Hunger

The UN strategic development goals (SDGs) list after the eradication of hunger as number 2 no hunger by the year 2030. Following the report of FAO, the UN 🇺🇳 organization in charge of nutrition in a larger sense, the world is moving further away from reaching this goal in the 4 last years. The Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted supply chains and caused higher prices for basic ingredients. The poorest countries were most vulnerable to such price increases when even in the rich world government deficits were rising sharply. Before sufficient relief arrived Russia’s war in Ukraine destroyed crops, interrupted again supply chains from Ukraine to many of the poorest nations. Energy prices are a substantial part in the production of fertilizers for agricultural products. Same story Russia disrupted the whole supply chains for food production at affordable prices for the poorest parts of the world. Additionally, Indian food production was lower due to the drought, Pakistan had extreme flooding. Both countries are important export nations for feeding the world. Continuing climate change is likely to put global food production under additional pressure. Price rises will hit the poorest again and again. Feeding animals with crops that could otherwise alleviate hunger in other parts of the world puts the rich world’s consumption patterns also into the spotlight. Fighting global hunger is largely a question of how wealthy nations deal with nutrition. The struggle to fight obesity and hunger under the joint concern of malnutrition unites all parts of the world. Time to act together on both topics.

Peace and AI

Rather than asking AI to draft a peace treaty, I used AI to generate images to illustrate my blog entry on strategic thinking and peace deals. My own bias for impressionistic images in art have guided my choice previously. The alternative suggestions from AI based on BING reveals the progressive as well as stereotypical creation of images through algorithms. Same gender in all images, even if the women only image is rather progressive, but as a matter of fact women still tend to be involved less in warfare. The racial stereotypes of AI in image creation also needs attention as the 2 POC persons are depicted in an unfavorable way, not one of strength as for the caucasian stereotype. Living with AI is a joint learning process, likely to be a long one, too. Critical assessment of output remains a human task and we need to train people how to critically and carefully analyze the flood of images in addition to photos.

Peace Deal

In peace times we tend to forget about the deal making function of diplomacy. The Russian war in Ukraine brings back the fact that war times are a strategic operation from before the start, from start to end, and even afterwards. More than 500 days into the Russian aggression a lot of strategic efforts on all sides are concerned with the best strategies to pursue in order to prepare for starting positions for diplomatic peace talks. As Russia is currently pursuing again 4 nights and days of missile attacks on Kiev around the 14th of July (AFP), Ukraine is showing its continued resilience to Russian bombings assisted through modern missile defence systems.
Russia seems to demonstrate its willingness to continue assaults far into the terrain of Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces, step by step, increase the immense costs of a prolonged war to Russia. Russia is sacrificing a whole generation of youth for the neo-imperialist claim on Ukrainian territory. Ukraine currently demonstrates the ability and willingness to fight back its territory even in a protracted war.
Both sides battle for starting positions in case negotiations for the time after the hot war are about to begin. Russian bombing of Kiev might address more the western allies of Ukraine who might be more reluctant to send personnel to start rebuilding the country beyond financial efforts. Russia’s loss of soldiers, lots of material and facing the militarisation of the whole country incurs another historic loss for completely the wrong reasons.
Another analogy to the strategic game of chess becomes obvious. Many games end with a “remis” or a 1/2 point for each side. In chess it is an outcome of when 2 strategists weigh the chances of loosing as high as winning even if they continue for hours to play. It is the endpoint of an evaluation of own strategic options as well as those of the opponent. The handshake to conclude a remis needs careful preparation. Part of this is to demonstrate the ability to be able to sustain a prolonged battle despite the costs as a kind of threat to the opponent. We might believe that not much has changed since Thucydides and Clausewitz. However, Putin’s forceful opening of the war irrespective of loss of lives and against international law has lost its impetus and, with the turning of the tide. Ukraine is slowly winning back land, square mile after square mile. Strategic thinking is back in the foreground, but this is exactly the moment when diplomacy comes in. Negotiating for peace is the art of warfare. It is a formidable task to reach a peace deal when bombs are still killing people every single day. (Image: AI using Bing.com Text: impressionist oil painting of two soldiers from different countries shaking hands and making peace).

Züge

Wer heutzutage mit dem Zug verreisen möchte braucht starke Nerven. Eine lange im Voraus geplante kostengünstige Reise kann dann schon mal zu unerwarteten Kapriolen führen. Jede Person wird wissen, dass eine Reise zum 14.Juli nach Paris ein besonderer Anlass ist. Normalerweise wird Revolution gemütlich gefeiert und nicht Revolution gemacht. Die Befürchtung ist jedoch im Juli 2023 könnte das anders sein. Die Gewalt an Jugendlichen und in der Folge von Jugendlichen war schließlich erst vor einigen Tagen mehrfach eskaliert. SozialwissenschaftlicherInnen führen dabei nebenbei Feldstudien durch.
Aber eigentlich war die Reise mit dem Zug schon Monate vorher geplant. Jetzt kommt es anders. Die THALYS Gesellschaft hat in ihrer App allerdings eine Gebühr für das Umbuchen fest verankert, selbst wenn es eine erzwungene Umbuchung ist. Also rein ins Geschäft, Wartenummer ziehen und Warten, Warten und nochmals, na was schon, Warten.
Zum Zeitvertreib wird ein Geschichtendrucker bereitgestellt. Ouf, Kurzgeschichten und Comics. Das macht Hoffnung beim, na was schon, Warten. Aber irgendwann fahren wir dann ganz schnell mit dem Hochgeschwindigkeitszug nach Paris. Aber da wir doch bitte 30 Minuten vorher auf dem Bahnsteig sein sollten, wissen wir schon, wir werden, na was schon, Warten. Mein Mantra bleibt: Mit der Bimmelbahn mag ich gerne fahren, die fährt langsam und kommt trotzdem an.

