Sunday, January 18, 2015

Parce que je ne suis pas Charlie

(österreichische Version weiter unten)

Why am I not Charlie, even though among most of my Facebook friends (most of whom I do like), and in wider society as well, it almost seems consensus to ignore Charlie or to be Charlie?

Well, first of all, I am very much alive: Unlike the journalists from Charlie Hebdo, many of whom were under police protection, because they had received death threats due to their provocative journalistic work, I am essentially a coward: I would probably never dare to say something provocative, if it would indeed endanger my own life. So, from that perspective, it is presumptuous to stand in line with people, who really did put their lives on the line for their conviction (even if they most likely underestimated the risk) and lost it in the course of it.

But, then again, the slogan #jesuischarlie might just be a code to support Charlie Hebdo. And, taking Saussure seriously, I would let that pass – if uneasily, since it might be misleading. Yet, secondly, and much more importantly, I would not have endorsed the publication of Mohammed cartoons in countries with clear Christian or other non-Muslim majorities in the first place, because I don't endorse the public wholesale ridicule of an obviously discriminated minority.

As an ignostic, I am not at all too concerned about offending religious faith. In privacy or in semi-publicness with adherents of faith X, it is perfectly fine to ridicule faith X. But Charlie Hebdo is a small mass media outlet. It aims to broadcast at the whole of, or at least at the, mmh, “intellectual elites” of France, where (like in the rest of the EU to varying degrees) Muslim minorities are clearly discriminated against. Satire is supposed to go against hegemony, not side with it and reinforce it. The power structure is decidedly against Muslims in France. I expect Charlie Hebdo to ridicule those with power, as they duly also do, but the seriously disadvantaged are a no-go to publicly poke fun at (Mick Billig put that point more eloquently on page 455 here). Islam as such (as opposed to specific practices within certain Muslim groups which in turn marginalize other people for illiberal reasons) is supposed to be ridiculed by satirists from Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey, that's great. To laugh at people, who are in precarious situations, is not good satire, but mobbing via humor.

Thus, again, we can learn from the Yanks. Their mainstream media unsurprisingly and rightly condemned the killings, but refrained from publishing offending Mohammed cartoons from Charlie Hebdo. which was criticized as pro-religious stance by the German liberal paper taz. This is not censorship, or self-censorship, but civilized self-constraint: There is no need to endorse all positions of Charlie Hebdo, just because they became victims of a vile murder attack: Victim-hood does not automatically render you morally superior in all your positions. For leftists, this point might clearer, if one would imagine, instead of Charlie Hebdo, Jyllands-Posten (JP) would have been the target of terrorist attacks. Unlike Charlie Hebdo, JP is an arch-conservative daily in provincial Protestant Jylland and they certainly do not usually engage in wholesale blasphemy against all sorts of religions. They only went after the minority religion and some of their cartoons were more vile than funny. Imagine (as is a real possibility), they would have been the target of terrorism. Would you just support their anti-Muslim agitation, because they fell victim?

Finally, I am not Charlie, because, if I would publish anti-Muslim cartoons, it is hard to imagine that with reference to that, some fanatics would kill people in a country distant from where I live. But that's precisely what happened in Niger. Charlie Hebdo still thinks it was right to publish the latest cartoons, despite such, if indirect, consequences. I am not so sure, whether I would concur. Maybe, it would have been more funny to dedicate the first issue of Charlie after the attacks to their unlikely supporters: Marine Le Pen, these guys, and Pegida. This way, one would have avoided agenda setting by terrorists.

(more concise German version below)

Warum bin ich nicht Charlie, obwohl die meisten meiner Facebook-Freunde und auch sonst fast alle Leute entweder Charlie ignorieren oder Charlie sind, bzw. seien wollen?

Naja, also zunächst mal lebe ich noch. Ich hatte und habe auch anders als die Charlie-Hebdo-Journalisten keinerlei Polizeischutz, weil ich unliebsame Feinde hätte. Dazu bin sich zu unwichtig und auch viel zu feige. Es wäre also anmaßend für mich zu behaupten, I sei Charlie.

