Paper and Pastel

Sometimes the art is in the material. At least this could be a rapid conclusion of the exhibition presented in London at the Royal Academy of Art in 2024-1. From the informative Catalogue the importance of material is demonstrated. The ease of taking your equipment with you, like a sketchbook and out into nature have been an important feature of the impressionists’ movement. With artists challenging traditional techniques of painting and paintings as such even the apparently less noble material as paper had become a statement of being different from the established art academies making use of more noble materials. The impressionists made a convincing point with their additional use of materials accessible to all. Capture the moment and capture your very own impression of it. This is one way to immortalize the emotion and essence of the scene. In the catalogue of the exhibition I spotted “The Swimmer” drawn by Caillebotte with pastel on paper. Freezing the moment, freezing the motion and emotion is evident here, too. Testing different materials is part of the journey to find your artistic impression, expression or materialization of imagination. The ways and means are manifold.

Royal Academy, 2023: Impressionists on Paper. p 32

NS München

The documentation centre in Munich of the National Socialist time and crimes has an encompassing collection of documents on display. As the prime centre of the Fascist movement in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s Munich was the home to party elites from the first months of the movement that became the epicentre of the dehumanizing policies we can follow throughout Europe (Topography of Terror, Berlin). The historical research in both documentation centres complement each other in many respects. Understanding the beginnings of the Fascist movement remains important to today. Fascist movements need to be stopped before terror even against neighbours takes hold. Records of the evolution of membership, men’s and women’s movements later on, attacks of the parliamentary system all have to be taken into account to be able to stem the Fascist tide at that time and today again.
Materializing” is the current exhibition, which can be visited in part online. How can we deal with the “Shoah“? Polish artist have a long experience to cope and deal with the unimaginable horrors, the Nazis and the “Wehrmacht” committed in Poland.
Memories have to find a place, a piece, a word, a sound or an emotion to materialize. In that sense yesterday joins today and is preserved as learning and warning for tomorrow.
In addition to the much discussed “Wehrmachtsausstellung“, the work by Jochen Böhler provides ample evidence to debunk the myths of war without crime. This holds for the past and for the present. (Source: Böhler, 2019, S. 59-68, Die Wehrmacht und die Verbrechen an der Zivilbevölkerung während des deutschen Überfalls auf Polen 1939, Image below).

Timeless Values

The declaration of human rights is more than 200 years old. However, the need to stand up for the defense of these rights needs many people to act accordingly. Political parties and courts are not strong enough to be the only defendants of democracy and human values. Solidarity across generations is another part of the struggle to defend democracy. In addition to the broad movement of “Omas gegen rechts”, the age distribution has been further enlarged with the “Uromas gegen rechts”. This most likely the generation with first hand life experiences from Nazi Germany and they should have reached an enlightened view of the horrors caused by the Nazi-regime. Unfortunately there are still some who continue to be prisoners in a fascist “brown” cage of mischievous memories. The great grandmother who was present at the demonstration was clear in her statement to stand up against right-wing extremism. (Image: With the permission of the lady I am happy to have evidence of the presence of super-agers at the demonstration in Berlin).

Berlin 2024-2-3. Demonstration

Flotow Paris1

Die Biografie von Friedrich von Flotow, verfasst von seiner letzten Ehefrau, beschreibt die erste Parisreise und den prägenden Aufenthalt für die Ausbildung des noch sehr jungen Komponisten (S.29 ff). Bereits im Februar 1828, mit erst 15 Jahren, begann der erste Studienaufenthalt in Paris. In einer den Eltern bekannten Familie wurde der junge Friedrich aufgenommen und begann sein Musikstudium am Konservatorium. Prof. Friedrich Reicha war dort sein Lehrer, der 1825 seinen “Traité de la haute composition” veröffentlicht hatte. Schon Adam und Berlioz hatten bei Reicha Kompositionsunterricht einige Jahre vorher. Die Juli-Revolution 1830 in Paris führte jedoch zu solchen Unruhen, dass die Familie den Sohn rasch nach Mecklenburg zurückrief.
Die frühe Erfahrung in Paris, und wie wir heute sagen “total immersion” in die französische Sprachwelt und Musik, eröffnete dem jungen Komponisten einen Berufsweg, der sicherlich ohne den Aufenthalt völlig anders verlaufen wäre.
Seine letzte Komposition “Der blinde Musikant” ist als reale Erfahrung des jungen Flotow in der Biografie erwähnt. Zusammen mit seinem Freund Aubry hätte er für den stadtbekannten blinden Musikanten als Straßenmusikant Geld gesammelt. Mit seiner letzten Komposition hat er im Vorgriff auf seinen eigenen Tod, dem blinden Musikanten noch ein Denkmal gesetzt. Dieser war bald nach dieser Aktion dennoch verstorben.
Schüleraustausch und Studienaufenthalte zwischen D und F kann eine äußerst prägende Wirkung entfalten. Das trifft auch noch 200 Jahre später zu. (Image: Flotow Biografie 1892. A.28-29.

