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27/09/2005

Magazine Roundup

Polityka | Magyar Narancs | Prospect | The New Criterion | Die Weltwoche | Gazeta Wyborcza | Magyar Hirlap | L'Espresso | Outlook India | Der Spiegel | Reportajes | The Spectator | Le Figaro | The Economist | The New York Times Book Review


Polityka, 24.09.2005 (Poland)

One day before the elections in Poland on Sunday, Wieslaw Wladyka and Jacek Zakowskidas proclaim the end of the third republic. "The third republic has come to an end, especially after the strategic goal of joining the EU had been accomplished. The personifications of this system, President Kwasniewski und Adam Michnik, Editor-in-chief of the Gazeta Wyborcza, are stepping down. This might promise something good as well: the governing Rightists will not just preoccupy themselves with the Post-communists, they'll have to worry about themselves and their country."


Magyar Narancs, 22.09.2005 (Hungary)

In an interview, Serbian experimental filmmaker Dusan Makavejev says that all ideologies have been used up. "In the computer era, everything is made up of ones and zeros, there is no centre, no origo with respect to which one can find one's position. I'm curious what this simplification will lead to because I think that the computer era is nearing its end. A Russian folksong fits in well with our situation: Tanja und Wanja want to go to the end of the world and when they make it there, they just dangle their legs. We're experiencing something like in the 1960s: we need new ideas, the old ones are all dead."


Prospect, 01.10.2005 (UK)

Prospect celebrates its tenth birthday in this issue. And because it considers itself to be "Great Britain's intelligent conversation", it seems a logical opportunity (together with the American political and economic portal "Foreign Policy") to publish a list of the 100 most important public intellectuals of our time. David Herman realizes that Europe – with the exception of the well represented Brits – seems to have become "America's poor intellectual cousin". Here the list of those nominated and their ratings.


The New Criterion, 01.09.2005 (USA)

In the American New Criterion, Daniel Johnson sketches a not especially flattering picture of British intellectuals, who he finds largely mediocre and uninterested in other cultures. "Foreign languages, ancient and modern, are vanishing from our schools, because they are no longer needed in an Anglophone world. The British are returning to the state in which Roger Bacon found himself more than seven centuries ago when, as he exclaimed, 'there are not five men in Latin Christendom who are acquainted with the Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic grammar,' while scholars 'neglect and condemn the sciences of which they are ignorant.' A new dark age threatens, in which knowledge of all kinds is instantly accessible, but the majority even of the educated are incurious about anything beyond their immediate purview, and those who are cultivated enough to put knowledge to good use are fast dying out."


Die Weltwoche, 23.09.2005 (Switzerland)

Economic and social historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler argues with Walter De Gregorio about Germany's notorious misanthropy. "The problem is that the Germans have become growth fetishists. If they don't achieve their four percent, they think it's the end of the world. The Germans have a strange talent for talking down their third place in the world economy, their leading exports and their domestic welfare level so drastically you'd think they were living in central Ghana." Wehler is just as cutting about Gerhard Schröder's cardinal mistake. Like Roosevelt did with his weekly Fireside Chats, the chancellor should have seized an opportunity to bring his policies closer to the people. "I wonder why Schröder never took the time for that. A quarter of an hour on ARD, private channels would even have given him half an hour. He could have explained the need for reform. No, that would be too difficult, I was once told. Nonsense."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 24.09.2005 (Poland)

Timothy Garton Ash is certain: "The results of the elections in Germany – if one can even call them results – are not going to help in the fight against economic stagnation and mass unemployment. The best would be for Horst Köhler to dissolve parliament again – this would cost 6 months, but all the possible coalitions would lose even more time." Garton Ash reads the election results as further evidence that the German-French motor has become Europe's brakes: "'Nein' and 'non' are the French-German refrain of today. But there's no time for 'Schadenfreude'. We other Europeans need them to recover as much as they do."


