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“The visionaries of a new Europe: Theater and conversation with Lucas de Man”

De Man door Europa
Blinde Vlek? Theater & gesprek
17 november 2016 | 20.00 - 22:15 uur | LUX, Mariënburg 38-39, Nijmegen

What about Europe? In a fully packed theater hall, Lucas de Man, philosopher, theater maker and co-developer for theater group Het Zuidelijk Toneel, will come back to this question many times during his new show called De Man in Europe. Between jokes, sketches about his mother, stories of weird adventures and a warm smile once in a while, the story that Lucas tells during his show has to do with important matters. ‘We seem to be heading towards a global catastrophe, but the generation that will be confronted with this the most seems to be indifferent about it’. Lucas tries to understand, with the audience, what is happening in Europa right now, why is it happening and what should we do about it. To find answers to these questions, Lucas and his crew went on a very special trip. During one month he and his team traveled through all of Europe, visiting 17 different cities and talking with 25 people from all over Europe, who are concerned about the future of Europe. They all have in common this special quality that sets them apart from most people: vision. Lucas describes a visionary as someone who not only has ideas how to change the world but actually puts these ideas into action. The story that these young people tell are about ways to envision a new Europe, not from the perspective of an idealized encompassing truth, but through  local initiatives that can grow and sometimes die out.

Nothing has changed

Before telling about these new visionaries Lucas talks about a group of people who lived in a similar situation as we are in today, when big transformations were up hand and it was hard to grasp what exactly was going on and what should be done with all these changes. He takes us back to Europe as it was in the 16th century and starts by showing us the intellectual landscape that developed against the background of a transformation. The spread of the Otomian Empire brought fear for the upcoming Muslims in Europe. Society changed from a feudal into an urban one, driven by a new principle called capitalism.  And lastly the reformation split religious Europe in half. Thinkers like Erasmus, Thomas More, Machiavelli and others described the way power and money was put in the hand of a small group, the poor being abused by them. And politicians did nothing to stop this, but instead they used populist tricks to win the crowd for their own gain. It seems that after five hundred years nothing has really changed.

And now?

So, what should we do now? Who are the visionaries of today that will help to change to European landscape for the better? Lucas asked these questions to several people, some of them being professors who communicate with the new generation on a daily basis. Is the new generation of a visionary kind? It might be clear, the first reaction is a negative one. People are spoiled, they have everything they want and don’t have to worry about anything, leading to a general indifference. At the same time catastrophe is getting closer. The degeneration of our natural world is increasing, racism and intolerance are flourishing, and our lives become increasingly individualized. We, who are aware of these problems, become cynics and pessimist. But pessimism might be a fruitful new strategy, replacing the positivism that brought us in this mess.

Hooray we have a battle

‘Enclosing the commons’, this mysterious phrase seems to have been that what brought Europe to its current state. Only by slowly opening the commons again there might be a future for this continent. The commons is what used to be shared propriety, it just was there to be used for those who needed it. Air, water and ground are examples. Until people found out that by putting imaginary and real fences around these goods they could make a profit out of them by taking advantage of exactly those people who rely on these goods. (Lucas cleverly remarks that a man wanted to buy a piece of the moon and asked who to buy it from). The question is how to free these common goods again from the few who own almost everything. Lucas answers this by telling the stories of young visionaries, people who don’t have big ideals of how to change Europe, but participate in local projects, which not change the world but make the world. Which is a way to make people connect, communicate and meet with each other and create a common space. One of the examples that he gives is an alternative to representative democracy. After the financial crises in 2008 people in Madrid and Barcelona had enough of the way politics and private parties handled social needs, like daycare or garbage disposal. As a reaction people met on online social platforms to talk about how to take measures in their own hands. By talking about problems and finding solutions together these cities were able to tackle these problems in cooperation with the common people. These local initiatives, based on cooperation, time for each other and the sharing of stories, can help reshape the European landscape for the better.

With all his jokes, dances and silly stories Lucas makes you start thinking, how can we be visionaries? De Man in Europe is a great insightful show, a real recommendation for everyone.

De Man in Europe is part of Blinde Vlek – Human Rights in Europe, a collaboration between Lux and Radboud Reflects

By Ilja van de Rhoer