European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Work of Redemption: the need to trust mistrust



rituals and human gesture

Note: this essay was inspired by thoughts on gestures as exemplified in the essay by Bart Verschaffel about 'autenticity as criterion in architecture', by the call for papers for examining post Socialist times - see below - and by being in Wroclaw for the first time, that is back in Poland after a long absence.


Memory! Polish people are known for their good memory. It was their way to fight dictatorship which used propaganda in order to distort reality. Only by remembering that this line of approach had already been used before, they could trust their mistrust and therefore relate to the news bulletin on state television differently.

Also memory works like a home. A friend was given to adoption to a Polish couple just before his German parents fled the approaching Russian troops. Many years later he returned to his adopted parents. His room was still the same as back then when he grew up with them. They had preserved all memories and stepping into them was for him like a continuity of the life he had led with them.

When martial law was declared in this cold winter of December 1980, it was well executed. Over night all signs of Solidarnosc disappeared. People who were inside to watch the cinema 'Apocalypse Now' stepped after the movie was into a different world. Tanks were standing at every street corner. They no longer knew what was real, what a trick of their imagination. Memory is needed then to recall what happened before and what expressions filled the streets. This included happy faces. That should not be forgotten when looking then into gloomy ones with an empty glance in their eyes. To bring back those memories means as well not to forget the positive human potential.

I suppose traumas experienced in the post Socialist times after 1989 are due to many reasons. It may include no longer working actively in the underground but now needing to lead a normal life which proves to be more difficult than living under extreme conditions. Something similar can be observed when war veterans return to civil life. Not everyone can leave behind this run for your life or else the need to mistrust everyone as there was in the underground always the risk of betrayal.

Repeatedly those who lived under Socialism would describe the totalitarian system as an absolute threat to their identity. Once no longer threatened any more so totally to one's identity, it is still hard to do without those defense mechanisms developed in order to protect a rest of personal identity. Still there is a need to do away with some projections upon the West as being free and the system there not a threat to one's personal identity. Many feel in the Western system to be without identity once they enter the work place. It may be even more extreme but this aspect has evaded so far many analysis. An exception has been the work of Azade Köker who with her students showed the relativity of identity and place when making the same exhibition first in a trade union building and then in a former palace.

Also another difficulty encountered by many appears to be that no clear distinction can be made anymore so easily as to what would constitute opposition to the system. There is on the one hand that problematic relationship to the whole. Somehow the 'holistic' viewpoint advocated in the West is not exactly what they search for when seeking another understanding of the relationship of the individual to society. Also criticism of those who favored going along with the system even if not in full agreement with the party, in particular with the dogmatists, is also a matter of what measures to take with regards to past injustices. An interesting point of view can be derived out of the difference that those who lived in former East Germany have now access to the Stasi files i.e. of the secret police, while those living in the West have not yet seen such an overthrow so that they could gain access to the police records kept about their personal lives. The vantage point may be subtle but as the reception of the film 'In the life of others' depicts there is yet the story to be told where someone from the police observing someone falls in love with the victims and helps them escape the system. There is also no publication organ in the East to make an impact in the West in case someone would like to expose some injustices. The closest ones to this kind of public revelation - in the film it was about the number of unaccounted suicides in former East Germany - are reports by socalled whistle blowers wishing to expose corruption within the European Union.

Nor can it be that new political forces enact once again a political cleansing process. This may not be as extreme as those marked by the Stalin trials, but still constitute an attempt to deprive people of jobs and social integration chances. Some reasonable measure needs to be taken here to protect both in order to establish an equal rule of the law. It is altogether too easy to cast doubt upon someone in terms of their moral and political integrity in the past. Redemption means, however, more than just to forgive. As Adorno would say stories need to be told as it was i.e. without any beautification. Only then is given each person a chance not to repeat the mistakes. Redemption means to leave some room for improvement i.e. learning from the past. Still, it may surprise many coming from the East that the form of punishment in the West may be even still sharper as it is linked to ostracization or being expelled to silence. People can cut off suddenly all contact and this with such vehemence that they no longer realize how much they put in doubt any previous human contact or the possibilities of finding some reconciliation. It ends simply the working through contradictions at human level.

Naturally those who went along with the system were deemed in Socialist times to be opportunists. Nowadays opposition and especially corruption of the mind for the sake of just making money take on quite different dimensions. Moreover it has become much more difficult to challenge the system and still survive within a range of sustainable possibilities to make a living. Instead it seems as if political and cultural life is affected by the nearly or completely open way things are dealt with. At the same time almost everyone exists nowadays by him- or herself in the various fields of society. That leads to certain and predictable difficulties. While some manage in this new system more easily, others have difficulties finding their way. There comes to mind, for instance, the writer Jürgen Fuchs who died an early death in West Berlin after having been released from jail in East Germany and many suspect he had been exposed to radiation which then caused him to die of cancer, but also that is not certain. There are always more factors involved to explain deterioration in health but certainly once the human spirit is broken, but which was not the case of Jürgen Fuchs, then there is a strong inclination to give up on life altogether. Speaking about such resignations, it is important to keep in mind what is the difference before and after 1989.

