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Musical Moment – 21 May 2019

La Libre: Homelands

2019-04-13 LA LIBRE

LE SOIR: Homelands, places of belgonging

LE SOIR

Yehudi Menuhin for Europe

Yehudi Menuhin was one of the greatest musicians of all time. But not only. From the concentration camps liberated in 1945 to the end of the siege of Sarajevo in 1996, Yehudi Menuhin never resolved to separate music from his political commitments and he was the author of impactful writings and speeches. More than ever, his values and messages of tolerance are a powerful source of inspiration for the 21st century and the future of Europe, especially at the eve of the European Parliamentary elections.

For those who have not dared to enter his music, his texts and speeches will be the gateway to the universe of this great musician engaged in the battles of his century.

“Yehudi Menuhin for Europe” is a recollection of inspirational speeches and writings as well as joyful souvenirs, pictures and videos that should resonate with the present days.

Homelands, places of belonging: FINAL EVENT – 4 May 2019

On the 4th of May, we held the final event of the project Homelands, places of belonging celebrating and shedding a spotlight on 6 monhts of co-creation and fruitfult collaboration between 8 refugee-artists and partners from the socio-cultural sector of Brussels! This is just to get a taste of the event… Pictures by Kristof Claeys.

Yehudi Menuhin’s alarm call

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Yehudi Menuhin’s alarm call – Our civilization is heading towards collective suicide 

Interview by François Delétraz in Le Figaro Magazine – Staurday, November 14, 1998 

This weekend, the famous violinist is conducting a concert at the Cirque de Bruxelles. Interview with a wise man who saw the century pass.

 

Le Figaro Magazine – You are very critical of the modern world

Yehudi Menuhin – Our civilization suffers from a lack of vision and disaster anticipation. Everyone tries to enjoy the moment. Without hindsight, without objectivity. Everywhere there is a lack of mediation and creativity. Especially in schools. The arts are absent from our lives. And we surrender to violence.

 

Is it the product of capitalism?

Not only that. In the Soviet Union, it was a state capitalism. When Moses had already come down from the mountain, he had found his people worshipping the golden calf. Perhaps it is the need to survive that pushes us to be only in the moment. However, the human animal has another dimension. He is aware that he is conscious, he asks himself questions that he cannot answer. It is to this dimension that religions and philosophies are attached. It is this questioning that creates unity and belonging to the universe. But we are so concerned today about events in constant turmoil, about this radical change that I have seen accelerate in my life, that we are no longer worthy of our knowledge, of our duty to respect life… These problems are much more crucial today than ever before. We must integrate them into our thoughts and attitudes if we are to escape a kind of collective suicide. Before, nature was more powerful than man. Even though we were engaged in wars and destruction, the forests came back, we could swim in the sea, the whales survived. But the means of pollution and destruction have become so enormous that even nature is now our enemy.

 

Why are we moving so quickly towards this collective suicide?

We are all united. The fate of all humanity depends neither on Jesus nor on the Buddha nor on Moses. And if we do not correct these Pavlovian reflexes, we will be powerless to face this time when humanity is still struggling to exploit, to defeat, to exercise tyranny. To collect as much as possible, without worrying about what will follow. And to live at the expense of those who have no recourse or resources. Our teaching in this regard is also not up to the task.

 

Why is technology becoming increasingly important?

Because it allows us to flourish, to relieve ourselves, to be inspired, to have fun.

 

And to restrain us?

Yes, good technology, for example, is a technology that makes it possible to travel better without polluting. But the will to improve is insufficient, because there are always people who want to keep what they have. To think that the United States is opposed to some decisions against pollution! That they hesitated to sign this agreement on the resources of the sea! We pretend that not everyone has moved in ten thousand years. The desire for conquest is unchanged: Russia against Chechnya, Israel against the Palestinians, or the cursed Milosevic against other cultures. Instead of letting live, of respecting. We must share with those who do not resemble us, because their differences enrich us. You have to respect what is unique in others.

 

Are you against nationalism?

Absolutely. Nationalism has been a useful step in development. But there is no longer a truly sovereign nation. Fortunately, there have been great men in Europe, French, Germans, Belgians, Luxembourgers, who have laid the foundations for a union designed to reduce the independence and sovereignty of States. At the same time, this unity is too great to create a united fervour. Like the fervor of tribes defending themselves against other tribes. The State has never been the protector and guardian of minorities. He has always sought to impose unity, to have a population that defends him. Everyone had to show the same reference to the state and its flag. This happened a century ago in Italy and Germany, during the unification, and it is older in France. The State is the result of technological progress. Railroad, steel, cannons. Since today’s world is on a different scale, we need an association of populations and talents to satisfy the requirements of our knowledge, our research and our thinking. To overcome the limited means of our tribe, our city, our state.

 

Are you European?

