Linguistics

The urge to program human language originates for some in the quest for better explanation or understanding, for others in the improvement of communication. Both approaches have witnessed rapid evolution in recent years. Based on linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics or neuroscientific advances, the potential of knowledge creation and communication has risen due to computational models and applications to linguistics. ChatGPT3 and Neuroflash allow us to play around with the commonly available AI-applications. Construction of a linguistically informed Glossary of political and social ideas is a specific application case. In addition to the subject/object list we may add predicates or verbs to link subjects and objects. For this purpose, we construct a basic alphabetical list below which draws mainly on action verbs and is embedded in the socio-cultural environment of the sciences in general. A categorised list of verbs, like the one from Purdue University, is helpful to draw on several relatively distinct fields. With perspective on labour market or societal relevance the list focuses on verbs related to skill sets: administrative/managerial; communication; creative, information/data; caring/helping; efficiency; research; teaching/learning; technical. The categories are not mutually exclusive and may well be supplemented by additional categories like relational skills and transformational skills. Computational psycholinguistics (Crocker, 2006 pdf-file) differentiate the “principle of incremental comprehension” (add one word at a time) from the “concentric theory of complexity” (start from complexity to specificity or vice-versa) and the “deductive sentence processor”. ChatGPT is built on the incremental approach, supposed to be the fastest and probably a more reliable computational approach. We could just attempt to use the other approaches in the simple ABC glossary of subjects, objects and predicates to test for the possibility to build no-nonsense short sentences using random choices as starting points. The Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics highlights in the final chapter the theoretical alternative of connectionism (p.811). Symbolic computation construes cognition as mental states that are symbolically represented. The sequence of operations then runs from one representation to the next one. However, the connectionist model operates more like a neural network and proceeds with the parallel processing of notions, relations or patterns. A list of predicates or verbs might do the trick: Chose a subject, chose a predicate and an object to start playing around: Subjects: action balance  corruption democracy enterprise freedom god health imagination joy knowledge law memory nature optimism policy question repairing society time union value war xeno yinyang zero.
Predicates: applies broadens creates directs establishes forms generates helps induces jeopardises  keeps likes moderates needs opposes prioritises qualifies represents strengthens tests uses varies weighs x-outs yields zigzags.
Objects:  freedom god health imagination joy knowledge law memory nature optimism policy question repairing society time union value war xeno yinyang zero action balance  corruption democracy enterprise.

Writing

New research on the fabrication of writing allows to debunk some of the received ideas about writers as living and drafting in a solitary space. However, the facts frequently show something different. In the journal of the BnF (images 2022), (Chroniques des la BnF Nr. 95 p.9 pdf-file) the BnF makes transparent the creative cosmos of Marcel Proust (Exhibition closed). From correspondence and other influential images, we learn about the “fabrique de l’oeuvre”. Far from writing his books from front to end in a linear fashion, Proust drafts “isolated sequences which he mounts, demounts and regroups sometimes even years later. These clippings of text are arranged by him like a patchwork, a collage rather than following a linear progression. Just peeping into the writer’s studio, drafting style and “paperoles” is fascinating. What a mess, some would say. What a huge imaginative space he has been living in, despite being reported to draft most of his work while actually being in his bed (Lire Magazine 12-2022). Beds are not always for sleeping, only. Today’s start-up enterprises frequently start from home, a century ago Proust demonstrated a lot can result from a very tiny physical space, but an enormous space in mind.

Syntax

Syntax is just one of the categories of linguistics. Carl Lee Baker (1989) wrote a whole book 500 pages on just English syntax, can you imagine. I like his modesty in the introduction stating that English syntax is just a subfield of linguistics (p.12). Other languages have different structures, some might be very different from our ways to communicate even. The ways how animals or plants communicate is an exciting subfield of linguistics, psychology and biology (Carrie Fidgor, Pieces of Mind). The SPO structure of sentences is only one simple way of constructing sentences. Syntax is much more complex. The sociological aspect of linguistics and syntax lies in the “acceptability judgements”, which are present once we establish rules and sort phrases into correct or incorrect sentence structures. Norms and standardisation as well as authority to decide on correctness becomes an issue. Countries used to many dialects or multilingual populations are confronted with these issues on a daily basis. Linguistics as basis of communication is continuously present even in the mental structure. Bilingualism, tri-lingualism and their effects on minds, competences, behaviour, culture and societies are own thriving research fields. Building a sentence or a phrase, following Baker, is built around a head and their complements. Such minimal phrases are comparable to what we coin in a simplified manner the subject-predicate-object structure of a sentence. The definition of the nucleus of the structure of a sentence is also about conventions and acceptability. Staccato speech and rap-music are examples of forms of speech, which are often considered beyond the normal. Computer voices are becoming more normal as we are faced with chat bots all around us now. The image below reflects the simplified “representation of syntactic structure” (p.48 The Cambridge grammar of the English language 2002 review here). To play around with “Clause”, let us analyse the clause: I bought a shirt; I wonder what I bought. You know what I mean Klaus, it is a clause, or is it Dady gone gaga = DADA?

