dinsdag 29 januari 2013

2013/03 The dialectics of progress

The dialectics of progress.

While life continues, we might well wonder how it does continue. But then again, I agree, we might as well not wonder about it. Why wonder about things we know nothing about? Well, I am afraid history can teach us some lessons here, again.
I had the lucky opportunity to visit the small country of Slovenia again recently, after having visited it many times before. The first time, it was still part of Yugoslavia. Using the term “Yugoslavia” might give many people particular negative associations, but Slovenia is not your typical ex-Yugoslav republic. In fact, Slovenia has already been part of the EU for 10 years and is by now facing the standard EU problems: massive debts, increasing budget cuts and unemployment, useless regulations about food, the “free market,” and a lack of foreign policy, to name a few.

The EU had implemented some guidelines that were never made public. All of a sudden, all of the European countries reached the fabulous idea that budget cuts on the arts might help decrease a nation’s deficit. So in Slovenia, like in Holland, they have ditched the Ministry of Culture. However, Slovenia is in a special situation: While it was still part of Yugoslavia, it was considered one of the most liberal republics. As a result, many free-minded people, people who had reason to fear state repression, went to Slovenia. What’s more, any middle-aged Slovenian will have lived in both the East and the West for half their lives. It gives you a little more insight if you have experienced both perceptions.

Slovenia is currently ruled by a government that has already lost its majority. That government is led by Janez Jansa. Once he was a journalist arrested by the Yugoslav army for revealing state secrets. Jansa was arrested and brought to the military barracks in the center of the town, now known as Meltelkova. Later, during the Yugoslav war in the south, Jansa became Minister of Defense, and not much later after that, he became one of the richest people in the country. He had his glamour wedding, and then, recently, finally, he became prime minister. The way that happened deserves its own extra article, but you might Google around a bit, if you do not want to wait for that. He has been responsible for the heaviest budget cuts the country has ever seen.

Now, Slovenia also raised one of the sharpest contemporary writers of the moment: Slavoj  Zizak. Recently, he published a great article in the Guardian about the level of democracy in the EU. He, like the contemporary Dutch historian/writer Thomas van der Dunk, mentions that it becomes hard to keep asking sacrifices of the public as long as the elite continues to increase their share of the cake. So, in Slovenia, the people finally realized that things cannot go on like this. The system is corrupt, has no self-healing mechanisms anymore, and functions too slowly to respond to current events. Riots took place. Peaceful but persistent. Jansa called them zombies, with the result that the next day the thousands of demonstrators were dressed up like zombies, having the same demands as before: corrupt people must leave office.

What is most remarkable -- and the reason this article is being written -- is that until now, it was very difficult to find any information about these demonstrations in any international news. Because there weren’t any Dutch people involved, the Dutch media does not care very much. If our once-open society of the Netherlands has such a narrow-minded view of the world, in which news is only news if Dutch people are involved, we should not be surprised if we soon know nothing about the world in which we live. We might not even know what to wonder anymore. We have to then only forget history and all our problems will vanish. Welcome to Dutch Globalism and the dialectics of progress.

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