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Application of CIED: Cultural Cooperation III

Part 3 of 3

5. Conclusion

Indeed, the cultural emancipation needed in Europe may be facilitated through such kind of co-operation that is next to any peace perspective most vital to the people of Europe. Cultural co-operation works on the basis of understanding each other’s needs while having to evolve out of different histories and institutional settings. Until now they have been more or less impeded by first two, then lately only by one superpower. At the same time, Europe is still struggling to step out of its own tutelage system

Definitely the Citizens of Europe would not like to step out of authoritarian rule, as made possible 1945 - 1989, if only to land in new forms of bureaucratic determinisms flanked by all sorts of corruptions, new forms of misery (unemployment, but also child and women exploitation) and des-orientation as far as communication is concerned

Communication is so much disturbed nowadays, because it is no longer just about the difference between private and public spheres, or as Juergen Habermas still considered it to be as an outcome of the structural changes in the ‘public mind’ expressed through ‘public opinion’ as guidance and validity. Public opinion is still in all democracies the basis of legitimacy: a measure of what people think and want to do at any given time, provided their freedom of expression is respected by all. It is also about participating in the public discourse, but as Jean Marc Ferry has observed, the European debate is far from what people think, imagine and wish to do when wanting to act in reference to Europe as a whole. In reality there is no true public opinion

Rather information flooding and ‘no real’ information are combined to disturb communication structures so much, that people feel alienated from any kind of public opinion being expressed on their behalf by researchers and opinion poll seekers. For sure everything is made to appear as being supportive of current policy while any contradictions and chances of naming real reasons for failure are suppressed. One needs not only to look at Berlusconi or what has happened in the aftermath of the 11th of September, to know that power means also ruling over the media, but while America has transformed ‘propaganda’ into public relation exercises called ‘public diplomacy’, Putin in Russia has shown in the incidence with the theatre in Moscow that not merely the media is strangled, but even the relatives were not allowed to see their own victims for fear of revealing too much hard evidence to the outside world. In Israel whenever the army makes any incursion, it supplies the footage to be send by the newscasts around the world: a sure way that only one version is heard and one kind of viewpoint propagated

Therefore, in the age of public opinion polls and media strategies copying methods taken from advertisement, marketing etc., communication strategies play a crucial role: from speaking to the right persons first, to making sure everyone agrees in principle to the key solution being offered, to knowing how to position the government (or the Commission in this process) etc. The deployment of resources in this area is immense. It starts already at universities and does not end with training seminars: a special way of lobbying for own positions vis a vis others. Clearly such strategies aim to either undermine other positions or else to make the own one appear as more confident than what could ever be upheld, if tested truly in reality. To that category of spreading not rumours but notes of optimism and confidence (the relationship of the Federal Reserve and Greenspan to the New York Stock Exchange may be of that kind), goes a special relationship and sensitivity as to what is being said compared to what is being done in terms of what is happening ‘out there in reality’. Clearly any successful communication strategy will test, but also have to know the limits of the institutional capacity to name the measures needed to resolve the situation or to fulfil the task set out to do

To remind, in any economy and political situation, things do rest especially as far as the purchasing power of the currency and state of the economy is concerned, upon the psychological factor that people feel confident things are being done in the right way and that solutions shall be found to most of the pressing problems. The more prolonged they become, such as permanent unemployment situations, but also public finance getting out of control, the less confidence there shall be to ensure that the economy is not impeded by ‘disturbed communications’ of various kinds

One of these disturbances is already the increasing transportation problem that let trucks and all kinds of deliveries be stuck in traffic jams for hours until nothing moves any more. Things are then no longer possible ‘just in time’ and warehouses are then needed to bridge over possible gaps

Yet quite another problem is incurred at human interrelationship level not merely in private life, but at social, institutional and political level. Where there is a lack of confidence, there is a crisis in communication with people no longer able to mediate between themselves. S. Freud would say if the entire ‘libidoe’ (the sort of collective love, or what affinity people feel to one another) between people breaks down, then they panic. They withdraw and isolate themselves from society. In turn, this may give an answer to the question Mitscherlich, the Freudian psychologist asked repeated after Second World, and he meant specifically German people, why they do not participate in culture (as something not political), even if it is available. Of course, Mitscherlich had another degree of explanation, one having to do with loss of self-trust and trust in others as a result of being unable to ‘mourn’ about all the human losses in Second World and in particular in what happened to the Jewish people

