WEEK 5: 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.”