This word is almost common fashion in Europe — the community of values. The word is so to say the ethical and moral foundation of what unites us. Among the principles are human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law as well as human and minority rights. As Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union reads: „The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.“
All these principles sound great. But do we actually all adhere to the same values? And what do these basic values mean in our every day life? In the coming weeks I would like to take a look at this, together with you.
Same same — but different?
Of interest is first (watch out, philosophy around!) the question of universality or cultural relativity of values. meaning: Do we all mean the same thing by our values, or de we differ. When Miguel from Spain hears the word „freedom“, does he think the same as Adeline from France and Marta from Poland?
On the pro side: These principles should go of everyone. But if values would be culturally different, one would already be in breach of some of them (e.g. non discrimination). Where should be room for interpretation, speaking for example of freedom?
But there are also arguments for the con side: Our values have grown over years and centuries pretty much independently from one another. We have a different history and different traditions. Human rights for example came only via the American Constitutional process to the French Revolution and to the rest of Europe. Only in the aftermath of these developments, our modern understanding has been formulated.
Different heads, different thoughts
For sure the founding fathers and mothers of Europe had very concrete values in mind when drafting Article 2. But still, for the people in Europe there is quite some room for discussion. Giacomo for example writes in a discussion on values in Europe (see www.debatingeurope.eu): „Peace, collaboration and respect, these are our true values. The Erasmus program, the scientific community, the smiles across our borders. These is what we are becoming, united. Turning our backs and fall apart is anachronistic, unity is the only bright future.“ In contrast Maria writes: „The problem is that Europe, once it has let money count more than people, has lost its values. Today we only talk about values, because of the economic crisis. If it did not exist nobody would remember them. I do not know if I want Europe to return to its values or create new values. What I do know is that to continue as we are, it will be us, human beings to blame for our own extinction. The greatest value and what is most forgotten is the value of solidarity, I ask whether Europe has ever really used this value. Our European society has to have a debate about the world we want in our present and what it wants to leave for our descendants in the future.“
A union of values does not only need values, but also union. A union which does not only on paper refer to the same principles, but also lives them in their everyday-life.
How we live our values — this is what I want to look at in the coming weeks. How do we live democracy? How human dignity, personal freedoms, rule of law? The topics and values differe, but what they have in common: They are the foundation of our community and perception.
First is going to be the topic of democracy. What does this mean to you? Please do send me your texts, pictures, points to make!