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Magazine Roundup

Eurozine 02.11.2011 (Austria)

Belgium has been without a government since June 13, 2010. The Flemish and the Walloons are not able to come to an agreement, so how can a government be formed? A group of Belgian activists has come up with an idea: 1,000 randomly selected Belgians have been chosen to confer about the future of their country on November 11. This worked well in Iceland. "In Iceland even the formulation of a new constitutional legal code was entrusted to 25 citizens. People who are given the chance to speak with one another are capable of coming to rational compromises as long as they are given time and information. This even worked in deeply divided Northern Ireland. Catholics and Protestants, who generally do not speak with each other much, were ultimately able to find solutions for delicate issues such as classroom lesson plans." 

Magyar Narancs  27.10.2011 (Hungary)

On October 23, the anniversary of the 1956 revolution, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the government under the motto "Nem tetszik a rendszer!" ("We don't like the system!"). The organisations behind the demonstration included the "alternative youth movement" 4K!, founded in 2006, "Szolidaritas", and the Facebook group "Milla" ("One million [people] for the freedom of the press"). Tibor Kovacsy was among them and had a positive feeling: "The unpolished, determined words of the speakers sounded good and while we repeated the refrain of the demonstration hymn, it felt that the shiver running through us was not for nothing, as we took a stand for our values in a large mass. When Peter Juhasz [the spokesman of the demonstration] announced that, 'Milla' would initiate the election of a new president, a real charge ran through the crowd."

HVG 29.10.2011 (Hungary)

Journalist Laszlo Seres has another view and sees the demonstrators as lacking in ideas for long overdue structural reforms: "For a movement that is essentially anti-political and apolitical - although echoing leftist slogans - it is not particularly difficult to get the real or supposed economic victims of the Fidesz era out onto the street. To put it bluntly, these classes of people are interested only in the inner life of their wallets, not democracy...How can it be that last year only a few hundred demonstrated against the nationalisation of private pension funds and against the blackmailing of the insured? Reuters news service is wrong in saying that the people of Hungary showed their support for a "free-market democracy". That's not what happened. What has happened instead is that the not very capitalism-friendly government has gained a not very capitalism-friendly opposition."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05.11.2011 (Germany)

Papandreou wanted to let the Greeks vote on whether they are prepared to pay their debts or not. Frank Schirrmacher cannot understand the indignation about the referendum, which he saw as a victory for democracy over the market. Jürgen Habermas agrees: "Today the political elites are facing a crucial test. Two things are drifting apart - the imperative of the system of unbridled capitalism, which the politicians themselves set loose from the restraints of the real economy, and the laments about the unredeemed promise of social justice, which bombard them from the collapsing livelihoods of their democratic constituents."

Le Monde (France), 04.11.2011

Guy Sorman believes that there are very different reasons behind Papandreou’s actions than generally assumed: "Greece faces an ongoing threat of extremist violence, coming from right-wing nationalist extremists and left-wing Marxist extremists. The civil war from 1947 to 1949, which was quelled by Anglo-American intervention, is a ghost that still haunts Greek society, and the same goes for the military dictatorship of 1967 to 1974. The debt cuts and the referendum are merely attempts to hold off the temptation of a Marxist revolution or an authoritarian takeover."

Telerama (France), 03.11.2011

In Telerama , Xavier de Jarcy takes a cue from Michel Houellebecq’s novel "The Map and the Territory" looks more closely (illustrated with a number of nice photos) at the grandfather of British design, William Morris. Morris was an adherent of Marxist ideas and designed fabrics and wallpaper patterns in the utopian spirit of socialism, which today however have become bourgeois and expensive. The company he founded together with other designers, Morris & Co., still exists. Jarcy describes Morris' idea as follows: He "wishes to reawaken the spirit of the Middle Ages, in which the greatest artist was actually a craftsman and the most humble craftsman was always an artist, as Morris wrote. The decorative arts were to be elevated to the level of the so-called fine arts, that is painting and sculpture. As artisans, workers would then be freed from the enslavement of the machines and be able to once again find pleasure in their work by contributing to the beautification of the world."

Der Tagesspiegel
05.11.2011 (Germany)

Berlin has a new star, writes Martin Böttcher. Her name is Aerea Negrot and "she seems to be a distillation of many of the strange and singular voices of the last 50 years, Nina Hagen and Klaus Nomi, Hildegard Knef and Yma Sumac, Laurie Anderson and Karen Mantler."

Highlights from the Anglophone press

Guernica interviews Amir Hassan Cheheltan on how to be a modern Iranian author without being western, and the questionable art of silence. The Montreal Gazette half-heartedly throws some questions at Anne Enright, but  the author nevertheless manages to give a good picture of how parents can change, even if they are Irish Catholic. The New York Review of Books reveals the previously unthinkable participation of Israeli Arabs in the social protests in Israel this past summer, and reviews Joan Didion's overwhelmingly despondent book "Blue Nights". Bloomberg Businessweek asks why TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington has joined the venture capitalists, and reports from Prato, Italy, a town of 190,000 inhabitants where 40,000 Chinese work in illegal sweatshops. In an extensive article Wired sheds light on how Facebook has suddenly become a key player in the music business, largely due to Spotify; argues for the recognition of Wikipedia as world cultural heritage by UNESCO; and profiles the Russian Yuri Milner, a businessman turned social media investor who meanwhile lives in the most expensive house in America. - let's talk european