So why write now, when I could do it tomorrow morning in much better
conditions? Well, the truth is that for me, this situation makes me think
of the european role regarding other countries in the world and all the
small things we take for granted.
We Europeans take for granted a large part of our life's daily facts.
I don't mean basic things such as the water supply, electric light (which
would be very useful to me, right now), and other essential conditions
to our survival nowadays. I'm talking about those aspects of our lives
that we don't even remember exist, like safety to go for a walk, using
a mobile phone, going to the cinema, sending e-mails to all the friends
you made in the Lisbon LB Conference, or just siting down and drinking
beer in the sun.
But what to do when each day brings us news about desperate situations?
And when many of those news stories are not from Third World countries
but often just at the doorstep of our continent? What to do when women
are denied their right to feel pleasure, their freedom to vote, or to walk
down the street with their face uncovered? What to do when the courts are
executions halls, slaugtherhouses where death is a show that draws the
attention away from the real problems? What to do when dictators that kill
and slaughter are found to be too sick to be tried and afterwards, when
free, stand up and walk? What to do when the media turn politics into a circus
show in which the important fact is not society's commom good, but to know
who crushes who? What to do when intolerance makes brother fight against
brother? What to do, Europe?
We live in a civilized continent, at least so we think. Maybe Europe
doesn't have the examples I just gave, but we have others just as bad.
Famine has become a problem that we think is limited to the poor and homeless;
not having a mobile phone is almost equal to having an alternative lifestyle;
not having electric light is something for those who don't pay the bills
(and I did, I swear!); nationalisms go far beyond the borders of Herr Haider's
country; migrations bring to our countries every year, millions and millions
of unemployed people coming from lands where our daily miseries are luxuries.
What we take for granted in Europe is a consequence of civilization.
Years and years of history, tecnology and knowledge, made our diversity
our main power. It's not by closing our eyes that dangers will knock on
other doors. So what is wrong with us? Why do we keep insisting that other
countries' problems have nothing to do with us? I know what you are thinking:
"Beautiful words but diplomatically unreal". Well, let me just tell you
that things are not so. WE can make the difference. When Indonesia allowed
a referendum on East-Timor's autonomy, 98,6 % (!) of the population appeared
at the polls to vote, 70 % of whom voted for independence. When militias
suported by Indonesian soldiers, started to kill, burn and destroy, Portugal,
and especially Portuguese people couldn't do much. A former Portuguese
colony, East Timor is a territory on the other side of the world. But distance
didn't stop Portuguese people from trying to do as much as they could to
show some solidarity with those who were being slaugthered just because
they chose Freedom.
In a show of unity as I had never seen before, Portuguese people held
a 3 minute silence, covered their windows with white canvas, held hands
to form a human line that crossed Lisbon and united the embassies of UN
Security Councilcountries. Beyond that, they sent e-mails to everybody
who could change the situation, such as President Clinton, Indonesian President
Habibie, Kofi Annan, and sent so many faxes that they jammed the 45 lines
available. What else could we do? Nothing. But at least we tried. We couldn't
just abandon a people who, 25 years after the Indonesian invasion, while
on the outside death and destruction were law, still kept on preying in
Portuguese, having a hope as fragile as a candle.
Not having electric light is really horrible. Can you imagine a life
without electricity? I can't. Living Bridges' existence is based on the
opportunities that the new technologies of information made available.
And it's with these new technologies that we can create a global network,
connecting young people from all across Europe, and why not from the whole
world. Because it's not enough to keep looking in the mirror and saying
that what Europeans do is better. It's necessary to help others to do better
than ourselves, improving what we do by making them feel useful, so that
they too can help us improve. Let's make of Europe a bridge between cultures,
peoples and continents. Europe, especially European culture, is a mixture
of different cultures interacting, adapting to one another, changing according
to one another. We can't leave the less developed countries only with the
hope of being alive the next day.
I'm really sceptical about the idea of a unified European culture. So
many centuries of border clashes, deaths and wounds fresh in the memory,
national scars. No European country is safe from criticism, and all of
them have reasons to complain, both in the events of recent history, and
in the time Portugal was born, 8 centuries ago. But that scepticism is
not enough to keep me away from the thought to contribute to these same
european cultures, made by people and not by ghosts of Christmas Past.
When you speak of creating something, the important part is not what
we're just about to create. As far as I'm concerned, and this is a southern
European point of view, what really matters is to see the birth of a Will
to do something. Hearing, thinking and discussing with others, not looking
to obstacles nor difficulties. And this is a recipe that is good for making
a tapestry, organizing conferences or building a better Europe.
What the hell! Light just returned...
PS: There really was a blackout on the 9th of May when I wrote this
article. The blackout left the entire Southern half of Portugal completly
in the dark. The company responsible for the distribution of electricity
just said that the reason for this was the crash of a stork against a high
tension cable, which started a short circuit. Half a country in the dark
because of a stork... It looks like we still are a Third World country...
Autor: Tiago Farinha, Portugal