Newsletter of the European Committee of the Regions 20 January 1999 – Cultural Diversity: An underlying principle of European Integration
An interview with Yehudi Menuhin
“Politicians must know and understand every note of their score and the sound of every note – every voice in their community… and be able to communicate the score to citizens they serve in the most human way”. As a prelude to the Committee of the Regions’ forum ‘A Europe of cultures in a Europe of Regions’, Lord Menuhin voices his thoughts on how cultural interaction can create better relations between people and act as a positive force in the fight against racism.
Can music really help bridge the ‘understanding gap’ that lies between the average European citizen and his/her appreciation of minority culture?
It would be naïve to imagine that playing a violin live or on a recording can arrest prejudice or violence. But participating in the culture of others (including getting to know one’s own better) through singing and dancing of their rich folklore, or in the creative exercise of mime martial arts or other arts help raise people’s level of conduct – from brutal to enlightened, from the crude to the nuanced, from weak and merely obedient to strong and critical.
Getting the message across to young people is a vital link in increasing tolerance in today’s society. How do you suggest that educators and local and regional governments can best gain the support of the younger generation?
By not imposing their own prejudices on the young, by respecting and encouraging acts of compassion and understanding. Educators and politicians should learn to trust those young people who already think more clearly than their contemporaries and allow them to carry the future on their shoulders. Give these young people the responsibility.
It looks as though a difficult economic transition period lies ahead for many Europeans. How can our society retain its solidarity and improve its tolerance record- and avoid sliding back into extremism and persecution of minorities?
By assuring a respectable, dignified life and basic comforts for all. This includes access for all to literature and the arts, sport, holidays, radio, television, sufficient living space, hot water, etc. The point I raised in the previous two answers should also be addressed. It is important that a respect for, all of life, is instilled in people – by instilling humility, poetry and humour and by insisting on quality rather than quantity in everyday life.
What can a politician learn from musician in terms of communicating with people, building consensus or security agreement on delicate or controversial topics?
A good politician, will know and understand every note of his/her score, and every sound of each note – each voice in his or her community. They will interpret this score to the citizens they serve in the most human and communicative way.
To encourage the tolerance and understanding of the opposition and build bridges of open-minded dialogue between the members of his/her constituency, instead of pitting them against each other.
To withhold any word of aggression or insult about opponents – unless that person or party is guilty of a lack of compassion – as are parties dedicated to criminal action and the fanning of prejudice. Political parties with these agendas should not be allowed.
To guide the public to develop more self-reliant and self-critical qualities.
To fight against the consumer mentality, the lowest common denominator, and the use of sex and violence as a means to gain power and money.