This letter will attempt to define common ideas which unite all of us on the basis of culture, art and education, and then consider how such ideas relate to the UN and UNESCO activities in our mutual endeavors to reach peace and harmony on the planet. Our gathering of like minded people on the base of culture, art and education with the purpose to advocate for them and to take part in the world harmonization is ongoing.
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF ARTISTS
Dear Mrs Irina Bokova,
This letter is addressed to you as to the Director-General of UNESCO and because you are deeply concerned about our fragile world, about the status of culture and education and their role in the creation of a more democratic and humane world. As an open letter, this letter concurrently addresses people who are engaged with education, culture and art and those who are interested in these subjects. Ultimately, this letter addresses all people because we all are formed by cultures; each of us is living in the space created by the arts, by institutions, and by the ideas we get from the different resources. We are not separated through education, culture and art. We depend on them. This letter will attempt to define common ideas which unite all of us on the basis of education, culture and art, and then consider how such ideas relate to the UN and UNESCO activities in our mutual endeavours to reach peace and harmony on the planet.
We believe that education, culture and art have an especially important significance today, but in the contemporary business, industrial and political world people frequently fail to recognise their importance. We will attempt to analyze the interrelation and interdependence of education, culture and art, to look at them as a whole (E, C & A). Individuals understand the words "education", "culture" and "art" in their own individual way. There are no strict universal definitions of these words, although they are commonly used throughout the modern complex world. Similarly, there seems to be no universal definition for human being. But, all of us agree with Emmanuel Kant that it is not peculiar to human to be a means because human is always the purpose. We also appreciate The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which formulates and gives basic shape to concepts of Human and Humanism in a universal sense.
E, C & A can become the pathway for a better understanding between people, and can lead the world to harmony. Unfortunately, the world is full of problems. Politicians as well as the majority of people understand and agree with your note, "The stakes are high. The fabric of society is quickly torn and long to mend." People engaged in E, C & A play a most important role in this transformative time of world diversity and globalization which is often met with intolerance and lack of understanding.
The world situation suggests to us the idea of uniting people engaged in E, C & A at the international level. As an artist, I first wish to share with you my thoughts concerning artists. If each artist is primarily concerned with only his or her individual artistic research, then which ideas can become mutually beneficial to all artists? However, with mutual creative endeavours we happily feel that the world and humanity are a great and boundless realm, and we comprehend the universal and absolute value of human life. We comprehend happiness, we comprehend freedom. Artists from different countries understand each other, but not as a result of any uniform homogeneous culture. We don't create an international eclectic multi-culture. Our mutual understanding is based on those human aspirations which are common to the entire world, have always been international, and can be understood by everyone. They are incompatible with violence and oppression; they are contradictory to war and murder. It is like one human consciousness and one thought of love and good will expressed in different forms, in different times, and in different nations. It is art through the entire human history.
This is what unites artists not only with each other but with all people at the national and international level. We understand people's interest in art; we feel their focus on us and on our art. Artists exist thanks to people who appreciate the arts. Other people not only provide our livelihood, but they educate us morally. They entrust to us their best aspirations, their best thoughts, their best dreams of love, happiness, and hope, dreams which don't always coexist in the real pragmatic and violent world. People entrust to art the spiritual and emotional moments in their lives. Art helps to overcome sorrows because when something terrible is transformed by the light of art, then it doesn't destroy the soul. Art is able to save people, to cure them; art is able to stop desperation, revenge and violence. Human nature is not evil; it is why people are not able to exist fully in evil circumstances. People transport what cannot find a place in a horrible reality into the mythical sphere of art until better times come, when their best dreams might become true. Art becomes a part of culture; cultures educate people, and then people make their dreams true. Education, culture and art are interdependent and united. People engaged in E, C & A must now return to humanity the spiritual resources which they have guarded and nurtured.
We must let people know that they are not wrong about artists. They listen to us more now than ever before; they anticipate the movement of spirituality into ordinary life. We all fear that the contemporary global problems can not be solved successfully if the spiritual dimension of human life is ignored in the complex kaleidoscope of social relations. You have noted, "Diversity is not a choice but a reality across the world. Increasing proximity has not translated into greater understanding." We also recall the simple yet powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr. which seem to have been said about our time of globalization, "We must learn to live together as brothers or we perish together as fools."
Our choice now is which human principles we will retain in this world globalization; who are we now. We can offer some hypotheses concerning the future, but the future depends on what we chose now. That is a reason for all those engaged in E, C & A to unite internationally and to join with all people who work for peace and world harmony. Artists are integral to the world, artists unite the world, and we share our creative research with everyone. Our studios are open, our minds are open. We do not lock ourselves into conditional spaces, and dead-end ideologies do not paralyze us. We can help open new horizons in human understanding. People will find in our studios and in our minds optimism, belief in development, belief in achieving happiness and the highest good for everybody through cultural communication.They will find the idea of mutual enrichment of cultures from each other whilst maintaining the uniqueness of each certain culture. People can watch our search for free development for all and our search for a meaning of human life and for individual integrity. That is to be "captain of my own soul", as Nelson Mandela wrote in his poetry from prison. It is common to artists to be involved in activities apart from creativity, and to live as broadly as possible is our life position.