Yes, excessive nationalism – just as there is fundamentalism in religion, there is excessive nationalism – hides behind false certainties. This allows the mind and intelligence to be relieved, while it is necessary to develop intellectual structures to find balances between opposites. Fundamentalism excludes opposites. We believe that a fragment of truth is the whole truth. But the opposition is wonderful if you reap the benefits. What would we do if all worlds were the same?

 

Aren’t you afraid to take a stand against extremism in a country that is dear to you, Israel?

It’s like religion, there are subjects we avoid. Religion is a wonderful thing, if you are a believer. It helps to accept fate. But religions are like men. And some religions have not behaved any better than men. I can’t believe in a priest who blesses a cannon that will kill innocent people.

 

It’s human nature to want power?

Yes, but we don’t have enough knowledge to change that. We have made enormous progress in social understanding, in the child’s understanding. For example, what I am doing with the Muse project… When singing and dancing coupled with a Marian art are brought to schools where violence exists, this violence stops.

 

Let us be utopian: what would it take to make the will to power less strong?

Education first. Teach, share knowledge. Teach the nuances of human relationships, do not forget creativity, the arts of the five senses. We were born with these senses. Hearing in particular, which is the first. It is hearing that allows us to orient ourselves, to listen to others, to produce sounds that are pleasant to others. To recognize the danger. We would not have a memory without hearing. Linking emotion and thought in children is essential. Otherwise, we focus on theories that have no value. The baby’s hearing combines thought and emotion because it is memory, not thought. The memory allows comparison.

 

Does technology bring together emotion and thought?

You should be able to create through inspiration, but computers have a huge vocabulary, they have incredible sounds that we don’t know. On the other hand, they do not have any grammar. Maybe it will come. It is a whole continent still unexplored. They have acquired knowledge, but no innate skills. There are too many possibilities today, we must return to values that bring together differences. We have specialists in each field, and almost one language per field. There is not enough thought to connect the scattered elements and contrasts. Everything is independent. Look at the States: the Ministry of Education has nothing to do with the Ministry of Health or Culture. Yet, as in the family, as in the community, we cannot live without contacts. But our intellectual world is made up of categories, it is bordered by arbitrary and artificial borders. Bridges must be built, but this requires knowledge, a greater vision of man and his destiny.

 

Do you feel like a wise man?

The music gave me some perspective. I have lived deeply this century, I have a kind of experience. I know people of all colours, races and religions. At the same time, I have never become a slave to any race or religion. This allows me to compare and approach the human. I imagine a kind of contemporary religion that would be in harmony with knowledge. It is a heresy to say: God is in me. God is a father, a kind of tyrant. We cannot imagine a religion that would not derive from experience. For some tribes, it was the volcano, because it was powerful and dangerous. All gods are powerful. They are built in the image of men, not the other way around. Yet it is the same energy that has formed us. And which allows us, century after century, to get closer to this primary intelligence. We are possessed by this eternity. We exist on several levels: the moment, the years, the generations. But there is a much larger dimension than that. We are in a state of creativity, of constant adaptation. Our destiny is to learn and approach this intelligence that we will never touch.

 

Why have you so often been attached to lost causes?

I wouldn’t say lost.

 

 

Like the Dalai Lama against the Chinese?

His cause is greater than that. Faced with the Chinese, there will always be this human conception. I hope that each culture will one day accept the other. And that no power will ever seek to impose itself again. Even in Europe, we must protect ourselves from the European Union, where some would like to see the full integration of States, but also of culture. Perhaps tomorrow there will be no more poets, since everyone will speak in an understanding way through computers. To fill the gaps created by globalization and globalization, every child must learn to work with his or her hands, to work the land without a machine, to grow herbs and flowers, to paint, to dance, to make shoes. It is important to maintain this balance that tends towards the abstract and towards the part of ourselves that allows us to live, to have joy, to share these joys and to find security in an atmosphere that is unique to us. We call ourselves German, Catholic, vegetarian. We must belong to the same tribe that nowadays goes beyond borders. Like when I find myself with my African colleagues.

 

Why do we hear so much music that has no soul?

I would not say that, but it is true that things are done for the masses and that majorities can make mistakes. So do minorities, for that matter. The other great danger is that we want to satisfy everyone. We are therefore not taking a position. As with Kosovo, where Europe is inert. If’justice is not done to these poor Muslims, there will be a reaction, and France’s five million Muslims will react. We are the ones who are pushing them to become fundamentalists. Look at the camps in the Middle East. We take everything away from them and tell them: Live! They find substitute to survive, and since they have nothing of their own they have to take it from others. If we do not do something to show that all people have the right to live, that these people of Kosovo have the right to be protected, we will reap the seed we have sown. Politicians don’t want to risk anything, especially not losing votes. Faced with this inertia, something will move, and I would prefer that we do not wait for a disaster to happen before it moves. We are at the mercy of an impending disaster. Humanity is showing frightening violence.

