Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Extreme Nationalism and xenophobic forces


In terms of history and the role Nationalism played to bring about both First and Second World War in Europe, there comes to mind what Adorno and Horkheimer foresaw already in 'Dialectic of Enlightenment' (1944) as the 'xenophobic forces' still being around even after Fascism has been defeated.

Something more needs to be said about this example. Adorno and Horkheimer show how philosophical concepts need to be independent from the phenomenon in need to be designated, in this case Fascism. For if man is to perceive human reality in all its shapes and dimensions, it matters that concepts attain a consistency over time. It follows that not only Facism as political state of affairs matters, but what else goes on and determines basic tendencies.

Generally speaking, it is crucial not to be blinded by either ideology or a wish not to confront an unpleasant truth. Nowadays it has become the common, equally coercive practice to only say positive things in public as if the system needs only positive success stories. No one seems anymore willing to criticize or to question the process when it entails in reality 'a corruption of the mind'. The latter can jeopardize very much the European project.

Instead of facing the truth, namely the failure of an entire system, all kinds of rationalizations are used to excuse that nothing can be done. A lot of discussions downplay the real issues as not being so bad and therefore not in need to be faced immediately. Time delays mean not everyone will respond at the same time, itself a sign that political manipulation is in play. Unfortunately to live with public lies makes it all the more difficult for any public truth to be heard in public debates.

To remind, Eastern Europe was until 1989 an example of sacrificing economic and human reality for the sake of upholding an ideology, and this despite the latter proving to be highly disfunctional in every sense of the word. And the opposite thereof is also not by definition a viable truth e.g. Havel support of the Iraq invasion of 2003 in the name of freedom by which he started the opposition to Communism rule an illustration thereof. Moreover proof is not entailed in what simply works. If that was to be the only measure for success, then there would be forgotten that cultural development was made possible by 'failures'. It would mean human aspirations have no place within such a system. Furthermore it would signify that in this system many things and people are not accommodated for and, therefore, left behind and outside.

Here the notion 'belonging to the main stream' figures greatly in what encompasses the whole problem of cultural adaptation and therefore what defines the ability to survive within such a system. In such a case upsetting is not merely the 'cutting edge' to distinguish losers from winners, but more so the very absence of an regulatory framework. The latter cannot be put in place if there is ethical vision of the human being. Likewise ancient Greek poets recognized already that to bring about a just society was no easy task, but out of this insight there can be deduced measures for the tasks ahead. In other words, if a system does not continue a learning process out of 'failures', including the failure to speak with the other and be mutual understood as human beings attempting to exist together on earth, but instead simplifies and suppresses the failure by stamping the other as enemy or as one not adapted to the rules of the game, then systematic suppression of the truth will shape the discursive practice.

That is to say, present events should not blind us when it comes to identify what are the underlining tendencies and forces which will manifest themselves in future. This shall be especially the case if negative tendencies are not countered in time e.g. the growing state deficit. As it is not easy to escape a self fabricated world of lies and false beliefs, references to human reality existing outside the scope of the system have to be retained. That is especially needed when a lack of independent knowledge needed to verify what is going on in reality leads to systematic failures. Once empirical studies based on sound research are lacking, false generalizations and hardened ideologies shall feed all kinds of speculations about reality. And once resignation due to a lack of public truths in public debates sets in, it will leave unchallenged basic presumptions although far reaching decisions are based on them. The apology given that people are not interested in politics or even worse they do not want to know the truth leads subsequently on to use of mendacity or to the 'love of the lie' (Martin Jay).

national identity and pride

One way to ward off unpleasant truths is to pretend one's own opinion and position is more than just that a conviction and an unrefutable identity, hence if challenged would mean insult and even worse a wounded pride. The poet Brendan Kennelly stated this reaction is only possible if it is forgotten that these opinions made into absolute truths are in reality original prejudices converted into convictions. Once the latter have become a national identity with all Greeks being special people others do not understand, then the difference between a real 'I' and identity taken on as part of socialization process will come into play.

Equally 'dignity' should not be confused with 'pride'. Yet this came into play when President Papoulias of Greece stated that he does not "accept having my country taunted by Mr Schäuble, as a Greek I do not accept it."

(source: "Don't humiliate the Greeks - the current crisis in 2012", 16.2.2012 Deutsche Welle, http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15745445,00.html?maca=en-newsletter_en_bulletin-2097-html-newsletter)

Even if Greece can be considered to be a sovereign country under modern terms, it matters whether or not a country is made into the equivalent of a person. Once a President of such a country can be offended by remarks made by foreign politicians, it shows that 'pride' is definitely in play when blocking out unpleasant truths. Furthermore, it means no outsider is legitimate to say something critical for otherwise this will be taken as an offense. Such sovereignty is equal to forbidding any outside interference. Interestingly enough Pablo Neruda named 'pride' as one of the first things in need to be abolished, for it leads to isolation.