Mahatma Gandhi life position was a simple human position and one we should emulate in these times. He was not particularly political and it is difficult to relate his activity to other common activities. He was simply stating his own feelings and thoughts as a free and independent person, and many people agreed with his principle of non-violence. What is a non-violent principle? There are three ways to act against violence: to fight; do not fight and to obey; or do not fight and do not obey. This third way means do not comply with the violent demands, do not surrender and do not be changed under pressure. This is non-violent principle.
The principle of non-violence is one great achievement of the 20th century. The effectiveness of this principle is demonstrated in the liberation of India and countless other triumphs through peaceful solutions. Non-violence was practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Dalai-Lama and by millions people around the world as a common idea that needs no translation. The principle of non-violence appears to us to be the only viable principle which corresponds to our lives, to our peaceful life position in the 21st century. Tragic history has surely taught us that force and violence inevitably lead to misunderstanding and war; such actions would push contemporary society into global disaster.
We see a lot of evil on the planet, and what can we do? Take a look for instance at the tragedy of Tibet. For fifty years we have watched the genocide of millions of Tibetan people and the violent destruction of Tibetan culture; the UN keeps documents concerning the tragedy of Tibet. Tibetan people, educated in the most peaceful teaching on the entire planet, have kept the principle of non-violence during half of a century. They prefer to die rather than to resort to violence. The fourteenth Dalai-Lama Tenzin Guatso called on the Tibetan people to continue the non-violent resistance and to save the unique peaceful Tibetan culture for the benefit of all humanity. He explained that human nature is not evil and the Chinese people are not enemies, but many Chinese are still deceived by evil politics, do not have true information about Tibet, and the educational level of many of them is still low. If the Chinese people know the truth then they might then use non-violent principles along with the Tibetan people against the Chinese government, and then the Chinese government would not be able to resist them. The Dalai-Lama explains the true roots of evil through the tragic example of Tibet. To watch the increasing evil and to do nothing is not a human position. Negative performance is not a right life position because doing nothing is evil also. We must analyze and then define our own actions.
Now in 2011, when we can look at the 20th century from the distance of ten years, we can note the positive decisions of the last century, and continue and develop them in the 21st century. When we try to decide which results of the 20th century are most important for us now, we should point out that people have won the evil against humanity battle. The total war consisted of the bloody revolutions, First and Second World wars, the Cold War, and uncountable other wars. Thanks to the victory of humanity in this total battle we have now incomparably better times because we have hope - this is very important for us. In the tragic times of 20th century people of different nations came together and created the United Nations in their mutual struggle against the evils of fascism, racism, and all forms of discrimination and oppression , an organization based on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those are great achievements for humanity inherited by the New Millennium from the last century.
We are living in the principally new epoch, which has begun from the moment when The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. The contemporary new epoch is based not on the position of force and violence, but on the humane essence of the person. It is impossible to force a person to comply with the Declaration and to protect Human Rights; only his or her good will is necessary for that. The new epoch does not come automatically because a new epoch needs a new thinking. It is necessary to overcome the hatred, ignorance and intolerance of the old thinking first. Against the tragic history of mass madness the idea of happiness grows slowly. The roots of evils such as misunderstanding, intolerance, misinformation, lack of education, and ignoring of the spiritual dimension of human life can be uprooted by E, C & A. A new philosophy can be reached through E, C & A.
We completely agree with you that "culture should accompany every development effort." A new epoch maintained by E, C & A is coming. The world is changing more rapidly than ever before, and we should appropriate all possibilities as speedily as possible to change public opinion for right understanding of the meaning and role of E, C & A while the world is developing in humanistic and democratic ways. We must note that understanding is lacking even among people who are directly engaged in E, C & A, as well as among others.
For instance, the initiative International Artists for Peace and World Harmony launched by the New York Metropolitan Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolence was presented at the 61st Annual United Nations Conference in Paris in 2008 at UNESCO Headquarters. Rosa Naparstek and I held a Caucus on Art and Culture with a presentation of the initiative. My personal impression was that culture and art presented in the form of this initiative was accepted, and yet considered unusual to the workings of the Conference. This initiative and its presentation took place thanks to the efforts of both the UN and of the artists, but these ideas have not been further developed among the artists or at the UN. Your following point is very important, "I regret that culture is not included in the MDGs /Millenium Development Goals/ and I intend to relaunch the debate on culture and development because culture should accompany every development effort.", as you have advanced in your Mission Statement.