Zwangsarbeit

Die Annäherung an das Thema Zwangsarbeit ist nicht einfach. Auch heute prangern wir zu Recht Zwangsarbeit egal wo auf der Welt an. Die mit weitem Abstand grausamste und umfangreichste Durchführung von Zwangsarbeit haben die Nazis in Deutschland und von ihnen besetzten Gebieten vollzogen. Neben den Schrecken der Konzentrationslager mit dem millionenfachen Mord an Menschen jüdischer Abstammung ist die Aufarbeitung der Verbrechen in Zusammenhang mit der Zwangsarbeit lange in den Hintergrund getreten. Selbst die Zeitzeugen wie Francois Cavanna (2020, S. 10-11) vertraten die Ansicht, dass im Vergleich zu den Ermordungen und Kriegsopfern ihre Erfahrungen und Leiden im Zusammenhang mit der Zwangsarbeit in den Hintergrund traten. („… cela me rendit plus modéré dans l’expression de mes souffrances. … nous ne pouvons que fermer notre gueule. Ce que je fais. »).
Neben der systematischen Ermordungsmaschine der Konzentrationslager in der NS-Zeit verdient das millionenfache Leid und die Terrordrohungen und Anwendungen der Nazi gegenüber den ZwangsarbeiterInnen eine angemessene Bedeutung. Das Dokumentationszentrum NS Zwangsarbeit in Berlin Schöneweide bietet dafür eine hervorragende Ausgangsbasis. Die Ausstellung ist für alle Altersgruppen geeignet. Behutsamer Einstieg für Schulklassen ab der 5. Klasse und zum Nachdenken anregend für Erwachsene mit Informations- und Lerninteresse. Das Ausstellungskonzept mit seinen vielfältigen biografischen Materialien von Zeitzeugen erleichtert, neben der Faktenfülle, einen emotionalen Zugang zum Thema. Online lässt sich beispielsweise die Verteilung der Zwangsrekrutierten die Arbeitsdienst leisten mussten je nach Stadtviertel oder sogar Straße verfolgen (Link Datenbank und Map).
Die Löhne für deutsche ArbeiterInnen und Ost-ArbeiterInnen aus den osteuropäischen besetzten Gebieten waren fast zehnmal höher. Die in westlichen Besatzungsgebieten zwangsverpflichteten Personen oder selbst anfänglich mit scheinbar höheren Löhnen als vor Ort (Organisation Todt) üblich angeworbene Personen erfuhren die spätere Abwertung ihrer Entlohnung. Es bleibt die Betonung auf Zwang, Terror und Einschüchterung bei der Zwangsarbeit meistens in menschenunwürdigen Massenbaracken aus industrieller Massenproduktion. Einstieg in die Erfahrung: NS Zwangsarbeit Dokumenteationszentrum.

Poster Design

The effective use of posters in visual communication is a specific craft. Artists have been associated with poster design for more than a century. Cinemas continue this practice. For each movie produced there is an announcement posted in print or digital form. In combination with the Berlinale 2024 film festival the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin shows milestones of the history of movies and their representations in form of posters. Besides the historical approach there are many hints how to interpret the design language of posters throughout the 20th century. The encouragement to try to produce one yourself not only reserved to children is an additional activating feature of the exhibition (Link here). Cats and dogs will always catch attention and the playful approach chosen might be a start into a graphic design interest. Overall the exhibition offers a low threshold entry into the world of art and design. Instagramable image on posters evolved into short preview clips, just like instagram paved the way to tiktok video clips. In retrospect posters also provide shortcuts for our memories to recall whole movies that have accompanied us growing up and growing older.