Hypertext

Linking information, explanation and entertainment is the power of the world wide web. The tool used for this is the hypertext format of texts and media in general. Wittgenstein was already dissatisfied not to be able to show the steps of his thinking more explicitly. In the “Tractatus logico- philisophicus (Link to pdf-file de/engl” he uses the a cube (5.5423) to explain that we see to different facts depending on our point of departure of our vision. Try it with the logo of www.schoemann.org you should realize how our vision swops from one way of viewing the cube to another. The white corner is once in the front of the cube and appears to be in the back, when you move your vision further up. In general this leads us to be careful with the choice of our point of departure, not only for our vision. Context, some say background, is important to determine starting points. Adding the hypertext markup language to a document, like in a blog entry, allows readers (+algorithms) to see the cognitive structure surrounding a text as well. Potentially as a reader you enter into a multidimensional space with each blog entry. Any encyclopedia, glossary or index has an apparent alphabetical order to entries, but the links between the multiple entries remain hidden at first sight. With use of hypertext this has changed and each entry is turned into a 3-dimensional space, for example. Additionally, all entries have different numbers of links to other entries including dead-end entries. With the structure of links it is interesting to learn about the self-referencing just as much as about the disciplinary locus of a text, chapters, a book or a library. This helps to still see the forest despite all those trees in front of us ,or we see the geological structure of the mountain while in the middle of the forest. Happy travelling in our new knowledge space!

Giselle

Once upon a time, not at the Opera de la Bastille, but next it, in a small theatre called Théâtre de la Bastille, the fairy tale of “Giselle…” was performed. The world-famous ballet Giselle (Karlsruhe Programmheft) is still amongst the most frequently performed magic piece of classical ballet. What is it about? In short: sex and crime. Yes, and it sells well.
Francois Gremaud tells the classic story of excitement, love, deception, death, regret, haunting and memory in a concise and witty fashion. The exemplary dancer is at the same time the narrator of the story as well as the critic and art historian accompanied by a 4 musicians strong orchestra. The educational piece with a “womanxplainer” on stage is great entertainment, full of references, why it is still okay to like the piece in spite of its fantasy-loaded content. Modern dance (Cunningham, De Keersmaeker) has decoupled or emancipated movement from music. In classical ballet, at least, you still know what comes next and this is aesthetically appealing for most people. Besides Wilfried, no he is not part of the “Wilis” (could be an interesting variant), but in the ballet there figures “Hilarion”. He is not hilarious at all. Splendid entries are from Myrtha (close to Martha, but not quite the same) and, of course, Giselle, when she leaves her tomb and turned into a “Wili”. Then there is Albrecht in a pas de deux with Giselle, swirling between earth and space. Aldi dances like mad on impulse from Myrtha, but Giselle vanishes nevertheless. End of story, or is it? Giselle is a Wili and Aldi is the wally. Maybe the story could be retold like in the film “Billy Elliot – I will dance”, which is an emancipatory tale where dance is the liberation rather than part of the dooming fate.
Francois Gremaud with the astonishing performer and choreographer Samantha van Wissen have created a version of Giselle that is musical, aesthetic, funny and critic. For those who enjoy an epic theatre version of Giselle including its “alienation effects”, referring back to Berthold Brecht, will want to read the script as well, kindly distributed as a gift after the show.

Employment

Employment is back on top of the agenda. Not as we used to think, though. Previously unemployment had dominated societal concerns. Now it is the lack of persons seeking or available for employment. What has happened? The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the need of persons qualified to work in the health sector. From health care and urgency care, we are short of personnel in all these fields, everywhere. Then we discovered the role of essential services and the need to equip crucial infrastructures like ports, transport, shops, schools and ambulances with service persons resisting despite work overload. Larger cohorts leave employment to retire, some even early due to illness or burn-out. Additionally, war is back in Europe. Military personnel is in high demand again, drawing largely from younger cohorts. The need for conventional weapons. long thought to be oblivious, is forcefully back on the agenda.
Growth potentials are everywhere. However, these pre-modern facts encounter a population in the western democracies that insists on new approaches to employment. Beyond hard and soft skills, recruiters seek atypical skills, competences and trajectories. A parachute jump from an airplane, cooking and dining experiences, caring spells, periods in self-employment, all are directly or indirectly relevant for employment and teamwork. So, what is your specialty? Collecting stamps? Surely you are able to spot tiny differences in images with specific content. Fake news and fake image detection or video surveillance is in high demand, just try an application and discover the employment potential of your MAD skills. Sounds crazy? No joke. Skill needs are everywhere, just give it a start again and again. Read a serious newspaper regularly (here LeMonde 19.1.2023) for inspiration.

Deconstruction

Deconstruction is a powerful tool or even method. Beyond imagineering, deconstruction in the literal sense means take to pieces. In most cases a physical object consists of several objects or parts. By deconstruction we attempt to understand the whole object as the sum of its parts. Before a new product or design is created, many scientists, engineers and artists start to deconstruct existing artefacts. Understanding how the object is assembled, for example, allows you to play around with pieces and maybe come up with an alternative way of constructing the object. The architecture of “deconstructivsm” has left us fantastic buildings. In furniture design there are also nice examples of deconstruction. Paris is a good place to study deconstruction (Explained), perhaps many still read Derrida there. It is a fruitful method beyond its engineering sense for example in law, literature or many other social science disciplines. If you are not mad yet, visit the MAD in Paris to see examples of deconstruction or construct your own deconstruction. Both have a dialectic relationship to each other anyway.

 

Action Verbs

Action words are in other words called action verbs. Each complete sentence has one. Hence, they are part and parcel of the basic construction of sentences.
“The purpose of an active verb is to create a clear, concise sentence. By using an active verb, you can eliminate unnecessary words and make your writing more direct. In addition to making your writing more concise, active verbs also add punch and clarity. They can make your writing more interesting and persuasive. Additionally, active verbs can create a sense of immediacy which is often useful in persuasive writing.  When it comes to writing, there is nothing more important than using strong, active verbs. Not only do they make your writing more interesting and engaging, but they also convey a sense of confidence and authority. In addition to being more descriptive, active verbs also add a sense of movement and action to your writing. Rather than simply stating that something exists, you can use active verbs to show how it exists. For example, rather than saying “there is a chair in the room,” you could say “the chair sits in the corner of the room.” This may seem like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how your writing comes across. Finally, active verbs can also help to set the tone of your writing. If you want to convey a sense of wit and humour, then using playful, lighthearted verbs is a great way to do so. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a more serious tone, then using powerful, authoritative verbs will help you achieve that.”
After the 3rd sentence this blog entry (Link) has been written by the artificial intelligence app “Neuroflash”. They promise that it is not just copy and paste, but rather written following some instructions I gave like title, table of content, style and then selected among several choices. It makes sense to me, although it is just like many other textbook entries I have found on the web. It may well serve as an introduction. Lazy journalists, priests or lawyers in case they do little research will be replaced soon by AI, who else, who is next? Big brother drafts the brave new world for us already.