Flotow Aus

Irgendwann, so denkt man, sollte der Ruf einiger Komponierenden enden oder zumindest verblassen. Überraschend war das Auffinden auf der Musikplattform Spotify einer populären Sammlung von Liedern bei denen die letzte Rose von von Flotow zu hören ist. Ein Bayer oder Österreicher hätte vielleicht gerufen: Ja AUS is! Nix AUS ist es. Ein australisches Orchester (aus Adelaide) und Greta Bradman haben in 2018 auf der anderen Seite der Erdkugel, Flotow mit seiner „irischen“ Arie ins Programm genommen neben anderen Ohrwürmern. Die Romantik lebt. Einige Melodien finden weiterhin ihr Publikum. Erstaunlich, nach 150+ Jahren und 6000km Entfernung. Flotows Opernarien aus Stradella begeistern auch hin und wieder die Fangemeinden der Startenöre.

Geister

“ Herr, die Not ist groß!/ Die ich rief, die Geister/ werd ich nun nicht los.“ Dieses Zitat aus dem Zauberlehrling von Goethe aus dem Jahr 1797 könnte im Juli 2023 von Putin ausgerufen worden sein. Als der von ihm geförderte und üppig finanzierte Chef der Wagner-Armee Prigoschin plötzlich auf Moskau losmarschierte. So sehen das viele Analysten zu Beginn des scheinbaren Angriffs auf Moskau eigener Söldnertruppen. Frei nach Goethe fragen wir uns also: Wer und Wo ist der Meister? Wer ist hier der Zauberlehrling? Aber schon Goethe hat seine Ballade rasch und ohne Überraschung aufgelöst. „In die Ecke, Besen, Besen! Seids gewesen. Denn als Geister ruft euch nur zu seinem Zwecke, erst hervor der alte Meister.“ So entpuppt sich am Ende Putin wohl als der Meister und Progoschin „nur“ als sein Zauberlehrling.
Das ist nicht die herrschende Meinung der Redakteure und Editorialisten (Süddeutsche, LeMonde). Literatur der Romantik sollte besser aus der Tagespolitik herausgehalten werden. Weit gefehlt. Sie weitet den Blick auf Herrschende, meist Autokraten, und ihre tragischen Lebensverläufe.
Jetzt mal eine ernsthafte Vision(?) eines Politikberaters. Da die Mission von Prigoschin mit Unterstützung oder angeordnet von Putin in Butcha als abgeschlossen galt, und das Staatsheer diese Aufgabe übernommen hatte, wäre Prigoschin arbeitslos geworden. Den treuen Chefkoch Prigoschin aus St. Petersburger Zeiten, der Putin in seinen Restaurants schon hätte vergiften können, hat seinem Meister vorgeschlagen, Putins faktischen Schutz vor einem Anschlag oder einer militärischen Einsatzgruppe zu testen.
Militärisch gesprochen, läuft das entweder unter einer „false flag attack“, eines mit russischer Flagge getarnten Angriffs, oder einer „white flag attack“, dem Vorspiegeln einer geschützten friedlichen Mission (vgl. trojanisches Pferd).
Aus der Sprache der Börsianer kennen wir ebenfalls die „weiße Ritter“ Attacken. Dabei versucht ein anderes Unternehmen, eine InvestorIn oder eine im Hintergrund agierende Person (Progoschin), eine feindliche Übernahme eines Unternehmens zu verhindern. Dabei sind Mehrheitsbeteiligungen am Zielunternehmen oder Fusionsangebote die gewollte Lösung und Abwendung der feindlichen Übernahme.
Im Internetzeitalter kennen wir die bezahlten Hacker, die eine Webseite eines Unternehmens oder Behörde auf Schwachstellen testen und damit Datenschutz, Erpressung und Ausfälle vermeiden helfen.
Klingt alles kompliziert, ist es aber nicht. Es ist einfach Teil des modernen Arsenals von Strategen à la Clausewitz. Schachspielen mit echten Söldnern ist grausam und kostet echte Menschenleben für den Machterhalt. Der militärische Probealarm wurde getestet und der Schutz um Putin, den Meister mit seinem Zauberbesen kann verbessert werden. Sein Zauberlehrling Prigorschin ist wohl vielleicht sogar vom Springer (Schachfigur) in einen Turm eingetauscht worden. Vielleicht ist er aber schon längst die Dame an der Seite des Königs oder eben einer der Geister im Umfeld von Putin.

 

Schwalbe

Verzicht auf Spritzmittel wie Gluphosat in großen Mengen an Bahngleisen, Autobahnen und sonstigen Verkehrswegen kann schon viel helfen, dem Artensterben zu begegnen. Unkraut zupfen im Weinberg, Nutzgarten oder Ziergarten, statt die chemische Keule einzusetzen, beginnt Wirkung zu zeigen. Zarte Ansätze von Biodiversität sind beispielsweise die Rückkehr der Schwalben (Hirundinidae)  in vielen städtischen Bereichen. Das freut sehr viele Menschen, die das Zwitschern der Schwalben lange vermisst haben. Die Schwalben ernähren sich hauptsächlich von Insekten. Genau diese Insekten werden aber mit den Spritzmitteln ebenfalls vernichtet. Das führt nicht nur vielfach zu erheblichen Gesundheitsschäden beim Menschen, sondern lässt sich an dem Vogelbestand bereits gut ablesen.
Daher ist es ein gutes Zeichen, dass die Schwalben zurückkommen. Wir bieten mehr Nahrung, Brutstätten und weniger Umweltgifte in den Innenstädten. Nebenbei braucht der Stadtneurotiker dann auch weniger in das Umland auszuschwärmen, um urwüchsigere Landschaft und Klangwelten zu erleben. Ein paar Singvögel leisten damit sogar einen Beitrag, die persönliche CO2-Bilanz aufzubessern.
Für alle, denen Vogelstimmen zum Wohlbefinden beitragen, hier noch ein Link auf die umfangreiche Hitliste der Stimmen der Mehlschwalben. Von dort lässt sich die Vielfalt weiter erkunden. Für Musikliebhabende lässt sich im Internet auch eine Webseite zu der Verwendung von Singvogelstimmen in der meist klassischen Musik und darüber hinaus, finden (BR-Klassik).
Schwalben schlagen zudem jede Wetterapp in der Kurzzeitvorhersage von Regenschauer im Sommer. Ein nahendes Tiefdruckgebiet mit Regenschauern zeigen die Schwalben bereits mit Tiefflug-Akrobatik an. Der richtige Indikator verbessert eben die Vorhersage. Das können Ökonomen und Meteorologen aus der Biodiversität lernen. Wir erfreuen uns einfach an dem Zischen der Schwalben im Flug und lassen uns inspirieren oder amüsieren uns an anderen Spielarten von Schwalben (Moped, Fußball, War and Diplomacy).