The problem with the modern world is that national pride has become so ingrained, that any practical discourse can stumble and fail because of this readiness to be offended. It became evident when European politicians addressed the Greek government with regards to its economic problems and focused thereby solely on the 'sovereign debt' of Greece as something unsustainable. Even though a member of the European Union, the intermeshing of interests and financial accountabilities make it difficult to allocate responsibilities. Despite this the deficit is handled along strictly national lines. That is a huge mistake.

For one, it leaves out the European dimension even though the European Union plays a huge role in how Greece evolved. Alone the spending of huge sums of money has been facilitated by the EU agricultural and structural fund. Thus if the problem is to be tackled, clearly quite other than national terms have to be set, in order that real interests prevail in such a political process which allows the making of the right, indeed wise decisions. This is definitely not the case when the participation of citizens in the European project is not even foreseen in any future structural reform.

For another, the EU has adopted a managerial driven economic orientation towards competitiveness in terms of exports. Until 1999 economic and social cohesion were the prime goals, but then things changed for the worse. Not only the power structures shifted in favor of having a rapid intervention force to unify an expanding Europe from the outside, but the Euro meant to safeguard a redistribution system working in favor of the elites of Europe. It brought Europe ever close to what was depicted in the film 'What a lovely game war is'. It showed that people were kept in national compounds like sheep to prepare them to fight one another, while those making the decisions sat in common club houses to debating which strategies of war might salvage an outcome to their joint benefit. In fact, the inner European market no longer justifies upholding such fictitious differences between products made in Greece, Spain or Germany. Still, it makes a difference if olive oil produced in Greece ends up in Germany from where it is imported to Greece as a refined product. The extra value created by new equally devious chains of redistribution makes that possible, but does not make sense to the consumer in Greece. The labelling of the products as to their national origin does not make the least bit of sense especially when having a common currency and nowadays as well many productions having been outsourced to India, China or Indonesia. That means as well the EU fiscal-monetary driven policy has a trans-national character when it comes to regulate both the money flow and the banking system involved when such transactions take place across former national borders.

But the temptation to simplify means in reality to fall back to national categorizations of not only the Greek debt, but also the 'Greeks' who do not pay their taxes, go early into retirement, overcharge their professional services etc.

It is fair to say that 'wounded pride' has driven many countries into frenzy, the best example being America after 911. No longer able to uphold the myth of the strongest nation on earth, its wounded pride made the USA as dangerous as a wounded bear. Consequently the going to war in first Afghanistan, and then in Iraq can be viewed as a violent lashing out, even though a sign of a new kind of aggressivity which is only matched by a certain blindness to all the consequences. It is fair to say that the main contradiction to democratic principles was overlooked by seeking regime change in Iraq from the outside by first invading, and then not only tobbling but having Saddam Hussein being executed after a trial. It meant literally robbing the people of Iraq of the experience that regime change can be brought about as well by becoming a mature democracy which allows for peaceful transitions in power i.e. by holding free elections within time limits which even the president or prime minister must accept. It had been the main criticism of Communist regimes during the Cold War that they did not foresee a possible change in government by transparent and fair rules. With this emphasis upon non violence as key element of democratic change, the United States caused a severe rupture with this value premise when invading Iraq and before that Afghanistan. Till today it explains why Iraq has not found as of yet to such a social contract which embraces challenges to the system and to power as part of the democratic understanding of politics.

Moreover, it is to be expected that in a democratic world, that everyone can express his or her opinion openly and frankly. This means not only freedom of expression of opinion (not to be confused with artistic freedom) is valued, but also the freedom to be questioned and challenged in one' s opinion. This freedom of expression is not a normative ideal, but rather a real expression of cultural development. Bart Verschaffel states in his essay 'public truth and public space', that it took centuries before it was possible to challenge opinions expressed in public by others. Interestingly enough he relates this to how constantly the border line between private and public is redrawn, and which becomes crucial for upholding public truth in public space.

Narrative of the 'self'


In an interview to find out her own observations about the crisis unfolding in the Greece, the photographer Vourloumis exclaimed:

"We feel trapped," she says, "and the worst thing is waiting for [an] event to unfold blindly without us having any control of what is to happen." The austerity measures threaten more than the livelihood of the Greek people, she says, it's affecting their sense of national identity, one that is mired in pride.

Athens is a different city, Vourloumis says, and it's getting worse – even unstable. She believes it will take at least a generation to mend what she calls "the dysfunction of the Greek system."

With so many people out of work and more austerity measures looming, bad news has kept Greece in the headlines — and still Vourloumis is employed as photographer with the task to focus especially on signs of this crisis.

"It is a double-edged sword," she says. "I do sometimes feel uncomfortable."

"But that is why it is my responsibility to cover this story with as much sensitivity and respect as possible."

Source: February 12, 201 What Greek Austerity Looks Like by Kainaz Amaria



Outcome of nation building in 19th - identity depending upon the state

Very different is the question as to what identity can be assumed within society once governed by a certain state. According to Hegel's Philosophy of Law, before any individual can assume identity, there has to be answered the question how is it possible to gain recognition for one's identity? Hegel answers in a complex way:


Out of this can be followed that gaining in recognition and therefore in identity must be done in terms of practical existence within a world governed by the state whose law is based on property as rightful form of existence. That has many deep philosophical and political implications.

