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Diary from a Journey into another World. Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments



Cosmopolitans ... - it is reasonably easy to define what it means.; it is increasingly the case that we come across them. But it may be rare to see reflections that are both, sociologically well informed and at the same time entertaining - a Turkish friend from Australia suggested to the author of the present notes to call it sociotainment ..- though she admitted that sh got the term from her husband from India. Sometimes it is easier to find oneself being lost. And the present volume invites you to get lost, offering the reader the opportunity to think about her and his place. These are note: reflections (from an academic who considers himself also as politically aware and in some way active) that bring together the different dimensions of being carried away to rest in different places and positions.
Peter Herrmann
Diary from a Journey into another World
Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal
Herrmann, Peter
Diary from a Journey into another World
Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal
ISBN/EAN: 978-3-86741-775-4
First published in 2012 by Europaeischer Hochschulverlag GmbH &
Co KG, Bremen, Germany.
© Europaeischer Hochschulverlag GmbH & Co KG, Fahrenheitstr.
1, D-28359 Bremen ( All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, or stored in any retrieval system of any na-
ture, without the written permission of the copyright holder and
the publisher, application for which shall be made to the publisher.
Peter Herrmann
Diary from a Journey into another World
Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome
personal resentments.
Written against the little poodles, demarcating the empire by pissing at every
tree, and feeling so proud in the little pink dress and wearing the bow knot it
got delivered with the Marshall’s Plan.
Written for the people who really settled
– by being overcoming depending on roots and definitions
What is true, what is saga? Basically, everything is written as it happened though the
dialogues are of course not quotes but something as my interpretation, what I
understood. Some aspects had been ‘dramatised’, sometimes just by changing
sequences or by emphasising certain aspects of the frame. And in any case, it is – despite
having an objective and pedagogical dimension – a personal account. If anybody who
plays a role in this little story, who had been mentioned, feels not appropriately reflected
I can only do one thing: ask for apologies.
I cannot take any responsibility for consequences arising from making reference to what
is said though every possible caution had been taken.
Diary from a Journey into another World
Budapest, Brussels, Chiçin£u, Cork, Firenze, Lille, Munich – September to December 2006
Titus went on, ‘Every picture has an optimum place from
which it should be seen. At a shorter or greater distance,
there is a blurred perception. The parts mingle and
become confused.’
‘That’s just what we will do, then,’ the Prince said.
‘But even if one looks at a painting from the proper
distance,’ I blurted out, ‘the eyes tend to stray and single
out some aspect or another. And if one looks at a picture
from other points of view, at various angles or distances,
while it may appear changed, there is no difference in
Titus laughed. ‘Speak with my father about that...’
(Miano, Sarah Emily: Van Rijn. A Novel; London: Macmillan,
2006; 18)
I. 23–24/10/2006 0
Clash of Cultures as Clash of Histories 1
II. 25–29/10/2006 5
Beginner’s Jolt 5
Uncovering Meaning 6
Approaching Economy 7
Social Policy Issues 8
Aodhán’s tea kettle 10
Losses and findings 11
Farewell – I am looking forward to see you again 15
III. 29/10–1/11/2006 18
Corridors – Run(a)ways 18
Values of Social Services and Values in Social Science 19
Special Kind of Services in the Private Interest and the Interest of Privacy 21
Cats and Mice or: Policy Research and Research Politics 22
Home, Sweet Home 24
IV. 2–14/11/2006 27
Finding Home 27
How many melodies...? 29
Surprises 33
Eating with Closed Eyes 36
Progress !? 36
Progress ?! 37
Traveller’s Rest 38
V. 15–30/11/2006 41
Painters, Conductors and Directors 41
At the End: Who’s Head? 42
Not Getting Lost in a World that is Easily Growing Too Large 44
Highlights 45
Living (in) History 49
VI. 4–13/12/2006 52
Feudalism – Capitalism –– Modern Times 52
Stories – Histories 53
Let it be! 58
Let It Be? 60
Rationales and Rationalities 62
Jesters only 66
VII. 14–21/12/2006 69
A Fairy Tale 69
Finally Arriving in Hungary 70
Looking forward into the past 84
A Concert 86
Farewell 87
VIII. 28/12/2006 90
Epilogue 90
Taiwanese Chronicle – Thoughts of Love from a Journey to Taiwan 92
Arrival and questions 92
Templates and Guidance 96
Exotic – Harmony by Estrangement 111
Kitchen stories 116
David and Goliath 117
Escape 122
Postscript – To be Read as Prolegomena. 185
Rome, November 2008 188
Lost 188
A Study visit to Austria 193
A lovely country, a lovely trip – and some “buts” 193
A Day in Dublin – January 2009 206
May 8th – or from Jugendstil to Art Nouveau. 219
Berlin – 5/19/09 222
Kassel – 20/05/09 226
Sideways: 298
October in the North 298
Mosquitoes 301
Familiarity 306
Tricky 312
Official Residence – 318
Wednesday 323
I. 23–24/10/2006
Those who come too late are castigated by history
(Mikhail Gorbachev)
Clash of Cultures as Clash of Histories
The aircraft touches smoothly the Moldovan ground. Though I had not been
afraid that this ‘tiny tin’ might crash I am glad to be able to leave the plane –
more a sport-jet than a real airliner, too small and close for a flight of 1 ½
hours after already travelling 3 hours from Cork to Budapest. But why should
they use a larger one for the couple of people who travelled from Budapest
to the destination which will be my home for about a week. Dimitri, the
driver, already on the runway, collects me directly from the plane. Still, it
does not save me the procedure at the border control. Although I have a visa,
commissioned by the EU-administration, I have to fill in the form and answer
some more or less weird questions. Is it despite having the visa or is it
because I have it? Several years ago – during those times when the country
was part of the Soviet Union – I would have felt more comfortable; but now?
Who are these lads at the desk? Representatives of their country – real
representatives? Or marionettes of foreign powers – can’t help, being a child
of US-McCarthyism and the German Berufsverbote, the CIA comes to mind. –
A question from the preparatory administrative work comes to my mind: in
one of the forms a question was: ‘whom to inform in case of urgency’. And
perhaps my answer ‘None’ was not only a personal matter but also a matter
of the old conspiracy against the western-German BND.
Still, a little later, driving along the broad though bumpy boulevard I am
really getting caught in the contradiction that will probably be a decisive
feature of the next weeks and months – perhaps not as decisive as in this
second but still decisive. Moldova – as well as Hungary – is one of the
countries that belonged to the former ‘Soviet Bloc’, the Council for Mutual
Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact – alliances established as counter
powers against the Western world. It was Mikhail Gorbachev who said in the
middle of the 1980s that those who come too late would be castigated by
history – and although the situation was much more complicated, it was
Gorbachev who opened the doors to the West, to imperialism. I remember
at the time I read in a journal from the government of the USSR, an article
Bundesnachrichtendienst, the German Intelligence which evidently opened my post,
recorded phone calls – the ‘group photos’ during rallies are not worth to be
mentioned. As Joan Baez sings in one song, on Sacco and Vanzetti, it is the ‘Royal
celebrating the opening of the first McDonald’s franchise in Russia, on the
Red Square. I felt a shock; I perceived this as a sad development – and as
betrayal of all the hopes and efforts from before. The efforts of not only the
Russian people who fought back Fascism; the sufferings of people who had
to pay high prices for their resistance against war and persecution, many
losing their life or at least health; my own efforts, striving for a democratic
Germany – and the price many of us paid: Berufsverbot – not being allowed
to work as teachers, as postmen and women, as workers in any public
enterprise. And the shock was also due to the fact that those of us who had
been punished now had to face the situation that those who punished us had
been welcomed into the new world.
History does not follow a straight path – and so we could anticipate in the
middle of the 1980s the paradox of history: The first German chancellor after
WW II (Konrad Adenauer) refused the offer of a common government when
he was asked to collaborate with the government in the east in order to
develop a democratic country – in Adenauer’s words: I prefer to be able to
have complete control over half of Germany rather than having half of the
control over the complete Germany. And it was this stance which finally led
to a situation in which his successors have complete control over the
complete Germany, and beyond.
We are driving, leaving the airport behind – soon the tall houses become
visible: ‘socialist estates’ behind which the idea of some kind of communal
living was at least at the heart of the ideology and planning. These houses
are still here – and something else is still left: the width of the boulevard, the
munificence. At first I can ignore the huge advertisements along the road
and it is only when I see the first supermarket a little bit later – the huge
yellow letters against the blue background of the walls let me know:
METRO; just a little bit further I see the huge yellow M on the red
background. Well, never lost. Especially, when one is a traveller as I am. We
all know the large M; and though we do not all know the METRO I know that
it is one of the supermarket chains that are present in the west. Last year
already, travelling to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia and other
countries I could see what Lenin wrote about in his piece on ‘Imperialism, the
Highest Stage of Capitalism’: The division of the world amongst the
economic magnates. The borders from the “new EU member states” were
not thought to be the end – there is no limit to subordination. Not in
quantitative terms nor in qualitative terms.
The exciting aspect of this one week mission is embittered by these
impressions. But it is actually much more – not only the multinationals but as
well the experience of being myself one of the intruders. Seeing METRO,
VODAPHONE and others, I see as well the ‘car fleet of the missionaries’:
United Nations, World Bank, OSCE, European Commission...
First I am brought to my apartment, and after getting the instructions of
security codes etc I am brought to the office. Tatjana welcomes me, Victor
asks me if I have any need regarding information technology, Ludmila, the
team leader introduces Wojciech with whom I will have a long conversation
later in the day after I get a welcome pack in a more or less celebratory
manner from Olga. All nice people, though the language situation is
somewhat difficult. Most of them speak English but for me it is difficult to
understand – the hard pronunciation gives the language a difficult slant.
Sometimes my interpreter has to translate even the English I hear from the
We manage – all is going well – and I am actually somewhat satisfied that all
these people know too well what is going on. A mission that should not be
completely executed: Training of Trainers in a corrupt system. All agree that
there is no point in training people in corruption – be it corruption in terms of
bribery or be it political corruption of Mafiosi-like social steering. The talks
go well – as well as they can work under these conditions. Part of it is the
preparation of next day’s talks with the Minister for Health, the
representative of the Delegation of the European Commission to Moldova
and the project team. What is striking and deserves at least a side remark:
the entire project – suggesting the strengthening of civil society – at the end
is not driven by the European bodies although they administer it and are
responsible for the implementation. I am informed that the power in the
background is the Soros-Foundation and the World Bank – not the
information I need to arrive at ‘mental wellness’. The other tiny piece
deserving attention: I ask the colleague from the EUC-Delegation if the
status of the Delegation in Moldova (and other countries) is the same as the
one of the European Commission’s representations as we have it for instance
in Dublin. ‘Nope [of course, the English is rather Americanised], I have the
status of an ambassador’ – of course, those who are already ‘in’ do not
deserve so much attention anymore as those who are yet to be caught. And,
although I am not explicitly informed, I can put the pieces from the jigsaw –
the matters the local crowd talks about – together: the future position will be
strengthened by more personnel and the main office being in Chiçin£u rather
than in ʙˋƴˈ˅ (Kiev).