 

 

 

My proposals for a better world

My proposals for a better world – London, May 18, 1992

Humanity is drifting dangerously in an uncharted sea, having lost any sense of direction as a whole, and without a compass to guide it.

Although we are recognizing the new situation, its dimensions and its problems, no one can answer the simplest questions – where are we going, what do we want, how do we see ourselves, i.e. humanity, even only ten years hence? The old answers are no longer convincing.

Many of us are locked by habit, precedent and convenience into antiquated ways of thought, stereotyped images, unable to distinguish between the often-conflicting requirements of the moment versus the future, and very largely lacking the means – intellectual, physical, organizational or administrative – to assess, analyse, to relate in informed discussion, nor to reach comprehensive decisions.

 

Our problems

We all know the problems that face us. They are: pollution and degradation of air, water, earth, of man, woman and child; decimation of species and habitat; alienation of Nature; increase of disease and crime and wanton violence; problems – urban and social, but also rural; personal and cultural breakdown – psychological, spriritual, moral, aesthetic; educational problems, in all their manifold aspects – physical, intellectual, intuitive; feeding the legitimate thirst of our senses with false and poisonous substitute nutriment… we are aware of all this and yet we cannot grasp the many strands we must handle to weave the tapestry of our own lives, both individually and collectively.

I have already hinted at two principles categories: the private and the public, the here and now as opposed to the more distant and omnipresent, the tangible and material as opposed to the spiritual and affective, the State as opposed to the Culture.

Humanity has changed radically from an ethos concerned largely with the relationship of man to nature, of man to God, of man to the unknowable, of man to his own specific culture, of the relationship of his very own hands and his senses to the creative and the ordinary tasks he was called upon or called upon himself to do.

In the course of the transformation into modern “advanced” man, he has progressively realized the increasing advantages of growing, ever larger inter-cultural, inter-national cooperation; he has also interposed many separations which have become blockages between the direct relationship of hands to task, of feeling to fulfilment, of man to nature – to his God. Taboos have become religions, scripture and finally laws, cumbersomely administered.

 

Culture

In this context, I would like, first of all, to define the word culture. Culture is everything which determines our mode of expression and which distinguishes one group of beings from another, in contradistinction to competing nationalisms which tend towards uniformity and the flattening out of variety.

The one, culture, defines the very way each person expresses his feelings and thoughts about himself, his sense of values, his relationship to other people, to earth and its inhabitants, from languages to the crafts, to the arts, to his style of living and thinking, his dress, his food, his imagery, superstitions, beliefs – his poems, his myths, his symbols – usually attached to a particular place or small region, or nomadic and nostalgic, attached to the firmament and the open country. Culture radiates from a centre.

The other, nationalism, defines the forces which oblige a variety of cultures to live under one flag or one religion, a particular State or Church. It is measured by power, conquest, subjugation, exploitation through arms or tools – guns, money – and a conviction of superiority, as much in the universality of its beliefs, marked by the emergence of single Gods from multiple Ones, by single currencies from multiple ones, as from a vindicated superiority based upon the success of its technology, weapons, commerce, and the spread of its language, and its own morals. This mode of existence is dedicated to the strengthening, the defense and the expansion of the frontiers, physical boundaries of a given power.

To put it in a few words: a culture radiates from a centre and permeates adjacent cultures; a power consolidates a given area within defined frontiers constantly readjusted by war.

The solution?

The question is: how do we protect and cultivate the dignity, autonomy, the independence of cultures in a world increasingly dominated by and reduced to the most crude and basic urges – greed, fear and sex – unsublimated, even barely disguised, and now a recipe for increasing chaos?

Is the problem not that of finding and creating the “juste milieu” – the climate, intellectual, physical, and spiritual – the structures – representative, administrative, and executive – the formation – logical and intuitive, conceptual and tactile – which would do justice to and would respect the demands of the whole of our nature?

It is not necessary to discard the ritual of State, Church and Law; in fact, it seems essential to me to retain them. But its content must be thoroughly rethought, recasted and rebuilt. If we do not follow this procedure for transformation, we will face the chaos of sudden revolutions now threatening.

On can only command Nature by obeying its laws. Likewise, there can be no acceptable progressing future without an honestly recognized and understood past, which lends the spring-board and the sense of direction to the future.

First of all, in our thinking we must try to distinguish between culture and power. In a civilized world we should no longer have to confuse the two. It should no longer be necessary to assume that a culture goes hand-in-hand with armed militancy. The dignity, autonomy and the independence of a culture should not depend upon its own exclusive apparati of State, i.e. army, foreign office, etc.

 

Powers

In the matter of power, however, our national units, our great States, our countries have in many respects lost the last vestige of sovereignty they ever possessed. Thus, it is inevitable that we are proceeding in the direction of the Confederation or the Federation of States, many of which are already global.

