Contemporary issues

Minorities in the EU, where do we go from here?

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It has been a while since my last post, which is unfortunate but necessary. This year I hope to go back to be active again, sharing thoughts, interchanging ideas and simply trying to see the world in a better light.

As a fan of debates and roundtables about sociocultural issues, I came across this talk presented below that, in my opinion, should be shared, discussed and be a source of motivation. The subject, as usual in the last few years, is how to deal with minorities in the EU. This particular talk occurs in a synagogue so, of course, the tendency is towards anti-semitism and Israel, though also skillfully illustrating and debating much more than that (Islam and European status quo confusion…). Chapeau!, Mr. Maajid Nawaz, for voicing reason while having faith.

Trispectivism as perceived by Roland Barthes, in Mythologies

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“How is a myth received? We must here once more come back to the duplicity of its signifier, which is at once meaning and form. I can produce three different types of reading by focusing on the one, or the other, or both at the same time.

 

  1. If I focus on an empty signifier, I let the concept fill the form of the myth without ambiguity, and I find myself before a simple system, where the signification becomes literal again: the Negro who salutes is an example of French imperiality, he is a symbol for it. This type of focusing is, for instance, that of the producer of myths, of the journalist who starts with a concept and seeks a form for it.
  2. If I focus on a full signifier, in which I clearly distinguish the meaning and the form, and consequently the distortion which the one imposes on the other, I undo the signification of the myth, and I receive the latter as an imposture: the saluting Negro becomes the alibi of French imperiality. This type of focusing is that of the mythologist: he deciphers the myth, he understands a distortion.
  3. Finally, if I focus on the mythical signifier as on an inextricable whole made of meaning and form, I receive an ambiguous signification: I respond to the constituting mechanism of myth, to its own dynamics, I become a reader of myths. The saluting Negro is no longer an example or a symbol, still less an alibi: he is the very presence of French imperiality.

The first two types of focusing are static, analytical; they destroy the myth, either by making its intention obvious, or by unmasking it: the former is cynical, the latter demystifying. The third type of focusing is dynamic, it consumes the myth according to the very ends built into its structure: the reader lives the myth as a story at once true and unreal.”

[Taken from Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Selected and translated from French by Annette Lavers, The Noonday Press – NY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux  p. 127.]

When Was the Last Time You Listened to Real Music?!

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Sometimes the most inspirational epiphanies arrive from the most unexpected places. Recently I had the pleasure to experience one of those feelings.

music069For some time now, I found myself less and less enjoying to simply listening to music. I still think it is inspirational at times, some music can, still, drive me to tears but I don´t find any pleasure in simply having it around me constantly (except specific moments). Well, to be honest, up until recently, I never actually stopped to seriously think why I feel this way, unattached by music. Then on a train ride where I finally got the chance to start the next book on my list, I came across this next phrase:

¿Os gusta la música?

Le mentí. Acostumbrado a los infinitos rumores de la mar, no concibo otra música que no sea la de las olas. Ade­más, la verdad, no estaba yo para muchas músicas. Y dila­tar la tarea para la que había sido llamado, me parecía, en verdad, un fraude. Pero como debe hacerse en tales ocasio­nes, disimulé y le contesté de esta manera:

-Mucho, señora. La música eleva los espíritus y consue­la de las aflicciones.” (from En el último azul, Carme Riera).

The-ocean-waves-1050x1680

Briefly, it says that after being asked if he likes music, the Captain felt he had to lie, saying that yes, the music lifts the spirits and sooth afflictions. However, his main and truer claim is that music seems to him as a fraud, for he was accustomed to the “infinite murmurs of the sea” where he could not conceive man made music but the one of the waves.

For so long I simply thought that people were right telling me (after realizing my stand about music, of course exaggeratively) that I was emotionless, unable to feel the intensity of a Leonard Cohen’s song, of a Rhapsody melody, or a shake with Shakira (I actually enjoy that part). “You are a robot! – some said – I feel bad for you.”

But no, I used to love music, listening to it all the time, as a teenager in high volume and later, while growing up, somewhat more constrained. I listened to all types of music having my periods of modern Greek style depressive songs, to Rock, and during other periods the Classics and New Age. I listened to music constantly, until my travels. And then, music began to fade, songs became a cultural experience, another form that construct one´s identity. Sounds and tones simply lost their power after experiencing the pleasure of listening to the jungle´s heartbeat. Music became a fraud, a mere imitation of howler-monkey-the true power of nature. I found my connection with nature through the eternal song of life, in the form of animals (what instrument can travel 3km inside a dense jungle like the cry of a howler monkey?); of a summer storm (what greater emotion can a drum give next to a series of thunders or even the break of a pacific 5m wave some footsteps away from you?). Music became a fraud, a simple man-made artifact to incite in us a safe imitation of those intense emotional states as they appear in nature.

