Missed opportunity – or Io e Caterina

Topics in the headlines change – though in some cases it is only about names and institutions.

‘Migration’ for quite a while the dominant topic had been surpassed by BREXIT, pushing the GREXIT to a somewhat historical stage, though they apparently catch up again with T May-gie – may be Theresa May, the potential Iron-Lady the II, will once be known this way.

Headlines changes and so do names – or we may say we still find the old names in the headlines, though roles and positions change: Isn’t it a historical irony that Mr B is not only invited by Goldman Sachs for a bit of work, but that he is invited

to advise the bank on the U.K.’s negotiations to leave the European Union

(Sure, asylum policies need to be changed – so he may find a place in the UK …)

Well, from his previous experience he knows at least potentially enough about the European crisis – though it may be that he missed talking to people saying good-bye.

Be it as it is, there is another thing that keeps my mind busy these days – and it is going a bit back in history. The long way back leads to Narcissus, the bit shorter way to part of the history some of us still know too well – it leads back to Hitler, Truman and Adenauer:

There were three fathers of the division of Germany: Adolf Hitler, because the division was essentially a result of World War II and the German genocide. Harry Truman, as he commenced the Cold War against Communism to avoid that the US-war boom would enter into a recession and developed West Germany as loyal province of the United States in Europe. Germany was divided and in addition the exercise terrain for the troops had been secured by the NATO. Konrad Adenauer, who secured with the Federal Republic that for part of Germany the ‘western model’ – he vilified the other part of Germany as ‘Soviet Zone’ and in 1952 he – as well as the United States – declined the offer of the Soviet Union to German unification: ‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’.[1]

Or in other words:

It is better to have a western-democratic FRG than to have a unified neutral Germany.

In the medium-term – or we may say, one of the possible medium-terms – we may look at Lisbon and the pronounced strategy striving for Europe to be the most competitive region.

Without doubt, such classifications, periodisations and emphasis of any historical incisions are always problematic. But paradoxically the closer look at single events and individuals frequently allow us to understand the larger picture.

1987 Maggie T. contended that

there is no such thing as society

and with this she recognised very well where society was going: a utilitarianism led, competition based understanding of society: individuals being responsible for their greatest happiness and not allowing to keep in mind even the slightest notion of the aim: that it should and would be greatest happiness for all. One can and has to say a lot against the classical utilitarians as for instance put forward by Bentham and Mills; but one has to acknowledge that they wer at least loyal to the vision of ‘such thing as society’ and that it would be there forever due to notions of solidarity and responsibility and morality.

And it also meant  that at least in their vision the

bellum omnium contra omnes

was rejected.

Then it could even be translated into a vision like

Better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of s few.

We barely find a discussion that makes this link of conservatism – the link between human beings as individuals and nation states as patriam populum et proprium suum, the fatherland of its own people and property – explicit …, and it seems not to be changing with fatherlands being increasingly motherlands.

And part of this constellation is easily overlooked – for instance also by Juergen Habermas, writing

The Union is put together in such a way that basic economic decisions that affect society as a whole are removed from democratic choice. This technocratic emptying out of the daily agenda with which citizens are confronted is no fate of nature but the consequence of a design set out in the treaties. In this context the politically intended division of power between the national and European levels also plays a role: the power of the Union is concentrated there where nation state interests mutually block each other.

This is of course not wrong – but it is only half of the truth, and committing the other half makes it possible that nationalists reemerge: the other half clearly is: power, in the Western-European countries as power of a minority over the majority … – the sentence

‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’

gets another meaning here than just being concerned with the relationship between two countries – and in the 60s and 70s Juergen knew this too well.


Many thoughts had been employing my mind the last days and weeks – reading Camus’ L’Étranger and living a bit like Simmel’s Stranger, remembering Hegel’s Cunning of Reason and facing the Curse of Unreason, the Eclipse of Reason as so we depicted by Horkheimer. But also may others. After talking the one day with Yi about The Other Dimension, I stumbled upon a film-clip about robots: somewhat funny, somewhat frightening. One aspect that caught my special attention: the robot saying to somebody ‘Pleased to meet you’. My question is not ‘can the computer be pleased’ my question is: ‘Did we degrade ourselves to such a low level, did we programme ourselves in that way WE ARE THE ROBOTS?

And this is how we programme students, to be better business-people and better politicians of the future and … smilingly greeting

Pleased to meet you

before they wipe out the lives of real people, taking about BREXIT, though not asking if is

actually the real topic.

Indeed, a missed opportunity, and I still do not see the debate on a

better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of a few.

But I found one sentence in the video on the robots that caught my special attention. The celebration of one of the successes, namely the machine

being able to follow the leader


Something else caught my attention, not least these days while the academic world is busy with marking and deciding about the future of lives (spending so much time for administration instead of allowing us to be together with students, learn from each other, work together for a common future).

I recently mentioned the article, dealing with the envisaged future of universities as fun-parks. There is one sentence in the article of which the meaning is easily ignored:

You are also defining the higher-education experience in a way that has nothing to do with academic rigor, with intensive effort, with the testing of students’ boundaries and the upending of their closely held beliefs.

So, the alternative to fun-park is drill and Nuremberg Funnel?

I am excited by those students who come to me after the exams – not to as for a change of their marks, but to ask for more time needed to develop understanding, for gaining trust in a lived and livable future. And I feel ashamed working within a system that does only allow time for competition, offering little time for the real fun:

Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

This is what the robots cannot do – and this what a competitive robot, ops, a competitive Europe surely cannot offer.

The digital game should never been mixed up with the digitalisation of the player.[2]

And the religion should remain in the church and not enter crusade into the life again – by occupying our thinking ….

And so we have to do the thinking ourselves …, and find the right action


[1]      Es gab drei Väter der Teilung Deutschlands: Adolf Hitler, denn im Wesentlichen war die Teilung eine Folge des Weltkrieges und des deutschen Völkermordens. Harry Truman, denn um die Kriegskonjunktur in den USA nicht in eine Rezession münden zu lassen, begann er den Kalten Krieg gegen den Kommunismus und entwickelte Westdeutschland als loyalste Provinz der USA und Standbein in Europa. Deutschland wurde geteilt und der Truppenstationierungsplatz über die NATO zusätzlich abgesichert. Konrad Adenauer, der mit der Bundesrepublik für einen Teil Deutschlands den westlichen Weg sicherte, den zurückgelassenen Teil als Sowjetzone diffamierte und 1952 – wie auch die USA – das Angebot der Sowjetunion zur deutschen Einheit ablehnte: „Lieber das halbe Deutschland ganz als das ganze Deutschland halb’.

[2]      Watch the eyes, minute 3.28 – sure, all after the initial order at 1:42: don’t speak