This is going to be a post about Europe, about Italy, my ‘home’, roots, migration and cultural identity. A bit of a mixup, so please bear with me.
When the 2016 Brexit referendum results came out I was shocked, like many others, by them. At that point I’d been living in the UK (England first, norther Ireland later) for the good part of 7 years, and I felt a little bit of a UK citizen, or at least, I felt more of a European than an Italian. So the results hit me like the shot to the heart. Back then I naively believed that borders were useless and passports just an annoyance.
A year later, I moved to the Netherlands to pursue my current position as a postdoctoral researcher. A true Generation Y kid, moving around countries in search of better jobs. Which would not be possible without Europe and its open borders. I do know that I am extremely lucky, and I do know that Europe is a good thing for this. But my ‘pro- Europe- without-doubts’ mind is taking some turns with doubts beginning to arise.
European countries are not all equal, and well, they shouldn’t be, right? If we homogenise too much we are at risk of fully losing our cultural identities.
Travel to the Netherlands, Germany and other northern countries and then go straight to Italy, or Spain, or Greece and you will see a big difference. It is obvious that the first group does not have to deal with corruptions and mafias typical of the southern countries, that bureaucracy works and there are modern systems to pay your bills and fill forms, which you can only do in person after long queues and after trying different offices in the second group of countries. Yet the second are expected to keep up with the first. But should they?
I believe it is worse for economies if those southern countries are expected to keep up with the north. It is not possible, we are different. I found more similarities between Morocco and Italy that I can find between the Netherlands and home. We may have to obey certain safety standards, yet we still have one of the greatest rates of dead people on the workplace. Would it be that perhaps with less fake bureaucracy we would do better? Left to obey our own rules? If you saw how houses are being built in Moroccan villages , what kind of wooden planks they use to climber up, from far away it really doesn’t look good, but hey the work goes on and they seem to be safe enough having it built for themselves (I bet, no health and safety forms required)...
So, somedays I wonder - shouldn't we give up on the idea of a whole Europe and maybe make two Europes?
Would make a Europe of the South centered around the mediterranean sea (and perhaps incorporating some other countries) and one of the North, help (both, so the Southern aren't as constraint and the Northern don't have to constantly spend to bail the South?),
Are there other solutions?
And can Europe ever work?
This is another post inspired by my recent trip to Morocco , though this is one I rather not be writing...
I was striked on some of my beach walks by the amount of plastic washed up. Yes, we know that plastic pollution in the ocean is a problem, but we seldom see it first eye on our beaches that are often cleaned up (and one may wonder where does it all end up?perhaps back in the sea to begin the cycle again? Or reduced into smaller particles with all of its associated problems...). In Morocco the problem is evident , right there, in front of everyone eyes.
Some other reasons, beach cleaning aside, may be the cause of these plastic beaches:
So, think again of the impact you may have with your plastic consumption - we may have created political borders but the environment doesn’t know about them! And always be critical when you travel, try to adapt and live like a local instead of finding produces that you will get at home, you might find it enhances the cultural values of your trip (yes I bought some buttermilk from a street vendor/local farmer and I am still alive).
An eco, sustainable and holistic lifestyle cannot be achieved simply by doing the right things inside of our homes, thinking that we are great for doing so yet forgetting about the world outside. We may feel like we are doing great: recycle, tick, shop local, tick, reduce plastic, tick. Turn the tv on and get outraged by politicians racism, tick. Yet - if we are just focusing on our own behaviour we are missing a trick. Humans are social animals, and as such we not only need one another (read lykke - if you are searching for happiness, connections with others is all you need!), but we also influence one another as we copy behaviours, especially as children copying from our closest relatives. But, there is always a but. How can we make meaningful connections when we fear the unknown? When we fear one another? The fear is instilled on us by our parents telling us not to accept sweets from strangers on the first times they let us venture alone, and it goes on. So I found myself on many solo adventures, lastly to Morocco, with an innate will to talk and discover, yet an instilled fear. But I let myself use the fear as my antennae for danger and let myself be curious and discover. In doing so I made new friends, learnt things about Islam that I wouldn’t otherwise, learnt to cook a real tagine, found some great surf spots, heard tales from the desert and learnt about different tribes and different navigations system with compasses. I have some new views on life, and I am even more accepting. I understand how hard it is to emigrate, and having seen this place I really wonder why would anyone ever want to leave it?
Anyway - what I am saying is that an open mind is also an integral part of a holistic life and we should make sure to always have one. It doesn’t mean to never be careful, we should be always, but use this fear as antennae to keep you safe and don’t let it become a barrier. You may find that you will learn a lot, through others, with others, you will also teach something and feel rewarded from it. And together, only together, we have the power to change the world.
I have been spending last week travelling in Marocco. I have got to say that I am at least a little bit in love with this place!
I will also say that I have encountered some very weird and interesting cultural mixups.
In what other country would you see a man selling milk from large plastic bottles from the back of its car, pouring into plastic bags (I mean buying milk from a ziplock bags, would worry me, not just from the hygienic sides - looked clean enough in all fairness- but also for its burst potential)? And next to him, a Danone van - providing milk and yoghurt to the local little shops in unnecessary packages, which the country will have to deal with as part of their rubbish management.
Same goes for coffee, while on one hand you have coffees being ‘delivered’ around in big thermos with a cart in the old part of the medina, you just need to walk 10 minutes outside the old city walls to find a Starbucks. You can find chicken skewers fresh from the grill, and a kfc. Hand weaves carpets, hand painted ceramic, and a Zara home. Natural cosmetics with herbs, herbal remedies and an Yves rocher.
And I could go on, all brands represented. The one mentioned only used for representation.
And my impression is that I don’t like it, I don’t like this globalisation, this homologation of cultures, making everything look the same. I already did not like it in Europe. So let’s take back our cultural identities, learn to appreciate cultural differences, and embrace a world with all of its uniqueness.
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