Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year

While the world is waiting for Donald Trump to take office we should not forget other upcoming events or ongoing issues. One note recently published by the New York Times about climatic change nearly swept me off my feet.

© M. Lourdes
Warm temperatures in the Arctic in recent months could lead to record-low levels of ice. In mid-November 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than observed averages, scientists said. Over all, the last year broke the Arctic’s record for the warmest year. “We’re going to be watching the summer of 2017 very closely,” one scientist said.

Watching in 2017 is a good thing but we all note that some areas of our globe are falling dry while others are haunted by heavy rainfalls and flooding. What will be the effect of those observations on the ongoing global migration of people? Are the countermeasures against climate change agreed upon by the world community in Paris coming too late? Although I read that President Trump cannot revoke the Paris Agreement, will his administration implement the agreed climate protection goals according to schedule?

The president-elect said: "There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag," he continued. "From now on it is going to be: America First ... Never anyone again will any other interests come before the interest of the American people. It is not going to happen again."

2017 will be a year of elections in Europe starting in the Netherlands on March 15. Geert Wilders and his populist Party for Freedom will certainly gain more votes than in previous elections. This is followed on April 23 by the French presidential election where Front National's and populist Marine Le Pen stands a good chance of winning. On September 14 or 21 we shall have general elections in Germany and it is certain that the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) will be presented in our new Bundestag. Aren't we lucky that up to now the AfD is lacking a charismatic leader? Fake news and trumpism (emphasizing national interests and fighting European integration) will dominate the election campaigns of all populist movements. And it is all good, for the elections are democratic.

The other day in an editorial coming out as an avowed defender of democracy a left leaning German journalist had an intuition: What I really mean and always meant is a liberal democracy.

In 2016 we read and heard over and over again that we must conserve and even defend our precious catalogue of Western values. How will the traditional parties withstand populism or will they somehow bashfully jump on the bandwagon?

The New Year will be an exciting one.

In the German way: I wish you all a healthy 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin illuminated black-red-gold
one day after the torrorist attack on the local Weihnachtsmarkt (©AFP)
The year draws to an end and it was full of surprises. For me 2016 was a T-year. No, not Trump; that will be in 2017 and the three following years.

Paris: January 7, 2015
2016 was the Year of Terror. As far as my blog is concerned I changed my profile picture three times. When in spring 2016 Red Baron still remembered the Charlie Hebdo massacre Brussels, the Belgian capital, was haunted by terrorists on March 22.

Brussels: March 22, 2016
July 14, France's National Holiday, was overshadowed by a bloody truck attack in Nice ...

Nice: July 14, 2016
... a tactic that was cruelly repeated in Berlin on December 19. You may read in the November issue of the Internet journal Rumiyah: Trucks are like knives; they are easy to get and are not suspect. This is cynical with respect to the Polish driver murdered by terrorist Anis Amri in his cockpit. Łukasz Urban leaves a wife and a son behind.

Berlin: December 19, 2016
More and more right wing people in my country amalgamate the massive influx of Muslim refugees in 2015 with Islamic state terrorists trying to capitalize politically on these jihadist attacks aimed against our western society and our way of life.

European solidarity: a minute of silence in France's National Assembly on December 20 (©dpa)
Religious fanaticism is a root of evil and misguided fanaticism is worse. In our enlightened "Christian" world we should not forget that in the past "Christian fundamentalists" practiced crusades against Muslims and pogroms against Jews.

And if religion is not the root it is easily used as a pretext. The German historian Golo Mann rightly wrote: With the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War the Bohemian Protestants always claimed that the war was about religion while the Habsburgs continued stating that the war was nothing else than a secular rebellion, with other words a fight for power.

Frequently "leaders" cynically argue with religious ideology to keep the gemeiner Mann (common man) in line and then will send him to fight and die for the leaders' glory. Over the centuries nothing has changed except that nowadays the jihad sends suicide attackers killing "infidels".


On Tuesday, December 20, one day after the Berlin attack we had a precious guest at Freiburg. Red Baron visited the local Weihnachtsmarkt in good company.


