Impressionism 150

How many impressions made impressionism? Too many to be expressed in a single number. 150 years after the movement started with a spectacular exhibition in Paris the admiration of the paintings still attracts huge crowds. As a kind of revolutionary movement the artists mounted their own exhibition as they were not allowed to expose their paintings in the official exhibition of the Academy of arts in 1874. They accumulated a sufficiently large group of artists to form their own distinctive style of paintings. Painting outside in the countryside was a joint predilection. The regions, nowadays in the suburbs of Paris where many people daily commute to Paris has discovered the attraction to review the original scenario of the paintings as well as their living environments. Yerres, for example, hosts in 2024 an exhibition to show paintings from Claude Monet and Gustave Caillebotte which highlights the inspiration both painters took from the surroundings. Nowadays it is also interesting to see that the agglomeration makes efforts to make more people aware of the treasures to see in their own surroundings. Even if conservation of nature is hard to achieve the parks of yesterday have remained visible today. For us to transmit the cultural heritage and landscape to future generations as well. An affordable booklet that documents the cultural heritage allows people to dig deeper into the subject also for those who live in the region only because of a job nearby in Paris or Orly airport.

Park surrounding Maison Caillebotte, Yerres

Animal Victims

Animals, like birds, dogs and horses are more than just good pets for people. In previous wars like WW1 and WW2 they have served the armies as messengers, logistical support and detectives. This is yet another tragedy of war times that is rarely told. Dictators, just like Hitler, like to show off in the company of animals, although the record to be responsible for millions of killed persons and animals is rather striking. The disrespect of life, be they humans or animals, is an underlying theme. Beware of persons in power who try to soften their public image with the presence of animals at political events. A faked show of care for subordinates and a romantic relationship with animals can be used as an “image-washing” of a cruel personality. A pet-loving image attracts views and attention, sometimes for the wrong purposes. The commemoration of animals that served the French army and people is an important lesson about the extended horrors of war of the past and present. (Image Parc Caillebotte, Yerres France)

Credit donations

“credit” stems from the original latin word “cedere”. In the 1st person you write “credo”, which means I believe. If said in a religious building or church you show with this pronunciation that you believe tbe narrative of the religious community. In the 3rd person “credit” stand for s/he/it believes. In the financial sense it is the receiver of money from your credit card who believes or trusts you that you made an honest payment. Now, banks take commissions from each of these exchanges of trust. You are credit worthy or not. In some churches you now make donations using your credit card to facilitate business. Credit card companies also charge you on your donation. Win win situation we call this. I keep asking myself, whether I still “believe in angles” or only business angles. (Image Église Notre Dame des Victoires Brussels 2024-7)

Sport Fashion

Sport is fashion and fashion is sport. Not only in the Euro 2024 the teams make a big fuzz about the design of their sportswear, but certainly the Olympic games in Paris 2024 will demonstrate the close links between the 2 worlds. We might say playing football is a bit like a fashion catwalk. Keep going right on target, despite obstacles, when thousands of people are watching your performance and potential failures very closely. Making a “bella figura” is a must in both spheres. There is also a strong tendency for “the winner takes all”, that s/he takes the trophy and the jackpot.
Both worlds are also big business in their own right. It is at least 100 years old that sport and fashion got married. The “Musée des arts décoratifs” in Paris had an excellent exhibition on the combination of sport and fashion (booklet link). According to the curators both spheres have always been interlaced. High-level performance and specialized fashion just made for a splendid combination. As the rich and wealthy had more than a penny or two to spend on their leisure activities the combination of sport and fashion soon became itself a big business, beside the visible beauty of the bodies, movements and dresses. Just watch the breakdance fashion as the latest addition to the repertoire of olympic disciplines. In a recent article in “Le Monde” (2024-7-11) the value of the market of sports including its fashionable merchandising is estimated to reach a turnover of € 500 billion in 2022.
The competition of sports has been turned into a competition of the best images and videos. Fashionable as well as functional clothing can assist in climbing the podium. In the Euro 2024 Football Final the teams equipped with Adidas (Spain) and with Nike (England) compete for the trophy. Changing equipment sponsorship from one to the other can raise substantial amounts for a team (€ 100 million/year for the German national team). Big business seems to take over sports and fashion after the century-old marriage of sport and fashion. Since then, they have jointly been on an extended honeymoon. (Image from 2024-7)