Thus we already have three tiers of human association, i.e. the Culture, the State and the Federation of States.

Hitherto cultures have been at the mercy of Powers. It is essential that, as we grow in amplitude in the one direction, our roots grow in depth in the other.

 

Representation in Parliament has hitherto favoured the play for power among various competitive interests, but Parliament has rarely heard the voice of the human being as he is, apart from power and money, economic interests, and defense.

In Parliament we have our “right” and our “left”, traditionally the one representing the doctrine of the stronger, independent and better able to look after himself, and the other doctrine of the weaker (formally and globally stronger in numbers), requiring protection, planning, the application of theories of justice, of fairness. Both are subject to the virus of unrestricted power, private initiative degenerating into Fascism, care and concern degenerating into the other most hideous forms of oppression.

Today, in civilized countries, the contrats are nowhere as fierce for each and both partake of each other and discuss alternatives and compromise.

But cultures are left largely unrepresented, and today it is essential to rescue the human being, his family and children, his dignity along with a reconciliation with Nature, and the unknowable – or God –, for these have preceded us and will ultimately succeed us.

 

My proposal

I would, therefore, propose that at the levels of State and Federation, we institute in addition to the usual House of elected representatives, as in the House of Commons or Congress, another House, another “Chambre des Députés”, representating cultures, with their bonds to earth and sky; that, say, the cultures of Europe be represented by men and women nominated by their people, and several cultures joining to nominate a spokesman. This House would correspond to the House of Lords or the Senate, but would be more attuned to the problems of our day.

A clear division of labour and responsibility must be established between the two.

Politicians would sit in the on House, delegates in the other. I feel that politics should be practised by people with professions, so as not to make politics a profession, i.e. a surveyor, a painter, a craftsman, even a musician would run for office and be elected for, say, a two-year period, after which he or she would return to his or her profession. This would obviate the growing dependence on politics as the sole support for life and ambition.

The other House, in which delegates of cultures would sit, would be responsible for the protection of given cultures, their modes of education, sports, their traditions, languages, religions, holidays as determined by each. However, these must never be hostile to a neighbouring culture or prejudiced against the binding tenets of the larger units.

Measures to be taken

Certain issues may partake of both the economic factors and the cultural, a discussion between the two Houses would ensure a fair solution.

It is absolutely essential, however, that certain practices and types of exploitation be generally and completely outlawaed, be they of men, or women, or children, of animals, air, water, of the fertility of land. It is essential, for instance, to ensure the conservation of species, and severe limits should be put on the size of mono-crops (as well as the misuse of genetic discoveries) – if possible, worldwide.

The measures to be taken should certainly include limits on tourism, on production and dissemination of pollutants, on types of propaganda and all the contemporary influences of communications, electronic, subliminal, or overt, of sheer noise, which desecrate our lives.

Decisions taken in Parliament would have to be ratified by both houses. They would have to consider, for instance, the inherent fault in the policy and the doctrine of constant material growth, of quantity at the expense of quality, of life as of production. The only possible way can persuade and convince our acquisitive, warped societies to renounce part of their vested interest in unqualified growth is to offer in return, for what may appear as immediate sacrifice, a definite improvement in quality for ourselves, our children and global life, as opposed to further unrestrained exploitation and debasement of Nature, its resources, its living beings.

 

European cooperation

Certainly, only a cooperating European Community can establish Commissions concerned with, say:

  • The waters of Europe (underground and on the surface), including the course of water from the snow of Alpine regions to lakes, rivers and deltas, from the evapotranspiration of plants to the purifying process of each waste water collector, all these waters must be totally protected. The commission should support and rely on such private initiative as “Alp-Action”, but it would have the official clout to take decisions and enforce the urgent measures.
  • The fertility of the earth and the protection of the species adapted to it would be the responsibility of yet another Commission, appointed by our second House to take measures for protecting and restoring to earth, its flora and fauna.
  • Our second House would also mobilize Amnesty, a private organization which could form the guarding nucleus of a Commission concerned with the spread and distribution, the variety of fears, threats, abuse in Europe, ranging from the psychological to the physical.
  • There are already private and semi-public organisations like World Health, but they have little clout. A Commission for Disease and Health would draw upon many sources to guide, to educate as well as to protect the peoples of Europe and adjacent regions.
  • Other Commissions responsible to our second House would study the problem of human time, lives and money spent in counter-productive, wasteful or degrading occupation, and with the redistribution, the re-training of skills.
  • The arts have been debased into the questionable function of some superfluous extravagance – I am thinking of music and the other arts in schools, and as the creative expression of what really distinguishes the human being from other creation. Singing, painting, fashioning, architecture, etc… are not economic concerns: they are essential human arts required, as play and discipline, from the earliest years, just as therapeutic knowledge which is used for the well-being of people and point to the desire to be mutually useful to each other.
  • Commissions on European travel and the movement of goods and people in the fastest, noiseless, vibrationless, most efficient and economical way possible would constitute the aims of yet another Commission serving our second House. – Switzerland is building a tunnel between Basel and Lugano on the principle of magnetic, frictionless propulsion invented by Braithwaite, an Englishman of my acquaintance.
  • Sub-cultures, a result for our particular societies, should be the subject of a Commission responsible for assessing and guiding the needs of an “unemployment” culture, a violent culture, a culture of ruthlessness, impatience, and superficiality.

