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Abstract

In the twenty-first century, the world will be increasingly multicultural and our societies more and more globalised. This will create many risks and challenges but also many opportunities. The more global the world is, the more important cultural contacts and cultural networks between nations will be. And Europe is the continent that is once again leading in this regard. As a result of intensive immigration from Africa and Asia in the twenty-first century, a very interesting multicultural environment is being created. And if, in the second half of the twentieth century, a real cultural revolution was born on the streets of Europe which changed the world, the question is now: is it possible for this to happen again, only through social networks and new technologies?

Introduction

In the twenty-first century, we are living in a world of drastic changes of every nature, which have no analogue in anything in previous human history. This gives humanity virtually unlimited opportunities, but it also entails many risks, threats, and challenges. And how the world will develop in this century depends on how humanity as a whole, and individual societies, will be able to adapt to changes. Europe once again stands at the forefront of significant global changes, asserting its leadership on the international stage. It is poised to experience phases that other societies will encounter in 40, 50, or 60 years, offering Europe considerable opportunities for advancement alongside substantial risks. For the first time since the period often referred to as the Dark Ages (circa seventh to twelfth century), Europe’s pivotal role in the advancement of human civilisation faces a profound challenge. This crucial juncture highlights Europe’s potential to either leverage its avant-garde position or confront significant obstacles.

What is really happening to the world and Europe today? Assuming that the humanity is about 100,000 years old, as most anthropologists claim, then in 99,800 of them, no matter what the socio-political structures were, people lived identically: the severe struggle with the land to earn
a living; the complete dependence on natural conditions; the excessively high mortality rate caused by wars, disease pandemics, and the complete absence of medicine; the extremely low average life expectancy (30–35 years). Most important of all was people’s very limited horizon, limited by lack of education and information, by religious prejudices and superstitions – a horizon that only reached to the edge of the land of the village where you were born and would most likely, or to the neighbouring market or administrative centre (Harari, 2014). Today, for the first time, we have the freedom to travel around the world and to share information with technologies that allow us to know what is happening every minute in every place on the planet, ensuring the ability to communicate with people of all religions, races, and nations, to study and work how we like, and to live where we think we will have the best conditions for ourselves and our children. The world will continue to globalise, whether we like it or not, because barring a world war or other global cataclysm, technology will increasingly remove boundaries in space and ‘shrink’ the world.

As a result of all these changes in the twenty-first century, three entirely new demographic patterns of human thinking and behaviour arose in Europe 20 years ago. The first trend is a declining inclination to reproduce and lower and lower birth rates (all European countries have a fertility rate below two); the second is the accelerated ageing of the population (Tabe 1, in 2018, for the first time in human history, the number of people aged 65 and over was greater than the number of people under 5, and soon in Europe the average life expectancy will reach 90!); and the third is global population shifts as a result of migrations (UN, 2019)17. This means that in the twenty-first century, we have two clearly distinguishable cultural layers: the classical conservative one of people over the age of 60 and the digital one of young people, especially the younger generation (Gen Z).

Multicultural Europe: culture as a bridge

The global movement of people is already beginning, and whether we like it or not, the march of globalisation, propelled by advancements in technology, transportation, and the internet, cannot be stopped (Figure 1). The global migration associated with the erosion of boundaries will lead to a total transformation of identities across different regions of the world (Bardarov & Tsvetkov, 2017).

Some identities, such as national identity, will gradually blur and be complemented by other identities. Multiculturalism is a process that is a direct consequence of globalisation and, no matter how many fears it generates, it cannot be stopped either. It is another question whether multiculturalism is a new phenomenon or a long forgotten old one in human history (Todorov, 2008). Multiculturalism by definition means people of different ethnicities, races, and religions, with different mother tongues, living in one territory in one equal or quasi-state entity (Antonov, 2020). Accordingly, the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire were definitely multicultural in nature (Figure 2).

The difference today is the large number of inhabitants of the world: only a thousand years ago, at the beginning of the second millennium, the entire population of the Earth was about 300 million; today, we are over 8 billion, and by the middle of the century we will exceed 10 billion (Diamond, 2005). Europe is increasingly becoming a multicultural model of the future world. In such a situation, we can predict that by 2050 there will be about 100 million people living in the EU, or about 20 per cent of the total population, who will be fully or partially (from mixed marriages) of non-European origin (Bardarov, 2012). The change is already visible on the political level. Suffice it to mention Rachida Dati, French Minister for Integration and National Identity; Ahmed Aboutaleb, the first Muslim mayor of a major Western European city (Rotterdam); Sadiq Khan, two-term mayor of London, who is from a mixed Pakistani–British marriage; UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, who is of Indian origin; or the first minister of Scotland, Hamza Yusuf. We can look at the national football teams of France, the Netherlands, or England and see how they are actually connecting cultures.

In the context of the contemporary world and the spirit of this article, some of the most important projects that we can present as positive European cultural models are related to the Creative Europe programme.

From Paris 1968 to Brussels 2023

The famous British historian and political scientist Tony Judt (2005, p.390) made the insightful observation that ‘moments of great cultural significance are often appreciated only in retrospect’. Such a moment was undoubtedly 1968, when two significant events for Europe and the world took place: the first was the protests in Prague against the despotism of the socialist dictatorship and the population’s lack of freedom, best illustrated by the slogan ‘socialism with a human face’, and the second was the mass protests on the other side of the Iron Curtain in Paris (Figure 3). The events in Prague marked the beginning of the fall of socialism, the events in Paris the birth of a real civil society that is not afraid to take to the squares to defend its human rights and to act as a corrective to government power.

In both cases, although the protests were bottomup, that is, by the people against the government, they were inspired and led by leaders who made their unique mark on the cultural history of Europe. In the East, they included Milan Kundera, Miloš Forman, Pavel Kohout, and Václav Havel, and in the West, they included Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, Fernand Braudel, and Michelangelo Antonioni, among others. Many changes were happening in Europe at the time, but the basis of everything was a cultural revolution; it changed people’s way of thinking and their value system (Judt & Snyder, 2012). It gave the opportunity to larger and larger masses of people to find a way to express themselves and to prove for the first time that culture and history can be made by ordinary people and not only by privileged elites. Elitism remains irrevocably in Europe’s past; egalitarianism marked a new Europe, and later the whole world. One of the main factors is that education is becoming more accessible to people, improving living standards and an indicator of a developed society. As a consequence, culture has been democratised, permeating all layers of social and societal life.

One of the great questions of our time is whether another cultural revolution can happen in Europe now, in the age of technology, the internet, and floods of information from everywhere, and who will be the new Michel Foucault, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Milan Kundera, or Václav Havel? Today the ghost of a revolution seems to be only a vague memory of the past. Young Europeans do not recognise their new heroes, leaders, and inspirers. Yes, today anyone can make ‘culture’ on the internet and social networks, but it lacks that spark that can inspire
and ignite people and bring about revolutionary changes. Or is it just that today the real revolution is happening not on the streets and barricades but on the internet? The line is very blurry (Figure 4).

Positive European cultural models

In the context of the contemporary world and the spirit of this article, some of the most important projects that we can present as positive European cultural models are related to the Creative Europe programme.

For the period 2015–2020, among the most interesting and important projects reflecting the nature of multicultural, digital Europe are:

The International Young Makers in Action (IYMA, a European network of seven theatre and dance festivals, offers an international platform to emerging performing artists. In two years’ time, close to 300 young artists travelled to all partner festivals. They put on a total of 70 productions in 101 international shows, participated in numerous workshops, were visible online in streamed performances and online festival radio and TV, and did residencies or created work with artists from other countries on the spot. They also produced site-specific productions and content that was broadcasted online).

The European Digital Art and Science Network (Figure 5) can proudly point to a host of substantial accomplishments, including a total of 128 activities showcasing 381 artists from 40+ countries.

The artistic practice of experimental appropriation of new technologies and their reflective potential for innovation established connections to creative industries and non-artistic
disciplines in order to trigger further fields of employment for both artists and cultural institutions. This project underscores the significance of the European cultural landscape’s diversity).

ENTR – what’s next (We value differences, celebrate commonalities, and connect people with diverse backgrounds across Europe. We are a European content creator network, producing journalistic content with a European dimension for social media. ENTR provides a space for open discussions about our present and common future in many European languages, showcasing the richness of diverse perspectives in Europewhat).

Sharing a World of Inclusion, Creativity and Heritage (an artistic investigation into the root causes of fragmentation in Europe. The aim is to contribute to more solidarity by highlighting cultural practices that bring unusual groups of people together, connecting these practices and scaling them across the continent).

These are among the many projects that stimulate cultural diversity in Europe in the digital age and open the way to young people for a tolerant, multicultural, and vital Europe of the twenty-first century.


References

  • Antonov, L. (2020). Multiculturalism and the Limits of Tolerance. Sofia: Paradigma.
  • Bardarov, G, (2012). Immigration, Conflicts and Identity Transformation. Sofia: Edicta.
  • Bardarov, G., & Tsvetkov, K. (2017). ‘Factors, Dimensions and Consequences of the
  • Refugee Crisis in Europe’. Yearbook of Sofia University–Faculty of Geology and Geography, 109, 149–160.
  • Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. London: Penguin.
  • Harari, Y. (2014). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. London: Harvill Secker.
  • Judt, T. (2005). Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. London: Penguin.
  • T. Judt, T., & Snyder, T. (2012). Thinking the Twentieth Century. London: Penguin.
  • Todorov, T. (2008). La peur des barbares: au-delà du choc des civilisations. Paris: Robert Laffont.
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