Friday, January 30, 2009, 10:40 - Commentary, Photo of the DaySturovo, Slovakia
Many feel that further integration means a loss of identity and culture. Personally I disagree but what do I know, I’m an American! An interesting article from The Local in Germany talks about the decline of scholarly German in academic publications, an interesting topic.
“The German language is “on its deathbed” in the field of science, the Council of German Culture (Deutscher Kulturrat) said this week. Their figures indicate that just one percent of the world’s published scientific works currently appear in German.
“Retaining use of the German language in science is not about promoting excessive Germaness, and it is definitely not about nationalism. On the contrary, it’s about ensuring cultural diversity and maintaining cultural independence,” council Managing Director Olaf Zimmerman said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that there should be no doubt that German is the lingua franca within the country.”
The writing is on the wall… Heidelberg 2008 © Damaso Reyes
On the one hand I understand the concern; on the other hand Europe and Germany are becoming increasingly international. For better or for worse English has become the linga franca of Europe. If you want your paper read by the other 96% of humanity that doesn’t speak German, you had best publish in English. Other than Austria and Switzerland the German speaking world is very, very small. In one hundred years scholarly written German may very well be something very few people write in. But if your objective is to reach as many people as you can then writing in English is the clear choice. Of course let’s not forget that German has, and will continue to have a huge impact on the English language. But there are some who see the demise of German in academia as another ill effect of integration.
Such is life…
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Thursday, January 29, 2009, 10:18 - Commentary, Photo of the DaySturovo, Slovakia
We’ve talked about the topic of hate speech and censorship before but it never seems to get old does it? The Netherlands is our next stop where a right wing politician will soon be on trial for airing his repugnant views on Islam, as we learn from Der Spiegel.
“Last year, a Dutch public prosecutor decided not to take legal action against politician Geert Wilders for his anti-Islamic statements, which included calling the Koran a "fascist" book and comparing it to Hilter's "Mein Kampf." Wilders, a member of parliament with the populist Freedom Party (PVV), made headlines around the world in March 2008 with his film "Fitna," which juxtaposed verses from the Koran against a background of violent film clips and images of terrorism by Islamic radicals.
“Dozens of organizations and individuals in the Netherlands wanted to bring charges against the politician, but the prosecutor decided that while painful to Muslims, his remarks were not criminal.
“On Wednesday, Amsterdam's Court of Appeal disagreed and found that there was a case of inciting hatred to answer for, both because of the content of Wilders' remarks and the way in which it was presented. The judges said they had weighed Wilders' anti-Islam rhetoric against his right to free speech and ruled he had gone beyond even the normal leeway granted to politicians.”
Why on earth would you want to ban me? The Hague 2005 © Damaso Reyes
Personally I couldn’t disagree more with Wilders’ point of view. But there is an old saying in American, where freedom of speech is guaranteed by the first amendment to the constitution: all speech, especially that which we dislike, must be protected. Of course in America we have struggled with the concept form the start but the principal is there. Banning hate speech or foul ideas does nothing but drive them underground. Only active, open and honest discussion will allow these ideas to be exposed to the harsh light of reason. It is far easier, and far less effective to simply ban something you don’t like than to do the hard work of convincing, yes convincing people that these ideas are wrong.
No matter what the outcome it is likely that the right in Holland will have a new martyr and it is highly unlikely that his trial will do anything but provide and international forum for his platform.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 09:17 - Commentary, Photo of the DaySturovo, Slovakia
As you know immigration is one of my favorite topics. Perhaps it is because I am the son of immigrants. My story would be far, far different if I had been born in Germany or France and I am sensitive to the way immigrants are viewed and treated. From France we see another move towards making immigration as difficult as possible, as we learn from the Daily Mail.
“France's hard-line new immigration minister is set to implement legislation that would allow DNA testing of new arrivals.
“Eric Besson, who was appointed this month, has said the tests would establish which foreigners were claiming visas by making up fictious family ties with those already settled in the country.
“Civil liberties groups have reacted furiously to the controversial scheme, which was approved by the French parliament 15 months ago but does not come into effect until the appropriate minister has signed the legislation.”
I just want to be free… © Damaso Reyes
Instead of working hard to better incorporate immigrants France and many other European nations seem to be doing all they can to make them feel unwelcome and this is just another sign of that mentality…
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 11:00 - Commentary, Photo of the DaySturovo, Slovakia
It seems like things just go from bad to worse in Iceland, as we learn from the International Herald Tribune.
“Iceland's coalition collapsed Monday, the latest fallout from a global financial crisis that has sparked angry demonstrations across Europe.
“Prime Minister Geir Haarde said he was unwilling to meet the demands of his coalition partners, the Social Democratic Alliance Party, which insisted on getting the post of prime minister to keep the coalition intact, The Associated Press reported from Reykjavik, the capital.”
Time to face the music. © Damaso Reyes
The small country was very hard hit by the banking crisis which crippled the nation’s currency. But it’s not just Iceland’s government which is having problems. Latvians are demonstrating in the streets as well and have clashed repeatedly with police. Even the laid back Spaniards are coming out in force to demand that government do something about the crisis which threatens more and more workers.