Michael D. Higgins would say the saga with fear has to be challenged. For fear surrounding the chances of gaining first of all an identity which is recognized by the state and secondly a personal identity after having gone through this self destructive process. This fear begins primarily with the socialization through the family and is extended by forms of education till the person feels to be a citizen of a certain state with a specific culture, language and understanding of 'law' but grows as a result afraid of anything strange in comparison to whathas become familiar to the socialization process.

In search of identity

The dilemma of needing to find an identity but destroying the 'I' in the process is basically the result of how the state and national identity were conceived and constructed in the nineteenth century. This process of self destruction has been reinforced by all kinds of dictatorships and totalitarian logics.

Once everything becomes dependent upon having to assume first of all an all assuming, equally abstract identity, underlined by an identification with the state but masked by being the representative of the nation, this identity without any further personal linkage becomes recognizable as citizen of this and no other state. The legal papers show that in the form of passport but also where the person pays his or her taxes. There is nothing left of any personal identity in this abstract one which compounds both nation and state. It gives rise to certain automatism as if belonging to a larger unity than the neighborhood or community which exist at local level and can be verified immediately. Rather allegiance to that state as a compounded nation expresses itself through symbols and narratives which make the citizen feel proud to belong to this nation state.

Since citizens is inter-exchangeable with soldier serving in the army of the state, the monopoly of the state over power as 'violence' becomes evident. This is a violence ready to be used whenever something in the interest of the state needs to be enforced. No where is this clearer expressed than in the German constitution which transcribes the sovereigny of the people onto the state by stating 'die Gewalt geht vom Volke aus' - violence enemates from the people. Without questioning this term 'Gewalt' - violence - it seems to automatically justify the state legitimizing itself through this act as if the citizens had given to the state this power, or rather 'violence' in the form of being ready to act. Another way to describe that is the enforcement of the law. Again in Germany something is amiss if the state could not enforce the law; hence 'die Durchsetzungskraft der Gewalt' - the violence to which everything must give way - is paramount to not questioning what the state does in the name of the people.

Once there is nothing left of the personal identity, then being someone unique as point of reference to being different and other from all the others does not exist or rather such personal identity has to stay outside the reality defined as being comprehendable by a state system ruling over individual lives as well through language and categories to order people. Michel Foucault would say precisely here the tension has to be held out by being both inside and outside the system. He would call that the anthropological and ethnological dimension of the so-called 'self understanding'. So-called because this is not a self made process but a self understanding which can be articulated, that depends on references gained through poetry, literature, the arts on the one hand and through other people recognizing this individual identity on the other hand. Again Michel Foucault would seek to understand the entire system of representation as a structured way to show who would be the key figure in the portrait painted to show the ruling power. Naturally a coin with its symbol being used as money in circulation entails as well such a representation, both directly of the state or common union and indirectly as an expression of the purchasing power behind money in circulation. That means there are powerful mechanisms at work to keep a society together and in terms of changing economic relationships as this substantiates power even in the sense of having 'success'.

When it was said above that the identity with the state is abstract, then because this self understanding and hence self recognition is impossible at that level. Recognition is only possible as a state related identity, hence as a German or Greek citizen. The latter cannot be used to get to know the specific Klaus or Kostas. Only their names reflect a common trend within a certain culture. Looking at such name giving acts, it underlines as well a disposition towards the one and not other state thought to ensure the continuity of identity in national terms.

Four principle factors come into play:

  1. Self destruction is one thing, destruction by complying to overt organizational principles quite another matter. If followed through someone who has given up a personal identity, will no longer be able to integrate others in his or her personal life, but only integrate with others in the same scheme of organizational disposition i.e. to serve the state first and everything else is secondary to this prime cause to be a member of this state.
  2. The destruction of personal identity leads to attempts to mask the true, but negative identity since now just an extension of the power of the state to uphold this identity. Since the state wishes to appear civil (not just brutal force), it will have to mask its naked power. This mask can be a national, and by extension, a cultural one, in order to appear civilized i.e. as someone who knows how to conduct oneself within the one and the same system because of sharing the same values with the others.
  3. Thus the link between nation, state and an identity based on the same value principles, as expressed by the constitution, is the system which allows for rational behaviour based on everyone having not merely a similar perception, but also expectation of things i.e. if you do that, then this will be guaranteed. The idea of living together and be protected by a state is to share values becoming laws which are followed by everyone. It ends up being a consensus of values or where certain aspects are not covered, the state has the Right to intervene to ensure compliance.
  4. There is an overlap between system and state for neither can function without the other. They appear as common rules even though business designs them while the state ensures that they are kept or upheld. Out of this emerges a general picture of rewards and sanctions while failures are punished just as not all identities are recognized as being compatible with the demands of the system. Given this context of existence within a society made abstract by the state to ensure a functioning economy and a market, it is clear that search for identity entails many ramifications as it is never self understood to take on a personal identity within this maze of demands and negations.

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