The diminutive iceberg was an afterthought by the time it broke apart. I was riding a soft inflatable boat towards one of the great glaciers of Spitsbergen, an island located north of Norway and east of Greenland. Spitsbergen is part of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, deep within the Arctic Circle and about halfway between mainland Europe and the North Pole. A tall ship had carried me there along with a troop of photographers and writers and scientists for an improbable artist residency. We stared at the glacier’s calving face in Fuglefjord, where it stops gouging the earth and splinters into the sea. We were trying to catch one of those awesome, humbling instances when ice splits like marble in a quarry and crashes into the water. Momentary respects had been paid to a distinctive but small iceberg (no bigger than a stout Victorian house in San Francisco) but we puttered past en route to the glacier itself—where we thought the action was.
We shuddered when the iceberg broke at our backs. Turning in unison with my shipmates, I felt the air change. It had become so fresh it was almost repellent, as though an ancient sepulcher had cracked open to release a saturated gush of oxygen. Dark, clear ice below the berg’s surface began to rotate upwards, cranking horologically into its new position. After a collective gasp, we hushed and watched.
Let us eschew the familiar examples: the disinvited speakers, the Title IX tribunals, the safe zones stocked with Play-Doh, the crusades against banh mi. The flesh-eating bacterium of political correctness, which feeds preferentially on brain tissue, and which has become endemic on elite college campuses, reveals its true virulence not in the sorts of high-profile outbreaks that reach the national consciousness, but in the myriad of ordinary cases—the everyday business-as-usual at institutions around the country—that are rarely even talked about.
A clarification, before I continue (since deliberate misconstrual is itself a tactic of the phenomenon in question). By political correctness, I do not mean the term as it has come to be employed on the right—that is, the expectation of adherence to the norms of basic decency, like refraining from derogatory epithets. I mean its older, intramural denotation: the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas.
I recently spent a semester at Scripps, a selective women’s college in Southern California. I had one student, from a Chinese-American family, who informed me that the first thing she learned when she got to college was to keep quiet about her Christian faith and her non-feminist views about marriage. I had another student, a self-described “strong feminist,” who told me that she tends to keep quiet about everything, because she never knows when she might say something that you’re not supposed to. I had a third student, a junior, who wrote about a friend whom she had known since the beginning of college and who, she’d just discovered, went to church every Sunday. My student hadn’t even been aware that her friend was religious. When she asked her why she had concealed this essential fact about herself, her friend replied, “Because I don’t feel comfortable being out as a religious person here.”
What is the Mona Lisa’s secret? She smiles so enigmatically under the all-but-invisible transparent silk veil that covers her hair, turning her brown eyes as if she has just seen someone come into her field of vision. The fascination and fame of this portrait, begun by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503, has always related to the elusive personality it communicates. Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century claimed Leonardo employed musicians and jesters to make Lisa smile. Walter Pater in the Victorian age thought she resembled a “vampire”. Modern viewers sometimes see her face as androgynous, an observation first made by Marcel Duchamp.
I have a new theory. Perhaps the Mona Lisa had syphilis.
This painting may seem like a dream image, an unreal vision, but it is a portrait of someone real. Lisa Gherardini was the wife of a Florentine merchant called Francesco del Giocondo. Contemporary sources, including a note made in 1503 by an employee in the Florentine government at the Palazzo Vecchio, put it beyond reasonable doubt that she was Leonardo’s model (and not, as art historians used to claim, someone posher).
Sobotka said this was one of the issues he and Zeman talked about on Wednesday.
He challenged the view, expressed by Zeman´s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek, that he had not mentioned any substantial difference in foreign affairs between him and the president during the talks.
He said there were some differences in foreign political views between top politicians of other EU countries, too.
Sobotka said it is of key importance that Czech representatives present the same positions at meetings of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.
Probabil că va mai dura până când NATO va realiza că trebuie să aibă un punct de vedere oficial ferm față de problema finlandizării Ucrainei. Alianța ar cam trebui să fie atentă la implicațiile pentru postura militarp, coeziunea internă și politica sa de parteneriate.
O acceptare a finlandizării Ucrainei în Alianță ar deschide problema regândirii întregii strategii a Alianței și a reașezării posturii sale militare în Europa. Toată strategia militară a NATO va trebui schimbată radical, iar Polonia și România ar fi cele mai afectate. Chiar și în cazul în care NATO s-ar adapta rapid, Polonia și România vor fi nevoite să își adapteze strategiile naționale dar mai ales să își sporească numărul capacităților militare. Pe scurt vom avea nevoie de mai mulți soldați. Am vorbi de aproximativ 1600 km de linie de front dacă adăugăm Belarusul, Transnistria, Kaliningrad și Crimeea.
A doua consecință, dacă se acceptă finlandizarea Ucrainei atunci NATO va trebui să renunțe la Parteneriatul cu Kievul, un semnal foarte prost pentru alte parteneriate: cel cu Georgia, Azerbaijan, țări din Asia centrală. O cedare în cazul Ucrainei va alimenta poziția unor aliați europeni sceptici care vor dori să pună frână întregii politicii de parteneriate întărite și să o înlocuiască cu conceptul mai slab, mai vag, de relații militare.
Sigur că, până la un punct, ce a am comentat este un scenariu ipotetic foarte negativ dar câteva elemente sunt deja prezente în Alianță și ar fi nevoie de un factor declanșator și un ”liant politic„ atent ales pentru a ne afla în fața unei nou peisaj de securitate în Europa de est, unul foarte amenințător.