Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pretty Riga

For the second time this summer I find myself having an afternoon in the Latvian capital. With is art nouveau architecture, green parks and blue trams it is an easy place to like. Since it is only about an hour away from Stockholm or Copenhagen I hope I will find time to come back some day for a longer visit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Unhappy America

Eating Special-K and yoghurt at night. In not so many hours an alarm clock will sound and I will be leaving for Stockholm, this time through Riga with airBaltic. As many times before, Vienna has been a safe haven for me. I remember all those mornings at Wien Westbahnhof, returning with a night train from somewhere in Eastern Europe, the feeling of arriving in a reserve, a sanctuary for a timeless existence which still always will be passing.

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This week, the Economist writes about “unhappy America”. I could feel it first hand this spring in New Jersey: how people were loosing their jobs, the deep resentment about politics, and the overall malaise which someone expressed as “the slide is on”.

At the same time, 200 000 people gathering to listen to Barack Obama at Siegessäule in Berlin. And even as Obama occasionally may seem a little too keen on spin and flip-flopping, he clearly sends a message: the time for political idealism is not over. Hopefully, that idealism will be strong enough to convince also the American electorate to not turn the bad times into an international blame game but instead have the wisdom to learn from their own mistakes.



P.S. As I always been sceptical to alternative medicine, the arrest of Radovan Karadžić hiding as a new-age health prophet in Belgrade only adds further strength to my case :-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

L’Autriche

Morning coffee in a Viennese apartment. Writing on my conference paper for Barcelona, trying to make its normative content somewhat more transparent and distinguishable from the empirical analysis. Limited success.

I like being back in Austria. On the first day, a walk down Kahlenberg, stopping at a Heuriger just as the rain came. Which reminds me that I should seize this moment before the skies open anew and take the S45 to the Baumax near Hernals.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stammhaus

It was around lunch time, not that long ago, in the garden of Café Einstein on Kurfürstenstraße 58 in Berlin. The scene required nothing more: a large bottle of Römerquelle, some Grüner Vetliner and the good company.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The ordinary eternal machinery

It has been a few days now, here at the Baltic. I have been sleeping away, listening to the distant sea and the garden outside. After a small surgery at the hospital yesterday, I am finally able to say that it is getting better.

Still a part of me dwells with those long hours of feeling miserable. The deep hopelessness which comes with having high fever day after day. It can be worth remembering on better days, how vulnerable one actually is beneath all the surface.

Meanwhile the outside world leaves us with no rest. In recent polls, the welfare chauvinistic and xenophobic party Sverigedemokraterna has gained just enough voters to make it into parliament in the next general election. As I have said elsewhere, it is far too simple to look down on these people. As with many other issues of class, we are tempted to judge their lack of self-control, their misspelled propaganda posters or their personal criminal records as if this did not at all have a history. But, surprise, it has. And that history is one in which the elites of Sweden repeatedly have failed to take the debate, to show a cosmopolitan commitment which goes beyond eating Parmigiano cheese and talking about what nice food immigrants bring.

Elsewhere I have been suggesting different forms of progressive political action, including bussing academic kids from the rich suburbs to Islamic free schools, but simply put, the basic idea is that no longer can the underclass of Sweden be left alone to deal with the friction which integration by necessity creates. It is a task that all of society has to engage with.

Of course, even as I believe there are still room for many hundreds thousands of more immigrants in Sweden, I recognize that the long-term solution to the global wealth distribution is not to move everybody around but to raise living conditions everywhere. And it is here, once again, that the mercantilist protectionism of Sverigedemokraterna reveals its faulty logic. Sweden of all countries needs to lead by example, by embracing trade, by opening up our borders to international competition and innovation. Beyond economics, to lead by example also means to show the possibilities of democracy. It is precisely in this context that it becomes important that the Swedish government now quickly reconsiders the new law on electronic surveillance and shows that the society of the future is to be built on trust and not “the politics of fear”.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Spiaggia della Mitteleuropa

Five days in Grado in July. Alone that would be a definite postcard for any Habsburg fan. Unfortunately in my case I came to spend these five days with high fever and what I thought was tonsillitis. But since the antibiotics did not work I eventually decided to go for a “med-evac” home to my parents in Sweden, through Zürich with Swiss. High on paracetamol I write this short post in a Kramer single room (did not make it all the way to Kalmar tonight). Feeling maybe somewhat better.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Onkel Toms Hütte

On the U3 line in Berlin there is a stop called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. For a long time, it has stirred my imagination up to the point that I actually had planned an afternoon excursion out there to Grunewald last Tuesday. But as always, a plan is not a plan if it is not subject to change, so instead there was an old stone house in Rheinland-Pfalz and mesmerizing volcano lakes up in Eifel.

In other words, another roaming summer. But this time around less drawn-out frustration and more simple trust that somehow all will eventually be just fine. Academically, however, I have to report a disappointing set-back as Political studies rejected my manuscript after its second round of review. Yet, if the glass is to be seen as half-full, the good thing is of course that the manuscript made it that far and thus should be suitable for submission to another and less prestigious journal. Meanwhile, I am reading up on democratic privacy (thanks Micke for giving me a head-start with your most resourceful dissertation!) as I prepare my conference paper for Barcelona in August.

And then there was Denmark, Friday night on Nørrebro, a blissful bubble and, as the stereotype of my Scandinavian neighbour country goes, beer-drenched talks, talks which none the less left me with a surprising condensate of the last year; others sharing their parallel experiences of everything from The New School in NYC and Nancy Fraser to the life of an Istanbul newspaper correspondent.

(meanwhile, in Sweden, my friend Gabriel blogs from the event “Stekare mot FRA”, well worth reading!)

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