Swimming Pool

Summer time is the time to enjoy outdoors. Hiking, biking, climbing as well as swimming are high on the agenda. With the Olympic games 2024 around the corner we rise to the challenge and get started again with more sports activities. Swimming has many health advantages. Most people think of cardiovascular training and relieve of back pain. Exercise without carrying your body weight is great for your joints and ligaments. The benefits for psychological wellbeing have long been underestimated. Diving into silence under water even if it is only for some seconds or a minute calms your spirit. The water pressure holds you tight without restricting your movements. Breath control is an almost meditative experience. Everyone can do it, again and again. Childhood memories, good and bad, are associated with swimming. Choose your style, costume and pool. The summer break is an ideal occasion to test the marvelous experience again of cold or warm water. The cold water bucket challenge of everyday life takes a break. Time to find your pool again. (Image extract from Susanne Hay, Swimming Pool II, 1996 in private collection, exhibition in Yerres, summer 2023)

Chapelles Sportifs

In Paris the “Chapelle Notre Dame des Sportifs” was benedicted in 2023 in view of the Olympic Games 2024 in France. The catholic church is following the popular Olympics to call for “Holy Games” with subtitle “L’évangile c’est sport”. The chapel can be visited in the splendid church “La Madeleine” in the middle of Paris. You can buy candles with inscriptions like “the last ones, will come first (Mt 20,16)” or other citations from the bible. On Friday 2024-7-19 a special ceremony was held where you could jointly pray to win in your discipline or, of course, for other noble causes. The whole service was recorded with multiple cameras from a professional television team for a worldwide dissemination. It remains an open question, whether the church sponsors athletes as well or whether the athletes sponsor the church through their followers on social media. in any case it is a bigger media event accompanying the Olympic games in Paris.

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

Live longer

It is an old dream of mankind to live longer and longer. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons that there are powerfully viruses and their continued mutations which threaten this. Life expectancy declined slightly during the pandemic and we learned that long Covid is yet another threat to our life expectancy. Scientists have found other sources that are crucial for survival. Like sepsis, it is the constant inflammation processes in our bodies. Long working times, stressful commute to work and interrupted or shortened vacations all contribute to keep inflammation at higher levels than is healthy from a longevity perspective. The research note published in Nature on the inflammation enhancing protein IL-11 highlights the chain reaction process of inflammation causing cancer and autoimmune disorders and diseases. Hence, it is essential to watch the biomarkers of inflammation and probably adjust our lifestyles accordingly. The sources of inflammation are manifold, but the potential rewards to address the issue are huge as well. Among the easy to address sources is nutrition, exercise and working life. Changing just a little bit here and there can make already a change. Monitoring how you feel about such changes puts you on a learning curve for your own inflammation levels. Vacation times are also perfect for adaptive behavioral changes. We just need to keep trying.

Plastic wasted

The amount of plastic that is wasted exceeds our imagination. Even in the most distant islands we find remaining pieces of plastic from our careless consumption. The European Directive 2019/904 has set the limit on detached bottle tops to July 2024. The industry waited until the last few months to implement the old directive. Great that there is hope to find less detached plastic in oceans across the world in some years at least. The behavioral change to move beyond plastics everywhere in our nutrition delivery system is long overdue. We shall get used to bring our own bottles for a refill or other devices to reduce plastic waste further. The change begins with thinking about the topic and finding suitable reusable packaging solutions for yourself. Children learn in art projects about the importance and creativity potential to reuse otherwise wasted materials. Reduce and re-use can be turned into an own competence. Competence in sustainability has been neglected for decades in school curricula, despite its importance for our own health and survival. (Image James Ensor exhibition and competition KBR, Brussels 2024-7)

Narrative Object

Objects tell stories. Stories get condensed into narratives. Narratives become objects. Yes, we are going round in circles here. Artists have transformed an old splendid atelier and factory building into a new gallery space for “Objects with narratives” in Brussels. We construct, reconstruct and deconstruct narratives almost continuously. However, if narratives are transformed into an object or objects they will become something tangible or a fixed expression of the moment or process. The concept of art objects with narratives invites us to look for the narrative linked to the object. Just like in other disciplines like economics we have ample dominant and heterodox narratives. It is important to reflect on narratives and empirical evidence in their support. When we look at the mountains of plastics and garbage on our planet we see how an economic narrative has been turned into nasty objects. Objects with narratives is also how future generations will confront us with the pollution and waste objects we left and still leave behind us. (Image Bussels Gallery Objects with narratives 2024-7-13 Exhibition Marius Ritiu.)