A for Action

The A is everywhere. A is the beginning of the Alphabet, Google is our new Alphabet, we just have not realised it. A simple A-rating in investment is not good enough, AA or AAA is the goal. All this calls for ACTION. Do not be stopped in your action by reading on “Action theory” by Parsons, Rational action is the basis of most economic reasoning before the behavioural turn of economics. It is commonly acknowledged now, that rational action might not always be as rational as we want to believe it is. “Frame selection” as theory to explain our choice of action is fashionable in the social sciences. Transforming values and intentions into actions is a big challenge. Many jokes turn around this issue, like intentions to get up early in the morning. Find out whether you are an actionable leader. You should have at least a few “actionable items” on your to-do-list. Of course, Microsoft recommends actionable items to improve our productivity while spending hours on emails.
Well, early philosophers already distinguished between “vita contemplativa” and “vita activa“. A lot is about finding the right balance here and Hannah Arendt’s differentiation of active life in labor, work and action. She puts emphasis on action as a way to distinguish ourselves from others. The same thought might lead to very different actions. Hence, acting on one’s belief or values could lead to very different policies for just 2 persons. Action Artists perform even in inaction. We are back to basic questions of democratic  procedures as a form to moderate between different opinions or possible actions. Lots of other A-words come up now: ambiguity, anxiety, alienation, affirmation, affect, affection. In Greek, A might be associated with Apollo, In German with the famous “Angst”, but French is overriding all this with “Amour”.

Z for Zero

Zero is more than just a number. Originally the Zero=0 was a simple placeholder for higher order numbers. The concept of 0 is useful in calculus. The digital revolution is based on 0 – 1 systems.  Beyond this, there is a philosophical sense to it as well. Think of nothing, black holes, empty space, “ground zero“. Emptiness might not be empty at all, as for  those filling your empty space (ets) with an empty—log. In Philosophy the nihilists or nihilism reached a lot of prominence. “God is dead” leaves us with a void that asks for alternative solutions. Beware of simplistic answers. Study the origins of democracy and the need for freedom of expression as a basis for new concepts based on fundamental values.
Zero”, the group of artists in “Zero foundation” have made a significant contribution to the development of art in post-war Europe. The catalogue of the exhibition in Amsterdam and Berlin 2015 inspires imagination beyond today. Time passes on to achieve zero-emissions. Zut alors, the last Z-word to finish the countdown 3-2-1-0, I guess. (P.99 zero catalogue 2015)

T for Time

The times they are a changing“, end of blog entry T.
We live time forward, but we seem to understand it only backwards or in retrospect. Towards the end of each year, it is common practice to look back and review the last 12 months. Then we imagine what will the future be like. Our concept of time is past, present or future oriented. In classical physics we reflect this with a depiction of time on a linear axis. However, modern concepts of time include Einstein’s relativity theory, whereby in 2 different places time may run with different speed. Similarly, quantum physics allows that the causal relationship between 2 physical states is no longer observable in a logic that follows linear time. A particle may exit in 2 states in parallel. Hard to imagine, maybe, but demonstrations of these effects are found in textbooks for pupils already. Our grasping of the world around us is enhanced through scientific rigour.
Story-telling also plays with time frames. Analepsis and prolepsis are common techniques constructing a story, a film or any form or narrative. We tend to perceive chronological time even as boring. Our memory is also playing tricks with us on time scales. When was …? Additionally, we have multiple clocks ticking away. Time to submit a report, pay taxes, until the next medication or the psychological concept of “time until death”. Strangely enough, depending on which ticking clock we focus most, our behaviour is likely to change. Mobile time management tools have been created for centuries for us to handle all this jazz (call them a watch). They all have not changed our concept of time, only the precision to measure and cramp more activities or the same one faster into our daily life. Happier since? Test your self-efficacy, more general than time management! Try meditation to slow down the pace, use an app!? I started to clone myself with a virtual presence to experience the quantum effect of my life. Podcasts are played with 1,5x the normal speed now. Rhythm and music are the remaining traditional metrics of time. Even there, John Cage’s piece “silence” managed to abandon the time reference, partly at least. Okay, time is up, next letter, please.

R for Repairing

Without noticing for many people, we have shifted into the repair mode. Our planet needs repair work. Well beyond the less plastic, CO2, less oil, gaz and pollution in general, we have to actively repair what we have damaged, certainly since the industrial revolution. With nuclear waste we have entered into a phase, in which repairing is not really feasible. Areas around Tschernobyl and Fukushima speak for itself. However, we seem to leave the repairing to future generations. Whereas for us currently it is an option, later on it will be an obligation.
The bionic interest has already turned to the Axolotl and Polycarpa mytiligera. Both species can repair themselves after the loss or a malfunctioning part of their body. Rather than producing externally, growing the spare part is a promising healing device. Nature provides many fabulous insights, if we were able to preserve the biodiversity. Repairing biodiversity is difficult, impossible for lost species which we do not even really know. Start to repair and build awareness that repairing can be fun. Beyond the gender stereotypes, men repair cars, women repair clothes, we have to learn from each other how to use our repair knowledge for many other things and devises. This applies even to our social, legal or economic systems. In addition to reimagining, we need repairing everywhere. I have lots of stuff to repair at home. When do you start repairing? Welcome to the next trend: the joy to repair, repairs even joy.

