Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Considerations and reflections by Hatto Fischer

It is not always possible in a condensed time and space to allocate resources and people in such a manner that the outcome would be 'cultural fluency' of the Fifth Seminar itself. This important concept was introduced into the discussion by Dominique Danau and may give an indication of the aim of such seminars, that is when it comes to talk about our 'own' as opposed to other cultures. But what is our very own culture through which we claim to belong to humanity? There is a Europe in the making, so that identities of cross-cultural attributes can be anticipated as a result of a distinct relationship between language and values lived. The distinctness comes with learning to live in and with 'diversity'. Out of this follows also another kind of 'organizational' strategy (see here Stefan Nieuwinkel in Workshop 2: 'Regional/Urban Planning and Culture' of the Fifth Seminar) or idea of 'networking'. It is based upon the assumption that the human being is capable of dealing with heterogenous cultural elements. In turn, this means the world ought not to be reduced to a single definition of culture, if the person is to continue to structure his/her relationship to the world in the most differentiated and effective manner. The issue involved here is that of cross-cultural identity: a matter of evolvement or more clearly a structural heterogeneous 'force field' in which consensus may exist only at the verbal, but not at the factual level (Dominique Danau).

The outcome of the discussion in this workshop appears to be in any case that culture cannot be defined in an absolute way.The most what seems possible instead of a 'fluency' is a mere stuttering (a moment of truth, as would say M. Foucault in 'l'histoirce de la folie'), safe such exceptional people like Bruno Kartheuser. Not only does this great poet and editor of 'Krautgarten' represent the 'cultural fluency' of a tiny German speaking minority living in Belgium, but due to both education (especially in ancient languages of Greek and Latin) and cultural location, he found himself, as he described it himself in a newspaper article reporting about his participation at the XVI European Poetry Festival, 'in the most envious position that he could communicate with everyone'. Only the English language was his very weakest linkage. For that festival he contributed the most important essay called 'An undefeatable summer', in reference to the Greek light which cannot be erased once experienced. The same applies to the great contributions by poets of Greece like Seferis, Elytis and Ritsos. As stated already in the introduction to this workshop, Bruno Kartheuser believes that especially the latter allowed people to recognize their own human substance without necessitating thereby any 'translation'. In that sense only an exceptional directness seems possible to touch upon the human core. That has implications for both usage of languages and what values are or rather are not expressed, if requirements for translation become so great that no direct communication between human beings seems possible.

In that sense, 'what must be said to bow our heads in respect of other cultures?', this question Bruno Kartheuser brings out with his remarks about 'myth' and poetry losing immediately their powers, when misused for political purposes. 'Cultural fluency' is thus a reflection of the freedom of the spirit by which we begin to speak about culture. It is closer to Homer than to Vergil, the latter a poet of the state and not of the free, that is creative spirit which makes all the difference in culture and fluency. It is not just a matter of language nor preserving one's own identity, culturally speaking, for greatness is recognized through recognizing the greatness of other cultures (A. Camus). Hence a constraint placed upon these kind of seminars is to contribute to the 'cultural fluency' of Europeans experiencing daily diversity and differences as part of their own cultural identities. No better was this exemplified then by remarks by Britta Heinrich (Workshop 6: 'Roots of Western Civilisation') who after having experienced the poets of Europe reading their poems in the different languages, returned home to Berlin and was no longer afraid to hear the 'different voices' in the subway. Indeed, cultural differences and distinctness begins with the 'human voice' which is unique to every individual and through which language, but also memory of what has been said contributes to the diversity of culture. Without such individual limitations which are overcome equally by greatness, the human spirit could not survive in a culture that ignores this source of wealth and to which everyone can contribute. It is, however, not only a matter of combining productivity with creativity, but depends clearly upon the kind of receptivity, indeed appreciation of the other as a 'human being' of value contributes to the recognition of the individual.

Given that constraint, it is remarkable what workshop 1 was able to touch upon in both a broad sense - from 'cultural barometers' as research concern to the plight of migrant workers - and in a substantial manner, including the reaccount of some of the recent histories within the European Union (i.e. Kern's reference to the treatment of lesser spoken languages by the assembly). All contributions were novel in a way that they reflected 'cultural diversity' at its worst and best moment of determining the future of the European Union.

