Saturday, May 21

Culture for peace. culture for war

Culture is a tool for peace, coexistence, dialogue and democracy. But misused, it can also be a throwing weapon that serves to dilate what separates us and widen our differences.

Spain and its surrounding countries are increasingly polarized in political terms, according to the study More in common. Polarization means that the ideological adversary is not confronted calmly or by debating ideas. Although politics is the art of reaching agreements, in a polarized climate this is not possible. Different opinions are dismissed without being truly heard and political opponents are not given the slightest credibility or legitimacy. This dangerous simplification of reality undermines the quality of our democratic coexistence.

In this context, culture is hoisted by each side like a flag. The polarization coincides with the so-called “cultural wars” that take place between two ways of understanding the world, associated respectively with the traditional categories of left and right. Some struggles that have their main symbols in feminism, anti-racism, LGTBI rights, the 2030 Agenda and the fight against climate change.

Around these issues, politicians – encouraged by public opinion – have been digging deeper and deeper trenches for some time.

But now the real war has returned to Europe and this should give us pause.

The invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia highlights how dangerous it can be to entrench oneself in immovable cultural positions, and how easy it is to move from the metaphorical trench to the real trench. Because, although the economic and geostrategic aspects continue to prevail in the new world order, we cannot and should not disregard the cultural aspect, which also has great relevance in the building of blocks.

In fact, in the composition of the world that Vladimir Putin represents and imposes, culture plays a crucial role. Putin is eager to preserve a certain traditional Russian culture in the world, including the language, by annihilating other cultural forms that he does not consider legitimate. The Russian president is part of one of those sides of the aforementioned “culture wars”. A faction that seems to be against contemporary values ​​and Western progress, specifically against LGTBI rights and real equality between men and women. These ideological positions have earned him the affection and admiration of the European extreme right, with whom he shares a cultural trench.

Also for the Ukrainian muralist and illustrator Daviduk the war is waged in cultural terms. Since the invasion began, she spends her nights making war drawings that serve to decorate the Ukrainian streets and raise the spirit of resistance of citizens against the enemy. Daviduk demands in her posters the cancellation of Russian culture in Ukraine. “There should be nothing in Russian or from Russia in our country, at least for a while,” she told El País. She is not the only Ukrainian creator who defends the cancellation of Russian culture as a weapon of war.

That culture is a political weapon has been perfectly internalized by the president of Ukraine. The actor, screenwriter and producer Zelensky takes advantage of the tools of theater and audiovisual, and manages to turn world public opinion in favor of his cause. The Ukrainian leader handles with ease the construction of the story, the epic, the transmission of emotions, the framing of the camera or the message of the gestures, the costumes and the scenery. His office is a set from which he sends political messages to the world with the best tools of cinema and theater.

Part of Zelensky’s success is explained by the fact that artistic language directly influences our emotions. That is why it is also a relief in times of anguish. But precisely for the same reason, it can be used as a powerful political weapon. A weapon that enables the construction of a story and what is called, in politics, the creation of a collective state of mind. Tools for influencing public opinion whose power is multiplied at a time when we live at the mercy of the massive consumption of digital information.

We, who are not experiencing a real war, have the responsibility to use culture for peace and definitively abandon the trenches of “cultural wars”. Artistic language can be a weapon that we use from the trenches, but it can also be a uniting tool that appeals to those emotions that all human beings have in common. Let us remember daily that, as happens between Russians and Ukrainians, there are more things that unite us than those that separate us. We live in historical moments that require unity, and the President of the Government constantly reminds us of this.

Let us use the time and energy that we dedicate to building trenches to provide ourselves with spaces for coexistence and leisurely sharing. Before reaching the physical confrontation, culture can be that glue that connects positions that a priori They seemed irreconcilable to us. This is how two musicians from the Odessa Orchestra who have had to leave their instruments and replace them with weapons told El País: “Culture will be the only form of reconciliation in the future. The universal language of art will be the vehicle to heal the gap that is currently full of barbed wire”.

Through music, literature, poetry, visual arts, cinema or theater, we can put ourselves in the shoes of the other, understand their concerns, their fears and their way of seeing the world. Culture is a tool for coexistence, but it can also be a sharp weapon to wage war. Let’s be careful about delving so deeply into our differences, because history shows us, over and over again, that this can lead us to justify a “real war”.

The empathy that culture generates can allow us to get out of the trenches, bring our positions closer together and sew up everything that has been broken. Let’s get to it. Let us not take our way of life, the rights we have achieved and our democracy for granted. Let’s fight, but seeking to convince the other, bringing him closer to our positions and working to understand his. If we don’t do this, we can soon find ourselves trapped in our own trenches, metaphorical or real.

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