We observed an increased presence of cops ...

Frohe Weihnachten protected by the police (©dpa/Patrick Seeger)
... and noted a somewhat subdued mood.

The Reibekuchenbude on Freiburg's Weihnachtsmarkt
When approaching the booth selling Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) we noticed the following commemorative poster.

A minute of silence
After all life continues so we ordered the most delicious freshly made potato pancakes with Apfelmus (applesauce).



More than ever I wish you a Merry Christmas.
May peace be with you and your family.

Birth of Christ (Paris Book of Hours 1410)
Note the sad looks of the holy couple.
In France it is the time of the Hundred Years' War.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Follower of the Being

When I opened the art & culture section of the Badische Zeitung the other morning I saw the following photo:

©Martin Heidegger Archiv
Red Baron was shocked. Martin Heidegger (RHS) and der Führer on one photo? Not at all, the other guy is Martin's younger brother Fritz. The photo illustrated an article titled Mitläufer des Seyns (Follower of the Being) dealing with the correspondence between the Heidegger brothers starting in 1931.

What I read was even more shocking than the black & white photo. As early as December 18, 1931, exactly 85 years ago, Martin sent his brother Hitler's book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) from Freiburg to Meßkirch, hometown of the Heidegger brothers. Martin wrote: I really wish that you analyze Hitler's book. No understanding person may deny that this man has an extraordinary and sure political instinct. He already had it when we all were still befuddled. The national socialist movement will acquire even more power in the near future. This is no longer small party policy but will be the rescue or the fall of Europe and the Occidental culture.

And on March 2, 1932, Martin added: Today there exists only one clear line sharply separating left and right. Half measures are treason. Read Volk ohne Raum (People without space) by Hans Grimm and learn about Heimat and the destiny of our nation.

Fritz who apparently had the more precise political judgement wrote to his brother on April 3, 1933: Hitler's look on present pictures and part of his attitude frequently remind me of you. This comparison sometimes leads me to the conclusion that Hitler is an exceptional guy. Strange. Red Baron thought that in the photo above Fritz looked more like der Führer.

Martin answered in return: From day to day it becomes clearer how much Hitler is growing as a statesman.The world of our nation and of the Reich is in transformation and he that hath eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to act is carried away and set into genuine and deep excitement - around us we meet again a great reality and at the same time a great distress integrating that reality into the spiritual world of the Reich and into the secret contract of the German being. By the way, three Jews disappeared from my faculty because of the law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.

Were these lines written in view of Heidegger's longing for the position of rector of Freiburg's university? On April 20, 1933, Rector Wilhelm von Möllendorff, a social democrat, being pushed by the Nazis stepped back making room for Martin Heidegger.

During the war on September 3, 1943, with Germany more and more in ruins Martin wrote to Fritz: Although the darkeness draws on the quiet light of the Being the light is neither consumed nor clouded.

Later near the end of the Third Reich: A higher untouchable self prevails above and in us. We must not escape from its grace. Now one "world" will perish that for a long time already did not have the inner greatness and truthfulness but only was façade, noise, pleasure, and indifference.

And when it was all over Heidegger stated: Now all is bad and worse than during the Nazi period but to me the idea becomes more and more clear that our homeland (Heimat), the nucleus of the southwest, will be the historical birthplace of the Occidental Being although we contemporaries come too late for the gods and to early for the Being.

The French occupation forces withdrew his teaching permission but later on classified him only as a Mitläufer (follower of the Nazis). Heidegger laconically commented on September 21, 1949: I always was a follower of the Being and I am likely to remain so.

What a misanthropist.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Name Bashing

As I had predicted: the renaming of street names with a loaded past excited Freiburg's citizens. There was a flood of letters to the editor mostly complaining about the money involved that could be used better.

In fact, in my letter published in the Badische Zeitung I proposed that instead of renaming Rennerstraße* it would be easy to look into Wikipedia and find another famous innocent Renner as godfather for the street thus avoiding that residents had to change their addresses.
*named after Johann Jacob Renner the "burner of witches". In the meantime I wrote his missing article in Wikipedia.