– Earlier on I mentioned the hard pronunciation of the English language –
dyed by Ukrainian or Romanian (Moldavian) language. What a contrast to the
soft Russian language which I hear later while walking through the Puškin
Park which neighbours the street that hosts my apartment; what a contrast
to the silkiness of the language I hear later in the restaurant.
Is it not better to leave it with this softness – the harshness of life in this
definitely poor, not to say deprived area of the world cannot take it away.
Walking through the streets and parks provokes the immediate wish to join
the people – they are chatting – not many people are there on their own,
they’re exchanging something: joys and sorrows, experiences and plans,
hopes and disenchantments… – they are playing cards, maybe some of them
magic cards, hiding something that others cannot see, cannot see by just
looking at them and their game. A warm, spring-like evening – the park
invites the many loving couples, sitting on the banks, kissing and babbling. –
The opera house on the one side, nearly opposite – across the wide
boulevard – the huge building of the Prime Minister, supposedly closer to a
tyrant than to a prior inter pares. Still – or again – the floating between the
fine arts and sensitivity of writers as Aleksandr Sergeevi« Puškin and
Czarism’s harshness. It is a floating which does not take concrete form –
somewhat lacking determination like the floating of the people I see. They
are walking along the ‘shopping mall without shops’ – chatting; debating;
standing, reading the publicly displayed newspapers; playing chess and card
games; eating popcorn (one could think it is the main national dish) and
buying lottery tickets. Some are begging, some trying to get by with any
weird business: offering digital photos for sale, letting electronic cars that
can be driven by children and the like. The only people that are obviously
working in the ordinary understanding are the bus drivers; the only shops
that are aggressively popping up are those for money exchange and those
for mobile phones – the others are kind of hidden in houses, more converted
apartments. Posters are promising ‘careers in the West’ – inviting people to
go to Europe, the US or Canada.
Before I take up my real job, before being able to understand more of the
country and the people, I have these extremely mixed feelings – if the price
for overcoming poverty is a society in which not all are poor but some are
extremely rich and others remain extremely poor; if the price for overcoming
‘democratic centralism’ of the Bolshevist system is a new Czar, playing the
game hand in hand with the international Czars of politics and economic
power – perhaps in the form of the Moldovan M welted together with the
yellow M on the red background; if the price of progress is replacing these
beautiful old buildings with new shopping centres with all the fancy names;
Boss, Aigner, BMW, LG electronics... it may well be one day we will say
Those who leave too early are reprimanded by future
II. 25–29/10/2006
The chaos was consecutively replaced by something which
was much worse: order.
(Gyoergi Dalos: Hungary in a Nutshell; Munich: Beck,
2005: 78)
Beginner’s Jolt
The first teaching day – I stay a little longer after my own teaching as there is
a second session. Some additional education for me as this deals with the
national and local situation and some additional knowledge in law cannot do
any harm, especially as I can easily link into it: the national law has strong
roots in the Roman tradition. Furthermore, the presenter works in a very
traditional way with overheads and a projector. And as little as I understand
people when they are talking I can manage quite well to read various texts –
the language, actually Moldavian is more or less the same as Romanian, is
closely linked to Italian. In addition Aha, my interpreter, stays on and is a
help I could not afford to miss.
Thus, being in the privileged situation of having a driver at my disposal I can
decide the time I want to leave – there is always an easy way back from the
school, which is located in a suburban area in the middle of a forest. It is a
beautiful drive, the colourful leaves shining in the sunlight of these nice and
warm late October days. Although it is a forest area, the road is wide and I
am wondering if there is an Irish-English influence in Moldovan law: Dimitri
drives on the left side of the road. After looking around, I soon find the
reason: the right side of the road is simply so bad that it could easily cause
the end of the car’s existence – God, never say Irish roads are for horse carts.
Now, the problem is that such a system works perfectly well within its own
terms of reference: the chaos – difficulties only arise when it mixes with an
imposed order. And there is such a difficulty arising as being serious when
transport systems change from a mainly public system with more or less rare
individual cars – a system that requires limited space – to an individual
transport system that tends toward permanent congestion.
Now, let’s start more from the beginning – not from leaving the school, but
from arriving there and doing the job.
When I opened my bag for the first seminar session, taking my notes I was a
little bit puzzled (to say the least as this is just a kind way of saying: the blood
began to freeze in my veins, although I felt a wave of feverish
discomposure). Instead of finding my own notes I look on a sheet of paper,
saying ʔ˅˓ˑ˒ˈˌ˔ˍ˃ˢ ˔ˑ˙ˋ˃ˎ˟ː˃ˢ ˒ˑˎˋ˕ˋˍ˃. ʑ˔˕˖˒ˎˈːˋˈʜˈ˔ˑ˙ˋ˃ˎ˟ː˃ˢ
˒ˑˎˋ˕ˋˍ˃ ˋˎˋ ːˑ˅˃ˢ ˋː˕ˈ˓˒˓ˈ˕˃˙ˋˢ ˕ˈ˓ˏˋː˃ «˔ˑ˙ˋ˃ˎ˟ː˞ˌ»... Hmm? I
see that it is my paper as it bears the same format as my usual texts and my
name is on top of it. A slight hope. There is another document. I grab for it:
Politica social ʔuropean£. S… - well it sounds familiar.... I continue ‘reading’:
Introducere – inexistenìa politicii sau reinterpretarea politicii. And then De
obicei se spune c£ politica social£ ca afacere european£ nu exist£ dat fiind
faptul c£ dep£çeçte responsabilit£ìile çi competenìele instituìiilor UE. Cei care
ìin s£ afirme c£ exist£ m£car ceva tendinìe de dezvoltare a unor activit£ìi în
domeniu li se va spune c£ astfel de competenìe nu existau cu câìiva ani în
urm£. I admit I do not feel too comfortable, although the language is quite
familiar when looking at it (different to its sound which in my ears is more
like Russian). And finally, why should the students here in Chiçin£u suffer
more than other students do? Teaching can barely be based on reading any
text – even if it is your own one. And I made some new notes the evening
before which are much more comprehensive: four or five questions along
which we work together, the entire class: a colleague from Poland, mainly
people from Moldova and some from... – well, I don’t even know the name of
the place. I only know that they speak Russian and another local language
(not dialect: language). It is worth remarking that the lads from this minority
from the very south of the country are the ones who speak a little bit of
Uncovering Meaning
– What a way of learning? – For all of us. Aha has frequently difficulties: Yep,
I know the term. The young Moldovan woman looks at me, somewhat
anxious, helpless. But the Moldovan language has no equivalent, she
continues .
What are social services, what is society, what is social policy – during the
meeting such simple questions come up and we realise very soon that we’re
starting from entirely different understandings. Thatcher’s phrase gets an
entirely different meaning from what the iron lady had in mind – and here it
is a true meaning: There is no such thing as society. There are only societies –
different societies, following their own orders, shaped by the concrete action
of concrete beings under concrete circumstances.
I am pleased with the teaching – as the group allowed me to work with them:
they listened, and yet they intervened. No, we do not accept that! – Where is
that? In Germany? In Ireland? Well, I am really proud as I can say that we in
Moldova are far ahead. – And of course as well: Where is that? Belgium? We
really have to go there. Can you give us any address of such a service
provider? We have to see that with our own eyes.
It was not scepticism behind the latter remark but simply the difficulty of
understanding what a woonwinkel is. We are looking for terms to translate
woonwinkel – hopeless. Community care? – Yeah, ah – not really though there
is something of community care in it. – A one-stop-shop? – No, definitely not
that. One-stop-shops are more of an administrative tool – and a tool for
information? – An advice office? – Well, something like it. But it is not an office
as long as you understand an office as a bureaucratic instance. Hopeless. And
still the debate of the different terms clarifies it – examples from other
countries come into play and here I really appreciate that I do not have real
in-depth knowledge of any one of the systems (don’t ask me for the budget
and don’t ask me if they would have to be organised under article 80 or 85 of
the Moldovan Law on Local Public Administration [123/18.03.2003]) but on
the other hand at least a reasonable insight into the functioning of some
systems across the EU.
Approaching Economy
However, understanding what is behind the specific meaning takes time –
something we do not have. After talking the day before more or less
extensively with Wojciech, after reading the report from the World Bank
(signed by the Moldovan government and obviously mocked-up), after –
well, not least after walking through the city of Chiçin£u I have at least some
I mentioned already the ‘lack of visible business’ and others. – What springs
to the eyes to us Westerners is something that we can name as hidden
market economy, the emphasis on all elements of the terms and the various
possible combinations. It is a hidden economy – shops do not have the large
displays as we know them. After a while I found one of the huge stores – the
‘Moldovan Roches’ or so. In a way comparable as there were various
‘departments’. However, here departments means different individual
‘stands’ – shopping seems to be just an economic activity – something to
supply certain needed goods (an exception is the buying of flowers – a
common matter of the heart – and of books – no less a matter of love.
Besides the tryst of the brand names, there is no rush on all this glamour –
Poverty? Other values? Other aims? – So many different reasons play a role
in this market economy: a market economy in which little stands seem to
play a more important role than shops. Here and there somebody has a little
table, just a cloth or the bare ground, selling something which seems less
than the breath it costs to get it there. It is a hidden economy not only
because it lacks the belligerence of developed capitalist marketing; it is also
hidden in terms of the shadow economy although everybody knows about it.
Chiçin£u’s economy, seen in more analytical terms, is characterised
historically by its trade-strategic location on the oriental-occidental border –
on the other hand this had been the foundation for orienting the city’s
activities on trade and – though much later – administration. Besides the role
played by the location (with the subsequent negative effect of being
destroyed several times throughout) another factor is the economic base of
the Republica Moldova – climate and good farmland are favourable
conditions for agriculture, however lagging behind in any other terms. The
previously important export of vine ceased due to Putin’s politics. What
cannot be easily understood, however, is what I see in the supermarket:
Turkish grapes – and the wrapping paper states in German without the
slightest mistake garantiert kernlose Trauben.
