Actors, artists and performers—from Marina Abramović to Grayson Perry—argue it is time for Europe's artists to make themselves heardby Bernard-Henri Lévy / June 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
Europe is on the ropes. The rise of extremism and populism; the return of nationalism in various guises; the prospect of Brexit in Britain; the success, in Hungary, Austria, and elsewhere, of illiberal regimes bent on destroying democracy with its own tools—all of these developments threaten the lofty idea of a continent of peace and freedom; all of them cast doubt on the prospect of a community of diverse peoples united by a culture that rose from the ashes of the Second World War, one bound together by shared values and open to the rest of the world.
Three-quarters of a century from the cataclysm, Europe needs touchstones more than ever. More than ever it needs to reaffirm its paradoxical unity, its soul forged from tragedy and pulsing with the invincible life of dreams and ideas. More than ever it needs to remember that it is so much more than a bureaucracy operating under incomprehensible rules and spouting murky directives sometimes worthy of Franz Kafka. We never forget that Europe is also the free circulation of ideas and works of art and thought. Europe is the homeland of philosophers, poets, and artists. Europe encourages the trade of ideas, the flowering of beauty, the freedom to create. And Europe is something else, which we too often forget: it is a shared aesthetic heritage and memory.
Europe was a land in which great catastrophes, perhaps the worst that contemporary humankind has known, were born and spread. But it is also the land in which those catastrophes have been pondered and mourned, deeply, dutifully, unflaggingly. It is the land in which were conceived the institutional and intellectual tools needed to prevent the return of evil. And we must not forget that it is toward Europe, toward its idea of freedom, law, and human rights, toward its project of creating a civilization in which the systematic persecution of bodies and souls has been banished, that persecuted people everywhere turn to escape the savagery of dictatorship.
Yet today this same continent is prey to external powers that would subject and dismember it; to internal forces that would have Europe shed the noble burden of concern for others, of hospitality without borders, and of the sanctity of law;…