The next few days and weeks will be a true test of European cohesion. We remember that France’s president was a leader in trying to bring together world leaders to solve the growing problem but the question is will European governments continue to deal with the current financial crisis independently or confront the problem in a more coherent way?
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Monday, January 26, 2009, 09:38 - Events, Commentary, Photo of the DaySturovo, Slovakia
And how was your weekend? Mine was great, thanks for asking! I got to experience some local culture on Saturday night when I was invited to attend an annual dinner/dance here in Štúrovo. It wasn’t exactly the traditional balls I went to this time last year in Vienna but it was an interesting mix of local tradition and the kind of rotary club event that we have back in America. One of my running jokes at the table every time another cover of an American pop song was played: “Wow, who knew Hungarian folk music was so interesting?”
Send in the clowns… © Damaso Reyes
Now that I’ve been here for a little over a week I am starting to get a sense for some things I would like to shoot, both here in town and in Budapest. I am still figuring things out so if you’ve been this way feel free to throw some suggestions my way.
Happy shiny people everywhere… © Damaso Reyes
Part of the reason why I like to spend several weeks in a place is that I can absorb things through osmosis, rather than trying to understand a place or its people in a rush. Walking down the street, sitting in the local pub (hooray for $2 glasses of Leffe) and interacting with people gives me a chance of learning something outside of what I would as a tourist.
Can’t you just hear the music? © Damaso Reyes
Sometimes the process is slower than I might like. But as engrossing as the shooting process can be the down time I get, to read or just socialize outside my normal sphere is really energizing. When I am out in the field I can relax in a way that I can’t when I am back in New York, if for no other reason than I know am I where I need to be, doing what I need to do.
Feel the love… © Damaso Reyes
What will come over the next nine weeks? I can’t say that I know but I am pretty sure it will be interesting!
I like the nightlife… © Damaso Reyes
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Thursday, January 22, 2009, 09:08 - Commentary, Photo of the DayBut what about the white man you ask? Of course the story of European integration has a lot to do with ethnic white populations as well. in the few days that I’ve been here I have talked with a few people who are living abroad and the challenges they face are no less difficult. Today I came across an interesting article in The Guardian about a newly released report called Who Cares about the White Working Class?
"Britain remains blighted by class division, and economic background is still the best predictor of life chances. Class is central to how people see their place in Britain today. Returning to the issue of class inequality and social mobility is therefore long overdue," the report says. Socially, Britain remains dominated by the same class divisions that have been in place for 40 years with scorn for poor white people and their "perceived" culture not only socially acceptable but also rampant.
“But it also warns that there is a danger the "muted and repressed" debate on class that is re-emerging could prove harmful. It argues alarmist predictions that Labour's neglect of the white working class will boost the British National party are little more than veiled attempts to curb race equality.”
And what about us then? Surbiton, England 2005 © Damaso Reyes
The article goes on to say:
“The study says the affliction and resentment of many sections of the white working class is a real cause for concern but it is vital to address its actual cause: "The white working classes are discriminated against on a range of different fronts, including their accent, their style, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the social spaces they frequent, the postcode of their homes, possibly even their names. But they are not discriminated against because they are white," it concludes.”
Class and race go hand in hand in America but when it comes to immigration and integration class is a huge factor, sometimes even more important than race. Often I am tolerated simply because of my class and background. If I were an African asylum seeker my treatment would be wholly different. The U.K. is one of the most class conscious places in Europe; indeed I found it so distasteful it is one of the things that led me not to consider the U.K. as a base. While I have found that the U.K. has dealt with its racial minorities better than perhaps anywhere else in Europe, it still has a long road to how when it comes to class relations…
Wednesday, January 21, 2009, 12:14 - Events, Commentary, Photo of the DayBudapest
What a day!
The view from Budapest. © Damaso Reyes
It was a day that some said would never come. But it did. I went to Budapest to watch the inauguration at an Irish pub where some other expats and Hungarians had gathered. I came early and while I sat drinking my Guinness the place slowly filled up with people of all colors, ages and nationalities waiting for the moment.
We waited with baited breath! © Damaso Reyes
It was a long time coming. © Damaso Reyes
I watched along with the others and smiled when he took the oath. As the son of immigrants myself, the moment, and its importance, was not lost on me. This day was another step forward on the long road that is America. His speech touched on a lot of notes but he said one thing that I had been saying about the nations that make up Europe for some time.
And it was worth the wait! © Damaso Reyes
“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself….”
Those words apply as much to Germany or France as they do to the United States. Perhaps those on this side of the ocean will see Obama and what he represents as something meaningful to themselves…
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Monday, January 19, 2009, 16:03 - CommentaryŠtúrovo, Slovakia
Happy MLK Day!
And of course it is a very special one because of what will happen tomorrow. Forty-six years after Dr. King gave his speech in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the moment for all Americans.
