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Article Contributing Writers ROOTS - MAR/APR 2019

Roots and Wings

Written by Alessandro Prest

While starting his article, I was wondering, “What are roots?”

What are the roots for us human beings, for mankind?

The more I try to find an answer, the more entangled the question becomes. Every human has them, yet they are totally different from individual to individual, a somewhat incomparable inter eos.

They are who we are, and why we are so; they are our past, our present and sometimes our future.

Roots describe our origins, the deepest shades of our soul. They are our values, taboos, and aspirations. They penetrate our life when we are young because we need a model to emulate. They are there, mutable in content and immutable in time.

Not Just Ties to Our Past

As adults we craft our roots in our own way, we interpret them, we make them, even more, our own. Nobody really takes them as set in stone, otherwise, the world would never change.

Each person has their own reasoning and we recall our roots in a unique way. We are capable of treasuring their content, taking them with us wherever we go, and applying them to the reality we live in. We see the best in them, then we discover their faults with new situations. The opposite is also true: we see a situation and our roots tell us how it could be improved.

There is a continuous exchange between our roots and the real world.

It’s true they can sometimes be our future, too; for instance, when someone remains glued to their home, their views, and habits. Without judging such conduct, I can affirm that it is a life that mostly reinforces one’s roots and makes them more resilient.

There is a saying back home in Italy: A people without memory is a people without history.”

That is what roots are. Our memories, our history, our culture, our traditions, our beliefs, and those of the social groups we belong to, be a that close family, a nation, a local region or something else. Roots are the quintessence of our Weltanschauung – they are the reasons we see the world as we do.

Photo by Elijah Boisvert

A Necessary Hindrance

I would say roots are needed to shape an identity. Having a model to emulate or some values to achieve makes life much easier.

Our roots, they hold us tight and we hold tightly onto them; they strengthen us. They are our way to confide in our capabilities, our way to build up our knowledge.

Nevertheless, we all have this urge to fly away from them, to soar the sky, to dare something, to fight our fears. That’s our way to try and grow up, to follow our hearts and to start living our own lives.

When we become adults, we transition to a new social group and we step out into the “big world.” It is a very weird sensation (at least for me).

In order to make a place in the world, we must fly away from our nest, which – after all – rests fixed upon roots. The tree remains there, stuck to the ground, a solid reference forever in life.

If you do not know where to go or what to do, you know you can go back to your roots then return rested to the world. Roots are the very first yardstick in the confrontation with our lot life, but they are just and always the starting point.

The Interaction and Exchange of Roots

I have asked myself whether roots can change, and I have come to the conclusion that their mutation is of an addictive nature.

As soon as we step out in the big wide world, we are confronted with people who are different; we will inevitably make a comparison and that comparison will have consequences on our views.

We may find someone else’s habits or conduct weird or illogical, but we may also discover a new and improved way to do something, something we never considered just because we weren’t aware of it. Whenever this alternative is positive, the odds are high that it will become a new habit, a new root.

Roots are added on to, one after another. As long as life is lived it is a learning process. This learning process is sometimes unconscious; we see what is better and what is worse, and we try to achieve the former.

Photo by Matthew Kerslake

Giving Rise to New Shoots

Personally speaking, I must say I interpreted some of my Italian roots differently since I moved to the Netherlands, for good and ill, and I have added some Dutch roots to my luggage.

Roots are important because they can help us improve: we must know where we come from in order to celebrate the achievements of our progress.

Alas, we often forget that.

Art ROOTS - MAR/APR 2019 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

Chomp Chomp

Art and Text by Tuisku “Snow” Kolu

a hippo bites a zebra

Chomp Chomp by Tuisku “Snow” Kolu

CHOMP CHOMP goes the Hippo!

The Zebra kicks and squeals!

An instinctual action can have consequences beyond your realization, beyond your momentary lapse in judgment.

Action will always be followed by reaction.

Poetry ROOTS - MAR/APR 2019 Sybrand Veeger

Expansion and Contraction

Written by Sybrand Veeger

Expansion and Contraction:

I wasn’t the first to observe:
Nature expands through light
And contracts through gravity.

If this is nature’s music, her chordal root,
I’d like to dig deeper,
To play further:

Time’s movement cannot be linear.
It must follow the reality of light and gravity.

Perhaps timelessness, infinity,
Could be thought to resemble contraction.
Maybe timeliness, finitude,
Could be thought to resemble expansion.

What lives, grows and dies, is that which expands,
That which swells reality.
What is and is perpetually, energy, for instance,
Bears upon the finite,
Forcing it to yield,
Like gravity does on light!

The Spirit and Matter of history,
As Hegel and Marx observed respectively,
Dance tango to a pulsing beat:
The rhythm of Time’s dialectical feet.