Open relationships (and not necessarily the 'Open Society' as key concept by Karl Popper) mean to risk that binding powers diminish. More and more things and relationships are governed by abstract principles, regulation of traffic a prime example. People come and go. Neo-Liberalism has made especially decision makers into those who can 'hire and fire' at will. There is no telling who qualifies for the job. Often those who do get them are suspected of having either good connections or else are active within invisible networks. The art of moving about in society no longer follows just conventional paths i.e. good education and a decent socialisation. More important seems to be the ability to become a manager i.e. hard on oneself. The image counts and so money. There is no longer possible this subtle work outside the system nor can anything be done in secret but while in Socialist times critical intellectuals would find a job as janitor in a kindergarten of the church, it seems in the Western system self control as taking oneself out of traffic does not work unless one flees into excessive alcohol or into the backwoods in order to work from such niches in society but without challenging in particular anyone in power. It is, however, an indirect kind of political censorship by excluding the most creative people from institutions like universities but also parliaments and those knowing quite well the risks they would wish to take to make themselves be harmless as far as the system is concerned. That means intellectual and moral integrity whether inside or outside the system means staying always outside any formal role of power very much neededm if one is to do some things meant to improve the education of children or the working of the administration along the line of human reason. Considering the great effort to do even the miminal positive thing, it has come down to the most crucial term of all other philosophical concepts, namely 'experience', even though the English term does not make that distinction as the German language between 'Erlebnisse' and 'Erfahrungen' as explained in a thesis about 'poverty of experience' having a lot to do with staying outside work relationships capable of improving things.

Within the Information and Global society even the subversiveness of the arts (from Marcuse to Carol Becker) is no longer praised. For it has become unsure what it really means for the arts to stand up and be against the system. A small consolation may be an aesthetical position against the commodification of culture but what it would mean in daily life no one really knows.

Once there are no more secrets, silence becomes unbearable. At least some may put it that way. Still, thought constructions indifferent to silence differ from what was creativity under Communism (to recall George Steiner's question in 'Silence and Language' why Communism but not Fascism brought about great works of art and gave the answer that there was after all an ethical dimension in Communism which attracted Picasso as much as Jean Paul Sartre). Others may claim under Socialism they had more energy back then, that is when they opposed the official line and risked daily to be thrown out of the party and the job for just telling the truth. This would suggest an enemy picture sufficed in the past when opposing the system. What unified everything else made life easier. That feeling of ease has disappeared after 1989. And it should not be forgotten that subversiveness of the arts meant as well texts had to be read in secret i.e. on the toilet, in order to overcome both censorship and the fear by the authorities that other thoughts would lead people astray and question their grip on power.

In her speech in Toronto 2009 Johanna Schall would say everyone moved about in a coded language. The code was brought about by everyone knowing everything said and done was observed and recorded. Despite being imprisoned in such a code, people would praise still today that the expression of thoughts were more clear under Socialism. It had to do with the audience being more intimitate to allow subtle expressions having an enormous meaning while any kind of opposition was deemed to be highly political. For example, it was enough in theatre during Socialist rule in former DDR (East Germany) to have just three persons carrying without saying anything three bags full of oranges across the stage. This comment on abundance in contradiction to the scarcity in reality was enough to evoke laughter from the audience. Everyone knew what was implied. The same piece could not be shown in Zurich. There people would not understand the play on hidden equally most obvious contradictions between what the system claimed and under which conditions people had to exist. It prompted theatre director Henryk Baranowski to say to Heiner Müller after he protested his play not being shown in the same way in the West as in the East that the contradictions are not the same in West as they were in the East.

Today these contradictions have disappeared while more paradoxes remain unresolved with life turned into if not a nightmare then into a series of unresolved dilemmas, paradoxes and wrong alternatives. It can drive people into making the wrong choices and out of desperation to personal sacrifices i.e. giving up a relationship for the sake of a career in the new enterprise or even worse to become a suicide bomber. If fear drives people into obscurity, this kind of silence and loneliness in the crowd cannot be covered up by simply screaming even though at times such violence can unload itself in street demonstrations. It is a sign of frustration that power remains indifferenct. As a matter of fact much of what constitutes this power has become invisible, in particular money linked to those who know how to set the terms, including banks, government, regulators like the IMF etc.. But meant is not the money in one's hand when buying something at the newly opened supermarket but the sums of money states owe and what is apparently needed to bail out countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain etc. with enormous state deficits. These sums exceed even the strongest imagination.