Aber nehmen wir mal an #jesuischarlie sei einfach bloß eine Chiffre für: „Ich unterstütze Charlie bei seinen Mohammed-Karikaturen“. Nein, auch das würde ich nicht bejahen. Die massenmediale Verbreitung von Mohammed-Karikaturen in Europa – außerhalb muslimisch dominierter Länder wie der Türkei – unterstütze ich nicht, weil sie offensichtlich diskriminierte Minderheiten lächerlich macht. Das ist nicht die Aufgabe von öffentlicher Satire. Satire ist ein scharfes Schwert und sollte nicht gegen bereits Marginalisierte eingesetzt werden, sondern gegen die Mächtigen. Charlie Hebdo macht letzteres, aber auch ersteres. Wenn Satire sich gegen den Islam in einem muslimisch dominierten Land wendet, dann ist das toll. Wenn Satire bestimmte Praktiken von Teilen einer religiösen Minderheit, die selbst marginalisierend sind, thematisiert, ist das auch okay. Aber platte Mohammed-Karikaturen? Das ist zu flach.

Man könnte mal wieder von den Amis lernen: Derer wichtigste Printmedien verurteilten die Anschläge und verzichteten trotzdem auf Mohammed-Karikaturen. Diese Selbstdisziplin wurde von der taz als pro-Relgiösität und Selbstzensur verballhornt. Nein, das ist einfach nur anständig der muslimischen Minderheit in den USA gegenüber, die selbstverfreilich nicht für die Anschläge zur Verantwortung gezogen werden sollte. Man stelle sich vor, nicht Charlie Hebdo, sondern Jyllands-Posten oder Pegida wären Opfer des Anschlags gewesen. Müsste ich die dann auch beklatschen? Selbstverständlich wäre ich betroffen, aber meine Meinung zu derer politischen Positionen ändere ich doch nicht wegen religiöser Terroristen.

Schließlich bin ich auch nicht Charlie, weil, wenn ich anti-muslimische Karikaturen veröffentlichen würde, mit Berufung auf dies nicht zehn Menschen im Niger getötet werden würden. Der Herausgeber von Charlie denkt, dass er mit der Publikation der Karikaturen die Religions- und Pressefreiheit stützt. Aber vielleicht wäre es witziger gewesen, das erste Heft nach dem Anschlag den ungewohnten Unterstützern Charlies zu widmen: Diesen Typen und Pegida. Dann überließe man das Agenda-Setting nicht den Terroristen. Und Pegidas Lutz Bachmann ist bei sich selbst eher dünnhäutig.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

European Researchers Immobility Scheme

After my car was vandalized twice over the last four weeks (once all windows were smashed, the next time my "new" car had its outside mirrors smashed), I decided that maybe it's time to leave good old merry England and switch countries.

So, I came across:

The European Researchers' Mobility Portal

I think it should be dubbed the European Researchers Immobility Scheme. I put in my details and expected to get some list like you get at:

Instead, I got a page that linked me to three Austrian grant schemes. Why? Because Austria has the distinction to come first in the alphabet. Well, I thought, Austria is a bit boring, so I went to straight to "B" (you have to click on each letter of the alphabet, if you want to check for all European wide jobs).

The first link I got is dead.
The second link linked me to the homepage of the Vrije Universiteit in Bruxelles. Duh. I could have done that without 5 clicks.
The third link: dead again.
The fourth link: Again, a link onto the homepage of a University (this time Hasselt.)

Well, OK, so I won't become a famous Belgian, and anyways, I should ditch my Orientalist bias towards the former WP states, so I went to "E", which delivered a grand total of two links:

The first link directed me to the Estonian Science Foundation, after four clicks I arrived at their application page, which states:

"The competition is open to all Estonian researchers as well as foreign researchers working permanently in Estonia." So, no mobility there.

The second link directs me to a page that tells me that I should apply to the British Academy, to which they provide, yes, you guessed right, a dead link.

Thus, I poked around for about 20 minutes, with no tangible results. And why are there only grants, not job regular vacancies? Uh, because they are listed sepeartely, in an even worse search engine, which holds the grand total of 16 non-EU funded vacancies in all areas of research.