If we listen closely to the music of history,
We detect its movements:

The allegro of Antiquity,
An adagio in early christianity,
A lentando into the middle age,
And a renaissance crescendo into an enlightened revolution – Accelerando!

Then modernity produced industry,
Which in turn swelled inequality,
Poverty, crooked morality:
The total misery of humanity.

Although there’s some delight in science, technology, globality!
Thanks to which nationality has lost some gravity.

History, then, moves accordingly:
Like an atom, chord and strings,
Expansively and contractively.

There are some tunes left in the chord root of Nature:

The body, human or otherwise,
Follows the tempo of a pump:
The neck’s pulse, the heart’s thump,
Allows for breath to dance likewise.

Exhalations, inhalations,
The vibrations, my pulsations.
Expansions and contractions
At the core of all sensations.

All that’s left is the spirit, the mind,
I hope it tango’s á la divine.
Contributing Creators Game Phillip Morris ROOTS - MAR/APR 2019

Generations: Lucia

Created By Ana Barretto, Vera Grosskop & Phillip Morris

 

Generations: Lucia tells the story of a Latin American woman escaping revolution in her home country by immigrating to the Netherlands in the mid-20th century.

The creators drew on personal experience to tell this story of the strength it takes to put down roots in a strange land. They hope to continue the game in future updates.

Click the image to play

Generations: Lucia was made for the Culture Arcade Game Jam organized by the Value Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund.

  *The game might not work properly on mobile devices. 
Jonas Guigonnat Prose ROOTS - MAR/APR 2019

Roots of a Rocking Political Event: The Brexit

Written by Jonas Guigonnat

The Tale of the Old King and the Dandy

The world around us is unlike anything it ever was. Changes operate permanently, even on a microscopic scale, technocrats transform mass-politics into digi-democracies and most of the western world asks itself what its identity really is.

Not that long ago the democratic world-view was claiming a victory on history.

Divisions between folks, ideologies, cultures, nations and continents were meant to make place for the last step of human modernity toward world unity. History was to show us how progress works toward its (democratic) accomplishment.

The past seemed – for a while – tangible, real and existent on its own. What we were told from above was the truth. Facts were facts, we heard, there was thus apparently no reason to doubt our version of the world and its history.

Those ideas came from old king Europe, who had, for a short historic while, the world in the grasp of his hand.

He once believed in being at the center of the universe. Every bit of wealth, knowledge and kingdom had to belong to him. When he discovered the West Indies – a little more than 5 centuries ago – he transformed the place into his own private garden and called it the Americas.

But this old king had a bad habit: turning his own children, who considered themselves lands, against each other in a fight to the death.

Some of them, who were sent to the American garden to be its guardians, had enough of this game, refused to obey and rebelled against their father. They discovered, far away from him, on that other continent, the possibilities of becoming an entity of its own – independent.

This new independent country had to be funded on values that were subversive to the old king, almost to the point of arrogance. Otherwise, they would have been destroyed by the one they were facing.

The conflict that followed was to be of legendary proportions, the old king trying to annihilate the rebels, who were developing and strengthening their new identity in the heart of the battle. As a result of that war, out of the ashes, rose the American Dandy.

Almost a century and a half later, some of his other children, fighting to divide the colonized world between each other, ultimately brought destruction to the old king – a conflict he ultimately lost after the whole world settled its score with him twice in half a century.

Without being the only or real winner coming out of the two world conflicts, the American Dandy was far stronger than the dying king, but willing to negotiate the new world order with what remained of him.

The young American Dandy was using norms and values familiar to the surviving children, they were easy enough to be understood by all. Those values were also to be universal and true for all humans, in the name of progress.

Let’s just doubt the idea that this progressive version of history really is the root of our chaotic present.

Photo by Gui Avelar

Stepping Out of the Fairytale

Human memory is the filter transforming the complicated soup of what lies behind us into a meaningful past. Collective memories are ones of political motivations and institutional signature. What we are told is thus nothing more than… what we are told.

It is then possible to see the last 70 years as something else than as a race to peace and unity. This race makes sense in a specific discourse: the American version of the democratic world-view, which did win many conflicts in the twentieth century to bring peace to the whole world. But every process, as far as the past is concerned, fluctuates and eventually changes into something different than what it was.

The transatlantic network wasn’t just a question of ideals.

With Stalin and Russia, as the biggest winners, taking all of the Balkan countries for himself, on the east side of the European continent, the clock was ticking. Some in Western Europe, out of the ruins of their country, saw the choice between a transatlantic world and a Soviet one as a devil’s choice.

Leaping Back In

But the Dandy had an ally in that choice: the dusty old British lord.

The British lord was, from the start, a part of the European family. But he liked to believe that he was different from the rest, an island thing as they say. At the end of World War II, he got that right in a way, and may have been the only one not really on the losers side in Western Europe. He was weakened and it paid.

