Giving Europe a Soul?
In a speech delivered at the conference "A Soul for Europe," German filmmaker Wim Wenders says Europeans must believe in the power of their own imagery
Film director Wim Wenders. Courtesy Wenders Images GmbH
"What is Europe?"
"How is Europe?"
One has the impression
that Europe is a wreck,
if you think back to the constitution disaster,
reflect on Europe's actual political influence
or on the lack of enthusiasm shown by its citizens
for "the European Cause" in recent times.
"The Europeans" have had it up to here with Europe...
On the other hand,
Europe is heaven on earth,
the promised land,
as soon as you look at it from the outside.
Over the last couple of months,
I have seen Europe from Chicago and New York,
from Tokyo and Rio,
from the heart of Africa, the Congo,
and, just last week, from Moscow.
I am telling you:
In each case, Europe appeared in a different light,
but always as paradise,
as a dream of mankind,
as a stronghold of peace, prosperity and civilization.
Now you see it,
now you don't.
Those who have lived for a long time in Europe
seem weary of it.
Those who are not there, who live somewhere else,
want to get here at any price and join us.
What is it then
that some HAVE,
yet no longer want,
and for which others YEARN so much?
I can just as well ask myself:
Why is it that I find Europe so "holy",
as soon as I see it from a distance,
and why does it appear so profane, humdrum, almost boring,
as soon as I am back?
When I was young,
I dreamed of a Europe without borders.
Now, I travel back and forth
without ever having to show my passport,
and I even get to use the same currency all over,
(even if it is pronounced differently everywhere),
but where has that big emotion gone?
Here in Berlin, I am German,
in the meantime with all my heart.
Yet, hardly do you set foot in America,
than you no longer say you are from Germany, France, Italy or wherever.
You come "from Europe," or you're about to return there.
For Americans, this epitomizes culture,
history, style, "savoir vivre."
It's the only thing they feel strangely inferior about.
Even rather permanently.
And even when viewed from Asia, let alone other parts of the world,
Europe appears to be a bastion of human history,
dignity, and, yes, this word again: culture.
Europe has a soul, indeed.
No need to invent or create one for our continent.
It's there in plain sight.
It is not to be found in its politics or in its economy.
It is first and foremost embedded in its culture.
I am kicking open doors.
Two years ago, the President of the European Commission
stood here in Berlin and stated the matter quite clearly.
I quote from the end of his speech:
"Europe is not only about markets, it is also about values and culture.
And allow me a personal remark:
in the hierarchy of values, the cultural ones range above the economic ones.
If the economy is a necessity for our lives,
culture is really what makes our life worth living."
I could quote other sections of his memorable speech,
in fact I'd like to read it in its entirety,
so much he took the words out of my mouth.
But, I'm afraid,
reality looks quite different:
to the outside world, and especially to its citizens,
Europe continues to present itself first of all as an economic power,
insisting on using political and financial arguments
over cultural ones at any give time.
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