From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 20.07.2009

Wolf Lepenies remembers Leszez Kolakowski who, as far back as 1981, spoke out against cultural relativism: "Europe's strength, he emphasised, lies its ability to exercise self-criticism. In this sense European culture can claim superiority and not only defend its values, but spread them - without force - on a global scale. 'Thus, in the doubt which Europe entertains about herself, European culture can find its spiritual equilibrium and the justification for its pretensions to universality.'"

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 20.07.2009

Matthias Messmer raises the alarm: Peking is planning to tear down the historical centre of the 2000-year-old Uigur city of Kashgar on the silk route. "Kashgar would not only loses its unique architectural face, the century-old living and working spaces of the majority of the population would also be destroyed. Just like during the Cultural Revolution a piece of world history would be erased completely. According to the plans of the Chinese government, only 15 percent of the old houses would remain standing as a sort of open-air museum of theme park displaying Islamic culture to tourists from the world over and, of course, as testament to the tolerance of the Han Chinese, who make up the majority of the population."

Frankfurter Rundschau

In a background article Abbas Abdolmohamadi, describes how the Shiite clergy was corrupted by the Islamic Revolution, which brought it status and privilege. Until then such things has been the preserve of the state-financed Sunni scholars. "Sunni scholars have always had to, and still have to, accept guidelines stipulated by the state. They were always closely affiliated with the ruling politicians... The Shiite clergy, on the other hand, were financed by their followers and were therefore dependent on their respective ideas. There is little they can do against superstitions or the teaching of distorted religions traditions, for example. They are dependent on their believers and many of these are held in stasis by religious traditions handed down by their fathers. On the other hand the Shiite clerics were always politically engaged and sufficiently motivated to provide asylum for Shiite believers, defending their rights against the ruling powers."

From the blogs

(via f!xmbr) Jens Berger describes the connections between the CDU family affairs minister Ursula von der Leyen – who spearheaded the campaign to block child pornography sites (more here) - and Microsoft. "Software certificates, the certification infrastructure and the network technology involved is a billion-dollar business. So it can't hurt to get your foot in the door and try to make the problem appear worse than it actually is. Microsoft already has its foot in the door. The software giant is the exclusive partner and funding body behind the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). And the ICMEC also just happens to be the dubious source of information for Ursula von der Leyen's numbers and data, which she so loves to cite in defence of her plan to filter Internet sites. These numbers and figures cannot be taken seriously because their primary function is to construct a grotesque threat and then make lots of money combating it."

Die Welt 22.07.2009

Johnny Erling portrays the first Chinese stand-up comedian Zhou Libo, the 42-year old Shanghai star who is also extremely popular on the Internet.: "His sketch 'I'm crazy about making money' in which he lampoons Chinese leaders from Mao Tse-tung, Deng Xiaoping through to the ex-Party head Jiang Zemin who still lives in Shanghai, now has a cult following in the Internet. You can watch Zhou Libo performing on stage with his Shanghai dialect on Chinese Youtube, accompanied by Chinese subtitles."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 22.07.2009

Architectural historian Wolfgang Pehnt evaluates the vast Bauhaus 90th anniversary exhibition in Berlin and wonders what will happen when the centenary comes. "Play it again, Walter? Instead it might be worth considering a Bauhaus-free exhibition, which instead focuses on the important schools around this empty space, from Breslau and Frankfurt, Barcelona and Moscow, Milan and Stockholm, Prague and Rotterdam, which worked equally hard on the great modernism project. A Bauhaus exhibition without Bauhaus. This would be a real test of the prominence of this laboratory of ideas. After all, not the whole world was Bauhaus, Bauhaus was a very particular world within the world."

Die Zeit 23.07.2009

In a spine chilling article that spills over two pages the Romanian writer Herta Müller describes for the first time the terror to which she was subjected in the 80s by the Romanian Securitate. Her files are now in the hands of the Securitate successor, the SRI, and have been cleaned dramatically. Müller complains that Romanian intellectuals show so little interest in either having the archives opened or in the machinations of the secret police today – in which Ceaucescu's spirit lives on. She describes how she was interrogated: "They accused me of having sex with eight Arab students and receiving payment in the form of stockings and cosmetics. I didn't know any Arab students. But when I told the interrogator this, he said: 'If we want we can find 20 Arabs as witnesses. You will see, it will be a splendid trial.' Then he started throwing my papers on the floor and I had to bend down and pick them up. This happened 30 or 40 times. When I started getting slower, he kicked me in the back. From behind the door I hear a woman screaming. Torture or rape, hopefully just a recording, I thought to myself. Then I had to eat eight boiled eggs with green onions with salt. I choked the stuff down, gagging. Then the lanky interrogator opened the tin door, threw my papers out and kicked me in the backside. I fell on my face into the grass near some shrubs. I vomited without lifting my head."
Read our feature by Herta Müller: "Romania's collective amesia"

Other newspapers 24.07.2009

Andre Glucksmann warned yesterday in Le Monde about everything returning to normal after the death of Natalia Estemirova. Neither the Russian president Medvedev nor the Chechen vassal in Grosny, Ramsan Kadyrov, should be entrusted with investigating the case: "Kadyrov understands punishment, he even enjoys meting it out, apparently. His first 'act of justice' speaks volumes. He filed charges against Oleg Orlov who, together with Sacharov, is one of the founders of Memorial and a fellow combatant of Natalia Estimirowa's. Yes, Putin's friendly clone will launch an investigation to put the world at rest. Did he find Anna Politkovskaya's murderer? Or the murderer of Stanislav Markelov or Anastasia Barburova? Or those who killed the other unnamed victims? Did he hand over Alexander Litvinenko's murderer to the British? No! That man is sitting in the Duma having a good laugh about it on TV. I'm sure he will do everything he can - this man who has just ordered an anti-patriot hunt to track down any one who, before or after the Second World War, tried to investigate Stalin's crimes."

Die Welt 24.07.2009

Peter Zander brings the good news that cinema audiences are growing in Germany. Children's films, its seems, are putting bums on seats. Why? "Much of the success can be attributed to 3D technology, itself a child of the crisis, albeit a very different one. 3D is the film industry's answer to video piracy – they can only be watched with special glasses so if you watch them at home, everything is out of focus." - let's talk european