Thus: God save the Queen.

Ooops, I almost forgot: Thanks for opening 34 browser windows for me. I am too dumb to know, when I want to open a new window.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Franconian Language

Pourquoi la langue administrative dans une territoire avec des populations des langues maternelles diverses s'appel "lingua franca"? Je ne sais pas[1], mais j'ai une théorie.

Si, mi amici, è neolatino, ma, sigurno, non è la storia completa.

Mais, peut-être, il y a une autre raison: Parce que La France est la plus ancienne démocratie du monde (Oh, shut up, you Anglo-Saxons with your supposedly "Glorious" Revolution and your Independence-cum-slavery stuff! Und, Eidgenossen, seid auch mal lieber mucksmäuschenstill, ich sag' nur: Frauenwahlrecht!), et la démocratie necessities un langage commun pour délibérations efficaces. Tout de même, c'est la lingua *franca*, pas la lingua angla.

When La Grande Nation turned peasants into Frenchmen, it not only opened up job opportunities for those she ruthlessly stripped of brezhoneg, Provençal, Euskara and other vernaculars, but she also allowed for effective deliberations among citoyens. Sure, other factors also were required, but a lingua franca is central for a functioning public sphere (or shall I say Öffentlichkeit as a tribute to Herr Habermas?).

There are some, who believe that different languages are not an obstacle to democratic deliberations. They say, it doesn't really matter, that the English can't distinguish blu from celeste. And, who would dispute that? Especially, since die Roten face die Schwarzen in politics? But I firmly believe that the democratic deficit of the EU can only be solved, when we all speak English. Could have been another language, at other times, but M. Bonaparte fortunately blew it.

There are three reasons, why democratic deliberations require a lingua franca:

1 Despite the current hegemony of nationalisms and multiculturalisms, democracy is actually a concept that is based on freedom and equality among individuals, not groups: these individuals need to talk to each other, which can only be achieved in a common language.

2 Different languages (langues, not langages) are different systems of meaning, which cannot be translated isomorphically. Een volk is not a people; ein Volk not un popolo. D66 are neither F.P.Ö. nor Forza Italia. Citizens talk past each other, if they rely on simple translations.

3 The mass media will keep a national focus, as long as Slovenes and Estonians read and watch news in their languages.

I rest my case for now and expect Belgians to object. Bedankt!

Thomas, liberally accepting as much as possible, but conservatively emitting only [en-US].

PS: I apologize for my semi-colonialism, not using any Slavic or Finno-Ugric languages (but not for omitting my passport-compatriots: If you recognize FYROM as Macedonia, I might reconsider).

1 Actuellement, je penses que je sais: Encore les arabes sont responsable!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Voting Patterns

Who Should You Vote For?

Who the Hell would I vote for?

Alright, I am getting acclimatized to British politics, and voila, I guessed right, I prefer Charles Kennedy, the redhead. God knows, how I managed to prefer dreadful UKIP over Howards' combo.

My Test Results:

Labour 18
Conservative -57

Liberal Democrat 78
UK Independence Party -26

Greens 38

Check out for yourself, whom you should vote for.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Lingua Franca

OK, this is one post on the new series "I quote myself" (to be sung on the melody of "I touch myself" from the Divinyls). Orginally posted in europa.musica:

I am always astonished, when I hear appeals for romantic linguistic nationalism from people whose mother tongue is French. After all, it was La Grande Nation, which most ruthlessly extinguished anything else but French from its territory. And for good reasons, even if the means were less than laudable at the time: Speaking French rather than brezhoneg, langue d'oc, Provençal, Euskara will open many employment opportunities, and speaking French will enable you to fully exercise your citizenship.

If Europe is to be democratized, it needs, just like France, a lingua franca, which realistically speaking can only be English. To introduce the lingua franca through the market seems to me much less invasive than through government regulations (which I would also welcome).

Today too many Europeans, I am thinking here particularly of the "big" nations, hear far *too much* of "their tongue" in music. France, with its aggressive cultural policies is, of course, a special case, bringing us audial atrocities like Celine Dion or Lorie, or at best bland pop like Kate Ryan's or Air's. (OK, I give you Daft Punk). At the same time, the fabulous Miss Kitten from Grenoble is hidden away, as she does not fit the French language bill.