Q for Question

Quality and quantity or queer and query could have made valuable entries here as well. Common to all is the underlying process of questions. Questions put to oneself, to others, society or supra natural or supra national instances. Can quantity turn into quality? Is a queer perspective a new one? Is a query in a programming language the beginning of each algorithm? Questioning is a child’s “natural” approach to understanding the world. This does not stop soon after childhood, but it is occupying, if not haunting, us until the end of our life. When is this exactly happening – the end thing? Are we free to chose this? Just try to answer one of these questions and you’ll find out how one question leads to the next. We are all the same in this behaviour. However, we all find different stopping rules to the query algorithm. Religion is a fast shortcut to stop further questions. Sciences are the never, ever, ending type of questioning. Mathematics solved part of the problem. For a lot of series we are able to calculated the limit value towards which the series evolves circumventing the lack of a stopping rule. Fundamental human rights are such a far-reaching stopping rule. Just like after the French revolution, the question was, how to quickly spread the message of human rights. Didactic and paedagogics evolved in parallel. From “cogito ergo sum” to “rogatio ergo sum”.

O for Optimism

Looking back at the end of every year to what happened in the last 12 months gives mixed feelings in annual repetition. Developments of nature and biodiversity are sometimes troublesome (variants of viruses like omicron). Despite wars and man-made disasters most people have a capacity to bolster with optimism. To view a glass as half-full rather than half-empty is a common description of two different perspectives on the same fact. Additionally from a longitudinal perspective it matters, whether you started from a full glass beforehand or from the empty glass. In experiments we would need to clarify the role of the starting point and evolution before the statement on the 50-50 state of affairs.
In the French enlightenment, represented by Voltaire‘s “Candide ou l’optimisme“, a critical view on the optimism of Leibniz is expressed. The optimistic claim of Leibniz, “we live in the best of possible worlds” is questioned by Candide who believes taking care of his own little garden is probably the best he can do to preserve nature and the world. These two apparently opposite perspectives and conclusions on the potential of human action we find reflected still nowadays in politics and world affairs. Do we stand up to defend human rights or do we believe the fight is futile? The optimism embedded in Ukranian culture, for example, demonstrates the power that might come out of optimism. It would even go as far as stating that optimism is a precondition for democracy, always striving for the improvement and spread of democratic procedures. Creating opportunities to more freedom to do something is the driving force besides ensuring to curb infringements on one’s freedom. Optimism is a close ally of imagination, imagination of all people living in peace. A nice sunset gives hope for a nice sunrise as well.

M for Memory

Besides the English term memory, which refers to a huge scientific literature starting with cognitive psychology, I like the French version of “mémoire”, because it is more comprehensive with additional meanings, nicely represented by Wikipedia.org. On the German Wikipedia-page you find first the reference to the children’s game memory, turning around images and memorising where the counterpart is/was (play pairs). This diversity hints towards a cultural element in memory. There is a person’s memory or mental capacity to recall and ways to remember. The latter term refers a lot more to collective memories and becomes a more debated issue. Danny Trom uses the term “split memory” in a chapter on France and the “myths of nations” (p.129-151). In David Brook’s reader on “the social animal” he states that grandmasters in chess (p.88) were long believed to have superior memory. This is actually not true as memory experiments showed, but they rather saw formations and “internal connections forming networked chunks of information”.
“Mémoire”, on the contrary, refers also to the writing of a person’s own biography. Nowadays, book shops contain whole sections of autobiographies, the most sold appears to be the one by Michele Obama recently, if I recall correctly. Among the most scandalous is the publication of the “Journal pour Anne (Pingeot) 1964-1970” by Francois Mitterand. All the autobiographical documents make explicit major parts of what might form collective memory later on.
Memory has found its way into engineering and computing. The memory effect in batteries or being “out of memory” frightens users in computing or programming. In short, I wish you the best of memories reading this page and stimulation by visiting memorials (image: Jewish Museum in Berlin 2022, Ullmann exhibition).

L for Law

Contrary to a popular misunderstanding. Law is not boring. The history of ideas is full of exiting projects based on laws. Starting with the foundation of empiricism, i.e. the comparison of laws governing the different Greek city states pioneered by Aristotle. Considering law from the perspective of legislation gives it an actionable touch and makes it more exciting to many persons. Contrary to a static perception of law, laws can be changed and are subject to interpretation continuously by courts and judges. The fascination with law might start with the philosophers of the French enlightenment like Montesquieu. “De l’esprit des lois” – explains already the need to look behind the literal text of law. What is the spirit of law, becomes the driving question. Not only the categories of countries like republic, monarchy and despotism were argued by him, but also the separation of powers into an executive, legislative and judicial power is his original contribution. These principles govern the German “Grundgesetz” and are a common understanding of the founding states of the European Union as well as a potential breaking point.
A sociological perspective on law is formulated by Niklas Luhmann (short intro in D) and highlights the danger of laws as a self-referential system. This dominated by experts who develop the system further independent of the concerns and understandings of wider society. In order to understand this concern, it is probably useful to think of climate change as an urgent problem. Bio-diversity has for much too long not been of much relevance for legal founding principles of our constitutions. In the same vein, women judges or diversity in the legal profession is a point of concern. Majorities versus minority rights create intrinsic tensions in law, legislation, execution and interpretation. Analysing the half-life of laws is interesting, i.e. how fast do they really change or get abandoned altogether. Equality in front of the law remains a thorny issue. It is a huge issue when moving from law to justice as primary concern. The most interesting point is the view of law as a changing matter, hopefully for the better, but this is another question altogether. Reveillons-nous l’esprit des lois ! (pas seulement au Reveillon).