Olympic Games 1924

100 years after the Olympic games were held in Paris, they will take place there again. Each time for the Olympic games new locations (Colombe) were built. For the 1924 games for example the first 50m swimming pool was built (Stade nautique des Tourelles, Porte des Lilas, Paris 20th), but a new one will host the 2024 competitions. However, the old pool will still serve in 2024 for the preparation of the competitions. The successors of Johnny Weissmuller (5 gold medals in swimming 1924) and star in many Hollywood films, the access to the stadium has become much more secured these days. In fact, security has turned into a crucial issue to host the “peaceful games”. In 1924 Germany was still not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games in Paris as the security of participants could not be guaranteed. Some competitions at the time turned rather violent as the example of the rugby competition, in which the converted American football team as rugby players had beaten the Fench rugby team.
The idea of alternative games has also been around for decades. There were already in the 1920s international competitions of worker associations (for example Frankfurt 1925) and the Olympic idea had to defend itself against the accusation of a Western countries’ domination. The set of disciplines in the competitions is always up for discussion and negotiations. We shall see interesting new additions in 2024, like break dance, to broaden the understanding of Olympic disciplines.
Even 100 years after Pierre de Coubertin steered the modern Olympic games the idea is to bring more to the games than “Faster, higher, stronger”, notably to be together. To be together in a peaceful way remains the biggest challenge for humanity. The inclusive turn is, however, a challenge to host the games, particularly to host paralympic games in inner cities that have abundant barriers of access for impaired persons. Inclusiveness for many countries is another challenge that goes beyond the simple participation in the games, but consists in training facilities and equipment for many disciplines.
(Image: BNF Gallica)

Couch Cottage

As vacation time is approaching, we ask ourselves, whether to choose the comfortable couch or the remote cottage. This is the proposition of Roger-Pol Droit in “Le Monde Livres” (“Sagesse 2024: cabane ou canapé“, 28.6.2024 p.36) based on the reading of “Ma cabane sans peine” by Alain Guyard and “Philosophie du Canapé” by Stefano Scrima.
The couch stands for the lazy life or “vita contemplativa“, thinking about philosophical topics that need a certain form of laid back behaviour to allow your brain to sort out tricky questions or to ask yourself, what is, was or will be important questions. Many academics shut themselves away from the busy life outside to reserve more time for couch thinking. The usual products of this activity practised on chairs and couches is more or less digestable books. Some make a comfortable living out of this active inactivity.
The cottage approach follows another longstanding philosophical tradition associated with Dionysos. Living a simple life in a remote place, but full of life’s enjoyment allows to exalt in the dithyrambic atmosphere of the countryside.
Rather than the either, or issue: couch or cottage, I go along with the dialectics of Hegel, who forms out of thesis and antithesis the synthesis. In our example this is obviously equal to “take the couch to the cottage“, problem solved. Additionally Nietzsches version of “Die fröhliche Wissenschaft” seems to prolong the dialectic experience of going beyond the “neither, nor” dichotomy to combine both couch and cottage.
You sensed it. It will be a rather exciting summer break to pursue on the many roads to “Sagesse 2024” (Wisdom 2024).