Magyar Hirlap, 20.09.2005 (Hungary)


The Germans are still doing too well, says Andras Sztankoczy, who is surprised by the election results; in a time when reforms are urgently needed, conservative-liberal governments are being elected in other countries. "The majority of the East German population stands there wailing and begging for the return of socialism – under which they got a salary without having to work.... Germany is the country of abstract reform wishes: everyone supports the reforms in general but not the concrete plans in particular. The message of the election results is clear: the Germans aren't suffering enough. They prefer to draw various coalition possibilities with colored markers, one worse than the next. A pretty hobby and if the situation is really serious, they'll finally elect a conservative-liberal government. Until then they should quit whining and go back to pitching their tents at the one star camp grounds on the Plattensee."


L'Espresso, 29.09.2005 (Italy)

Umberto Eco suspects a political red herring behind the many catastrophe reports on Italian television. "Without overly burdening TV viewers, after the stories on war, carnage, terror attacks and the like, and after some well-considered political exposures, begins the list of felonies, mother-daughter-spouse-brother-father-child murders, thefts, rapes, and shootings – and, not to withhold information, the doors of heaven seem to open every day above our peninsula and it rains like it has never rained before, so that the deluge seems like a broken pipe in comparison. A few sliced off heads keep the people in good spirits, and prevent them from plotting against the boss."


Outlook India, 03.10.2005 (India)

The second volume of the "Mitrokhin Archive" is currently the talk of the town. In it, Christopher Andrew uses documents smuggled to the West by KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin to shed light on the little-known but extensive KGB activities in India, among other things. Sanjay Suri finds some of it exaggerated, but in one aspect he must agree: "'The KGB was more successful in India than in most other Asian countries because India is a democracy,' Andrew said. 'The irony of this operation is that the countries in Asia where the KGB found difficult to operate were actually the most Communist: China, but also Vietnam. It's the good side of India that makes it vulnerable, the democracy, but a democracy which has a strand of corruption running through it.'"


Der Spiegel, 26.09.2005 (Gemany)

In an interview with Romain Leik, French philosopher Andre Glucksmann speaks about his new book, "Le discours de la haine" (the discourse of hatred): "To unleash its destructive power, hate must become collective. The solitary individual who hates in a corner remains a poor wretch, or at the very worst an isolated murderer. Ideologies can serve the collectivisation of hatred, but they are not their cause. Believing that was the major mistake of the democracies of the 20th century. Because what follows from it is the second mistake, namely to believe that when the ideologies - Nazism and Communism - are refuted and defeated, hatred will disappear of its own accord. Ideologies are the alibi of hatred. The author Ernst von Salomon, a member of the volunteer corps and participant in the murder of Walter Rathenau, was right when he said in 1918: The war is over, but the warriors are still there. The Cold War was only cold for us here in the West. For the rest of humanity it was a very bloody time, a bellicose revaluation of all values."


Reportajes, 25.09.2005 (Chile)

Alvaro Vargas Llosa writes a report from New Orleans, defending the thesis that "there is really much less poverty in the USA than people commenting on the Louisiana catastrophe from outside the US are claiming these days. And poverty in North America is essentially different from poverty elsewhere. According to Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, 'poverty among the black population is three times as high as among whites'. So in a city like New Orleans, with a high percentage of black inhabitants, the number of poor people is as high as it is among the entire black population in the USA. But the most significant fact – which is what differentiates the USA from a large part of the rest of the world – is that, still according to Sawhill, 'for most Americans, poverty is limited in time'. Only three percent of the population remains poor for more than eight years. Consequently the poor people continue to profit from a social mobility that is in fact their biggest trump card." See also by the same author "The Poverty of Statistics".


