Old Men

Last week I came upon another recension of Walter Z. LAQUEUR’s new book “Mein 20. Jahrhundert. Stationen eines politischen Lebens”, Berlin 2009, paperback Berlin 2011 (earlier one). The reviewer mentioned what different reactions the positive mentioning of LAQUEUR’s name evoked from students, and I remembered that I saw LAQUEUR as conservative cold warrior while studying in the early 1980s. And I suddenly wondered – how old is the man now?
And the names HESSEL and ZIEGLER also flashed in my head.
Stéphane HESSEL (Ger., Eng.) (b. 1917) is actually 93 years old. His latest essay Indignez-vous! (Time for outrage!, Empört Euch!) was published in October 2010, and became a surprising success. The protesters of Spain (Ger., Eng.) expressis verbis refered themselves to his writing, it was cited by Portuguese and Greek protesters and intellectuals too.
Jean ZIEGLER (Ger., Eng.) (b. 1934, 77 years old) was invited to give the opening speech at the Salzburger Festspiele this year. He was disinvited, the official reason given was that he’d be too close to Gaddafi. The background is a pretty murky situation around the Gaddafi Prize, established 1989. ZIEGLER is controversial in different aspects, but his Salzburg speech is worth reading. Asked why he was kicked out he said that the Festspiele are sponsored by some very large corporations, food industries too, and the idea of this audience being unable to escape and forced to listen to him may have been a bit too much for some head honchos. He may be right.
Walter LAQUEUR (Ger., Eng., b. 1921) published his memoir “Best of times, worst of times” in 2010 (article). He chaired the International Research Council, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) from 1973 until 2002. Terrorism was subject of his studies long before 2001; the Cold War and its results, its Historisierung, historicisation,  is another topic. A headline calls him “The Wise Man“.
I remember when Françoise MITTERRAND (Ger., Eng.) (1916-1996) shortly before his death and already lined from cancer  visited the philosopher Jean GUITTON (Ger., Eng.) (1901-1999), to speak about life and its end. The German chancellor KOHL (Ger., Eng.) (b. 1930) shortly afterwards felt the need to visit Ernst JÜNGER (Ger., Eng.) (1895-1998) – again, MITTERRAND, KOHL and JÜNGER already had had supper together, on the 20th of July 1993.

Maybe its their independence. HESSEL reminds us that every single one has to make a decision, ZIEGLER calls for responsibility, LAQUEUR stands for a clear and honest view on things. Maybe this is only an interpretation, a projection, a wish. Younger generations only wish to find something like a reliable guideline, a living example, a role model standing the test of time we call history. Perhaps these old men help to form something like a European conscience or awareness, help to make the European utopy come true. Europe definitely can not be an affaire of the merchants alone, we already have to watch the helplessness of the politicos in the face of economic difficulties, “holy” “markets”, and plain speculation bubbles, gambling. In this process of forming a European social-cultural Bewußtsein these men may become symbols, projection surfaces: They do say things that are right, and hopefully it helps with the re-inventing of the great idea of a unified continent. I think things must be vocalised, articulated; only then the word has a chance to be of use. And maybe one must grow old to find independence and strength to speak out, to stop to lie.

14 thoughts on “Old Men

  1. I’m inclined to think we are more shallow over here. Sometimes, there is talk of ideas, but what we settle for is a clever slogan that can be reduced to a bumper sticker or t-shirt.

    “Yes, We Can” seemed compelling enough at the time, but the grim reality is more complex than that.

  2. I do not think that the American society is more shallow, the reducing of ideas to slogans works here too, especially in times of elections.
    What I can not understand at the actual situation is that some people seem to have absolutely no interest in solving the debt problem. As I understand there is no more money coming into the public cassa – the only way is to rise taxes. And that is seemingly equalled with selling the country to the terrorists. The usual “solving” was to print more money, and thus reducing its value.
    What buffles me is that it is a pure homegrown problem. Greece, Portugal and Ireland are different: The problems came from the outside, from the oh so holy markets, that did not trust these economies anymore. The same was tried with Italy and Spain, but these economies are too big and healthy, I think it is a realy dirty speculation. Finally the big banks were forced to accept the idea that a small part of their interest could go bang – the rest of all the imagined money has to be paied by the citizens, id est tax money.
    I think the President thought he could deal with reasonable and logic people, but found himself at the table with idiots who only saw a possibility to turn the wheel backwards and get rid of anything they do not want in legislation and administration. I fear that the basical problem will not be solved: America lives from borrowed money and makes not one single move to pay her dept. The danger of a real loss of trust and of an inflation is imminent.
    I guess the fundamental issue is that America in the end has no idea about what a centralized state is and could be, she does not understand its necessity: There is no res publica and no bonum commune. The traditional ideas like God’s choosen few, the land of the free versus the grey comunist gulag, all that does not work anymore. And the terrorists get a little worn at the edges. As long as “being free” and “liberty” means to earn money and take everything else for free, like infrastructure and an educated and healthy workforce, and not taking responsibilty for this and respecting the state that represents the articulated will of the citizens, nothing will change.
    And it will become worse, the situation will deteriorate for America, because the world around has changed: Bejing, Delhi, sooner or later an Arabian city and an African center of power will emerge. What the selfstyled remaining superpower actually shows is a dangerous farce. It’s not shallowness, but simple egoism, it’s simply a bit better domesticated here.

  3. I think the next few years will prove to be crucial – i dread to think where we are all heading. I feel as though I have my head in the sand… there is a huge crisis looming on the horizon which none of us alive today have ever experienced before.

  4. You are pessimistic, Ms Scarlet? Things always were shaky and a crisis is never far away. But there might be a difference, because the economic troubles came fast behind each other, in waves, and showed the helplessness of administrations, gouvernments and “regulation” bodies: They regulate nothing and in the end the state has to collect the remains and prevent the whole damn cardhouse from collapsing. It laid bare the shaky fundaments of all this we call economy. Maybe some people have understood a bit better now – but never mind, people learn nothing from history, especially those managment super humans, they invent leverage a new every generation and wonder when they go bang. Greed, hybris and irresponsibility in the knowledge of having the own arse covered by attornies. Ziegler is right saying that the famines are crimes.

  5. Okay, that was it: As I read here the President gave in, the idiots won. The road into depression is paved now. The next President will be this stupid broad Michelle Bachmann, because Palin is too dumb even for the fundamentalists.

  6. Heavens, Mitzi …
    Slowly but steadily I must get ready to crawl to the library … my back payne kills me. Think I will move to the 17th century again.

  7. I once read a book about a ghost house in England, where the spirit of a former inhabitant – a 17th century Pfarrer, vicar – uses the machine to communicate with contemporary people. It came in the disguise of a “documentary”, but I would categorize it as early mockumentary. I gave that book to my then teacher (1980s, second half) and never got it back. Of course I forgot the title …

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