Berlin Moscow

Some historians have a hard time to sort long-term relationships between countries into adequate periods. The ups and downs between Berlin and Moscow are a peculiar example of this. The artist Peter Laszlo Péri expressed this unease in a poster where both cities stand for the dictatorships presumably in the name of the working class. This alliance between Berlin and Moscow, Hitler and Stalin led to occupations of several neighboring countries and war in the following years. With an uncritical stance after German unification the Berlin Moscow link has again facilitated the land grab of Russia with Ukrainian territory. Buying complacency of Berlin in return for cheap oil and gas from Moscow has ended for most European countries now. Great to see Europe united with few minor exceptions and that alliances with other European cities reveal strong and powerful in hope of a more peaceful Europe.

Only for Kids

We all have, hopefully, fond memories of children books. Sometimes authors are not so keen to tell that they are just writing books for children. This is often present in many biographies of authors of books for children. This is grossly unfair. Not only is the book market for children’s books one of the best- selling part of literature, but there are lots of interesting collaborations between authors and illustrators. Most books are expensive to produce, particularly if, additionally, translations are needed to reach more children and their parents. For small countries this might be a barrier. The Scandinavian countries have a tradition to translate and publish some selected children’s books in multiple Scandinavian languages and beyond. Therefore, it is no surprise to find a children’s book entitled “Kant” by Norwegian author Jon Fosse, illustrator Roj Friberg with the text translated into Swedish and published by the Danish Editor Carlsen, all in 1990.
The illustrations allow to understand the “bilderbok med text av Jon Fosse” using an enlightening imaginative visual language. From the cover already It is clear we deal with the universe and endless open space. There are black holes in it as well. Jon Fosse deals with “möjliga och omöjliga”, possibilities and impossibilities. Tackling such philosophical questions with children needs the best authors to address these issues. How to speak of the unspeakable, things we have hardly any words for remains a challenge. Relating to the world of dreams, appealing to children and their parents, does the trick. After all, you just need to close your eyes and you start to travel the universe and make lots of exciting encounters. The book has no page numbers, interesting. The image below is from page 25, just as an appetizer.
For more insights of how to deal with “nothingness” I refer to Friedrich C. Heller (2020) “Towards nothingness. Ideen der Reduktion in zeitgenössischen Bilderbüchern” (in Benner et al. editors 2020). Susan Sontag (2005) „die Ästhetik der Stille” (in Eugen Blume 2005, editor) will also help us along on the subject of stillness and minimalism. Maybe it is these essentials we should talk more about especially with our kids.
To continue the exploration of space and stillness just go to the webpage of the hubble telescope or the James Webb Space Telescope. The journey of your dreams will be hard to stop.

Georgia

The Republic of Georgia is honored with a wide ranging program in Brussels in the series of countries presented as part of the”Europalia” events and exhibitions. The exhibition at Bozar in the center of Brussels has a focus on the years between 1900-1936. It is astonishing to look at the creative examples of adaptations from western modern art with cubism and expressionist resemblance. Many artists had travelled to western parts of Europe or trained at well-known art schools there. Own adaptations to paintings, theatre and cinema yielded a unique style of Georgian modernism before Stalinism put an end to independent artists and their creative work.

During the short spells of political independence Georgia managed to re-establish each time a remarkable will to its own culture. Unity with artistic pluralism is a core value of the European unity and union as well. We are many and happy to have a chance with Georgian people to celebrate their artistic past and future.

