MODERN CROSSROADS

Jolted from a Liberal Daydream

RIGONCE, SLOVENIA - OCTOBER 23: Migrants are held back by the police near the village of Rigonce,before being walked to Brezice refugee camp on October 23, 2015 in Rigonce, Slovenia. Thousands of migrants marched across the border between Croatia into Slovenia as authorities intensify their efforts to attempt to cope with Europe's largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
A new world view, on seeing refugees at the border in Rigonce, Slovenia.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Liberalism in Europe might be in a new critical phase, when only thinking about issues is no substitute for actually doing something, says the author.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • After a night in a refugee camp, as pregnant women and children slept cold and hungry on the ground, the author asked: Does humanitarianism apply only to Europeans?
    • In November outside a bloodstained Paris café, the Die Zeit writer said she lost the “feeling of living in a stable, secure order.”
    • At a boisterous gathering of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria, Ms. Raether wondered how supporters “could wring so much euphoria and political passion from a reality that is so ugly and complicated.”
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

“What is water?” asked writer David Foster Wallace in a now famous 2005 commencement speech.

In his talk at Kenyon College in Ohio, the U.S. novelist adopted the perspective of a fish: Water is what surrounds the fish with such obviousness that it is no longer noticed, he said, even though it makes everything possible.

For me water is the peace in which I live, the absence of arbitrary state power, war and degradation.

In this nourishing water, I developed a focus on my inner life — along with on consumption and culture. I was cool even in the face of dramatic events. Generally, I assumed life offers real possibilities.

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