K for Knowledge

Readers of the sociology and/or the philosophy of science or knowledge have a hard time. Each discipline is evolving at such a high speed that is terribly hard for humans to follow more than 1 or 2 fields. Perhaps the choice of Karma instead of knowledge would have made it easier here. Alternatively, in German it is easy to find many nouns starting with a capital K. Kapital, Krieg, Kritik or Käsekuchen would have been popular, I guess. Soon I shall open the comments for suggestions for additional nouns, as part of the empirical “swarm knowledge strategy” rather than the theory-driven deductive method applied in knowledge generation on my side so far.
But wait, we are already in the middle of the unsatiable quest for knowledge. On a meta-level we would deal with the multiple ways to acquire knowledge and create new knowledge. Artifical intelligence is certainly one of the hypes at the moment. New data and new combinations of data drive us forward in the expanding universe and knowledge space. We have witnessed the disappearance of the thick printed encyclopedia in most households, replaced by specilised digital dictionaries or the network society’s shared knowledge base of “wikipedia“. Knowledge is linked to the history of ideas and Peter Burke is a prominent figure to rely on as a reference in this field. 20 years after “A social history of knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot” he published the much acclaimed: “The Polymath. A cultural history from Leonardo da Vinci to Susan Sontag” in 2020. To synthesise across the many “monsters of knowledge” over centuries is a daunting task. I like quotes like the one from Leibniz (p.77) “the horrible heap of books that is constantly increasing” and then his own continuation: “Printing, once viewed as a solution to the problem, had become a problem itself”. The whole section is devoted to information overload. Fragmentation of knowledge into disciplines and, much worse, the manufacturing of false knowledge create new challenges to knowledge. Maybe transforming the term to “knowledges” rather than knowledge is likely to capture better the differences between artificial knowledge, created by artificial intelligence and specialised algorithms, and human based knowledge. In knowledge storage we have lost the race with computers, but in deciding what are promising combinations between different fields of knowledge, we are still a wee bit ahead of the machines. Klara tell me, where is the exit, or your synthesis of the whole lot. Meanwhile I continue to read – what? books and the like.

I for Imagination

We are all full of imagination. The human brain hardly can do without it. It could be understood as if thinking of oneself is a continuous process of imagining and reimagining oneself. We just developed or were forced to suppress imagination at various instances throughout our lives. Day dreams are rarely tolerated, starting at school, then on the job and probably for a long time also about the way we imagine our own ending or life after death. Just trying not to think, like in meditation, seems to be a very hard exercise and it demands long practice to arrive at longer durations. Abstraction is one of the ways of art to allow imagination to rule the process of creation. In view of the anniversary of Pablo Picasso in 2023, the Brussels Royal museum of fine arts is presenting a paedagogic reflection and demonstration how Picasso emerged on his way towards abstraction as his preferred way of imagination and reimagination as part of the realisation process of his art work. As part of the Cubist revolution Picasso is quoted in this exhibition on how he paints: “Je ne peins pas ce que je vois, je peins ce que je pense.” and “Chez moi, un tableau est une somme de destructions.” Nice imagination, reimagination and de-construction I would say. Like the imagination depicted above from Paul Klee reflects the accomplishment of a new form of pictural language. Try imagination, it isn’t hard to do, “John Lennon” sang once. In Brussels you can try seeing the cubist way in the Picasso exhibition, a good way to prepare yourself for the next visits of fabulous exhibitions in honor of Picasso in 2023.

E for Enterprise

There is a new start-up scene in development in Germany. Interesting to witness the new entrepreneurial spirit. Many of the youngsters grow out of their peer community, wanting to try new ways of working and living together. The new bottom-up or grassroots form of growing a business out of a subculture seems to be an adequate response to the growing diversity of societies and easier ways of community building through online social media. Name it “reach” today, it is similar to what you previously called having a customer base. The new element refers to a blending of cultures. Learning through being online connected to the world, yes, the whole world, allows wide-spread influences from other sub-cultures, be they American, Asian or African. The young are open-minded to new stimuli like “Ikigai” from Japan and, of course, the life histories of founders and individual biographies from entrepreneurs like the legend of Steve Jobs, Apple’s legendary founder. Imagineering has become part of the movie-influenced influencers. Short clips out of a longer story build communities. The witty comment, like at school, gets more attention than the long boring story of the preacher, teacher or the mansplainer. The experience of “flow” is all around these communities and this creates the specific magic of the start-up scene. They take each other to new levels, mutually, reinforcing their preferences and life-styles. They are well aware of the risks they are taking. “Keinhorn” German short for “not an Einhorn”, the one billion value threshold for super successful enterprises taught them crucial lessons. The “ecology of organisations” which I referred to in my courses at the now renamed “Constructor University” previously “International University Bremen”, then “Jacobs University”, (let’s see what comes next?) is an important complementary research tradition to assess the “survival” of enterprises. I still recommend this University, which I quit to start new endeavors. It carries in its several “names” the important message:
start, fail, change, (repeat).

