Der Himmel über Berlin

Given the title of my blog, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that, 25 years ago today, Wim Wenders’ film, Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. There is garnered the award for Best Director for Wim Wenders.

As an interesting side-note, the script, which was rather minimalist, was co-authored with Peter Handke.

In the closing titles it says: “Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, François and Andrej.” This is a reference to fellow filmmakers Yasujir Ozu, François Truffaut, and Andrei Tarkovsky.


ΣΥΡΙΖΑ in Greece

It was a pleasure listening to Alexis Tsipras of the ΣΥΡΙΖΑ Coalition in Greece school the BBC host yesterday in Politics 101. She asked, with that annoying tone of British exasperation in her voice: “Don’t you see that you are going to destroy the debt deal and that Greece may have to leave the EU? Why can’t you compromise with the Socialists?” 

“We ran on a platform opposing the debt deal,” he replied, “pledging to oppose it, and we received votes based on that pledge, so now, if we do the opposite, and go along with it, and accept, e.g., the mandatory decrease in the minimum wage, or what I call ‘Hungarian wages with German prices’, what do we have left? Our credibility as a political party depends on our doing what we said we would do!”

I hope the German Left is watching this, not just Die Linke, but SPD and the Greens as well. And the Socialists in France. And the Democrats in the USA. 

It’s basic: Do what you pledge to do, and we’ll vote for you again. Don’t do it, and we won’t. 

What the West needs is more political parties like the coalition Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς, not fewer. If Greece ends up leaving the EU, it will be because of a surplus of democratic spirit, not a lack. 

Democracy is messy, people. 

A Democracy shouldn’t allow the central banks, the financiers, to run their country, and tell them what to do. 

A Democracy shouldn’t let the banks set the conditions of life, and make the lives of the people miserable with their “austerity” song and dance (which is only austerity for the poor), and their bullshite crisis capitalism. 

Economics and its “laws” are not natural — they are the result of human choice; choice about who eats, and who starves, who lives, and who dies.

Excerpt from Kant’s Vorrede to the 2nd edition of the 1st Critique

I’m posting this here for now just in the original German. My translation will be added at some later date:

“Als Galilei seine Kugeln die schiefe Fläche mit einer von ihm selbst gewählten Schwere herabrollen, oder Torricelli die Luft ein Gewicht, was er sich zum voraus dem einer ihm bekannten Wassersäule gleich gedacht hatte, tragen ließ, oder in noch späterer Zeit Stahl Metalle in Kalk und diesen wiederum in Metall verwandelte, in dem er ihnen etwas entzog und wiedergab: so ging allen Naturforschern ein Licht auf. Sie begriffen, daß die Vernunft nur das einsieht, was sie selbst nach ihrem Entwurfe hervorbringt, daß sie mit Prinzipien ihrer Urteile nach beständigen Gesetzen vorangehen und die Natur nötigen müsse, auf ihre Fragen zu antworten, nicht aber sich von ihr allein gleichsam am Leitbande gängeln lassen müsse; denn sonst hängen zufällige, nach keinem vorher entworfenen Plane gemachte Beobachtungen gar nicht in einem notwendigen Gesetze zusammen, welches doch die Vernunft sucht und bedarf.”

The law or rule (Gesetz) is the place where all observations, if made properly, come together and are joined into a whole. In a manner somewhat similar here to Nicholas of Cusa in his account of the difference between mathematical knowledge and knowledge of nature, Kant informs us that reason will only understand something if that something is the product of its own creation or invention (Entwurf). That the judgements of reason are only made in virtue of certain principles which it has, and so that Nature must be, as it were, made to answer the questions that these principles want to ask, or compel reason to ask. But what are these principles? More about that later. // DPO’C.

Zizou: Trauer und Freude zugleich

Port Said and the massacre there several weeks ago stuck with me for many days after it happened. Even through Super Bowl Sunday, when I might have been focused on American football, I was instead focused on Egyptian soccer.This was in part due to Graham Harman’s many posts on the subject, but there were also constant (seemingly random) reminders, including a driver on Sunday night (who drove my friend Tadd and I, coming home from a Super Bowl party in Park Slope), whose name was “Nour,” and who, as it happened, was from Port Said.

Also there was something I could not shake, a sentiment of anger, that sprang from this mix of sport and violence (a violence which, if you saw the photos of the wounds on some of the survivors, became terrifyingly real, and not at all like the ‘violence’ we sometimes associate with sport). Of course, there had been riots before at football matches, and even people injured or killed. But not like this. And the worst part of it all was that, as the days rolled by, it seemed ever more clear that this was not just some football riot gone out of control, but a concerted effort on the part of the ruling military council to take revenge on al-Ahly’s fans for their role played in Tahrir Square’s “Battle of the Camel” just one year before.

Whether that is true or not (and there is a lot of evidence which says it is), for me, an interesting side-story to the Egyptian football massacre at al-Masry’s stadium in Port Said emerged the following week. It was one that I only picked up on because my football loyalties are with the German club Mainz 05 (from the 1st league).That week was a rather exciting one for the only Egyptian soccer player to play in the German Bundesliga, Mohamed Zidan, a.k.a. “Zizou” :  He rejoined his old club Mainz 05 (where he is much beloved by the fans), a few days before the scheduled game against Schalke 04, yesterday (February 4), leaving Borussia Dortmund.
What stood out to me, however, was the brief press conference he gave yesterday, not about his transfer, or about re-joining his old club, but about something far more striking:

“Al-Masry ist mein Heimatverein, für den ich lange gespielt habe, auch in diesem Stadion.” [He was with the Al-Masry Juniors from ’91-’97, and then with Al-Masry’s professional team until ’99.—DPO]  “Ich habe seit gestern sehr viel mit der Heimat telefoniert, meine Familie und meine Freunde, die in Port Said leben, sind von dem Unglück nicht betroffen. Meine Gedanken und mein Mitgefühl sind bei den Opfern und ihren Angehörigen.” [Al-Masry is my home club, and I played for them for a long time, and even in this very stadium. Yesterday, I was on the phone quite a bit with my homeland, and my family and my friends, who live in Port Said, were not affected by this catastrophy. My thoughts, and my sympathies, are with the victims and with their families.]
This massacre had affected Zizou as well, and in a very personal way, insofar as the stadium in which it took place was the stadium he had often played in, when he was just starting out as a professional footballer, and before he had made it to Europe. It had been weighing on his mind, as well.Yet, that press conference having been given, it didn’t distract him on the field, apparently, or perhaps it even motivated him:  Yesterday he scored the first goal of the game, just 15 minutes in, and it was a goal that allowed Mainz 05 to achieve a tie with the formidable Schalke 04, thereby gaining one point, and moving a few places further up in the standings, away from the danger of relegation to the 2nd Bundesliga.

So the hero has returned to Mainz 05, and his thoughts, before the match, were with his family in Port Said. On the field, however, he was clearly focused on the game. And that sort of concentration, the ability to block out the serious problems affecting his town, and his family, as well as the other citizens of Port Said, is what is admirable.
Zizou’s history as a professional soccer player, which has been mainly in Denmark and Germany, is here:

Zizou scores against Schalke 04 on Saturday, February 4.