In our perypatetik project, particularly the emblems in The Anthology of Global Instability, The Codex of Uncertainty, and now The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes, we have been collecting the work of translators and writers from diverse backgrounds on one platform without the discrimination, bias or elitism characteristic of established publications and media.
These texts give us, on the one hand, an impression of different cultural attitudes toward a given topic (instability, uncertainty, polarization, extremes), and, on the other, an understanding of how the common wo/man thinks in our (post-)modern-age.
While all contributions are welcome, we have especially hoped to receive work capable of shedding light on marginalized groups, in particular a major international, overarching type that we call romantics (as opposed to pragmatists). This is a type that is not necessarily associated with any gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, class, etc. All of these subgroups consist of both romantics and pragmatists, even if one or the other type may be more common in each of them.
The reason behind the thinking here is that we live in an age of tremendous tolerance in terms of these subgroups, but, at least judging by the media, we are seemingly intolerant about ideology and worldview. To the extent that this statement is true, it is in many cases reflective of a misunderstanding about life today due not to our own perceptual inadequacy, but rather to the one-sided representation of life dominated by the materialist agenda of pragmatists.
It is not easy to judge the time one lives in. Comparison with a generalized and – usually – idealized past is problematic since we cannot live identically in two times at once.
Nonetheless, it does seem possible to make some statements about our time.
In terms of differences, we can say, for example:
If we recall the influence of organized religion, the church, in the centuries preceding the 20th, then we can call our post-religious age of money, property and success materialist.
Relative to most of the twentieth century when attention was drawn to competing materialist systems – Soviet communism and American capitalism – the economic system in almost every country today is capitalist, i.e. companies are controlled by the private sector as opposed to the state.
Within capitalist societies, the previous balance between capital and labor has swung greatly in favor of capital.
Almost irrespective of our situation, we sense and often participate in technological development – primarily through the computer and cell phone. It is now a reality that many of us spend extensive periods of life in front of a screen.
Increasingly, various forms of intolerance (racism, sexism, discrimination) are not accepted, and all environments – from lines for clubs or concerts to staff in corporate offices – are far more diverse than fifty years ago.
Despite these differences, many aspects remain the same:
Most of us will work for almost all of our productive adult years.
All of us are easily replaceable (as partners, spouses, parents, friends, employees, managers, etc.).
Almost nobody will be extremely successful or get rich.
The world has not come to an end (nor has work).
Life is difficult, or difficulties in life continue to surface.
There will be no permanent state of happiness, despair or otherwise for any of us.
Our perception of the present day is particularly difficult due to the role of mainstream media (television and newspapers). They have a near monopoly in terms of shaping public opinion, with other institutions such as the church, the arts (mostly televised/streamed shows and film) and academia being overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of moderators, pundits, journalists, talk show hosts and op-ed writers.
Media’s primary objective as a commercial business complicates the picture even more. It must generate profits. By polarizing almost every topic to draw attention, the media business model tends to exacerbate and reinforce existing differences. This approach, coupled with our tendency to trust our preferred sources of information, is bound to increase division.
By contrast, our diverse society – with people across the archetypal spectrum constantly coming into personal contact with each other – acts as a counterweight to media divisiveness.
Our perception is also guided by social, economic and political factors. In stable countries such as America, France, Germany, the UK, Italy – to name but a few – entrenched stakeholders in the form of investors, lenders, boards, employees, association members and their associates informally exercise immense influence. The lengthy period of stability in Western countries has allowed them to consolidate their grip as senior stakeholders informally vet subordinates and prospective managers. The future generation of leaders is therefore determined by the preceding group, ensuring continuity in business, but also in the mission or orientation. In America, we see this in the material (i.e. profit) orientation of companies. Throughout the West, we have witnessed this in the hesitant and slow diversification of management. These influencers naturally weigh in on the programming, staffing, mission, etc.
In this constellation, society as a whole should not be forgotten. While its interests are primarily monitored by parties looking to take advantage of and manipulate it (usually by extracting its money through consumption), there are cases of outrage that resonate with the public and require stakeholders to react. In 2017 and 2018 we saw this dynamic in various sexual harassment scandals involving actors, entertainers, corporate officers and directors.
The distinction between romantics and pragmatists can be crudely summarized – for the time being – on the basis of rough artistic generalizations as follows:
Romantics can be said to accept fate, view life as a process, not worry about the future (but have a more pessimistic outlook), disregard education, success, achievements and money, be less open to strangers (not in the sense of immigrants/refugees, but rather people outside of their immediate circle of friends and acquaintances), have a sense of humor, relax, rest and enjoy their leisure time, have polarized minds (swinging from very active to complete lethargy), think quickly (but are erratic in terms of acting), love freedom, live existentially, produce and work.
Pragmatists shape their fate, are focused on the end of the process rather than the process itself, are optimistic about the future, consider education to be critical, success and achievements as proof of personal value, are frugal and cautious with money, network and are basically moralists with an intellectual sense of humor, work constantly, do not think quickly, but act consistently, prefer activity to breaks, like (primarily social and financial) obligations, embrace materialism, consume and manage.
As we have seen in The Anthology of Global Instability and in The Codex of Uncertainty, translators as authors not only are ideal mediators for exploring a culturally conditioned, grassroots view, but also act as a reflection of these idealized types and variations thereof.
In regard to the grassroots, a longstanding problem that intellectuals around the world have faced is that the position of mediator (author, writer, artist, etc.) entails that one is no longer a member of the folk (middle class, lower-middle class, lower-class, precariat – to adopt class terminology for the sake of clarity). The attempts to work around this by interviews or even obtaining direct accounts from the folk generally fail due to the inevitable confusion that ensues in the encounter: if you are not familiar with being interviewed, you will probably make a mistake and in all likelihood even say things you don’t mean at all. If you are given a piece of paper, you will freeze up and fail to compose much comprehensible work. Translators’ familiarity with words and text, their exposure to various fields (the ones in which they translate) and their need to work in order to survive give them a unique position that is oddly close to the vast majority of the folk.
As a result of this position, the texts of translators qua authors can and should hew to the masses (in all their diversity). This applies to both form and content in the traditional sense. But it would also be valid if we reinterpret form and content in the context of the perypatetik emblem project. Accordingly, the content would be, naturally, what the author has to say about the topic in any given year (instability, uncertainty, polarization, etc.), while form in this case would be what the texts or parts of the text say about the characteristics of romantics -> pragmatists.
In 2019 we will learn about a wide range of perspectives on polarization and extremes, just as we did on instability and uncertainty over the last two years. At the same time, however, we will also be able to see fundamental differences between the thinking of romantics and pragmatists. Both are everywhere among us and would be everywhere in the media and thus in our consciousness if only we were aware of the possibilities. We hope you enjoy the possibilities in The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes.
Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov, Henry Whittlesey
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes Transposed – Part 1 – Spain
Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Mavi Romano
Cinemblem (audio/visual) channel: https://youtu.be/imBF2MUPZvM
Of all the benefactors of mankind, my favorite is Prometheus. His audacity provoked the wrath of Zeus when he discovered that Prometheus had given fire to the human race. The latter feared that our mortal species could not defend against the attack of beasts in an inhospitable world without a basic element of survival. Thanks to fire, humans were inventing increasingly precise and sophisticated tools at the same time that their body and brain evolved and created the first cultural forms along with the appearance of language. However, Zeus seemed to know that if a mortal race could take possession of technological development, that mortal race would end up stripping the gods of Olympus of their power over the world and would take their place in the form of totalitarianism. Several centuries later, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra shouted to the crowd gathered in the market that God had died and that they should not cling to supernatural hopes. He announced the arrival of a chaotic and uncertain time that humans would have to face by changing the meaning of their own actions on earth.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 2 – Brazil
Lack of Social Trust – Joana Alencar
Cinemblem (audio/visual) channel: https://youtu.be/Y8Y30m7pF2I
The last few years in Brazil have been challenging for most of us, Brazilian citizens.
We have experienced many highs and lows in our society and its economy for a while now.
But this period, the biggest economic crisis in our history, has also come along with a devastating decrease in our standard of living as well as the widespread perception of a deeply corrupt political system. This combination looks terrible on a daily basis, but beyond that, it has also led us to a desperate desire for change, radical change.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 3 – Venezuela
Hanging by Extremes – Veronica Cordido
Cinemblem (audio/visual) channel: https://youtu.be/Jo8jBBrh9rU
There is also a marked division between the opposition and supporters of the regime. The food basket that the government gives out to the people can only be obtained by holders of a special card called: “Carnet de la Patria,” which is only given to Chavistas and Maduristas who then are forced to vote for the regime and do lots of pro-government things such as marching, protesting and wearing their symbols and apparel. If not? The government threatens, the government punishes, the government sets up and imprisons.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 4 – South America
Polarization within Ourselves – Alejandra Baccino
Cinemblem (audio/visual) channel: https://youtu.be/Ntu0CONQogw
The ever-changing circumstances and the capacity to keep questioning ourselves, even when we believe that we have the right answer, is what makes us human, and fortunately what will make us evolve into more caring societies despite those who think mostly of themselves. Sometimes though, certain extreme ideas are embedded in ourselves, without questioning and without reason, as in the first case with soccer where there is only enough place for hatred and hostility. Fortunately, something that took so long to build can be transformed quite easily, if we only learned to be more respectful of our fellow peers, and whatever principles each individual decides to defend and live by.