France is by no means the only offender, though. Look at the German charts: Overpopulated with Schnappis, Yvonne Catterfelds, Fanta 4s, Peter Heppners and Helmut Lottis, who still cry foul and demand a "Quote des Grauens" (a "horror quota," i.e., a quota for German music).

Excuse my French, but I consider particularly music not a national cultural endeavor. I grew up in West Germany with the Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and the Cure rather than Udo Lindenberg, BAP, or Nicole. Most important trends in contemporary popular music have originated in the United States, thus, it is quiete natural that English is the lingua franca among many musicians.

If you want to sing in a language different from English: Go ahead, music easily crosses language borders (see, e.g., the success of last year's Haiducii), but if you rather sing in English: Why not? A good exercise for becoming fluent in English, which all Europeans should become.

Therefore: Spassiba, hvala, kiitos, tänan, ευχαριστώ, bedankt: Vive l'esprit français! Auf Wiedersehen, Kulturnation: Parlez et chantez en anglais.

PS: If you like to hear other languages more often: Stop the stupid dubbing! Last week I watched an Icelandic movie (Nói albínói) on the BBC. If the British with their ignorance of foreign languages are able to read subtitles, why wouldn't French, Germans, and Italians?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Vergackeiern (Pretending to Make Sense of Nonsense)

Okay, this was supposed to be a bilingual blog, so the first word we learn is "Vergackeiern." You won't find it in the dictionary, but only on Google. It's a colloquial expression, supposedly from the Ruhr area (Wanne-Eickel, Wattenscheid, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Schalke 04, Wuppertal-Elberfeld and stuff). According to googlefight, I spell it incorrectly, but, then again, I am not from the Ruhr area, but grew up in the boondocks (Dear Brits: these are the sticks, I will dedicate another post to the boondocks vs. the sticks): In a town akin to El Centro, a spa akin to Cheltenham and another one akin to, well, Spa. Anyways, I digress. Vergackeiern means in a way to pull someone's leg. But not really: It means to deceive someone in a friendly way, but not necessarily with friendly intentions. On the web, you find lots of people who vergackeier their unsuspecting audience and potential clients. My first example is a German site, I'm afraid. No need to worry, though, I am sure you can translate the entire site.

Alright, this fellow sells website design and advertises his designing skills using among others this website as a reference page for his work. Stop searching for the hidden links in the site, there are none! This is it. You saw the entire site! And here is, how he advertises it: "Please notice that the entire site requires only 13KB memory capacity. You can save up to one hundred of these sites on a single discette." Cool, with new technologies, you might carry all websites of your 300,000 businesses on a single Flash memory card in your wallet!!!! What more do want?

Congratulations, you now learnt the meaning of vergackeieren.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Blogging 101

This blogging thing really becomes interesting. My goodness, I am on my way to a real geek. After the fabulous fuggin it up, I now found Disturbing Research Requests, another great idea. I am also coercively checking my own referrer logs, but nothing as interesting there. On my professional site, it's straightforward searches for "frame analysis" or "content analysis". Duh! That's what I work on. On my miniature private site it is equally unspectcular, if less predictable: "Jasmin Tabatabei" is at least a string on my site, but "Jens Kiefer"?? Never heard.

It's more interesting to check, who shares my favorite movies and music. This should improve my taste. Good thing: Almost no Germans in the references, that means I did somewhat shed my national bias. Bad thing: Too many male East Midlanders in their 40s (screw you, Stranglers), too many Icelandic fruitcakes (strangely enough not because of 101 Rejkavik, which returns a teenager from Belgium and a comprofessional from Alborg, but through Moloko and the Frank Zappa). Too many teenagers, 30+ nostalgics,and Scandinavians, altogether. A scary fan of the Kansas City Chiefs (Go, Chargers!): Thanks for nothing, Zappa. Definitely on the cool side: Smoke City: Brazilians and French and someone from Hong Kong, all in their late 20s: There is some hope for me.