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 www.emptyspacetm.com 2024-7)

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).

Schooling Ukraine

It is hard to imagine what it will mean to go to school, if your father has to defend your country, Ukraine, and freedom of education instead of Russian indoctrination. This is tough for all children in countries that have to defend themselves today or in the past. For Ukrainian children and families who had to flee their country this means that they have to go through another education system, not out of choice, but instead of their normal way through their education system. This means a lot of additional challenges for them. In Germany alone the educational authorities have counted more than 200.000 children in schools at the beginning of 2024. Additional efforts are undertaken to allow mothers as well to learn a foreign language to facilitate communication with the receiving countries. We have to make huge efforts that these children are not a scared generation of pupils but rather a strengthened generation of young persons with solid learning experiences in another country. Some will stay in the receiving countries, many will return and rebuild their homes and communities. Our support and assistance needs to be a long term commitment beyond the end of the war after an eventual Russian retreat from Ukraine territory. Solidarity is not a fixed-term commitment. We shall be put to the test and should not hesitate about our continued support.

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)

Searching Beauty

The search for beauty is an endless story of humanity. We have searched for it almost everywhere. Depicting beauty is probably the oldest form of artistic endeavors. We have invented numerous ways to find and represent beauty in a rather restless manner. We tend to find it in other persons of the same or other gender. The challenge is to keep trying to see the beauty in persons when others don’t, or don’t admit to it. Andy Warhol made this search for beauty his primary aim in his life as well as for his artistic work. The “Neue Nationalgalerie” in Berlin presents the, at times controversial, perspectives on beauty through the eyes and artwork of this exceptional artist. Beauty is at times a holistic concept or a detail by detail, piece by piece approach. Being open to other visions and versions of beauty is the major thrust of Warhol’s work. There is so much beauty around we just have to bother to focus on it. If not satisfied design it yourself. Start with a tour of exhibitions and experience the endless scope of imagination through the eyes of artists. (Image from Warhol exhibition in Berlin 2024 Neue Nationalgalerie, series „Ladies and Gentlemen“ 1975)

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)

Back pain

Most people know some form of back pain. This is understandable as an ever increasing share of people work in seated positions and spend additional leisure time in a similar position (gaming). Recurrent back pain is a frequent diagnosis. An Australien study has found a rather simple remedy for the widespread pain. The WalkBack experiment succeeded to significantly reduce recurrent lower back pain in study participants. Individualized and progressive walking accompanied by an education program did the trick. Keep on walking and try to extend the range of the exercise. It’s amazing to witness how the human body adapts to being challenged. Learning about the mechanics at work like the release of own personal “pain killers” hormones helps to trust in your body’s positive response to each dose of the challenge to pain. Do not walk too quickly too far. Stretching is a must and not an option. Go for it. Modern technology (in any smartphone) supports your efforts with counting your steps and measuring distances. Keeping track of a “pain diary” might give you guidance not to overdo the exercise and pause activities. Join a group of friends or people who are like-minded and get adequate shoes and clothes to feel comfortable while walking and afterwards as well.