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”
We are one step closer to making the dream a reality. If you haven’t read or heard the entire speech, or have not done so in a while, I suggest you take the time to do so right now. Listening to his words more than forty years later one realizes how far we have come and how much further down the road towards equality we must still travel…
© Damaso Reyes
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Monday, January 19, 2009, 00:48 - Travel, Project NewsŠtúrovo, Slovakia
Greetings from Slovakia! It took a while to get here but I had a smooth flight from New York. I spent the afternoon in Budapest getting a brief tour (thanks Imre!) before taking the train here.
Home… © Damaso Reyes
First impressions are always just that: an imperfect view of something you don’t know very well. That said, I think I am going to like it here a lot. The people open, warm and friendly. The town is quite small, only about 11,000 people live here. Being a big city boy it is certainly a change of pace. As I was telling one of the locals yesterday, spending time in a small town like this is important to my project. After all, not everyone lives in Berlin and Paris. Getting a different perspective is the only way I can hope to capture the richness of life in Europe.
Four Views. © Damaso Reyes
So here I am. The next two and a half months will certainly be interesting, hopefully they will be productive as well!
Lovely Sturovo! © Damaso Reyes
Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 14:20 - Travel, Project News, Photo of the Day
Flying away on a jet plane…
So I’m heading for Slovakia on Thursday and there are still a million and one things for me to do so I won’t be blogging much this week. Of course on Monday I will fill you in on some first impressions. Until then, stay well!
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Friday, January 9, 2009, 12:07 - Commentary, Photo of the DayIf it’s not one thing, it’s another. As we have discussed before, us photographers are having a tough time of it. If we’re not being laid off or shot at, odds are we are being hassled by the Man, at least if we live in the United Kingdom, or as it is increasingly being called, the Nanny State. The latest chapter come courtesy of the Independent.
Artist or Terrorist?
“Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years.
“With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home – currently the site of Europe's largest regeneration project. But to the police officers who arrested him last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.
"The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said 'what are you doing?' I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the Anti-Terrorism Act," he recalled.”
This would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. Billions of people have cameras on their mobile phones but it is the conspicuous photographer with real equipment that gets singled out. After all, if you were a terrorist why wouldn’t you use a mobile phone camera to do your recon? This is another sad example of the government trying to make us feel safe instead of actually doing something to keep us safe…
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Thursday, January 8, 2009, 12:33 - Commentary, Photo of the DayWhat to do about Russia? There is perhaps no larger foreign policy question echoing around the capitals of the European Union than this. A long simmering dispute between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas has exploded as Russia has cut off all deliveries of natural gas, not just to the Ukraine but to Europe as well. Because the pipeline that supplies Europe with gas goes through the Ukraine this is a crisis that has taken on much larger dimensions, as we learn in an article from the BBC.
The Big Chill…
“Heating systems shut down in some parts of central Europe, as outdoor temperatures plunged to -10C or lower.
“Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other, and the EU says it wants its own monitors to check the flow of gas.
“The EU depends on Russia for about a quarter of its total gas supplies, some 80% of which is pumped through Ukraine.
“The list of countries that have reported a total halt of Russian supplies via Ukraine includes Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia, and Austria.
“Italy said it had received only 10% of its expected supply.”
The E.U. needs to engage Russia more aggressively instead of feeding its fears that Russia will somehow be diminished as the European Union expands. Until then Russian leaders will continue to try to find ways to show that they are still in control, especially in regards to their former satellites.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009, 13:17 - Commentary, Photo of the DayWell all the news concerning immigrants in Europe is not bad. In fact there are even a few examples of what I believe the future will look like and NRC Handelsblad gives us a fine example from The Netherlands.
“It is almost impossible to overestimate the symbolic value of Ahmed Aboutaleb's career: born in Morocco, moved to the Netherlands as an adolescent, local councillor in Amsterdam, junior minister and, from January 5, mayor of the country's second biggest city Rotterdam (population 583,000).
"For many immigrants the Aboutaleb success story must amount to a modest 'Yes we can'. "His appointment is a breakthrough," says Andreas Wüst, political researcher at Mannheim University in Germany. "He almost certainly will be an example to many immigrants, and not just in the Netherlands."
“Aboutaleb will be the first ethnic minority mayor of a major European city, a position which shows the relative openness of the Netherlands' political system for newcomers. In Holland people with an immigrant background are better represented in elected political and administrative functions than in most other European states. This may be because mayors in the Netherlands are not elected but appointed and because of the system of proportional representation and party lists.”
Perhaps I can be a General one day. Kosovo 2005 © Damaso Reyes
Of course I’m not a big fan of appointments and prefer direct democracy but the fact that he was appointed is even more of a breakthrough (could you imagine Barack Obama being appointed over Hillary Clinton for any position?). Hopefully more and more Dutch citizens will understand that their national and cultural identity has less to do with race and heritage than it does with shared values and hopes for the future…
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009, 12:38 - Personal, Project NewsIf you happen to stop by your local newsstand you can see my photograph advertising Kodak’s new Ektar 100 film on the back cover of Outdoor Photographer!
Special thanks to Audrey for making it possible!
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