– Eugenia Moreno Ohlsson –
Europe is mainly understood in its geographic context as an entity comprising fifty states. Yet, it is in Europe that we find the European Union, a political and economic organization currently encompassing twenty-seven countries. It is the culmination of a process of European integration that started after WWII with the aim of establishing further economic interdependency amongs its Member States as a solution to conflict. In that way, the more widespread and reliant it became for its members, the more that interests would prevail over a desire for war. Nowadays, one cannot think of Europe without the EU, which shows how essential it has become for the continent.
Most of the region today is constructed on a narrative of commonalities pushed forward by the introduction of the Euro currency in 1999 and further projects that have rendered it as a present and participating actor in areas such as the environment, education and, in some cases, culture.
As a young woman that is part of a generation that sees globalization in a positive manner, one cannot help to also think of its downsides. As society evolves and with it our knowledge and understanding of the world, we strive to grasp other ways of living so as to implement them into our own cultures to further progress. This essay will be exploring the question through the concept of “Kintsugi” (金継ぎ) that is nothing but a fundamental philosophy in Japanese culture. In its literal context means “to join with gold” (kin= golden; tsugi= joinery) and derives from the Japanese “Zen” (ぜん) theme in Buddhist philosophy. It became a prominent artistic feature in Japan XVII Century and consisted on applying a gold-colored lacquer to reassemble broken pottery. In that way, the flaws of its breakage would not be hidden but instead beautifully exposed. With that, Kintsugi became an intrinsic part of Japanese culture and society as it was no longer reserved to art but became present in the daily lives of the Japanese.
Nowadays, one cannot think of Europe without the EU, which shows how essential it has become for the continent
Another aspect of it lies in its idea of “ma” (間) or “negative space”, which the Japanese call a “relation” between the intrinsic parts of the broken object. If we go back to the instance of pottery, “Ma” would emphasize rather than mask the fact that the pot is broken since wreckage is now part of the object. When translating this into human relations, the Japanese see bondage as a very important feature to their society since it creates a sense of unity that facilitates a homogenous, harmonious way of life.
So how does “Kintsugi” fit into what is expected from Europe? Having mentioned the fact that the EU has become one of the most prominent and influencing organizations of our time, especially within the European continent, young people would expect it to continue expanding itself to carry out what it was set to do among other things: defend and preserve peace as well as protecting our human rights and making these accessible to all its members. Of course, pluralism is a prominent feature within Europe and the dynamics of the European Union itself as the latter claims through their Charter their desire to “respect [the] rich cultural diversity” of the continent through the granting of individual freedoms such as “freedom of thought, religion” etc.
The Japanese model of “Kintsugi” is especially helpful as it promotes the perfect concept of “unity within diversity” in two ways. First, through human bondage since it represents the gold lacquer fundamental to unite people. Thus, it removes the “ma” or negative space by consolidating bondages and reassembling a continent that is so diverse to make it stronger, more peaceful and sufficiently homogenous to hold itself strong and create something beautiful. Much like with pottery. The other less evident yet significant aspect promoted by “Kintsugi” is the fact that it does not hide breakage since negative space is viewed positively as a turning point and a chance to create. It is the moment where the object, instead of becoming waste, is transformed into something new that still maintains parts of its original pattern. The same should be applied to Europe.
Young people do not wish to see the continent transform into something unrecognizable and so new it holds nothing from its old roots. They want to still relate to their neighbors and have something that ties them to their ancestors and home countries all at the same time. Culture is a fundamental aspect to the individual, as it renders the individual unique in their take of their country’s history and practices all while it connects them to a community they can feel at home in. In other words, it provides them with safety. Of course, there can be breakage due to a given crisis and certain pieces could also be lost along the way and never retrieved. However, the ending product will always be one single, beautiful piece with its highlighted golden borders that render Europe pluralist without hindering its prospects for unity.
Young people do not wish to see the continent transform into something unrecognizable and so new it holds nothing from its old roots
In conclusion, young people are first expecting Europe to provide a stable and secured future. Despite the many crisis that have appeared as a result of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, in between others, one must not forget that breakage is golden as it provides for an opportunity to transform and progress without altering a basic moral stance; in the case of Europe that is preserve and push forward further human rights and assurance for its citizens. Furthermore, difference and borders do not necessarily create negative space. Instead, as advocated by “ma”, cracks show a relation between all of the object’s fragmented parts that when joined together create one beautiful, unique piece. That unity in diversity is what young people, as part of a globalized society strive for: a celebration of uniqueness while still seeking for commonalities that draw Europe closer together and aid to preserve peace.
Eugenia Moreno Olhsson, alumna del Máster Universitario en Relaciones Internacionales del Real Instituto Universitario de Estudios Europeos.