Nutrition Competence

Nutrition is a good example of how a long lasting disregard in education and learning systems has led to huge medical costs for individuals and societies nowadays. The obesity pandemic calls for urgent action and policy changes in the field of nutrition policies and learning goals for children and adults. Medical doctors have mostly discarded that it is also their responsibility to provide medical guidance on nutrition, as this is highly controversial at times and asks for behavioural changes of the patient. School teachers see little scope to act on the issue due to increasing demands in fields of literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, digital and communication skills. Hence, the hope is to fill the instruction and learning gaps with a hybrid approach of nurses taking on both roles and communicate with children as well as adults alike. This is a tough challenge for these persons, but hopes a high that they can make a significant improvement to the nutrition competences of individuals, pupils, their parents and specific target groups.
The starting point is to recognize that there is an issue with nutrition. The next to establish the best evidence and based on this to develop a curriculum for the nurses to be well-prepared for the challenge in the field. Even with the differentiation of different levels of competences, the learning has to be rather encompassing several related fields as well. Individual, behavioural as well as society-level factors like biology, technology, religious beliefs, economic and social factors determine nutritional choices and consumption. Just because there are so many factors to consider  does not justify to keep nutrition out of school curricula for example. Nutrition is a fine example of a topic which links disciplines across a broad range. It is a tasty, at times spicy mixture of issues to learn and apply. The former is the beginning, the latter the real challenge which needs ample and repeated guidance or coaching. (Image: Extrait of Abraham Mignon, 1640-1679, Undergrowth with flowers, animals and insects, MRBA Brussels)

Nutrition Policy

The evidence on nutrition policies has accumulated a series of policy recommendations based on the best available evidence. The German Institute of Human Nutrition has presented these results repeatedly not only to the scientific community, but also to the interested public at the Science Week or the Long Night of Science. Their leaflet on the tools to improve our human nutrition in market economies highlights “nutrition competence” as a key component of a broad strategy to improve our food and subsequently health. Nutrition goes beyond the biological ingredients of food to include basic understandings of human metabolism including the times and timing of meals. This competence has to be transmitted to preschoolers, pupils as well as adults to stem the waves of obesity (ARTE Docu). Learning how to manage your own nutrition is a crucial competence to strive and survive. In schools it can have substantial impacts on performance and inequality of opportunities as well.

The science-based policy recommendations propose to alter the structure of costs, for example via tax reductions, in favor of healthy food. Plain water should be substantially cheaper than sweet beverages or alcoholic drinks. Nuts and proteins from vegetables fall in the same category as plain water. It is in the longer term interest of all of us that schools, canteens at work places or homes for the elderly offer also healthy nutrition at least as a daily option. More sustainability in food production is last, but not least part of nutrition policies. A lot to chew on to improve nutrition.

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).

Betting vice

Betting is considered a vice. The industry has moved from the local bookmakers to the internet and is spread across countries and continents. Some legal advisers have classified betting as the fastest growing vice industry and it is about time to launch a wake up call for more oversight of what is going on in the sector. As betting like gambling seems to be working in conjunction with other addictions the potential of cumulative risks is quite high. Our brains tend to wire things together which frequently occur jointly. It is difficult to disentangle these co-occurrences later again. The major angle of attack is prevention.
Health journals start warnings of the detrimental effects persons and observe that the industry follows similar strategies as the tobacco industry to address as many people as possible. And this is very successful and profitable for them. Hence, prevention strategies should also follow what has been applied to smoking like the ban from restaurants and bars as well as the restrictions on advertising. We will have to accept that betting and gambling should not be as easily accessible as it is currently. Age restrictions have to be applied stringently. I bet this will take quite a long time until Europe and elsewhere the regulations will change. Some of the young get interested in even more stimulating activities like exploring arts (image below class at Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin 2024-6) rather than betting on who is going to win the Euro 2024 football matches.

Smoke Gamble

Smoking is like a gamble. Your input is your health and money. This is not including those who might rely on you or family relationships that might suffer one way or another. The other link has gambling at its source and smoking goes along with the continuous risk taking or the belief to be able to master the risks involved with both forms of potential addictions. Research has accumulated evidence that in fact both smoking and gambling occur frequently in combination with each other. Taking risks against the odds of suffering losses, maybe only in the medium or longer run perspectives like for health seems acceptable for those people. Society has put rather high taxes on both activities to discourage people and invests in prevention of addictions. However, it does not have substantial effects on people as smoking remains around the same level and gambling (poker online) or betting on sports (Euro 2024) are rising rapidly. Vaping and internet gaming have broadened the spectrum of addictive behaviors mostly for younger persons and young adults. The risks are manifold and increasing in their addictive potential since the smartphone is always in some pocket just like the smoking device. The behavioral turn in the social sciences has been well understood by the industries as well. The stakes for human development are high in this endeavor to offer young people equal opportunities at entry into adulthood.