Though he distrusted everyone and believed for a long time that he was meant to rule the world, he accepted the proposition made by Dandy – who was once his son, now considered a retarded nephew – while knowing he had to lose his colonies in other continents to close the deal.

With the British on his side, the Dandy thought it was just a question of time before the stubborn old king would give up his defense and accept his rule.

But in an unexpected turn of events, two of the king’s children, the French general and the almost totally destroyed German warlord, were creating a back-stop that was meant to diminish the dependence of West-Europe toward any foreign force in the future. The old French general was hoping to keep his colonies, and the vanquished German to avoid the same humiliation he experienced when signing at Versailles in 1919.

Old king Europe had to transform himself to survive and, making his way up between the Dandy and the Russians, he became at first an economic force to be internationally considered. But this new Europe wasn’t to play an important political role again just yet.

The ball was rolling in unexpected ways.

Shake Off the Tale

After two decades of struggle against too much influence from any party, and the refusal of decolonizing countries in Africa and Asia, the new Europe had, at the end of the 1960s, to pick a side. As an isolated rebel continent, it could not have stood against the forces at play.

The voice of the British neighborhood was still clearer to hear. They were asking for collaboration with the Americans. A compromise was the only option, and it was clear the old continent wasn’t going to take a dominant position in the negotiation. The dispute for the main vision of Europe was just starting.

It comes finally to one crucial decision: how centralized to make the politico-economic Europe.

To France, where centralization is the core of politics, it couldn’t be centralized enough. For the British it was the opposite, states had to maintain full sovereignty and use a political Europe mostly to keep peace and trades stable. Regulations were to be imposed only if necessary. Two visions still dividing the monopole of today’s European Union.

The dispute continued in the 70s and 80s, with new mythical figures like the conservative Margaret Thatcher on the British side (known as the Iron Lady for her toughness), the French socialist, François Mitterrand, and the German liberal, Helmut Kohl, coming on stage.

The moves that were made were tactical, each party realizing that hasty decisions could put the fragile collaboration in danger.

But then, a wall fell down.

The political balance inside of the European project itself, was to be shaken as a consequence of that falling wall, and some processes to be accelerated. The discussion about centralization took a new turn, as all of Eastern Europe, that was now free of the Soviet rule, was potentially to

“participate” in the project.

For the ones fond of centralized powers, it was clear that nothing could be done without strong political structures. European norms, values, and thus rules, had to be broadly accepted in order to receive an entrance ticket. The structures that had to ensure that this process went well could only be legitimately anchored in strong treaties and regulations.

A strong center of power in Europe was needed more than ever.

But the balance of power was also to in doubt. Germany became a whole country once again, reuniting east and west, but the implication were complex. The war that ended four decades earlier was still fresh in collective and individual memories. A strong Germany didn’t sound like a bright idea, knowing “what happened last time.”

Maybe also for that reason, even more power was given to the center of this symbiotic entity that was called the European Union. At its center was a French-speaking city located in Belgium: Bruxelles. The back-up place had to be in Strasburg, a French city which has been alternately German and French since the war between both countries in 1871. Compromise was thus made, in a way.

France emerged as one of the “rightful” founding fathers of the European project, and, without a doubt, was the most powerful, historically, politically, and economically. Therefore, he was also the most legitimized one to supervise the whole affair. Margaret Thatcher accepted on behalf of the United Kingdom (anything but too strong a Germany).

Photo by Jaime Casap

Towards an Ever Closer Union

Few things were refused by the British, like the Euro as a unique currency; the Iron Lady gave in on many points. The ball seemed to stop rolling and the traditional dispute about Europe to fade away. But this was just for a little while.

After a short period of happily ever after, between 1993 and 2001, the international atmosphere changed radically following the events on September 11, 2001. Wars were to be started again (mostly in the Middle-East) and the idea of the foreigner as an enemy came back into our daily lives.

Aside from the fear of terrorism, social problems were developing due to the enlargement of the European Union. Without frontiers, the continent was full of better opportunities for those living in countries trying to reconstruct themselves after almost 50 years of Soviet rule.

Some countries were more popular than others, as much for those running from conflicts in the Middle-East, as for the East-Europeans eager to make something new out of their lives. But Great Britain, and England in particular, was the Eldorado (as the “Jungle of Calais” shows us France would not be). Desperate souls from all horizons wanted to reach the new promised land.

The traditional reservations of Great Britain toward the centralized European project were, in this context, easy to revive. It is already clear where that ultimately brings us to.

Brexit is the End of a Long Tale

The reasons discussed above (among many others) may have contributed to the British voting for Brexit. Looking for the roots of this rocking event, one may stumble on the complexity of all kinds of processes, many of which aren’t always clear to us. What will happen is even less possible to answer – even a month before it happens.

Time will give its answer, laughing at us, as usual, when revealing the new reality emerging out of panic and chaos.