The Spectator, 24.09.2005 (UK)

In this issue, The Spectator looks at the relationship between race and culture, and particularly, what is going wrong in multicultural Great Britain. An anonymous writer complains: "So-called 'cultural awareness' has also led to racial fragmentation in healthcare, education and social services. The state machine is now awash with specialised outfits such as the Drug Action Team for the Bangledeshi and Somali communities in Tower Hamlets, or the Black African and Caribbean Mental Health Consortium in Brent, which is presently recruiting an office manager. 'All applicants must be of black African/Caribbean origin', states the advertisement."


Le Figaro, 22.09.2005 (France)

The thirtieth anniversary of the death of Hannah Arendt is given more attention in France than in Germany. French translations of her "Intellectual Journal 1950 – 1975" (Seuil) and "On the Concept of Power" have come out to mark the occasion. In a thoroughgoing pan, Patrice Bollon rips apart the "biographical essay" "Dans les pas de Hannah Arendt" by Laure Adler, calling it unconvincing, wrong and "anachronistic" in places. Reading the 672 page book is a drudgery, writes Bollon. "This long-winded and superficial book is not complete in a single respect. While Madame Adler does not spare us a single of Hannah Arendt's innumerable journeys – including departure times – she omits entirely to inform us of Hannah Arendt's support for Rolf Hochhuth's 1966 drama 'Der Stellvertreter' (the representative), dealing with the Pope Pius XII's inaction in response to the Holocaust!"

In an interview, French philosopher Michel Serres explains that the end of oil is not the apocalypse. But he does see the world, "time, space and of course the economy" at the beginning of a "post-oil era", which means it is in need of fundamental restructuring. "The most important thing is not having oil, but ideas."


The Economist, 23.09.2005 (UK)

The Economist reports on the scene that led Simon Wiesenthal to dedicate his life to hunting down Nazi war criminals. "One of the stranger conversations in Simon Wiesenthal's life occurred in September 1944. He was being taken by SS guards, in his faded striped uniform, away from the advancing Russians. Somewhere in the middle of Poland, he and an SS corporal scavenged together for potatoes. What, the corporal asked him mockingly, would he tell someone in America about the death camps? Mr Wiesenthal said he would tell the truth. 'They wouldn't believe you,' the corporal replied."


The New York Times Book Review, 25.09.2005 (USA)

In these less than glorious times, Walter Kirn welcomes the story of a successful American general. He is full of praise for E. L. Doctorow's tale of the last campaign in the American Civil War in 1865, entitled "The March" (first chapter here). "Novels about great historical episodes had better have strong middles. Without the benefit of normal suspense to lure us onward through events, such stories have to seize and hold and carry us in much the same way a snake digests a mouse, by means of rhythmic muscular pulses that push and pull at the same time. Call it peristaltic storytelling: that process by which a writer captures his audience not by creating loose ends that must be followed, but by swallowing the reader whole and then conveying him - firmly, steadily, irresistibly - toward a fated outcome. E. L. Doctorow's heart-squeezing fictional account of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's fiery, rapacious last campaign through the cities and countryside of the Confederate South moves along in the manner I've described - a narrative style that couldn't be more fitting because it reflects, we come to see, the way that Sherman's conquering army moved, like a sort of infernal carnivorous worm or slug."

In Turkey, more democracy traditionally means more Islam, writes Christopher Caldwell in a report in the New York Times Magazine on the country's political future. "Nationalism is now the most plausible alternative to the A.K.P. That will be a rude awakening to Turkey's traditional allies, who tend to assume that there remains a Kemalist 'loyal opposition' that will somehow 'tone down' the enthusiasms of the A.K.P. or that the country has the option of 'going back' to the semidemocratic, westernizing regime that suited the purposes of the free world very well. The problem is that that regime did not always suit the purposes of Turkish society, which, anyway, has entered into a new era. The past century has turned Turkey inside out. The Ottoman Empire was a multicultural society under a Muslim government. The Turkish Republic is an overwhelmingly Islamic society in an officially secular state. The open question at the front of European and American minds is whether reforming that state according to society's wishes can lead to anything other than an Islamic republic."
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