Art or Profession

In political science it is a long tradition to discuss, whether politics is an art or a profession. The idealist tradition, going back as far as Plato in ancient Greek history of ideas, puts the exercise of politics near the exercise of a divine art to do justice. Much later in the history of ideas Max Weber rather bluntly defined politics as a profession (original in German) that requires to master a set of competences.
Recent elections in Europe (EU, France, UK, Belgium) and around the globe (India, USA) in 2024 add interesting case studies to the old question. Is politics an art or a profession?
In modern politics the life course or life cycle of a politician consists of at least 2 phases: (1) the electoral campaign before and (2) the potential of governing or opposition. Each phase requires a different set of competences. In phase 1 it is important to propose a new or different ideal from the previous government. Charismatic presentation of an ideal set of policies is asked for.  In phase 2 it is required of the politician to forge compromises, either within the own political party or beyond boundaries of political parties. Certainly, in multi-level governance systems like the European Union additional forms of coalition building across countries is required, intercultural competence or language skills are an advantage here.
The 2 phases of the life cycle of a politician require different sets of skills. Charisma as mentioned by Plato and Weber can get a politician into power and charismatic leadership can get you through a lot of coalition building. On the other hand, modern campaigning in repeated elections is a specialized competence that resembles marketing expertise as well as “reading of statistics” and in-depth analyses of shifting or stable preferences of electorates and to succinct conclusions on this basis. Running a political party or a parliamentary group is yet another leadership skill just like communication skills that, beyond many prejudices, can be learned.
In a nutshell. Politics is an art and a profession. The art consists in the variable combination of different sets of competences. Art requires competences just as professions can be turned into art.  Welcome to the hybrid world of modern politics. (Image extract from MAD Paris, Picasso, Schiaparelli)

1Person Nation

One single person can stand for a whole country. At least that’s what mass media have tried to make us believe. Whole countries or even empires have been associated with single personalities. Maybe for simplicity we start with Caesar, Cleopatra and the like. These personalities reach historic status through the literature that has reported on their achievements and fame. Mass media of today copy that strategy to create fame out of images. The American journal “Cineaste” has recently exemplified the making of an idol with the popular actor “Jean Gabin”, who happened to be the representative not only of French cinema, but the image of France across countries and even continents. Identification with an actor or the projected image of a person are common goals in politics as well. The actor Ronald Reagan became elected as president of the USA. Zelensky in Ukraine has followed a similar trajectory. The examples are manifold, but the underlying mechanism remain pretty similar. Before we had the concept of influencers, not influenza, popular spreading of messages is key. Only the technology changed. New ways to prepare a 1person nation have been added over time. Followers are the new political currency. Beware of signs “Follow Me”, even if it is the police asking you to do so. (Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Exhibition 2024)

Superstates reloaded

We live in an age of superstates. Such is the conclusion of Alasdair Roberts (2023). China(1.4), India (1.2), USA (0.33) and the EU (0.45) in billions of people jointly host about 40% of the world’s population (UN data). The Russian Federation with a population of 0.15, Japan 0.13 rank further behind, for example Pakistan 0.24 and Indonesia 0.27. Nothern, Eastern and Western Africa (0.25;0.46;0.42 respectively) have a huge unfulfilled potential that does not reach the impact it deserves.

These big and populated entities contrast with the increasing number of small states that have become new members of the United Nations. The institution of the United Nations, through its setup as an international rule based governance structure, has facilitated small states to seek voice and influence in the international arena of politics. The UN had 51 members in 1945 and has now a membership of 193 of all listed states of 237 on the globe. The increase in membership is due to many small states joining the UN after independence from big imperial powers. The international power relations, however, are only partially determined by population size but economic and military factors. The so-called superstates reach power through their power of direct and indirect “persuasion. Therefore the relationship between small and big states remains a delicate balance of power. Russia attempted to grab Ukraine and its population of 410 millions to remain in the league of superstates by population size and has suffered a hefty setback which further unsettles the disequilibrium of its male (68) and female (78) population with predominantly male soldiers’ lives lost.

Whereas we have seen the small states’ numbers on the rise in the last few decades, the expansion of superstates from Russia, China, India or Pakistan remain a threat to peace on the globe. The crystallization of a multi polar world order is on its way, but the stakes are high and unsettling in many respects. The fallout of war stalls the adaptation to climate change and increases the millions of starving people on the globe. the attempt to reach superstate status by already big states is probably the greatest danger we shall face for the coming years. Preparing for the instability of the world in transition to an increasing multi polar world order will dominate the political agenda of many intermediate powers as well as smaller states. (Image Globe Moscow 1994, displayed Stabi Berlin 2024)