When something exceeds human understanding, then it is like knowing that there is something wrong but like a corruption in the system no one really knows how it came into existence. Thus there seems to be no remedy possible. Hedge fonds are hedge fonds, but who can still comprehend the mechanisms linked to 'spreads'? As if the own political judgment is impaired, no starting point for a different development can be made out. Rather it is only possible to stutter out some elusive ideas as to what might rectify the situation. Generalities abound and in the new underground - a metaphor for Freud's 'unconsciousness' - rules much more fear than certainty of happiness. Even worse good memories of deep human experiences are fading away fast. Many good relationships seem to go 'kaputt' before they could mature into something substantial and to the benefit of society. How many children grow up in broken up families? Above all the ability to trust one's own mistrust is missing. This seems to be the main problem.

Horkheimer and Adorno praised mistrust as basic concept. Mistrust is a way to defend individual freedom against the encroachment of not merely political dictatorship. It is also needed to ward off the kind of power Heidegger gave to simple bureaucrats e.g. for them nothing exists as long it is merely 'vorhanden': potentially there - but must be 'zuhanden' or ready at hand and sealed with an official stamp. Without such state recognition nothing exists. It made Brecht say the human being does not exist if without a passport. Today undocumented migrants experience that within Europe the hard way. Incredible is, however, that many intellectuals in Eastern Europe while in opposition during Socialist times embraced Heidegger and never realized what they took on board.

The real power struggle in the Western system can be described very easily. When somone drives too fast especially in the United States the police call him to pull over. And that is not enough. He has to come hands up out of the car and surrender all Rights to the policemen who wish to examine his papers while having their fingers on the trigger. There is created a so called safety zone around the suspect. It is a zone which no one else but the policemen may trespass. Any citizen demanding to know why this man is treated in such a way as if guilty till proven innocent is told this is none of his but stricly police business. The citizen should not intervene but do what is best for him, namely to mind his own business and get out of the way as far as possible. The example indicates that policemen in the street see themselves as representatives of power but never realize that they ought to be in the first place accountable to citizens.

The example with the police making a prelimary arrest shows how easily any individual can be isolated when faced by naked power of the state even when it happens out in the open, on the street where everyone can see what is happening. Repeatedly those filming a police raid will have not only their cameras taken away from them but more often are charged with something. That entails often the danger to be marked for life especially when these charges enter the police report. And it is not just information but the profile which counts. This is especially the case if the profile indicates the person may have something like a tendency towards a criminal record. To what this can lead to, one may just read the book by the youth judge Heisig 'At the end of patience' which she left behind, that is after her mysterious death in Berlin 2010. She said once youth are brought before the judge in court, then it is already too late to correct any of the earlier made mistakes leading to ever more entanglements with the police. Often going down the wrong path begins with taking a ride on the bus or metro without paying. Significantly these 'Schwarzfahrer' (black riders) are charged in old Prussian terminology as 'Leistungserschleier': those who creep into services being provided but only at some charge but not paying for services rendered. Interestingly enough, it is said that Fascism crept first into power before seizing it.

Today something else is happening. A general fear gives power to simple guards to control anyone at the entrance of a public building as to who may enter, who not. Aside from power using privileges to determine who may enter without any control as they have apparently the trust of the system and those definitely not as they are the ones whom power mistrusts, the guards can take this further and apply this power at their own discretion. That leads easily to abuse of power. Since such power being deployed to even the lowest ranks is justified overall by reference to security, discretion means vagueness in application and when in doubt more often it leads to discrimination. After all certain profiles reinforce this e.g. any Palestinians checking in at the airport can expect a special treatment i.e. elongated scrutiny.

This discretion in use of power leading to all kinds of abuse makes up a general response to anonymous fear caused by terrorism of all kinds. Consequently this kind of order maintained for the sake of security has replaced in effect dictatorship. The political question is, therefore, if such arbitrary use of power produces not only similar but even stronger results in the way dictatorship could never work? True, the latter was marked by an extreme vindictive spirit leading to annihiliation of the individual and for which stands the Gulag but as the writing of Solshenitzyn shows, it could be opposed by the human spirit. Unfortunately this same spirit seems to been lost in the Western sense of decadence or if it all can exist, is at best laughed at and labelled as being highly naive. It seems the tributes feeding the great stream of humanity are drying out and thereby end the possibilities of cultures staying in dialogue with each other. Moreover in the realms of anonymous fear, silence reigns before anything else and the enemy has become invisible.

