Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wikileaks: My Two Cents

I have a perspective on this issue (based in part on observations I made when I was living in Germany) that I see rarely voiced—that's why I'm posting, even though I'm late to the party.

I think Assange's argument for total transparency contains a basic fallacy: That when you take one part out of a dynamic system, everything else stays the same. In this case, that when all communication becomes public, it will result in complete transparency. I think this is not the case: If people want to keep their communication secret in plain view, they start to speak in code. Result: Less transparency! Moreover, the communication is now harder to interpret.

More in my comment...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Word of the month: Leitkultur

I selected the present word of the month after reading, in translation, Jürgen Habermas's essay Leadership and Leitkultur, which recently appeared in the NYT. The term Leitkultur is formed from the verb leiten (to guide, lead) and Kultur (culture). It denotes the "guiding culture" of a people or country or, more accurately, the set of values and beliefs, and the rules of behavior based on them, that govern the way the members of the group view themselves and interact with each other.

The concept of a Leitkultur represents one of the flash points in the discussion currently raging in Germany about the best way to deal with immigrants who seemingly refuse integration into the surrounding society and culture. Habermas has argued—in the past and again in the essay—that it is sufficient for immigrants who want to become permanent residents or citizens that they (a) learn German and (b) accept the constitution. Others believe that this is not enough—they demand, in addition, that immigrants embrace a German Leitkultur. In my first comment, I'll talk about Leitkultur as a useful term to focus this discussion, even if it becomes problematic when it's turned into a cry for political action. In a second comment, I will try to indicate connections with trends I observe in the US.

Note on pronunciation: Again, watch your vowels! The "ei" is a diphthong pronounced like English "eye"; the first "u" in Kultur is a short "oo" as in "good"; and the second "u" is a long "oo" as in "boot". The main stress is on the first and a secondary one on the third syllable.