The fall of the Berlin wall and its consequences
Looking at the workshop title I wondered where to start. With 45 minutes at my disposal the subject had to be narrowed. I decided to regard the Berlin wall as a symbol of the iron curtain as such and therefore talk about the cultural implications for Europe as one organism. Historically we have had:
1) a number of independent countries with a relatively free flow of information and people
(up till about WW1)
2) a strictly divided Europe with very little free exchange of information and people
(end of WW2 up till 1990)
3) most of Europe united in EU sharing currency, legislation and with a European parliament.
To illustrate the consequences of the division of Europe I compared the situation to that of a person with a split brain. Split brain means that the connections between the two halves of the brain have been cut. Because the two halves deals with their tasks in different ways this causes various problems to the person involved. The meaning of the words spoken is created in the left part where as the values of how it is said comes from the right part. Somehow logic has lost connection with emotions.
In the last part of the 19th century central Europe (Prague, Vienna, and Budapest) became a cultural power. Many composers, writers, and scientists originated from the region and a lot more were attracted from all over Europe. It gradually decreased from the end of WW1 and was finally cut with the rise of the iron curtain.
My question now would be:
Do we need to recreate that centre or has it become unimportant?
Is there a point in saying that both east and west have valuable contributions to a united culture? However interesting the analogy with the split brain is, there is no point in thinking of the two parts of Europe as left versus right part of the brain. My point was to make the participants think of the two parts of Europeans as different but somehow equal contributors to the unity.
The debate afterwards revealed a lot of interesting thoughts. The different attitudes between old Member states such as Italy and Denmark and former communist countries like Hungary, Romania, Poland, and the Baltics were much deeper than many of us from the old countries had anticipated. At a time an Italian teacher went to the flip-chartand wrote the names of the participant countries with the old members at one side and new at the other. Then he turned to the audience and asked whether the wall was still there, because all the old members were sitting in front taking part in the discussion while the new members sat in the back talking a lot less. All participants from new member states were younger than thirty except for three ladies from Estonia. This means that they in fact were the only ones present (apart from some Hungarians) who knew from own experience what it was like to live in a communist society. To the Italian teacher's question they answered that the wall was still there in their hearts and in their minds.
The Italian teacher had to leave the seminar a day earlier than the rest, and the last he said was that the answer from the Estonian ladies was new to him. I agree, and if it will take a generation to forget the wall inside people's minds how long do we have to wait for to undo the consequences for society as such?
Workshop led by Danish organization