catalog of exhibition Brussels 2023

Taxing Europe

From time to time it is helpful to compare basic tax rates, for example value added tax, across the EU to understand the different economic and social policy approaches. The range of VAT from Hungary 27% to Luxembourg 17% is astonishing and it does not really feel like we are together in a common market. Okay, the illiberal, authoritarian state of Hungary is taxing the most, a clear message to visitors from another European country that this authoritarian state is relying on tax on consumption of its own people and visitors to foot the bill of state expenditure.
It is also interesting to realise that some countries with lower VAT rates have disproportionate public debates about supposed tax burdens. Tax levels are a political choice and much depends on redistributive appropriate use of tax receipts to the benefit of all or specifically those most in need. The potential for redistribution to parents, children, pensions, the poor or green investments also relies to some extent on the overall budget. The most surprising thing is the absence of a debate about tax rates, the size of the tax base and the ample exemptions or reduced rates. Of course, most of us complain about income taxes, but we all agree that it is nice to see that someone is taking care of the abundant autumn leaves or lighting of streets in the darker seasons. Even Adam Smith wrote in favour of the “night-watch state” that assures sufficient security levels. Taxing Europe to ensure that this role of the state can be taken seriously is still a common denominator across Europe.
Image: own presentation based on EU-data from 2022 LINK.

Nations Fail

Ever since Adam Smith wrote on the “Wealth of Nations” the topic concerns social scientists. The discourse around the wealth of nations has become even more fundamental these days. Beyond wealth calculated in economic terms we are convinced to add well-being of the population as well as the state of the environment into the accounting procedures like national accounts. But wait a second. Similar to the term wealth we have to widen our perspective in what is considered to be a nation. Shifting borders through wars (Russia aggression on Ukraine) or separatist tendencies of regions, (re-)unification of Germany or Korea (eventually) show that the nation is a concept in flux. Considering migrants from former colonies still as having residential rights in the colonising country shows, there is more to nations than a one size fits all nation concept.
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson had published the book on “Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” already in 2012. On the 3rd of October Germany celebrates its re-unification only because the Russian dominated German Democratic Republic (and the other Eastern European satellite states under Russian control) can be considered as a failed state. These Russian dominated states crushed private initiatives and build corrupt systems where party allegiance and hierarchical structures were overemphasised. Following Acemoglu and Robinson (chapter 10) the lack of diffusion of prosperity is likely to be the root cause. Even similar to the French revolution, which brought about tough measures of redistribution, the external threats to the post-revolution France demanded subscription of masses into armies to defend the young republic against aristocratic rulers in the surroundings. If monarchy in France is a failed state, the post-revolution France survives due to high identification with the republican idea. The Soviet dominated Ukraine is a failed state, but the Ukraine of today resists due to its willingness to defend its own republican ideals. To get virtuous circles of development started, inclusiveness across the board is necessary. Leave nobody behind, seems to be a shortcut summary. It is much easier said than done. Loosing younger generations in the sense that they no longer subscribe or feel part of an inclusive wealth of the nation is a highly dangerous path. Failed states have a history in failed inclusive social and economic practices. Democracies are at risks just as much as authoritarian nations. However, democracies have better institutional settings to address the lack of inclusion and in multiple ways.
When I celebrate the 3rd of October in the Federal Republic of Germany I celebrate (1) the accomplished failure of the GDR, its undemocratically elected elites, corrupt institutions and the failure of the thousands of willing collaborators of the Russia-backed regime; (2) the peaceful resistance movement, (3) the relatively short-lived humanitarian focus of the Russian leadership at the time to not send in the tanks and (4) the willingness of the FRG to support 20 million new citizens for many years to come (5) the allies of the FRG to accept the potential security threat of a strengthened Federal Republic of Germany, which might entail a shift in the balance of power in Europe.
And yet, even in 2023 we pose questions on what is the concept of failure, when authoritarian regime can still survive for sooo long and some still accomplish extensions. We keep questioning the sense of the term “nation” in modern times and across the globe. Too many wars are still fought in the name of a “nation” even if only a handful of military-supported leaders and single autocrats try to impose wars in the name of some rather vague or plainly mistaken claim of nationhood.
On the 3rd of October we celebrate that “nations can fail” opening a path into a more prosperous and inclusive society. Some nations fail, just because they were no nation in the first place. The GDR was such an artefact of international compromise as part of the overall “balance of power” and the Cold War. The result of this process gives so much hope to other divided nations (Korea) or nations under authoritarian oppressive rule.