We should discuss a new alternative of world development in this era of globalization, which is based on E, C & A. Non-violence as a way of life, which can be maintained by E, C & A, presumes a quality of education based on knowledge of new ideas and choices. In itself, a formal education has no humane value; educated people have created nonhumanistic theories and dictatorships. Personal convictions can be affected by inhumane ideas. But, the arts and new ideas in education can become the mobile elements of cultures capable of spreading diversity of ideas around barriers and through inhumane convictions – they are able to educate according to true humanism, to give choices. Humanistic ideas inspire people and make it possible for them to change their minds to a new way of thinking. Individual integrity, which fosters conscious choice, is also part of the new education.
We want people to perceive the arrival of a principally new time; we want to arouse the world. It seems that the majority of people are still asleep and dreaming of the uninspired pragmatically-senseless world in which there is no happiness, laughter, or joy, but where horrible things happen. The spiritual dimension of human life is absent in such a dream. Wake up and let a fantasy come to your soul! Individuals understand a spiritual dimension of human life in different ways. For us it is a great boundless realm, difficult to describe fully. Nevertheless some noticeable signs are: the absence of intolerance and hatred; the presence of joy and hope. Real belief in the possibility of happiness is also one of the external signs. However, belief and knowledge are not the same. Belief may exist even when knowledge doesn't allow hope. In our analysis we know with certainty that "the fabric of society" is not yet torn. We wish all people to choose from a position of love.
Some people cannot trust that harmony and happiness are possible in our world. We - people engaged in E, C & A - must share with all our confidence that it is possible. We have saved the dreams entrusted to us, and we will help people to attain unlimited horizons of human understanding and happy development. Our work becomes part of our cultures; cultures educate people, and then we see fulfilment of the dreams of a new era of spiritual freedom on the planet, that people are no longer victim or oppressor but free, happy people of good will. We want people to believe in the best.
Thank you for reading this letter. We hope that our ideas do not conflict with your ideas, and that this letter will support your efforts as Director-General of UNESCO. The ideas of this letter are not definitive, but are open for discussion. Education, culture and art are things essential to the world; they are like an invisible light; they are what the destiny of the world depends on. This invisible light is humanism. We hope that people will support your constant efforts in achieving more humanistic and democratic societies, your endeavours in reaching world peace and world harmony.
Thanks you to all readers of the letter. As an open letter, it is an appeal to all people to recognize culture, education and art as an important part of their personal and social lives. Please take part in this dialogue, share your ideas and proposals, and set your signatures under the letter if you agree.
The world we are living is far from perfect. We know a lot of examples of inhumane teachings promulgated in the world. We don't forget the words of Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Please send this letter to your friends; our gathering of like minded people on the base of education, culture and art with the purpose to advocate for them and to take part in the world harmonisation is ongoing.
Sergej Jakovlev - artist, President of ISA, member of the International Artists for Peace and World Harmony Organizing Committe https://sites.google.com/site/societyofartists/isa/3-united-nations/p
INITIAL SIGNATORIES TO AN OPEN LETTER
I believe in this concept and have spent my whole life trying to bring this message to everyone through my art.
Beverly Ellstrand - Park Ridge, Illinois
I have happily signed the petition and fully support you. Ruth Burink - Fine Art Sculpture, Colorado, USA
In my artwork, I attempt a dialogue with the viewer. I challenge them to question their bias and really look at what they believe is true. To make people really think about the inequity and tragedy in the world around them, locally and globally, and to try to connect with that small place where they can really make a difference. That is my job as an artist. To allow people to jump to the next place through an "art" moment.
Jame Gagan - Santa Fe, NM, USA
If artwork can be used to make even the smallest difference in this world ...not just another "pretty picture"...this could all be worth while
Carol Reeves - Cheshire, Connecticut
Yes, the intellect cant lead for life doesnt follow. The more you create and give art, the more it is, including the art of living; remember, Carlos Castaneda said, "Discipline is the art of feeling awe" - viva la evolution. reality
james m nordlund - Fargo, North Dakota
With all my passions in my artworks I'll try to teach Ukrainians to smile. My art project Ah, Africa had around show since 2005 till 2010 and visit a lot of Ukrainian cities. I trust that can change something... Now I stay in Cape Town and happy to paint the life of local people. That's help many of them realize that they are very important part of the World!
Tatyana Binovskaya - Cape Town, South Africa
Dostojewski: Beauty saves the world.
Peter Seibt - Parikia / Paros, Greece
Aziz Azizuddin - Hyderabad, India
Imelda Bassanello - Savona, Italy
Astrid Harnisch - Landvetter, Sweden
Shandin Alexey - Moscow, Russian Federation
DEBORAH RHODEN - JACKSONVILLE, Florida
mountassir CHEMAO - rabat, Morocco
Ramica Howard - Little Rock, Arkansas
Tom Maxwell - Los Angeles, California
Ann-Pia Azizuddin - Gothenburg, Sweden
Steven Wachter - Houston, Texas
Luis Geraldes - Morwell, Australia
Julia Chirokova - Gothenburg, Sweden
Francis Misitano - MESSINA, Italy
Bert Menco - Evanston, Illinois
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