… cum lucrez la spatii verzi? :)

25Mar17

Motto: „Vino, mama, sa ma vezi/Cum lucrez la Spatii Verzi!

E si asta o premiera: un interviu despre compromis si traducerea cartii in limba chineza, aparut in The Beijing News (al treilea cotidian ca circulatie din Beijing).

Beijing News Book Review 2017-03-25

Redau mai jos interviul in engleza. De ce sa se delecteze, la cafeaua de sambata dimineata, doar cateva milioane de chinezi? 🙂 Nu pot decat sa nadajduiesc ca traducerea in chineza e fidela.

The Beijing News: Although readers could find several discussions about compromise as a concept, there is no research concerning its history and stature. Your work offers for the first time a conceptual history of compromise by a survey of its usage from the end of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century, in both French and English. Why has compromise, a key concept in civil history, been ignored?

When I started work on this project, before 2010, compromise was under the radar of politicians and political theorists alike. Back then, the reason, I suspect, was the apparent “banality” of the subject. Supposedly, compromise was such an obvious method for solving political disagreements that almost no one bothered to pay attention to it. Things have changed dramatically in the past few years, as the lack of willingness to compromise has become evident not just in the national politics of one country or another, but in international politics as well. Politics is increasingly radicalized wherever one turns, from the US to South America, and from Europe to Asia. Without pretending to know the details, I would guess that the Chinese society has witnessed a similar development in the last few decades. So nowadays, compromise has become an increasingly “hot” topic, not just in public discourses, but also among theorists. Since the first publication of my book in 2013, several books, articles, and international conferences have focused on the theoretical and practical challenges raised by compromise.

What I hope to bring new into these debates is the intellectual history of the concept—a history that, simply put, shows that people were and still are unwilling to compromise whenever there is no perceived equality between the parties in conflict, and/or when the identities of the parties involved appear to be threatened. I am emphasizing the word “appear,” because these perceptions are inherently subjective. It is impossible to find an objective position from which to determine if the parties are equal or not, or if the identity is “really” under threat or not. To a large extent, identities are “constructed” or “imagined.”

The Beijing News: Compromise makes both public politics and communal life possible, but why has it been hard to reach compromise in some fields, especially of religion? What characteristics do they have? 

As I mentioned before, it is a matter of perceived threat to one’s identity, as individual or as a group. Religion is suitable for compromise in societies in which, for a variety of reasons, religion has lost its “grip” in defining identities, not necessarily for the individual, but at group level. I might define myself as a religious person, and yet not feel threatened by atheists or people of different religions, because the society to which I belong does not define itself in religious terms. Obviously, this does not preclude situations in which one or more religious groups inside a larger secularized society feel their identities threatened by the very religious indifference of the larger community—quite the opposite.

Things change drastically whenever a community defines itself as “Christian,” “Buddhist,” “Confucianist,” “Muslim,” etc. in counter-distinction to another religious community. Then compromise between groups is no longer an option, for “truth” or “true religions” are no more amenable to partiality than mathematical truths. In religion one cannot be “partially true” as one cannot be “partially true” about the result of 2+2. “3” is not a “partially true” answer—it is plainly wrong. The same applies to inter-ethnic conflicts—yet another type of conflict difficult if not impossible to solve by making compromises.

Here is the good news, however: since identities are largely “constructed” or “imagined,” a change in self-definition can make compromise possible in cases in which it had previously not been an option. For example, no compromise was possible for centuries between the French and the Germans. Historical rivalries and bloody disputes prevented them for agreeing to compromise. Yet, once they started defining themselves first and foremost as Europeans, and French or Germans only at a secondary level, compromises came to be accepted as reasonable, for “now we are equal, now we are all Europeans”.

The Beijing News: Today China is suffering seriously social segmentation along liberalism, nationalism, populism, and elitism. Conflicts always occur in the fields of ideas and opinions, and each side argues with their own reason, causing insult libel and assault, but neither would give in. This situation has been for around twenty years, and there are no signs presently of the whole public sphere that would meet compromises. Historically, how people could change such situation?

I have started to sketch a possible answer in my previous response. But first, let me tell you that the fact that the Chinese people seem unable to compromise over these issues has a bright side too: it means that they are deeply concerned with these ideas, that they take them seriously. It also means that in this rapidly changing world, the Chinese are struggling—like everyone else—to (re)define themselves. I suspect that things are even more complicated in the particular case of China, considering the deeply rooted respect of the Chinese people for their ancestors, their traditions, and their past.

I am afraid that there are no magic solutions, for one cannot change overnight the ways in which people choose to define themselves. Some degree of disagreement in these areas will always be present, in Chinese public life as elsewhere, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There will always be people who, say, will favor individual over community rights, or the other way around. Some people will always fall prey to populist appeals, and look upon elites with contempt, thinking that their reputation is fabricated or exaggerated or both. Others will always look for solutions in men of exceptional character, for there is an innate need for heroes who save the day, and so forth. But insofar as these disagreements are kept at a normal level, they are rather signs of a healthy public life. Things become more complicated when arguments of ideas threaten to rip apart the fabric that keeps communities together.

In short, the challenge with compromise is to know when and what to compromise, for there are dangers on both sides. On the one hand, no public communal life is possible absent some willingness to compromise. On the other hand, if one is willing to compromise on every issue, it means that there is nothing left to be compromised. Put it differently, if one has nothing to die for, one has nothing to live for either.

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