Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The philosophical realm of myths

Any contribution to European integration must, therefore, bridge or rather dispute such cultural differences in the use of myths, including the heroic ones. For example, attitudes to 'violence' differ in Ireland from other European countries who were already horrified by the outburst of violence in First World War; to establish the cultural fact of difference is one thing, to resolve the question of violence quite another. This strong emphasis upon clarification is vitally linked, as I said already, to ideas that have misled us, given the many wrong interpretations of Ancient Greece and how especially Northern European civilisations have opted for the 'cult' of mythical originality. The turning point in such negative receptivity was been made a long time ago, but it was expressed most clearly by Hegel, when he said 'people without a myth are blind'. That is the philosophical denotation of 'people'. He generalised a Kantian notion that 'concepts without perception are blind'. Again, I would contest, both Kant and Hegel were wrong since they forgot this 'wonder' that makes possible at one and the same time 'intellectual perception' in relation to crucial, that is conscious, questions and experiences of the world through the senses.

Hegel rejected Jacobi's thesis about the 'immediate certainty' being the truth, that is 'sense impressions', including the local dialect, the spoken language of people in not only a region, but a concrete reality in which the dialectic of 'recognising and understanding' (Jean Amery) where intertwined with a place called 'home'. The latter was not meant to be a mere physical building, where one was born, but the place in which one grew up in and where the trust in what we recognise and name accordingly, becomes the sovereign ruler of our perception. The interwovenness of people with their surroundings - and who does not remember sounds of childhood - was negated systematically by Hegel's philosophy even before the police could move in. His dialectic of 'mediation and immediacy' is an artificial reality prevailing only in the High German language, on paper, as an administrative given of 'unity' and justified, philosophically speaking, as the 'system'. In it dominates the category 'totality' and the force to move things is a derivative of the unmoved mover of everything, namely 'death'. That force Hegel called the 'negation of the negation'. With that he could draw borders, or else destroy 'differences between people as well as otherness (between Germans and French)', in order to establish the one identity, the German one. Kant's 'unity of apperception' had become Hegel's political state ruled by an absolute spirit ready to roll like a tank over borders, in order to help the bourgeoisie society to expand: its only knowledge of how to survive. We have been living since then with all the agonies and problems of such a pursuit of survival. It has left in its wake millions of people dead, and not many very happy with the life they lead, the wives of generals included. Enjoyment in their lives had been systematically driven out; in Germany they were called 'the iron widows of reason' because they had a safe income, but not much more.

I do not want to go further into the details of such 'political logic's' as Hegel's philosophy is, except to say that we should all be wary of any kind of superimposed unity, when attempting to achieve a European integration. Any kind of 'cultural identity', claim thereof, should not ignore these 'lessons of history'. At the same time, it should caution us not to follow all too fast like rats the seductive melodies of the flute man of Hammel; those arguments by some people trying to blame threat to 'cultural identity' upon the European Union. That threat has existed over centuries. It is not a new, but rather a permanent European problem, and as I tried to show in the case of Hegel's philosophy, the inherent political logics of systems which have been created in the wake of European nationalism. They created not 'cultural' identities - for as Liana Sakelliou-Schultz pointed out culture has always been used by the state to mask its own lack of identity - but 'political' ones which were adverse against both other national identities and the 'human being'. Hegel speaks even in the anti-semitism manner when labelling Jews as being cosmopolitans who have not tied their identity per contract to the state. In such a state, the identity in the passport counted more than a human being able to sing a beautiful song (Brecht). Thus I tend to understand a positive 'cultural identity' as something going in opposite direction to the coerced need to have an identity with a particular state. I think that one of the most important and initial moving forces in favour of European integration rested upon that hope, namely to interrelate with 'others', may they be French, Dutch or Belgium, by working together at practical levels and to let the identity question be, if at all, a secondary issue. For obvious reasons or not, that seems to be no longer the case. The initiative of the Flemish government makes us confront a need to re-think European integration in both regional and cultural terms anew.

The answer(s) depend(s) on keeping all the various threats to 'cultural identity' in mind, while trying to avoid some overt unity or 'Myth of Europe'. I maintain integration will not be possible before any concrete realisation of mutual cultural understanding between the various member countries has been achieved. We should not allow new political logics coerce people into some abstract and artificial identity, but rather let that grow if not naturally, then truly 'culturally'. In art, constraints are nothing negative, but give creative impulses, i.e. works have be made only with paper; rather by acknowledging them, we move closer to the 'lessons of proportion', "the highest form of art" (Vincent Van Gogh) and make things possible.

I say this because I believe in the 'creative potential' of every individual and every approach trying to answer to that need is valuable. However, creativity should not be linked exclusively to art, to being an artist. It is also a creative act if we manage to reformulate the question of integration, so that the relevance of culture can be seen better or differently than before. That would already be a modest achievement of such a seminar.

In other words, when it comes to choosing with what political concepts (the one of freedom perhaps the most difficult, equally one of the most valuable ones) we would like to live, then each person must bring about his or her own mediation between personal values and 'actions' to be undertaken within such a concept. That makes the social and political context of our subsequent discussions in the workshops into something not only to be defined by what Europe is trying to become, but much more a matter of interest in those factors that gave everyone the very reason to try for European unification. Naturally the passing of time since the end of Second World War and even Delors being no longer the European Commissioner requires a refinement of these reasons. In the latter sense I mean, for instance, to focus much more on unliveable, equally unbearable conditions linked, for instance, with 'the frenzy of life in Ireland leaving everyone living at the edge of violence which can explode any day unexpectedly in the face' (Brendan Kennelly); in Germany, there exists still a terrible institutional set-up which despite history continues to cripple people for life, making them unable to live, and here I mean not only the administrations per say, but specifically the universities and the confusion which reigns there as to what is science ('persuit of knowledge) and ideology; in England, experiences can be made with an arrogant upper-class moving its supporters in an ever more militant nationalistic and therefore, anti-European direction; in Greece, a political turmoil leaves everything else dependent upon 'connections' due to a lack of independent, socially and politically secure institutions capable of mediating between the past and ongoing experiences made elsewhere in Europe or elsewhere, etc.. Each country or member-state poses a unique set of problems and challenges to European integration.

In other words, our steps-in-between, the dialogues in the workshops of this seminar, ought to contribute to an overall clarification process and bring about such 'cultural actions' by which we begin first of all to recreate the cultural situation each one of us find to prevail where we speak, work, eat, think to be at peace with ourselves. Maybe out of such notions we can derive at least those things which ought to be avoided by the European integration process. In Brugge, only arguments were presented against the nation state, but I see right now, for instance, much more the danger that a misunderstood 'agenda' will make the work lying ahead in future even more difficult. Alone misunderstood terms of references without any cross-cultural anchorage can even reinforce nationalistic tendencies, including the wish to safeguard one's own language due to being considered as threatened, not enriched by the other(s). One possible explanation why the nation states of Europe are not opening up to societies based on 'cultural identities', if not already 'multi-cultural frameworks', is that the political philosophy behind European integration has not been effectively understood. That, in turn, may be because such concepts as that of 'multi-cultural societies' (Habermas) do not really grip due to many failures in coming to terms with cultural gaps between lived, daily experienced realities and political formations which have become institutionalized completely independently of possible influence by people whether now at national, European or international level. The helplessness of Europe and even more the embarrassing silence to violent situations like in former Yugoslavia underlines this even more so.

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