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e-politik.de - Home  Brennpunkt  Europa   Das Europa der Menschen - Living Bridges-Dossier   Europe and the World - Das Europa der Menschen

Autor Tiago Farinha, Portugal

The Stork nightmare

Autor :  e-politik.de Gastautor
E-mail: redaktion@e-politik.de
Artikel vom: 28.08.2000

At the moment I'm writing to you all, Lisbon and the surrounding districts are completely submerged in darkness. An electricity failure, that has lasted for one hour already, is making me write by candlelight. I know, it's pretty romantic, isn't it?

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


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