‘ The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them’ Ernest Hemingway
This week on the State Of the European Union debate #SOTEU, Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, introduced his speech highlighting that the ‘wind is on Europe’s sail’, and that ‘Our values are our compass. For me, Europe is more than just a single market. More than money, more than the euro. It was always about values’. He pointed out three principles that must always anchor the European Union:
A Union of freedom from any kind of opression
A Union of equality, remarking that ‘In a Union of equals, there can be no second class citizens’
Third, our Union is not a State but it is a community of law
However these principles are fundamental for the prosperity and cohesion of the European Union and, in a wider sense, to any region or community in the world, it seems that a large part of European citizens do not –at least- perceive these principles on their everyday lives. They do not yet feel the wind back on the Union, because they do not feel the wind back on their lives and on their communities. This discontent with the current ‘status quo’ has been spoken out by the British people vote for Brexit and by a growing number of euro-sceptics in Poland, Hungary and other Member States; and on the other side of the Atlantic by the election of Trump as President of the US.
So why is this disenchantment spreading all over the ‘Western’ societies?
I went yesterday to Elektrownia Studyjne Kino, (a cinema co-founded by EU at Masovian Contemporary art Centre, Radom, Poland), to watch the Polish ‘premiery’ of the last Palm D’Or at Cannes Film Festival, The Square, a Swedish film directed by Ruben Östlund (and also supported by EU), which helped me to find the path for answering this question and understanding what is happening.
The Square is a poignant satirical drama reflecting our time; about how the sense of community and moral courage have been lost; about the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world; about the lack of trust and care about others, about our community and, in consequence, about oneself as human being.
The Square shows a broken society in which there not only second class citizens, but ‘human waste’ as Zygmunt Bauman described the wasted lives of the ‘superfluous’ populations of migrants, refugees and other outcasts as an ‘unavoidable’ side effect of economic prosperity.
Christian, the protagonist of the film, presents the idea behind a new artistic project that will be shown at the museum of which he is director, The Square, which symbolizes ‘trust and care’: everyone in it has equal rights and responsibilities within. People refer to each other with respect and help themselves’. This sounds great, in theory, in practice the movie shows that elementary concern for another man seems to be utopia, which has no right to exist in a postmodern, socially overlooked society.
The principles that President Juncker has highlighted on his SOTEU speech sound also great in theory; however it is needed a strong effort to implement them in practice to be able to transform the actual populism and discontent into a sense of collective purpose and community based on mutual trust, care and genuine interest for the other, open to diversity and the richness of complex identities of nowadays.
Although the European Commission, the European Union and Member States have to work hard on transforming the ‘community of law’ –which is necessary but not sufficient- into a ‘community of citizens’ in order to open up new horizons for the European project, it is resposibility also of the citizens themselves and of the different actors and stakeholders who we together shape our society, our economy, our art and culture and our institutions.
In doing so, we all will be contributing to our own prosperity, economic and community development. Nonetheless Guidao Tabelini on ‘Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe’ (2010) proves that ‘trust’ and ‘values’ contributes to economic prosperity.
But how we can regain the lost ‘trust’? The best way, as E. Hemingway said, is simply to start trusting others.