The World – Perhaps Unexpected Impression from an International Meeting

ENA – the European Network Academy for Social Movements took place in Freiburg. An opportunity also for ATTAC’s academic council to be involved and also to have one of its regular meetings. For me an interim stop to take part, also taking part in the ceremony during which the hugely important contribution by Joerg Huffschmid to the development of political economy had been acknowledged.

Leaving the different facets aside there had been an impression that came probably rather unexpected – and it surely is unexpected as issue popping up as part of the various reporting on the event which will be done by the organisers, participants and many others. I lived a little bit outside of Freiburg – possibly a little bit comparable with the place in which I live in Ireland. A tiny, little bit dozy village (sure, in the positive sense). My first impression hadn’t been great – though arriving in a lovely spot I thought: here you are caught, you’ll spent a fortune for taxi-transport. I could spend several bits and bites now …, but to keep it short I’ll jut leave it with Saturday morning’s  impression: I took the bus at 6:10 – we arranged an early meeting with some people and I wanted to go for a nice coffee and a bite to eat before, and perhaps a stroll through the old town in the black forest (yes: town; still also more or less tiny, dozy … – black forest, which is still a little bit the world of fairy tales where one may expect gnomes and fairies at least lurking around some corners (surely not Saturday afternoons though, when the entire place is packed with people: shopping, and speaking a language which makes me believe I lost at least 60 percent of my knowledge of speaking German). The bus trip took about 8 minutes. And it had been a small bus – actually a taxi (8 seater or so). The three people had been dropped off at the tram station: line 1, the end stop, seen in the morning: the start of the tram heading to Freiburg. I stamped the ticket, took a seat, looked out of the window …, about three other small busses arrived, people walked across the small square of the bus stop, the door of the tram had been opened … – it didn’t take long – probably half ano hour after leaving the guest house I arrived in the centre.

Sure, much is about moving from the periphery to the centre – like the mosquito to the light: from the small villages, the remote areas, the detached farm houses … . And one may discuss such a move in more general terms – in this small  perspective of commuters and in the larger perspective of global world systems. But one may also discuss the way of moving – and the actual direction. Option one: the strict divide – the centre remaining the centre, the periphery being periphery – and all living in their own way and place and pace. Option two: reaching out from the centre: huge buses, like steamrollers: an offer to those who are living int he periphery and being able to withstand the pressure, better to say: to keep with the strength of such huge mashines. Said again in a different way: Those who are in the centre of the periphery. Those living a little further back – the periphery of the periphery …,

There are some who are in darkness
And the Others are in light
And you see the ones in brightness
Those in darkness from from sight

Option three, though the centre is still point of reference, the way of bringing centre and periphery together is one of looking after the needs of the centre, adopting to space and pace.


I go for a lovely espresso, have my croissant (still miss my simit with which I fell in love the months I spent in Ankara, especially as the Freiburgian croissant is much more distant to the real French pastry than the distance between Freiburg and the French border may suggest), meet the others later: Baerbel first, Gunter … – we sit down for the meeting …, I have to leave little bit early – Brigitte kindly agreed to transport some stuff for me to Graz where I will collect it end of September when I go  there for the OFEB-congress, before finally returning to Ireland. After leaving here, I head back: ENA, discussing the development of strategies bringing people from the different local groups from the different countries together, diffuse impressions, opinions, various topics, seemingly not going well together, slowly merging, like little rivulets, coming together, merging to a stream  …


Sure, until finally arriving in Graz, it is not really the quite life, my space and pace trying to keep the space and pace of the global …

And in Ireland I will see, if I find a bus, bringing  me home. If things changed since the last time that I had been there? I do not know if these small buses do exist elsewhere in Germany nowadays. If so it is a new development. Perhaps something, Germany learned from countries in the periphery: personally I saw them the  first time in Moldova, the Ukraine …, recently so common again in Ankara … and now they reached the centre …

…; learning is possible.

May be all this is just another Kantian story – he once defined

Law is the  epitome of the conditions under which the caprice of the one can be brought together with the caprice of somebody else by observing a general law of freedom.

Recht ist der Inbegriff der Bedingungen, unter denen die WIllkuer des einen mit der Willkuer des anderen nach einem allgemeinen Gesetz der Freiheit zusammen vereinigt werden kann

And as the same author wrote elsewhere

That what people cannot decide for themselves cannot be decided by the legislator for the people.

Was das Volk nicht ueber sich selbst beschliessen kann, dass kann der Gesetzgeber auch nicht ueber das Volk beschliessen.(Kant, 1793)

An easily misinterpreted sentence from his work ‘Über den Gemeinspruch: Das mag in der Theorie richtig sein, taugt aber nicht für die Praxis’. And still a sentence that may be worthwhile to think about – as it is worthwhile to think about bus services and the like.


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