Corrupt-2

New scientific evidence on corruption and stereotypes about corruption reveals surprising behavioural responses. Social psychologist classified corruption as a behavioural trait of a person. The new evidence of a study that includes country-specific stereotypes into a corruption experiment shows there are always two sides to consider: the corrupted as well as the corrupting person. Both hold stereotypes about the likelihood another person (from a specific country background) is likely to accept a bribe.
Using a widely accepted index from Transparency International on corruption in countries the experiment uses real payouts to test the probability that a person from country X is trying to bribe a person from country Y. Rather than a personal trait, the study finds that many persons become “conditionally corrupt”. This describes the behaviour to offer a bribe to a person occurs more often if you believe the probability that the person accepts corruption is high. Dorrough, Köbis et al. (Link publication) is cited in “nautilus” explaining this by, quote, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Additionally, the stereotypes on corruption prevalence leads people to act more on what they believe is common practice rather than what is the basic legal or ethical standard.
From behavioural ethics we know the urge of people to find justifications for their unethical behaviour to themselves or to others. This is called “justified ethicality”.
Following this rationale, it will be easier to accept a bribe, if the person originates from a high reputation of corruption. In order to correct for such bias due to stereotypes it is important to pursue corruption vigorously and, just as important, communicate a lot about this behavioural change so that stereotypes begin to change in the mindsets of other persons as well. There are many ways to Rome and some turn out to be quite long.

Calendar Time

We all use calendars to organize our time almost unconsciously. This is helpful to organize and synchronize our time together. Working time, family and individual time tend to use the same time structure to facilitate community. Work arrangements depend a lot on a common method to structure time. The work-life balance hinges a lot on synchronization of calendars and joint time slots. Towards the end of the annual vacation period in Europe the annualized change of calendars is still common practice despite most people going digital. Annual overviews allow to allocate and potentially synchronize calendars for major events or periods (next break, period devoted to learning, family planning etc.). A cleavage that differentiated Europe in the analogous times was that some countries like Germany use(d) chronological calendars running from 1st of January until 31st of December and counting calendar weeks (1-52). Many other countries have long ago moved on to “functionalist” calendars running based on the school year from 1st of September to 31st of August each year. Different planning horizons appear to be the obvious outcome. Whereas the former might focus on the planning of the end of the calendar year 2023, the latter functionalist calendars begin to structure the new year-long period 2023-24 including the next summer break towards the end of the next schooling year.
In France you start end of August 2023 to plan ahead until end of August 2024. This comprises the Olympic games in Paris 2024. Don’t worry, most tickets are sold out already and attributed through lotteries. When people in Germany start to buy calendars for 2024 and organize a printed calendar, this occurs traditionally around Christmas time and New Year’s celebrations.
Specific professions follow their own calendar time. Academic years or accounting years may well differ from the other annualised organisation of time through calendars. Of course, religions have established their own calendars just as migrating birds or French revolutionaries in the 18th century. Meteorological calendars or sensor-based structuring of annual sequences of seasons like in trees, plants or insects add to the impression of the existence of multiple clocks.
A de-synchronisation of these multiple calendars increases the need to coordinate societies within or society and the economy, religion or ecology. I liked my printed calendars over the years. Now I shall print different versions for different countries and functions. I still wonder, if my life got easier or more complex. Probably, it has only become easier to organise complexity and diversity. Clock 6 video

Stilfindung

Kunstschaffende brauchen Jahre, oft auch Jahrzehnte, um ihren eigenen Stil zu finden. Das ist durchaus ein schwieriges Unterfangen. Frühes Ausprobieren verschiedener Kunstrichtungen ist dabei so etwas wie ein Experimentieren mit unterschiedlichen Werkzeugen. Da hilft es enorm, wenn schon einmal ein reichlich bestückter Werkzeugkasten im Elternhaus vorhanden ist. Das war in der Künstlerfamilie der Giacomettis der Fall. Der kleine Alberto hat mit Vater Giovannis Tinten, Federn, Ölfarben und Pinseln früh angefangen, sich auszuprobieren. Eltern, der kleine Bruder, Landschaften, Posen vieler Verwandten und Bekannten sowie jegliche Gegenstände wurden zu Objekten des Skizzierens für den Jugendlichen. Schule war nicht wirklich interessant, selbst die École des beaux arts in Paris erweiterte zwar sein Repertoire an Techniken und Sichtweisen, aber auf dem Weg der Selbstfindung scheint es nur eine Passage gewesen zu sein. Auf dem Weg der Abstraktion hat Paris allerdings die Kreativität stimuliert. Seine Skulpturen von Köpfen der Familie haben sich verallgemeinert, hin zum Universellen. Weit über seine Heimat hinaus sagen die Skulpturen des späteren Albertos uns etwas über Menschheit und Menschheitsgeschichte. Den Weg zu verstehen, den der „L‘homme qui marche“ bis zu seiner Verwirklichung beschritten hat, ist in der Ausstellung im Bündner Kunsthaus nachvollziehbar. Vielleicht mehr ein Lehrstück in Pädagogik und Kunstpädagogik, als in grandiosen Werken der Giacomettis. Welch ein Glück, dass sich Alberto von den Stilrichtungen anderer abgesetzt hat und einfach sein eigenes Ding gemacht hat. Beruf und Berufung können nahe beieinander liegen. Das ist die gute pädagogische Message.

