Reinventing agora in united Europe

A draft of the presentation by Krzysztof Czyzewski
European Cultural
Parliament, Genoa 2005

The paradox of the modern world consists of a fact that,
while becoming global and international, it has lost the agora – a meeting
ground for dialogue and civilization construction. This in turn is tied to the
crisis of multiculturalism and with the common trend of differentiating and
retirement of separateness. In its more radical form this is expressed by
confrontation and clash of cultures. The consequent of this is experienced
everywhere lack of leadership based on bridge-building and understanding of the
otherness. This aspects are of significant importance in today’s Europe, where
an ongoing process of enlargement is confronted with a challenge of newly opened
borders (or abolished walls) with its central and eastern part, a different part
in terms of historical experience or cultural inclinations.

The problem which we ought to come to terms with in near
future of the European enlargement  is the problem of reinventing of the
agora in the contemporary multicultural society. The reinvention of the agora is
a challenge that differs slightly from the struggle for human rights, although
it is closely related to it. Similarly, the reconstruction or construction of
bridges in the diversified society is merely, but significantly, a road leading
up to agora. Not all of the bridges are as bridge on the Drina described by Ivo
Andric, with its kapia – a widening with benches for sitting, where people would
meet and conduct debates. The creation of that sort of space is not a priority
in terms of legislation, economics or government. It is most of all a question
of culture – in the sense of ethos, identity, education and

An important thing is to see this problematic from both
sides: philosophical, conceptual one (a new culture paradigma of dialogue) and
practical one, which transfers ideas to the concrete community life (concepts of
buildung, longue duree, active culture).
The Borderland Foundation’s
experience and practice helps to bridge this two perspectives.

Bridge-builders: new leadership in the era of

  The contemporary multicultural
world presents us with several models of leadership, which partially are
resultant from historical circumstances and are rooted in social structures. On
the other hand, these can also be perceived as a response to challenges of the
new era. An example of such model can be a type of leadership based on the idea
of particularism, which is limited to representation of particular interests of
one group within the bounds of the diverse society – this can be illustrated by
the minority organizations leadership, but it is also a result of the very
existence of strong nation-states. This model in the globalization era does not
have to loose its force and become anachronistic, for as long as the
globalization is perceived as a threat to national and other identities and as a
phenomenon bringing with itself forced unification and cultural uprootedness, it
will maintain it vitality.

Another model which does not necessarily belong to the past,
and which is particularly well known in my part of the world, is the
authoritarian model. The real paradox here is that people who have suffered
discrimination and injustice from various sorts of dictatorships do betray a
sort of nostalgia for the new forms of authoritarian leadership and keep on
encountering problems with the newly found freedom, characterized by a sense of
loss and confusion. The natural antidote to these problems seems to be a return
of the strong centralized government. Violent socio-political solution within
the pluralistic society is particularly dangerous and it can result in all too
familiar nightmares of ethnic cleansing, ostracizing of entire groups and other
kinds of “simple solutions” for complex problems which prima facie seem

It is important to stress that these two forms of
leadership: particular and authoritarian, can find fertile soil for development
in the era of globalization. Given this, the third model is of particular
importance; let it be called bridge-builder’s leadership. It opposes the
particular model with the intercultural dialogue, and it negates the
authoritarian through partnership and civil society. In this model, the crucial
is the function of connecting two concrete phenomena, as it is with the symbolic
bridge which connects one c o n c r e t e bank with another concrete bank.

Thus, it is based on concrete situations in the real community, such as the
notion of the neighborhood defined by a face-to-face proximity of people. This
is of particular importance in the context of the globalization, which is often
perceived as something of a general and over-the-head sort, which does involve a
meeting with diversity but on very superficial bases. In some sense in the
Central-Eastern Europe we have already experienced globalization, which under
the Soviet rule was known as internationalism or international brotherhood of
nations. This experience has thought us that this sort of global friendship,
lacking concrete truth and real inter-human references, and realized within the
first two models of leadership can bear disastrous effects.

And so the question we face today is what alternative can be
found for such situations. I believe it to be the bridge-builder’s model.

This type cannot be understood as opposing the globalization processes as it
is not contrary to it, rather it shares the same spirit, but it replaces or
rather enriches – and here let me use another metaphor – the transatlantic
flight, which brings two  with a whole array of bridges between neighbors.
This leadership model has to be based on the organic work in the local community
and on the activity within the context of historical background and the
collective memory of the given community.     

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