What do we mean
for Europe

di Samuele Calzone

Articoli della Rubrica
Samuele CALZONE: What does it mean "interculture"?
Some remarks on the meaning of Europe as an example of an intercultural idea.

The meaning of "interculture", is it connected to the idea of Europe? What is this thing we call Europe?

The idea of Europe spread by word of mouth from Ancient Greece. Erodoto, in the 5th century b. c. wrote that the origin of this name, Europa, was completely unknown and even now we still don't know where the name came from.The question that I would like to ask here is not about the origin of the name of Europe but it's about the meaning: What is Europe?
The daugther of the Phoenician king Agènore was kidnapped by Zeus, her name was Europa. Is this what we mean? One of the satellites of the planet Jupiter, is named Europe too. Probably, we think of Europe in a more geographic sense, but we must consider that its borders are not well defined. Where are the bounds of Europe? Do they end at the Urali Mountain? Or at Africa?
I'm not going to debate about Europe from a geographic or historical point of view. I would like to introduce a philosophical idea about these undefined borders. Europe could be thought of as an example of an intercultural idea. It's sufficient to have in mind that this idea came from the relationship of different cultures that were often determined by wars and trade but specifically it was the language that tied people and their customs together. Europe is the "continente antico". According to the Greeks, whoever was living outside the bounds of their given society were called barbarian. The barbarians were incapable of speaking Greek well and their different cultures and behaviours caused barriors to be developed.

It is reasonable to think, looking at the history of Europe, that we are made up of plural identities. This plurality, within the bounds of Europe, for the most part, exists with remarkable equilibrium.Thinking in this way, it is not important to outline Europe in words of political unity (as Voltaire thought) or unity based on religion or feelings (according to Rousseau). Lets call Europe for the moment something indefinite but with specific peculiarities.


In the "Grande Dessein" written by the Count of Sully, at the end of sixteen century, he offered up an idea of a United Europe, as a peaceful nation. The Count had seen numbers of wars and cultural conflicts that had devastated all of Europe. It is interesting to think about what inspired the Count to hope for a United Europe, governed under one law. This law could act as a guarantor of peace for all of Europe. Some later thinkers who were living in similar circumstances to the Count with economic and political uncertainty, like Leibniz, Novalis, Kant, Hugo, Zweig, among others, came to the same idea based on the general acceptance of all cultures. However, others felt that 'general acceptance' meant the right to force politically weak countries into accepting priciples and laws from stronger powers. If we think that one culture is better than another then we are making a judgement about a particular culture. I think that accepting a culture means more than making a judgement. To critique a culture is not to accuse it of inferiority. A judgement is something that assumes to know the truth but this evaluation is limited. It doesn't make any sense to talk about what is true and what is false. Accepting a culture should mean to be critical of it or to have an opinion but not to judge it.
Cicerone, the well-known Ancient Thinker, reminds us that to judge is a very complicated thing, because what is false is often close to the truth. We must have all the elements together in order to see the whole reality of facts before we can make a clear judgement.


If we Europeans consider ourselves a part of an inextricable ball of cultures, then it's possible for us to create a peaceful living environment where we can promote sustainable development of our society. Europe could also be a place where all the different cultures could come together and offer up their best. We can use the existing borders like points of reference. These points could be defined in both time and space and would include the cultures within the space and their different ways fo thinking. It is not important to define those borders. I like to think of the boundaries like bridges, that connect different places and people. On these bridges you can walk to America, Asia, Africa and interact with all of them freely. The boundaries become comparisons. These comparisons become places to meet and the will to accept one another becomes apparent.

From this peaceful acceptance the idea of borders becomes mute. It's up to us to create an evironment that incites people to speak to each other. Being a European means feeling a sense of belonging to Europe and to live responsibly with the other members of the community. Being European means also to be conscious of this responsibility and to actively work towards becoming a peacemaker. Turning ruinous conflicts into a place for people to meet is the duty of a United Europe, like Count Sully envisioned many centuries ago.


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