Wednesday, January 20, 2010


"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."
Thomas Mann


  1. I think many "problems" are just misunderstanding.

    In this sence: Let´s talk together...

  2. Wrong forecast of the “master of diplomacy”, Otto v. Bismarck: “The stronger we are, the more unlikely is war”.

  3. @ Tanja Schneider

    Yes, I agree, a big part, maybe most problems are misunderstandings. And I agree that the solution consists therefore in talking to each other: attentive, openminded, "obstetric" listening is helpful, when our dialogue-partner doesn't find adequate words to express his or her feelings and thoughts. Clear, precise and "pregnant" verbal expression helps either to banish misunderstandings, avoiding them in our listener. Both needs a continuous patient activity, which sometimes might seem a tilting against windmills. But I think it is rather Sysiphos's stone which every morning waites for us. And one has to love this stone with heart and soul.

    Karl Popper said "Dialogue is the only alternative to violence, exactly as violence is the only alternative to dialogue."

    Unfortunatly there is a limit to dialogue, and frankly I agree more with Bismarck than with Mann, I am sorry.


    Don't make me doubt so much of Bismarck. "Politik ist die Kunst des Möglichen", he said. "Politics is the art of what possibly can be put into being."
    I suppose, his forecast was not that wrong, since it concerned, if it is not me to be wrong, only his government. 1. He realized that Germany's destiny would between France and Russia be similar to Poland's destiny, if Germany did not get strong. 2. When Germany had got strong, he did not go further on abusing of this power: "Deutschland ist saturiert." Bismarck had a rare sense of proportion and measure.

    I know, that you do not dislike Egon Friedell's work, dear cs. I agree with Friedell's view on Bismarck.

  4. I think there is no limit for dialogue. We have just forgotten how to listen. We often do not know the meanings of words in our own language. How can we understand foreign people then? I think this is an important point of the actual problem. We do not understand, so we condemn.

  5. "We often do not know the meanings of words in our own language. How can we understand foreign people then?"

    Yes, this is exactly the point. We have to push the limits always as far as possible, patiently learning, listening, translating, comprehending, explaining, transfering... even transforming!! See MK's post of the 15. december 2008...

    As if there was no limit, and indeed in theory there is no limit. The potential for dialogue is immense like an infinite ocean, and the need for dialogue is very huge as well.

    But in practice former or later, the limit will appear. Claude Levy-Strauss, author of "Race and History" and "Tristes Tropiques - A World on the Wane", has always been the most credible and fervent defender of extra-occidental cultures for nearly his whole life. He was born in 1908. He defended the extra-occidental civilizations against the omnivorous and destroying power of our tecnologic western culture.

    But in 1986 he started to defend the occidental tradition of openminded selfcritic reflection, rooted in Thales's thaught, extincted later on and miraculously reborn in the Renaissance. He started to defend it against an obscurantistic aggression coming from a culture which 3 years later would condemn to death Salman Rushdie.

    You will often find especially among jewish people persons who are very involved with promoting dialogue and reciprocal comprehension, as Barenboim, as Popper, as Menuhin, as Isaac Stern, as Levy-Strauss, as the promoters of the florentine Association for Jewish-Christian Friendship. One has to follow their example, but one mustn't forget that there is a limit, and one has to be prepaired, when this will appear.

  6. Everything I read here, seems as just read by you.

    What about your personal experiences?

  7. @Tanja

    Dear Tanja, I am afraid I would occupy too much place in this blog if I tell you all my experiences concerning dialogue with other cultures. I probably will touch this theme from time to time in my own blog.

    I am German and I am living for 30 years now in Italy. I know very well the german mentality and the italian mentality, especially of Tuscany, Sardinia and Sicily, and I could write a book on misunderstandings between the two cultures (to begin with Luther and Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici and ending up with Berlusconi and Leoluca Orlando) and I have had experiences of dialogue with people from many parts of the world, especially Serbia, Russia, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Australia, Turkey, Great Britain, the USA and some spanish speaking countries.

    If there is something which I didn't ever avoid in my life and always promote, it is dialogue.

  8. @cs

    "The stronger we are, the more unlikely is war" is an out-timed sentence.

    In Bismarck's time a victor was still a victor and he could give protection and security to his people and to the defeated people.
    But after 1918 precisly the winning powers are obsessed by the idea of security!!!!

    This is a consequence of the range of our tecnology. A strong power isn't strong anymore and without security, and in 2001 we have got into the age of sabotage.

  9. The stronger we are, the more likely is the use of strength (due to human/military ambition, i.g. v. Moltke). The more superior a victory the more humilating is the defeat (here again it wasn´t the diplomat Bismarck wanting to annexing further parts of France), the more likely is the revenge. This game only could end , in 1945, due to this unbelievable and unforgiveable guilt.

  10. Bismarck at Reichstag, 16 years after 1870/71: “No French government dared to abandoning the option of getting back l´alsace et lorraine…. We have to await a new war, every day, may be in 10 days or ten years……” .(Egon Friedell, Kulturgeschichte….)

  11. Poor Obama, I wouldn't like to stay in his shoes.

    The Nobel price for peace.

    Randall Hutchins writes a musical: Hope.

    What a painful mess.

  12. @cs

    The view of historians is always oscillating a little bit in the course of time.

    In Bismarck's case the amplitude is very large. After glorification followed condemnation and now is occuring revision and then perhaps there will be rerevision. The more time has past after an event, the more historians believe to see the event clearly. It's kind of absurd.

    Nevertheless it is unavoidable to speak about past events.

    There are events in history, I suppose, on which one can be able to say something significant only the day after or at least 100 years later.

    I can only say, I feel close to Friedell's angel of view. I have no well defined opinion about single facts. I would like to read Bismarck's speeches one day. I have an excerpt of one of his speeches somewhere. I will send you when I find it.

    I can accept a sentence like Mann's only if a politician (e.g. Gandhi) or an officer or an expert of strategy does pronounce it.

    Thomas Mann was married to a woman of jewish descent. But - as Peter Brückner reports - in 1934 he stated that there was something good about the Nazis: that the justice would get rid of the jews (entjudet).
    Afterwards he changed his mind.

    He supported the first worldwar and the violation of Belgium's neutrality. Afterwards he changed his mind.