Friday, January 9, 2009

Digest of the European Papers

Following digests were torn from the English language version of German meta newspaper digest Signandsight, the 'feuilletons' of Perlentaucher. Common thread in the week that was: the intractabilities of undefined morality.

This is fun! Here's one not getting half way in addressing the problem: the liberal "fear to give offense" is a major error of identification. Relativist philosophy and the postmodern dialectic are as far removed from the fear to offend as Marx is from dinner etiquette. Permanently reserving opinion on what's between The Jewel's dust sheets, it's really too bad this exquisite cover design will never see the light of day!

Perlentaucher 06.01.2009

It is twenty years since the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie. In an article orginially published in Spiked, British author Kenan Malik takes western liberals to task for their tendency to treat anything Islam-related with kid gloves. As in the case of Sherry Jones' novel "The Jewel of Medina", which Random House America pulled out of circulation although no Muslim had expressed objections to it. "The lesson of the Rushdie Affair that has never been learnt is that liberals have made their own monsters. It is the liberal fear of giving offence that has helped create a culture in which people take offence so easily." And he dispenses with the multicultural myth that the Rushdie Affair was about religion; it was all about politics: "Hardline Islamist groups used Rushdie's book to try to win political concessions. It subsequently became an issue in Britain as it turned into a weapon in the faction fights between various Islamic groups.
Take this as a stark contrast, highlighting the difference between immorality and amorality. It's lost on Mr Stark because he has no way of knowing:

Der Tagesspiegel 06.01.2009

Legendary US crime writer Donald Westlake alias Richard Stark died on New Year's Eve. In a final conversation with Dennis Scheck he explains the difference between American and French crime writing. "When an American crime novelist writes about a bank robber, the thief will want the stolen cash to pay for a desperately-needed operation for some little girl in a wheelchair. The French crime writer, on the other hand, will write about a bank robber because he robs banks. Which is why I take it as a compliment when people say I write like a Frenchman."
And talking of ethics, here's what you do when you run an orchestra made up of sworn enemies. You take the neutral position and pretend that a compromise is possible between good and evil (much like say, being a bit pregnant):

Der Tagesspiegel 07.01.2009

What can Brahms or Beethoven say about the current conflict in Gaza? Daniel Barenboim talks to Christine Lemke-Matwey about his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. "What should they say? What they always say or never say. It would be fatal to instrumentalise their music. But it is important that the orchestra takes a stand. And this is why we are showing the world that even in war it is possible to communicate with one another. And we will also be releasing a statement saying that the musicians in the orchestra have deep differences in opinion about who is to blame for what is happening in Gaza. We will not attempt to hide these differences which are extremely strong and go back a long way. When it's a matter of life and death, it is wrong to gloss things over."

Here are more edifying morsels covering the week from Germany.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I remember well when the Rushdie affair happened. I was teaching in a UK secondary school with a fairly large but integrated Muslim intake. Soon some of these were going round saying, "He should die" and most of us had a hard time believing they were serious. I wish that, as a country, we had taken it even more seriuosly than we did and seen that it was the beginning of all this fanaticism being pushed upon us. But it's easy to be wise in retrospect.

James Higham said...

It would be fatal to instrumentalise their music. But it is important that the orchestra takes a stand. And this is why we are showing the world that even in war it is possible to communicate with one another.


RatePoint Business Reviews