Consequently the following question will be critical for the future of Wroclaw, of Poland, of Eastern European countries and for Europe: whether or not the work of redemption work after ousting of the totalitarian regime allows for regaining trust in mistrust? Naturally this Right to mistrust should be on the side of the citizen and not of the guards or policemen. Mistrust of those in power is a healthy way of keeping power at bay. There are numerous things which can and do distort politics. Hence mistrust is important. It should not be confused with suspicion that the other works for the secret police nor should it fuel the kind of scepticism as to what will work, what not as both will lead to paranoia and resignation. In democracy trust in people goes hand in hand with trust in the judgment of people. A practical outcome thereof are lasting relationships and more importantly friendships.

If anything is needed in post Socialist times, then the critical work with memory. It is needed to step out of that illusionary 'eternal present' in order to understand that resistance against forgetting means heeding details by remembering the small things. Only the latter allows for such analysis that remains differentiated. Thus the individual able to stay on his or her memory track would be already an indication of being able to live outside the system while working inside. It shapes the kind of self-understanding of which Adorno would say the only thing which is self-understood is that nothing is self understood i.e. should be taken for granted.

To experience one's self understanding in a self critical manner one has to stand tensions created by inner and outer forces often not easily to be identified as rarely conscious reflection of one's inner psyche can go hand in hand with consciousness for the world outside our own lived experiences merely subjectively interpreted. This lack of self understanding can be attributed to two major things: the loss of the big love songs which happened already when Sappho was writing her poetry and the arts, in particular poetry and literature failing in the quest to uphold the human spirit despite all misery and shortcomings. Inadequacy of all kinds marks the modern human being and by Heiner Mueller in Hamlet Machine it went so far as to have his or her identity being chewed up literally by the big machines.

Michel Foucault developed the interesting thesis that any self understanding would be created in a tension field between inner and outer forces. The inner part would be reflected upon not necessarily in psychoanalytical, but more aptly in anthropological terms while the outer dimension would be covered by ethnological reflections. He considers it would be most difficult to stand in this tension field and still hold out in order to relate to the self in a free i.e. self determining way.

Indeed when someone enters a job like artistic director for a European Capital of Culture, he finds himself in such an intense tension field that it will never be easy to stand it. The saying is anyone in such a position finds him- or herself more easily in an ejection seat. Yet that tension is needed to create and to things in order to not just stay alive, but to remain creatively conscious of many possibilities while maybe only one or two can be realized.

Nowadays all live in the kind of reality presented by a system claiming privatization is more efficient than state control. This claim is made even though the state controls and knows more about the life of the individual, and this in a systematic way, that what was the case under Socialism. In the UK a person is caught by the camera at least 40 times on the way to work and this without ever so much noticing to what extent surveillance dominates everything else. The mistrust of the system in people forced into trusting anonymous things that they work undermines any effort at humanization of society. The latter can only be brought about by people being free to trust their mistrust.

Mistrust should not be suspended but allow for trusting it as this is the way to practical wisdom. Since the latter is something Kant and Adorno said cannot be taught, it needs to be exercised constantly for otherwise the formal with the informal do not conjoin. Rather than strengthening people's resistance against the systematic mistrust of anonymous control mechanisms, it would weaken their desires to be free from all kinds of artificialities. The latter is made up by a world of false dependencies leading to such absurd matters like someone not merely entering his or her own apartment, but then turning the key three times to make sure the door is locked. When Michael Moore interviewed a Canadian woman why she does not lock the door but leaves it open even though she lives in the middle of the city, her answer was most telling: 'why should I lock myself into my own house?'

A confusion of trust with mistrust due to fear leads then to wrong decisions when it comes to letting in some people and not the others. For practical judgment is based in reality on the ability to trust basically people while still letting mistrust prevail in everyday encounters as one never knows if the other is out to steal your money. But those who do know how to enter codified and even institutionalized systems aiming to keep out the bad guys and let in only the good ones, when in fact such black & white profiles lead to the most absurd mistakes. For anyone can decode this and sneak in even if it is the European Parliament under strict surveillance 24 hours a day.

There is something else happening to confuse the situation. While it may be rational for a car salesman to strive for more cars sold a month, altogether more cars on the road will damage the environment and contribute negatively towards climate change. For what may be rational in the eyes of the individual or company, namely to strive for maximum profit, can easily become highly irrational when the entire society is caught in a negative situation and does not get out before it is too late. Why rational behavior of the individual can be highly irrational when seen as a part of masses of people doing the same is not perceived so easily, can be explained. Here culture can be used to cover up the contradiction. Whether people stand just in the street outside a pub in London as part of their after work socialisation behavior or else they are caught in desiring a house of their own and at best even abroad even though they do not have the financial means and are forced to take out a loan which they cannot secure by their real income possibilities, it is an urge to do the same that misleads them. The same means here conformity as if they would not be anyone if they did not have the same e.g. expensive car, second home etc. Whenever they go to social gatherings, they find out very quickly what is desired most and who is deemed to be successful in having satisfied these obvious criteria of success. By not seeing that the whole has become entirely irrational i.e. not sustainable, they literally 'screw' themselves into believing they are nevertheless doing the right thing. They simply failed to mistrust all the importance given to those pseudo criteria and, therefore, did not follow what their inner voice was telling them, namely not to do it. In other words, to trust one's own mistrust means relating to one's practical reason and living with a free conscience by which they can connect to others openly and this without giving in to mass conformity. The latter is exemplified by being stuck in a traffic jam for endless hours all alone despite having a luxury car meant to enhance private mobility.