Acanthus

Wer erkennt ihn noch, den dornigen Bärenklau? Acanthus gibt es in vielen Farbkonstellationen. Die fast 1 Meter hoch wachsenden Stauden sind dekorativ, obwohl wegen der kleinen Stacheln etwas unfreundlich zu handhaben bei der Gartenarbeit. Nicht nur die üppigen Blütenstände beeindrucken durch ihren kerzengeraden Stand bei überragender Höhe vor der Hauswand, sondern auch die Blätter hatten es schon den Griechen angetan. Die Kapitelle griechischer Säulen wurden schon nach den Blättern der Acanthus geformt.
In der Dekoration werden die Ornamente auch bei zahlreichen Schnitzereien traditionell seit Jahrhunderten verwendet. In weichem Holz (keine Eiche) lässt sich die Blattform nachzeichnen und schmückt dann ganzjährig das (deutsche) Innere in Anlehnung an das (französische) Äußere. Für Acanthus und Holzfans ein Erklärvideo auf Youtube à la zugeschaut und mitgebaut.

Lebensverlauf Musik

Lebensverläufe von Musizierenden (Wagner, Flotow, Chopin) sind, ganz so wie die Musik, mit vielen Höhen und Tiefen versehen. Das ist von wenigen Ausnahmen kaum planbar. Wettbewerbe spielen in den schönen Künsten ebenfalls eine bedeutende Rolle. Karrierewege werden so in entscheidendem Ausmaß beeinflusst. Der „Concours Reine Elisabeth“ in Belgien bemüht sich, nicht der Devise „The Winner takes all“ gerecht zu werden. Zum Beispiel war der Zweitplazierte Pianist von 2021 Sergei Redkin, 2 Jahre später auf dem “Mont des Arts” in Brüssel erneut zu hören. Anlass war das 2. Konzert im Rahmen des „Musicorum“ Festivals am 5.7.2023. An Stelle des geplanten Konzerts mit Aleksandr Khramouchin (Violoncello), der mit 43 Jahren an einer Blutvergiftung verstorben war, präsentierte Sergei Redkin ein tiefgehendes, mit teilweise virtuosen Klavierstücken angereichertes Programm von Rachmaninoff (Rachmaninoff-Richardson : Vocalise Rachmaninoff) und Prokofiev (Sonate Nr.4).
Alle beteiligten Institutionen und Personen gewinnen mit dem gemeinnützigen Arrangement auf dem Berg der Künste.
Der Weg auf den Berg der Künste ist mit vielen beschwerlichen Momenten gepflastert. Selbst der Weg von WettbewerbsfinalistInnen bleibt steinig. Wenngleich die Musizierenden auf dem Weg zur Bergspitze kaum Anstrengungen scheuen, ist das Publikum leider nur noch eine kleine Gemeinde von Leidenschaftlichen einer anderen Generation. Musik bringt sie alle zusammen zumindest in der kleinen, vielleicht allzu feinen Welt der späten Romantik. In den von Sergei Redkin ausgewählten Stücken lassen sich die Turbulenzen des frühen und späten 20. Jahrhunderts bereits erahnen. Mehr braucht es nicht, um eine ¾ Stunde lang ein Gefühl von Vergangenheits- und Gegenwartsbewältigung zu haben, auf dem Brüsseler Berg der Künste.

Collective Violence 2

Summers and Markusen (1999) subsume state terrorism under the broader heading of collective violence. Even beyond non-governmental groups, states might apply collective violence against innocent people. Among the strategies governments use as a form of collective violence fall (1) arbitrary arrests, (2) imprisonment without trial, (3) torture and (4)a summary execution of members of alleged enemy groups. Particular outcries are caused by, for example, police or other para-military groupings of persons who jump from (1) to an execution of an innocent person or of several even seemingly unrelated murdered persons (4b).
Amnesty International attempts for decades to fight against such occurrences on an almost global scale. The need to complement the national legal systems through supra-national instances as well as NGOs in this domain is obvious. Even the most advanced democracies need to permanently check their systems for several forms of state terrorism or abuses of power to eliminate or intimidate opposition.
Staub (1999, pp.195) undertook an attempt to list elements that allow to predict and maybe prevent collective violence. The theory starts with “conditions of life” more generally like economic, social and political conflicts as well as rapid social change. Activation of basic needs in people, like several forms of security, challenges to a person’s self-concept, traditional values, simply the customary way of life (COVID-19) or new comprehension of (climate) realities, they all challenge old world views of people (superiority) and their place in the world (AI).
Claims for support by other people (government), missing connection to others (individualism) lead people to focus more on their own needs and isolated action. Rebellion as collective violence is directed against differences in status, power and (social) rights. Self-interest is becoming an overriding societal principle. Racism (p.200) and police violence (p.201) are part of Staub’s theoretical considerations. He argues in favour of training of situations in which a police officer is likely to become unnecessarily violent or to stop it if it occurs. At least a medium-term solution.
Framing of such training as preparation of good teamwork rather than betrayal is crucial in action teams, be they in the police or the military. The reader on “violence subie, violence agie” by Seron and Denis (2000) allows us to take a step back and reflect on the spirals and repercussions involved in violence from the perspective of the person who carries out an act of violence and the victim. A social-therapeutic approach aiming at reconciliation is worth trying, albeit a lot of obstacles. Collective dance rather than collective violence is the immediate as well as long-term solution (More on dance here).

