"From the recent conversations I have had with European ministers and officials," [on the future of the Euro and the Eurozone] "the passenger on the Berlin U-Bahn or Athens Metro is just as likely to be right as the multitude of pundits and experts."
Philip Stephens, Chief Political Correspondent, Financial Times, Thursday 22 September 2011 (The photo is my - CJ's - addition. I was unable to steal Ingram Pimm's wonderful cartoon illustrating Mr. Stephen's article. Apologies, Mr. Pimm!)
Reading the title essay in Jacob Taubes' Vom Kult zur Kultur (From Cult to Culture)1, a collection of essays and articles written by the Jewish-German theologian and philosopher between 1953 and 1983 and published after his death, brings me back to Carl Einstein's book Die Fabrikation der Fiktionen2 of 1933. C. Einstein was the writer on whom I did my thesis. Die Fabrikation der Fiktionen washis last book. After finishing the thesis, I found myself in a place similar in some ways to the intellectual space marked out in this book. I have, in a way, lived there ever since. Maybe Taubes would help me move on, by stimulating me into looking at the Einstein book again.
Taubes' essay was written in 1954. Thirty-one years separate it from Einstein's book. The Nazi period and the Holocaust separate them. It is difficult to read the Einstein book without thinking of it as a premonition of the disaster, and it is difficult to read Taubes' essay without thinking of what happened.
The essay 'Vom Kult zur Kultur' turns around the person who was the model for Dr. Chaim Breisacher, a character who appears in Chapter 28 of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus (1947). His name was Oskar Goldberg. Like Breisacher, Goldberg was a philosopher of culture. Goldberg had published his main work Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer (The Reality of the Hebrews) in Berlin in 1925, having already presented it in lecture form some years earlier, between 1903 and 1908. Taubes describes Goldberg as a historian of myths who took his subject so seriously that he became a philosopher of myth.
Breisacher represents for Mann an intellectual forerunner of the conservative nihilism that led to Fascism and Nazism. Like Breisacher's, Goldberg's is a theory of decline. Culture is itself decline.
(To be continued)
1. Jacob Taubes, Vom Kult zur Kultur: Bausteine zu eine Kritik
der historischen Vernunft, eds. Aleida and Jan Assmann, Wolf-Daniel Hartwich und Winfried Menninghaus, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich, 1996. 2. Carl Einstein, Die Fabrikation des Fiktionen, ed. Sibylle Penkert, Rowohlt, Reinbeck bei Hamburg, 1973.
I made my flask of coffee and sandwich (ham, good ham, avocado, slightly old and tomato) in a bit of a rush but then took my time cycling along the south bank of the river, assuming that the introductory session would not start bang on 9.30.
It was a lovely if undecided morning and, being Saturday, there was next to no traffic. That king of the road feeling is nice on a bicycle. The subject is king. I hadn't been to Ken's den before (not that I am on first name or any other terms with him), in fact, until the evening before, I hadn't known that there was a brand new City Hall, so was partly also moved out of bed by a desire to visit it. I had wondered a couple of weeks ago as I cycled over Southwark Bridge what that unusual looking building was down by Tower Bridge.
It is a fine building, I think, a spiral on the inside, in a wonderful location right by the river. London Bridge looms to the right and the Tower of London is spread out directly opposite on the other bank. What a building the Tower is, with its cold linear frenzy. This must be the best view of the Tower there is.
It turned out to be a very good day, though not weather-wise. I've been getting too isolated in my flat so was in need of 'peopling'. There were lots of interesting people around - God, I do like the company of activists - they were friendly, and I found a campaign to join five minutes into the first workshop I opted for, and the sense of achievement from this percolated nicely through the rest of my day. I had chosen the workshop because two people from an international financial tax campaign Attac were supposed to lead it. But they weren't there. They hadn't got of bed, I suspect. John Christensen, however, from tax justice network was there. Really good stuff, I think, and John is an impressive and nice man. I'm getting involved.