D for Democracy

Stand up for Democracy. Give me a D. Yes, we are passionate for democracy. Even if we are not singing Beethoven‘s “Ode an die Freude” every day, we are well aware that we have to defend democracy at numerous places. The essay in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore from January 2020 on the manifold risks to democracy and the way forward is a great inspiration. Democracy is always a “work in progress”. It improves and in most cases rises with the challenges. However, this demands to stay alert and wither the beginnings of threats to its functioning. Beyond the external threats, internal threats to democratic values are abound. The discursive element that is highlighted in the essay remains crucial. Debating in public is key. Transparency of arguments, reasoning and values is a constituent part of democracy. Clandestine ways of corruption, bribery and threatening of violence become apparent when fractions of society retreat from the public to form insider groups. Defenders of democracy need to speak out in public, publish they work, expose and perform their arts, challenge school curricula and be active in any policy field. This is a lot to do, but we have to prevail and rise to the continuous challenges to the democratic way of life. Too many dictators and autocrats around the world would like to see democracy fail. Worse, they work actively, like in “Qatargate” in November 2022 in Brussels to spread illicit practices of corruption. We have to strengthen our “antennas” and sensors to detect such practices. Prevention is key. Tough reactions with the force of the legal system to stop the spreading is also indicated. Let’s rise to the challenge, again and again with the latest technology.

State of the Union

The times they are a changing”. Currently, we witness that democracies are at multiple risks. One existential threat is, of course, war of external origin. Democracies have been perceived as often to slow to mobilize military forces sufficient to resist “Blitzkrieg”. What Nazi-Germany applied successful at the beginning took a long time and millions of dead persons to rectify. Similarly, the threat to Ukraine’s independence and liberal aspirations are threatened by Russian imperialism. The other existential threat is that of “the enemy within”. This is the conclusion by Canova (2011, p.213) when he writes on “democracy’s disappearing duties”. Whereas he has primarily in mind, that citizens need to participate more actively in the duties to democracy’s survival. These are “the duty to become informed and to vote, as well as rights and duties related to civic and/or military duties. The discussion, whether we need an army of the many or an army of specialists has shifted largely in favour of the need for specialists, simply think of cyber or drone war technology. However, the threat of the enemies from within becomes clear if we remember terrorist attacks targeted at democracies practice of free movement, free speech or art. Another centuries-old threat has come to our attention again. Corruption. The slow-motion erosion of democracies is hard to fight against as it operates not with visible tanks and weapons, but with clandestine and psychological ways of slow corrosion of organisations and institutions. Combatting corruption is even more tricky in cross-country settings like the European Union. Reference to cultural practices and exclusive or inner circles as cultural exceptionalism make it hard to introduce non-discriminatory monitoring and controlling mechanisms in democracies. Only a well-equipped security, police and judicial system can stem the risk to democracies from corruption and organized crime. It is not only a matter of state responsibility, but our democracies rely on an alert public to stand up continually for our basic values. Just singing the national and European anthem is not enough, fighting corruption is laboursome and cumbersome, particularly as corrupt circles do not refrain from using brute force and weapons (Reichsbürger, Mafia, etc.). Addressing inner and outer enemies at the same time remains high on the agenda for the surviving and thriving of democracies. The foundation ideas of the European Union were constructed by Monnet and Schuman on a sustainable democracy.  Let’s not endanger this through a sluggish response on corruption.
inspired by Canova, T.A. 2011: Democracy’s disappearing duties. In: Democratic Citizenship and War. Peled, V. et al. (eds.) pp. 199-216.