In the case of Alexander Ecker I criticised the argumentation of the naming commission that a skull collection in the 19th century would have given rise to the racist ideology of the Nazis. At that time the study of skulls was à la mode and even practiced by Goethe.

In 1826 the mayor of Weimar presented him with Schiller's skull which Goethe gauged according to the then latest method: the Gallische Schädellehre (Gallic skull theory). He even wrote a poem: Bei der Betrachtung von Schillers Schädel (In contemplation of Schiller's skull).

Goethe's choice. With three skulls in front of him doesn't he look skeptical?
Weimar's mayor simply picked the biggest skull out of the many skulls he found in the ossuary for he thought that Schiller must have had a bigger brain than ordinary people. It was an irony for already at the end of the 19th century scientists were pretty sure that the skull Goethe had contemplated was not Schiller's skull. This was confirmed by DNA analysis in 2008 with the result that Schiller's skull is lost.

A recurring remark in those letters to the editor concerned Luther's anti-Semitism and why the street bearing his name was not proposed for renaming. Did the naming commission beat Alban Stolz but meant Martin Luther?

Alban Stolz's bust in Freiburg (©BZ)
It indeed is remarkable: Freiburg's Catholic Cathedral Prelate and Lutheran City Deacon united in writing a press release: Nobody is morally perfect. If we judge on persons we place ourselves above them.

In their argumentation they simply follow John 8:7 when Jesus was asked about the fate of a woman caught in adultery he answered: Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. The two clergymen pleaded to leave all street names including that of Martin Heidegger but add explanatory texts to the street signs.

©Michael Bamberger/BZ
In the meantime the city council decided to follow the recommendation of the renaming commission although the renaming of each of the dozen streets will individually be discussed at a later date. Haben die keine anderen Sorgen? (Don't they have any other worries?)

As you already know they have.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Napoleon

Last October the Frankreich Zentrum of Freiburg's university held an academic conference open to the public about Napoleon Bonaparte, hero, demon, visionary. Interpretative projections in the 19th century. Only very few people were present and listening.


What made Napoleon initially so popular among the people? Above all it was the bourgeoisie for he fulfilled their longing for stability in ending the excesses of the French Revolution. Elected as Consul for a period of 10 years Napoleon declared on December 13, 1799: Citizens! La Revolution is solidly anchored in its initial principles; it is over.

When the German poet Johann Gottfried Seume on his way back from Syracuse to Leipzig saw Napoleon in Paris on July 14, 1801, the National Holiday, he was disappointed. The Revolution not only was over, but in Seume's opinion Napoleon had betrayed the Republic by reintroducing the Catholic Church in France. Seume wrote in his diary: Since Napoleon has resolutely interred liberty I feel that only now I have become a republican. Bonaparte could have been a savior of mankind but he contented himself being the first reborn son of the Catholic Church.

However, the French people standing around him admiringly said: Il fait diablement des choses, ce petit caporal d'Italie; cela va loin! (The small Italian corporal is doing things devilishly well; that will lead far!). After the defeat of the Prussian army in the Battles of Jena and Auerstedt his compatriots called him: Le grand mécanicien de la victoire (The great mechanician of victories).

Sketch for the painting of Napoleon's coronation 
Napoleon himself promoted his fame when crowing himself as emperor shunting the pope.

Showing Napoleon crowing himself was possibly too much.
The ultimate painting shows Napoleon crowning his the wife Josephine instead.
He showed to the world that he is the greatest but he knew: Mon pouvoir tient à ma gloire, et ma gloire aux victoires que j’ai remportées (My power depends on my glory, and my glory depends on my victories that I have gained).

All in vain.
European nobility did not dig le petit caporal.
Napoleon had not only disavowed the pope but the Papal State being under his rule he ordered the Pontifex to pull a saint out of his tiara who should be venerated on August 15, birthday of the emperor. The pope came up with the patron of warriors, St. Neopolis, a Roman soldier and martyr. The similarity in name with Napoleon was greatly emphasized and the French memorial day from 1806 to 1813 was no longer July 14, but August 15.

