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"After Fukushima nobody can simply carry on as usual" and claim that our nuclear plants are safe, said German chancellor Angela Merkel on 14th of March 2011, to explain the adventurous shift of her nuclear policy as a consequence of the Japan earthquake. 

This sentence also matches in a way the assessment of a catastrophe 256 years older. "After Lisbon nobody can simply carry on as before and claim that we live in the 'best of all possible worlds' " – that was, in other words, what many European intellectuals felt after the Portuguese capital had been devastated by a fatal earthquake and tsunami on 1st of November 1755.

The "best of all possible worlds" theory had been formulated by Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz in his Essai de Théodicée (1710). It was paradigmatic for the unbroken optimism the early enlightenment had embraced. Yet 39 years after Leibniz's death it was the 1755 earthquake of Lisbon that undermined a central idea of his philosophy. 

But Merkel's adversaries would now object: whoever said nuclear technology was safe (before Fukushima) must have been either ignorant or a lobbyist! Just as Leibniz' posthumous opponents sneered in 1755: whoever said that we lived in the best of all possible words (before Lisbon) must have been either an idiot or a cynic! 

Sunday, 24 April 2011 12:13

I dream of Europe

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Juliane Dybkjaer is reporting live from the Eustory "25 Years After Chernobyl" event in Berlin. As part of the commemorations Eustory have brought together young Europeans from across the continent to interview survivors, write a new history of the event, and discuss what the future of Europe will look like. More about the year long project can be found here.

An amazingly beautiful mansion right by the Kleiner Wannsee is the setting of something extraordinary this week. From Finland in the North to Italy in the South, from Tomsk in the East and Seville in the West, 37 participants from 19 different European countries are gathering here to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, to debate the present and most of all to discuss the future.

What happens when you put 37 young people from different backgrounds into one room and make them talk about the current situation of our continent, what is good and what should be done better? Quite a party, I can tell you that. People come from religious or secular, wealthy or poor, peaceful or troubled societies, and agreeing on one common idea of a better Europe for the future is not an easy task and surely not one that will be completed during a one-week seminar. Nevertheless, when we were asked to write down some notes on how the Europe of our dreams would look, each and every one of us, without exception, imagined a continent with more co-operation; less division and more solidarity between the countries. So the only thing we can agree on is that we would like to see more of each other!

The debate got me thinking, though. In the aftermath of an economical crisis that left Europe more divided than united and in a world situation that leaves many things to wish for in terms of global solidarity, the youth of Europe dreams of a future filled with closeness and interaction. And once in a while, what we may need is just to dream, to be unrealistically positive and to imagine the best possible scenario and not always be shot down with crisis talk, obstacles and a no-can-do mentality. Maybe, our dream could be closer than we think - and anyhow, as we discovered here in Berlin, we might just all share the same dream.

When I dream of Europe, I dream of more collaboration, less regulations, and, of course, more beautiful sunny days like the one I just spent by the banks of the Wannsee lake. 

What do you dream of when you think of Europe?

Friday, 22 April 2011 12:54

Wired in #9: Namasté

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Finally, I get to post about a great band from France! Namasté is probably one of the hippest bands in Paris these days, they've just won the « Lance-Toi En Live » Ricard SA Music Live prize and have been playing cities all over France. It's hard to put their songs into a category, but they could probably be described as something between pop and hip hop. More importantly though, their music puts you in a great mood for spring time and it's definitely time for them to become known all over Europe. Check out E&M's interview with their singer and co-founder Raphaël Cornet!

E&M: Raphaël, you and Kenzo founded the band. Can you tell us a bit about how it all came together?

RC: Kenzo and I have been friends since childhood. Our mothers sang together and when he started playing keyboards, I started playing cello and drums. We started playing together when we were 9 or 10 but that was only briefly. A few years later we met up again and jammed on some jazz classics like 'Caravan'. We didn't see much of each other during high school but in 2006 we began the Namaste adventure. Kenzo was at the keys, I picked up the guitar and started singing and we added a couple of other musicians to perform with us in local bars. In the past 2 years, Kenzo and I have remained the core of the band with various others coming and leaving. Today, the band is Kenzo, Octavio on the cello, Benoit on the bass, Reda on the drums and me.

E&M: How does having a cello in your band shape your sound?

Some time ago on this blog I talked about the dramatic situation of Belarusian journalists and dissidents who were protesting against the falsified presidential election. Unfortunately it's hard to say that events are getting better now, 4 months after Lukashenka’s triumph.

One story is of Andrzej Poczobut, a Polish-Belarusian independent journalist, blogger and correspondent of the Polish press. On April 6th when he was going to participate in a TV link-up conference with the deputies from the EU-Belarus European Parliament Group, he was detained by the Belarusian KGB and charged with 'insulting the president'. Just after the imprisonment Andrzej's house was raided by the KGB and his wife was interrogated for many hours.    

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