Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Building Blocks

Very often in this blog I have made critical remarks on the employer I am about to leave behind, many of those remarks deserved. However, it is essential to also give praise when it is deserved. Today's Princess Margriet Award for cultural diversity was one of these occasions.

I was highly impressed by Stuart Hall, a British thinker I remember reading during my studies. Hall is one of the leading thinkers in the world when it comes to cultural diversity and very much deserved the award handed to him today. His short address to the crowd was very moving on the relationship of many immigrants to their place of origin as a place that does not offer comfort.

The programme stated that his speech would be commented by the Dutch Minister for European Affairs, Frans Timmermans. He very much impressed me with his clarity, his sophistication and his urge to build societies where the majority feels that newcomers do not threaten their belonging. Timmermans quoted well the old notion that if you build a society focusing on the fear of the barbarian, you end up creating a barbarian society without the barbarians. Valuable warning for the European project. It happens too often that ministers use these kinds of occasions for just arrogantly stating the importance of their own presence.

The event also proved that we can create and we need settings where sophisticated art and insightful thinking actually complement each other and where both are needed for making the argument. Thai dancer Pichet Klunchun and French choreographer Jerome Bel's dance performance Pichet Klunchun & Myself on understanding the essense of different traditions of dance and their relationship to their countries of origin was needed to cristallise Hall's speech on the importance of listening.

Moving, straight to the point and warm. Well done, European Cultural Foundation.

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