My friend with long experience in Greece and its surroundings writes me:
“It sounds to me that, basically and unavoidably, Greece is simply a bankrupt nation. All these efforts to delay that are just that–delaying tactics. Thus when the EU or the banks or whoever it is gives Greece the 130billlion Euros, it will for the most part, I believe, just go to pay off the bondholders–who willl then be given new bonds (longer terms, lower interest). But nothing changes with the Greek’s economy or its debts–not only to foreigners but to the Greek people: doctors and pharmacists going unpaid for months (they are paid by the national health plan), teachers unpaid for months, etc, etc. The entire Greek society is over its head in debt–even after many have in fact already taken severe paycuts. I really do not see how they are going to climb out of this hole..”
This quote from Lewis Carroll’s one trip away from home – to Berlin was in an article in The Economist – about cities and monuments
“Wherever there is room on the ground, put either
a circular group of busts on pedestals, in consultation, all looking inwards—or else the colossal figure of a man killing, about to kill, or having killed (the present tense is preferred) a beast;
the more pricks the beast has, the better—
in fact a dragon is the correct thing, but if that is beyond the artist,
he may content himself with a lion or a pig.
The beast-killing principle has been carried out everywhere
with a relentless monotony, which makes some parts of Berlin
look like a fossil slaughter-house.”
All my life, without knowing it, I have believed in eternity. Not an afterlife, but an immediately present eternity. So I have had a hard time accepting that people of the past are really gone. For me they are or have been still there. Really there – Here.
For example, I am looking at the overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in the superb movie made by that great creator Ingmar Bergman. He was not conducting but all music in a Bergman film sounds like Bergman – so I have to add to his accomplishments his being a great musician. And in this filming of the overture among the people shown in the audience is his young daughter.
Now for me this is a major problem. This filming of the overture is immediate and real for me, and there is this radiant daughter, perhaps thirteen. who sits in my brain as a living creature.
But Linn Ullman was born in 1966. And has written four novels, is a graduate of New York University, and a major literary figure in Norway, where she lives in Oslo. And is now around forty-six years old. Luckily I don’t know much more about her, and I just learned that. How much paradox can we tolerate?
This will come closer to home if we think about our fathers, whatever emotional attitude that idea provokes. For no matter the emotion they are still really with us. Which is the source of course of our idea of spirits, ghosts, or an afterlife if that idea happens to be real to us. The duppy shuts the shutter, CLUP, with a bang to remind us of their presence.
In the case of my father, he led a dance orchestra, and made hundreds of recordings. So if I play a recording, can I not think of what he must have been feeling at that point in his life. Some people say to me, stop listening to that old music. But for me it is not old music. It feels to me today, with a slight increase in understanding, the way it did when I first heard it at five years old. Nothing dies. Although much is forgotten.
But what if he had been a movie star with a vivid personal presence. And had left me a heritage of many powerful films. Who would I be seing in those films. You may argue that what is on screen is just a performance, but in fact for a child, no matter what age, his presence is still here.
Reply to Lynda Waddington and Stephen Bloom
If Iowans, like Scandinavians, and many other Christian protestant people, but not all, have their little ironies of ‘niceness’ – “Dignity, respect, a sense of humor and a bit of humility are necessary to make a place home” says Lynda Waddington answering
Stephen Bloom’s article in the Atlantic online http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/12/the-iowa-i-know-a-state-that-welcomes-outsiders-if-you-let-it/250064/ – so do displaced Jews have their ways of expression that deserve just as much understanding as Iowan ‘niceness’.
I appreciate Iowan attitudes as I was married to a Dane – from Denmark – and have some really lovely Iowan friends. But Jews, no matter how removed from their religion, or their culture mostly, even raised in Christian schools with church and chapel, still often keep some manners and ways that are associated with the Jewish style
of argument – which assumes both that one must face facts (whatever those are) and tends to overstate one’s case, knowing that “everyone” will understand that this is just part of one’s passion for one’s reasoning, and will be irrelevant an hour later.
Unfortunately these two kinds of discourse do not mesh well, and they have consequences that affect very deep attitudes towards the world.
Stephen Bloom set out, in an anthro-sociological way, to do an analysis of Iowa for strangers from what to him seemed an objective perspective. And he did a good job. The way his article is layed out, the geographic perspective it gives to strangers, the clear way it handles a number of social and economic and ideological variables has not been enough appreciated in the wake of the controversy he stirred up.
That he also makes assumptions, very urban assumptions, about what is civilized or reasonable or acceptable in world terms (are there any world terms?) by which he able to casually make judgements about Iowans and Iowa as part of a world which he takes for granted, but which are not always relevant or true from an Iowan perspective.
He expects to be excused for stating what to him are truths. But part of the truth of this sadly multiple and divided world is to know what the subjects of your opinions think is important, not just what you think is important.
To ask that Iowans understand Stephen Bloom is to ask a local majority to take seriously the attitudes of a minority in a way new to them. Iowans put so much effort into being nice – how are they to forgive or understand someone who doesn’t know what “being nice” entails.
In the new pluralistic world in which we live, a world which is here and now and not an ideological choice – both parties have to stretch to understand their differences, and back off from their immediate reactions.
This conflict between Jewish manners and Protestant ‘niceness’ is inherent in America and comes up in the lives of Jews over and over again – when they are able to be aware of it. Now we need to let it come up in the lives of Iowans if they can be aware of it.
Aside from cultural dominance in numbers there is no real way to appeal to a higher authority to adjudicate this difference. But we cannot simply assume that Stephen Bloom has gone too far, or that Iowans are wrong in their response to his article.