I was in a voluble mood all day, with perhaps some of my buried, unemployed, anger seeping out. Teresa Hoskyns, who chaired the plenary at the end of the day, accused me in that meeting of being "awkward". I suppose I was being awkward.
I ended up in the pub for the evening with about fifteen participants, Teresa included. Teresa bought me a drink. I bought her a drink. Peace. Among other interesting people I had met during the day who also came to the pub were Nico Andreas Heller, a former conceptual artist now working in, from what I could understand, community enabling software, Magdalena, a painter originally from Munich but of a Polish family with one of those long impossible-for-us-to-pronounce Polish family names and her cousin Helena from Attac. Helena was to have been at the early tax workshop that I had gone to. She started to try to convert me from tax justice network to Attac but John Christensen had done a good job on me.
I hope to see them again, inside but also outside the Social Forum.
I think that there is a problem with Gauche, a blog written by Paul Anderson, a good friend of mine.
The material itself is high quality but, like me, its author was formed as a writer and a journalist before the internet took off.
Gauche lacks, I think, one of the features that a blog needs to be one in a full sense. It needs to be dialogical i.e. to have the form of a conversation in public between at least two people where others present can join in and take the floor. It takes two to blog, at least.
In saying this, I am situating blogging metaphorically and historically: Plato, Socrates, the Academy, the Forum, blogging.
The dialogical feature of blogging is built into the software, virtually at least, thanks primarily to Trackback and the way it can almost instantaneously alert others that you are having a conversation with them.
It doesn't look like TrackBack is enabled on Gauche, to judge by the feel of previous posts (Neither is Comment, which is a pity).
Paul is posting on the blog as if it were a print medium. You write something, it gets placed on a page, the publication is printed and distributed. Then, the next day or whenever, people read it. There is a long time gap between writer and reader and, with that, a distance between them. The print medium is not dialogical in the way that a blog is.
My blog is not a blog in a full sense either, even if it is addressed to someone, and has TrackBack enabled. Until a second person has spoken - blogged in response - there is, I think, no blog. So far mine is a monoblog, almost a contradiction in terms.
The post is addressed to you Paul. Until you reply, or someone else butts in, which is unlikely, this is a blog in gestation only.
Margot Wallström, EU Commissioner for Institutional Relations & Communication, started a blog at the beginning of the year. She is the first EU Commissioner to do so.
I plan to keep my hand in in the area of political communications, in which I worked until recently (as a media relations officer at the Irish National Forum on Europe) in part by watching how this blog develops.
Here are some quick comments.
Commissioner Wallström is, I don't doubt, writing the text of her blog, which is appearing once a week. But I wonder whether she is inputting it i.e. whether, when she goes 'Save', it is instantly posted or whether it is first sent to someone else who posts it. I suspect the latter.
If it is the latter, this is a problem. Part of blogging is the experience of closeness to possible readers, especially to other bloggers. You write on a keyboard, save 'As Published' and people can, thanks to RSS, be instantly alerted, read what you've written and can reply straight away, either directly to you or by posting elsewhere. Wherever they post, thanks to TrackBack, you can immediately see their replies.
So, there is something quite intimate about blogging as a form of communication. There is something direct and unconstrained about it. It is not possible to experience this ie. to really blog until replies come in and you then reply, on your blog, to at least one of them. Blogging has something of a conversation in public about it. More than two people can take part in the conversation but it take at least two to blog, as it does to converse.
A blog is a dialogue, and like Plato's dialogues, it is in public.
Commissioner Wallström has not so far replied on her blog to any of the comments that have been posted. She is clearly emailing some replies but that is not to blog, emailing being typically one-to-one, in private.
A good number of comments on the blogs are being posted but there is a moderator deciding which ones are suitable for publication. The moderator is intervening in the comment section so there is a dialogue in public of sorts going on ... but this is supposed to be the Commissioner's blog!