Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Policy shifts within the European Union


A mild form of human aspiration to unite for the sake of peace and economic growth seems to be entailed in the objective of the European Union when claiming to strive for 'smart, inclusive and sustainable development' in its EU 2020 vision.

In practice the European Union is far from following through this vision with inclusive practices. Rather 'insiders' define and shape the redistribution of the resources by exclusive methods so that citizens remain largely outside even overt public consultation processes designed to take only the most articulated opinions into further consideration. Mainly it is said that the European Commission does not really listen to any advise, never mind takes not of the critical voices wishing to address discrepancies between an envisioned future and a lack of a common future. This has become even more evident during the mounting crisis since 2009 affecting not merely single member states like Greece, but the entire European project.

Most crucial for the time being is that both the decision process and the funding procedure (allocation of resources) have become so complex that it is no longer possible for conditions of transparency and accountability to be met by any standard in a satisfactory way. Even worse, the European Union has contributed through its explicit recognition of the role of the member states to a re-nationalization of its programmes.


Policy shifts as explanation for major shake ups of society and economy

Jürgen Habermas links major shifts in policy to key events:


Habermas sees the danger of economic policy becoming a 'Weltanschauung' but he does not mention Kosovo 1999.

Something else bears out the fact that whenever a city or place like Sarajevo develops into a multiple cultural identity place, then it is going to be destroyed. It is as if national forces do not wish other identities gaining a hold of mainstream politics. It can be attributed within Europe to a failure of cultural policy to uphold cultural diversity.


Let us come back to Zygmunt Bauman for a moment. After he commented on the poets producing national songs, he added the following evaluation of the situation:

"It is not importnat what people talk about in their sitting rooms. What truly counts is what is being cooked in the kitchen and who are the cooks" - Z. Bauman, Europe of strangers, p.3

This is only half the truth since cooks orientate themselves to still other masters.

Once when in Florenz, at the time of the knidnapping of Aldo Moro, an Italian politician of the Conservatives, who was later killed, there was a huge commotion. Everyone came to the main square to shout political slogans linked to the specific party symbol and flag to which they felt connected with: the Left, the Right, and the Middle etc. It was like Altdörfer would have painted all over again the famous Alexander battle in which Alexander the Great defeated the Persian king Darius and thus sealed the fate of both West and East with regards to advancement of another culture upon Europe. The interesting thing about this painting is that it can be used to reflect how people tend to follow flags and symbols since political parties organize the public sphere the popular will and thereby alters already the political sentiment in the way things are perceived and strived for at what price and especially compromise. However, the political identity does not rest there.

As one man on that square said that day: "People, why are you so excited? Don't you see that we work so that the rich can eat and it is their taste which determines the direction politics shall take!"

He said something of real importance. What taste really counts? Even in politics likes and dislikes can decide the fate of a politician seeking election. At times it is elevated to one who appeals especially to women like Obama or else to white men like Romney. But beyond these superficial guesses as to who appeals to whom, there is taste everywhere. It can be found in the design of cars just as much as how styles in clothing evolve once new models display novel clothes on the cat walks. It is incredible on how fashion, design and logos intertwine as if everyone is keen to find out exactly what is it, that makes managers on the top floor cry out: "this is it!" And if there is any doubt, Coca Cola did manage to keep secret its formula as to why its drink tastes the way it does. It is a taste which is immediately recognizable and as such can be something anyone can easily become addicted to. The same goes for coffee or the other pleasures in daily life like fresh baked bread just coming out of the oven. Sometimes these tastes change and the ones favored are now neglected. It can happen to models as much as to the many unknowns walking every day through the streets on their way to work. The timeline of taste is distinct. It is not just a myth when the sense of taste relates to more than the tip of the tongue but involves the eyes as well due to the use of colours. Ultimately it can become even a taste for power. The latter follows no simple rule once it becomes an addiction as well.


In every language, there is a search for ideas and more so a search for a wisdom which comes with something unexpected. Since Greek philosophy has set the tone, the search takes place within 'a grammar of life'. Closer observation of how language is used daily, that conveys a sense of logic. By deploying categories to signify this grammatical logic to guide use of language, it become important to distinguish between nomos (law) and physis (the physiscal or natural world). Crucial to experience this difference are Aristotle's lessons of categories since it is linked to theory needed to know the goals, in order to become practical. That means entering a relationship to reality allows through this empirical sense a knowledge of the problems in need to be resolved.

As for Z. Bauman, he writes about the unity of Europe as having become a reality:

The spectre of unity has managed to nest so safely for yet another reason: this time it behaved prudently, making little noise, avoiding excessive publicity and altogether trying to make its presence and its moves inconspicuous. Our "European Union" was not born on public squares, it did not start from public meetings and demonstrations. There were few pep-talks or harangues, little flag-waving and no frenzied mobs in the streets. Instead of bishops, kings or philosophers, it was the likes of Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi, Paul Henri Spaak and Konrad Adenauer, seasoned, adroit and cunning politicians, aware that deeds count more than words - who assisted at its birth. No one asked nations to agree, no one really explained what there was to agree upon - at least until things no more depended on nations' agreement. Whatever was done needed little preaching, few converting missions, no call to arms. As far as public opinion is concerned - even the "enlightened" opinion, let alone the "unenlightened" one - the unification of Europe went on through faitsaccomplis rather, than through the publicly fought battle of ideas. If protests were heard, as a rule they sounded when the point of no return had been already reached or passed.

