mardi 27 décembre 2011
I read the news about Mart Laar's new initiative. He proposes that our Parliament recognized men who fought in the German Army (mostly mobilized into the 20th Waffen-SS division) against the Red Army as "freedom fighters". Well, without delving into the intricacies of the history of a small borderline country, I just wonder why our former Prime Minister and actual Defence Minister did such a thing and why he did it now. Somewhat cynically I find two possible explanations: either he rushed to save his Pro Patria party damaged by serious scandals, or... to save Vladimir Putin and his party harassed by growing popular discontent and mass demonstrations. In such a situation it would be useful to cry wolf, although Estonia is more a mouse than a wolf. We have a saying: "When hungry, the Devil can eat even flies".
samedi 24 décembre 2011
In the beginning was not just the Word, but the Story. Many stories. A story is something where events, facts are not necessarily connected. After A not only B, but also C, D, E, etc. can happen. Bill can marry Alice, but also Jill, Eve or Melanie. At first our understanding of the natural world was not different, our knowledge of Nature was expressed as a story, Nature story or Natural History. It was an account of an enormous multitude of events loosely interconnected. Step by step, science began to diminish the number of such events, introducing more types of logical connection between them. The great idea of early scientists and philosophers was to establish a rule of rules, a "mathesis universalis", a set of equations or formulas that would permit to calculate everything from everything else, to predict every event from every other event. This was still the belief of Laplace. Now we know that the world we live in is not Laplacean but rather Bohrean. Freedom, banished from the world by Laplace, is still there. Freedom, non-necessity is necessary. Stories cannot be abolished either, stories are still there, history is still there. But we understand better the difference between what is strictly interconnected and what is not, between logistics and story. It is interesting that such a difference between stories and logistics has been discussed by theologians already in Middle Ages. Did God create everything by necessity, is the creation a necessary outcome of his essence, his divinity or of his free will? Catholic theology has inclined to the first view, Islamic theology to the second one. I have read that some fundamentalist Islamic scholars have demanded that e.g. in chemistry textbooks the explanations mention the will of God. God willing, the result of burning hydrogen is water... Here, the world we live in is still a story being continuously written by Allah, a story that he can write otherwise that follows no other rules than his free will. Is it a reaction to the beginnings of the scientific world view, to the emerging vision of the world as a mathesis, logistics that was developing in the Islamic world long before the golden age of Western scholasticism and the Renaissance? Is the conception of the world ruled by God's will giving people more feeling of security, more comfort than the conception of the world as a logical system with much less space for God's will or God himself? I don't know.
dimanche 11 décembre 2011
A friend sent me the URL of a page of the Memri TV: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3217.htm. I looked and suddenly realized that it's similar to what happened in Europe a thousand years ago. Fiery preachers calling people to a holy war against the infidels and, of course, the Jews. But the two civilizations have changed sides: the West is the sybaritic, sophisticated and nonchalant one, similar to what the Near East was a thousand years ago, The Near East is similar to what Europe was: uneducated desperately poor people, easy prey to fanatical preachers and cynical politicians. The child preachers... Another similarity. Will there be a children's Crusade too? My hope is that the West will be a bit more vigilant than the easy-going Muslim rulers a thousand years ago who didn't care too much when they heard of some barbarian rabble landing somewhere far from the centres of the civilized world. They were absorbed in their intrigues, in poetry, music and love. As we in Europe...
mardi 6 décembre 2011
There are some similarities between the Middle Eastern countries, now shaken by uprisings and revolutions, and Russia, where the ruling party is clearly losing some popular support. Many liberals in the West were (and some still are) enthusiastic about what they call the "Arab Spring". But this enthusiasm is going sour after the victory of the Islamists in several Arab countries. It is becoming clear that there will be no sensible improvement in human rights in Egypt, Libya and quite probably even in Tunisia or Marocco. Now, after the relatively poor showing of the Yedinaya Rossiya in Russia, some people are again seeing a chance of liberal opposition gaining strength there with the perspective of Russia changing from an autocratic to a fully democratic nation. I think this is an illusion. If Putin and his clan loses power, it will not be the liberals but the Communists and Nationalists who will gain power. And this is neither in the interests of the West nor in the interests of liberally minded people in Russia. We can compare Putin with the Austrian chancellors Dollfuss and Schuschnigg whose rule was more autocratic than democratic, but still infinitely more liberal and humane than the rule of Hitler who rose to power in a nearly democratic way... I find similar ideas in an essay by George Friedman from the website of the Stratfor Institute I warmly recommend: