Each week, two E&M editors share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.
Juliane, Diaphragm Editor
HAS TECHNOLOGY FIGURED US OUT?
I love it when science and technology present easy solutions to complex problems. The notion that you can answer some of life's most troubling questions in one single sentence is deeply appealing to me. Nevertheless, when I first read about complexity scientists having explained the way culture has spread in Europe, I was somewhat... offended. For me, European culture is fascinating, interesting and compelling because it cannot be explained in one sentence. So when a bunch of complexity scientists (which, on a side note, is the coolest academic title I've come across) explain to me that the main reason, or perhaps one of the main reasons, that the democracies of ancient Greece and the Roman empire still remain the most influential and persisting cultural movement in European history is ... that Italy and Greece are located not in the centre, but on the edge of the European continent, I am quite frankly insulted. However, the possibility that they might be right is puzzling and fills me with curiosity. See if you agree here and download the whole paper here if you're interested.
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE FILM OF THE YEAR... SORT OF
This is a movie that I'm more excited about than I care to admit. A few reasons: 1) It's just about as tacky as science fiction will ever get. Which in itself is a reason to love it. 2) It's one of the few examples of real, not just imagined, fan-funding (the movie has been planned for ages, but director Timo Vuorensola did not have the money to make it happen - until he urged people who wanted to make it happen to pitch in, actually funding enough for proper production of the whole thing). In other words, even before the first screening, the movie had a huge and loyal pool of fans, which in this day and age is quite the accomplishment. 3) The movie, which, just to be clear, is about AN INVASION OF NAZIS WHO HAVE BEEN HIDING ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON SINCE 1944, opened at the Berlin Film Festival Berlinale this year. I love it. I love what it says about Germany being able to deal with their past in, if not unproblematic ways, then at least openly and with the realisation that the past is actually in the past. 4) It's a pan-European project actually said to have a chance of being a blockbuster in the US, which always is a weird satisfaction for me. Intrigued? Read more about what is perhaps the most inappropriate, yet surely entertaining, film experience of the year here.
THE IDEA OF TECHNOCRACY: MAYBE NOT THAT BAD?
If you take a look around Europe, technocrats now govern some countries. But what makes a technocrat? Today it is a catch-all term for non-elected policy makers. However, there is a rich history to the term "technocracy." And this history might give us an explanation for why some countries are opposed to technocrats (e.g. the United Kingdom) while others seem to accept them.
BACK TO THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE: TAR SANDS
Recently, the EU saw a battle between different international interests about the issue of tar sands. Tar sands are sands containing oil and they are Canada's biggest hope of becoming an even larger oil producing country. However, the extraction of those sands comes at a huge environmental cost. The EU tried to make a decision on how to classify oil coming from those tar sands. Now that it has failed to reach an agreement, the issue is in the hands of national governments. I think this topic is worth keeping an eye on to see what your government is doing. The magazine Nature has a good article on the situation.
BAILING OUT THE MILITARY?!
If you are in a debt crisis and want to save money you probably will consider riding your bike instead of buying that shiny sporty roadster on credit. Now imagine you are a state. Say, imagine you are Greece. I would think then there is one thing that is even easier to spare than a car: you should not buy more tanks and submarines. Greece military spending is surprisingly high. However, this is not necessarily Greece's fault. A recent article on this fiscal clusterfuck can be found in the Independent. (The best article I could find on this topic is by the German paper Die Zeit). And interestingly, the problem had already been pointed out in a good piece of journalism by the Wall Street Journal in 2010.