Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Cornucopia Time!

November 22, 2018

Well I’m glad those Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, aren’t you?

Back in the day, it was. . . 1620 or so.

Those Pilgrims had found themselves in a tight spot over in Europe. The hyper-institutionalized Church—both the Roman version and the Brit version—had become too high and mighty for its own good. So those Puritans, looking for a purer manifestation of the Old Time Religion, pulled up stakes and lit out for the New World.

When they got here, it was a whole new ball game; they didn’t have all that advanced Euro culture and tech to make life manageable as it had been back in the Old World.

So, thank God for Them Injuns, huh?!

Squanto, or Squatcho or Pocahontas, Sacajawea—or whoever Injun it was—demonstrated for the clueless Pilgrims how to grow corn, as you see in the pic here:

CornNtiv

Well by ’n by, as it turned out, those Pilgrims made it through, with a little help from their friends, new friends. They managed to hang on, get through a few winters and all that adversity we hear about at Turkey Day, if we’re not too busy watching football or gearing up for the black friday ritual dance.

Anyway, after those Pilgrims squeaked through, and word got back to the old country, there were other groups of emigrants who headed west for America. And for all kinds of reasons. . . religious, economic, etcetera etcetera, and just to feel free in an undeveloped continent that wasn’t so crowded and constricted with religious and political authoritarian blahblah.

In fact, the buzz about the New World got so widespread that after a century or two it went viral. Next thing you know there’s everybody and their brother piling on ships to go west young man and get the hell out of dodge and make it over here where a man could breathe free and a woman could too.

Long about 1886 or so, those crazy French sent the Statue of Liberty over here, because they were so caught up in the idea of freedom, and they knew we had done a better job of making liberty really happen, see’n as how we didn’t have all that ancient class system and religious institutional inertia to obstruct our westward quest for freedom and liberty.

Gosh, France!   Thanks for that statue, y’all.

StatLibty

Couldn’t a done it without you.

Anyway, long about the time that Lady Liberty showed up in New York harbor—that was pretty much the most intense period for folks get’n fed up with the Old World and strikin’ out for the New.

Crazy! Leavin’ it all behind and coming over here. Unbelievable. That took some balls, y’all! Or some gumption, or chutzpah, or hutzpah or  courage, or just down-right down-n-out desperation.

Anyway, they did.  They came. They forsook the Old in search of the New. So many of those Europeans and other, Africans, Asians, etcetera etcetera caught a whiff of the Liberty that was blowin’ in the wind across the wide world and so many of ‘em just chucked it all—all the the old stuff—and threw it in a rucksack or whatever and headed for the land of the free and home of the brave.

Like I said before, it went viral. And about the time that Lady Liberty got her spot in New York Harbor—that was the most intense time for folks coming this way.

And they just kept coming, and coming, and coming. . .

Brutha Neil wrote a song about it, y’all:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRTHdC7k4uY

And they’re still coming! God bless  ‘em! Coming to America!

Nowadays, some Americans who got their britches on too tight are trying to put a stop to all the folks who wanna get in on the greatness of America (Again).

They need to stop and wonder: what if your great great great great grampa and granma had’t gotten in back in the day?

Where would you be now?

Probably bobbin’ along on a rubber dingy somewhere between Lesvos and Athens, or between Belfast and Boston, or between Havana and Miami, or between San Salvador and San Isidro, or between Bangladesh and Bangor, or somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

And if your politics doesn’t allow for the extension of American liberty unto them newbies and immigrants, maybe you should adjust your politics, so you don’t feel so high and mighty about what all you got, but rather—renew the vision for what this America is all about—the land of the free and home of the brave.

Free enough to let that Freedom be extended, and brave enough to not be all paranoid about the new immigrants.

This may seem kinda naive and corny to you. But let’s not forget this is the last Thursday in November, Thanksgiving.

Cornucopia Time! There’s plenty enough for everybody!  Spread it around.  As Brutha Paul sang it:            Let ‘em in!

King of Soul

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Beethoven

October 8, 2018

Before he raised the baton to conduct Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Christopher Warren-Green told us Beethoven was a revolutionary.

ConductorCWG

He matter-of-factually referred to the most disruptive orchestral composer ever as a revolutionary. And just before cranking up the Charlotte Symphony, Chris speculated that those infamous first-four-notes, da-da-da-Dahhhh, were probably lifted from a French Revolutionary song of that era.

It was the worst of times; it was the best of times, as Charles Dickens later wrote.

Forsooth, ’twas a very revolutionary time—1776-1820.

And Ludwig van Beethoven was right in the middle of it.

Right in the middle of a time when the 18th-century European order of things was being torn apart by radical new  ideas about the People running the show instead of the old fuddy-duddy royals who had been doing it for hundreds of years.

The young composer from northwestern Germany was indeed a musical revolutionary; he revolutionized music.

He turned the purpose of music upside down. Whereas the old order of things, financed by the royals, was all about making beautiful, harmonic, perfectly constructed sonatas and concertos to celebrate order and perfection—-

Ludwig, unable to ignore the terrible angst of that tumultuous age in which he found himself living, reflected—yeah, he even embraced—that disruptive spirit of the times.

And when they heard it sounded forth in the 5th Symphony, the royals hardly know what to make of it.

Beethoven was like the Elvis of his times, except he had an entire orchestra behind him. Multiply Elvis’ chutzpah by the number of musicians in an orchestra. That was the effect of Beethoven on the world of music.

And on the world itself, as thousands of performances since then have revealed.

Or, If not Elvis– think of  Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Rich Mullins or whoever expresses your disruptive angst and propels it into an awareness that the world is forever changing.

Like it or not, the world changes; sometimes that transforming is not pretty. Sometimes it is even disruptive, destructive, revolutionary. Music–and art generally–needs, in order to be valuable, to reflect the times we live in, and the changes that need to happen–not portraying a rose-colored-glasses dream that masks the profundity and excitement of living on this dangerous planet.

It would have been very hard, you see, for the young German prodigy to adopt the comfortable precision and beauty of his courtly predecessors—Mozart and Haydn. Au contraire, Ludwig caught hold of the gritty thrust of those revolutionary times. He deeply felt that terrible, violent wind blowing out of France; and he did, as any self-respecting genius would do, transform that terrible zeitgeist into revolutionary Music.

A truly new music, never heard before.

Unlike like any orchestra ever heard before.

Better to make disruptive music, than impose bloody revolution.

CharlotteSymph

Be like Beethoven, not like Robespierre.

Work together like a revolutionary Symphony.

Teach the world to ring out Liberty!

King of Soul

Austerity or Stimulus?

February 25, 2017

Well this is an improvement.

When I was still a gleam in my daddy’s eye, Germany fought a world-sized war against France. But now, in 2017, all the obsolete ideology that then fueled both fanaticisms–fascist v. communist–has withered down into a battle of ideas.

Fiscal ideas, like whether budgets should be balanced, or put on hold until things get better.

From a Peace vs. War standpoint, I’d say that delicate balancing act is an improvement, wouldn’t you? Budgets and Economic Plans are, theoretically, much more manageable than tanked-up military campaigns.

Now Germany and France– those two nation-state heavyweights whose fiscal priorities set the course for the rest of Europe–they are getting along just fine now. They expend financial energies trying to keep the whole of Europe humming along on all cylinders. Budget deficits that drag down Euro economies are generated mostly in the lackadaisical southern  economies–Greece, Italy and Spain.

But those two mid-continent economic heavyweights–France and Germany, function as fiscal opposites, polarizing European values and budget priorities in opposite directions. They are two very different countries; and yet Germany and France are not as opposite as they used to be. A lot has changed since they finally made peace back in 1945.

At the time of that last Great War, early 1940’s, Germany was suffering through the death-throes of a dying monarchy. What was left of the Kaiser’s authoritative legacy had been lethally manipulated into a world-class death regime by a demonic tyrant who wore an odd, obnoxious little mustache on his flat German face.

France up to that time was still stumbling through a sort of awkwardly adolescent stage, having booted their kings and queens out back in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and then replacing, in stages, the ancient monarchy with a struggling new Republic.

What the French did as the 18th-century came to a close was similar to what we Americans did, but different. We had ditched King George III in 1776. The French cut off Louis XVI in 1792. On the other side of the Rhine, the Germans kept their Wilhelm top dog hanging on a thread until the Allies ran him down in 1918.

We Americans did a whole new thing after we rejected the old wineskins of monarchic government back in 1776; we had a lot going for us–a vast, nearly-virgin continent that stretched out for 3000+ miles, with plenty of room to grow,  and to expand our new-found explorations for Life, Liberty and Pursuits of Happiness.

The Europeans–neither the French nor the Germans–did not have all that fruited-plains expansion space like we had. They were cramped up over there in the Old World.

