Thursday, January 19, 2017


Like in a dream, I find myself lost in the hills somewhere south of Siena. After the Medici family conquered Siena in 1555, Montalcino (where the wine is from) held out for almost four years before it fell to the Florentines. Though only in tiny sips, I can bring back memories of what the land looks like.

Rarely has it seem more presumptuous to make grand plans for the future than tonight. Still, I have flights booked and ticketed all the way until the very end of 2017, the year when the world will take a big leap into the dark unknown.

I really do not know what to do tomorrow. Maybe listen once more to Obama’s inaugural address from 2009. Or writing feedback on yet another student essay in the hope that the next generation will be ever so slightly better equipped to climb back up from the abyss.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Arctic adventures

The last week has seen cold winds coming down from the Arctic with temperatures below -25 degrees. This has meant that we spent a lot of time inside, reading Pettson & Findus, building Lego and making paella. I have also had reasons to be rather impressed by how energy efficient the new house is. Despite that all heating and warm water is electric and we make extensive use of the washing machine and dishwasher, our total electricity consumption for December came to less than a thousand kWh (all certified nuclear electricity of course!). Today, I decided to invest the savings from my electricity bill on the secret fuel that takes me through the winters up here.

As for winter experiences, my mother-in-law had a rather extreme train journey the other day. The engine of her night train broke down just outside the village of Nattavaara where it was -38 degrees. After many cold hours, the train was eventually towed by another engine down to the coastal town of Luleå where she arrived 16 hours after starting her journey. During the night, the local people in Nattavaara served tea and sandwiches to the stranded passengers. Stories like that go a long way in restoring one’s faith in humanity.

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Shipwrecked Mind

These days, one may be forgiven for thinking that the transformative energy of the Enlightenment has run out. Even as much of the Left has come to reject the dream of an integrated world of shared prosperity and freedom, its enemies have spared no ammunition in attacking what still remains of its cosmopolitan sensibilities. Rather than standing up against this barrage of nationalism and bigotry, it has become common to suggest that democracy can only handle so much diversity and that we need to restore "control" over our borders.

As I sit down to write my first blog entry of 2017, it is frustrating to realize that nostalgia once again seems more powerful than hope and that more people want to build walls than tearing them down. At a time when we should focus much of our energy on expanding our civilization outwards toward the stars and thereby securing our long-term survival as a mature technological species, we are instead playing dangerous games with omnicidal weapons and pretending that we can somehow run away from our global responsibilities.

With all these questions I turn to Mark Lilla’s new book "The Shipwrecked Mind. On Political Reaction". Already on the first pages I find myself humming in agreement: “Reactionaries are not conservatives […] they are, in their way, just as radical as revolutionaries and just as firmly in the grip of historical imaginings […] where others see the river of time flowing as it always has, the reactionary sees the debris of paradise drifting past his eyes”. And then the book turns to the “political theology” of Carl Schmitt and how it has convinced many intelligent people, some close to me, that the essence of politics is not compromise, deliberation and liberal tolerance but a conflict of absolutes founded on the friend-enemy distinction.

Soon after I finish my caffè latte. I do not agree with everything that Lilla says or believes but it is clear that we should do all that is in our power to ensure that 2017 will be a year when the open future, rather than a closed and romanticized past, is allowed to define our world.