Freud upheld the notion of memory track. In order not to succumb to a life within a system of silence, and silencing one's inner voice would be a part of that, it would have to mean to step outside the system and into the feelings as they come up. By stepping into them one goes forward and thereby remembers this experience. Out of this is created the memory track to be remembered only if mistrusting the system as being able to uphold life.

Those who prefer to stay inside the system adapt themselves to any kind of routine which promises like an insurance company some assurance that in case of need the church would be there for you and if the church fails, then at least God. Beliefs can be explained in that way: they are not really believed in but in case and since one never knows, some reverence is given to them. It leads to a kind of tokenism or for that matter to a highly ritualized life. That is most important. The Western world prides itself to be beyond what it being projected, for instance, upon rural and religious life in India, namely a society not to be bounded by rituals and metaphysical beliefs. Yet looking into such critical mirror those living inside the system have all but lost their humane feelings for themselves and others. The lack of empathy for others goes with the absence of the imagination. It explains but does not excuse why people look the other way i.e. minding their own business, when something is happening to the other(s) even it occurs out in the open, in the street, just in front of oneself.

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It is most important to remember, conceptually speaking, that unity of perception is based no longer on the power of abstraction with God being perhaps in Western civilization the greatest unifier but equally also the most divisive one. Rather trust in mistrust ensures a sense perception based on the trust of one's own feelings and therfore senses. This means the certainty of the senses has to be regained after having been lost in the totalitarian regime and its logic. Kolakowski attempted to reconstruct the certainty of the sense, but this cannot be an expression of ambivalence between religious and metaphysical speculations about the senses. Those emerging out of Marxism in one way or another were still captivated by Hegel ascribing too much power to the concept as expression of too little confidence in the people.

When Hegel replaced remembering with 'Aufheben' in order to suspend for the time being the question of understanding, he did so to lock it inside an absolute setting of the concept of the absolute. It ends everything and does not allow any remembrance. As 'an und für sich', it means like the circle it comes to a full stop even though it entails the promise to return to that spot in order to take up what was not understood at that time. Yet this promise is never kept. As history shows that return is made impossible since the concept takes everything on to the next level of abstraction with only the essential being remembered. In the end, the Hegelian approach to memory leaves everything behind while unsure where all of this shall end if not in the dead end of an absolute transformed into the power of abstraction. The latter leaves but one option, namely to trespass borders as they have been drawn up by the concept of the state. Here it becomes important to recall that Hegel required of everyone to recognize the state before being recognized as a concrete citizen of the state. Thus no one gives recognition to the other as a human being but only when they recognize each other as citizen of the state and this means to use a modern terminology a national branding of identity since the cultural mask given to the state as being 'German' means on the way to that abstract identity there has to be negated the otherness and the difference before assuming ones entity is an identity within the presumed unity.

Such an unity leaves the state as enclave in which everyone is trapped inside and even worse without memory what other realities could have come into existence if the otherness and the real differences would not have been negated. To attain this life outside such a system it would require humanility to recognize that every human being is more than a belief in an abstract system.

If memories are lost or scattered into thousand pieces, surely a European Capital of Culture should take into consideration the need for a reflection as to how culture has served certain purposes in socialist times. The model of Hegel suggests culture was used as a mask. Certainly many would recall that the Polish state was most liberal with regards to the arts and allowed many of the artists to have a passport with which they could travel. To remember that what would be most important in today's fledgling democracy. Efforts to stay just in the appraisal of the past can be linked to another understanding another Europe becoming mature in reconciling itself with the mistakes made in the past.

A part of that would be this work of redemption. Understanding this would indicate how culture does work through the grape vines since human beings rely as well on rumors, gossips and tell tales even if they do not believe in them. Reality is a matter of accepting it to be most cumbersome while at the same time there are so many lovely moments that truth telling cannot be reduced to a black or white appraisal as if this is the sole message by which to get intoxicated by the happiness akin to realizing what it means to be alive, healthy and even in strong disagreements with your fellow men and more important with the person one presumes to love as being the next person. That love relationship has nothing romantic about it for it means openess to the other as being capable of influencing oneself the most. That is why the ethical core of society is the man-woman relationship with the otherness being as crucial as both need to embrace the stranger in themselves to accept the alienation of relationships which never work out fully if the memory of the other is not retained as the home to which one returns whenever one has gone to work or on a trip. Most welcome is the criticism entailed in the remark of the other once some changes in the face have been observed but no presumption prevails as of yet as to what has brought about this change.

