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31/01/2012

Magazine Roundup

Huffington Post 29.01.2012 (France)

Philosopher Catherine Clement delivers an interesting background article on the elections in Senegal, where the presidential candidate Youssou N'Dour was disqualified from the race for supposedly failing to present enough signatures to support his candidature. But according to Clement, the Senegalese had already decided in advance that he could not possibly become president. When I asked as to his chances of success were I was given "the same answer by all my Senegalese friends: 'Absolutely impossible. He belongs to the wrong caste.'" Yes, caste… He is the opposite of a 'free man'. Youssou N'Dour, untouchable, like an Indian pariah, member of the wrong caste, because his mother was a griot. Senegal, which prides itself on being an egalitarian democracy has, since time immemorial, been home to an unjust caste system which discriminates against blacksmiths and griots. No one would say as much in public. They can become famous and super rich. They can be nominated as government ministers - but son-in-law of a free man or elected representative of the nation, no chance. They play an important symbolic role in society. The griots are traditionally thought of as magicians, they are versed in genealogy, whose praises they sing, but they have been denied the chance to be elected. To this very day."


L'Espresso 25.01.2012 (Italy)

Palo Rossi Monti is dead. Umberto Eco remembers the pioneer of the science of remembering. Rossi was also one of the first people to start studying "cultural forgetfulness" in an age of informational overload. "In his essays of recent years he is no longer obsessed by the feats of memory in antiquity, but by our memories today. I would like to draw attention to two of his most recent essays. (La storia della scienza: la dimenticanza e la memoria, in Lina Bolzoni, "Memoria e memorie", Florenz, 1998, and "La memoria, le immagini, l'enciclopedia", in Pietro Rossi "La memoria del sapere", Bari, 1998). Rossi knew very well that with the invention of the printing press the fear of forgetting through the natural and biological fading of the memory would be replaced by a new fear: that of not remembering due to an excess of cultural data production (because the invention of printing did not only result in a vast amount of text being produced, it also made it very easy for everyone to tap into.)" Sadly neither Rossi nor Eco discuss the subject in relationship to the internet and the vast increase in data circulation it has brought. 


Le Monde 30.01.2012 (France)

In the field of academic texts the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk sees a "pact of non-reading" at work, which he believes is constitutive of a susceptibility and tendency towards plagiarism. One has to assume, he argues, that between 98 and 99 percent of the texts that are produced within a university context are written in the expectation that they will never be fully or even partially read. "In this system when someone actually and unexpectedly does read a text, it leads to catastrophe. The interesting thing about this is that what we call actual reading can no longer take place in the face of the monstrous avalanche of academic text production. Today only digital reading machines and specialised search engines are in the position to assume the role of the original reader and to enter into a conversation or non-conversation with the text. The human reader - let's call him professor - disappears. And to the same extent, academics and experts have long been condemned to being more often non-readers than readers."


The New Republic 26.01.2012 (USA)
Paul Berman recalls interviewing Vaclav Havel in "the Castle" in 1966. Above all he wanted to know what Havel meant when he invoked Heidegger's 'Being' and a new god. "Havel was frightened by atheism. In his eyes, communism was atheism's apotheosis. Communism led everyone to focus on material circumstances and to dream of improving the circumstances, and to dream of nothing else. For why should anyone dream of anything more than material improvements? More does not exist. ... Truth-telling, by contrast, required a belief in something that seemed to you preferable to material things - a more that was better than a car, therefore something for which you might willingly sacrifice your chance of getting a car. Your own personal dignity was something to consider. But you needed to be able to explain, at least to yourself, what was so great about your own dignity. Havel's capital-B Being, whatever its provenance in Heidegger, was at bottom a retort to Marx, who had famously proclaimed that 'life is not determined by consciousness but consciousness by life,' meaning material life."


Al Ahram Weekly 26.01.2012 (Egypt)

The efforts of the young revolutionaries failed to translate into electoral success, partly as a result of a defamatory campaign by the military, denouncing them as the puppets of foreign organisations, Mohamed Abdel-Baky reports: This "has led to depression, frustration and disappointment on the part of young activists", he cites a psychologist as saying, who added: "I think most of the young people who participated in the 25 January protests feel betrayed. They did not, after all, face down the security apparatus and topple the regime so that a new group of people over 65 years of age could rule."


openDemocracy 28.01.2012 (UK)

N. Jayaram is annoyed by the hypocrisy of the politicians in India. On the one had they make it impossible for Salman Rushdie to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival, on the other they complain in Russia that the Russian Orthodox Church in the Siberian town of Tomsk has appealed for a ban on the Bhagavad Gita: "The Gita is considered sacred by Hindus and India's parliamentary business was interrupted at length as government and opposition leaders vied with one another in condemning the move in faraway Tomsk, whose court eventually threw out the appeal."


Eurozine 22.01.2012 (Austria in English)

Freedom of opinion is no longer regarded as something principally good, but as a threat, writes Kenan Malik in response to the threats against Salman Rushdie's life which preventing him from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. "Social justice requires not just that individuals are treated as political equals, but also that their cultural beliefs are given equal recognition and respect. The avoidance of cultural pain has, therefore, come to be regarded as more important than the abstract right to freedom of expression. As the British sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, 'If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others' fundamental beliefs to criticism.' What the anti-Baals of today most fear is starting arguments. What they most want is for the world to go to sleep."
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