Women Advisors

Contrary to many men and clergy advising noble governors, many of them famous as womanizers, there is a long tradition of women as advisors as well. The first woman that received high reputation as advisor is “Christine de Pizan“. She was born in Italy and migrated to France with her father who was a scientist and advisor to  “Charles V” as medical doctor and astrologist, but who died soon after the move to the French court. With the access to a unique library at the time Christine de Pizan benefited from the best of knowledge and her literary and scientific competences made her famous later on. She could even be compared to Clausewitz as a well known writer on war strategies, but has a much broader literary reach compared over centuries.
Christine de Pizan became a writer in her own right, publishing under her own name in the late 14th century already and not only in literary work, but in fields previously thought to be domains of male writers only. One of her writings “Livre des fais d’armes et de chevalerie” is a testimony of her political and strategic thinking and advice. It remains a unique piece of a woman as advisor in military affairs published in 1410. The translation into “Alemannisch” (1460) highlights the importance of her strategic advice beyond France.
Her literary excellence has been widely appreciated not the least in her praise of Jeanne d’Arc in her “Ditiè”, the poem in honor of Jeanne d’Arc. (source with translation). Christine de Pizan also wrote on peace (Le livre de la paix” 1412 and the “Livre du chemin de longue étude“, today we would translate it as a book on lifelong learning.
(Source: Zimmermann, Margarete, 2005: Minervas jüngere Schwester: Die politische Schrifstellerin Christine de Pizan, Stabi Berlin, KulturStiftung der Länder Patrimonia 265 und SPK.
(Image: Extrait Christine de Pizan im Gespräch mit Minerva. BNF, Paris, Ms. fr 603, fol.21r)

Violence Potential

The book (editor Sabrow 2023) and the exhibition “Gewalt gegen Weimar. Zerreißproben der frühen Republik 1918-1923” need a broad European audience. The violence, which in the medium term destroyed the newly founded democracy of the Weimar Republic in Germany, is linked to the immediate aftermath of the 1st world war. The relatively calm abolition of monarchy in Germany did in no way prevent the eruption of violence within the new democracy. Extreme forces prepared in organized ways (Organisation Consul) and some in open public discourses the potential for the use of violence. Armaments left over from war equipped the Freikorps Movements and the potential to use the weapons was present at all times in the aftermath of WW1 in Germany. The contributions to the volume provide a detailed account of these 5 crucial years when democracy was able to defend itself against all odds. The strategies to take control of the country were built on a violent rhetoric which prepared the ground to put violent talk into action later on. This spiral of violence is hard to de-escalate once started. However, democracies have to foster ways to calm the spirits in periods of high potential violence. Elections as well as the campaigns before are the arms of democratic change. They should be used as such to pave the way to compromise.

Exhibition at Topography of terror Berlin 2024-6

Composing Assisted

Before the existence of digital composition tools composers were assisted by “Kopisten”. These persons rewrote the original draft of a composition into a “proper” version of the original document. Musicology has a tough time to deal with deviations from the original. It needs to be clarified which is the final and authorized version. In some instances this is far from evident. Just as an example Robert Schumann made ample use of the assistance of Kopist Otto Hermann Klausnitz (cf Nr 6), sometimes for the preparation of the composition, the finalized versions or the explicit drafting of different voices. Klausnitz himself was a flautist in Leipzig (Gewandhausorchester) and a conductor in Duesseldorf. Overall the debate is still going on, whether the composer’s draft or in many instances the Kopist’s version of the composition (authorized or not) prevails. In the age of AI, which is highly influential in modern music, such questions will most likely be intrinsic to the process of composition as well. AI is influential in evening out rough edges. Anette Mueller (2010) has done a great job to make this work of “Kopisten” much more transparent and her concluding chapter is programmatically entitled “Komponist und Kopist- Aspekte einer produktiven Kooperation”. (Image Mueller, A 2010 p. 340).

Gas light

Even if it sounds crazy from today‘s perspective gas lights once were the symbol of progress. In the middle of the 19th century gas lights started to lighten and brighten the boulevards of major cities in Europe. The historic evolution of the various designs can still be followed in Berlin in the open space museum of gas light in the Tiergarten area near Zoologischer Garten. These gas lights were brighter than candles or petroleum lights and needed less maintenance. The CO2 footprint was no concern at that time and also safety concerns have been tolerated. Mechanical maintenance was relatively easy and sufficiently qualified personnel still abundant. All this has changed and the lamp posts powered by gas are mostly a part of industrial history now. The image below shows a fine example from Amsterdam. The solid construction shows nice ornaments on steel. The rounded shape remained quite unique.
Unfortunately, the accessibility of the museum has contributed to the loss of many nice examples of gas light designs. Many were destroyed during the football world cup in Berlin in 2006. Let’s hope the Tiergarten survives the Euro2024 better than the previous huge football events and Love parades. Serious precautions have been taken with quite solid fences to protect the inner city wild life.