Père de Giacometti par Alberto 1927 Kunsthaus Zürich gezeigt in Chur 2023

Diplomatin

Der Roman von Lucy Fricke über Diplomatie und Diplomaten ergänzt in recht unterhaltsamer Weise die eher trockene und abstrakte Literatur zur internationalen Politik. Gute Bettlektüre für den politisch interessierten Menschen, der gerade im Urlaub ist. Diplomatie schläft nicht und macht wenig Urlaub. Urlauber dagegen machen den Diplomaten oft ganz schön zu schaffen. Die geduldigen Mittel und Wege der Diplomatie sind nun wirklich nicht jeder Frau oder Manns Sache. Wenn sich Emotionen einmischen wird die diplomatische Herausforderung zu einem nahezu unauflöslichen Konflikt. Diskretion und Verschwiegenheit sind elementar in diesem Beruf. Geduldsproben an der Tagesordnung, ständig und bei allen Dienstgeschäften. Ein nachvollziehbarer Einstieg in diese Berufswelt in Form eines Romans sollte Pflichtlektüre für alle sein, die sich diesem Berufsfeld oder der Aufgabe annehmen wollen. Gut, dass es eine Diplomatin beschreibt. Das gibt eine erfrischende neue Perspektive. Vielleicht auch Anregung über eine feministische Aussenpolitik nachzudenken.

Wenig beleuchtet werden die politischen Umstände, die nur als Staffagen für die Erzählungen herhalten müssen. Taksim Platz samt Wasserwerfer interessiert wohl nur am Rande. Das ist schade, weil es verpasste Gelegenheiten sind, Menschenrechtsverletzungen zumindest kurz anzusprechen. So kratzt die Erzählung nur an der Oberfläche von Personen und dem wirklichen Geschäft der Diplomatie. Aktion in den Vordergrund zustellen ist gut für die Story und Verfilmungen, aber der Kern der Diplomatie muss anders aussehen. Etwas Heimaturlaub konfrontiert die Diplomatin dann erneut mit der weitreichenden Gleichgültigkeit gegenüber der diplomatischen Arbeit. Leben organisieren und Aufräumen bleiben auch im Privatleben der Diplomatin eine Herausforderung der Work-life balance.

Geologie

Mehr GeologInnen braucht das Land. In der Schweiz beunruhigen derzeit zunehmende geologische Risiken. Der Klimawandel lässt Permafrost in den Höhen schmelzen, der jahrhundertelang Gestein zusammenhielt Gleichzeitig sinkt die Schweiz, nicht die Aktienkurse, selbst die Credit Suisse ist bereits untergegangen, aber rein geologisch, nüchtern betrachtet (NZZ, 2023 „Die Schweiz sinkt“). Das verlangt nun doch einige gründliche wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen. GeologInnen messen bereits mit unzähligen Messstationen die Bewegungen der Erdkrusten. In der Schweiz lässt sich sicherlich mit dem zunehmenden Abschmelzen der Gletscher und der Veränderung der (mehr) Regenfälle statt Schneefälle in den frühen Wintermonaten eine neue Gefahrensituation aufzeigen, nicht nur für den Tourismus. Die üblichen Reflexe: mehr Investieren in Schutz und neue Versicherungen wird alleine nicht mehr helfen. Biodiversität auf den unteren Skipisten ist eh Fehlanzeige, aber die Baumgrenze steigt. Das könnte genutzt werden, statt die vielfach kranken Fichten, die wegen ihrer kurzen Wurzeln kaum ein Gewitter überstehen (Ruinaulta vom 4.8.2023 S.6 und S.16-18). Diese Gewitter werden durch den Klimawandel wahrscheinlich häufiger werden. Noch mehr Versicherungen werden die Welt nicht retten können. Wir werden umdenken müssen auch wenn Verhaltensänderungen sehr schwerfallen.
Das Abbrechen von Bergspitzen, wie am Kantersteg (BE) oder der Bergsturz am Piz Cengalo 2017 in Graubünden, ereignen sich dann eher in den wärmeren Sommertagen. Die GeologInnen werden viele Arbeitsstellen haben (nicht nur im Geopark Sardona UNESCO Welterbe) und gehören zu den Berufen mit höherer Nachfrage durch den Klimawandel.

