Using the Papageno Effect for a better European narrative?

He who wants to preserve and broaden a modern society, rather than losing it, must not stand aside when the climate gets rougher.

‘Dire Testimonianza’, what kind of witness would we make to Europe?

The climate is rough indeed. After the Oslo attacks of Anders Behring Breivik in 2011 the former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg pleaded for more courage:

“We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values. Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.” — Jens Stoltenberg

A guiding principle that found much approval.

However if one looks around right now there seems to be an abundance of ennui, more lack of trust and courage than lightheartedness and tears of joy for what lies ahead of us. Unfortunately the liberal substance doesn’t reveal itself as deep, thick or bulletproof as we would like it to believe. The heart of society stands in the middle of a crossfire of global issues and national debates. Paralysed, torn and lonesome. It seemed to be utterly unthinkable that all progress could be liquidated by either conflicts or culture clashes or by indifference and disinterest. Yet the belief in a common future erodes bit by bit. How do we address global issues and how do we treat each other?

All transformative processes create winners and losers. The winners of this dissolution are the educated, polyglot, the young, mobile and urbane. The losers are the workers with low qualification, only speaking in their mother tongue, the old and frail, the ones who are stuck in their region due to illness or life circumstances. In addition to that they are joined by a middle class that technically doesn’t count to the poor or marginalised but fears a drop in social status or feels the unattainability of their own expectations.

And then there is a global clusterfuck of hard-boiled problems with climate change, the 2008 economic crisis that has not been cleared sufficiently, the terrorism scare, over 65 million refugees, increasing income inequality, smouldering suspected cases of corruption and mismanagement — topped by the spawning of demagogues that use the complexity of the global situation to ambush the population into national concepts. From these above stated points of perception and the current circumstances sombre parties and movements gain attraction — guises that crave nothing more than returning into the womb of a national world.

It’s the art to take these experiences seriously without opting for a xenophobic or nationalistic interpretation. Right-wing populists stage themselves as the only contact persons for these population groups.

That’s a fallacy.

The trend is your friend. Too bad that the trend is going downhill.

Preaching pragmatism is not going to help to turn around.

The turnaround will not happen without a vision, a common goal that guides and channels pragmatic action. A narrative may sound to stilted. A story may sound too innocuous. But what happened to the EU supporters in the Brexit campaign? They kept but warning about the nasty consequences of UK leaving the EU. They didn’t come up with anything remotely positive to convince people that it might be a better idea to stay in the EU.

Europe needs a narration that involves everyone. Idealists and the ones left behind by globalisation. It can tell of something new and utopian. It can tell as well from something old, something which we agreed upon some time ago.

Why not tell the story of a continent’s political coming of age that acknowledges its power as a democratic, liberal and graceful community of values. 
Why not tell the story of a continent that stands for peace and human rights. 
Why not tell the story of the European Single Market that holds up both social standards and competition alike, that sees freedom of movement and regional development.

This narration however has one catch: it needs all Europeans to take responsibility — for themselves, their continent, their neighbourhood and the world. If the EU falls apart — with all those tub-thumping souffleurs on the afterburner — it’ll be almost like in a fairy tale: Once upon a time there was a continent that wallowed in complacency and self-pity. The continent did not want to grow up and lived wasted ever after.

So what’s the cause of death: infirmity or suicide?

In suicide research there’s the concept of the so called Werther effect when a widely publicised suicide triggers a wave of copycat deaths. Then there is the contrary effect: Papageno effect. There’s this scene in The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that is said to be one of the most iconic cases of suicide prevention in cultural history. The public representation of the overcoming of a suicidal crisis results into a decline of self-inflicted deaths.

Why not tell the story…

He who cares for a pluralistic and sustainable society must oppose enemy images, distortions and brutalisations of public discourses. Reply to them with courage and boldness: “more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.”

With Open State we want to do good and share our story like we did last year with our POC21 — an innovation camp for open source sustainability. We won’t succeed in it all.

But we’re telling a good story. Tell us yours.