St. Neopolis or St. Napoleon?
In countries under his rule many intellectuals and members of the bourgeoisie adored Napoleon too. They regarded him as savior of the peasants from serfdom, as Europe's unifier, as the new Charlemagne. And Napoleon knew: A new-born rule must dazzle and amaze otherwise it will topple.

When the emperor entered Erfurt on September 27, 1808, to open the Princes' Day people filled the streets. Foreign Minister Talleyrand observed: Everybody wants to see the man and see him closely who distributes crowns and thrones and who holds in his almighty hands the fate of Europe, delight and hope, distress and misery.

Writing the Code Napoleon ... for Europe.
Napoleon was a realist too when he said to the Austrian ambassador: Your rulers born to be on a throne could be beaten twenty times and still they will return to their residences. My rule will not survive the day when I ceased to be strong and subsequently will no longer be feared.

How true, although following Napoleon's defeat the admiration for him did not stop.

Napoleon's apotheose

Napoleon awakes to eternal glory.

Friday, December 9, 2016

#hate

Much has been written about #hate on the Internet. Why is it so that even a Liberal city councillor from Freiburg wrote on facebook about brown rats leaving their gutters referring to the populist movement AfD in Germany? His poisoning remark raised a shitstorm, rightly so.

Freiburg is in turmoil since on October 16, an early jogger found the corpse of a 19 year old student who on her way back from a faculty party was raped and then drowned in the Dreisam River. The police worked overtime and on December 3, revealed that the prime suspect was 17 year-old Afghan boy who had come to Germany as a UMA (unaccompanied underage foreigner). Since then he had been living with a German foster family.

At the scene of the crime the police found the key indication in a nearby bush: a single 20 cm long multicolored hair. In watching hours of video tapes taken on the streetcar line running nearby they eventually assigned the hair to the Afghan boy. The matching of the DNA secured at the scene of the crime makes him the prime suspect in the murder of the student.

Suddenly even tolerant citizens start to blame Chancellor Merkel for her open refugee policy that had spilled 800,000 unchecked persons into Germany in 2015. Only now our bureaucratic system is coming to grips with the number of refugees stranded in my country. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 persons are not entitled to political asylum thus living illegally in Germany. Many of those should be extradited. Such an expulsion is a lengthy procedure, too long for many of my country fellows.

Here are just three moderate examples of #hate mails in the case of the Freiburg murder sent to the Badische Zeitung, most of them in rudimentary German:

Rapefugeesarenotwelcome!!! Verpisst euch!! (Rapefugees are not welcome!!! Piss off!!)
Dem gehören die Eier ab!!!! (Cut off his balls!!!!)
Ich hoffe das sie dich Tod Schlagen du kleines arschloch!!! (I hope they will beat you to death you little asshole!!!)

The brutal murder and its circumstances pushed Freiburg into the national news. Yesterday night Mayor Dieter Salomon was on the Maybrit Illner talk show. He iterated his position: The committed murder is not worse because the suspect is a refugee. Had it been a German I would not have been less appalled.

Maybrit Illner is the second lady from the left.
Note the projected "angst" in the background (©ZDF).
Although the topic of the discussion was Refugees under suspicion - the end of Germany's welcoming culture? the debate soon turned to the problem of repatriation of refugees into so-called safe countries. It happens that according to the German government Afghanistan is defined as a safe country. So Afghan refugees must return. 

Salomon was right looking sceptical (©ZDF)
During the talk show host Maybrit presented a young Afghan man who has lived in Germany over the last five years, speaking German and looking for a job. He presently is in a state of toleration. He may only stay in Germany if he finds an apprenticeship. In fact, his appearance on television will be the chance of his life.

If Germany likes to keep the good refugees how can it get rid of criminals? Countries like Morocco refuse to take those citizens back. Should they be parachuted over the Maghreb?

Today and tomorrow Salomon is in the Vatican at a summit meeting of 50 European mayors. Their topic: Refugees are our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis will assist the summit on Saturday for three hours hopefully enlightening those mayors.