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The European Parliament in Strasbourg, 05/02/2014. (Credit: David Iliff)

The European Union will collapse within fifteen years. The EU is a political monster created by the elite. Its goal is to exploit the populations of nations which have nothing in common, all in the interest of globalization and big companies. Its bureaucracy, to use an expression of Nietzsche, is the “coldest of all cold monsters” [*1]. It employs 42 500 [*2] outrageously privileged European civil servants who are supported by the taxpayer to produce nothing. Brussels has absorbed the sovereignty of its state members, which triggered secessionist velleity in Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders, … The European Union is not elected and yet it has the authority to impose its will on countries and their citizens. The EU prefers legislating on the size of the cucumbers and bananas [*3] instead of solving the refugee crisis. The euro is an economic absurdity. The EU is an abomination.

Enough!

Thank you for reading this subtle and optimistic summary of the main critiques concerning the European Union. Today, it is not only the “extreme-right” parties who convey this speech. Sentiments of Euroscepticism and populism have spread to the traditional political parties that have been in power for the last decades. But most people who make claims along the lines of those above don’t even know what they are talking about when it comes to the EU.

So we might ask: What is meant by the “EU”? Let us examine its history and structure more closely before making our evaluation as to its fate.

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Petite France, a historic district in Strasbourg and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grande Île. (Credit: getyourguide.com)

On the 28th August 2017, I crossed from Germany into France — from the little town of Kehl into the city of Strasbourg where I will remain for the upcoming academic year as part of the Erasmus exchange program with BCB. As I had never visited France, I was more than excited for my Erasmus Exchange, and curious about the similarities and differences I would find between these two nation-states at the heart of the European Union. But, despite the attention I afforded the view from the bus window, I’m still not sure exactly when I crossed the border. There were no bells or whistles, no fanfare, no berets or baguettes in sight. The landscape remained unchanged and my fellow passengers continued to doze, or stare at their mobiles, uninterrupted. It was only when we disembarked that I noticed how road-signs and the displays in shop windows were no longer in German, but French. Listening in on the conversations of those who buzzed around the terminal, I quickly recognised its distinctive melody, a smooth and slippery river of sound falling unintelligibly upon my dumb ears.

Almost a month later and I can’t help but think the true wonder isn’t how similar these neighbouring countries seemed to me initially, but how language and culture are preserved despite their geographic proximity, and how deeply the notion of the border runs within the human psyche.

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In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

A question on the exit polls during the US presidential election was which “presidential quality” mattered most. Interestingly enough, it was not experience, nor good judgment that people deemed the most necessary quality for a president: it was their ability to “bring needed change” (39%). That was also the only quality where Trump, lagging behind Hillary on all others, scored highest, at 82%. Among those who Clinton (in the biggest error of her campaign) described as a “basket of deplorables,” there seemed to be a lot of people who just really wanted change.

After the Dutch election, Europe let out a sigh of relief, with headlines exalting that the tide of populism had turned because far-right politician Geert Wilders hadn’t won. This shouldn’t have been big news, as the polls running up to the election had already indicated that Wilders, leader of the right-wing extremist Freedom Party (PVV), was not going to. Most narratives concluded that populism in the Netherlands was subsiding due to this modest gain of the PVV: an easy conclusion but a questionable causal relation. Equating the electoral result of rightist-extremist parties with the degree of populism in a country is not only faulty: it is dangerous. Still this happens on a regular basis and has been prominent in the reporting done on the Dutch election as well as the upcoming elections in Germany and France.

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► Monday: Fighting the Far-Right Surge – Women’s Rights Now!

Although far-right politicians persistently violate and attack women’s rights, a new wave of feminism that takes an intersectional approach is growing internationally. The fight has been undertaken against female rights violations and conflicts of all types – from autonomy to reproductive rights, the wage gap, freedom of movement, classism and racism. Join The Coalition’s panel talk as feminist activists from Ireland, Poland, Hungary and Germany discuss the struggles currently ongoing in their countries as well as the experience of women of colour in Europe.

  • When: 18:30 – 20:00
  • Where: Köpenicker Str. 30, 10179
  • Admission: free
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New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

I left New York City for Berlin on the 24th of January. The days before my departure were saturated with a dissociative pain that stemmed from their proximity to the inauguration of President Trump, which took place on January 20th. Mostly I was aware of a void-like sadness. This void enveloped my singular self, everyone I loved, communities experiencing oppressions that I as a cis white woman will never be subject to, and communities that I belong to as a queer person and survivor of sexual violence. The effect was tangible in the city, between and across neighborhoods, a dull reverberation. The fact that this collective mourning was distributed unequally due to the diverse lived experiences and levels of social privilege of those affected complicated the act of articulation. I found myself and my peers falling into spells of isolation, or, conversely, dispersing articles, posts, and personal rants at a frantic pace via the constantly replenishing outlets of social media. Neither of these tactics left me with any feeling of agency or productivity: The nature of voids is that they swallow and calcify anything dynamic, leaving their subjects in a state of vertigo.

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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission.

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

Earlier this week, and in advance of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Andrew Sullivan produced a video for BBC Newsnight, detailing how the election campaign and Trump’s success reminded him of Socrates’ account of the rise of a tyrannical regime in the eighth book of Plato’s Republic. The video has made it into pretty heavy circulation, and as someone who has taught this particular text in part or whole just about every year since the inauguration of President Bush (43, not 41 — I’m not that old yet) I’ve been asked by a more than a few people “How accurate is Sullivan’s presentation?” and “Can we or ought we derive a different lesson from Socrates’s analysis?” This post is my reply to those questions.

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► Monday: Brazilian Film Festival 

1

For all the cinema and movie lovers, take note: the annual Brazilian film festival brings to the screen a diversity of stories, styles, humans and lifestyles. The movies screened are of various lengths, budgets, a wide range of topics and genres. From documentaries to musicals, to suspense, drama, and biographies, the film festival is sure to cater to everyone’s interests. Make sure to check out the program for the day’s movies!

  • When: 18:00-24:00
  • Where:  Babylon Cinema – Rosa Luxemburg str. 30, 10178
  • Admission: 8€
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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission. David Kretz is a German-born Austrian and a BA 2016 alumnus. 

Heldenplatz, Vienna, Austria (Credit: Shawn Harquail | Flickr)

Heldenplatz, Vienna, Austria (Credit: Shawn Harquail | Flickr)

December 4, 2016, was a fateful day for Europe, and the world. The Italians held a referendum about constitutional amendments and their No vote brought down the government. Though any longer-term effects remain unknown, the financial and political chain reaction that some said had the potential to unravel the European Union did not manifest.

On the same day, Austrians also voted in the final round of their presidential election. There, center-left candidate Alexander Van der Bellen (Green Party) defeated far-right candidate Norbert Hofer (Austrian Freedom Party, FPÖ) 53.8% to 46.2%. Austria is a small country, but the outcome of this election has international significance for at least two reasons.

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