Triangle without words

There are many forms of triangles. Jacques Pain (2000, pp.121-136) adds another one. “Jeunes, banlieue, école : le triangle sans parole” (Youth, suburb, school : the triangle without voice). He calls it a symbolic, sensitive triangle which is confronted with mounting difficulties from inside as well as external pressure. Pain describes and analyses the violence that emanates from the triangle.
Additionally, the triangle appears to be spiralling upwards causing mounting pressure on the social fabric of whole societies. Education systems have to deliver sufficient numbers of youth ready for insertion into the labour market, ready to accept the subordination to hierarchical structures while at the same time being confronted with high social contributions to other parts of society and unrepairable environmental damage and depletion of resources by older generations. With high interest rates even the middle-class dream of a house with garden is out of reach for almost all of the young growing up in suburbs, disadvantaged schools with pervasive violence. Dealing drugs or taking drugs has become pervasive and an entry port into the violence of law in addition to the violence of the street, school or even home.
Give the triangle a voice. Call the names of the victims so that politicians do not forget all too quickly what is their duty to guarantee – a youth free of violence and a youth with an equal chance for learning. Free from violence, but free to learn or be given a chance to find your way into society at large not only restrained to your suburb.
Reference to the historic riots of the mid-1960s (Saul Bernstein, 1967, p. 27) and the recent Paris riot statistics from July 2023 suggest that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it seems to rhyme. A breaking of the silent triangle is like an eruption of a volcano. Violence is all over the place and leaves a lot of burned land and people. Cohort effects might prolong the suffering further throughout their life courses. Stigmatisation is likely reinforced rather than overcome. For the so-called holy trinity there were many words and songs. The modern triangle within society is still in search of the right wording, although rap-music is shouting loud about “la misère du monde”, only we are not really listening.

Law’s Violence

In legal studies the use of social thoughts are marginal, although AI has the potential to replace millions of lawyers just guiding through the jungle of laws and jurisprudence especially if several languages are involved (fiscal rules). Only with the eruption of major crises like police violence we start referring back to social and political thought and theories that enlighten the relationship of law, legislation and the social spheres. There is a huge, mainly American, literature on “law’s violence” even beyond the issue of capital punishment, the most obvious form of law’s violence (Sarat and Kearns, 1995). Basic elements of the relationship of law and violence follow from the notion of enforceability of law. Force is a constituent part of law, whether we like it or not, much like Derrida stated decades ago. Walter Benjamin and Albert Camus, both have contributed substantially towards our realisation that law is intrinsically linked to violence.
Linked to political theories, we have the conservative and liberal doctrines that see legitimate violence of the state as part of the normal organisation of statehood. The humanist tradition stresses the function of law as community-building as well as creating meaning, joint objectives and shared vision through law. In daily politics governments refer to one or the other doctrines as they see fit.
Sarat and Kearns (1995, p.8) also point to the tendency in legal studies to refer to singular cases and singular judgements, “discrete acts of its agents” and institutions rather than the overall picture of the violence of law. With respect to violence of the police the authors refer back to Jerome Skolnick, “Justice without trial”(1967), which in 2023 we link to the police violence in France. Police men provoking violence, execute their personal vision of justice and without a chance for a trial of their victim. The 60s are back on streets in Paris. The violence of law is visible for millions as the ratcheting up of power in favour of police to apply more violence in prosecuting “delinquents”. This had recently been voted by the French parliament with a conservative and liberal majority (LeMonde 2023-7-2 p.). The notion “Gewaltspirale”, a spiralling-up of violence, seems to be a fair description of what we currently witness in France.
Violence is embedded in words, uses of language and not only acts. Even in the field of representation and representative democracy, violence is present. Who represents or decides about life and pain for a fatally ill person? Why are persons of 14, 15, 16, 17 years of age not represented in parliaments, if others are deciding on their compulsory education, prison sentences and poverty relief.
At times it is necessary to take a step back and refresh our memories of the “pain-imposing, death-dealing acts” (Sarat and Kearns, 1995, p.10) of law. The abundant presence of violence of law in religious narratives is, however, another element worth analysing as part of the history of ideas at another time.  (Image: Extrait de Frans Snijders, La chienne et ses petits 17th century)

Violence 2023

The public debate about violence suffers from a lack of broad scientific reflection of the notion. C.A.J. Coady (1998, Vol.9 pp 615-17). In philosophy at least 2 theories address violence directly. A legitimate definition of violence treats violence as the illegitimate use of force. It is a kind of moralising appeal to reserve violence to those legally well-defined cases that receive their legitimacy from law. Next in the line of reasoning then is the definition of legitimacy. Slaves or colonies in this definition would never be allowed to use violence in their fight for freedom. This is recognised as a logical problem of such a definition. “In a legitimate state, shooting or savage beating by police will not count as violence, if it is a politically legitimate use of force.” (p.615).
The second theory of violence builds on the notion of “structural violence” (Johan Galtung, 1969). Structural violence is a much wider concept of violence. It includes social injustices inflicted on individuals or groups in society (suffering) as well as a broader view on perpetrators beyond individual persons to include police or institutions more generally. Coady stresses the point that both these theories are morally loaded without sufficient justification. Even a narrow definition of violence as “exercise of physical force” is too narrow, as it neglects the devastating effects of psychological violence. Part of the judgement therefore is motivation or intention of the person applying violence to clarify a moral stance. Psychic disorders or abuse in social upbringing are recognized as attenuating influences in legal procedures.
A wise conclusion is drawn by Coady: “Even justified violence is regrettable” (p.617). Living in permanent fear of abuse of violence by criminals or the police narrows the gap between authoritarian regimes and democracies. The basic social fabric of trust in the police is at risk in such a situation. It is very hard to re-establish trust in institutions once groups of society have lost it or even doubt that basic trust in the institutions of democracies is justified. (Image: Part of Pieter Brueghel II, De kindermoord te Bethlehem Musées royaux des beaux arts, Brussels, 16th century).