A global restructuring

Certainly, no Parliament has as yet given itself the task of implementing measures which all our hearts, minds, our knowledge and determination to address these problems, except to mistake them largely for economic problems, on the assumption that a little more money will cure these evils. This approach will not succeed; only a second Parliament on a European scale might conceivably and successfully handle such essentially human matters.

We will have to call into question the practices of industry, of commerce, of agriculture, of defense, of values, beliefs, education, of government bureaucracy, of sheer size. We must equally cultivate a deep respect for serenity, for peace, the pursuit of knowledge, the exploration of hypotheses in all fields of human thought and experience.

I feel that if such a system, incorporating the twinned worlds of power and culture, had existed a few years ago, the tragedy of Yugoslavia might have been averted.

A stand against nationalism

The procedure I propose is, I believe, our protection against the danger of a new round of growing nationalism in Europe. Actually, the European Community is as much a return to all that bound us together in the past – the Judeo-Christian faiths, from ancient Israel, Rome, Byzantium – the Greek and the Roman civilizations, embracing our world from India to Iceland – our Renaissance, our languages, even our wars which, in a way, could be seen as civil wars.

Certainly, Latin and Greek were the European languages and should be reinstituted in schools. Only in Luxemburg are they still obligatory. In Europe until the rise of the nation-state, travel was unencumbered by passports; scholars, knowledge, fashion, styles were freely interchanged. Vienna was the centre of the two axes, East-West and North-South. England and Spain became the repositories of the richest assortment of assimilated civilizations in the world – in language, traditions, customs; in Spain embracing Mohammedan and African, in England, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Norman.

What wealth, what knowledge, what beauty, binding us as much with pride as with guilt to Asia, India, and the peoples of the Americas!

My violin and my feelings

I have spoken from my heart, the heart of a European. I love the countries, the regions, the cultures of Europe, which I came to know at an early age. I adore their music, their literatures, their Nature, their people. As an American born of Russian-Crimean Jewish parents, I embrace the whole of Europe from both sides as well as from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

At home and attached to every part of this most precious and treasured peninsula, and knowing it as well as my native America, I am not only formally British and Swiss but in addition informally and with all my heart a European.

These, alongside with that instrument of music, the violin, a key to the soul of every people, are my credentials.

Culture & Peace – Luxembourg, 11 January 1997

Yehudi Menuhin – Extract from Culture and peace (Concert pour une culture de paix et de bien-être, Luxembourg, 11 January 1997)

 

“The instantly brutal is invading the realms of cultivated and subtle expression. Our five senses are assailed with mortal effect—to quote the last words in Hamlet, (a massacre) “of course and fury signifying nothing”. Nothing is more revealing of the eternal truth of Shakespeare’s words.

 

On television, genocide, killing and torture, in our media a constant stream of degrading sensations, reports and gossip as against that never-never land of enticing advertisements where we learn the purity of purchased bliss. We suffer the noise of road drills or the forced feeding of music, deafening decibels at discotheques. These insults to our senses of hearing, smell and taste are brutalizing and are a symbol of the confrontation between human beings and their different needs. These divisions make ever less sense in a world ever more dependent on itself, and one in which each of us is dependent on so many other people and furthermore a world in which we instantly react to events all over the globe.

 

Yet we must ensure peace for each and for all. I will now speak of the conditions for such peace. Such peace must allow for the full unfolding of our talents, our gifts for self-expression, for otherwise they fester, ferment, rot and destroy. The societies we envisage must be bound by a sense of belonging to ever-widening concentric circles or spheres of common dependence and interests. Such societies must be as robust as they are subtle and must allow man, the religious animal, the full expression of his feeling and his faith in eternity and mystery of life in its oneness and in its diversity. He must live creatively, yet with profound respect for nature and the ways and freedoms of his co-habitors.

