Diversity? Of course, please! But only then, the trouble sets in.
May 22, 2007 by ruediger

Last night, I was invited by Gerfried Sperl of Der Standard newspaper, to sit on a panel discussing the UNESCO declaration on cultural diversity, together with Unesco’s Austrian representative Gabriele Eschig, writer Marlen Streeruwitz and Green MP Wolfgang Zinggl.

Of course, between us, we considered the Unesco convention to be a positive move in the right direction, given all the obvious changes in the cultural sphere.

But only then, during our debate, I started to realize – and was puzzled – how clearly a line separated two different approaches to its value and perspectives.

Marlen pointed out probably most clearly how she welcomed the declaration as the return of politics into a field that was recently taken over by brutal market forces, and how she expected now small island of protected, secured land to emerge within the general turmoil. For her, in an analyses of power positions, the goal of the declaration was to help those who, like artists, or other minoritarian groups, speak from low power positions, to retain control over ‘their’ cultures and hence their ‘territories’ (while those market driven forces tend to erase such borderlines and territories).

There is no doubt, I guess, that such a threat does exist, and such simple examples like the disappearence of small neighborhood book shops, giving way to non-territorial marketplaces like Amazon, well illustrate what occurs.

Yet, I have my problems with the perspective of a landscape full of fortified, little villages, as urban culture, from its beginning, was based on open spaces, and on opening doors and windows to ease the exchange and communication between the many, and by tearing down the walls of territorial entities.

There is probably no easy answer to this conflicting perspectives, but I understood at least, what the question may be. Which is a pretty good result for an hour and a half of debate, I think.

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