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.