Daniel Barenboim: Please let us listen to each other…

From his statement on the anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights:

In our orchestra, diversity is lived on a daily basis and no single musician can exist without a fundamental understanding and appreciation of the other, however different he or she may be.

The sovereign independent republic of the West-Eastern Divan, as I like to call it, began as an unpredictable experiment in 1999. Over the years, it has grown into an example of how society could function under the best of circumstances. Our musicians have gone through the painful process of learning to express themselves while simultaneously listening to the narrative of their counterparts. I cannot imagine a better way of implementing the first and most fundamental article of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, that they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

From the outset, our approach in the orchestra’s workshops and seminars has been to focus on understanding what it means to listen to each other – both as musicians and as human beings. Learning to listen in that way sensitises us both for ourselves and the world around us.

Full article here.

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  • “West-Eastern Divan… has grown into an example of how society could function under the best of circumstances.”

    No disrespect, Maestro Barenboim, but how is appointing your own son to the concert master position an “example of how society could function under the best of circumstances.”? Unless you consider monarchy to be the ideal form of government, I’m sometimes inclined to agree actually. 😉

    • In today’s climate of hate mongering, internet trolling and general rise of extremist views voices of reason are seldom being acknowledged.

  • ..and all these babies dying in Africa every ten seconds while the haut monde slide about in their Jacuzzis eating Turkish delight and listening to Parsifal.

  • It is obviously true that human beings ‘………. should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’, because it is the only way to create a civilized society under the rule of law.

    But the claim ‘…….. that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ is obvioulsy not true, since everybody is helplessly dependent upon the circumstances and parents he/she is born to, and dignity and rights are things we have to work for and acquire.

    • No. We – citizens of Western states whose rule of law is based on enlightened principles – are *born* with equal dignity and rights. That is correct. It is not before we are adults, that we have to act responsibly to deserve these inalienable fundamental rights.

      Being born to different socio-economic backgrounds has nothing to do with that we are all in our core dignity as humans – “Menschenwürde” in German – inviolable as we are in our equality before the law.

      • Yes, that is the theory and how we want it to be – Western, developed countries, that is. But in practice, many children are born in circumstances that have not much dignity and where the rights that are theoretically conferred to them, have no effect. Given the immense differences in class, income, level of development etc. etc. in society, there is a distinction between what is written in the law and how it turns out to be in practice.

        • PS: It is really a myth that we are born in freedom. Freedom means: freedom of choice, but there is no choice before you have grown-up, and also then, freedoms are drastically restricted to what society can offer you, at this palce, or another, in this way or another way. It is no exception that people born in a Western, developed country, are entirely free to descend in poverty and destitution, or are marginalized because of skin colour, being handicapped. etc. etc. To become free is quite hard, which is known to anybody who has tried it, also – maybe especially – in a Western society because reality is often disguised by cheap fairytales, especially in the media. The myth of freedom is meaningless if the concept is not related to the ‘for’ and the ‘from’, and given a context. Grave crimes have been committed in the name of freedom.

          • As a citizen of a Western democracy you are apparently so used to your fundamental freedom, that you do not even recognize it anymore.
            Article 1 of the UN Human rights declaration emphasizes the basic freedom not to be born a slave, not to be born a subject of a monarch, not to be born to be sold for profit, to be born free.

            What you are hinting at is a different kind of freedom. The mental freedom, the aspiration to rise above self-limiting constraints. That idealistic freedom is only an aspiration and will not be achieved ever by the very most. But to even try, the integral freedom of the own identity and body is a prerequisite.

          • P.S. also life experience tells us that what you call “becoming free” is not even desired by the most people. Probably a good 90% of people lack the aspiration for mental freedom or at least give that aspiration a backseat to more fundamental needs of physical and biological integrity and security. Maslow’s pyramid of needs comes to mind.

            Which is why instilling fear is such a powerful propaganda tool used by those who seek control over others, openly or deceptively, because it feeds to the most existential instincts in us. There is not much hope that the masses will ever be enlightened enough to see and act against these subconscious mechanisms.

            I applaud Barenboim for trying to lead by example and not only by doing the talk, but also doing the walk.

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