Other areas are only slowly gaining ground – and in any case it has to be
asked if the (invited) invasion of foreign capital can be used to develop a
sustainable economy. The same is true for service industries – a huge state
administration may be needed for administering and distributing wealth, but
it cannot produce it. Consequently it is no surprise that many people are
working outside of the Republic, Italy being one of the favourite places to go
to. However, this means not only loss of people – the consequences reach
much further. It is the young, active generation that leaves – and it leaves
behind the older generation and the children. Sure, money is sent back:
Western Union offices all over the city are witnesses. However, the Western
Union is not a witness that can be used in terms of calculating national
balance sheets – the money never shows up in the budget of the state –
another black whole in the economy.
The lack of taxable people, the low tax paying moral and the low (or one
could say virtually non-existent) moral of prosecuting breaches are the basis
for a vicious circle: growing poverty, increasing social problems and
decreasing means for answering the challenges.
Social Policy Issues
Well, social policy issues were mentioned just before. The lack of a group in
the middle of life’s age span can be seen as well as one of the factors behind
the lack of a middle class. The ‘over-aged’ population and the children and
young people are somewhat determining the picture, a large poor populace
or at least one that lives at most at the borderline. On the other hand a group
Grapes guaranteed without seed
of people which is quite well-off – as nationals the senior officials and a new
group of some rich shop owners. And as foreigners the settled ‘real senior
officials’ from EU and US administrations, and from international
companies. As little money as many of the expatriates return into the
country, as much money is not ‘nationalised’ by these foreigners. Foreign
investment is tricky and poverty – although to some extent invisible
is the
major problem, reflecting a population that is not of working age. And even
if people were, there would not be sufficient employment opportunities.
Table-shops – an answer which is not really a solution.
However, to some extent the guiding, though not outspoken principle seems
to be Investing in the – likely capitalist – future by maintaining the – socialist –
past. While social benefits – split into a huge number of different payments,
not in any way linked – are hugely inefficient, social policy focuses on
children: necessarily as they are neglected by the parents who are working
abroad. And the health service is apparently excellent – Lucy mentioned it
and she smiled, said that she could enjoy it, only after having used the term
enjoying, recognising the faux-pas: even a good health system is nothing
one enjoys as its use is a must and having used it reminds at the pain that
brought one there. Misuse at least is unlikely.
Another kind of social policy can probably be seen as part of social quality
policy. At least it is a – though tiny – part of the life regime: despite the
normal huge buses
there is a frequent bus transport – taxi-like. Small buses,
though having certain lines being designated by the various numbers, stop
like taxis – no reliability what time they come, but the frequency doesn’t
require anything like this. And there is always a space left – they work along
the line: If we managed to get 10 people into the vehicle we will manage 11,
if we managed 11, the same will work with 12, and if we managed with n we
will manage with n+1.
Coming more to the mode of life then, the amount of public libraries is
remarkable and so is the opportunity of public places where one can meet:
for a chat, to play chess or card games, for reading different newspapers
which are provided in display cabinets in the parks – sure, besides mildness
or warm clothes it is necessary that it is dry.
another interesting detail which has to be researched: some wealth seems to be
hidden as well – not the real wealth but the wealth of ordinary people. Looking at
many houses from the outside one would not believe that any person is living in
them. However, entering them it looks quite different.
Although even they are not entirely normal as they are trolley buses, using electric
Family policies – a topic which I have to give a miss. However, I can say that
the couples from the park, mentioned earlier, do not stop with kissing and
babbling on the park banks. Fridays and Saturdays are wedding days – I see
many couples. Perhaps they made their first step in this park where they
now meet again. And what makes it remarkable for me is that all of them –
after the obligatory ‘photography in white’ under the golden-leafed trees or
in front of the shrubs that shine in the October sun – leave flowers at the foot
of the monument at the park’s entrance, dedicated to Stefan cel Mare.
Tying the knot, respecting the history, respecting life’s character as chain of
At least at first glance an interesting contradiction: the hidden economy and
a very public life. And as public as it is and as much as it is obviously a
multinational society, it is also a somewhat closed society – I feel observed,
again and again I can see in eyes looking at me the exclamation: You are a
foreigner – and what else are you? What brought you here? I cannot deny
feeling somewhat guilty: Yes, my father entered the country with a tank
(though didn’t get so far) – and I enter it with the logo of the successors, with
the logo of the fortress EU. I want to stop them: I was fighting against him –
and I am not fighting with them today even if I am walking on the blue carpet
with the yellow stars. – Fortunately I can always remember the situation in
the classroom where we worked and walked together, taking the direction
we wanted to take.
Aodhán’s tea kettle
For the foreigner here, for somebody who does not have sufficient time to
settle and probably for those who have the time as well, many patterns
remain hidden in other ways as it is so difficult – different values, different
understandings, different behavioural patterns. All the consequences of a
different accumulation regime – consequences for the life regimes;
consequences of different modes of regulation with their repercussions on
the mode of life. – Orders that remain somewhat chaotic as long as we do
not fully adapt the rules. Of course, such adaptation does not necessarily
mean that we accept them still we have to appropriate them to find
appropriate answers to circumvent them. A little play on words – and after
reading the paper on Methodology and after the lectures all this should
make sense. I can turn it, however, into a little story – a true story about
Aodhán, a priest from Cork whom I once met in a small village near Stuttgart
in the South of Germany where we both ‘represented Ireland’ during a
celebration. – Ok, may be that I should not represent Ireland. But why should
Stefan the Great
he do it then – a Catholic Irish priest who spent most of his life in missionary
services? Be it as it is – the little true story is on change and stability and how
people cope with it. Down in the South of Germany, Aodhán and I met
during the celebrations – a school celebrating five years of its existence and
success. After the official part there was a small group left. Together we
went for a nice meal. Another birthday, we had to celebrate: Aodhán’s
birthday although he didn’t know for some time that we knew. A nice old
guy, in a way so unlike a priest – or very much like a priest in the sense of a
nice man, looking openly on life and on the joy of it. Probably his slogan of
life was God gave us our life to enjoy it whenever we have the opportunity. So
this was what we did. The good old Irish songs, the German’s competing,
mixing the voices, the melodies – forgetting even the slightest notion of
possible problems and sorrows. Aodhán celebrated his birthday with us –
perhaps it was his 65
or his 70
birthday. A happy man, without sorrows
although he had definitely faced enough of them during his lifetime:
‘standing his man far away from home’.
Next time we met was the morning of the following day for breakfast. The
old priest was the last to turn up – after being the one who did most of the
singing he had the right to do so. And he turned up with a tiny teakettle,
protected by a knitted coat, unique in its colours. The old man kept it close
to his body, went to the buffet, got the tea into his little companion and
joined us – smiling, sitting down and celebrating a cup of tea as they did in so
many places around the world before they came to the little village in the
South of Germany. – The safety he needed. Just enough to stand the
differences he wanted and had to face in his job. And what is remarkable is
the fact that this little bit of admitted stability and even rigidity on which he
insisted allowed him to be one of the most open creatures I ever came across
– much more so than many who claim that they do not have any roots and
that the world is just one huge village. It may well be so, but still it has
different houses and the houses have different rooms.
Losses and findings
Now, personally I definitely lost my tea kettle again – the misunder-
standings, the non-understanding, the search for meanings. But all this
meant as well that the teaching was a learning process. I did not want to sell
them anything – although the programme of my ‘mission’ wanted me to ‘sell
Europe’, to present it as the best of all worlds. I am afraid in this regard they
put the fox in charge of the hen house. Probably, after the course, after my
teaching, most of the participants are more Eurosceptic than even the
French and Dutch showed with their votes on the EU-Draft-Constitution.
That this was possible was simply a consequence of the fact that at least for
the trainees in the classroom the last ten years or so brought one important
experience: the new world was not what had been promised to them. From
outside, what was brought to them through the various channels was a
gloomy system – gloomy in terms of a rich world of choice goods,
individualism of an advanced market society and of course in political terms
– a gloomy world of wealth and democracy for all. However, what they did
not expect was the increasing gap between rich and poor, the regulation of
life by a huge bureaucratic machinery and the invention of a new idol: Goods
as God; and Politics as Good – a matter of popularity rather than debate and
negotiation. Of course, democracy, political systems in general are rather
complex systems – and I mention it by dropping a brick. Lucy, the project
leader, Wojciech, the long-term expert trainer and I are sitting together in
the car that makes the way home. For me it is already the last day and we
are talking about the entire project – it is as such EU project. Wojciech says
the difference with these projects, if compared to US Aid, would be that they
are actually determined by the states themselves – during annual meetings
between the EU bodies and the national government they would draw up a
plan, largely determined by what Moldovan’s say and demand. US Aid would
work in a different way: The US agency draws up a plan: They determine
what the problem is, they determine the means and tools and they
determine how the tools have to be used. I scoff: And when EU programmes
are negotiated, the Moldovan government sits at the table, repeats what the
US told them to say and they get the money!? – Wojciech smiles resentfully:
Yes, you can say so. Lucy intervenes: I worked for several years for US Aid.
That is not true. You find there as well ways of influencing policies. What
definitely is true is that the bureaucracy is much higher there. – A little quarrel
arises – I can only listen, not knowing enough about these concrete
programmes. And on the other hand knowing too much about how the
systems work: the US did not allow people like me into the country, just by
applying a bureaucratic rule: If you are member of a certain party, you are
not allowed to enter the States. And the EU bodies, claiming democratic
RULES, the openness and calculability of formal processes that promise in
the defined framework the right of the individual, can be so suppressing
simply applying rules that do not exist – you do not sit in the strong beam of
a lamp, shining into your face to feel like being in a situation of interrogation
as we know it from James Bond films or the like – there is supposedly a soft
way of ‘convincing’ people of what they are expected to do and to say
without formal rules and coercion – and it needs a strong personality to
Be it as it is, I leave this discussion to them. Dimitri stops the black limousine
in front of the office. We walk over the carpet of yellow and brown leaves
that shine in the sunlight of another beautiful autumn day – a brief
discussion in the office, deciding about the work which still has to be done.
I leave relatively early, wanting to go for a stroll through town as I can do
some work in the evening – the latter being dead time for me as it is not so
much fun to sit with an interpreter in a pub. I walk along the broad boulevard
– the Bd. Stefan Cel Mare. I know the area in the meantime reasonably well,
not least from each morning’s jog. Still, ȮȽ ɎȽɋɒȽ ɏɂɇ
– and this means as
well changing impressions, again and again a different look at everything,
discovering new perspectives. Coming to the end of this short and intense
stay in Chiçin£u, I pass once more the President’s building – from where I
approach it, it is on the left side of the street – the tall building, the tower-
like building excelling the Parliament building on the other side of the street.
