|Photo taken from the website of the newspaper Expresso.|
A cultured person for me is not someone with a deep knowledge on a number of subjects, someone who reads books, who goes to museums and to the theatre, who travels and knows the world. A cultured person for me is someone who does all this and more and tries to put his knowledge and experience into practice in order to help reconstruct the world, a better world. Being a cultured person is not something that comes naturally to us humans. It is a daily mental and practical exercise against our inner barbarity, against our ignorance.
On the night of the 15th of July, the Greek Parliament voted on a new bailout reforms package proposed / imposed by the European Union. Just 10 days after the historic (and, for me, surprisingly strong) ‘No’ in the Greek referendum, things took a different turn and the proud and desperate resistance of the people gave way to a coup d’ état.
After a disappointing discussion, when the voting started and the names of the MPs were being called, I couln’t stop my tears from falling. After each name, after each ‘Yes’ and each ‘No’, it seemed that the black hole was getting bigger. The hole to bury a people’s pride, many people’s hopes, our tormented democracy, our idea of a “union” - a European Union.
I spent hours and hours reading intensely in the last months – European, American, African and Middle Eastern press; blogs; tweets; Facebook posts. It was enlightening and confusing at the same time. One could come across very logical and well constructed arguments defending totally contradictory views. There were times when the search for the ‘truth’ would get desperate, but all one could get was views and all one could do was try to reach some kind of believable conclusion.
It was among those views that I identified what was for me one of the most worrying and saddening parts of this whole discussion. I was taken aback by how easily and untryingly citizens of all ages from different “European Union” countries would adopt and perpetuate stereotypical views on people from another “union” country, generalizing them and turning them into absolute truths regarding individuals they might have never come accross in their whole lives. Views based on headlines, on small talk, assumed without any further questioning. Good enough truths.
From one moment to the other we turned cultureless. Europeans in name, but that was all. Were did our Union and everything it represents go? Our common values? The lessons we learnt in the past? The wish to build something better together? What happened to our critical thinking and our ability to search for more, to look for answers beyond what showed in the surface? How hard the practice of our culture can be...
Pope Francis’ reaction to the latest chapter of the Greek crisis took me by surprise. He encouraged the faithful to pray for Greece before the referendum and said that “The dignity of the human person must remain at the centre of any political and technical debate, as well as in the taking of responsible decisions.”
A few months before, at the conference The Role of Culture, Álvaro Laborinho Lúcio, in his brilliant comment of the session “Culture, beyond religion”, wondered if “(...) this dimension of Pope Francis comes from his theological comprehension of the world and of life or rather from his origin, from Latin America”. Laborinho Lucio went on and questioned: “Aren’t we creating a new figure to be placed next to the old and desconceptualized figure of the ‘catholic, non-practicing’? Aren’t we being confronted with the figure of the ‘practicing, non-catholic’?”
Are we? What a wonderful world this would be...
The new year