Berlin Gas Light Museum

Aussensicht Innensicht

Die Sicht vom Skulpturengarten der Neuen Nationalgalerie auf die laufende Ausstellung „Zerreissprobe…“ erlaubt einen tiefen historischen Einblick in die 1980er Jahre. Die Sammlung von Postern des Künstlers Klaus Staeck zeigen die bewegenden Themen der achtziger Jahre. Frauenrechte, Umweltschutz, Sicherheit sowie Medienwirtschaft. 40 Jahre später beschäftigen uns weiterhin, Lösungen für die plakatierten Themen zu finden. Images können Themen so zuspitzen, dass Anklagen daraus werden. Texte sind im Vergleich zu der Eindrücklichkeit der Bilder ein vergleichsweise stumpfes Schwert. Es ist aber gerade die Verbindung von Bild und Text, die Eindrücke verstärkt. „Meme“ Creators sind ein standard tool das die Kommerzialisierung und die Promotion weiter befördert haben. Kunstformen hatten diesen Trend bereits vorweggenommen.

Democracy Enemies

Discussions in the social sciences about the fate of democracy have a long tradition. With the results of participation rates in elections for the European Parliament in 2024 weeks need to take up the challenge again. The book by Bryn Rosenfeld “The Autocratic Middle Class …” stated already in 2020 that autocratic regimes tend tp buy off democratic intentions through providing lots of jobs in the public sector which promise stable living standards and pensions to regime conformity. If the public sector crowds out private sector jobs this creates a tendency to lock in the current political system of autocracy. The analysis, however, lacks the explanation of the micro level sociological mechanism that made the “color revolutions” plausible in many parts of the world. Even the recent success of a government change in Poland in favor of pro European Donald Tusk would have been impossible if the buying of the middle class through public sector jobs is the overriding mechanism to avoid democracy to win the upper hand. Withholding funds to make public sector expansion more difficult or risky in for the longer term stability of an autocratic regime might do the trick. Autocrats have many enemies not only externally. The enemies from inside the society have multiple options for opposition as well. The other perspective that there are many enemies of democracy to be found within the public sector is another known challenge to democracy. Low turnout in Elections is a warning signal that we have to take very seriously and continue to act upon. (Image: Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin 2024 Extreme tension, explation on Ewa Partum)

Broken Promises

In a library catalogue, the entry of « broken promises «  returns more than 3000 times that the title has been used. « Promises kept » is almost as popular. A rapid inspection of titles reveals that the former titles suggest more factual analyses, whereas the latter is frequently used in the form of an imperative in combination with “should be kept”. The book by Fritz Bartel “The Triumph of Boken Promises …” (2022) demonstrates the importance of the concept of broken promises in the social sciences. The rivalry between socialism, capitalism and the rise of neoliberalism is strongly influenced by the way they handle the breaking of promises made to their respective societies. The promises of increasing wealth and wellbeing have been part of all political regimes. To keep these promises is a completely different story. Especially since the first and second oil crises and many other kinds of crises, it has become much harder to keep these promises. Working hours, retirement ages or minimum wages are all at risk to no longer live up to the promises made in earlier periods. This has put welfare states under pressure that millions of voters perceive politics as a “game” of broken promises. Socialist political regimes like Russia are ready to use physical violence to shut up people that remind leaders of these broken promises. In democracies the ballot box is often used to sanction governments that do not live up to expectations of previous promises. A lot is about public infrastructure which is failing people. Migration, education, social and labor reforms are on top of the political agenda if it comes down to broken promises. The elections of the European Parliament gave many a chance to express their discontent about various broken promises. Maybe democracy is better in providing forms of letting off steam early and protracted protests rather than the Russian way to suppress any critical analysis, let alone opposition movements. Just like the move from industrial production to services as production models, with AI we are likely to see similar problems and probably also broken promises. The challenge is huge and promises should be made with an eye of what promises could be kept.

