Community⎮of values

community⎮of values

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.

What’s next?

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!

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