This mess of troubled times | Eurozine

The processes set in motion by the disintegration of the socialist economy in eastern Europe eluded all analytical frameworks. It was a time of ‘wild thinking’, in which received ideas were reconsidered and values re-assessed. We are still living through this troubled era, writes the historian of the Soviet Union Karl Schlögel.

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I was shocked on the campuses of the East and the West Coasts of America to meet so many people who had been practically been everywhere around the globe, but not in Gary, Indiana or Akron, Ohio. The victory of Trump has to do with this kind of absence, neglect and ignorance. The same goes for the many German intellectuals who only discovered the East after the AfD landslide. It may also apply to parts of the Warsaw intelligentsia, who are more familiar with the timetables of Brussels Airport than with the train schedules in ‘Polska B’.

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We must leave our comfort zones – physical and intellectual – and explore what is happening on the ground. We must be aware of the intellectual challenges in dealing with an entirely new situation and try – in all modesty – to do what others before us have managed to do. We need to heed Marx’s famous words, only in reverse: ‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it.’ Now the point is to interpret a world that is changing all too fast.

The pre-1989 years were a time of exploring, describing and analysing – the Polish school of reportage was just one example. A key slogan of the era was Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s and Václav Havel’s ‘Tell the Truth’. This message is not outdated. But to insist on ‘the truth’ is to face many risks. To investigate, explore and redraw the mental map of Europeans beyond the old-new fault lines is a very difficult job. In order to succeed, it will be necessary to develop a consciousness of history not as a lesson to be drawn or sermon to be preached, but as a way to face the challenges – now and in the future. – Karl Schlögel

Source: This mess of troubled times | Eurozine

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