The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: education

A million Erasmus babies

by fpman

Besides stimulating cooperation in the field of higher education and, as part of that, studies abroad, the Erasmus Programme is the European Union’s attempt at social-engineering a transnational European class of open-minded, pro-European integration, multi-lingual, mobile, and high-achieving people, possibly the future leaders of the continent (the program is running since 1987 so we may still have to wait to see).

As a bonus, the European Community Action Plan for the Mobility of University Students (ERASMUS stands for that, though it is also reference to the medieval Dutch scholar Erasmus) may also lead to the birth of children with a fully transnational identity, from parents who have come to know each other while spending time abroad with the Erasmus scholarship’s support.

Recently, a study prepared for the European Commission showed that over a quarter of program participants may have found their future partners like this, and the Commission presented this by leaping to the conclusion that this may have resulted in one-million babies

(Never mind that “alternative cost” matters here as maybe not these babies but other babies, from other people, may still have been born if the Erasmus pairs don’t come together.)

Italian novelist Umberto Eco is quoted in the article accounting of the report’s findings. He seems overjoyed as European intellectuals often are when it comes to the subject:

“I call it a sexual revolution: a young Catalan man meets a Flemish girl – they fall in love, they get married and they become European, as do their children. The Erasmus idea should be compulsory – not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate.”

Methodology may be a problematic aspect of the European Commission report. The article mentions that it is based on “interviewing” 88,000 students although it is of course not sample size but random selection that is important in determining whether survey results are representative. And for that one has to have a well-defined population in the first place, e.g. students who have done the Erasmus program but not much else prior to that, perhaps (to filter out those for whom the Erasmus experience was not Transnational Experience No. 1). This is all significant as at the European Commission they seem to have arrived at the one-million figure for Erasmus babies by projecting that from the finding of how many former Erasmus students had partners of a different nationality. Anyway, here is the original report. I haven’t had the chance to go through all of its 227 pages yet but there is no mention of the words “children” or “babies” in there.

At least it may be confidently proclaimed that the Erasmus program is really beneficial to many.

The reason why I was recently reminded of this article (albeit it is of relevance to this blog in any case) is the ongoing search for answers as to how the Islamic State finds such a wide audience that is listening to its message, even in Europe.

Now imagine Umberto Eco’s quote with a major twist.

“It is a revolution (um, actually, it even has sexual aspects: beyond things like this, there are all those wannabe jihadi wives who travel there, too): a young French jihadi meets a Syrian jihadi or a young Saudi jihadi meets a British jihadi and … they get married (with or without “love” as such). And they become… (take a guess) as do their children.”

It may feel as twisted as this re-interpretation by Perfect Circle of the Beatles’ Imagine but the Islamic State is indeed nothing less than a competing integration project. It is in competition not only with the EU of course but with everything else in the post-colonial, formerly Euro-centric game of states, borders, inter- and supranational institutions, citizenship and human rights. Its effectiveness as an integration project may pale in comparison with the European project, and it alienates many in the process. But that is still a relevant dimension of measurement right there.

How many Islamic State babies are there by now? This could be an intriguing question.


Connection, ally, friend, buddy

by fpman

Connection. Ally. Friend. Buddy. These are just some of the labels customarily attached by now to Arkady R. Rotenberg in the media — largely, though not exclusively, outside Russia — given that he is all or any of these to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

The New York Times chose the word “friend” to describe him. And to some degree he must be that. And more than a Facebook/VKontakte friend, for sure. Arkady and Vladimir used to go to the same judo club back in the Soviet Union, and they seem to have remained strategic partners ever since. Arkady and his brother Boris both have extensive business interests, including ownership of the pipeline construction company Stroigazmontazh (SGM), interests that seem to expand lately. Now Arkady apparently controls a major share of the school textbook market, too, according to the New York Times, through a company chaired by him called “Enlightenment” (insider joke alert).

A rival competitor (in the school textbook market), obviously bitter over these recent developments, is quoted as saying, mostly about the Russian political-slash-economic elite overall:

“They used to focus on the very biggest businesses: oil, gas, big infrastructure projects, the banks. But now that they have eaten all the food in that cupboard, they are eating the mice, and the mice’s food, going after smaller and smaller markets.”

An official explanation as to why less textbooks in the market would be good for Russian people:

“Many people drink Coca-Cola, but that does not mean it is good for you.”

You do understand? Do I understand not? Does this sense make…? Well, of course in a sense it does — if you look at this with interest in controlling Russian minds or at least what those minds may consume.

Arkady seems content with the situation. After winning a few major contracts connected to the Sochi Olympic Games in the past he famously said:

“If people didn’t give me all this publicity, calling me a ‘Friend of Putin’, then my business would be worse. And so it’s growing well.”

Otherwise, all that talk of friendship is obviously nonsense. Who heard of friendship on the tatami? Illustration with non-random judo master, on the cover of a book published by the company that first bought Enlightenment through privatization…

PutinJudoBookTitle: “Let’s learn judo – with Vladimir Putin”