candidates to choose from and one final category where you might select ‘the European of the Year.’ The most interesting category might well be the ‘statesmen of the year’ where are present probably the most renowned names. For me, the statesmen of the year is obviously the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who managed to successfully conclude the June meeting of the EU leaders by pushing the ‘Reform Treaty’ on the European Union’s political agenda.

Nietzsche on friendship and on the ‘tragedy of life’

Friedrich Nietzsche ‘Friendship’ is something to which we all probably would nod and we would say that we fully understand what is meant by it, but do we? Who are these ‘friends’ we think are around us? What do they mean to us and do these ‘friends’ of today really differ from people we only ‘know better’ and or to whom we ‘talk more’ than with random people we daily meet? These might sound like silly questions to ask, really, however, when the phenomenon of Facebooks, Myspace etc. strikes daily the news and journalists often mention that people have tens or even hundreds ‘friends’ on their profiles, I believe it is never useless to stop and wonder for a moment.

Quite interestingly, I would like to point out to perhaps the most unexpected person who considered friendship in his work – to Friedrich Nietzsche. He, just as the voluntarist Schopenhauer before him, had almost no friends at all. Suffering from constant health problems – migraine headaches and vomiting, this brilliant intellectual had to resign from the post of professor at the University of Basle, which he received at unheard age of 24, and in 1879 started to travel around Europe, seeking seclusion and peace from his collapsing health near mountain lakes deep in the Alps.

In earlier days of his writing career, Nietzsche was a friend and admirer of the work of Richard Wagner. Nietzsche saw in Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde (1865) the possible resurrection of the antic tragedy. The Greek tragedy was for Nietzsche especially important because he regarded it as an ‘honest depiction of human life.’ That is, as a piece of art that depicts each person as born with certain qualities, but also possessing the ‘tragic flaw,’ which gives him a destiny that he cannot escape. Although in the Greek tragedy characters struggle with their predestined path, by each step they inadvertently proceed towards their certain end.

This is perhaps best depicted in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, where Oedipus is given a terrible predicament – he is to marry his mother and kill his father. The tragic flaw in case of Oedipus is hubris – and although that when he hears his terrible fate from the Delphic Oracle and tries to flee from the place where his (foster) parents live, escaping, he kills his father Laius – only because they argue who has the right-of-way.

Nevertheless, heroes of the antic tragedy – although endowed with the tragic fate – are not content with it, and they struggle till the very end. As Nietzsche mentions in The Birth of Tragedy this is a ‘honest’ image of what life is – tragic.

One is born into a condition one does not chooses. He is endowed with certain predispositions, born into a certain family, into a specific community, which make tremendous impact on one’s identity – on the fact ‘who one is.’ The ancient Greeks personified this human precondition as ‘given’ by three Moirae – the personifications of destiny. The ancient hero, however, is the one who, although endowed with both flaws and qualities, does not ‘give up’ and fights his destiny and although never wins (the human life can never be won, the human life is tragic, it always ends in death which can never be avoided) he understands that ‘there are moments and things worth living (and dying) for.’

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Globalization

Globalization seems to be almost a mythical word. As mentioned by Jerry Mander, media in the West almost unilaterally portray it as another step of ‘progress’ towards a ‘better world.’ [1] Consequently, as a striking opposition to smiling men in suits, media present shots of ‘globalization opponents’ which are portrayed solely as violent anarchists throwing paving stones on some or other demonstration against a meeting of G8, or any Bretton Woods institution for that matter. This inaccurate and misleading approach creates in public the perceived dichotomy of the supporters and opponents of globalization; the first are associated with the ‘educated’ and the latter with the ‘asocial rabble subverting the current effort for a better, liberal world order for all humanity.’

The world is nevertheless never so simple that it could be summarized as a battle of the forces of good against the forces of evil. The academic literature which supports the case against globalization exists, even it is flourishing and is supported by many erudite and distinguished scholars, whose ideas unfortunately, do not seem to fit into the contemporary political state of affairs. Academics like Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel or Charles Taylor [2] are communitarians supporting localized management of political and economic affairs against the globalization, which they accuse of destroying both local culture and economy.

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Tories urge against materialism

David Cameron

//Update 12 Sept.: Probably the most interesting and commendable proposition of the policy paper that yesterday escaped my attention is that it suggests to add to the existing indicator of the national economic prosperity – GDP – set of new indicators which would better map the real social welfare. The criticism of GDP comes largely from the simple fact that it treats all possible national disasters as ‘positive boosts’ and healthy for the economy. GDP rises when a country is ridden by floods, tornadoes, or even war because of the consequent economic investments.

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The report from the Quality of Life policy group created for the Conservative Party argues and documents by the empirical research that the sole pursuit of material wealth ‘won’t make the British people happy’ (reported by the Independent here, in Czech here). Interestingly, this paper denounces the Conservative Party’s own policy from the years of the Thatcher and Major government as appealing solely to the selfish human nature.

On the other, however, the Conservatives seem to have nothing against globalization and ‘free’ market as such and vehemently stand against any further European integration, that is, the first steps which one should take if he genuinely opposes the current materialism of the West. What is needed is an European framework which would be able to support local businesses as against the domination of trans-national companies who today universalize the whole West and are subject to no other interest than their own – which is obviously to make people buy as much as their products as possible. The resources available to these transnational business players is tremendous – for instance ‘the budget of General Motors ($132 billion) is greater than the GNP of Indonesia; Ford’s ($100.3 billion), greater than the GNP of Turkey; Toyota’s greater than the GNP of Portugal; Unilever’s greater than the GNP of Pakistan; Nestlé’s greater than the GNP of Egypt’ [1]. It is no wonder than that these companies are able to ‘convince’ some politicians that to support their cause is really in theirbest’ interest.

The Conservatives, however, are and will probably remain silenced with regard to this prime cause of the spread of the materialist propaganda. Their advice to stand against materialism thus sounds nice, but the sincerity of such statement is doubtful since it is not accompanied by any applicable remedy…

 

[1] http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/confronting_globalization.pdf, p. 122.

A psychopath? Let’s try to reeducate him..?

It seems there is no limit to stupidity in verdicts of the contemporary British courts. For instance, Daily Mail today reported that a 19-years old teenager who zapped a teacher with a million-volt stun gun and fractured the skull of the teaching assistant who came to the teacher’s aid, received six years in a young offenders’ institution.

I believe there exist today many widely available academic studies that there exist a certain sort of ‘people’ who are born without any ability to feel empathy towards others. These are called psychopaths, sociopaths or newly persons ‘anti-social personality disorder.’ What is important is that they are born such – they cannot be ‘re-educated’ to become law-abiding citizens or cannot be ‘learned’ to feel emotions again.

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