Public swimming pool closed for reconstruction 2024

Schostakowitsch Revival

Je mehr Putin sich unablässig in seinem Angriffskrieg gegen die Ukraine und gegen seine eigenen Leute versteift, umso mehr werden die musikalischen Werke von Dmitri Schostakowitsch aktuell. Schostakowitsch hatte viel unter Stalin zu leiden. Sein Werk konnte kaum Gefallen bei der stalinistischen Führung finden, aber dennoch haben voele der Russen seine Werke geliebt. Insbesondere die sogenannte „Leningrader“ Symphonie, die das Volk einte vor den Radioempfängern, selbst mitten im Krieg gegen Nazi-Deutschland. Die Berliner Symphoniker haben diesem Werk eine neuere Ehre erwiesen mit einer Aufführung in Berlin 2024-5. Das Interview dazu mit dem Dirigenten Yannick Nézet-Séguin wurde geführt von Matthew Hunter, Bratschist der Berliner Philharmoniker. Es beschreibt diese eindrückliche Auswahl hervorragend. Die Berliner Philharmoniker haben eine lange Tradition, Werke von Schostakowitsch aufzuführen und einzuspielen. Die Digital Concerthall hat eine umfangreiche Sammlung mit Werken von Schostakowitsch. Oftmals etwas schwere Kost, aber durch das Ausspielen des ganzen dynamischen Spektrums von pp bis ff nie langweilig. Eine kleine Filmmusik „Volksfest“ (Sylvesterkonzert 2022) ist leicht beschwingt oder gar etwas beschwipst. Der musikalische Nachwuchs hat die Tiefe der Werke erkannt und gewinnt international anerkannte Preise mit Vorträgen von Werken Schostakowitschs. So geschehen zum Beispiel beim „Concours de la Reine Elisabeth in Brüssel 2024-5. Der Ukrainer Dmytro Udovychenko würdigte Schostakowitschs Leben und Werk inklusive des Existenzkampfes und gleichzeitig seine Heimat die Ukraine mit dem Belgischen Nationalorchester mitten in Europa. 

Example Audio Playlist on Spotify or Videos on DCH

Marketing bicycles

The marketing of bicycles has changed considerably over the course of history. Today’s narrative is more about the eco friendly impact of it. Historically the freedom aspect of free movement and emancipation of women was at the forefront. The collection of images in poster formats presented at the DTM in Berlin is impressive. The focus on women on bicycles is quite surprising for this early time around 1900. Few of the companies from the early days have survived until today. Bicycles are still fascinating children and adults today. The experience of a fragile equilibrium, your own strength and weakness in muscle power, cardiac or pulmonary strength is always challenging. It is you who is in control of speed and direction. This should be easy to sell to the masses, and it was and still is. “Bikenomics” is here to stay. Artists had the same impression and created a whole universe of promises for riders of bicycles. The long run health benefits were not even known at the time, but it was unthinkable that humans would spend most hours sitting in offices, cars and on their couches. The biking story needs to be retold to encourage people to take up the emancipating storyline again. Get on your bike again!

DTM Berlin 2024-6

Portable Grundgesetz

Celebrating democracy in Germany is rare. We take it for granted that democracy persists, as most of us have not experienced it otherwise in Germany. This is grossly mistaken as the opinion polls show repeatedly in recent years. Therefore, it is welcome to find the “Portable Grundgesetz” at the “Demokratiefest” in Berlin and Bonn at the event to celebrate 75 years of democracy in West Germany and 35 years in East Germany.
The century-old tradition to produce miniature books has been revived and the miniature books have been widely distributed at the event. A side effect consists in the eco-friendliness of this version, which saves a lot of paper. It is fun also fun to turn pages rapidly and discover some paragraphs which we would not have read otherwise. “Daumenkino” is the German word for versions that contain many images. Maybe next time, an illustrated and/or animated version of the Grundgesetz could encourage youth to celebrate using the texts, §s and images to discover the fundamentals of our constitution.
325 years ago, Weigel the Elder has illustrated, edited and published such a tiny edition of the Bible. It is currently exposed in the treasure museum at the “Kulturwerk” in the “Stabi Ost” in Berlin. “Back to the Future”, lots of ideas we get by taking archives seriously. By chance inspiration is undervalued. Search algorithms have a hard time to replace this in an effective way so far.

