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Defending European values and culture. Defending European values and culture.
by Christos Mouzeviris
2013-04-02 10:26:42
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I grew up in a Europe dominated by American or "Anglophone" songs and movies. But I remember when I was young, I was exposed at home to music from France, Italy and Greece, apart from the popular English speaking one. So what ever happened to European music and movie industries now-days?

When you are exposed to music or any form of art other than your native from a young age, you eventually become "bi-cultural." So when most of Europe is consuming mainly American music, films, television programs and series, then how will our future generations identify themselves?

In the past Europe was the birth place of the so called "Western civilization," with centuries old creativity and heritage so abundant, that made our continent dominant in most arts. Europe contributed to the global heritage hugely, but now it is merely a follower.

The "Western" culture is today  mainly expressed by the American or Anglophone productions, while the rest of Europe is apparently the consumer of these products with few exceptions. Our ruling elites possibly believe that by "Americanizing" us all, they create a common culture for Europe to help with its unification.

If I was exposed in Romanian movies when I was a young kid for example, possibly I would speak Romanian by now. Or at least I would have a very close affiliation with anything coming from that country. But I was exposed in American movies, so I am writing this article in English. When you come in contact from a young age with another culture, by watching movies and TV series produced by this culture, then you adopt it.

In many countries of Eastern Europe that were under Soviet influence, the affirmation that they are now "Western" comes with a flood of Anglophone songs and movies into their market. Just as it happened in Greece in the past, when the country needed to be "Westernized" and stay under European or American influence. 

But why don't we instead of relying on USA to "Westernize" us, promote our own arts and heritage by selling it from one to another? Besides, aren't we Westerners already? We know more about New York from all the films we are watching, than Warsaw, Prague or Milan for example.Never mind the fact that we do not know much about some of the new EU states that joined recently, or are going to join soon. 

European integration should not be just financial or political. If we want to succeed in it, we will also have to invest in culture as well. Culture and heritage is what binds people together, not an economy. We could start watching each others cinema and television programs. Listen to each others music. Organize pan-European art festivals, promoting and investing in art in all EU states.

We invest and subsidize almost everything in Europe, why can't we treat our art as a commodity as well? The Americans are making millions in revenue from selling their films and music to us. From royalties to everything that is attached to their entertainment industries. 

If we do so we enforce and safeguard our arts, culture and heritage, individually as countries but also as a continent. We ensure the continuation, revival and influence of European arts in the world stage, but also that of our values. Our values are reflected in our arts and passed on through them.

And by exposing ourselves to each others culture we get to know each other too, promoting European integration. Perhaps in the end, we will create a common European heritage that will have a little bit from every corner of Europe. And that can be far more binding, than any currency or single market. 


Christos Mouzeviris is the writer of the blog: The Eblana European Democratic Movement

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Emanuel Paparella2013-04-02 12:07:18
“We invest and subsidize almost everything in Europe, why can't we treat our art as a commodity as well?”

The way one interprets the sentence above determines whether or not the right diagnosis and prognosis will be proposed for what presently ails Europe (and indeed the whole of Western Civilization). If that sentence wishes to indicates a desire to imitate or parrot the American culture industry in order to defend and promote a European one, it would mean that the real sickness has not been diagnosed and the prognosis will be misguided as well. Marx for one would certainly reject reducing art to a mere commodity and propaganda for one's culture.

What is needed is an authentic alternative, not a parroting. Back to C.P. Snow’s two cultures. That kind of culture clash is going on as we speak in both Europe and America, I am afraid.

Here is the same mortal sickness seen under different perspectives and viewpoints. We can go back all the way to 1861 and Charles Baudelaire “Le Fleur du Mal” and discover there the term “Americanization” a designation for which he is given credit where he proclaims that “technology shall Americanize us all.” How did he mean it? There, I suggest, is the correct diagnosis, in the identification of what is alleged to be modern and progressive as the particular malady of the modern condition. This is best seen when Baudelaire writes that “…so far will machinery have Americanized us, so far will Progress have atrophied in us all that is spiritual, that no dream of the Utopians, however bloody…will be comparable to the results.”

A bit closer to our times, in the 20th century (in 1929) Bertolt Brecht refers in a poem to America’s films, records, and “chewing gum” and ironically notes that “Americans seem destined to rule the world by helping it to progress. Back to “inevitable progress” and misguidedly considering what is the latest as the most modern and the most desirable and the most progressive.

Paradoxically, Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist party, actually lamented the “anti-Americanism of the European petty bourgeois” and wondered in his writings if Henry Ford’s methods might be turned to socialist ends.

Even closer to our times and certainly more shocking for those who wish to blame all that ails Europe on its Christian heritage while advocating its demise, we have Pope John Paul II who in a speech to the EU Parliament in 1988 had this to say on the decadence of EU culture: “If the religious and Christian substratum of this continent is marginalized in its role as inspiration of ethical and social efficacy, we would be negating not only the past heritage of Europe but a future worthy of European Man—and by that I mean every European Man, be he a believer or a non believer .”

As I said, different perspectives, different diagnosis and different prognosis. Food for thought!

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