Joseph Semah ~ After Paul Celan, Tango and Fugue

Being a Dutch art historian, working in Germany, I was asked to give a short introduction in English to an Israeli artist working in the Netherlands. The inherent confusion, the mingling of languages, that follows from this is a good starting point to talk about the work of Joseph Semah.
Because there is even another language we will have to talk about: Semahs language of images.
Does art have a mother tongue? Who understands the language of art? Or more specific: who understands Joseph Semahs art?

Semah is often said to be a difficult unintelligible artist – which is, let me state this right at the beginning, not true. And Semah being presented as an Israeli artist who explores both European and Jewish thought and the interplay between these two, most spectators may feel as if they miss something. But what is missing might be the point. You cannot expect a spectator to know both the European and Jewish tradition and the main mistake when dealing with Semahs work seems to me, this urge to start from such knowledge instead of plain curiousness. So the strategy I suggest to you is plain curiousness: you will discover things you did not know.
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Performance 72 Privileges ~ Kochi Biënnale, 12-12-2012



It is precisely this balance between exile and the emotion of the privileged which form the unique originality of our Breathing in reverse as will be clear already, there is no past or futue in exile, only an immediate present

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The Middle East In Europe And Europe In The Middle East

I Have a Dream… answers the question of what society will look like in 15 years from different perspectives. At The Middle East in Europe and Europe in the Middle East seminar (Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, 2008), Nilüfer Göle, Tariq Ramadam and Paul Scheffer specifically debated what could be the added value of the Islam for Europe.

Even though they agree on the analysis and possible resolutions of the problem, the accents and approaches vary.

Paul Scheffer points out the importance of guaranteeing true and complete freedom of religion.

Nilifur Göle discusses the public arena which practically forces Muslims to play a constructive role.

Tariq Ramadan talks about the hidden arena, in which Muslims subject themselves to critical self-analysis, leading to an emancipatory revolution.

All three conclude that while the national state is a spoil-sport, there are reasons to be optimistic about Europe’s role.

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Halleh Ghorashi ~ De toekomst van de Westerse democratie en de Civil Society

I Have a Dream… De toekomst van de Westerse democratie en de Civil Society – Lezing Halleh Ghorashi (Bijzonder hoogleraar Management van Diversiteit, VU), Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, 2008.

Enerzijds wordt de Westerse democratie als belangrijk exportproduct gezien door regeringsleiders, anderzijds klinkt zowel internationaal als van binnenuit een steeds luidere kritiek op de Westerse democratie.
De afgelopen jaren wordt het belang van de civil society in onze samenleving als wezenlijk geacht. Democratie is veel meer dan de vrijheid om je stem te mogen uitbrengen. In tegenstelling tot wat vaak wordt beweerd, gaat het bij democratie niet alleen om de meerderheid, maar vooral om de ruimte voor de minderheid. En deze is juist wat democratie kwetsbaar maakt, hoe maak je ruimte voor de ander, wanneer je die ander als bedreiging van democratie beschouwt?

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Kishore Mahbubani ~ The Century Of Asia: The Inevitable Global Power Shift

Kishore Mahbubani: ‘You in the West have no idea how the rest of the world looks at you. They see an emperor without clothes. The world has changed
tremendously, but you do not understand what that means. Globalisation Lecture 23: The Century of Asia: The inevitable global power shift, Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, 13-11- 2008.

For centuries Asians (Chinese, Indians, Muslims and others) were on the sidelines of world history. But the East is rapidly modernizing and is ready to claim their share of world power. They are among the fastest growing economies and have some of the largest financial reserves. On a social and cultural level the East is changing fast. How do Europe and the US respond to the rapid rise of the East? According to Singaporean intellectual Kishore Mahbubani, the Western business world appears to be the only one anticipating changes in the East. Western governments seem to be looking the other way and fail to accept that a shift in economic power will also mean a shift in political and cultural power.

 

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The Anatomy Of US Military Policy: An Interview With Andrew Bacevich

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Andrew Bacevich ~ Photo: democracynow.org

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been the only true global superpower, with US policymakers intervening freely anywhere around the world where they feel there are vital political or economic interests to be protected. Most of the time US policymakers seem to act without a clear strategy at hand and surely without feeling the need to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Such is the case, for instance, with the invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. US policymakers also seem to be clueless about what to do with regard to several “hot spots” around the world, such as Libya and Syria, and it is rather clear that the US no longer has a coherent Middle East policy.

