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Magazine Roundup

La vie des idees  23.02.2012 (France)

In a long and fascinating conversation (part 1 and part 2) with Nicolas Delalande, Montreal-based historian Anastassios Anastassiadis makes the case for giving Greece some slack in its current predicament. After all, Greece was traumatised throughout the 20th century more than most other European countries by war and civil war, for which Germany was famously not entirely blameless: "The occupation era was appalling, Greek resistance was very strong. It dragged out into a bloody civil war, the first real Cold War conflict. While after 1946 the rest of Europe (in the West at least) was busy with reconstruction, aided by the Marshall Plan, the same plan in Greece helped only to finance the civil war which raged until 1949. Reconstruction did not get underway until 1950 but by 1967 the country was staggering into a military dictatorship."

31.01.2012 (USA)

Bosnian-American writer Aleksandar Hemon gives a vivid description of the crazy situation in Bosnia and Herzogovina, where ethnic differences are indoctrinated and bureaucratised, through the example of children's education in Sarajevo. "Religious instruction is one of the so-called 'national group of subjects,' a peculiarity of Bosnian elementary and highschool education that also includes 'mother tongue,' literature, geography, history, and nature and society. The curricula for these subjects differ with the pupils' ethnic identity; subjects like math, physics and PE are presumably transethnic. While religious instruction might start very early, the other 'national' subjects are not taught before the fifth grade, at which point a hypothetical, integrated class consisting of Bosniak (Bosnians of Muslim background), Croat and Serb kids would break apart each time a history class, say, is scheduled - the three ethnically identified classes of ten-year-olds would be taught three different, quite possibly mutually exclusive, histories of their pitiable homeland. To understand the nonsensical situation in which children are trained in ethnic identity through the national subjects, one has to dive into the deep shit pit of war, peace and politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pinch your nose and off we go."

26.02.2012 (France)

Thierry Brésillon's laudable blog Tunisie libre in Rue89 continues to accompany Tunisia on the way to democratisation. He reports here on the pressure exerted by radical Islamists on the moderate Islamist ruling party Ennahdha. Following a triumphant tour of Tunisia by the radical Egyptian preacher Wajdi Ghonim, Brésillon writes: "Ennahdha is coming under considerable pressure from the party youth for being 'left-wing and secular'. Pressure was stepped up after a 17 February demonstration of Ghonim's followers in front of the central mosque in Tunis was quashed with tear gas."

Elet es Irodalom  24.02.2012 (Hungary)

Germany came up with a nice, democratic solution to the recent scandal involving its Federal president, even if it all paled into insignificance against the impending collapse of the house of Europe, notes author Attila Sausic. "The office of president is a high but not weighty one. [...] But it does belong to the democratic order and is taken with due seriousness. It is precisely this sort of much ridiculed and often genuinely absurd fixation with order and the hygiene obsession which also creeps into the political realm, that differentiate the Germans from nations more wont to turn a blind eye. Which is why Europe reaches into places where lawns are still mowed, where houses are painted and roads marked, where everything has a visible border, clear contours and a distinct form. This endless fiddling with the order of life, the regulation of every trifle is certainly dull in one respect, but it is also extremely useful and ultimately results in the sort of predictability that allows a modern state and modern democracy to function properly and means people can live there without discomfort."

Polityka 24.02.2012 (Poland)

In interview with Joanna Ciesla, social psychologist Michal Bilewicz talks (here in German) about patriotism, football fans and the mixed emotions Poles have about their own nation: "In general any criticism of the nation makes the people feel threatened; they try to hush it up or condemn people outright for voicing prejudiced views. The Poles themselves suffer from a form of schizophrenia. We are willing to die for our nation but if someone asks us to describe what Polish people are like, we reply: thieves, slackers. At the same time we identify ourselves with Polishness through and through. We feel more like Poles than, say, Europeans or Varsovians, and more like Poles that just people."

Eurozine  24.02.2012 (Austria in English)

Klaus-Michael Bogdal, author of a history of the Roma, explains how difficult it is to write the history of a people which has no written culture and left almost no historical accounts of themselves. Their history consists almost exclusively of depictions from outsiders. "They belonged to those who were not there from the beginning, who were not expected and who therefore had to disappear again. They were seen as sinister because they 'lurked everywhere' and 'came and went' according to inscrutable rules. This gave rise to a uniform moment of perception and encounter: the ambivalence of contempt and fascination. A repository of stereotypes, images, motifs, behavioural patterns and legends developed early on, at the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern period."

More stories from the Anglophone press:

The Economist explains why we're better not bombing Iran. After the death of Marie Colvin last week, Vanity Fair portrays "The Girls at the Front" - great women war reporters: Christiane Amanpour, Maggie O'Kane, Jacky Rowland and Janine di Giovanni as well as Marie Colvin. The New York Times profiles the Nigerian Carl Laemmle. - let's talk european