It is the first time that I do not see the individual buildings but the two
buildings in relation – perhaps it is because I have learned in the meantime a
little bit more about the political system and the ruling of a party which
seems to be a contradiction in terms: as Partidul Comuniçtilor din Republica
Moldova (Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova) strongly
orientated towards western capitalism, it has to raise scepticism. I do not
bother too much however, not having sufficient time to study in depth the
party’s program with four pillars, namely
1. A new quality of life,
2. Economic modernisation,
3. European integration,
4. Consolidation of society.
I know at least enough to see contradictions – the orientation on Creation of
a society in which the freedom of the individual and the freedom of choice
will be ensured by welfare and prosperity clashing with the wish of Moldova's
transformation into a state of European standards and efficient investments
in the country's economy, opening new western markets for Moldovan
goods; the demand of Free circulation, without visas, of Moldovan citizens in
European countries, reliable legal and social protection of our compatriots
being abroad on the one hand, being at least in a tensional relationship with
the resources that are actually available and with the reality of international
relations and power imbalances.
Ta panta rei/Everything is in flux (Heraclitus [535–475 BC])
But how could there be a relationship without tensions if the Moldovan
President, PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin starts from an assumption of
general interest, expressed in the words
Moldova's Party of Communists (PCRM) is the only party which aspires to
express the whole society’s long-term interests. The teacher, the worker, the
peasant and the businessman are equally dear to us. We do not have
favourites, as well as discriminated people under the social aspect.
(Moldovan Party of Communists Marks Five Years of Government; 23 March
As I said, I do not have sufficient time to obtain the knowledge for further
deliberations. I walk on – hesitate, should I just walk through the park or
should I walk further along the road. I decide to walk straight on, seeing one
more time the government building – on the right hand side, the ‘parliament
side’. Across the street, on the left, the same side where the President’s
building is, and a little bit back from the street, there is the somewhat
monumental orthodox cathedral – although the tower does not excel the
government building, there is a ‘moral emanation’, the charisma that gives
the impression of the cathedral being more monumental than the actually
larger government building.
The reason for this? The reason is that even the heathen that I am gets the
impression. Perhaps it is the knowledge of the cathedral’s inner sight. – Light
plays at least a role in all Western religions.
Remember the star of
Bethlehem – the light aiming to guide the three kings who were looking for
the newborn child. At least to my knowledge this was more or less the
general meaning of light in the future: in one way or another the
representation of lambency. Entering orthodox churches in several places, I
always got the impression that the lambency, which can be found here, is
refusing any kind of enlightenment. Sure, I am the last who would impute to
the Catholic Church or any church actually a truly enlightening role.
However, entering the cathedral cannot even claim to give light to find any
way. Rather, at least a person such as me can only see the luminance and
glossiness as being a false front – the individual can only make a bow and
subordinate him or herself, asking for mercy and guidance in the form of a
‘leading hand’, being dazzled by the glow. – The Quadrant of the President’s
tower, the parliament and government building and the charismatic
monumental cathedral are an arrangement that can make one think.
Especially when one sees it against the background of a special room in the
Muzeul National de Arta al Moldovei, dedicated to 15 years of independence:
And this Orthodox Church has at least strong Western roots.
It is an exhibition on the recuperation of the Orthodox Church. – The
National Palace, located in the back of the government building is an
additional feature giving some additional spice to the thoughts.
Farewell – I am looking forward to see you again
Sunday morning – the last day in Chiçin£u. I should be at home in the
appartment, as there is plenty of work which remains to be done – and there
is even more work which I should do today in preparation for tomorrow’s
meeting on another project with the European Commission in Brussels, the
last stop before moving on Wednesday into my new home in Budapest. Ah,
who knows if I will ever have the opportunity again... - So I walk one of the as
yet unknown tracks. I arrive soon at the entrance of the Parcul Valea Morilor,
quite a large park area, more correct: just a natural resort with a beautiful
lake. On the way there a familiar smell of burning timber reaches me – and
being early enough I can take the time to sit down for a while – the smell, the
sun rising over the valley, shining through the trees, the golden leaves on the
ground and the birds – waking and making their first excursion in the cold of
the early morning. Putrid smell coming from the water – and nevertheless it
is pleasant fresh air.
Finally I feel kind of home; no guard, no interpreter, no driver – just the
universal language of nature and people enjoying themselves. My hand looks
for something – and it sinks back into the relaxed position on my lap. No,
here Aodhán would do as well without his tea kettle – and so there is no
reason for me to look for one. After a while I awake from this daydream. I
have to go home, get my things organised before the driver arrives.
Punctually, the doorbell rings. I open it and Dimitri makes a step forward. He
nods in the direction of the small suitcase, then in my direction. Da da – my
little bit of active, spoken language allows me already to let him know that
he can take it and so he does.
– I have to smile. Da is the Moldovan word for yes. And one can say it without
problem a couple of times – da da seems to be a common way, a diffuse
expression of affirmation and resignation and perhaps as well of a defiant I
will show you who will succeed. – Dada, also the name of a new style of art in
the 1900s (peaking 1916-1920), gets a new meaning – the tendering tension
of affirmation and rejection, the dialectic of Aufhebung as sublation and
supersession that DADAism was, indeed.
I follow Dimitri. – Fortunately Irina sits in the car. I do not have to face an
endless silence on the way to the airport. We talk about the project – but
soon we talk about other things. Her plans: doing such project work,
studying and teaching at the same time. And despite all this, she looks
relaxed. She shows that she is calculating her steps exactly; but she shows as
well that she is not calculating for herself. She is one of those people who
stayed home, who did not leave her parents nor her child.
– The car parks in front of the terminal building. Dimitri grabs for the
suitcase and the three of us go to the small SAAB aircraft after passing the
necessary formalities. – La revedere. Multumesc.
Especially, thank you for
not just following the program and for allowing me to do the same.
I force myself into the seat of the plane – and still, I feel a certain freedom
despite the closeness and the five hour flight ahead of me. Not being under
the indirect scrutiny of big brother’s development program. After having this
experience I know once more why the contract used the term mission. I am
used to represent somebody or something – and I do not have problems
even if the represented is something I cannot fully stand for; usually even in
those cases I am actually still representing more myself than others – and I
am officially allowed to do so. To be on mission is somewhat different in this
regard – although doing very much my own thing, while teaching what I
think is worthwhile and important for the people here, I have this permanent
impression of being on the wrong side, fighting on the wrong section of
development. I know that many of the people with whom I worked together
in Chiçin£u have the same attitude. But still knowing is one thing; the feeling
of being on a mission, the impression of being sent by somebody, the
sentiment that the director’s book is written by somebody else, is like a
chain, heavily laying on my shoulders.
I feel free on this close ‘tiny tin’– and I know I want to come back one day.
The engine starts – looking out of the window, waving for a last time at
Dimitri and Irina I would like to say to give the words back to Irina. Once
when we talked and she mentioned: A friend of mine lives in Ireland. She
always says I should come there – life would be much easier. But I don’t want –
I think there is hope for my country. – Yes, Irina, there is still hope. There is
hope, as long as we take things in our own hands.
My hands are looking for something – a little tea kettle or something like it. I
am not allowed to use it – but I cannot resist and switch on the MP3-player.
Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky.
Good bye. Thank you for everything.
You, you may say I am a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
III. 29/10–1/11/2006
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have
governed my life: the longing for love, the search for
knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of
mankind. These passions, like the great winds, have
blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a
deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of
(Bertrand Russell. Autobiography; London/New York:
Routledge, [1967] 2000: 9)
Corridors – Run(a)ways
Sunday evening, arriving in Cork – the situation is quite normal – but what
does that mean? As I do not have a vehicle at my disposal, I have to take a
taxi to get to Cork city for the night. After waiting quite a while for the
luggage, I have to wait now for a taxi. Jazz Festival I guess – and I say to the
driver – after a taxi is eventually available: Busy evening, is it? – Not really,
there are so many flights diverted to Shannon. And he begins to lament Cork
airport: the new terminal, the huge amount of money spent and the
continuation of an unbearable situation: an airport located in a fog-spot –
the money that changed hands, some of it likely changing owners in brown
Sometime that evening I return to Cork where I stay over night rather than
going out to Aghabullogue – it will be a short night anyway as some work
still has to be done before I finally leave Cork for the rest of the year. God,
what a relief that Steph is there, helping me with so many things my desk
is full of papers, well prepared stuff, I just have to sign, write some
comments... and unfortunately I have to leave a couple of new things for her
on the desk. Such a great help and still I don’t like to give her such work – a
waste of talent. Together we wrote an article and she showed that this is
something she should do – rather than administrative work. Actually, she
wrote the article whereas I made some changes and added tiny things at the
end, I played a rather limited role. And then I have to think that many of
those tasks I consider being admin stuff, is actually not really that; there is
always more substance to it than one tends to recognise after things are
established as routines – sometimes you might see the term routine-ised,
expressing that one does something without thinking about it, although one
has to think if one does it for the first time.– Well, as great as the Internet
and all the technology is (devices I actually hate worse than the Black Death),
it’s better and definitely indispensable to have somebody who can deal with
things because of being a human being and being there as person and
personality – not being part of any long chain which lies like a fetter around
the neck. – Strange that it seems to be necessary to say it, as we are living in
a world where some people don’t get this – and even more strange that
some people get such an opportunity and behave like machines themselves.
However, a human being is better than any machine; but if a human being
tries to be a better machine this will definitely result in one of the worse
humans and defective machines.
Values of Social Services and Values in Social Science
A short night, as said – the alarm clock rings, calls me back to the airport
(after my jogging, of course): Brussels via Budapest where István, my
colleague in Budapest, kindly collects my main luggage in order to take it to
my apartment on the Pest-side of the city. The taxi driver in Cork, though
another, again talks about the airport, the new terminal building – Michael
O’Leary would be the man – if he would have been allowed he would have built
the new terminal for half the amount. I only think without speaking out loud:
yes, probably he would have done it! In any case, he is allowed to develop an
economy which rebuilds feudal structures – an economy which does not
speak of exploitation anymore because there is no time left for thinking –
from the idealist Cartesian cogito ergo sum to the pseudo-materialist
consumo ergo sum. – And still..., well, who does not know the Shakespearean
questions, though today’s answer is different.
The woman: Does she come regularly? Has she got a claim
on you?
Shen Teh: No claim, but she’s hungry: and that’s more
(Bertolt Brecht: The Good Person of Szechwan. Translated
by John Willet; edited and introduced by John Willet and
Ralph Manheim; London: Methuen, 2000: 15)
Appropriate thoughts, getting me into the mood I need for the meeting in
Brussels – a meeting which is part of a research project on social and health
services as services of general interest. A project which is important for me as I
try to continue the work which I have undertaken over the last couple of
years: The rejection of the strategy of liberalisation policies – already in
general terms more than problematic, it is the death of anything humane as
a guiding principle of the delivery of services, not only relevant for people
who cannot afford to pay for services but a matter for all, the undermining of
even a notion of general interest. Of course, latest since for instance Karl
Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law (Marx, Karl:
Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law; 1843; in: Karl Marx.
Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 3: Marx and Engels 1843-1844;
London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1975: 3-129) it is clear that there is no general
interest anyway. But the declared denial of such interest, the definition of
general interest in terms of market economy – though disguised as a matter
of increasing the choice of consumers – makes it even worse. Finally social
services, including social services of general interest – are entirely
commodified, thus perverted to be individual services.
The project, supposedly the major ‘fact finding exercise’ of the Commission’s
Directorate General of Employment, Social Affairs and Gender Equality (not
sure, old-fashioned as I am I still use the overcome nomenclature: DGV), is
concerned with the evaluation of service provision, the different providers
and how they actually provide them, the mechanisms of financing them and
the question if – and if so in which way EUorpean legislation effects the
development. My role is the dubious role of what is called ‘lead researcher on
stakeholder issues’. Once more the fox in charge of the hen house,
guaranteeing a little bit of the feeling-good temper while getting upset
about the naïve proposals of some members of the research group. Without
any doubt, most are highly qualified and all are good-willed. And I admire
many of them for their knowledge, consideration and not least as good
friends. Still, the problem is one which is not outspoken, standing like a
spectre in all the rooms where scientific work is undertaken: the spectre of
value freedom of research. All the considerations, all the work done on this
most fundamental are permanently present although nobody mentions or
probably even thinks of one of them: Dilthey, Weber, Lenin, Adorno... Of
course, there is the issue of passion of
the search for knowledge,
and knowledge is about facts – objective, existing without any input, without
our doing or the doing of others. However, there is as well
Worth a side remark, Esping-Andersen, praised for his approach of decommodifica-
tion which he presented in his book on Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Esping-
Andersen, G. (1990), The three worlds of welfare capitalism; Cambridge: Polity Press)
shows for another time and from another angle limitations, remaining caught in
thinking about how to increase justice of capitalism rather than thinking about
replacing an unjust system, a system that cannot be justified. In the given case we
have see the necessity of what? That area which is supposedly the one of
decommodifcation is being itself increasingly commodified – something like the
Cunning of Reason as Hegel called it (Hegel, G. W.F. (1991), The philosophy of history,
Prometheus Buffalo: New York), but in a perverted form.
the longing for love,..., and unbearable pity for the suffering
of mankind.
As true as it is that we, working in social science, are also dealing with
objective facts, it is not less true that two decisive points have to raised: 1)
On whose behalf, in the interest of whom do we ask questions? And 2) What
do we do with the results of the investigation? – This is about objectivity,
though it is strongly as well a matter of interests. And there is actually a third
question, usually forgotten. The interests themselves are part of a bundle
having an objective dimension, actually interests themselves are objective –
and this is a matter of the historical process and of social and societal
existence. – Sure, Michael O’Leary may have built Cork airport cheaper, and
he is even creating new employment, to some extent new ‘wealth’ for those
who otherwise did not get another job. However, at the end it is the Leary’s
being responsible for the processes of ‘rationalisation’ – the rationality of
putting people severely under stress by overwork, by density of work
processes, by competition, by fear of losing their job – justified fear as on the
other hand there are the many who do not have any work, who are working
under precarious conditions…
The good
Cannot remain good for a long time in our country
Where cupboards are bare, house wives start to
Oh, the divine commandments
Are not much use against hunger.
So why can’t the gods share out what they’ve created.
(Bertolt Brecht: The Good Person of Szechwan. Translated
by John Willet; edited and introduced by John Willet and
Ralph Manheim; London: Methuen, 2000: 48)
Special Kind of Services in the Private Interest and the Interest of Privacy
Another social service – flying from Cork to Budapest two girls – nice kids –
entertain us, making the flight lively and by their obvious bliss it is somewhat
enjoyable for me. Only when the mother of the one admonishes: Don’t run!
Come here now and sit down. the lovely ‘quietness of discomposure’ is
replaced by a nasty skirmish and whining between mother and child.
The next flight – Budapest to Brussels – I nearly feel sorry for a guy who sits
in the business class. He is the only one, nobody there to talk to, nothing to
do after reading Le Soir, a rather unexciting Belgium newspaper – the third
glass of Champagne has to serve as (at least from my point of view, but what
do the words of an abstinent person count for in this case) meagre comfort.
Cats and Mice or: Policy Research and Research Politics
The women: What a cheek, begging for tobacco. ’Tisn’t as if
it had been bread.
The unemployed man: Bread’s expensive. A few puffs at
a fag and I’m a new man. I’m so done in.
Shen Teh gives him cigarettes: That’s very important,
being a new man.
(Bertolt Brecht: The Good Person of Szechwan. Translated
by John Willet; edited and introduced by John Willet and
Ralph Manheim; London: Methuen, 2000: 14)
I finally arrive in Brussels, taking the train from the airport to the hotel – this
time I cannot go to the apartment where I usually stay. In the lounge of the
hotel I am welcomed by two colleagues, they grant just enough time to go to
my room, have a quick shower, grab the documents I need – the invitation
for dinner turns out to be an invitation to a little workshop where some food
is served. It takes place in the rooms of an Italian restaurant – Fa caldo si
può aprire il finestrino, per favore?? The waiter opens the window. Hai
ragione – you are right, it is a nice and mild evening and there would be nicer
things to do, isn’t that right? It is right but the decision is not my decision and
not even the decision of the others who are here with me.
It is not only the time of this pre-meeting which seems to be out of the
control of those who actually do the work. Commissioned research – called
‘commissioned’ not because it is work the European Commission asked for,
though it is actually the Commission of the European Communities who
asked for it. It is not necessarily a problem – but here it is a problem as in this
case there is quite a lot of interference, a permanent battle about the
questions that have to be asked, that are ‘suggested’ to be relevant. This
evening we prepare for the meeting which is taking place the next day – a
meeting at the Rue Joseph II, the building of the European Commission’s
DGV. The usual: passport control, R.M. from the Commission welcomes us
and we go to the meeting room. B.S., the legal expert, M.H., the expert on
services for disabilities, B.M., the boss of the partner from Vienna... – all this,
especially this reception procedure, is a little bit like cats and mice, playing
with and against each other. Of course it is a nice atmosphere, as nobody
actually knows if s/he is mouse, cat or the adjudicator. The real equality
emerges later the day, when we face a power cut, the equality increases
when the G.F., another colleague from the EUC, enters the room: We do not
know what the problem is but the light should be back latest in half an hour. –
His broad Vienna-English is always nice to listen to. Before he leaves he,
knuckling down briefly to me, says Hallo and asks me if I could provide some
documents from the Foundation I am working for. After I promise to ask the
office in Amsterdam to send them, he leaves – but only to return a couple of
minutes later: You have to leave, the building has to be evacuated. – The
second he stops speaking, a loud voice can be heard – the tone from the
bullhorn, asking us to remain patient, not to panic but to leave immediately
the building – while we leave the men from fire brigade enter. All without
panic, well ordered – only G.’s mordant voice can be heard. It is the oldest
building of the Commission, what can you expect for social affairs. – It may be
a kind of paranoia to see any link between what happens and the fact that it
occurs just while focus is on service modernisation. We move into another
building, soon the projector is connected – the crutch for many who are
afraid to speak without it, afraid of not having sufficient stuff they can talk
about. We move on in the agenda. Social services, provision and providers,
financing, legal issues – there is no general interest, it proves to be true
during this debate. The political debate is faded out – it is much easier to
fasten a bundle which does not show any contradictions, and tensions; it is
less captious when one talks about issues that do not require political or any
other decisions.
The bureaucracy takes itself to be the ultimate purpose of the state. Because
the bureaucracy turns its ‘formal’ objectives into its content, it comes into
conflict everywhere with ‘real’ objectives.
(Marx, Karl: Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law; 1843;
in: Karl Marx. Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 3: Marx and Engels
1843-1844; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1975: 3-129; here: 46)
And the same is also true with the issues mentioned, the truly political
character of services – but who wants conflicts. So the easiest is not to talk
about real objectives; why look at reality if we can avoid complicated and
complicating conflicts. – Passions?
The player: What is your answer? Nothing’s been arranged.
Should men be better? Should the world be changed?
Or just the gods? Or ought there be none?
We for our part feel well and truly done.
There is only one solution that we know: That you should
now consider as you go
What sort of measures you would recommend
To help good people to a happy end.
Ladies and gentlemen, in you we trust:
there must be happy endings, must, must, must!
(Bertolt Brecht: The Good Person of Szechwan. Translated
by John Willet; edited and introduced by John Willet and
Ralph Manheim; London: Methuen, 2000: 109)
Finally, I feel morally supported in my decision to take a twofold approach:
working within the project, trying to ask the correct questions there and at
the same time working on a publication on the topic which looks at these
real objectives, the complex reality which is faded out – and I am glad that
some of the colleagues from the project will contribute to that publication as
well. Actually, it is even more than that. If plans turn out as they are made,
early/middle of next year will see the launch of three publications – and
politically rather sensitive documents on social services of general interest
the official study from the European Commission
the book in which providers and users of theses services have a say
a book that I wrote on the topic – a theoretical study, looking at
European values and philosophical and legal questions around this
subject (at least I just got the conformation from my publisher on this).
Passions, yes, though they sometimes may require a kind of schizophrenic
split. And there is the danger, of course, that I am building the gallows which
will be used to hang me after I finished building it. – I would not be the first
one hanging; and it would not be the first time for me being hung.
Home, Sweet Home
Wednesday, I finally move to Budapest – still in Brussels I am going jogging
in the early hours of the morning. As mild as the evening before was, it is
now a bitterly cold and damp morning.
At the airport I am confronted with long queues – extremely long queues,
standing at the check-in desks. I go to the check-in desk as well – one of five
machines standing aside. Some form of identification and the entire
procedure takes about 1 ½ minutes, not enough time for the device to smile
at me, to have a nice word, not enough time for me to be angry or happy – I
listen to the cogwheels in my brain, to the nerve and muscular cords that
move my legs; the eyes that receive light waves... – Just walk on, walk on...,
in my inner mind I hear the words of Bert Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s song:
Trabt schneller!
Herr Dschinn hat einen Wald
Der muß vor Nacht gerodet sein
Und Nacht ist jetzt schon bald!
Sorry, it is from the same Brecht-piece but on the web I cannot find it. Perhaps
Stephanie can get the translation from my library.