In summary, polarization is a part of human nature. We can either chose to analyze it and draw conclusions to make positive changes in our behavior, or take it to be a revealed truth and live by it accordingly, knowing that we will be an accomplice to hatred and retrogression.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 5 – Germany and Romania
A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Andreea Sepi
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/3WYPsiP27tI
Perhaps (hopefully!) polarization is only a moment in time, a swing of the pendulum in its inexorable movement towards a new equilibrium. People do not become polarized for nothing. “Nu iese foc fără fum,” the Romanians say. There is no smoke without a fire. Extremism is not only a rejection of the center, it is also a feeling that the center is feckless or ineffectual. It is a cry for help and a form of testing one’s power. It is an appeal for a different vision, for less taboos in the conversation. We should initiate that conversation before the camps become so hardened in conflict that the only remaining option becomes “zusammen in den Abgrund.”
We don’t want the abyss to be the only place we can still go together.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 6 – South Africa and Angola
Walls and Resettlement – Toni Wallis
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/O-smZ2Aa0XU
Apartheid polarized South Africans, and the extremities between the abundance of the rich and the poverty of the poor remain entrenched and have become a cause of conflict as the disenfranchised poor seek a share in some of the wealth, while the rich, finding themselves under siege, raise the walls that divide the two communities.
In Angola, war brought people from all walks of life together. This diversity is chaotic and unsightly to the government. So in an effort to promote a new and modern post-war country, the state has built extremity into the physical landscape. The rich elite, almost all of whom have ties to someone in government, live in the spanking new city center, while o povo, who make up the masses of the Angolan nation, have been pushed out to the extremities of the city, lamenting their demolished homes and having to get used to becoming invisible in a new kind of apartheid.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 7 – Bolivia
Progress in the Face of Polarization – Osvaldo Montano
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/3b8DBjJ6d1A
It is clear that Bolivia as a country and its population has grown in the face of adversity and has changed for the better. Our culture continues to move towards a future where technology, social networks and tradition come together, hopefully with less polarization.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 8 – Spain
Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Jonay Quintero Hernandez
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/tANHPx1M7Ro
When you surf the Internet, open a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV it really feels like we are in the 30s again. Watch out. Most people who lived during that time are long gone now, so what happened in those years has become a “not so serious” account performed by Hollywood, the History Channel and history books. Finally, as most educational systems in Western Europe have abandoned humanistic disciplines, this creates the perfect background for a new surge in these dark ideologies of the past. The effects of fascism and communism are a foreign experience for most millennials, who are at risk of repeating more than just an environment of polarization and extremes.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 9 – Indonesia
Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Rina Sitorus
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/zCQrO_foKXA
It seems logical that polarisasi politik could strengthen democracy if both sides would just stop using identity politics and negative campaigning to attack their rivals. It also seems logical that polarisasi politik would benefit democracy if people were to first check the authenticity of news or a story before sharing it on social media or in group chats. But the thing is, when you have decided to support one side no matter what, your heart has already decided that for you, and I’m afraid there’s not much room left for logic.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 10 – Mexico
Student Movements – Alejandra Gonzalez Sariñana
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/IN3i1a2p3H0
But, who wins when a student movement is ignited? Can the students win? I recently asked one of the participants in the movement if they ever question who is behind the events that lead to protests and strikes, and what their political agenda really is. He answered that he does, but only in conversations with his friends, not in the open meetings. In the end, he says, it doesn’t matter, as long as the main issue gets resolved and actions are taken to create a safe environment for the community, he doesn’t care if somebody gains political power or leverage. I guess it’s true, even if social movements are used to polarize society and push political agendas forward, the underlying issues that give rise to them should not be forgotten. Those issues are real, as they have been real every time, and, yes, they divide opinions and they are used by politicians, but they are important.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 11 – Armenia
The Era To Close – Nane Sevunts
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/xOBeuw6Csqs
I am Davit. I am 13 years old. I live in a shelter in Giumry, an Armenian town. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. They are younger than me. I need to work to feed them.
This is my mom. Her name is Shogher. She is sick. She can’t work so I have to work to take care of her.
I get up at 5 o’clock and go out to clean the yards. I work as a janitor from 5 am to 7 am. Sometimes it is cold outside, and my hands are freezing, but I am happy I can work.
Then I go to school on some days when we have food. If we don’t have food, I go to find wood in the forest to sell to my neighbors so that I can buy bread.
I want to become an astronaut. But first, I need to feed my family.
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 12 – Serbia
Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax & Judicial System – Vuka [Vuka kao reka]
Cinemblem (audio/visual): https://youtu.be/l8jxcHwgHoU
We’re kind of a nation of outliers with huge gaps in normalcy because each pole within each cohort regards the opposing pole as totally crazy, and their own self as being totally victimized. A bunch of people gone crazy for being terrorized by a bunch of crazy people, multiplied by the number of particular industries within which they would very much prefer to operate freely. Alas, they linger where they are, oppressed by a bunch of wackos and deprived of the basic human right to function normally.