 

His formation must begin at the earliest age with the refinement of his senses, first and foremost the sense of hearing, of voices, of music, of memory, of surrounding space. Yet, even before, there must come in chronological order the sense of immediate touch, skin and tongue, the warm and protective, the caress and, of course inevitably, the unpleasant, hurtful or corrosive. Speech and music are but extension of the tactile as vibrations from beyond us set up vibrations on and in our ear drums, i.e. within ourselves. Our hearing, unlike our sight, which is directional and confrontational (subject v. object), is global and all-embracing. Our eyes should rest on the green of nature, on the sky, on the stars and the moon, on the seas in all their moods, on sources of sounds which occasion human reaction, protecting, comforting, meditating, but also frightening in small inoculative doses, whilst learning to defend ourselves, or to avoid, to intervene or to ignore. Writing and reading are visual skills which cannot really flower until listening, thought and speech are fully evolved.

 

The senses of fantasy and observation by singing, drawing, painting, reciting by composing poetry and music, by mime, by acting, the control of our body and its health by a knowledge of nutrition and training in various disciplines—yoga, Taichi, martial arts, paired with movement and dancing as with singing from the earliest moments possible—constitute a child’s world and are the basic formation which must precede the abstraction of reading, writing and calculation. The cultivation of thought and speech is far more important than of reading and writing because it is basic. Dreaming, talking, indeed even philosophizing, must precede abstract study.

 

The aural is more important than the written, however less advanced it may be in terms of recorded knowledge and wisdom. The aural represents, however, our accumulated wisdom and constitutes our separate cultures. We tend to spurn the aural in our civilizations and in civilizations which have evolved the aural to a very high degree of memory and social responsibility. But with the incredible advance of memory banks, computers capable of thinking in a manner, man’s and woman’s and a child’s inner world, inner life and integrity must be protected and encouraged. This is what I am attempting to achieve with the schools project MUS-E and with the project for the representation of cultures, as distinct from the political representations of nationalities. For this project to work it is essential that both the European Community and the Cultures recognized their respective reciprocal responsibilities. The Community as ‘Guardian of Cultures’ in the words of President Higgins, and the Cultures as supporters of the Community and of its functions. My very modest Foundation in Brussels, The International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, is engaged in these tasks to help guide our European Community towards a balanced harmony in which autonomous cultures would be represented and protected by the European Community whilst themselves supporting the Community. The “porteparles” would have to be individuals fulfilling four qualifications:

 

(a) the trust of their group,

(b) the unquestioned authority and knowledge of the subject under discussion,

(c) the ability to talk to an ‘enemy’

(d) of course no terrorist

 

Once a mission or task has been successfully accomplished, that person would be eligible for a five-year appointment to an Assembly of Cultures meeting twice a year.

 

We are intent on reviving and inspiring a genuine European conscience conceived in the image of what the integrated diversities of Europe have already brought the world—in music, language, in literature, in science, in parliaments, in democracy, in open-mindedness and in social conceptions in advance of many other parts of the world.

 

One of the most inspiring examples of man’s thought was the establishing of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was conceived in London by a wonderful group of men of great vision—Julian Huxley, the great biologist, was its first President—and it was to be totally apolitical, the counter-part of the United Nations. I am glad to say that in the hands of Federico Mayor it is in a strengthened way fulfilling its original concept of bringing the world together in the recognition of our responsibilities and obligations in the realms of education, of art, of heritage in all forms, from music to ancient architecture, of relief to the destitute and abandoned children in the streets of Sao Paolo and to hundreds and hundreds of wonderful human and humane initiatives taken throughout the world. I continually regret that the United States and England following in dutiful echo renounced UNESCO some years ago and are still refusing to rejoin this great human global organization.

 

These thoughts occurred to me last Christmas Day. I feel humanity is passing through a very crucial time. We must all hope and pray for the triumph of good over evil, whilst recognizing that it is possible to transform the negative into positive energies. This dynamic and living state of peace will require as much courage, faith, philosophy, compassion, foresight, reasoning as ever did any war in the past.”

Speech by Lord Menuhin at the European Parliament – September 1995 (PART II)

Speech by Lord Menuhin – Session of the European Parliament – Brussels, 27th September 1995 (PART II) 

Now, states have grown bigger and bigger from the time we were tribes, the various stages of duchies and regions and great cities like Venice, and independent principalities. Until the 19th century they were coalescing into great states. This growth continues towards the global, because today we are faced with global difficulties, menaces, powers and visions. Again, the effort must be collective; we cannot envisage a single global empire ruled by one single power. Space exploitation is a wonderfully positive global hope. It is an expression of initiative, of imagination, of capacity. It is not a small thing to walk on the moon or to send a satellite to Mars; these are very great achievements which can only be done by a great common effort of humanity as a whole.

But there are also global menaces; we know that pollution is one; we know of growing violence is a contagious disease. The very same illnesses and diseases which affect the body effect the mind. We have seen what happens in former Yugoslavia. This could happen almost anywhere – perhaps not as quickly, we hope – in countries which have a long history of democracy, but nonetheless there is violence in everyone of us, and unless that violence is, in the child, guided to the positive, it would turn in the negative. Any unfulfilled talent or potential must turn sour and destructive.