I walk through the passport control – the queue at the desk for EU-
PASSPORTS ONLY is much longer than the other queue: NON-EU
PASSENGERS – but it moves much faster. – Still it is not the fault of the
guards sitting there – after he returns my passport, the usual game of being
in a multilanguage country, respecting diversity: Merci, Bedankt, Danke,
Security check – again I resist asking if I should go on with taking
off my clothes, after putting my two jackets, the belt and my shoes into the
plastic box. After all this I sit down, open the laptop to do some work –
urgent mails have to be written and sent, I still have to go on finalising an
article which has been overdue for a long time – the rain against the thick
windows distracts me a little bit – or is it the distraction of what I did in
recent days? Of course, the usual happens. Last minute panic: where is the
passport, my flight ticket. Why didn’t I get organised in time, why did I have
to sit there, writing until the last call – one never should leave me alone as I
am simply not capable of looking after myself.
– At the gate, I arrive just when the speaker announces the very last call and
get a text message – Welcome to Proximus
and I can only think the answer
At least in Brussels two languages are more or less obligatory (Flemish and French);
the German language is an official language in Belgium as well (though rarely spoken
in Brussels when you move around the city – actually I only heard it once used by non-
migrants), and English is common: at the airport anyway and in the city as well, as
due to EU, NATO and others plus the global market players who all have their
workforce, customers, clients, etc here – a huge economic force, as important as the
glass cleaners who have to take care of the palaces of the many EU-buildings.
Many other languages are spoken as well – Brussels is probably one of the most
fascinating cities with a very unusual pattern of integration and segmentation. For
instance, one interesting issue is that even many of the highly ‘integrated’ migrants –
people working in the Commission, the Parliament or any other inter- and
supranational organisations stick together. Another issue is that, although the same
is true for people coming from African and Islamic countries etc. and – due to the
large numbers – they have even their own ‘quarters’, many of the these quarters
seem to be ‘in the middle of the cities’. Although this is, of course, not least an
expression of the fact that the ‘Belgian aborigines’ live outside, actually often in very
nice peripheral city areas or suburbs, it gives two options for the visitor: you can get
the impression that they are deluging the city or you can see them as being highly
integrated. Only time, talking to people from the various groups and familiarising
with their lives, dreams and hopes and as well disappointments and defeats, shows
the truth, visible only under the surface. A truth which is in many cases linked to
dramas – in many cases as well linked to dramas though one does not see anything
other than harmony, the ‘real multiculty’, the real cosmopolitan. – It is not least
against this background that I would like to make a thorough study on the ‘newly
emerging travelling communities’, a project for after retirement.
One of the Belgium mobile phone providers.
– Good Bye, too late now anyway, about two hours left and I will arrive
home, teaching a course for PhD students... – from Europe.
– Didn’t
I say home?
IV. 2–14/11/2006
Finding Home
In a way having been in Budapest a long time now – sure, it was shortened by
another trip to Brussels last week, three days not around for half an hour of a
speech and having the occasion to get hold of a little tea kettle, but
shortened especially by all the new impressions, requirements and demands.
And seen in retrospective it was – at least for people like me – long enough
to settle in a new home. Something that has, of course, several dimensions
to it.
The first one is quite simple – and actually means for people like me: they
definitely have only one home, and perhaps not even that. Well, if there is
one home it is the place where all the routines are well established, where
things do not have to be questioned – there is a German saying: People who
are well organised are just too lazy to search for things. Now, I won’t say that
I am well organised but at least my life is – despite all other impressions I
might occasionally give – very much caught in routines; and this is just
another expression of the fact that I am actually unable to live.
Did you ever read texts from the great novelist Aleksandr Sergeyevich
Pushkin? I do not remember in which piece, but once he wrote about two
ladies and their conversation during a private evening reception. The two are
talking about a singer who performs a beautiful song with his stunning voice.
And the lady’s talk goes somewhat like this: Look at him. Listen to this voice –
beyond words. He can do everything with it. – The other lady, laconically,
retorts Well, Love, you are right – the voice is startling. However, if he really
can do everything with it I am wondering why he doesn’t buy proper trousers
with it. This little scene comes back to me when I am told I would pack my
suitcase with fantasy. At least the result of the preparation is not really a
positive expression of fantasy: t-shirts, light shoes... – why didn’t I trust more
in the calendar which would have told me: it is going to be winter.
Things are sorted in the meantime – I regain certain routines: know the route
for my jogging, know where the public pool is and its opening hours, know
when and where to do the shopping – and this prepares me for the many
other things, unforeseen and unforeseeable; the things for which one needs
fantasy, some strength and a kind of imperturbability.
After having been here, I finally moved three days or so later into my office –
just about 25 minutes walk from my flat. I am lucky to meet István in front of
the building of the university. He brings me there after being briefly in his
office. As on so many occasions I feel somewhat awkward: He shares an
office with three other people, and he shares his computer with one other
person. On the other hand, I have my own office; and although I do use my
own laptop, I have another computer there. I am in the office for only a short
time when somebody comes along – well, actually two people come along.
Gábor is the first, he wants to arrange a meeting for a kind of inaugural
lecture to the staff of the department – ‘EU enlargement and the meaning
for social work in the old and the new EU member states’, a vast field and
though it is one of the presentations I will have to work on quite a lot in
preparation, it is an exciting topic. It will be an opportunity and challenge:
Zsuzsa Ferge, an old colleague and in the meantime friend, has asked to
arrange the meeting in a way that she can join and ‘co-present’. I am really
flattered. While Gábor Juhász and I are talking, a second person knocks at
the door: I was asked to connect the computer to the Internet. – I am near to
crying as I know another place where such little things do not happen at all or
at least it takes a very, very long time.
So, besides routines there is something else: privileges may be one term to
grasp it, another term is appropriation. At the end it is simply the control
over a situation. I am becoming aware of it just this moment – and in this
position – in positive terms as I am at least to some extent in control of what
is happening. Though the new tasks are not easy, there is something with it
that allows me to deal with the situation rather than giving me the feeling
that I am the object of the situation. It is the feeling and knowing of being
part of something and having at last some influence and control.
How different were these first days – nice in a way. The exercise was to get
acquainted with the place which would be for some time now my home. But
I was simply thrown into the water, left alone paddling – Just take your time,
enjoy life and get around. If you need anything, if I can do anything for you, just
give me a buzz. – Well, the first task I faced was to find out where to buy a
knife, as despite having everything else, the flat lacked one. It took me about
two to three hours to find one. Souvenirs, clothes, coffee shops, restaurants
– everything. Even a most beautiful market – the English market in Cork
would blush. It is a market where local residents and tourists meet. And it is
probably good advice to watch out: where do the locals do their shopping?
The others might be just tourist-vampires, attracting the sightseers with the
local colours, the tourists indeed behaving like mosquitoes when they see
the folklore – and pay every price for the ‘romanticisms’ of the goulash, the
pepper, the salami... and the ‘real gypsy culture’. Here is not the place to
think about members of the travelling community, the Sinti and Roma. I see
all these shops, stands and markets – but for a long time I do not see a shop
to buy something very simple: a knife for the kitchen. And as nice as all this
is, as little I lack: nevertheless, in some regard I feel somewhat lost.
Sure, I had been in Bruges – the worst of all nice places: a ‘life museum’,
difficult to imagine that people are actually living there; I know Vienna with
which Budapest is usually compared, a place where the tourists are
dominant but where ordinary people from Vienna can also be found. But it is
not really a place one lives – usually they live at least not directly in the
centre, at least just a little bit aside. It is different in Budapest. To be more
precise: I am living in Pest whereas I am working on the Buda-side of the city,
rarely going there for any other reason than work or swimming (the pool is
just the other side of the bridge, seven minutes walk perhaps from my flat).
These first days are somewhat meaningless for me – I see things, I enjoy
things but there is one burning question: I have to live here now... and what?
Is it living with the tourists? Just with the colleagues?
One evening as I am maundering back to the flat, the phone rings. Peter –
Yes, speaking. Who is it? – Alice here. I was just thinking... –Alice, good to
hear from you. Are you back from hospital? Didn’t dare to contact you as I
knew that your broken rib... –Ah, that is OK, well, at least so far. Any plans
for the evening? I have had plans for the evening – just having a bite to eat,
then writing some stuff which I have to get ready for the publisher. No, not
really. We could meet if you are free. Alice, whom I know from a European
project and who is working here for the Red Cross, is free. I’ll be there in
about 15 minutes, OK? We can meet in front of the house. We go for dinner –
a really nice place, in the style of one of those nice Vienna-style coffee
houses. Packed with tourists, and packed with locals. Sitting there I am
wondering if this is a film or if films are real life? – Maybe I am just
schizophrenic, which would not make a major difference to the answers of
the questions asked. It is simply a nice spot, with its mundane cosmopolitan
character. – It is the beginning of settling, as even here in this extraordinary
place, something which is ordinary: people’s lives, people who are there not
to look at something from outside, but who are involved, engaged.
How many melodies...?
As so often, while being in unknown terrain my jogging is not just different in
terms of the route – it is different as well with respect to the parallel
entertainment. Usually I listen to any audio book – there is a good range
available and it is nice to fill the time with readings on Aristotle (or from
Aristotle, such as his The Nicomachean Ethics, though of course, not read by
him,), or some more light reading such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron,
Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls or Dan Brown’s Illuminati etc.
However, as even the lightest reading requires some attention, I prefer to
switch to music – easy listening is the best so it is not clearly defined – while
entering a new field with all the attractions and distractions. Everything is
getting so simple, easy going – even a song, like the one on The Bare
Necessities from the Jungle Book, is not really about reducing activities on
what is essential but is about enhancing essentials to activities – again, and
in another form: appropriation. Actually, although I do it virtually everyday, I
don’t really like jogging – it is sometimes dangerous (I have stumbled over
the root of a tree more than once), sometimes dirty (just running like mad
across the dirty country roads on a nasty and wet morning), it is quite dull (as
the audio books are not really an intrinsic part of it) – and it is demanding:
moving the body of which the engine apparently has to work like the engine
of a tractor while ploughing a wet field. Why I do it nevertheless? I like to
have it done – just to feel better. But an amazing experience again and again
is that jogging with music, rather than with more or less demanding listening
and thinking, gives the feeling that everything goes quite easy – the heavy
engine of the tractor develops into a light and flexible mechanism, gives the
feeling of gliding like a sailing yacht through smooth water – the rhythm of
the music fosters the running, the sprint seems to give even more beat to the
songs. Any resistance fades away – and allows one to develop more
strength, more resistance and pouvoir.