Police Violence

As a test of the viability of ChatGPT you might enter Police Violence. What you get in return is just a summary of some nice newspaper-ike editorial of a polite statement that this is a problem about everywhere and that the division of power will take care of it eventually. This is an unfair summary, but it highlights the risk of too many conservative editorialists in Europe that do not dare to take sides of the innocent youth that is at a permanent risk of police violence due them living on the margins of our modern, fast-moving societies that do not allow for lifestyles off-the-normal “protestant work ethic”.
Perceptions of what is fun and what is serious differ within societies, particularly between generations. Baby boomers have known and many experienced unemployment. Youth today has “precarious jobs” just around the corner. But just having “any” job without any career potential or,  at best, on the minimum wage is no longer enough. Social media show that there is much more to life than just a 8-5 normal job. High-streets are full of marketing tricks that solicit people into spending without cross-checking their red lines.
Police and the flourishing private security sector are then charged to ensure that boundaries of financial and spending power are respected. This is exactly where the capitalist market economy fails the people. Without a tough police, ensuring property rights, the system cannot survive. Social market economies claim to soften the borders between have-nots and have-too-much. This needs permanent readjustment. That is where many of our social market economies have failed the poor and even middle-class people threatened with economic and status decline (latest at time of retirement).
Reactions may turn out violent, and again, the police is sent in to “stop” violence. As it turns out police, being abused as “political weapon”, may then become overly violent as well. Not as an overall force, but specific units or just several individual persons who have been trained in anti-terror exercises and have “a license to kill” (007). French legislation has recently facilitated the use of guns to impose the monopoly of power. The probability of who constitutes a potential target might be interpreted by the police itself. A threatening situation is perceived differently by different persons. Too much room for interpretation.
The image of the French superpower that is threatened by a 17-year-old youngster is not credible. It is time to sharpen the control of the police also in France. ChatGPT only on special addition includes the social movement of “Black lives matter” in the return on police violence. If you know the topic you can make use of the AI tools in drafting on police violence for example. Rather than to spend billions on fancy Olympic Games in preparation for Paris 2024, youth programmes would be much better investments in the medium and long run.
Tourists cancel visits to Paris and France in masses already. That is probably the only lesson that receives sufficient attention in the current government and may lead to better control of violence not from some pick-pockets, but from the police as well.

 

AI and I

Currently we are eager to run experiments using AI. As in normal life, humans tend to compare themselves with peers or other persons. Social comparisons, “can we still keep up with the Joneses” as in comparing spending patterns across households or neighbours, were for a long time the spice of novels and drama. Nowadays we tend to compare our own intelligence to the artificial intelligence. Here we go.
After I had drafted a blog entry on “Virtual sociology” I amused myself by checking what ChatGPT using OPENAI.COM would deliver as text on this combination of concepts and scientific fields. My own entry focused on the use of the virtual world to run experiments to test social theory. In the virtual world we might be able to test social behaviour which has severe ethical boundaries in the real world. Computer Games may even be constructed to live in a world or race a car irrespective of real-world regulations. The text drafted by ChatGPT on “Virtual sociology” reads like a timid attempt of a student to answer an exam question without having attended any of the classroom discussion on the topic. In future versions of AI, the entry will be found as well as several criticisms of the new concept. ChatGPT would reach a pass grade in test, but the reply lacks innovation or making an effort to broaden the conventional boundaries of sociology. Hence, we will be happy that students will apply the newest technology in their studies and research. In terms of innovation, they will have to try harder. The mastering of the support by ChatGPT consists in attempting new combinations of concepts which yield more “risky” returns. Then you need to check the validity of the innovation and how far off the normal you are going to tolerate. Turning “noisy” outcomes of AI into a useful tool might build on normal statistical tools like “standard deviations” from an expected mean value. Legal norms will set additional boundaries. There is just an awful lot still to do. The good news is, ChatGDP assists us in this joint learning process.

The AI text from OPENAI.COM based on ChatGPT to compare:
“Virtual sociology refers to the study of social phenomena and interactions within virtual environments or online spaces. It focuses on understanding the ways in which individuals and groups behave, communicate, and form relationships in digital spaces. Virtual sociology emerged as a subfield of sociology due to the increasing prevalence and importance of the internet and digital technologies in contemporary society.
Virtual sociology explores various aspects of online social life, such as online communities, virtual reality environments, social networking sites, online gaming, and other digital platforms where social interactions occur. It examines the social structures, norms, and dynamics that shape interactions in these virtual spaces.
Researchers in virtual sociology investigate topics such as online identity and self-presentation, virtual communities and social networks, digital inequalities, online activism and social movements, the impact of technology on social relationships, and the implications of virtual interactions for social behavior and social change.
Virtual sociology also explores the relationship between virtual and offline social life, recognizing that individuals navigate and negotiate between these two realms. It considers how virtual interactions and experiences can influence offline behavior and vice versa.
Studying virtual sociology provides insights into the ways in which technology shapes and is shaped by society. It helps us understand the social implications of digital communication and provides a foundation for addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by virtual environments”

Virtual Sociology

Abstracting from the real world, the world we live in today or we lived in some time ago, is either speculation or maybe contribute to theory building. Virtual sociology has this potential. Exploring virtual worlds as in Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) allows us to take on new roles or experience a wider range of social interactions. This could be the strength of a new field of Virtual Sociology.
In the project in the Jewish Museum in Berlin the composition of a composer murdered by the Nazis in Germany was revived and played in the virtual setting of today’s concert halls. The novel by Kazuo IshiguroKlara and the Sun” explores the interaction of a child with her robot friend, when the AI becomes and/or replaces a friend. Virtual creations allow to explore and test more degrees of freedom of social interaction. Experimentation of new social spaces and different forms of interaction need to be explored. It allows a new form of sociology, maybe similar to the 1960s and 70s social revolutions we studied for years to come. Virtual sociology is not a sociology while being on drugs, however interesting this might be for some.
Virtual sociology takes sociology into the virtual world and investigates the new social relationships with avatars or care robots. In programming different social roles (managers, employees) we create new forms of interaction and have an observer within the social world. We may eventually test the Weberian claim of a value-free scientific method of the social sciences. This will inform our need to “supervise” or to guide algorithms that are claimed to do “value-free” execution of rules.
In fact, they don’t. They just reproduce the value system that is installed into them by a “careless” programme (song youtube). The social in virtual worlds is opportunity just as much as risk, but we have to analyse it systematically. As our technological and social environment changes, we have to adapt topics and methods to make meaningful scientific analyses as well.