As to the outcome, most important is that this workshop shows that 'cultural diversity' as an extra value cannot be so easily integrated into ongoing ways of dealing with cultural affairs. There is not only a huge discrepancy between official cultural policies and socio-economic activities forced by necessity to come to terms with 'culture' (i.e. the 'information society' based on the three pillars: 'technology, education and culture'). There is also a lack of understanding culture in its diverse character even by the many who refer to this concept as a preference for Europe. In particular, Ruben Lombaert touches upon this point, even though his reflections start out with perhaps an overstatement of the problem connected with the usage of Euro-English or a 'cryptic description' as he himself would describe it. That can lead to a negative imposition by state institutions in the name of wishing to protect a cultural identity rooted in the past, i.e. through a restrictive 'language policy'. Indeed, participants of Workshop 8: 'Literature, identity and discours' question this political claim insofar as they do not see that the Dutch/Flemish language is threatened from being nullified or becoming a 'dead' language. Overexaggeration in this point has many political implications.

Dominique Danau points out rightly, that it is especially up to the Fifth Seminar to make these potentially controversial issues accessible to constructive discussions, for it is not merely a matter of having access or not to information, but rather contingent upon developing such an analytical framework to allow the evaluation of actions connected with the issue(s).

Furthermore, if the Fifth Seminar is to be substantial follow-up of the Fourth Seminar, then the claim that 'cultural diversity' presents an added value for Europe in comparison to America when it comes to convergence and economic competitiveness, has to be re-examined. If this component cannot be so easily integrated, then it may turn out to be a refutation of economic assumptions based on organizing European societies in such a way that 'diversity' is still maintained. The political consequences of that must be spelled out very clearly. The following premises can be derived from this workshop:

a) cultural limitations are not only of technical nor organizational nature, but are set by human aspirations as much as failures. The real question is, to what extent can diversity be retained despite a multiplicity of languages, different value viewpoints, individual desires, uncommon histories and philosophical short-comings to find the 'unity of the manifoldedness' (Kant) in culture itself?

Culture used in such a specific way sets already as a common reference point some limits on how the term 'culture' can be used the moment economic and political interests are involved and culture easily downgraded to but another form of advertising. For instance, Melitta Gourtsoyanni pointed out that not only the recent GATT-negotiations, highly publicised, but also the entry of the 'exchange principle' into culture (i.e. everything has to have a value since costs are involved) explains why so many feel their own 'cultural identity' to be menaced. Quite rightly she spoke of a period of risks, positive if this crisis can be taken into a creative direction, negative if it increases the plight of migrant workers.

Thus we are back at some of the cultural indicators by which we judge social and human reality or for that matter how we evaluate the impact of technology upon culture (aside from the many other unforeseeable consequences). Even if Melitta did not want this humanistic side of the European contribution to culture in general be emphasized, it is nevertheless there: the need to relate to other human beings while being emprisoned through fears and insecurities leading more often than not to violence and loss of culture, i.e. values. That is the simplest manner of refuting any development (as opposed to mere 'economic growth') brought about to make 'human life' possible. Culture deals primarily with this ability as much as inability to learn out of mistakes, in order to come to terms with human limitations. In the past, it appeared to be contingent upon a human factor linked to knowledge, but not describable in terms of the Goethe's Faust motive; rather, and since the Second World War along with developments in physics leading to the construction of the 'atomic bomb', the linkage between science and conscience has become crucial to the survival of humanity. Someone like Angela Kiossoglou-Adams has through work experience, but also by becoming familiar with a different cultural approach to science itself (by leaving New Zealand and working in Germany before marrying a Greek man), come to realize what this means exactly for one's own attitude towards work, family, ethical values etc..

In short, the workshop underlines, that in respect of future developments it is crucial to remain engaged in ongoing reformulations of the questions about life itself, in order to uphold life. From there many perspectives and ideas, or critical judgements about the 'state of affairs' follow. Thus, the final report of Workshop 1 given by Dominique Danau to the Evaluation and Third Plenary Session of the Fifth Seminar is not so much a list of proposals for 'cultural actions' to be undertaken by the European Union in future, but rather a list of more precise questions that appear once the complex linkages between 'cross-cultural identities, language and values' become a conscious component of a serious dialogue about culture. That means questions of European identity have to be approached in a self-evaluative manner while taking into account that the implications of the 'information society' for knowledge are far reaching. It becomes altogether a matter of anticipating and seeing the technical implications within the context of human limitations, including the abilities to cope and to design future networks linked to among other things even 'information highways' or telecommunication possibilities.

b) The inherent nature of cross-cultural identities changes with the 'logics' of organizations responding to innovation and the need for cultural adaptation processes bringing about different concepts of 'reality', but also various forces willing to use and to exploit these new technical possibilities. To those who are most pessimistic about the outcome, the key factor seems to be the source of money for all these activities and to what extent business interests and especially the entertainment industry dictates the usage of the new technology, i.e. in what sense 'primitive appeals' are made to 'human instincts' due to culture becoming more and more manipulative, rather than emancipatory in character and substance. Out of necessity this means the political framework of 'cultural actions' has to be clearly outlined, in order to deal with these developments adequately, culturally speaking, rather than letting just negative forces steer the process.

