27 February 2011

Sunday Music: L’opportuniste

In these momentous times we feel it is worth to slow down for a moment and look at the eternal moral question of opportunism in politics. This comes up urgently and painfully in any moment of uplifting political change. Just ask anyone from East-Central Europe…
Saturday night, Kováts acted as host and moderator at the VI. Benedictine Charity Ball in Budapest, where the issue has been raised repeatedly. Before dancing really took off in the small hours of Sunday (some were wondering what St Benedict would have said to that), much talk at the tables was devoted to the history of the Catholic Church during communism. Particularly, on how the communist secret service had been trying to infiltrate the church and weaken it by creating internal splits and by corrupting its members. Religious leaders faced the moral question present in any dictatorship: to what extent should one cooperate with the regime to help local institutions, schools and communities survive? As one of the monks put it rather wisely: to survive bow your head but never bow your spine.
But how do you separate your neck from your spine? We have already referred to the New York Times article comparing the wind of change in Eastern Europe to current events in the Arab world: “Tehran 1979 or Berlin 1989?” An additional question faced by many intellectuals, members of governments, diplomats and politicians, then, is how to tell those who only bowed their head from those bowed their spine, too.
So, here is a classic, to brighten your Sunday:

(Or here with better sound quality)
“Il y en a qui contestent
Qui revendiquent et qui protestent
Moi je ne fais qu'un seul geste
Je retourne ma veste
Je retourne ma veste
Toujours du bon côté”*

In defense of politicians, however, we shall bear in mind what Stanley Baldwin once famously quipped "I would rather be an opportunist and float than go to the bottom with my principles around my neck"
The jury is out...
*For the francophonely challenged:
“There are some who object
Some who demand and who protest
As for me, I make a single move
I turn my coat
I turn my coat
Always to the right side“

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