Sure, this works in a very complex interaction – individual, rhythm,
conditions – all and more go hand in hand to mutually enrich and stimulate
each other. And depending on the exact interplay, the results are quite
different. As much as we find examples where music is being used as means
of subordination – the slave galleys the most expressive example and also
illustrated by the Blues and Jazz-culture which emerged as a ‘means to
cope’. We also find music as a means of protest and resistance – expressive
and fostering action. Military marches – fostering, if not forcing cadence and
at the very same time focusing on a common goal, giving strength by giving
the impression of having something in common: one goal and one step. But
also the more or less chaotic culture of the sympathy of the devil
– the
music and wider cultural scene of the subculture of the 1960s – the merging
of a culture of Uncle Tom in his hut
– caught in subordination and the
search for ways to muddle through the subordination, coping with the blues
– with the partisan outcry of a protest culture, ridiculing the ruler by
imitation and infestation. Jimmy Hendrix, The Star-Spangled Banner,
performed in Woodstock, is a pronounced example in this respect, having
earlier expressions in the dodecaphonism (‘twelve-tone technique’)
composed and set in scene by people as Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg,
Alluding to a song by the Rolling Stones.
Of course, alluding to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin or A Life
Among the Lowly
Alban Berg and Anton Webern; however, all this is only a culmination of the
earlier forms of outbreaks. For instance the rock and roll culture preceding
Jimi Hendrix – all started with a more rhythmic stress of resistance which is
dormant in the reclusiveness of the blues, creeping into a mainstream
protest of the pop culture, culminating in the brisk refutation of the
establishment – and finally ending again in the living rooms of the new
establishment – the hits of the once protesting Beatles as evergreens played
by the Big Bands of the times.
Well, all this is not just a brief – and truncated – history of music and protest.
It is also dealing with a fundamental question, namely asking How many
melodies can a society sing at the same time – and how many melodies, how
many songs are actually necessary for a society to be one? A society with only
one song will be as limited in its powers to sustain integrity as a society in
which too many songs are acted
at the same time. And as much as music is
a perfect example, expressing this dialectical tension between the two poles
of Aufhebung, the same tension can be seen everyday – again and again,
dealing with ‘social’ issues as much as it is part of individual life. As much as
the rhythm of the music possibly eases the double quick by establishing
harmony, it helps as well to build up tensions, makes us think – and find our
own rhythms within the orchestra.
– The first morning for me to go to College – everything looks a little bit
different now, though I walk the first mile or so the very same way from my
flat at the Duna Ucta, as I did the days before. People going to work, the bus,
stopping more or less in front of my house spits out a large number of people
– that there is no huge gate of an industrial site shows: Budapest, at least
Budapest city is not an industrial place though it is without any doubt
Just after having walked some hundred yards, I see somebody sweeping the
pavement – against the wind. Well, there are often many reasons to act
against the stream, not going the same way as the many. But it has to be
appropriate. In some cases it can and should be done, in some cases it can
and should be done though the price may be high, and at the first sight too
high. In some cases it is simply impossible – the stream is too strong, only
knowing exactly the rules – the undertow and craggedness – can help finding
the rules of overcoming the hindrances, of dealing with the obstacles. Good-
Will may help, but it cannot move mountains. Freedom is not about living
without laws – natural laws, laws of social behaviour, political systems and
economic frameworks. Freedom is to know all about the laws and rules, thus
Yes, this kind of songs is acted – nobody can simply sing them or perform them on
any instrument.
being enabled to deal with them. Freedom of will might suggest different
interpretations but freedom suggests different actions, actions aiming for
change – and of course, Marx’ definition of freedom springs to mind and so
do the Theses on Feuerbach.
There is a poetic version on the topic – a song by Bettina Wegener (thanks,
Sind so kleine Hände, winzige Finger dran. Darf man nie
drauf schlagen, sie zerbrechen dann.
Sind so kleine Füße mit so kleinen Zeh'n, darf man nie drauf
treten, könn' sie sonst nicht geh'n.
Sind so kleine Ohren, scharf, und ihr erlaubt: Darf man nie
zerbrüllen, werden davon taub.
Sind so kleine Münder, sprechen alles aus. Darf man nie
verbieten, kommt sonst nichts mehr raus. 17
(uncorrected; taken from http://www.c-
Of course, any society, being built on some kind of homogeneity or
cohesion, has to balance carefully the relationship of independence,
interdependence and dependence. In this sense it has to look at how many
melodies can be played within this one orchestra and how it still remains an
overall chorus. Walking further, again passing the large market hall, I have
to think again about gipsy music and discrimination of the travelling people.
More than once I fell over it – the ‘marketisation’ of the romantic culture of
your travelling people versus the harsh discrimination and defiance of the
‘tinkers’; the celebration of our gipsy music and culture versus the betrayal of
any rights of the Roma and Sinti living here in my country – the only right
being that the neglect is now geared to a people who have a politically more
correct denotation; the holocaust that happened in the ‘new Germany’
where homes of asylum seekers and ‘dirty niggers’ were burned down by
neo-fascists – fathers, mothers and children were killed under the applause
Free translation – PH:
So small the hands with tiny fingers added. Never beat them as they then will break
So small the feet with tiny, tiny toes. Never ever step on them as then they’ll never
So small are the ears, sharp – and please accept: Never shout as they’ll be deaf from
So small is their jaws, they’ll tell you everything. But never forbid as that might close
them forever.
of the national residents – and in the city centres people kindly applauded,
listening to the vivid music by black people – and these black children are so
sweet, aren’t they?
Now, thinking about all these contradictions, I finally arrive at Eötvös Loránd
University – my department – Szociális Munka és Szociálpolitika Tanszék – is
accommodated in an impressive new building, co-financed by the EU. As
said, I meet István, otherwise I would not have found the place. And as I ask
for apologies when he shows me the office that I do not have to share, he has
a kind reassurance for me: That is the advantage of getting old. – Thanks,
István – He does not see my smirk and I am really grateful, perhaps not
especially with regard to the last remark but for the general friendly and
warm welcome.
This is my first teaching day as well – I will meet the students early in the
afternoon. Of course, after the first introductory remarks (more chitchat
than anything else), it is time to ask the students to present themselves – I
only had been told that they are ‘working somewhere as social workers’ and
that they sometimes travel long distances from their places of residence and
work to attend this course, which they need for their PhD. At this stage they
just talk a little bit about their background – from where they come from and
where they go to? (you may remember this question?). If I remember it right,
just one out of the group is actually working as a social worker. The others
are in different positions, mainly with the central or the regional
government. Right – I am slightly sighing, however in a way that nobody is
becoming aware of it. In a way it is the game I had been told I would join.
However, the players are poles apart from what had been said – experience
matters; the rules are slightly different – the students are not writing and get
some additional information, but the lectures should also be some seminary
études; and the table is altered – despite having a policy background already
the experiences are quite different, depending on their nationality (students
from Hungary, Italy, Norway) and on the stage they are at (first to third year
students of the course). Briefly I close the eyes – a matter of seconds only,
just long enough to think: You didn’t know it, but you know it. The second part
of the thought meaning: I know now what it is all about. And it means: I
probably know enough to tell them something which is worthwhile and new
for them.
These are interesting hours – after struggling for a couple of minutes with
appropriateness. After laying some general foundations and talking about
methodology, after facing the usual difficulties – we do not need
methodology, we have the ‘terms’, followed by my answer: what you have
are flowery phrases, set phrases. But if you want to govern rather than to
work for the government, if you want to be in control of a situation rather
than rule, if you want to interact rather than act, you need the readiness to
question all these lapidary concepts – we enter a debate. Well, at least after I
talked for the usual lengthy 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Part of the presentation is concerned with what we may call a historical shift.
As said, before we come to that, we talk about methodological questions. I
introduce the social quality approach, highlighting that it allows to go
beyond social policy as a normative setting of ‘being good’ and working on
‘problems’. Social policy has to be defined rather than taken as matter of the
given institutional system. Social policy is not social policy because
somebody said this and that is social policy. Social policy is policy that is
dealing with the social – thus we have to define what the social is about. A
slight disorientation amongst the students; but what harm – roughing up
government cadres is not something new for me.
And in a way this leads on to the next surprise – after I had been surprised by
what kind of students I would be teaching, and they had been surprised by
the outlook that something cannot be taken for granted even if the rich
uncle from America or Europe came at the end of the last century,
supposedly bringing them all the wisdom. The third surprise is that we are
going on to look at differences within the seemingly equal. One of the many
terminological traps in which we fall several times a day while talking about
social policy is the mixing of terms such as poverty, exclusion and inclusion.
Of course, first (at least after the word as such which supposedly was the
very first as it is said in the bible) was poverty, simply being concerned with
the harshness of not having sufficient resources to maintain oneself.
Although this seems to be very simple and a longstanding question we have
already several questions arising from here: What are the real needs? What is
the appropriate answer of supporting people without creating dependency?
What is the responsibility of society and what is the responsibility of the
individual? Is society the state? Is it the people or part thereof? Is there
anything that civil society has to take responsibility for and if so, which kind
of responsibility? What is the role of the Church? Names such as Thomas of
Aquinas, Juan Louis Vives and others spring to mind – in terms of time we go
back to the medieval ages. And a closer study is interesting as it shows many
parallels with the discussions we have today – and discussions as well which
we avoid, ousting theses issues on grounds of ideological blindness.
Questions of poverty dominated for a long time – Peter Townsend being one
of the outstanding colleagues, who showed that, though it is about the lack
of resources, it is in combination with this more: deprivation. As such, it is a
matter of lack of appropriate control. As much as we found already in the
early phases of the discussion – with Aquinas, Vives etc. – despite all the
differences and disregarding all the different national policy conclusions, a
kind of European debate, we find this as well in the middle/second half of the
last century: Peter Townswend’s work was complemented for instance in
Germany by the Lebenslage-concept as promoted by Gerhard Weisser and
particularly in France there was a wide debate on this – finally concluding in
the rejection of the term poverty. There, not poverty, but social exclusion is
at stake. It cannot elaborated how this links into the system of Jacobinist
understanding of the state. In any case, it was an important shift, also
overcoming ideological differences to some extent – for instance Pierre
Bourdieu worked extensively on a new concept, linking poverty, exclusion
and inclusion to the availability of different kinds of capital. However, now
the European debate was a different one. Whereas in medieval times the
debate had been led in the widest sense by representatives of humanist
enlightenment, the new European debate was, though originally a
somewhat politico-academic debate,
now overshadowed and
instrumentalised by policy makers. To them, the shift to exclusion was
welcome not in terms of a more differentiated approach on the way of
combating poverty. Rather, talking about exclusion was kind of ‘overcoming
poverty’. Looking at the major players in the EU-political debate of the time
in question – France, Germany and the UK – the picture has to be drawn with
respecting fine lines. In France, the concept of social exclusion followed very
much the academic endeavours: poverty – and this is what we are still
dealing with. It can only be overcome when it is understood as a matter of
disadvantage and exclusion – as a multifaceted occurrence for which the
individual cannot be made responsible, but for which society has to be made
answerable. Although it had been in France that the term exclusion had been
born, it was still understood as a matter of poverty. And as government at
the time did not fundamentally question its own responsibility, it was in one
way or another a confession of feebleness.