The European Parliament and the whole concept of the European Community now is faced with a distinct disapproving voice; we know it, I know it very well from England; we know it in Sweden recently, in Denmark and even in France; in far too many countries there is fear of a further loss of sovereignty. Today the concept of absolute sovereignty is, of course, a fairy tale, an image that can no longer be entertained. We are all at the mercy of the rest of humanity, and we are continuing, however, our separatisms, our violence against or suspicion of other in many ways. I do not have to tell you about the ways that is happening vis-à-vis the third world, vis-à-vis our own people often, and this is a restrictive element. We see it also in the ultra-nationalist expression of people that have been long suppressed, like the people of Chechnya, the different races of Yugoslavia, where it did not have to happen because they lived in understanding. In a town like Sarajevo you had the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews; I was there at that time; they were living perfectly well together.

Some of the troubles are because we still live possessed by the territorial imperative, by people who feel that the only security lies in larger control, larger domination and, of course, their own ambition lies there. And others exploit the fears which they rouse, they awaken old memories of revenge and they organise these into people’s hate and their desire to destroy their neighbour. This is a very immoral attitude. We receive these leaders with honour because they have power, but they have power only because they cut their people and say, ‘look, you are not going to fall back into old phobias, into old habits; we are building a new world where your energies will work a different way”. But unfortunately, the leaders are often the very opposite, intent on power and territory, and they are chosen by the populace who is made to fear and is encouraged to trust them as their saviours.

What I am coming to is this reaction to the European Community this negative reaction, which comes, I believe, partly from the fact that the Community was established in the first place as an economic community without reference to the moral code and the concept of the wonderful world of Europe, a world full of variety, which is rich and great and has given us music and harmony and parliaments and many of the most important advances in the world by virtue of their variations and their differences. They based Europe on an economic model first, which was hoped could provide a greater market – which it has – and economic security – which it has not – and enable people to unite nations so that each may share a greater part of a larger pie. But that still represents greed. It did not apply to the founders – Adenauer, Schumann, Werner. These were people who saw beyond their own statesmanship. They were great statesman but they had in mind a European Community in which each state would surrender part of its sovereignty. Therefore, they transcended, they went beyond they own official actional brief.

I am looking to you for people to support three projects that go beyond balancing budgets, and I am looking for musicians who go beyond music and people who transcend their own immediate professions and calling, who see beyond. My suggestion to you – and it is something we have started – is what I call the “Assemblée des Cultures”. You have extended a bureaucracy of nations competing with each other, regulating a great many small details, which may be necessary, and establishing a web of regulations over the whole of Europe. Some of those are very good. I am all in favour of regulations governing working conditions, for instance; in fact, even those have been opposed on the grounds that it would allow too many concessions for you to sell your product at a competitive price. Now that must be discussed, for there might be a case for all people to have a basic net below which they cannot fall, and at the same time perhaps reducing wages in return for no risk. The objections come, as I said, from the rebirth of this idea of sovereignty. The resistance to Europe is partly for negative reasons, but there are also positive reasons. People have their way of being, have their language, their traditions; Europe consists not only of many states but it consists of even more cultures.

The cultures have never yet really been protected by the state, the state cannot protect minority cultures adequately, they cannot give them a voice because the state is concerned with creating a reliable population and with defence of frontiers; it is concerned with balancing the budgets, with interests which are definitely defence, commercial, diplomatic, and also with lobbies. So, states are at the mercy of many forces which are antagonistic to the respect due each culture, each of which has much to contribute. These cultures are not represented, they do not have a voice. Some regional cultures are very anxious, in Eastern Europe, to join the European Community because they have no security of their own, as, for instance, nomadic cultures, like the Gypsies. I am giving a concert on the 24th November, illustrating the epic voyage of Gypsies from Rajasthan, India, to Spain. This is beside the point, but the Gypsies have no voice, and we all know they are persecuted in Romania, even in the Czech Republic. But they have brought us their music, they have acted as fertilising agents, like insects, bees, going between flowers. They travel and we owe them a debt for this cross-fertilisation of cultures.

There are also different passing cultures – I hope they are passing cultures – for instance the momentary situation of seven million Mohammedans in France, or Turks in Germany, the conditions of the inner cities; these are groups of people who live in a certain way distinguishable lives that are different from us, people who are victims of certain situations – commercial, intellectual, impoverished, educational – refugees and all that happens on the city streets. They have a different life from ours. Did you know, for instance, that Prince Charles, who is a very good man, took months to persuade the ministries in London who are responsible for the inner cities, to receive members of the inner cities? This is the extent to which the bureaucracy is often cut off from the victims of their own responsibilities. These are good people, prepared to speak on behalf of their fellow-men. It is not even necessary to read or write in order to speak intelligently and with conviction of their own condition, but is necessary to find willing and understanding ears in responsibility.