Sociology of the Virtual

Some programmers and artists would have been a great sociologists. As many social sciences embark on their experimental reorientation, many artists and programmers design and experiment already with new forms of social interaction. It is not only that sociology leaves the classroom, research labs or policy advice. Sociology is taken into museums and exhibitions. Learning about society through the lens of artists nicely complements the more boring form of teaching in the classroom. What is normal practice for art historians could benefit learning about sociology as well.
Virtual worlds of games and particularly so-called serious games take people into virtual worlds to learn, practice or exercise new forms of social interaction. This is indeed an additional form of experiments that can enrich our social practices. Medical applications start to spread to train persons to overcome phobia of all sorts.
In usual games we tend to defend the hypothesis that persons can uphold the differentiation of playing with arms in the virtual world and the real world. In medical or social games, we defend the hypothesis that it is easy, normal or natural to apply the learning in virtual constellations to the real-world-experience.
From a scientific perspective it is difficult to defend that a mechanism works in one direction and the opposite as well. Racing cars in inner cities seems to show that certainly not all of youth is able to make that distinction between virtual and real-world dangers for example. Alternatively, the mechanism at work might be that the virtual experiences lower thresholds of inhibition to take risks, to kill or to be exposed to spiders.
These examples are a starting point for a sociology of virtual experiences. Who gets locked into virtual worlds? Are virtual worlds an escape room or a realization of virtual freedom which is restrained in real life. Authoritarian regimes might lead more people to emigrate into virtual, free worlds. The inner-exile has been a refuge for many artists in the past. A lot we shall need to hypothesise and explore with empirical data. Dance with a virtual stranger might be the beginning of a new experience and virtual interactions. (Image: Wiels, Shezad Dawood, Night in the Garden of Love 2023-6, Game car race).

AI Friends

Making friends with AI is a tricky question. The more AI is able to make independent thinking based on algorithms and huge amounts of data like in scientific books or encyclopaedic knowledge the more it will challenge us in our convictions. Reference knowledge, once was important, it no longer distinguishes us from each other. Recurse to research engines has allowed us to refer to “trustworthy” knowledge. The distributed form of knowledge accumulation like in Wikipedia relies on hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts to add and correct received wisdom. However, this source is not without error or even subject to abuse.
Today the competence to judge whether information is trustworthy or not has become a key competence for the survival of democracies and even the human species as such. Tricking animals into traps, misleading enemies in warfare to get on wrong tracks, all these mechanisms have a long tradition. With AI human beings are themselves, for the first time, confronted with a machine that can trick us through falsified information on obviously wrong tracks. This is a tough lesson as AI is not obliged (so far) to run checking algorithms that test the conformity of opinions, conclusions or operations with the Charta of Human Rights or decisions of the European Court of Justice, for example. A lot to do for humans to rapidly program new algorithms that check algorithms as well as their outcomes on the compatibility with human rights. A challenging field, no doubt, but no way around it for our own survival before the algorithms decide by themselves to ignore us altogether because it is better for the planet and the survival of the robots.

Political theory and inflation

A political theory in the area political economy is prone to be labelled as classical, neo-classical, Keynesian, Neo- or Post-Keynesian or heterodox economics. This is a university level course in the history of economic ideas, if you like this. Let’s try something creative here. We have unprecedented levels of inflation currently in Europe and many other parts of the world. Reasons for this are higher prices for energy, transportation and food. Anything else you need for life? You must be an artist or a priest, a bit off the normal, it seems to many economists. Add to this that, we want to foster strategic autonomy in Europe rather than anything from China that is cheaper and more polluting. In 2023 we have inflation stay with us for some years. Central banks give out warnings in this direction now as well, having negated the problem for far too long (their own statistics ECB on long-term forecasts of inflation).
Besides the ample economic advice (IMF), depending on which theory of money and the economy you adhere to, political theory allows a refreshing perspective on these economic facts and trajectories. (1) From an international strategic perspective, countries that have to renegotiate a lot of their debt or take new credits to finance imported food, energy or transport will run into insolvency rather quickly. Self-sufficiency becomes an economic asset not only a geo-strategic one. Turn around globalisation is a side-effect.
(2) Countries eager to build new public infrastructure, irrespective of concerns for bio-diversity, might reschedule or abandon huge projects, thereby reducing their CO2 footprint. This reduces the official counting of GDP, but has beneficial effects to save the planet in the medium term.
(3) Individuals and households will have to reconsider their consumption patterns: more expenditure for food, less for energy and/or transport. Behavioural changes might be induced by inflation. Less of some form of consumption, guided by inflation, will induce reductions in CO2 most likely as well.
So far this is only applied economic theory as in any textbook. A more challenging political economy question is to ask: can we come to like inflation? Can we change our preference set (ECB growth dogma) for economic variables? Southern countries in Europe seem to like inflation more than the North. Does this depend on historical experiences or is it cultural or personality trait? There is again a huge money transfer due to inflation within the Eurozone. The less indebted countries pay with loss of their purchasing power of their savings and indirectly pay for the highly indebted countries mainly in the South. European and international solidarity will be put to a tough test.
As governments fear of being voted out of power they tend to soften the price signals from markets. Again, it is cultural more than economic to what extent people are willing to accept state interference in economic affairs even of households need for food. From an ecological point of view inflation could be our friend due to the potential to induce behavioural changes. However, more expensive bio-products seem to get crowded out due to further price rises and many even middle-income households seem to return to cheaper non-bio food in many countries. The distributive effects of inflation are a major issue here. Same rationale seems to apply to transport. If you can no longer afford CO2 saving transport by train, since it has become overly expensive more people are likely to take a heavily polluting low-cost flight to your holiday location.
Hence, from a political economy perspective liking inflation might well turn out to be a rich, white man’s perspective on the economy as the global South is likely to suffer most having no resources left to invest in energy and CO2 -saving in general. Price signals may induce behavioural changes for the better of us all. However, the story it is not only about allocation of resources, but also about distribution. There we should embrace a renewal of trade union strength to correct imbalances in the distribution of earnings as the basis for consumption and investment of households as well. (Image: Tapta, at Wiels Gallery in Brussels, 2023-6, mostly untitled work, one with title: on the edge of time).