Germany found another way
One actually could say it had been lead by a kind of ‘social reformist academic
international’, comparable with the national Katheder-Socialisten and the
Centralverein für Socialreform in Germany end of the 1800s/early 1900s.
Actually it is in state philosophical terms a quite difficult question. As said, the link to
Jacobinism plays an important role. This means, however, that there are two
readings. The one says, government, state, society etc. neglected the people in
question, not giving them sufficient support. The other reading is that the
government, state, society etc. had not been able to sufficiently control the
individuals, forcing them to integrate (may be that I write something on this in the
article which I published together with Frances Zielinski: The Systems of
Guaranteeing Sufficient Resources in the Republic of France and the United Kingdom
out of it – not admitting such weakness. The German government at the
time (Kohl) simply declared that poverty cannot exist: Everybody in need has
the right to claim benefits and consequently poverty could not be possible –
the new slogan was ‘overcome poverty’.
Eating with Closed Eyes
How was it possible?
– I remember sitting once with a chap from the German government for
lunch – it must have been in the early/middle 1990s. It had been the time
when the German government began to move from Bonn to Berlin – still, at
the time only few people had been there, including this senior official from
the ministry for housing, urban and regional planning etc. His personal
portfolio in the ministry was to deal with questions around housing and
poverty. We talked about our jobs – kind of general mutual nosing, just as
dogs do in general. I won’t forget what he said: Just last weekend I went out
for a walk – the usual Sunday family business. I was quite surprised as we
walked a different way, not the one we usually take. It had been the first time
that I saw there are actually people sleeping rough. We came along a kind of
shanty town... – No, I did not begin to cry, no, I did not shout at him nor did I
say something as Sorry, didn’t know. And you actually never told me that you
are nearly blind. As said, at that time he lived there for about three months. It
had been in Berlin, actually it had been October. But this October nothing
happened – everything remained quiet. The machinery of the government
moved on to overcome poverty which did not exist because they did not
want to see it. The machinery went on to settle ever deeper in all parts of
Germany, promising blossoming landscapes – places which hold today the
highest rates of unemployment. As blind as people from governments
sometimes are and as visionary they are on other days, I can well imagine
that my then partner for lunch would see the blooming field in that part of
Germany that looks to others like ghost towns, nicely furbished for a gloomy
Progress !?
As much as the German government was keen to see poverty as being
overcome, the UK found it easier to accept social exclusion as a new formula
– at the end it meant that poverty was not at all a matter in question.
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; in: Herrmann [Ed.]: Between Politics and
Sociology: Mapping Applied Social Studies; New York: Nova Science, 2003: 31 – 76).
In any case mind, much changed over the last years.
Everybody could be excluded – sure, everybody has the right to sleep under
the bridges across the Seine and even the very rich are not excluded there –
and sure that the same is true for the Thames. But there are always
processes of exclusion – even the very rich person who is bound to the
wheelchair is excluded from climbing up the stairs. And of course there are
serious issues around this. However, to use exclusion in this way and
replacing the debate on poverty by it, means in a way to trim the problem of
severe material deprivation as it can be found in the so-called well developed
In a way, for some time exclusion was taken as a compromise, as a formula
under which everybody could discuss what was seen as worthwhile to be
discussed. All thinkable policy measures could be dealt with under this
generalist – and watered-down – formula. It meant as well that another
three or four years of programs to combat poverty, sorry to fight exclusion,
had been secured. And this meant that progress was made – and was
planned as well. The idea was to develop another European programme as a
This time, however, it was not to do even with exclusion but... –
no way to go back to poverty – a notion which actually was now more on the
agenda in France then before, after they mentioned the misuse of the
exclusion formula. No, the new idea was to focus on integration – the short
title of the program was in actual fact PROGRESS. With this, progress was
bound to inclusion; and inclusion meant integration – and this meant
integration into the labour market.
Progress ?!
It was a long way to develop this – I am standing in front of the class, looking
into the faces of the future senior government officials. Being thrown into a
world – after the systems changed and occupation by Tesco, M&S, C&A,
Auchan, Pennies, BMW, Rover, Nike and all the others – of which they didn’t
now anything before. How much progress is actually possible for a people
who are in time forced to accept a history that is not their own – well, is it not
their own?
How many melodies can a people bear as well in terms of different
conductors? Though it had been a long time ago – too long to be in any
direct way tangible – it is something that affects me. The current situation
can only be understood by looking at the recent history – the exhibition of
black and white photographs in the Citadel hotel reminds in a frightening
It failed in the middle of the 1990s, but was revived in a modified form just short time
way what happened during fascism – and the massively destroyed city still
carries some of the abrasion. The bunker on the top of the hill, three floors,
huge, massive and not just in terms of the mere aspect of building, but
stating the contrast to what is exhibited in the rooms: the intellectual
weakness of a system of which the only means of appropriation was the
brisk use of carnage, the suppression of a people which was only kept
together by external force anyway.
Supposedly Chiçin£u, which I visited before, is a city bridging orient and
occident. What I never experienced as a strong feature there, is so visible
here in Budapest – a walk across the market gives just one expression. And
this is just one of the splits which had been so typical for the country: aspects
of multiculturalism and multi-nationalism, moments of different religions
(the Jews have been a strong group here for many decades) and of different
traditions. The various occupations – and with this a kind of disruption
between east and west, an inner conflict in terms of belonging. And there
was always somebody who openly claimed the role of the conductor –
positioning himself in front of an orchestra that did not really want to play
the tune.
Of course I am not reminded of fascism as the only occupier. Another
‘German’ intrusion goes further back. One recent day in Budapest I saw a
book on Sissy – this is the nickname for the Austrian Empress.
And it is not
only this that brings another role of the former Germany back to mind – the
‘Vienna coffee houses’, the glamorous Opera house which can compete with
all other music pavilions of the Austrian monarchy, the literature I see –
simply the vast amount of volumes in German language in the antiquarian
bookshops and as well in the shops of the LIRBI trade chain. Much of this is
linked to one name: von Habsburg. Despite all that I see around, there is
‘another something’ which tells me how near history is – or should I ask how
close history is, then taking the meaning of bone-crushing of the term close?
– I am still not sure if it is just one of the dreams – though nightmarish – I
apparently have when sitting in one of the old coffee-houses.
Traveller’s Rest
– I know that travelling makes it somewhat difficult to maintain a certain
stability, to enter into regular relationships – be they in private life or be they
a matter of overall identity. But I know as well that travelling, with open eyes
establishes relationships – establishes friendships across various borders:
Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie, Duchess in Bavaria and Princess of Bavaria (December 24,
1837 – September 10, 1898), of the House of Wittelsbach.
spatial, political, professional... . And it establishes a new relationship to
oneself: acknowledging the own smallness, and allowing to see yourself still
as being part and parcel of a larger system: executing a role in society and
contributing to its development in one or the other direction; being part of
the entire history, its largeness, its precincts and its eccentricity.
It is only from here that inclusion, societal integrity – be it sustainable or
temporary – can actually be understood – from the new relationship we gain
from travelling and which may force us to leave some of the old kith and kin
Sind so kleine Augen, die noch alles seh'n. Darf man nie verbinden, könn'
sie nichts versteh'n.
Sind so kleine Seelen, offen und ganz frei. Darf man niemals quälen,
geh'n kaputt dabei.
Ist so'n kleines Rückgrad, sieht man fast noch nicht. Darf man niemals
beugen, weil es sonst zerbricht.
Gerade klare Menschen wär'n ein schönes Ziel, Leute ohne Rückgrad
hab', wir schon zuviel.
(uncorrected; taken from
Sitting again in my room in Brussels I am asking myself – as so often – such
questions: integration, history, being part of something. And how much
backbone is needed and possible on the one hand. And in which way and to
which extent is integration and inclusion possible and necessary –
integration and inclusion by way of identity building. Questions usually
hidden in every day’s work. I remember the students on Monday in Budapest
– amazing how easy it is for them to listen, listening attentively as soon as I
am talking about something they already know, and how difficult it seems to
Though I am talking about travelling in terms of physically moving from one place to
another it is not really this – what is more important is the ‘life’s journey’. The
development of personality, the establishing the own character and with this as well
the changes of it can well be seen as journey as well – and here the same applies –
gaining new friends, establishing new insights can and will mean in many cases to say
farewell to others.
Free translation – PH:
So small are the eyes and still they see it all. But never blind them as they will stop
them to understand
So small their souls, open, absolutely free. Never shall you torment them, as that will
smash the will.
So small the spine, it nearly can’t be seen. Never try to bend it as this will break it
Clear, straightforward beings – that would be a goal to strive for; people without
backbone? We already have enough of them.
be open for something that is entirely new. – It is here in the room on the 3
floor in the house in the Rue de Pascale where the connection of seemingly
remote things is coming to my mind: experiences and impressions of living in
Budapest, things we talked about in class – in Budapest, Chiçin£u and Cork –
and matters that had been subject of the talks with the representatives of
the EUC that afternoon. The question being, can we build a new, now
European society although the old society still is a manifest challenge?
It is late – my thoughts mix with memories of the recent cultural eventThe
Gala Concert at the Budapest Opera with one remarkable interlude.
V. 15–30/11/2006
Painters, Conductors and Directors
I am a little bit drowsy, hearing a voice, directed to me: Ti senti bene? Tutto a
posto? – Si, Beh
beh, soltanto un po' stanco di camminare sempre. Avevo
solo bisogno di una pennichella.
Didn’t she speak Italian? Am I not in Budapest? My eyes get caught by the
letters and logo on my linen bag – right, from there she could assume from
where I might come. It is only after some seconds that I find where I am: a
szépmüvészeti museum
in Budapest where I sat down and slept my daily 10-
minute-nap (well, daily, if I get the 10 minutes which usually happens four
times per year – not much to make good for the nights-sleep – I manage
nearly every night to miss that). Looking up again, my eyes get caught by
huge posters: Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt van Rijn. Right, the museum,
indeed. A truly European place, gathering all the traditions and bringing
them together in one place at one time. Or is it the other way round: they
had been together – a large Europe which is now more and more dispersed –
globalisation, rather than creating one world, evoking a split of competing
nations, bound together by ‘capital flowing through broadband connections’
but only to underline the competition of these states – a competition which
is seemingly at least for some time calmed down by what Lenin called
something like a temporary equilibrium after the world powers distributed
the countries amongst themselves.
Sitting here for a little rest, I remember as well the evening with the Gala
Concert in the Magyar Állami Operaház (State Opera). Another gathering of
Europe, actually of the world. Sure, most of the pieces performed had been
European – arias from Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi’s Nabucco, from
Amilcare Ponchielli’s Gioconda and Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot.