Everything started after the end of the Living Bridges conference in
Lisbon. Wandering around Lisbon and discussing the most interesting things
in the world, we finally reached my university and out of the rainy clouds,
the sun shined very brightly and we sat down at a café. Sipping
a nice cup of Portuguese "galão", watching the bright and beautiful
Portuguese girls passing by, I took advantage of this harmonious moment
and spoke about an aspect that troubled me.
We Europeans are a leading block of countries in matter of demilitarization
and peacekeeping forces. The European Union is trying hard to resist to
the dominant position of the United Sates, and since this is almost impossible
in financial and military aspects, we have to concentrate on social and
cultural aspects that can help this continent to better its image on this
Tremendous demilitarization efforts are being done. A strong Army should
not be necessary in the near future, even if today we could hardly imagine
such a scenario. Still, countries like Germany, France and even Portugal
are heading towards a professional Army and are considering abolishing
(or have already done so) the compulsory military service. The best way
would be to achieve this in all European countries. But all this is not
the central point.
The young people of Europe and their relations to the rest of the world
are also important. Young Europeans are being "invaded" by the American
mentality of individualism, materialism and ignorance and disrespect towards
the rest of the world. Therefore I think it is absolutely necessary to
avoid this cultural imperialism and put forward good alternatives. Young
Europeans need a broad-minded perspective of the world. They have to know
and see with their own eyes what is happening in more than half of this
planet, where begging and going hungry is daily life. That's how we will
open up our eyes and we will not only construct a better Europe, but much
more than that: a better world.
How can we conceal these two so antagonistic aspects such as the end
of military service and the need of a world perspective for young Europeans?
My idea is tremendously virtual, but not impossible: Instead of a military
service where 18 year old boys are confronted with guns, violence and an
exaggerated discipline, each country could start sending its young people
to a third world country for some months. Instead of paying for food, generals
and guns, the government could pay a cheap air-fare to an African capital,
send the young people to a (not so) specially prepared camp with some organizers
and let them help in some social work for some months (teaching young children,
working, helping out with secretarial work, translating, playing with children
etc.). This would surely not be as costly as a military service, it would
be accepted by all African countries looking for social support, and most
importantly, it would give all young Europeans a great experience, an experience
they would never forget and always be thankful for their future. This is
how we could help the world.
Matthew finishes his "galão". The discussion had ended, although
it had been a monologue. The girls are still passing by, and the sun is
timidly returning back behind the gray clouds. We abandon the temple of
knowledge and walk into a great and global but decadent world.
Autor: Tino Xavier, Portugal