Therefore, my concept of an Assembly of Cultures. This Assembly or Parliament would provide the state with its minorities representations, which will not aim any longer for sovereign status like Slovakia from the Czech Republic, because if we are going to have in Europe a hundred different sovereign states, each with their atom bomb, with their foreign service, it would be chaos. Therefore, we have to offer something different, and what we want to offer them is cultural autonomy. This depends on reciprocity, the reciprocity of the community, to protect them in turn their support of the community. Without this reciprocity it cannot work. Therefore, sovereignty alone cannot work in the new world; the new world cannot admit a hundred different sovereign states in Europe. Therefore, they must belong to each other and they cannot belong until we establish a balance of reciprocity between obligations. I feel that this is an important counterweight to the bureaucracy which is alienating both states and their cultures. We would not accord a voice to them unless it were to an audience which would assess them as the mad fringe of society they are. Ultranationalists and the fundamentalists would no longer need to claim that you have to kill your enemy, because we will be giving them a voice, so please speak; we would not give terrorists a voice but we will be giving people of a given culture an opportunity to address a meeting like this, in perfect understanding, who would be broad-minded enough to know that they live in a world with other people.

Speech by Lord Menuhin at the European Parliament – September 1995 (PART I)

Speech by Lord Menuhin – Session of the European Parliament – Brussels, 27th September 1995 (PART I) 

Already from the day I was born, I became aware of the world and the world’s sufferings, for my parents were very conscious of social injustice but were very happy. So, I had a very happy childhood, and my mother loved and at the age of 99 still loves to look after young people and to guide them. My father always was worried about greater social issues, and he was very much a man of the left as a young man and then gradually found the middle road. I was surrounded with great music; I have spent my life with the minds of Beethoven and Bach and Ravel, and all the other creators of music. I spent my life trying to get the nicest, the most beautiful sound out of a little bit of wood – the violin – and I learnt a great deal in the way of handing an object on which you depend and from which you want to bring out the best. You have to handle it with great delicacy and with great subtlety. You cannot beat a violin into beautiful sound any more than you can beat a flower into blooming. And then I was blessed by a wonderful wife, who is so very beautiful and full of integrity and natural dignity – and fine children. And, therefore, I feel that somehow, I owe humanity – you all and your people, my own friends of every country – I owe them a debt because of my life has been almost too wonderful, and the debt is paid with great satisfaction.

 

(…)  I founded the Organization, which is known as the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, with no resources at all, because we did not begin with money, we began with ideas. I think that this is the safest way to begin, as the rest follows. I believe we have something that is not new but it is something which represents a need of our moment, of our day. – Just briefly to tell you about the autobiographical aspect, it began with what was closest to me, music and teaching.

(…)

I know that many of you are concerned with the condition of the world today, where more and more violence exist. If you want to reconcile aggression and polarization with what we call peace, which is a dynamic harmony, because peace is not a paradise in which we all sit down and enjoy our whisky or whatever else we drink, but it is a state of dynamic equilibrium, which is constantly changing, ever adjusting to change. For instance, as we sit down here is a peace that was built upon democratic political party polarizations; the sun, too, which draws the tree and the leaves to their height with their wonderful panoply, and gravity, its polarity, which draws the roots into the earth which provides the tree with strength—these two forces can be viewed as opposing each other. They appear to be so, but they are, in fact, complementary to each other. Therefore, the forces of antipathy, of aggression, of suspicion, of antagonism, can be reconciled by the concept of complementary, as the opposition should realize that all opposition, even our enemy is necessary to us. And what is most important is that we should understand our potential enemy. There is another resolution of aggression that is possible, in the concept of reciprocity, meaning that we are courteous to our neighbor, because it is much more practical not to waste time in getting excited, but to work together, for each other and to establish trust. For that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, we are courteous to each other for a perfectly natural, selfish reason, which is that of saving ourselves for the positive and not spending and destroying ourselves on the negative. This is yet another element which will contribute to the resolution of conflict and that is the concept of equilibrium. We are in constant balance, a balance between emotions. We live in a world where the stars and the sun and the earth, everything is moving, and we are only here in peace because there is a balance, an equilibrium between all the moving parts that have to be adjusted according to each momentary new position of the elements in the equation. Motion and human emotion are inseparable. Therefore, the sense of wanting to establish the harmony, this sense of dependence on each other, has been very strong during my whole life. As a boy I hope—I had the childish idea—that if I played the Chaconne of Bach beautifully enough—but it would have to be very, very beautiful—I could bring peace. Well, I have not succeeded, but I am still concerned with harmony and with the idea of dynamic balance, of reciprocity of equilibrium, of complementarity.

Yehudi Menuhin during World War II – 27 June 1944 – Capt Maurice Evans – Major 7.B Schultz 147th General Hospital