woensdag 15 juni 2016

A fresh glance

Sometimes you need outsiders to remind you of who you are, or to see old familiar things in just a bit sharper way.

However, some outsiders are more effective in this than others. When it comes to Europe, and to a ‘European identity’, the Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, recently posed the question: “Europe, what happened to you?”.  On the occasion of his receiving the Charlemagne Prize, the Pope suggested that Europe can be summed up as in essence a champion of humanism, freedom and charity. Thus, Europe would manifest itself at its best in the aesthetic idyll of lovely Madonnas and crystalline baroque music.

Fortunately, the pope added that most of all he ‘dreams’ of this idyll. It must be, because apart from the fact that Europe currently is conspicuously drifting between human rights and pragmatic politics, European history already centuries earlier shows a lot of mutual fighting and murderous treatment of slaves and immigrant populations. So much so that recently the newspaper wondered in an opinion article whether asylum seekers know what kind of murderous continent they are entering.

So I don’t think of Bergoglio’s presentation of Europe as adequate. More striking I find a viewpoint of the Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, who relates baroque music in a surprising way to violence. About seventeenth-century Europe, when the two went together, he says: “Everything in Baroque music was focused on perfection and harmony. But the same nations that were so engaged in that beauty, elsewhere in the world without scruples slaughtered whole tribes. That was perfectly acceptable. Baroque music highlights the hypocrisy of Western high culture. I’m afraid that disease will for some time still be with us”.

To be able to phrase it this way, you need to have a fresh glance.

Also see (Un)purity