To remember also, communication strategies were already deployed during the Second World War. The aim was with radio programs, but also various kinds of organs for publications (after the war and already into the Cold War, that role was played for example by ‘The Encounter’), to undermine the self-esteem and confidence of Germans. This battle about the minds was just as, if not more important than what tanks could achieve on the battlefields. The American intelligence solicited even here the help of philosophers like Herbert Marcuse. This was the same case again, for example, in Desert Sturm when the American airplanes dropped leaflets over the Iraqi soldiers to urge them to just surrender, for then they would not have to fear being shot in the back by Hussein’s special forces, if they tried to flee the trenches

Why is all of this being said here? First of all, it should be clear that cultural co-operation agreements presuppose and require by their own nature an atmosphere of trust. This is all the more the case, but equally more complicated, if the European Union intends to promote multilateral rather than just bilateral agreements (e.g. what was needed after the war was a lot of work towards friendship between France and Germany). An international atmosphere in favour of co-operation is not that self-understood and comes under the influence of many more factors than what individual governments by themselves can achieve

Secondly, if cultural co-operation agreements are to be trusted, then because the signatory parties are committed and able to create such conditions that implementation of the agreed upon actions are possible. This makes cultural co-operation as practice and as policy tool into a very crucial measure of reality

Thirdly, the moment governments and the Commission think merely about their image problems, they are no longer in tune with people themselves. They become themselves victims of the kinds of communication strategies described above. With it go then typical, because of being merely symbolic but with no real substance behind them, such co-operation agreements that lack any cultural base and hence heed no public opinion

In times marked by the Internet and world forums of debate, it is very strange to see that the Tender does not relate to the existence of the Information Society. As if the Commission is stuck to a traditional way of handling policy matters especially when it comes to culture, it appears as if all previously funded projects have not convinced the Commission sufficiently that it is time to take cultural policy more serious

Why this is so, that has to be answered as well. It could mark the beginning of a reform of the Executive Administration in Europe. Right now things are amiss if even its most dedicated administrators know no longer who makes the decisions in the Commission, where they come from, why and with what purposes are they declared to be ‘decisions taken by the Commission’. The problem appears to be a major one, for no one seems to accept the responsibility for informing the Commission about what is going on in reality. As a matter of fact all the ‘European speak’ reflects strategies to obtain funds, but not to tell anything critical to the Commission, the fate of this text itself underlining just that. But if the Commission is no longer in dialogue with reality, how then can it ensure that the nature of its decisions is based on the best possible information about conceivable solutions?

In this strange and alienated world of Brussels, it may become a crucial matter to examine the possibility but equally the reliability of ‘cultural co-operation’ agreements that Member States would like to enter with one another as an expression or not of the confidence in Europe. The Commission has been so far reluctant to undertake any initiative in that direction for many and very profound reasons. The fear might be there that there is really no confidence left to build anything in substance upon it

In turn, that would mean Europe as umbrella or creator of a positive atmosphere between the Member States has ceased to function in just that one important way and instead has become over dependent upon fictitious information and knowledge that facilitates at the most artificial intelligence exercises within manageable projects, but which are so uncertain that they try to keep to themselves as much as possible, as the most favoured but equally most conservative option since wishing to harm no one while taking and spending all the money as if this has no impact upon working relationships within Europe and the rest of the world

Indeed the lack of dialogue makes itself felt in these communication strategies by the Commission. Hardly are they initiated, and then they disappear or rather vegetate by merely consuming funds for another information project without end. Others shall certainly dispute the quality of work being done and eventually some new formation will pick up the discontented groups and form them into a new nuclear of claimers of these funds. That game is being played over and again so that the Commission is kept in a permanent transitory stage while everyone realizes that setting up a three, five or seven year programme has quite another dimension. It takes time, resources and skills that go beyond the simple capacities of ordinary administration. Hence when it comes to culture and culture related programmes, Europe must discover where the soul of European Cultures exists, and then by coming into tune with these souls – the Greeks speak of the ‘psyche’ – initiate truly innovative programs