Great deeds may have been done to ensure some ways of living together but still history moves on! This was said by professor Krucina when meeting this man during a walk through the religious quarter of Wroclaw on Monday, January 17, 2011. The religious quarter comprises of a beautiful enclave of buildings with the church standing beside a fast flowing river. The professor was influential when it came to formulate the most important letter of redemption written after Second World War. The aim was to ask the Germans to forgive. To do so means not to forget but the very opposite to remember more distinctly what took place and what were the circumstances at that time which led to ousting all Germans from Wroclaw. Prof. Krucina emphasized in his short comments made while talking with him briefly in the streets that the letter was but one deed in history but more important is that people work together and even fall in love. It makes something work which was forced not to function when Fascism rose to power in Germany. Then it was only trust the leader and no one else while a remainder of that legacy can be found in a film depicting some evil character who tries to blind fold his girlfriend with the saying 'trust me' that he shall fix what he has already undone.

When Prof. Krucina spoke about love then likewise Oleg Koefoed in Copenhagen would say if any region like Sonderborg in Denmark is to survive, then because a certain love exists between all people so that they not only stay in the area but are ready to marry and to settle down in order to create their families. That would ensure the sustainability of the region.

Societal relationships are based on this kind of love which opens the way into future and brings together people no other force can. And it is consensual and free of vindication, at least at its beginning.

Here then I remember that love in the collective sense was considered during Socialist times in Poland as being the devil who could provoke individuals to step out of the safety zones of faithful marriage and into the realms of promiscuity. It was the potential to meet someone in the train and before arriving at the next station they had found a way to make love right then and there. This possibility meant liberisation and therefore freedom while not being riddled by doubt, fear and even more important so by guilt.

The amazing part of that story with the devil is that this secular love was partly instigated by the church which never denied the erotic dimension of beauty. The confession was used to ensure the mind body relationship was reconciled in a humble way so as to look forward to the next misdeed which one entered with great pleasure as it was also the beginning of confirming a new ritual in private. It meant making love into an extension of the rituals performed in church. Since there was nothing personal about it, and here I would refer to an article by Bart Verschaffel about authenticity in architecture but not only, it became a ritualised human gesture governing the common places left undone by dictatorship.

Nowadays common sense and common places have been replaced by officially declared public spaces in a secular sense to open up for tourists who display their need for pleasure and fun as do the British ones when they bathe naked in the fountain of the central square. That is more or less a display of having lost the sacred feeling of love as extension of the collective one in the private sphere.

Instead the loss of love in the private sphere underlines the destruction of the common sense. Confused by the dichotomy of private public dualities in an age when privatization is being praised to overcome the inefficiency of the public body, the administration and the politics which goes on within its ranks, there is one common attitude based on no longer feeling the necessity to act altogether in a rational way not merely in politics but in love!

Insofar as not caring about the other in response to a world not caring anymore about the individual has lead to a wish for 'metamorphosis' (a central concept in the bid of Wroclaw to mark change or culture as constant transformation), it is a question whether or not such new disorder would be noticed. If no one cares one does not notice as the others do not notice it either.

In such a disorder there appears the wish to return to a normality in which it would be possible to hide one's own inactivity and passivity. That wish was just as in the past the same longing for the subversive nature of the arts. It was a way to undermine the public morality taken to be cynical. The subversive art was made out by Carol Becker to be the extension of the aesthetical questions by Marcuse who found the human being in the consumer society had become one dimensional.

With this wish for normality in a double sense as to what are the associations at normal level and what are the streams underneath, there comes a return of new rituals. The latter are not as of yet common rules but they are enacted out in public to undermine the conformity in another way. That symbolizes then a need for a new subversiveness not yet to be found in any city as the latter is divorced from nature and those experiences which need not to be induced artificially as assumed by the EU 2020 vision when talking about the 'economy of experience' as key motor.

Thus the process of depersonalization continues at the level of a system which works only as a consuming society without noticing its losses, fore mostly of memories. By the same token there is to be noticed a surge of religious motivations to be sacred in non secular spaces which the church has provided fore mostly until now and which many Western intellectuals have replaced by Zen philosophy or similar types of meditation. The latter has to do with an aesthetics linked to lines and space.

Since someone said prayer is also a form of meditation, this different form prevails very much in Catholic Poland. It is an indication that the most remembered occasions when Pope John visited Poland were the public mass celebrated out in the open. It was a ritual for all to see as it gave the chance to everyone to become a common anonymous member of the same ritual.

