Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The open question of development

Open Questions

- the open question of development consists of a cluster of activities all forming sooner or later a definite pattern by which existence can be sustained or not over time

- music and development

- types of technical interventions

- beyond mere practical use: the aesthetical dimension

- how memories work when developments are reduced to mere consumption patterns and therefore bring about a 'poverty of experience' with regards to nature?

- the need to alter the relationship to nature and the earth

- not consumption but preservation of natural spaces and their beauty

- alterations in value systems e.g. unused land which is not build on is often perceived as waste if there could be made money with the land

- the legal system prompting people to build rather than preserve land

- natura 2000 landscapes and the planning system based on quite another notion of land use

- urban and non urban land as the Right to build everywhere rather than uphold a clear distinction between urban land, rural and natural countrysite and agricultural land

- with new energy sources like windparks and solar parks evoking a new demand for land


The open question of development

Especially in times of confusion, most terms in use shall lack clarity. That applies especially to the term of 'sustainable development'.

Any crisis in the making will make meanings of all terms diverge considerable from what takes place in practice. Any discrepancy will have a huge impact upon how things are perceived, especially if there is no longer any 'critical tension', but things move beyond comprehension and rational explanation.

Adorno advised always that it matters if one talks to an unemployed, a banker or someone working for the European Commission, and certainly this applies even more to someone in crisis.

Altogether it means 'insights and outlooks' shall be influenced by not merely what dominated in the past, but also what 'hidden' assumptions prevail and which can affect too readily perception so as to become too generalized world views. The latter are at risk to become ideological presumptions. They leave no room for discussion.

Once the situation of sheer despair has been reached, then only such questions will be asked but not really answered such as: will peace prevail? Can the health level attained so far be upheld? Will it be possible to reverse the demographic trend of society being composed more and more by older people? And what about notes of optimism in an otherwise dismal situation?

To this struggle for clarity can be added the question of development. It can be a mere matter of personal development. It then matters what stages the person has to go through before being him- or herself without loss of communication with reality. Then there are the different kinds of development a society goes through, especially once gripped by the financial crisis. In this case, Argentine may serve as a model for what is to be expected in Greece due to the austerity measures being imposed.

Yet if development means growth in the way Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke understands it as poetess with knowledge about the self, soul and metaphysics (being linked to a touch of immortality equals infinity), then it becomes a matter of developing through cultural participation. And that differs greatly from political or other forms of participation but which is linked to 'innovation' (as emphasized by Pier Luigi Sacco in his presentation to the Cultural Forum held in Brussels, Oct. 20 and 21, 2011).

Naturally things are appraised differently and relatively when sole reference is made to economic growth and innovation takes on a specific meaning. That has nothing to do with the soul or with personal growth, but with what is considered to be a measure of success when an economy goes through a certain development and ends up producing more and this more efficiently than before. That comparison indicates already what has become the destiny of the Western World. Without such growth success is transformed into all kinds of failures. We see it now in Greece with newspapers reporting a once successful businessman driving his car against a wall because he could no longer face the social shame of having become a person in need of help when before he was the giver, the shaker even of other people's destiny. There is a saying that even the strongest man or woman is the weakest, if he or she do not have a penny in their pocket. So development and growth of the economy are mediated through money which makes everything flow.

Since many appraisals of the current situation is a matter of outlook but depends also upon the quality of experience made when working and living in particular situations, an attempt to view human reality has to be linked to the question of development. Definitely a person with future will appraise the current situation with optimism, while those inclined to panic shall reinforce a bleaque viewpoint. All in all it seems that attitudes and actions undertaken depend whether or not it is thought solutions can be found despite huge challenges. At political level, this can decide the difference between resignation and revolt while not sure which reforms to back in view of certain new developments. Egypt faces right now this new sea of uncertainties. There is at risk of political demands being incompatible with how the economy has been running until now within a global context, that economic growth is threatened and mass unemployment adding to the woes which existed already before the political revolution ousted Mubarak. But definitely the terms of development and economic growth should not be confused with each other. They are two distinct terms.

Different kinds of development can take place at the same time. At the same time, economic growth is expressed in measurable terms to indicate quantitative increases in investments, level of consumption, Gross National Product etc. As all of this relates to the crucial question whether or not the economy is expanding, why economic growth is considered to be so crucial in modern terms of calculatable risks and development chances, can be easily pointed out. An economic growth of 2% promises already a considerable improvement in purchasing power. That alleviates the negotiation power needed to obtain rare resources for the economy, including the ships which transport fuels, goods and other commodities to the economy and society. Often it is forgotten that purchasing power gives a definite edge when it comes to getting these resources in real time rather than after a lot of delays. China has right now the biggest advantage as its high economic growth translates into an exponential growth of power of those who hold a lot of money. Louis Baeck, economic historian at the University of Leuven, would argue the ratio may be like 4% economic growth meaning 40% increase in purchasing power. Consequently the shift in global power has accompanied recent developments ever since China, India and other economies like Brazil have managed to step out of the shadow of being mere developing countries and which can now rival easily the United States of America, but also the economies of the European Union.