Having wielded a fierce guillotine ruthlessness upon their king and queen, the French tried to spread the wealth all around, ensuring that everybody got a chunk of it. They had wrung a blood-stained liberte from the palaces of privilege in 1789. Over the course of the next century and a half, they generally moved leftward the whole time, toward an egalitarian idea of solidarity.

The Germans have always tended toward authoritarian leadership, which is one reason why Hitler was able to pull off the abominations that he did. But we Allies put that to an end in 1945.

Thank God.

Now in the post-WWII Europe, the Germans have turned out to be pretty good kids on the block, considering all that had happened back in the day. The last 3/4 of a century has seen a remarkable recovery. They went through some serious changes, rebuilding after  losing two wars, and then being divide into two different countries.

Since 1990, when Germany became united again into one country, those krauts have established a pretty impressive record. They now have the strongest, most stable economy in Europe.  One reason it turned out this way is: the Germans have historically been, by necessity, very disciplined, rational people and they know how to get things done.

The French are different from that. You gotta love the French. As the Germans have made the world a better place with their great music (Bach and Beethoven), the French have brightened and lightened our worldly life with their very lively, expressive and impressionistic art, coupled with their unbridled Joie de vivre. And let’s not forget the original architectural piece-de-resistance of the Western World. It was French creativity married to inventive 19th-century industrialism that brought us the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

ParisGargoyl

The French do progress with style and artistry; the Germans get it done with impressive efficiency and precision.

As an American who has geneologic roots in both cultures, this fascinates me.

Their two different attitudes about generating prosperity also encompass, respectively, their approaches to solving money problems.

Or more specifically. . . solving “lack of money” problems.

A new book, Europe and the Battle of Ideas, explains how these two nations, as the two polarizing States of modern Europe, each lead in their own way to set policy, together,  for solving Europe’s financial problems. Their tandem leadership is enhanced by their two very different strategies.

The simplest way to describe their treatments of European deficits is this:

The Germans are into Austerity; the French are into Stimulus.

Or to put it into a classic perspective:

The Germans want to balance the books,  thereby squeezing all governments and banks into economic stability. The French want the assets to get spread around so everybody can have a chunk of it.

How do I know anything about this?

This morning I saw Markus Brunnermeir being interviewed; he is one of the authors of the new book, Europe and the Battle of Ideas.

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/02/europes-future-will-settled-battle-ideas/

In this fascinating, very informative interview, the questions are being posed by Rob Johnson, President of Institute for New Thinking, whatever that is.

Together, these two guys explore the two basic problem-solving approaches to working out Europe’s economic deficiencies. And it just so happens that the two main strategies are related to those two old nationalized culture, described above, between Germany and France.

Sounds simplistic perhaps, but this comparative analysis makes a lot of sense when you hear these two knowledgable men talk about the present condition of economic Europe.

So, rather than try to explain it to you, I’ll simply leave you with this list of characteristics, as identified by. Mr Markus Brunnermeier. The list identifies how each country’s budgetary priorities contributes to a strategy for solving Europe’s fiscal woes.  My oversimplified version of it  looks like this:

France

Germany

1.Stimulus

1.Austerity

2.Liquidity

2.Solvency

3.Solidarity

3.Liability

4.Discretion

4.Rules

5.Bail-out

5.Bail-In

Consider these two lists of national characteristics as two different strategies for solving large-scale economic problems.

Here are a few notes I made while watching Mr. Johnson interview Mr. Brunnermeier:

For French, the problem is always liquidity. Stimulus will flush money out of markets again.

Germans see problems as solvency difficulty. Fix the fundamentals. Don’t throw good money after bad.

French: If you see it as a liquidity problem, just bail them out.

German. If you see it as solvency problem,  Bail in, to avoid future hazards. Bail-in means: Bond holders who essentially gambled with a country or bank and  then reap the gains on upside– they should take losses on downside.

There was a radical shift in attitudes in Europe over the Cyprus bank crisis in spring 2013. Who pays? Who covers the losses?

. . . Bail-in or bail-out?

French fear systemic risk so they tend toward governmental bail-outs.

The Germans, on the other hand, see crisis as an opportunity to address and solve the systemic deficiencies. So penalize  the depositors/ investors; others will learn from that, and you will have bank-runs in other places. Such circumstances provide incentives for institutions and individuals to take responsibility for their own actions and investments.

Just how the Europeans get all this worked out, we shall see in the days ahead. And the working-out may provide some lessons for all of us.

Smoke