Flotow Leben

In der Musikabteilung der Stabi Ost fand ich im Lesesaal der Musikabteilung einen schmalen Band zu einer Biografie von Friedrich von Flotow, dem Komponisten, verfasst von seiner Witwe aus 3. Ehe Rosa Rosine Swoboda, erschienen 1892 in Leipzig im Verlag Breitkopf und Härtel. Der Vater des Komponisten Johann Adolf Wilhelm *17.9.1785 wurde bereits als Offizier im Alter von 21 Jahren in der Schlacht bei Jena verwundet. Friedrich von Flotow wurde in bescheidenen Verhältnissen am 26.4.1812 in Teutendorf geboren. Sein Vater und Verwandte, (S.17) haben ihm, laut seiner Witwe, viele Steine in den Weg gelegt, damit Fritz keine musikalische Laufbahn einschlägt (S.27-28). In unterschiedlichen Pensionen zuletzt in Lüdershagen bei Güstrow lernte Fritz Harmonielehre und weilte tageweise bei der Schwester seiner Mutter. Auch mütterlicherseits wird ein dänischer Hauptmann von Böckmann auf Lüsewitz (S.21) erwähnt, dessen älteste Tochter Jeanette mit einem Herrn von Bülow verheiratet war, der aber bald verstarb. Nach Rückkehr ins Vaterhaus lernte Jeanette den jungen Studenten Gabillon kennen, Sohn eines französischen Tanzlehrers in Mecklenburg. „Hochgebildet, geistreich und mit vielen körperlichen Vorzügen ausgestattet, hatte er bald das Herz der jungen Witwe erobert, die in ihrer ersten Ehe kein besonderes Glück gefunden hatte.“ (S22). Im Chor des Güstrower Gesangvereins unter Leitung des Steuersekretärs Gabillon durfte Fritz bereits 13-14-jährig mitsingen und vielfältige Instrumente kennenlernen.
Dem Wunsch des Sohnes und seines Fürsprechers nachgebend, reiste der Vater am 13.2.1828 mit Fritz nach Paris, wo Fritz bei einem französischen Major, der mit einer Frau aus Mecklenburg, die bereits verstorben war, verheiratet gewesen war, in Pension wohnte. Harmonielehre bei Anton Reicha (besser erläutert hier engl. Reicha), bei dem bereits 1820 Hector Berlioz Schüler war, hatte Fritz nachhaltig beeinflusst. Tief beeindruckt war er von dem Glanz und Glamour der Pariser Oper mit dem Ballett „La belle au bois dormante“ und Rossini’s Oper Wilhelm Tell.
Am 26.3.1830, 2 Tage nachdem Fritz die Selbsttötung seines Wohnungsgebers erlebt hatte, wurde dieser auf dem Friedhof Père Lachaise beigesetzt. Fritz überzeugte seine Eltern mit Hilfe von Gabillon, dass er selbständig mit gerade 18 Jahren eine Mansardenstube in der Rue St. Jacques beziehen durfte und seinen Unterricht fortsetzten konnte. Die am 27.7.1830 ausgebrochene Revolution schilderte Fritz anschaulich in seinen Aufzeichnungen. „Einige Tage nach dem Schlusstableau der Julirevolution“ (S.44) erhielt Fritz ein Schreiben von seinem Vater, zurück nach Güstrow zu kommen.
Wichtig zu erwähnen als Wegbegleiter sind Eugène Aubry (Bürgermeister von Argenteuil, die Stadt der Impressionisten) und Freund von Fritz der bereits 1871 verstarb, (Rue Rocher Nr. 9 Hotel Aubry (S.62) sowie Jaques Offenbach, der 7 Jahre jünger als Fritz ursprünglich in Köln geboren Jakob Eberscht hieß (Quelle Richard Fleischer, Deutsche Revue Heft 1 Januar 1883). Die Witwe von Fritz beschreibt die Einführung von Jacques Offenbach auch mit Unterstützung von Fritz zu Beginn in die Pariser Salons recht ausführlich (S. 67-72). Letztmalig treffen die beiden sich 1878 in Paris bevor Jacques am 5.10.1880 starb. Geradezu erheiternd ist die Passage (S. 84-86) bei der Fritz, sichtlich beeindruckt, von dem Erscheinen von Madame Georges Sand berichtet, die sich in der Pause eine Männerzigarre anzünden ließ. Anschließend gab es eine Improvisation von Chopin, die derselbe einleitete „er könne seine Begeisterung nur aus den Augen der berühmten Schriftstellerin schöpfen, man möge sie bitten, sich ihm gegenüber zu setzen. Georges Sand gewährte seine Bitte und nahm Platz am Ende des Flügels, warf einen langen Blick auf den musikalischen Improvisator und dieser, denselben erwidernd, begann“ (S.85). Nach vielen misslungenen Versuchen eine Oper in der großen Oper in Paris aufzuführen, ist es ihm zumindest 1843 geglückt, das Ballett „Lady Harriette ou la servante de Greenwich“ aufführen zu können. Aus diesem Stück wurde später das Libretto zu seiner Oper Martha 1947 in Wien erstellt und aufgeführt. Die prima ballerina dieser Aufführung, Adèle Dumilâtre, hatte indirekten Anteil daran, dass es überhaupt zu diesem recht kurzfristigen Engagement kam. In den folgenden Jahren bestimmten die Aufführungen der “Martha” den Erfolg des Komponisten. Ausgehend von der Auftragsarbeit für Wien kam dieses Werk aber auch 1858 nach Paris auf die Bühne im „italienischen Theater“. Nach Übernahme des elterlichen Gutsbesitzes hat Fritz 1849 geheiratet, doch bei der Geburt des Sohnes verstarb die junge Elise von Zadow am 1.8.1851. Eine 2. Heirat mit Anna Theen wurde anfangs 1855 beschlossen. Zwei Söhne sind aus dieser Ehe erwachsen. Als Leiter des Hoftheaters in Schwerin hatte er sich durch seine Kenntnis von Proben und Organisation der führenden Häuser in Europa empfohlen. Als Intendant neben einem technischen Leiter wurde ihm zunächst befristet auf ein Jahr mit Aussicht auf spätere Daueranstellung die Intendanz angetragen. 1868 heiratete Fritz zum dritten Mal und wohnte in Kirschwang bei Reichenau bei seiner Frau Rosine Swoboda. Zusammen mit Mosenthal war Fritz Verfechter und dann zeitweise Vorsitzender der Deutschen Genossenschaft dramatischer Autoren und Komponisten, die später in Leipzig gegründet wurde und damals bereits Autorenrechte verteidigte.
Seine letzten Jahre ab 1880 lebte Fritz auf dem Gut Heiligenkreuzberg in Darmstadt am Eingang des großherzoglichen Wildparks Kranischstein. Dies gehörte seiner Schwester Bernhardine. Zu seinem 70. Geburtstag und der 500.-ten Vorstellung der „Martha“ bekam er eine Einladung von der Generalintendanz des kaiserlichen Hofopernhauses. Seine letzten Tage bis zu wiederholten Schlaganfällen verbrachte er in Darmstadt, wo er am 24.1.1883 mit 70 Jahren verstarb. Sein Lebensschicksal war es wohl, 3 Wochen vor Richard Wagner zu sterben. Der Tod und ständige unterschwellige Vergleich mit dem schaffensgewaltigen Exzentriker Richard Wagner hat Friedrich von Flotow bis heute um viel Aufmerksamkeit gebracht. Es bleiben noch einige Entdeckungen diesbezüglich zu machen.