Checks and balances

The principle of checks and balances refers back to the separation of powers introduced by the French political theorist Montesquieu in his writings “De l’esprit des loix” in 1748. 40 years later in 1788 James Madison wrote as §51 in “The Federalists Papers” explicitly about the system of checks and balances as part of the constitution of the USA. For maintaining the principle of separation of powers it is necessary to install a system of checks and balances between the powers to prevent one power dominating the others. These well-known principles of democracy face, nevertheless, continuous challenges as to the balance of the powers (legislative, executive, judiciary). In order to safeguard democracy a basic scepticism towards the exercise of power is warranted. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” (Federalist Papers, 1788, p. 239).
The necessity of auxiliary precautions has led modern democracies to a multiplicity additional checks and balances. Independent Anti-fraud offices, disciplinary committees within the separate powers as well as the checks and balances between the separate powers play a role in the survival of democracy. Recently, in July 2023 services like the internal service of the police to overlook the adequate execution of the force applied by police have been much in the headlines. Checks and balances apply to each branch of separate powers internally, and if they prove inadequate, they have to be corrected by other powers. This is the procedural as well as fundamental interaction within the separation of power. Presidential systems, where this system of checks and balances has major deficiencies, are very likely to fail its people through an overpowering executive. Neither the country of Montesquieu, nor of the Federalists is free of these dangers. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement and to meet with people, all contribute to strengthen checks and balances in a democracy. “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control of the government” (p.239).

Garten

Ach es ist so schön im Garten. Ein schöner Garten will geplant werden. Das gelingt auf besondere Weise mit dem „Pollinator“. Hinter dem Pollinator verbirgt sich ein Kunstprojekt, das viele kleine Gartenkunstwerke zu einem großen verbinden möchte. Spannend ist nicht nur das Vernetzungsprojekt von vielen einzelnen Parzellen zu einem größer werdenden Gesamtprojekt (Aggregation), sondern der für Kunstschaffende gewohnte Perspektivwechsel. Aus Sicht der Bestäuber der Pflanzen und Blumen gesehen ergibt sich eine vogelähnliche Perspektive auf den Garten.
Der Parcour einer Biene oder eines Schmetterlings durch unsere Gartenparzelle regt zum Träumen an. Vielleicht hätte Franz Kafka nach der Parcour-Erfahrung ein anderes Insekt gewählt. Mir gefällt die 2D, 3D, 4D Perspektive, die es erlaubt, den blühenden Garten im Zeitraffer durch alle Jahreszeiten zu visualisieren. Das ist Gartenarbeit ohne die mühsame Kleinarbeit des Pflanzens und Unkrautjätens. Es wird nicht gleich ein Garten wie von Impressionisten in Argenteuil von Monet oder in Yerres von Caillebotte daraus, aber ein farbenprächtiges Kleinod allemal. Mein erster virtueller Versuch (Link) ist schon recht farbenfroh. Lateinische Namen auffrischen ist schon fast ein Beitrag zum gesunden Altern, besonders wenn der Garten einige Kilometer entfernt ist. Im Sommer lassen sich leicht neue Pläne schmieden. Herbst und Winter, Trockenheit und Hitze lassen uns das Gartenkunstwerk nochmals überdenken. Spielerisch ein Gartendesign gestalten, kann der erste Schritt für mehr Natur sein. Biodiversität macht Spaß und hilft uns allen. Kleinvieh macht eben auch Mist.

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 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.

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

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.

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.