August 31, 2002

NELSON ASCHER HAS SOME MORE THOUGHTS that are worth posting:

If we can call the Eurocratic order a kind of New Enlightened Despotism, the Church’s role would be fulfilled by the NGO. In a way they actually resemble the medieval militant monastic orders. They begin as reformers, then are slowly incorporated to the system as their propagandists and missionaries. Besides, they too are unelected bodies composed of “inspired” and dedicated militants (and good old Lev Davidovitch Bronstein once compared the Bolsheviks to the Jesuits).

Most of the main European powers have some kind of official cultural agency (Alliance Française, British Council, Goethe Institut, Casa di Dante) the branches of which are scattered all over the world. They are not accused of being an arm of their own CIAs and, though their primary role is apparently some form of cultural/linguistic diffusion, their real function is ideological (defined in a generous way) propaganda. The Goethe Institutes, for instance, are responsible for the moderate success of German cinematography in the 70s and 80s. The Alliance Française fights for the “francophonie” and so on.

Have you ever considered that basically all the important international literary/cultural prizes, scholarships etc., from the Nobel prize down, are granted by Europe. Third world intellectuals simply love them, and why shouldn’t they? Latin Americans, Africans, Arabs, Asians etc. feel that Europe takes them seriously and respects them, while the US ignores and/or disdains them. Their books are regulary published in German, French, Italian, Swedish and so on, usually with the help of generous state subsidies. When it comes to any kind of conflict who do you think they are rooting for, America? And their written words, in ways most Americans cannot begin to imagine, carry a lot of weight in their poor semi-literate societies, mainly when they return to them as homegrown cultural heroes who managed to spread their country’s name and language in Europe and elsewhere.

But it is also true that the European elites take adequate care of keeping their own writers, intellectuals, academics and artists happy and on a short leash. Maybe this goes a long way explain why there are no French Noam Chomskys criticizing the Quai d’ Orsay’s politics. Talk about manufacturing consent.

Interesting. This makes sense to me, though I’m not an international artist like Nelson.