If anything the ritual in the Polish language continues in a common codex of over politeness which introduces the other to one's own dignity. Significantly this famous professor whom we met yesterday bowed his head towards Adam Chmielewski to say thank you for your existence as you mean something good not only for him but rather this good means Adam as philosopher is contributing something positive to this societal generality. The older philosopher needed to say no more for everyone understood that he meant more than just good for society. It can be assumed that he knows very well the society plus its political sphere against which any cultural concept for a European Capital of Culture has to be realised.

For that sphere understands culture as a failure to liberate the political sphere from the continuity of dictatorship even if only as a threat to return if the form of democracy is not lived in any convincing way. There is at the level of cultural identity always the risk to enter sooner or later a 'continuity of discontinuity' as the anonymous self is not able to handle in reality all the challenges and therefore at personal level the question of love. Without a collective sense this would be impossible as it would then not include the other and thus leave the individual isolated and alone in society.

The loneliness cannot be dealt with by the other if only just another anonymous member of the collective guilt in not having found a positive identity as it marks an inability to overthrow fear and this time to do it in Poland without the support of the church. Culture is looking upon as a hope and judged accordingly if it is a new way of contributing towards collective identity.

If this finding is so much a part of the daily practice, then a return to a personal self would end up in failure. Thus the system is driven by an impatience which is unloaded especially in the traffic, in the way some drive their cars. It is a vehicle which ought to be driven as fast as possible as if to catch up with the fleeting moment of history in which the devil as engineer of collective rituals still played a role but not longer today. Even erotic has lost its power.

For instance, when you cross the German border when entering Denmark by Flensburg, the most interesting remark is that in the past on the Danish side of the border there were many sex shops not allowed to exist in Germany. The forbidden on the one side of the border was allowed on the other side. It meant another existence in the shadow of the border. This other existence based on a play of erotic in order to make money off an endless desire was illusionary. Once the border vanished the meaning of being a special location which allowed the prohibited was lost. Consequently the sex shops vanished as well as the meaning of border between the public morality and the hidden forbidden but in another way as the open secret everyone knew about.

I wonder if not this element of an ethnographical sketch of the ritual seeking to make a sacrifice in public for the sake of having the devil return as figure of temptation and of provocation could become a major subject matter for a European Capital of Culture. Its official program would naturally need adaptation to how people deal nowadays with the terrible loss of love and which is confronted or experienced in the form of ever growing impatience, if not anger over so much loss. The latter manifests itself in the sense of sacrifice or that so much has been given up for the sake of appearing to be modern that due to the poor results, and mainly in the absence of convincing experiences of Europe, that this historical exchange between dictatorship and modernity is being questioned. As late comers to post modernity and the form of democracy being practiced within the European Union, Eastern European countries tend to have but one choice, namely to negate the exchange principle as a technocratic one and instead to favour a collective soberness of truth.

Soberness of truth reflects itself in its opposite, namely in the kind of uncontrollable alcoholism for which funny drunkenness is but the mildest of all forms of this negation. Commercially speaking, there is on the basis of soberness something possible but whose historical contours cannot be made out so easily when standing in the shadows of historical buildings. It is the confrontation with the new reality made up of heavy trucks that underline the kind of trade and exchange no longer possible as transportation itself has become the key export of everything (Illich).

To remind yourself daily of the many new impossibilities to move goods but also people about is a way of becoming a subversive subject in such a system. It can be detected on hand of the importance of the car. Such individual mobility allows at least to oneself partially some of the possibilities thought never to have existed during the times of dictatorship. The subversive form enters into this domain by thinking and believing this is not officially recognized in the present form of society. This is why there is as much confusion about public space as there is about the common use of these spaces.

Many public spaces are non space. This can be explained by not being clear as to when they are meant to have there rituals be performed to safeguard as common ground at least some human gestures. This term is very well explained in the paper by Bart Verschaffel about 'architecture is (as) a gesture' and in which appears the following sentence at the beginning of the second paragraph: "The 'real', the 'authentic', the 'sincere'; are they all bastard children of the lost, vanished 'Truth'?"

Later on Bart continues the following thought: "Non basta. As a guest who once was invited and now refuses to leave - though he is no longer wanted -, the category of 'authenticity' has remained with us in our thinking on art and architecture. There is a certain obstinacy to the awkward, seemingly old-fashioned problem of authenticity that already becomes apparent when we consider the near impossibility to evaluate or think about art and architecture without paying our dues to the category of kitsch; i.e. the category of the objectively untruthful."

In the description of the bid of Wroclaw 2016 the church is being closely related to just that, namely kitsch. Bart says: "kitsch can function in a dandyesque strategy, where the lie serves as alibi for a furtive and desperate search for truthfulness now turned impossible in times where the 'real' no longer can show itself immediately."

