Exclusive Preview

So here is an exclusive preview of my talk for the readers of this blog.

The conference is supposed to be about how things are going now that the crisis is over. My whole thing, though, is that it’s not over. It can’t be over because the economic and the political crises we are witnessing are not really crises. Meaning that they are not events of limited duration that you can expect to be over. Rather, they are symptom of an enormous global transformation not only on the level of the economy but in the whole way in which we relate to the world, to others, and to ourselves.

As Italian sociologist Carlo Bordoni said, “we are living in the times of a profound transformation, and we call this transformation with the word ‘crisis.'”

And hey, it’s not like I’m trying to impose this idea on the works of literature I’m analyzing. This is what these writers are saying. A couple of months ago, a bestselling Spanish writer said, “This isn’t a crisis. It’s a change of model.” And this is an idea that most of these crisis writers are advancing. Because it’s true.

I was saying all this back in 2012 when the crisis in Spain was just getting to the worst part. I predicted that it wouldn’t be “over.” It’s now clear that I was right. Spain’s crisis literature is not only still published and read, it’s actually darker than ever. Because even though Spain’s GDP is growing and the IMF is peeing itself with enthusiasm over the amazingness of the country’s economy, people know that it’s all rubbish.

Loving It

At the conference, a historian from Spain is very gently, very kindly and apologetically, trying to explain to the German hosts that EU-enthusiasm is dead. The German hosts are upset. They want to advance a narrative that the crisis is over, everything is great and getting better, the EU is the second coming. The Spanish participants remain unconvinced. They are trying to hint that the German love of the EU stems from the desire to wash off the sins of WWII but this isn’t of much interest to others in Europe.

I’m afraid my talk will hurt the German feelings even more. I’m loving the conference.

In Regensburg

The St Peter Cathedral in front of my hotel offers organ music and meditation at noon. I saw the organ and it’s enormous. Obviously, I’m going. I also plan to attend the 7 am mass tomorrow.

What I like in Germany is that nobody has an obsessive hatred of autumn leaves that haunted me back in Ukraine and is rampant in the US, as well.

Look how beautiful they are on the ground. And it’s actually very good for the soil to let them perish naturally.

You just got to love these little European towns that drown in flowers. And this is real, hardcore Germany. Everything started to smell aggressively of boiled cabbage at about 9 am and the smell has gone on unabated. I’m Ukrainian, so I love boiled cabbage but it’s a bit too early for it even for me.

In the realm of culinary delights, breakfast featured what we in Ukraine call “black bread” and it tasted exactly like it did in the USSR (which is a good thing.)

My German is coming back to me torrentially. Reading is the easiest, as always. I don’t mean I’m reading Goethe or Schiller, of course, but I’m doing great with signs, menus, maps, and even a story about a martyred priest I read in the cathedral.

NYTimes: The Democrats Have an Immigration Problem

It’s a good, long, detailed article that I recommend. For those who don’t have time to read the whole thing, the most important takeaway is that the so-called “immigration movement” in the US is failing to accomplish anything because it hasn’t defined its foundational principles. It keeps suggesting intermediate steps but nobody is trying to articulate what these steps are supposed to lead to. In doing that, the “movement” assures it will lose to people with a clear organizing principle every time. If you want to be a movement, you should at the very least decide the destination where you want to move.

Just to give a few examples of different organizing principles on immigration: Trump’s organizing principle is that we need less immigrants of any kind. Justin Trudeau’s is that Canada has a tiny population in a huge uninhabited territory, so it needs more immigrants of any kind. The party that just won in Quebec has as its principle that immigrants won’t speak French anyway so there should be fewer of them and those who do come should be bullied into speaking French at all costs. Angela Merkel’s position is (or was?) that the aging population can’t support the existing welfare system, so a large sudden influx of immigrants is crucial to keep it going.

We can all have different reactions to these foundational principles but the point is that they exist. These are clear ideas that we can agree or disagree with. In the US, however, the “immigration movement” lacks anything of the kind. It’s purely reactive in that it can kind of decide that it doesn’t like somebody else’s vision but refuses to come up with its own.