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19/09/2006

Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | Die Weltwoche | L'Espresso | London Review of Books | Il Foglio | Elet es Irodalom | Nepszabadsag | The Times Literary Supplement | Le Figaro | Le Monde diplomatique | The New York Times


Outlook India, 25.09.2006 (India)

Seema Sirohi remembers the 65,000 Indians who were used in the First World War as British cannon fodder against the Germans. Sirohi reports on the poor equipment and wages of the Indian soldiers (who mostly from came from Northern Punjab) and on the corrupt recruiting system of the colonialists. "While officially there was no conscription, the British rulers encouraged Indian landlords to prove their loyalty by recruiting jawans under a quota system. ... Under this sham autonomy tightly controlled by the British, landlords were rewarded with 'khitabs' or titles such as Rai Bahadur and Khan Bahadur for sending thousands to their death."


Die Weltwoche, 14.09.2006
(Switzerland)

Ralph Pöhner terms participation the order of the day in the new Internet boom, not only with startups like Digg.com or cocomment.com. "Better ten thousand amateurs than ten employees. Microsoft has just started a site where anyone can develop games for the Xbox games console. This week at IBM saw the end of a giant brainstorming session for which IBM boss Samuel J. Palmisano promised 100 million dollars for good ideas, and which attracted 100,000 participants. And the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has launched a site where scientists across the globe can exchange ideas on chemical research. If a company needs to develop a product, it can post the information here and around 95,000 registered researchers will put their minds to finding answers. By now Ciba, Boeing, Nestle and Novartis are seeking the help of the anonymous www-scientists. These online results, says Eli Lilly, cost about a sixth of comparable results from the R&D department."


L'Espresso, 25.09.2006 (Italy)

In his Bustina di Minerva, Umberto Eco asks whether the traditional differentiation between beautiful and ugly still holds. "If we consider that many young people still bow down before the classical beauty of George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, it becomes clear that they are doing as their parents did. On one hand they buy cars and TVs designed according to the golden ratio of the Renaissance or they populate the Uffizi to prove the Stendhal Syndrome. On the other, they gloat over splatter movies where brain matter sprays the walls, buy their children dinosaurs and other monstrosities and flock to art Happenings where artists drill through their hands, mutilate their genitals, and subject their skin to torture."


London Review of Books, 21.09.2006 (UK)

What's up with America's liberals, asks historian Tony Judt. They "are fast becoming a service class, their opinions determined by their allegiance and calibrated to justify a political end. In itself this is hardly a new departure: we are all familiar with intellectuals who speak only on behalf of their country, class, religion, race, gender or sexual orientation, and who shape their opinions according to what they take to be the interest of their affinity of birth or predilection. But the distinctive feature of the liberal intellectual in past times was precisely the striving for universality; not the unworldly or disingenuous denial of sectional interest but the sustained effort to transcend that interest."


Il Foglio, 16.09.2006
(Italy)


Annelena Benini paints a bitter-sweet portrait of the journalist and social democratic European Member of Parliament Lilli Gruber. "Red Lilli" was in Tehran on her own account on the evening of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election victory. "The night was long, Gruber was accompanied by a rich carpet dealer who danced wonderfully while gazing into her eyes. But seriously: 'No one's really worried about Ahmadinejad's victory. The champagne is cool, the caviar succulent and the silverware luxurious,' she'd said. That's how Lilli's travels always are: 'the passion of understanding' blends with ice-cold champagne. And she's been everywhere, she's risked her life, she's done sixty laps in the hotel pool under a hail of bombs. And she's called Islamic terrorists insurgents."


Elet es Irodalom, 15.09.2006 (Hungary)

Internet videos showing the Hungarian flag being burned, hate banners at football matches, acts of violence. Since Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico brought the Slovak National Party (SNP) into the cabinet, the number of attacks on the 500,000 Hungarians living in Slovakia has been on the rise. "During the last government led by Mikulas Dzurinda, in which the SMK, which represents the Hungarian minority, also participated, there was no trace of this phobia of Hungarians in Slovakia, although there were certainly just as many stupid people in Hungaria and Slovakia in the last legislative period as there are today," comments Laszlo Barak. "Individual or collective phobias that have long been kept secret can sometimes degenerate into real conflicts, and insane phantasmagoria can become reality."

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest is one of the largest in Europe. Peter György visited its garden, which was used as a mass graveyard in 1944 and today serves as a memorial. "The isolated traces of private commemorations can be found in one public room, which until today no one sought to collect together into a unit... What we see here is not the tragedy of the Jewish victims, but the embarrassment of Hungarian society. Hannah Szenes came back to Hungary to fight against the National Socialists. Why is she only recognised as a hero in Israel? What should we think of the Aid and Rescue Committee of Rudolf Kastner, who was shot on the street in Tel-Aviv in 1957, but then exonerated of all allegations against him by a court of law? What does it mean that Jews are buried here, although they were Hungarian citizens whose nation had cast them out? Why hasn't the Hungarian state taken a stand?"