What people seem to suffer under the most is the structural deficiency of the public lie. They cannot detect so easily the lie as a way of kitsch having become the tool of television shows, reality shows the best example. Since now this watching of television is allowed and branded as mere entertainment from which is derived the sensation of becoming known in the unknown, the real question is what happens to the desire for the subversive? Insofar as the actors no longer recognize themselves as actors, they cannot function as clowns to verify their roles in public life by being subversive towards themselves. (Jadwiga poses this question in her critical reflection of dance theatre). The absence of ritual in the wish to react them is demonstrated as well in talk shows, in the seemingly personal encounters when nothing is personal since the historical background is missing and only shadow fights take place to demonstrate over and again that everyone finds himself within the seeming range of guessing games due to a lack of substantiated knowledge. This means having entered the unconsciousness as Plato's cave the answers are not given in the Freudian way of interpreting the consciousness as the negation of the playing field where sexual dreams conflict with the reality, but the common assumptions about what it takes to have a conscious mind about politics, morality, the role of the church in society has changed beyond recognition. Since this is self evident it is not talked about it openly. As such this kind of public scandal made into a permanent motor to keep the conversation going seems to be the reality which belies the fact that there are people who are not corrupt and which would not justify the generalization that all politics is bad. Yet this anti politics as legacy of anti Communism does exist and yet without knowing how to rectify the important rituals needed to safeguard the human gesture as common ground, there is no way of telling what attitude should be adopted towards an unknown future. As the future is known to be negative and not important in its negativity but in its triviality there is no creative tension anymore towards the future. It is not an open but a closed future. There is no willingness to prepare oneself for a future event even though it is a well known fact to have been invited to a ritual, including a ball in the past, that this would have meant all sorts of willingness to undergo sacrifices just to be present at that occasion. Whether it meant giving up the time of playing outside by sewing the dress inside, the relationship between inner and outer nature was distorted as part of the entry into that future event already now, but only in the imagination. What if?

If future is played out negatively and everyone is prepared for the failure, then the kind of political realism kicks in with another face than social realism or real socialism as the other side of the coin when speaking about the yearnings for the authentic in not only politics but also in social life.

I took this call for papers as a way to answer myself the question why the term 'ritual' is so strong as reference when thinking about things undone and left to the unknown? More can be said about this when referring to thoughts and writings of Klaus Heinrich.

hatto fischer

Wroclaw 18.January 2011



Subject: H-Memory: Cfp: Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents, Bristol (UK), 16-17 September 2011

Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2011 18:05:51 -0500

From: Anna Sheftel <asheftel@GMAIL.COM>


Reply-To: H-Net List on Memory Studies <H-MEMORY@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

From: Sara Jones

Subject: Cfp: Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in

Post-Socialist Presents, Bristol (UK), 16-17 September 2011

Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents

University of Bristol, 16-17 September 2011


Papers are invited for an interdisciplinary and international symposium entitled ‘Remembering Dictatorship: State Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents’, to be held in September 2011 at the University of Bristol (UK).

It is twenty years since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the transition to democracy in Eastern Europe.

Nonetheless, the impact of the state socialist past can still be felt in those countries previously under Soviet influence or control. In recent years, the legacy of socialist dictatorship and its impact on the post-socialist present has received considerable attention in a variety of disciplines: amongst others, cultural, literary, media and museum studies, history, anthropology and political science. The boom in interest in (individual, cultural, social and collective) memory has seen the development of a range of theoretical and methodological tools with which we can approach the impact of national history or histories on politics, society and culture. Nonetheless, the majority of this work has taken place in isolation, within one disciplinary area or focusing on a single geographical location.

Working from a comparative approach that crosses both disciplinary and geographical borders, this symposium asks for a (re)evaluation of the processes of coming to terms with state socialist pasts in post-socialist contexts. We aim to examine the impact of memories of dictatorship on policy-making, social interactions and the production of cultural artefacts (e.g., literature, film, museums and memorials) and to initiate a dialogue between researchers working in very different fields.

What new insights can be gained by bringing together different disciplinary perspectives? What interconnections can be seen between the cultural, social and political spheres? What similarities can be seen in the processes of dealing with the state socialist past in different post-socialist countries? What features of this process are specific to a particular national context?

Possible themes might include (but are not restricted to):

•       Memory and democratic policy-making

•       Memory and the construction of national identity

•       Remembering popular culture and the everyday

•       Trauma and memory

•       Public history and memory

•       Memory in literature and film

•       Memory and the archive

•       Counter-memories

•       Interactions between individual and collective memories

Professor Catriona Kelly (University of Oxford) will give the keynote address.

Papers are invited which focus on one or more geographical regions with a state socialist past: including (but not restricted to) the GDR, Eastern Europe and countries formerly part of the Soviet Union.

We would particularly welcome papers with an interdisciplinary approach.

The language of the conference will be English. Publication of

selected papers is envisaged. Please send abstracts of no more than

200 words to by 30 March 2011. For other

enquiries or further details, please contact Sara Jones




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