Competence Nature

Nature can be approached without competence. Emotional attachment is fine. If we delve deeper into the issue, we realize that a lot of processes that have evolved over years or even centuries are hard to study. The learning about nature is manifold and many scientific disciplines deal with nature in the broad sense of the word.
Today the study of nature is scattered across so many disciplines that an overall view of the field seems hard to achieve. This creates a problem to teach a competence to deal with topics around nature. Water, air, species, soil, climate or reproduction are all topics in which we have to make far-reaching individual and collective choices. This requires adequate competences to allow judgments about opportunities and risks involved.
For more than 100 years now we have researched education systems and processes, but the competences to talk and explain basic processes in nature are still scarce. Classification systems are a static way to sort nature into categories. Processes of evolution and development have more or less human input.
We all gain if we keep an eye on education and learning processes that have been applied years ago. The field of the history of education provides clues about some forgotten approaches. Learning about nature and how to acquire competence in the field has been an issue in this field for at least 100 years. It is time to test some of these approaches again to see what went wrong in learning about nature. Man-made climate change is only at the end of a causal chain of things and people moving in the wrong direction. We probably have to press the reset button and start from scratch with the learning and the tracing of wrong decisions. Maybe, the start is the appreciation of a splendid bouquet of flowers. Want to know more? Try to grow and assemble them yourself.

Mangel Armut

Herta Müller hat bereits 2012 in „Das Chinesische Glasauge“ sehr treffend die Funktion von Mangel und Armut in Diktaturen beschrieben. Sowohl der ständige Mangel als auch die Armut dienen als Instrumente der Macht. Sie sind quasi die Fortsetzung von Ideologie zur Beherrschung der Massen. Zusammen bilden sie die Umgebung, den Kontext in dem dort gelebt wird. Die Herrschenden jedoch haben Privilegien, die sie von der Allgemeinheit absetzen. Diese knappe Beschreibung und Einleitung zur Kurzgeschichte haben eine große Portion Allgemeingültigkeit. In Mangel und Armut können kleine Vergünstigungen eine viel größere Wirkung entfachen. Sehnsüchte nach mehr werden nahezu zwingend hervorgebracht. Allein die Aussicht auf ein teilweises Stillen der Erwartungen oder nach mehr entfachen weiteres „höriges“ Verlangen. In Diktaturen werden die Personen, die unaufhörlich auf die Armut und den Mangel hinweisen meist geächtet oder sogar ins Exil gezwungen. Solche Störenfriede sind nicht gern gesehen. Das Russland unter Putin braucht Leute der herrschenden politischen Klasse zujubeln und bereitwillig in den Krieg ziehen oder an der Kriegsmaschinerie mitwirken. Wir sind mehr als eine Dekade weiter, aber diese Zusammenhänge bestehen ebenfalls weiter. Schmuck in der Mangelwirtschaft ist bereits eine Provokation. Das offene Tragen der Provokation kann im schlimmsten Fall das Leben kosten.
(Image: Herta Müller, 2023, Eine Fliege kommt durch einen halbern Wald, Carl Hanser Verlag, “Das Chinesische Glasauge”, S.50-61)

Democracy celebrates

With all the bad experiences of Nazi-Germany and the failure to defend democracy in Germany against its fascist enemies in the 1930s, it was a pleasure to celebrate democracy in Germany together with a huge crowd. 3 days of information and party around the major institutions of democracy Parliament, government, federal governments, constitutional court and all ministries joining in with pavilions in the parks nearby allowed a bottom up feeling of democracy. Visiting the chancellery as well as the parliament in a single day shows the openness of these institutions and the ease of access to our political system. People of all ages and all walks of life strolled around and enjoyed the day. Freedom to voice your opinion was easy and many took their time to do it. Civil society organizations were a natural part of the show. We seem prepared to stand up for our democratic values and principles. This will be tested in all the forthcoming elections.