Nepszabadsag, 16.09.2006 (Hungary)

In an interview with Laszlo Hovanyecz, Hungarian historian Ignac Romsics gives historical reasons for current tensions between Slovaks and Hungarians. He points to the common history of the two countries before 1918, when the current territory of Slovakia was part of the Hungarian Empire and all Slovak attempts to achieve autonomy were rebutted. "The Hungarians paid a high price for their mistakes. Not only the Habsburg monarchy, but also the historic Hungarian Empire collapsed. Over three million Hungarians found themselves outside the new state borders, with nearly a million in the newly founded Czechoslovakia." Romsics praises Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, saying today's politicians in the Danube countries should follow his liberal example towards neighbouring states.

Zoltan Istvan Csider praises the "Statue Park," where numerous monuments from the communist era have been exhibited since 1993, after being removed from the streets and squares of Budapest. The park's newest find, a huge boot of Stalin's, is being exhibited to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. "Only dictators and pigheaded children repudiate the past. As mature citizens of a democracy, it is our duty to preserve what earlier generations left to us.... The monuments here are both documents of the past and artistic objects." (Images here, here and here).


The Times Literary Supplement, 15.09.2006 (UK)

Druin Burch recommends a book that settles scores with the history of medicine as painful but effective: "In 'Bad Medicine,' David Wootton ... creates a genuinely thrilling adventure out of the abysmal failings of doctors over the past 2,000 years. Wootton’s is a concise cry of appalled rage. He takes an unsparing interest in why doctors made bad decisions, ignored screamingly obvious discoveries and consistently refused to adopt therapies that stood to be of the greatest benefit to mankind. 'We can only think about medical progress if we start with the long tradition of medical failure.... We know how to write histories of discovery and progress, but not how to write histories of stasis, of delay, of digression.' A sound knowledge of anatomy, the discovery of the microscope and the stethoscope, the birth of the great charity hospitals and most of the great nineteenth-century innovations in chemistry, pharmacology, pathology and therapeutics: all of these, Wootton insists angrily, are wrongly portrayed as medical successes. They were scientific advances, often held back for centuries by doctors uncomfortable with change."


Le Figaro, 14.09.2006 (France)

In his essay "L'Extreme gauche plurielle" (published by les editions Autrement), philosopher and political scientist Philippe Raynaud examines the extreme Left, a radical movement which still dominates French debate. His thesis: many influential thinkers, often unknown to a broader public, have played a major role in "maintaining the revolutionary dream" in France, through "cultural left-wing extremism." In an interview with Le Figaro, he describes the movement in the following terms: "The extreme Left has significant electoral clout in France. In no other European country does it have so much weight in political life. That constitutes a nagging pain for the Socialists, whose situation would be less precarious if the Communist Party were its partner. But the influence of the extreme Left will make itself felt through its electorate. The critique of globalisation is ever-present in French social debate, and the extreme Left profits from the widespread anti-liberalism in France. We are no doubt one of the few countries where 'liberal' is an insult.... The success of a magazine like Le Monde diplomatique, with a circulation of 400,000, is an indication of this radical tendency. Astonishingly, there are even readers' groups in the provinces, where people get together to read it – like the bourgeois protesters during the Enlightenment."


Le Monde diplomatique, 15.09.2006 (France)

Peter Harling and Hamid Yasin investigate how the American occupying forces have contributed to fragmentation within Iraq: "Within the framework of US civil administration policies, posts were freshly distributed along religious lines. That lead to a 'competition among victims,' whereby the demand for a share in power could be supported by pointing to earlier suffering under.... This reinterpreting of history according to the antagonism between Sunnis and Shiites sounds the death knell for 'Iraqi nationalism.' Iraqis of different origins have lost their common points of reference. The bitter conflicts over the major watersheds in their common history (the end of the monarchy in 1958, the Baath Party takeover in 1968, the Gulf War in 1991 and the Anglo-American intervention in 2003), are seen in terms of the religious rift; national resources are not redistributed, but shamelessly sold off and privatised. The various institutions are being dismantled and distributed between the groups."


The New York Times, 17.09.2006 (USA)

In the New York Times Magazine, Wyatt Mason proclaims the advent of the age of satire asking: "Can you take shelter in the ridiculous if everywhere becomes ridiculous?" Mason refers to a news conference President Bush gave in Germany over the summer. "'I'm looking forward to the feast you’re going to have tonight,' he said to the German chancellor in a moment of folksy charm, 'and I understand that I may have the honor of slicing the pig.' This before fielding the following from a reporter: 'Does it concern you,' the man asked, stuttering, 'that the Beirut airport has been bombed, and do you see a risk of triggering a wider war? And on Iran, they've so far refused to respond. Is it now past the deadline, or do they still have more time to respond?' 'I thought,' Bush replied, 'you were going to ask about the pig.'" Mason concludes: "That tone — carelessly sarcastic, thoughtlessly ironic, indiscriminately sardonic — that is the very one you now find everywhere. Bush is us; Bush is me: his is the same sarcasm I employ when I tell my father, once again, that of course I didn’t read today's op-ed."
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