For the understanding of the political framework, Thanos Contargyris suggests the following factors have to be taken into account:

That means 'professional cultures', as they have been created by particular European programmes as much as by cross-cultural fields of specialization have to be taken into account, if confusion in using the term 'culture' is to be avoided. The widening gap between people and politicians can be described more aptly in terms of 'instruments of power' which are not easily accessible and hence out of reach of 'cultural reflections' giving in the past people common reference points. Thus within the scope of development possibilities, reactions included, layers of experience with modern developments begin to differentiate out of the term 'culture'. To preserve 'cultural identity', a traditional concept is used, while organizational logics and managerial styles change in very term 'culture', in order to include proper usage of technical means. Again, someone like Artur Koestler would stress more the fact that people tend to use technical tools (i.e. cars, computers, digital telephones, etc.) without really understanding their make-up, while to Thanos Contargryis it is primarily a matter of proper usage, including that of the telephone. One case would be using effectively 'learning technologies' in education, in order to overcome motivational crisis experienced by many children when faced with learning difficulties. Something is not effectively transferred in this 'information society' in terms of the knowledge on how to deal with this technology. The failure itself explains the fears people retain as a negative resistance against adapting to these new possibilities of communication.

This means that the political setting in Europe can be defined as follows: one the one hand, there is "the work undertaken to facilitate cultural exchanges in Europe" by dealing with "the problem of communication in multidisciplinary terms", while on the other there are "intolerant forces" which "have their roots in economic competition, not in European policy". Thanos Contargyris explains this conflict about different usages of culture by pointing out that "company culture and professional culture are a deviation of culture defining identities to oppose forces from outside, that is the non-initiated". He stresses that "this issue is of utmost importance for the future of culture, including the arts and science because it is in these fields that a big part of any innovation comes about through multidisciplinary (multicultural?) work".

Therefore, when referring to the complexity of 'cultural actions', then in an effort to be just in terms of the 'political' reality as it has been shaped by these forces acting within the European Union. Cultural actions linked to single purposes of maintaining an exclusive identity are to be avoided, especially if this would mean not taking into account corporate and professional cultures. This includes the knowledge the European Union has been able to stimulate as much as solicit with regards to the introduction of 'new technologies' and their impact upon European cultures. This knowledge should not be taken as an absolute; there is much that still has to be learned or to be put into the scene before a concrete action is to be undertaken. That is not only a matter of what still make sense, but also which questions have until now remained unanswered.

In short, this workshop touches upon the very high technical means which transform the 'logics' inherent in any system of knowledge, so that a relationship has to be found between the old meaning of the word 'world' and the one including such domains as outer space or 'virtual realities' that have been created as a result of computer based technologies. What has been stressed all along in these seminars is the discrepancy between global developments and local chances to participate in them. The workshop faces, therefore, a complicated world in which the human aspiration, namely to bring people together, has to be understood as a 'tension' between poetic statements and technological means. Not all fits together, but that is why the Fifth Seminar tried to deal with this most crucial dimensions within modern life giving rise to concerns about a possible 'loss of identity', so that in combination of culture, technology and education some clear steps towards a human 'information' society can be outlined. In turn, this can contribute very much to the creation of a cultural infrastructure for a European cultural movement willing to cope with these problems and contribute at the same time to the process of European integration.