It has been many years since the industrious mind of man’s imitations was clear to me. Lipstick for an aroused woman, high-heels for a better physical posture, tailored broad shouldered suit for a more distinguished male look. Perfumes are a billion dollar industry today, simply to imitate the smell of a young, fresh pheromone of a desired girl, or to enhance the masculinity of a village-born man with his wild nature. So much money is invested in finding a formula that will reproduce natural phenomenas, the mimetic existence we call real life.

perfume-2

We worked so hard to run away from nature into comfort, great technology. But are we really that far away from it as some will say? It seems that the more we want to distinguish ourselves from nature, the more we look for it with artificial creation.

So, next time, a person next to you is not thrilled from the music around, from colored faces and Armani suits, don’t scorn his “inability” to feel the music but instead, we can appreciate the capability to simply be truthful to the origin, to the source, constantly and only overwhelmed by the eternal song of Gaia.

music-tree

What do Durkheim, Charlie Hebdo and Trispectivism have in common?

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The reflections of Emile Durkheim, the person considered by many as the father of Sociology, are relevant to the understanding of any modern era social problems. According to his theory, there are some structural effects in society that by acknowledging them, one might be able to organize better. Now, I´m not a sociologist but the resemblance of certain parts of his writings to the universal idea of Trispectivism captured my attention. Well, that and an article someone brought to my attention that blames the Western European societies in the recent clash with some radical Muslims.

Actually, when talking about the Western world and in particular about the differences between the US and countries as France, Denmark and England, the most obvious social issue that is noticeable is with the difficulties with the Other. While the US fights with that omniscient Other abroad, meaning, extrinsic alterity problems, the Europeans have to fight it intrinsically, in their cities and amongst their population.

DurkheimIronically, in the beginning to the middle of the 20th century many thinkers mentioned Durkheim’s theory of the differences between Social Solidarity to predict that the US will collapse from interior conflicts because of the immigrant that were swarming into the neo-promisedland. With a capitalist system and thought, surely the individualism will thrive, separating the different groups into heterogenic groups that eventually will deteriorate the country from within, or that is what they predicted.

As we now know, in the US the immigrant manage to integrate unimaginably better than the EU immigrants. While there are, of course, some racial issues and the streets are rivers of prejudice and a-prioris, the level of hostility and anger is small in relative to the old continent.

So what is the difference? Durkheim divided Social Solidarity into Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity. The first is collective consciousness in beliefs, work, thinking the same about value, which, as you have might guessed can remind us the Marxist way of thinking. It is when the social forms a unity (as bird flock of fish schools). The Organic solidarity, on the other hand, is more to describe modern societies, that are based on functional interdependence.

Both of the paradigms can be explained with the trispect mindset, after all, in every discussion about society the use of Trispectivism is obvious and even necessary. There is the individual, whether indigenous or immigrant, interacting with the universal (the social sphere, the country), and the change between the configuration of one system and another is the interaction, which is constant and prone to continuous modification. While in the EU there is a kind of emphasis on the social group acting as one (even with the capitalist influence), the Americans give more relevance to the fact that an individual, any individual will want to succeed, thrive, live better and thus will have to develop a will to integrate into the current. Free will and personal effort of integration from the individual in the US has turn out to be incredibly different from the country programs of integration and continuous effort to make it seem as one happy family.

USvsEU

France is a great example of that, today with more than 6 millions of Muslims that making about 14% of the total population, the country is in disarray. Immigrants find themselves as marginal groups unable to comply with the rest of the traditional ties that were assumed by the locals many years back. Thus, instead of integration we see self-segregation, a search for another identity. When in the US one creates an identity within a multiple of other individual identities, in the EU, one creates a sphere within a beating social collectiveness. This is more terrifying than any crazy radical individual on the American ‘higher unity’ of individuals, as Simmel described it.spot1_nov04

There are many other components in this equation, no doubt, state of economic crisis, the fact that the numbers of immigrant augmented immensely in the last 30 years and many more.

So, to reiterate, it seems to me that the problem of assimilation in the EU is BECAUSE of erroneous programs of assimilation of the governments and not the lack of them. The reality is that while the immigrant feels as if the country owes him equal rights, he will most likely do the least possible to attain them (generally speaking of course). While if US makes it clear that rights are not attainable but by proving you are worthy of them, the country thrive on hard working, assimilated new Americans. The interdependence of many individuals is a well established reality that is function better than the ideal of one social collective body.

Why, one might ask, does the sporadic radical Muslim, attacks, act and react mostly in France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, when other countries, little further in the region, in Africa on in many other places have a much more bloodier history with the Muslim world (not only under the Ottoman Empire). Why is it that Charlie Hebdo and some Jews in a kosher market get to be the target for radical, mal-integrated, group of 2nd generation individuals? Or is it simply a question of media coverage? Who know?

Charlie Hebdo