Unified Europe has by now become a reality. It is as real as the reality of nations. It is not, however, the sole reality of the residents of Europe and still needs another reality to reckon with. The outcome of the battle between the two realities is not yet a foregone conclusion.“ Zygmunt Bauman, Europe of Strangers, op.cit. p. 3


Very different from taking the European Union having become a political reality, it has remained for many a mere fiction. Bart Verschaffel explains how such a fiction is to be understand (see http://poieinkaiprattein.org/europe/on-the-importance-of-the-idea-of-europe-and-the-disadvantages-of-its-realities-2/Europe-as-fiction/)

The disadvantages are due as Jürgen Habermas would point out in his criticism of the politics by Merkel which led to the shortcomings of the Lisbon Treaty, to the huge gap between citizens and European institutions. The latter exist in reference to terms set by the treaties, but are not based on the democratic will of the people directly. Hence it is doubtful that people of Europe understand themselves as Europeans in terms of citizenship.


Strangers in Europe

After all the hardships and experiences with nation states, it is crucial to revisit the political problems besetting any kind of government, in order to understand what it takes not merely at the level of ideas but how various responses would conflict with the very basic idea of what it takes to bring about a good governance. Here the political concept is linked to a recognition of those who bring about not merely change but know on the basis of ethics to advance active citizenship.

Z.Bauman has also somehow forgotten this theoretical aspect of becoming practical by praising the first unification of Europe as being not the result of an idea, but of a deed: facts are set before anyone could be consulted and thus there was no public outcry. Here he risks to outplay himself and does not see that he follows a popular outcry against theory. Already Kant had to deal with that dispute it may well be all good in theory, but in practice it is very different. That dispute has become a polemic form of negativity against politicians who talk too much, since what is wanted are not words but actions. This has even brought about support for Hitler as the only politician who would not only talk, but brought about such deeds as the construction of the autobahn to create jobs. All this echoes a saying by Goethe in Faust:

"Der Worte sind genug gewechselt, lasst mich auch endlich Taten sehn!" - Vielen Investoren dürfte das Zitat aus Goethes Faust aus der Seele sprechen.

Jean Pierre Faye made an analysis of the destructive force emerging out of 'Tat' Kreise (circles of deed) which sprang up everywhere in the Weimar Republic. Since his analysis of Totalitarian Languages is linked with that, we may see a repeat of the same tendency (see http://poieinkaiprattein.org/politics/is-there-a-new-totalitarian-logic-in-the-making---hatto-fischer/ ). Such a language leads to attempts to totalize the situation by making action be equal to saying something of importance, hence the strive for a deed! Hence total damage is often claimed by demonstrators who wish to create havoc, while those in favor of complete police repression favor as well an exaggeration of the situation since 'total damage' justifies 'total repression'. Quite different from such inflamed speeches is the comment by the BBC that there seems to hardly any damage and just a few buildings were burning.

Yet here already Shakespeare warned with his question 'if words suit the action or actions the words' not to neglect the critical distance needed between actions bringing about experiences and words which convey meaning and name things as they are e.g. making a person become unemployed is not a personal adaptation process as some managers would like to call it in order to hide the fact that they just fired someone.

No one remembers that such expulsion used to be the practice of the Polis if someone was found guilty. The alternative was to drink the hemlock as did Socrates since he preferred the sudden death to a life in exile i.e. away from the community to which you belong to. Yet this explusion has become a riddle in the sense that even a philosopher like Empedocles refused to return to his Polis in Agrigento after having been expelled. He did so with the words 'you can govern yourself better without me', thus stressing the need to gain independence from any leader or powerful figure, so as to gain in autonomy of governance.

Today Europe is being unified by expelling culture since it retains memories as to what would make a difference in reality. Thus the question is whether or not theory is still possible without culture for that would allow a discussion about different realities and not just one being implemented under the pretense of European integration and unification.


Habermas argues that Neoliberalism has become the 'Lebensform' – way of life. It makes all citizens not merely into consumers and clients, entrepreneurs and speculators, but also into competitors with emphasis upon such kind of competition which gives the possibility for the strongest to prevail. As this is another version of Darwin, Habermas calls this a Social Darwinism of market Fundamentalism. (Source: Jürgen Habermas, (2011) Verfassung Europas, Berlin: Suhrkamp, p. 105 - 6).

It comes close to what the philosopher Adam Chmielewsky developed as 'theory of attraction' and applied it to ensure a successful bid of the city of Wroclaw to the title of European Capital of Culture in 2016.

It is interesting to see how Habermas comments upon developments inside of Germany as he was always keen to promote justice and reason in contradiction to Post Modernism trends which want to decompose and deconstruct everything, in order to have a freedom to do things by not being burdened by contradictions.

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