Cannabis Alcohol

The use of cannabis and/or alcohol is yet another question where we are used to ask questions in the form of: either the or the other? Over generations we have gotten used to no longer ask for each do you or don’t you. With the controlled liberalization or legalization of cannabis in some Western European states the framing of the question is more like you do the one or the other, particularly for many younger persons.
Decriminalization of both drugs in small quantities is apparently reducing crimes link to drug use and drug dealing. On the other hand, the thresholds for doing drugs are lower than they used to be. In inner cities it is therefore no longer a surprise to find both kinds of drugs with addictive potential next to each other (see image below). We know that it is a slippery road from regular drug use to uncontrolled dependency and personal disaster. For cannabis a study published in the Lancet (Petrilli et al. 2022) added the importance of the potency of tetrahydrocannabinol to the estimate of risks. This is similar to the studies that differentiate the level of alcohol in drinks consumed. The higher the concentration, the higher the risks. A simple proportional relationship prevails in both drugs. The cumulative effects of consuming both together might have quite surprising non-linear effects.
The big issue is the risks of mental health related to these drugs. However, the causal direction is not easy to detect. Drugs induce mental health problems, but also mental health issues lead to drug abuse. This remains quite a puzzle for scientists to disentangle.
Additionally, the link to smoking and addiction to nicotine is a frequently observed corollary. Studying just one single source of health problems and addiction might be too restrictive to learn about the whole set of causal effects and casualties. For the time being we seem to jump from one field of attention to the next one ignoring the multiple interrelated factors at hand.

Smoking Vaping

Both smoking and vaping are big business. Nicotine is well known for its addictive capacity. Once started, it is very hard to give it up again. For many decades we devote considerable efforts and costs to encourage people to give up on smoking or, better, not to start smoking in the first place. The young are particularly vulnerable as damages persist for a longer time. Progress has been made to reduce passive smoking of children and people in restaurants, at work and public spaces. The relatively recent trend of vaping instead of smoking is considered less harmful, but scientific long-term evaluations, whether these effects are lasting for several years, are still missing.
A repeated cross-section study in England (Tattan-Birch et al. 2024) has revealed that the declining trend of nicotine use has already been reversed among youth due to the rise in vaping. Vaping seems to move from the fashionable niche product to the popular mainstream among youth. The addicts are only cost-sensitive on the margin. The relative prices of smoking and vaping might play a role to put people on different health trajectories. The question is not between either smoking or vaping, but for some it is both, although it should be none of both. The question of smoking yes/no is likely to be framed as either vaping/or smoking.  The re-framing of the question shows the harmful potential in the longer run. We shall have a hard time to convince people and particularly youth not to be tempted by either/or but to focus on their long-term health trajectory and potential. (Image: Extrait from Arnold Böcklin, Self-portrait with death playing the violine 1872, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin)

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

EURO 2024

Before the EURO 2024, (European soccer championship) has even started, the host country Germany and the DFB- foundation for culture joined forces for a remarkable exhibition. In the “National Gallery of Contemporary Art” and next to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof a provocative video installation is mounted that uses the imagery of soccer (football) to portray the life and atmosphere associated with soccer. Injuries on the playing field, but even more so injuries caused by violent groups among the spectators create an emotionally charged representation before, during and after the match. The role of the umpire is central in the match and in the cultural project. Shattered dreams are part of the game for players as well as spectators. Visual impressions have contributed enormously to spectacular success of football on television. The masses of viewers has created a big business of television rights and merchandising products as well. The DFB Kulturstiftung undertakes great efforts to open up the discussion about soccer in a critical way through art projects. The entry into the installation resembles the entry of players through a tunnel into the huge stadium. The world of soccer has multiple links to physical and psychic violence. The installation “Winner” signed by Marianna Simnett challenges the media’s largely beautiful videos about the world of football. In the ocean of enthusiasm this exhibition is just a tiny grain of salt, adding spice to life.

Winner by Marianna Simnett 2024 Berlin

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. 

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