What type of a global power is this? I posed this question to retired colonel and military historian Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University professor who has authored scores of books on US foreign and military policy, including America’s War for the Greater Middle East, Breach of Trust, and The Limits of Power. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Bacevich explains how the militaristic nature of US foreign policy is a serious impediment to democracy and human rights.

C.J. Polychroniou: I’d like to start by asking you to outline the basic principles and guidelines of the current national military strategy of the United States.

Andrew Bacevich: There is no coherent strategy. US policy is based on articles of faith — things that members of the foreign policy establishment have come to believe, regardless of whether they are true or not. The most important of those articles is the conviction that the United States must “lead” — that the alternative to American leadership is a world that succumbs to anarchy. An important corollary is this: Leadership is best expressed by the possession and use of military power.

According to the current military strategy, US forces must be ready to confront threats whenever they appear. Is this a call for global intervention?

Almost, but not quite. Certainly, the United States intervenes more freely than any other nation on the planet. But it would be a mistake to think that policymakers view all regions of the world as having equal importance. Interventions tend to reflect whatever priorities happen to prevail in Washington at a particular moment. In recent decades, the Greater Middle East has claimed priority attention.

What’s really striking is Washington’s refusal or inability to take into account what this penchant for armed interventionism actually produces. No one in a position of authority can muster the gumption to pose these basic questions: Hey, how are we doing? Are we winning? Once US forces arrive on the scene, do things get better?

The current US military strategy calls for an upgrade of the nuclear arsenal. Does “first use” remain an essential component of US military doctrine?

It seems to, although for the life of me I cannot understand why. US nuclear policy remains frozen in the 1990s. Since the end of the Cold War, in concert with the Russians, we’ve made modest but not inconsequential reductions in the size of our nuclear arsenal. But there’s been no engagement with first order questions. Among the most important: Does the United States require nuclear weapons to maintain an adequate deterrent posture? Given the advances in highly lethal, very long range, very precise conventional weapons, I’d argue that the answer to that question is, no. Furthermore, as the only nation to have actually employed such weapons in anger, the United States has a profound interest and even a moral responsibility to work toward their abolition — which, of course, is precisely what the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obliges us to do. It’s long past time to take that obligation seriously. For those who insist that there is no alternative to American leadership, here’s a perfect opportunity for Washington to lead.

Does the US have, at the present time, a Middle East policy?

Not really, unless haphazardly responding to disorder in hopes of preventing things from getting worse still qualifies as a policy. Sadly, US efforts to “fix” the region have served only to make matters worse. Even more sadly, members of the policy world refuse to acknowledge that fundamental fact. So we just blunder on.
There is no evidence — none, zero, zilch — that the continued U.S. military assertiveness in that region will lead to a positive outcome. There is an abundance of evidence pointing in precisely the opposite direction.

Was the US less militaristic under the Obama administration than it was under the Bush administration?

It all depends on how you define “militaristic.” Certainly, President Obama reached the conclusion rather early on that invading and occupying countries with expectations of transforming them in ways favorable to the United States was a stupid idea. That said, Obama has shown no hesitation to use force and will bequeath to his successor several ongoing wars.
Obama has merely opted for different tactics, relying on air strikes, drones and special operations forces, rather than large numbers of boots on the ground. For the US, as measured by casualties sustained and dollars expended, costs are down in comparison to the George W. Bush years. Are the results any better? No, not really.

To what extent is the public in the US responsible for the uniqueness of the military culture in American society?

The public is responsible in this sense: The people have chosen merely to serve as cheerleaders. They do not seriously attend to the consequences and costs of US interventionism.
The unwillingness of Americans to attend seriously to the wars being waged in their names represents a judgment on present-day American democracy. That judgment is a highly negative one.

What will US involvement in world affairs look like under the Trump administration?

Truly, only God knows.
Trump’s understanding of the world is shallow. His familiarity with the principles of statecraft is negligible. His temperament is ill-suited to cool, considered decision making.
Much is likely to depend on the quality of advisers that he surrounds himself with. At the moment, he seems to favor generals. I for one do not find that encouraging.

Copyright, Truthout. 

Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.

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