Merkel

Angela Merkel gehört nun endgültig zur Geschichte. Zuerst die Ausstellung von Merkel-Porträts von 1919-2021 der Fotografin Herlinde Koelbl im DHM mit Katalog erschienen bei Taschen, kürzlich das Interview des Spiegelredakteurs und die Quintessenz daraus in LeMonde vom 29.11.22, zusammengenommen eine kleine Bilanz der Amtszeiten.  Die Porträts (1) in Draufsicht 2/3 des Bildes durch das Gesicht ausgefüllt und (2) stehend mit Händen zur Raute geformt, zeigen das Altern durch die Last der Ämter. Ist die Raute anfangs noch mit Druck und weit abgesreizten Fingern zu sehen, wird die Geste im Laufe der Amtszeit lust- und kraftlos. Der Gestaltungswille noch als Umweltministerin hat sich durch Getrieben-sein später abgenutzt. Das Bild 13 der Pressemappe zeigt die Kanzlerin 2020 mit Maske und nur noch 2 Fingern jeder Hand, die sich berühren. Aus der Versuch der Quadratur des Kreises in Amts-, Partei- und Koalitionsgeschäften. Auch das Bild auf S. 243 des Katalogs von 2021 spiegelt eher eine gequälte Kanzerlin statt eine streitbare Verfechterin ihres Amtes wider. In Rückschau erscheint es wohl doch zu lange gewesen sein für den Menschen Merkel. Der Verweis auf das freiwille Ausscheiden aus den Ämtern ist nur die halbe Wahrheit. Im Spiegel Interview (ab Minute 12!) berichtet Frau Merkel von 2 Dingen, die sie sich jetzt vorgenommen hat: mehr bewegen und mehr lesen. Das trifft es auf den Kopf.
Mehr bewegen, eben gerade in der Politik hätten sich Millionen von Deutschen gewünscht, dass sie mehr bewegt auf wichtigen Themen- und Politikfeldern. Überall da zum Beispiel, wo wir nun wissen, wir hinken hinterher: Klimaschutz, digitale und öffentliche Infrastruktur, Verteidigungssysteme, Bekämpfung von Ungleichheit, Steuergerechtigkeit, nachhaltigen Verkehr in Städten und auf dem Land, um nur einige zu nennen.
Mehr lesen, offenbart, das Hören auf Einflüsterer hatte einen hohen Stellenwert, scheinbar mehr, als das Erarbeiten einer eigenen Position durch Aktenstudium. Die Regierungskunst der Kanzlerin bestand hauptsächlich im geschickten Moderieren der unterschiedlichen Positionen innerhalb der Koalitionspartner, insbesondere auch mit der CSU. Im Rückblick heute kommen mir die 16 Regierungsjahre als Zeit der verpassten Chancen vor, aber die Bescheidenheit im Amt hat Deutschland gut gestanden. Das hat Olaf Scholz bei ihr abgeguckt, nur, ihr Nachfolger ist zu beherztem Handeln im Amt gezwungen. Das blieb Angela Merkel weitgehend erspart. Jetzt ist Bewegung gefragt, Aufholbewegung zunächst. Stillstand überwinden, Planungsverfahren verkürzen damit erneuerbare Energien sprießen.

Ukraine Kultur

Einen wahrlich denkwürdigen Abend hat das Festival “Aus den Fugen” im Berliner Konzerthaus ermöglicht. Das “Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine” ist zusammen mit Stars ukrainischer Herkunft am Samstag 26.11.2022 im großen Saal des Konzerthauses aufgetreten. Auf dem Programm stand zu Beginn vom Meister der Kunst der Fuge, J.S. Bach, das Streichquartett, “Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich”, passend zur Vorweihnachtszeit. Rasch wird aber klar, dass der Überfall auf die Ukraine am 24.2.2022 die Welt für viele aus den Fugen geraten lies. “Die Zeit ist aus den Fugen” deklamierte bereits Hamlet. Erneut bestimmt Krieg und Kriegswirtschaft unsere Handlungen, geschuldet dem russischen Tyrannen, der versucht hat und weiterhin versucht, die ukrainische Kultur auszulöschen. Das Konzert des YSOU setzt weiterhin Zeichen, dass diese reichhaltige Kultur es wert ist, gehört und gesehen zu werden. Die Kompositionen von Mykola Lysenko, Suite über ukrainische Themen op2 oder die Arie der Nastia sind eindrucksvolle Beispiele der frühen Selbständigkeit der ukrainischen Musiktradition. Das Lied “Schtschedryk“, zum Mitsingen, als Abschluss des Konzerts wird lange nachhallen im großen Saal des Konzerthauses und bei dem begeisterten Publikum. Die Präzsion der Dirigentin Nataliia Stets ist beeindruckend und ihr kurzer Hinweis auf den “Holodomor” – den “genuzidalen Hungerstod in der Ukaine um 1932″ zwischen den Stücken, hilfreich für das Verständnis des ukrainischen Aufbäumens heute und das Gedenken an Völkermorde, besonders auch die von Deutschen begangenen. Dank auch an die Solistinnen des Abends, die die Jugend und das Publikum begeisterten.

China altert

Zurückgehend auf die frühere strikte 1 Kind Politik erhöht sich der finanzielle Wohlstand der Chinesen alleine dadurch, dass das gleiche BIP auf weniger Köpfe verteilt werden muss. Eine Generation später ergibt sich aber durch das rasche Altern der Bevölkerung eventuell ein hohe finanzielle Last für weniger Beschäftigte bei gleichzeitig mehr älteren Menschen. Die Beschäftigungsquoten der älteren Menschen waren niedrig im Vergleich zu Europa, das bedeutet ein gestresstes System zur Finanzierung der Renten und, wie eine neue Studie (Lancet Public Health 2022) zeigt, für die Pflege der Älteren. Bis 2030 werden laut der Studie bis zu 14 Millionen Menschen zusätzlich Pflege benötigen. Das betrifft überwiegend Frauen und Personen im ländlichen Raum. Das ist bei uns auch so, denn Zugang zu ärztlicher Hilfe, Krankenhäusern und Unterstützung im täglichen Leben ist aufwendiger bei größeren Entfernungen und Fachkräftemangel. Das Ausmaß der Pflegebedürftigkeit hängt stark von dem gesunden Altern ab. Dies ist wiederum vielfach bedingt durch Bildungsniveaus und Lernfähigkeit und -wille im Alter bezüglich der eigenen Gesundheit.  Bewegung ist der Schlüssel zu mehr Gesundheit. Damit lässt sich die Pflegebedürftigkeit lang hinauszögern. Also raus, auch wenn es frisch ist. Open access Lancet paper (hier)