Worried cats in Forza d'Agrò, Sicily, Summer 2016

2016 – The Summer of Change

We are living difficult times. Europe, the continent where I live, is witnessing a summer of change, at a very fast pace. Some 17 million British people voted to get out of the EU. It will take years but Brexit means Brexit, says the newly appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May. France is again under attack, on an important national day remembering the Prise de la Bastille in 1789 that started the French revolution, the mother of all modern ones. Turkey spent the night with an attempted military coup, with President Erdogan using Facebook live to invite its citizens to take to the streets and stop the tanks. Greece and Italy are in the frontline of the biggest migration flow since World War II at a time of economic fragility. The list could go on.

I am no political analyst, nor an economist, rather a curious observer of all things cultural. I care about the state of the world. The European Union, with all its defects, is a wonderful political construction and there is no rhetoric to say that it is a beacon of peace in the world. Two weeks ago I was at a conference organised by the Dutch presidency of the EU and I listened and networked with delegates from many countries. I thought: “what a wonderful chance to learn new things from so many perspectives.” It was great to see cross-pollination and sharing ideas on how to best tackle the impact of digital technologies on culture. I can’t see how this could be bad, considering that diversity is an ingredient of successful civilizations. I am puzzled to see people wanting to be out of those meeting rooms and saddened to imagine that I may miss those lovely English accents. I could not agree more with Frans Timmermans thoughts on Brexit, as exposed in his long Facebook update. The First Vice-President of the European Commission nailed it.

The mix of these current events will have profound impact on our societies, but it is more difficult to predict which directions they will take. Innocent people keep dying because of senseless wars, in the Middle East, in Africa, at the periphery of Europe. But now they also die without being directly at war, whilst doing something cultural, be it attending a concert at Bataclan, eating at a Cambodian restaurant in Paris, going to the airport in Brussels or Istanbul, taking a plane to their holiday destinations, watching a fireworks show in Nice. We cannot take everything we have for granted anymore. Our freedoms are under stress.
It is precisely these experiences that are most cherished by this blog. It is humble in its aims to keep a trace of interesting events of all sorts, but it is now in this more complex scenario that it needs to move forward and win hearts and minds for more culture and less war, for more understanding and less hate. We hope to succeed.

Photo: kittens looking worried in Forza d’Agrò, Sicily – Summer 2016. CC-BY Carmelo Spadaro

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