The European Union is struggling. Not just because of Brexit, the GFC, and the arrival of millions of refugees, but because Europe as an idea of fairness, democracy and freedom is under attack. Radical nationalists are using fear of immigration to shift voting patterns around the world, and Europe is the epicentre. But underneath all this there are creative responses, ones that can only happen with a shift in perception and certain childlike belief.
Part 1—Crisis & Creativity: In Europe
In the wake of Brexit, ongoing terrorist attacks, and the arrival of millions of refugees, does anyone know what Europe stands for anymore?
Europe is at a historical turning point. It is a changing landscape that leaves refugees, who’ve journeyed to Europe in the face of great peril, asking questions.
This is part one of Crisis and Creativity. In Europe the crises are easy to find. They come in the form of the GFC, Brexit, the rise of the radical right, and unprecedented waves of refugees. But put these problems together, and you have a moment like no other in European history.
But what about the creativity? Has this region, that conjured up a miraculous period of harmony in the European Union, still got a powerful enough imagination to move forward and stay intact?
On this tour we ask the question that is being put to Europe by millions of refugees, where are your values? All these questions have everyone on edge.
Part 2—Crisis & Creativity: Draw me a sheep
What sort of change in thinking is needed in Europe right now?
Draw me a sheep is a line from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. It refers to the moment when the narrator, a pilot, is stranded in the desert after having crashed his plane.
He recalls that when, as a child, he tried to draw a picture of an elephant inside a boa constrictor, adults only saw a picture of a hat. This strange, childlike perception comes back to him at a point of great peril. He is, therefore, able to draw a sheep.
Is this kind of creative shift that is needed in Europe today?
This is part two of Crisis and Creativity, and it starts in the cartoon heart of Europe, Brussels, where there is an idea brewing that comic books might pose the answer to some of the most difficult questions.
Part 3—Crisis & Creativity: The unbearable lightness of borders
A perceived refugee crisis in Europe is affecting voting patterns around the world, and we’ve seen that borders are the point at which democracy comes to a halt.
So far, the recent terrorist attacks in Bavaria have not changed Germany’s welcoming policy towards asylum seekers, but like all of Europe, its borders are under pressure.
The old-style, Cold War type of border is not really in vogue anymore. There are now new internal borders.
They work through an administrative process of visa acceptance, work permits and access to health care, education and social welfare benefits. They accept or deny access to a society through paperwork rather than barbed wire.
But even these borders are struggling, with unprecedented numbers of people flowing across them.
The road ahead for Europe is stark, and with Turkey still in a state of emergency and the fall out from the Brexit only just beginning, uncertainty is set to continue.
This is part three of Crisis and Creativity. It shows that way Europe negotiates borders affects thinking about immigration around the world.
Part 4—Crisis and Creativity: The victory of Gernika
How does an atrocity become an act of creative transformation?
The bombing of Gernika in northern Spain by the Nazis, in the lead up to World War II, is an infamous moment in modern history. It was the first recorded case of deliberately carpet bombing civilians.
But strangely enough, some Basque people consider themselves lucky—not for the death and destruction, but because this awful event had a witness, in journalist George Steer, and a champion in the artist Picasso, whose painting, simply titled Guernica, is a universally recognised symbol of both the place, and of the idea of war crimes.
Gernika is also lucky because it has had a very committed and articulate group of survivors. Ninety-three-year-old Luis Iriondo is among the last of them. He runs an art class and an action committee, which writes letters to presidents. The idea is to turn the story of violence … into a dialogue about peace.
It all means that now, a bombing event which took place 79 years ago can be commemorated as a victory, not a defeat. The citizens see the bombing not as a military victory, but a victory of another kind—one that has meaning for all of Europe.