Sunday 14 March 2021

virtus, unita, fortior

Though the tiny condominium of the Principality of Andorra had existed for centuries under the current shared rule between the head of state of France and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes (chartered in 1278 but created in the ninth century by Charlemagne as a buffer march from Islamic Iberia), its constitution (la Constituciรณ d’Andorra) was not formally codified and adopted until February 1993 and accepted by popular assent on this day, celebrated thereafter on its anniversary—though the document did not carry legal weight until its promulgation when it was published and the register was made available to all citizens, around sixty-four thousand at the time.

Saturday 12 April 2014

saargebiet oder neutral moresnet

Prior to the treaties and terms that were drawn up at the conclusion of the World Wars, the German state of Saarland had no cohesive identity and did not exist as an administrative division, until after WWI, French forces governed the area as a protectorate, the resource-rich region having historic connections to both countries and, like neighbouring Alsace, dominated by each power at different times over the centuries. The goal of long term occupation was that France could recover from the industrial ravages of the Great War and prevent Germany's rearmament through the coal and mineral deposits in this land. With the end of the following war, Saarland once again became a French protectorate with the surrender and when German territory was divided amongst the Allied Forces, which was not reunited with the rest of Western Germany until 1957 with what is referred to as die Kleine Wiedervereinigung. The French also had designs on another region, to the north, the heavily industrial and more resource-rich lands of the Ruhr Valley (Ruhrgebiet) of North-Rhine Westphalia.
French negotiators felt that the Ruhrgebiet should either be managed like the Saar Protectorate or be created as a separate condominium state—like the singular case of Andorra, ruled by two co-princes, the president of France and the Spanish bishop of Urgell, or the strange compromise reached a century earlier in the sliver of land called Neutral Moresnet (Esperanto was also the official language of this tiny country), which was a shared responsibility between the Kingdoms of Prussia and Belgium. A zinc mine, the region's only significant source, was located here and the committee that redrew the map after the last spate of warring wanted to ensure that no one country could monopolise the supply. American and British representatives, however, felt that France's demands went too far and taking away the country's industrial-base would make rebuilding the war-torn land impossible. Concessions were arrived at, however, and in exchange for being able to re-establish itself as an independent federal republic, West Germany agreed to pool its coal and steel resources with the rest of Europe and impose quotas on how much it could use domestically.

Friday 9 November 2012


The separation of temporal and spiritual powers presents some unique challenges for any government, and many nations have codified warrants and limitations to protect the public from religious influence—or at least profess to do so. Politicians strive to approach the matter carefully, eschewing endorsement or favouritism while enshrining (or at least staying out of) personal freedom of expression.

France and Turkey have acceded to a special form of separation of Church and State, called laรฏcitรฉ (Laisizmus, laiklik), which is contested by some as overstepping neutrality into the realm of interference, both for formative traditions and the integration of new traditions, interpreted by some as the undermining of educational and charitable institutions or encroaching on private liberties. Only a country and people without history would not be challenged with this delicate balancing act, and the methods of France and Turkey do not aim to dismantle glory and censure alike. France especially has some notable exceptions, due to treaties and concordats, however, and still honours these unique arrangements: the president of the Republic shares, along with the Bishop of Urgell, the title of co-prince of the condominium of Andorra, the president also is charged with formally appointing the bishops of the Alsatian cities of Metz and Strasbourg (the only secular authority in the world today with such powers—albeit, the tradition has continued uninterrupted in part because all French presidents have been both male and Catholic).
The French nation also has five peculiars, “regional” churches in Lateran Rome, which the government maintains through its mission to the Vatican. The president is also created as the canon of this legation but sends a vicar to occupy the office in his stead. Aside from deep respect for its rich and mixed heritage, I don’t think that the Turkish government is party to anything like France’s entanglements but it would be interesting to research more into it. The tenets incorporated with devoutly crafted language into America’s founding documents, interesting though, saw its first diplomatic test and application in a treaty (DE/TK) between US mercantile interests and the Barbary Pirates, assuaging fears of enmity towards a Muslim nation. Tradition is not necessarily bias and these lovely distinctions, I think, are the exceptions that make the rule.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

geldpolitik or punch & judy

A few voices, weary of demi-solutions that because of self-interest no one is willing to meet half-way, continual scolding and talk whose length is outstripping modern patience and sensibilities, have raised a disturbing spectre of concern, which, I think, is forgetting the spirit of an experiment that strives for cooperation and integration without surrendering identity or sovereignty: some European Union members that have been made to feel on the periphery or only marginally engaged have expressed fear about the EU becoming enfeoffed (belehnte), paying tribute to a new Napoleonic marauding or Holy and Roman Empire of the Germans--or something more sinister.
Those fears and the United Kingdom's dour divisiveness are of course allowed but are not helpful and probably only stoke the power of the real beneficiaries of that tribute that will be paid to the banks and financial institutions. Money managers of course play an important role in remediation and recovery (or delay and dalliance) but they should not be ceded powers they do not have. Banks are like any other utility, regulated and often owned by the State, like plumbing and power-grids, and nothing more--though they've grown beyond pipes and a series of tubes, like wireless communication service providers and social networking platforms, into something that we are beholden to and tyrannized by. The EU is limited in the paths that it can sound, and that is probably a very mature and responsible thing for all parties--like it won't print more euro or tolerate laggards too well--but the solvency of big banks should not obscure real marketplace choices and resolution.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

kwisatz haderach or struldbrugg

Science maven Maggie Koerth-Baker, a few weeks ago, filed some very clever observations on longevity and the need for people to riddle out a formula or pattern for long, healthy lives--prefacing the dispatch with something to the effect, if a supercentenarian, whilst chain-smoking, eating chocolate, not exercizing, drinking red wine and turnip juice, jumped off a bridge from Okinawa to Andorra--would you do it too... No habit or diet is shared for those who reach extreme old age, though science is trying to fit it to a certain paradigm, but neither is it purely locked up in genetic predisposition.

I think maybe the common-quality lies in attitude, though I am sure it is still the exception or the exceptional that makes the rule. Petty anxieties telescoped beyond their power for harm or for good are surely counter-productive. The Big Think, also a few weeks ago, featured a good lecture, Fear is the Mind Killer (an homage to Frank Herbert's Dune-cycle), about this subject, which I thought triangulated well with prevailing healthy attitudes and stride. The lecture addresses the subtler names for different degrees of fear found in Hebrew. It's true how we give it a name and independent existence with our internal-dialogues, mental-vocalization, like "I'm afraid I'll be late," "I'm afraid I won't make a good impression," "What if I get sick," "What if the money runs out." These little-deaths always resolve themselves, but one does tend to weigh them as clear and imminent dangers. It is no mean feat to stop worrying and maybe a little bit naรฏve dismiss or ignore what's burgeoning, but at least, with the acknowledgement of these little killers, one might also pause to not only name it but also to assess (to mantra-tize it) the damage it could do.