Monday, January 02, 2012


On a red bridge high over the river Tejo, I get a last view of Lisbon from the train window. Back here in Europe, the remaining white spots on its map have again played their dirty tricks on my imagination. A week away from work to explore vintage trams, winding hills and the south-western corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Invited to a party in the old town or “Alfama”, we cheered in the new year and were reminded anew of what the future may hold; a girl from Cap Verde with her friend from Australia who she met when volunteering in India, a Romanian-Portuguese couple living in Dubai and our curious hosts who wanted to know everything about Chinese high-speed trains and our new life in Seoul.

When meeting for brunch the next morning, I was asked what I thought was the most important problem facing democracy. I answered, “to make people feel that they have agency and that they can decide their own political future”. Yet, as Miguel immediately replied, “how exactly do you do that?”.

I had to pause and think. Maybe by simply believing in people, by treating them as adults and not accepting the dumbing down of public discourse. At a deeper level however, it is about having a genuine commitment to social investment, to have the imagination to recognize the transformative capacity of education but also a vision of what our society could look like in say a hundred years from now if we were to put our collective energy behind it. Clearly familiar themes on this weblog but also ideas acutely needed as the shockwaves of public austerity are allowed to go through the societies of southern Europe, taking their massive social toll while sparing well-organized special interests like agricultural corporations and the arms industry.


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