Most clearly this need to anticipate and to use future developments was outlined by Jesse Marsh who advanced among other things the idea of 'Palazzo Intelligente' located in Palermo. It combines the old idea of a cultural centre with the new telematic communication linkages to be made accessible to local enterprises possible. More clearly stated, he wants to relate "the emerging role of culture as a key issue for Europe and the world" to the question of "diffusion of networking culture and teleworking practice (Information Society), in order to evaluate "the opportunities these two dimensions offer for addressing the issues of regional development". This is an important linkage to Workshop 2: 'Regional/Urban Planning and Culture', for a city like Palermo, cut off until now from important sources of information due to the prevailing infrastructure in Italy, is an example of how break-outs from regional confinements can be envisioned with the help of modern technology. Culture becomes in such a domain like the Palazzo Intelligente an evaluation network of various aspects like cultural heritage, local industry, tourism, etc. while 'networking' through computer and video conferences, in order to clarify the information needed for actions at a local level.

c) There is a need to re-formulate the 'value issues' to be faced by the European Union; if 'cultural actions' are meant to uphold life and bring about unique expressions of art, then the factors which make people become creatively involved, rather than clash due to unresolved value issues (including the direction of development) are in a definite need of further explanation and expansion.

While touching upon the problematic of how the European Union can maintain 'cultural diversity', such an axiom or even value premise (as it has been established by the Fourth Seminar) has to be reconsidered. For instance, there were instances in European history during which individuals conveyed a much stronger sense for Europe than those working in the name of Europe, but not caring much about the outcome. Thanos Contargyris states this very much like a sober truth as a first answer to this: "the European Commission is just an administration and as any national administration submitted to political pressures". Thus, it is important that in this workshop emphasis was given to 'openness', that is real, liveable situations of diversity, even though the ability to live them or even to interact with such situations cannot come solely from the individual's own motivation.

For example, in Germany, when foreign workers were needed and the local population was hostile against the idea of bringing in extra workers, the government started a campaign to make these foreign workers be welcomed. Nowadays it is the reverse: social groups have taken onto themselves to combat the 'fear' (that Angela Adams talks about) by giving their support to these migrant groups under threat by right-wing movements. In that sense, Verluyten's differentiation between being worried by what right-wing groups proclaim and treating them overtly as 'Fascists' or 'Nazis' is most crucial to understanding what presently Europe is going through. Italy is here a prime example. Verluyten's position reminds somewhat of Gramsci's position who cautioned from jail to followers of the Communistic ideals and hence in the anti-fascistic camp, 'not to call everyone a Fascist least he would be driven into the wrong hands'. Even if not a party, coalition of interests can swap over and determine the political constellation of governments.

Indeed, it has become increasingly more difficult for voters to decide between European, national and regional or local interests. Needless to say, the European integration process can only continue if it finds the needed cultural support at the local level. In Workshop 6 addressing the issue of how various cultures can live together, that problem was formulated as to what makes people believe even in the idea that European integration can work. There must be something convincing. It cannot be attained by elusive goals nor by side-stepping the issues of integration.

Out of this reason, it is not easy anymore to follow the lines of reasoning when it comes to making out potential coalition partners in terms of interests at European level. Verluyten questions this only with regards to moderate or well to the middle located parties as having little to do with multi-cultural societies when it comes really to act. He repeats the point made at the beginning: although a philosophically desirable concept (Habermas), it has not been implemented, nor in the most followed consequently by all political parties. They seem afraid to embrace the concept of multi-cultural societies and tend rather towards mono-cultural identities. That is certainly one of the most crucial contradictions of the German Social Democrats in their attempt to gain power during the next years of cultural adaptation processes to a changing Europe. The same problem faces, for instance, Labour in England where local councils have been abolished and the process of privatization making many political issues appear to be out of reach of any ordinary citizen. In other words, Europe is facing everywhere different kinds of turmoils, ethical tensions included, because the dominant ideological forces connected with subtle or overt strategies towards power have absorbed all energies, so that little time and attention is given really to these very important issues: the need to understand that Europe can only be integrated by means of 'cultural actions' which are complex enough to include all the factors mentioned above.


Altogether, workshop 1 contains a substantial reflection of European reality and states in terms of questions a crucial premise for all future cultural actions: what if the learning out of diversity does not succeed, can the ongoing exchange of information (including knowledge scientifically prepared by means of research free from false interpretations) be enough to influence the political controversies and stalemates within Europe, so as to gain some certainty on the grounds of being foremostly European? This would be a question of European citizenship; its practical test would be to whom would it be open, to those who live and work in Europe, or only to those who contribute to the 'European Society' (Ruben Lombaert) without thereby being elitist, but within reproductive forms, culturally speaking. A framework for such elements is dependent upon, as Dominique Danau stressed wisely, the 'creative spirit' being set free to transform potentially political controversies into analytically approachable and discussible questions before actions are undertaken. In that sense, workshop 1 tried to bring about some critical, but equally positive stance towards the question of European integration.

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