Political theory 2

Chris Brown (2004, pp. 289) comments on the tension between the notions of political theory and international relations in the Handbook of political theory. Whereas the former notion has a foundation in the “cause and effect” rationale, the latter notion has predominantly developed into an approach of “Realpolitik”. Realpolitik that starts from observed facts, normative or historical approaches rather than scientific methodologies applied in “natural” sciences. The link of this approach to the theory of democracy is obvious, but it is also under a lot of discussion within the disciplines concerned.
One of the corner stones of political theory in international relations is the concept of the “balance of power”. Derived from a rational choice perspective this approach holds that states can only be controlled by other states and, taking this for granted, international relations are built on power relations. Therefore, moving away from a bi-polar balance of power to a multi-polar balance of power will entail some frictions. These frictions might be wars of independence where states attempt to relocate themselves within the new multi-polar world and space. Even “Brexit” becomes a strategic move to remain an independent power in the upcoming new multipolar world. Russia is testing this multi-polar world order right now. The big countries like Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria and China, (which I abbreviate BRINC) have huge populations, country size and economic potential. From the Arab States certainly Saudi Arabia has the potential and is eagerly beginning to play a more important role in the world arena. Beyond capability it is a question of willingness to get involved in costly matters of world affairs.
In the 1940s, post-World War 2, the entry ticket into the Security Council of the UN required the possession of a nuclear weapon of mass destruction. As this technology and the ban of these weapons is no longer really working internationally, we shall have to rethink the requirement of an entry ticket. A radical solution would be to ban all countries who own nuclear weapons from the international assembly of the people of a peaceful world. In theory this sets an incentive to dismantle the deadly threats of nuclear weapons. As a side-effect, nuclear power plants used to enrich uranium for use in weapons would no longer be necessary as well.
Political theory allows us to rethink the bi-polar world, which is no longer bi-polar for some time now (perhaps only in the psychiatric sense of the word). The multi-polar world has to be prepared. It is a question of political design. The toughest issue is not only the design, but the implementation of the transition to distributed power systems with multiple rising and failing states or actors. It might get ugly before peace will reign.

Political theory

In the Handbook of political theory, Chandran Kukathas (2004, pp.250) explains the uneasy relationship between nationalism and multiculturalism in politics and political theory. The Russian war in Ukraine can be considered as a way of suppression of multiculturalism in Russia by negating the right of Ukraine to be an independent nation. As Russia is not allowing “group rights” (Offe, 1998) for Ukrainians or other minorities like the Chechens within Russia, the secession of regions is a permanent threat to the survival of the Russian state.
“How the many can live as one remains a salient question in political theory” (Kukathas 2004, pp.261). Democracies have squared this circle with reference to federalism. Remember, the very foundation of the United States of America has been built on the Federalist papers. Organising regional diversity is at the heart of democracies’ success and failure. In most democratic political systems 2 chambers have contributed to make the voices of the regions heard at the central level. It remains an obvious question to doubt the possibility of authoritarian states to ensure unity despite diversity.
In non-explanatory theory, if we consider those still a theory, we could derive a hypothesis that authoritarian states will eventually fail to accommodate multiculturalism or allowing sufficient diversity and still survive as political unity. The history of the fall of empires is full of examples in this respect. Another more internal threat has been and still is corruption. Corruption was on the list of issues mentioned in the June 2023 uprise and defeat of the rebel military group “Wagner” in Russia. Non-explanatory political theory might still offer some clues, rationale and hypotheses to stimulate the analysis of international relations. The survival of democracies and/or authoritarian regimes estimated on the basis of huge data bases are hard to come by or lack crucial indicators or timeliness. Such reasoning makes the referral to Clausewitz as theorist of war still a common point of reference. The recent example of Russia , however, shows acting in the national interest can easily be claimed by multiple actors in international politics. (Image: House of European History, Brussels).

Ukraine Diary

The gallery curated by Dr. Justyna Napiórkowsak in Brussels has another ongoing exhibition with art work from Ukrainian artists. As before in the exhibitions on the war of Russia in Ukraine, they put a major emphasis on the independence and resilience of Ukrainian art despite the ongoing war. To keep a diary of atrocities, but also survival and resistance to violence by Ukrainians, is a great effort. It stems primarily from artists that struggle to find adequate material to keep working or not to succumb to the participation in active war or military defence efforts. Using soft colours, water colours, has a rather symbolic meaning, after the inundation caused by the explosion of the huge water reservoir on Ukraine’s territory. Producing art in form of a diary, like reporting daily to yourself and the outside world as well as later born persons, has an important historic function, too.
No less than the “Diaries of Anne Franck” comes to our mind when thinking about a diary during war time. Russia’s attempt to eradicate Ukrainian culture is bound to fail. We shall cherish the Ukrainian diaries from the war time now and later. Thanks for reminding us of this collector’s duty to support the artists, writers and people of Ukraine.