Germany can be cited as example where recent developments have led to enhance its competitive edge thanks to high exports and low wage costs. The latter means a social development which deprives many of an income with which they could live. Consequently an increase in especially youth related violence has altered the public perception of civil courage i.e. by standers who witness violent attacks are challenged to interfer but then at risk to their own lives. This has touched in turn upon a ethical core of values with a historical dimension. Many Germans did not interfer when Jews were taken away but looked more often the other way. This growing violence is becoming a huge problem since it is obvious that the existing social framework - family, school, justice system, police etc. - is overdemanded and cannot really cope. That fear not to be able to exist and to cope has lead to still further frustrations with the political system. The protest voter has becoming increasingly the angry voter. Thus established parties face more and more defeats at the poll while the one party gaining so far has been the GREEN party even though they have no inkling who would have the capacity to be chancellor if suddenly heaved into such a position of responsibility.

Since many decisions depend upon prognosis and calculatable risks, investments are made, if there is a promise of a certain return. Often this condition is extended to include 'rule of law' and a safe environment to make sure that the investments can be reaped without too many strikes or other incalculatable risks. As if the world is made subservient to the most Conservative interests, it contradicts any kind of sense of justice and liveliness. Especially the young people seeking alternative living chances find it difficult to cope in a system marked by convenience and in reality corruption. The latter is furthered by a 'corruption of the mind' due to more propaganda techniques being used to convince what otherwise would be a quite a different language, if truthful reports would be given and reality perceived as things are. The debate about climate change reflects that confusion about scientific methods and what political consequences are to be drawn out of the need to avoid further adverse impacts by man's and more so by the economy's impact upon the environment. It is obvious that neither man's behavior or ships becoming ever larger and therefore needed enlargement of ports and transport routes like the Suez channel will do to know how to steer development towards viable solutions. For a lot depends upon human interactions and common knowledge to make sense in which direction things are heading in.

Always it seems the link between certain developments and economic growth is clarified in terms of regulation. Here it becomes obvious that economic growth is a prime goal while developments are observed or else intervened in if not going in a desired direction. Altogether this requires anticipation but also an ability to coordinate and to integrate developments. Of interest is that people tend to orientate themselves in accordance to who can claim to have a better knowledge of what is happening on the ground while aware what it takes to pass things through the institutions of governance. All that can be made aware when passing in Brussels by the headquarters of NATO and when thinking of the current involvement of NATO in Libya that here real power is being exerted with no other organisation safe perhaps the European Union capable of challenging such a military governance. The fact that a large portion of economic growth comes from increases in weapons trade high lights this feature all the more. The military rule is a reality which impedes upon all other kinds of developments even though it is suggested security has a higher priority than most other components needed for life.

There are still other developments. People can leave the village and move to cities. Or else the baby boomers increase in the number of children attending school. As to an economy turning out to be more and more depending upon a virtual reality, development in this case can mean an increase in the consumption of so called luxury items including private jets. At the same time, it definitely shall mean another development takes place and which is in need to be set in relation to growing affluence. For many more people live at or even below poverty line; this is not only due to low income, but they face constantly a high risk to loose not only job and therefore a steady income, but also social status and thus energy to integrate themselves in society. Countless work under impoverished conditions. Instead of remaining on a high level of learning and motivation, they find themselves in and out precarious situations. Thus they risk to become one of the countless permanent unemployed or those who have no ideas on how to alleviate their situation.

Naturally development and economic growth are intrically linked as well. A good development in universities leads to higher qualified people entering the job market and thereby can raise the level of productivity and competitiveness. This indicates already that development can take place independently from the overall economic situation but in the end it does feed into what shapes the economic situation. The latter has to do with a wise use of resources while staying in competition due to keeping up with the latest state of the arts.

But economic growth and development, once translated into 'smart growth' as expressed in the EU vision for 2020, does not necessarily lead to an improvement in the quality of life. More cars sold mean not only more congested streets but also air and noise pollution. Already Shanghai in China is experiencing that the road system it had constructed on the basis of a prognosis as to what shall be the traffic volume in 2020 is outdated. By 2010 these estimates have already been surpassed.

Cars become as well consumer of space; freeways create more and more negative spaces left in the shade of pillars carrying over head road systems. That change in landscape alters also distances in need to be covered. A car can cover many more miles or kilometers within half a hour; someone forced to walk beside such a freeway would be a lone figure and very much out of place, if not also direct in danger.

Given this general reflection, what then are more crucial defining moments of the kind of development to be faced in the twenty-first century?

Hatto Fischer


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