Competence Handwriting

The acquisition of handwriting as a competence has been important for centuries. In primary schools this technique is exercised as a foundation for the performance in other cultural techniques like language writing and even calculus. Therefore, it has been beneficial to make sure children acquire basic competences in handwriting. This has not changed much, although the time devoted to perfection of the technique has been reduced over generations. We still have some memories of people who have made the handwriting or the pencils used a case of distinction. At the enlightenment period a lot of authors drafted their thoughts and manuscripts in handwriting and our museums or biographies are proud to show off handwriting of authors, artists or composers. In some of those we are able to retrieve the thought process behind the writing. The editing, crossing out, adding sentences or correcting words are traces to dive deeper into these creative processes.
Currently, we are less sure, whether in the age of AI we should still rely much on this old technique of handwriting. If we just treat it as one of many competences to be or become creative yourself, we are on the right track. The PISA studies by OECD include problem-solving as a crucial competence. Handwriting or drafting first steps of a solution might still be useful. A handwritten sketch of a solution might guide the elaboration of the more encompassing solution.
Another interesting feature of handwriting is the cross-cultural element of it. We feel easily compassion for a handwritten document. The psychomotor competence of handwriting is fascinating across continents. It has distinguished us from other species as well. The evolutionary steps are important elements of a learning process. Nostalgic feelings about handwriting do not help anybody, but children are well-advised to still keep an eye on their handwriting competence as part of or first step in problem solving, even if it is just to formulate the question they are interested in.

Schinkel Winkel

Was wäre Berlin ohne Schinkel. Die Berlinerin sagt sogar, „in jedem Winkel steht ein Schinkel“. Das trifft das historische Berlin schon recht gut. Am Charlottenburger Schloss mit seinem schönen rechteckigen Parkanlagen, ganz nah, steht das sogenannte „Schinkel Palais“, genauer heißt es das Neuer Pavillon. Wenn Könige reisen ließen sie schon mal ganz gerne eine Kopie einer schönen Architektur in ihrem Park anfertigen. Das Vorbild eines italienischen Palazzos war hinreichend eindrucksvoll, um Schinkel mit einem Nachbau zu beauftragen. Viele rechte Winkel ließ der Schinkel mauern. Die verhältnismäßig kleinen Innenräume sind heute mit zeitgenössischen Bildern ausstaffiert. Da darf der Caspar David Friedrich natürlich nicht fehlen. 200 Jahre nach Beginn des Bauens am Schinkel Pavillon lässt sich noch recht gut sozusagen in die Epoche eintauchen. In einem etwas abgelegenen Winkel vom großen Schloss lässt sich somit die Zeitreise architektonisch Fortsetzen und mit weiteren Kunstgegenständen verknüpfen. Es ergibt sich so eine „dichte Beschreibung“ der Berlin prägenden Epoche.

Schinkel Pavillon 2024-5

Dietrich Gabin

In French cinema Jean Gabin is a much adored person. Equally, Marlene Dietrich had, probably an even more far reaching international career. Both were accomplished and successful actors long before the 2nd world war broke out. In the U.S both fell in love and had a long lasting romance together. Their war time activities and “engagement” in fighting Nazi-Germany were extraordinary. It meant that both took active roles to use their charisma to mobilize people and soldiers to fight for freedom.
Shortly after the war then, both made a last attempt to work together in a movie production, but it could not unite the couple again. The “Deutsche Kinemathek” displays currently a page from the Diary of the “Diva” to underscore to what extent “Dietrich” was depressed about the break-up of their longer lasting love affair. Some say Gabin was the only person who quit her, all (most?) other relationships were terminated by the Diva. The junctions of biographies are hard to predict. The circumstances of the 2nd world war and internalized civic obligations to fight for freedom and democracy were wholeheartedly shared by both, but eventually they grew apart nevertheless. Tough experiences even for the much adored persons on the forefront of the stages worldwide. There seem to be many instances of repetition of the same story not only in movies, but also in real life.
Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Museum 2024-5