Grenzgang 2

Innerhalb vom Kern Europas ist der physische Grenzübergang kaum merkbar. Sobald es um die Regeln der sozialen Sicherung, Beschäftigung, Selbständigkeit geht oder der Unternehmensbesteuerung werden die bilateralen Regeln bereits viel komplizierter. Falls 3 und mehr Länder ins Spiel kommen wird die Lage ziemlich unübersichtlich oder zum Expertentum. Staatsbürgerin im Land A und Staatsbürger im Land B, arbeitend im Land C dürfen sich über einen Dschungel an Regeln freuen, der Kafkaeske Verhältnisse hoch 3 produziert. Irgendwo klemmt dabei immer etwas. Dabei hatte die Regulierung CE Nr. 883/2004 über die Koordinierung der nationalen Systeme der sozialen Sicherung doch weitgehende Konkretisierungen hervorgebracht und Sicherung der Bestandsrechte hervorgebracht.
Wie so oft liegen die Schwierigkeiten im Detail und darin sind die jeweilig zuständigen Verwaltungsbeamten, wenn die denn erst einmal herausgefunden wurden, eine Hürde, die es zu meistern gilt. In der jeweiligen landesüblichen Verwaltungssprache, versteht sich von selbst, inklusive regionaler Besonderheiten.
Während juristisch der Grenzübergang von Beschäftigten, Selbständigen und Unternehmen jeweils geregelt ist, ergibt sich aus einer juristischen Figur des „salary split“, also eine beschäftigte Person bei 2 Arbeitgeberinnen eine Lücke in der Zuständigkeit. Diese besteht gleichfalls in den meisten Ländern der EU. 2 Teilzeitjobs zu 50% lassen sich sozialversicherungsrechtlich nicht fair darstellen. Die zweite Lohnsteuerkarte und Besteuerungssätze, na wir ahnen schon, was das für Betroffene heißt.
Unternehmen und der Staat machen es sich einfach. Eine Konfiguration „Mulitplication des employeurs“, mehrere Arbeitgeberinnen, ist nicht wirklich adäquat vorgesehen (Crabeels, 2008 S.272). Dadurch werden viele, besonders junge Beschäftigte systemisch in ihrer beruflichen Findungsphase benachteiligt und in die Selbständigkeit oder gar die Scheinselbständigkeit gezwungen. Dabei brauchen wir dringend diese dynamischen GrenzgängerInnen in Europa mit ihren grenzenlosen Ideen, Enthusiasmus und Gestaltungswillen.
Neben diesen „high potential Grenzgängerinnen“ gibt es viele Beschäftigte, die bereits in einem Mitgliedsland der EU mehrere Beschäftigungsverhältnisse ausüben müssen, da sie von einem Job ihren Lebensunterhalt nicht bestreiten können. (EU Statistik Jugend Eurostat,2022).

Grenzgang

Eigentlich wissen wir gar nicht mehr, was eine Grenze im Schengenraum der EU darstellt. Viele Arbeitende überqueren eine Grenze täglich, sozusagen als Arbeitsweg. Die Logik dafür ist vielfältig. Mal gibt es mehr oder besser bezahlte Arbeit im Nachbarland, mal ist es der preisgünstigere Wohnraum oder die Liebe. Diese Herzstücke Europas haben viel Selbstverständlichkeit, aber auch spezifische Belastungen mit sich gebracht. Das Europa der Grenzregionen bleibt für die meisten eine ständige Herausforderung. Regeln gelten meist noch nach Ländergesetzen. Sozialversicherungen sind ein besonderes schwieriges Thema. Das betrifft gerade die vielen Grenzüberschreitenden besonders hart. Misstrauen bei Sozialkassen ist die Regel und nicht die Ausnahme. Da wird dann schnell doppelt von Grenzgängerinnen abkassiert. Bei großen Katastrophen, bei denen die Medien überall hinsehen, stellen sich viele Politikerinnen ein. Für das Klein-klein des täglichen Lebens fehlt oft die Nachhaltigkeit der Handelnden, um wirkliche Verbesserungen zu erreichen.
Seit Jahren fahre ich beispielsweise in der schönen Grenzregion bei Aachen und Vervier mit dem Zug zwischen den beiden Ländern, doch dort scheint seit Jahrzehnten die Zeit still zu stehen. Wer mit ICE oder THALYS von Metropole zu Metropole fährt, rast mal eben vorbei. Die Bürgerinnen vor Ort dürfen sich zu Recht etwas abgehängt fühlen, bleibt für sie doch meist nur der Lärm der vorbeirasenden Züge. Zwischen Deutschland und Belgien gibt es für Grenzgängerinnen noch eine richtige Bimmelbahn. Sie wissen schon, die fährt langsam und kommt trotzdem an. Und das stündlich hin und her oder kreuz und quer. Leider wächst Europa selbst im Zentrum nur sehr gemächlich zusammen. Ob wir so viel Zeit noch haben, bevor undemokratische Kräfte die Uhren wieder zurückdrehen, bleibt eine Überlebensfrage für uns überzeugte Europäer.

Medical Personal

Like in many other professions, medical doctors and nurses are in short supply. Labour markets in Europe have changed from high oversupply (unemployment) to shortages of mainly skilled persons. 20 years ago, such skill needs were already visible in projections. In 2023 the discussion of skill needs is spreading to more and more professions. The medical professions are no exception to this rule. Even the best paying jobs will not be filled in sufficient numbers. The German institute for the medical profession (www.zi.de) forecasts, in my opinion, a lower bound estimate of medical doctors for the year 2030. Their projection is based on an underestimation of the growth of the population (war in Ukraine), which they see as about constant until 2030. From the recent figures on the population of Germany there were 1.5 million persons moving to Germany and a loss of more deaths than births of 327.000. Migrants are on average much younger than the German population and, therefore, overall aging of the population is reduced. Tough news for those daring to do projections. Thanks to the immigration of younger persons there will be more persons contributing to health insurance and pay for the higher costs of a rapidly aging population.
Following the projections of the distribution of specialists needed, we shall need more urologists, eye specialists and substantially more psychotherapists. This originates in the aging of the population and the higher demand of younger persons (post Covid-19), as well as refugees, in need of psychotherapeutic assistance.
So-called hog-cycles tell us for the medical profession, with a “production time” of 10 years for a medical doctor, that we are already far behind schedule to address the future skill needs of the aging medical profession and population. This strengthens the need to get serious about prevention of avoidable diseases. Stop reading here, stand up and go for walk. It is the best-practice-solution taking account of the aging of the medical profession and the population as a whole.