Right now most of the programs aim to cover up the loss of reality by transforming failures into successes and vice versa. Ever greater efforts are made to develop some kind of communication strategy for the sake of some image producing mechanism. The aim is to create an illusion something is done, or the company or government has nothing to do with that problem, while it is fully legitimised in what it does intend to do. Such communication strategy aimed at creating favourable images replaces the political process of deliberation and weighing of different opinions until the right decision and proper measures have been found. If allowed to dominate politics, then it would reinforce a strategy of containment of all criticism

The loss of reality is incurred, if aside from criticism other aspects of how people can relate to the system and to the political process of deliberation are left out. Aside from substantial doubt, common sense comes into crisis if next to not knowing anything misinformation creates des-orientation. Certainly it is the strategy of politics not to let all people react at the same time, but delayed, so that the system is prepared to accommodate the pressure from below. By not informing them fully, they cannot respond until they know more. The delay in receiving proper information is intended for it forces people to adapt themselves to circumstances on a permanent basis

In his ‘reflections of the bourgeoisie state’, Johannes Agnoli points out that the state can only cope as long as people do not over demand its structures. Funnily enough, they do so the moment they break out of all abstractions and regulative principles by becoming more real to themselves. Human beings are complexities of their own. The art of living next to survival in all forms – on the street, in institutions, in a world marked by crisis, poverty and war – requires an economisation of demands when it comes to claiming resources. Due to this need, people tend to lead an abstract life so as to fit into the main stream of possibilities

However, and due to many needs going unsatisfied, that conformity to abstraction creates at times unbearable pressures upon people. Many individuals suffer, break down, co-opt out, and isolate themselves while the overall alienation intensifies as divorces and other break-ups of relationships being but one kind of indicator as to things going wrong. With time these failed existences marked by life below the ‘cutting edge’ of success and failure bear upon the systems of work, social and political affairs. All this intensifies until the capacity to cope breaks down

The first thing to suffer then under increased pressures is the breakdown (by abandoning them) of such cooperation agreements that are founded on dialogue: the true nature of cultural aspirations to live in a free, equally peaceful world. Instead of consensus based on the value premise of ‘to agree that we can disagree’, the single Right to get one’s way regardless what the others think means moving towards taking the law into one’s own hands. Horkheimer had identified already a long time ago that egoism leads to destruction of freedom

It is interesting to note that world debates can take place within global networks, provided they are free of artificial hierarchies. The moment they occur under strategic censorships for the sake of some kind of public diplomacy (the new name for propaganda), they are not convincing. Instead they are inconsistent with the questions asked and information provided. While the WSSD in Johannesburg was prepared under such a free auspice of creative dialogue, the current debate organised by the World Bank on ‘sustainable development communication’ is not. The difference is that self-organisation and self-responsibility is not the departure point but rather the significance of actors within already existing structures attempting to justify their work without ever going beyond that particular norm. They cannot as a result come to any evaluation about the difference of commitments kept compared to those not even broken because none were made. That was, however, the case in Johannesburg when politics assumed the single strategy of staying free from any kind of commitment. That then reflects the gap between public and politics, the latter made up more and more by business interests who wish no regulations but also no overall monitoring device by which progress can be measured and, therefore, the direction things are moving in, and this made understandable by addressing the senses. An abstract ordering of things does not

The none existence of public indicators is revealing in the sense of irresponsibility having a larger say in the equation of power and suppressing truths, facts, information and knowledge, than any civilisation until now. The global crisis due to lack of co-operation on the basis of a dialogue has not been perceived as of yet the biggest hindrance towards finding solutions to the most pressing problems although it is clear to everyone life cannot continue in the way it has been since 1945, that is depending solely upon economic growth for survival

All the more Europe of the future has to be based on true cultural co-operation, if it is to resolve the question of image making mechanisms distorting perception of reality. Thus if cultural co-operations can guide development, then it must really follow out of dialogue based on the assumptions of the human self-consciousness

Subsequently next to the question about what is the will to reform Europe, there is the more subtle, but often unnoticed and therefore unanswered question can all that be achieved through the kind of co-operation that guarantees equality and freedom? Both equality and freedom are expressions of cultural, at the same time political values. They are in need of being preserved by all European institutions and societies, if they are to create favourable framework conditions for Community actions. It goes without saying that these shall define the very success schemas of both integration and Enlargement.

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