Old farts and the new generation
By Joost Westerweel
If there was ever a notion mentioned more than one milion times in a single day, it would be the notion of a new generation. I guess this makes it important and, since I am a part of that new generation, interesting. For me the notion of a generation is something to define age, but here in Berlin it really is alive. It’s a bit of a shock actually. I never would have guessed that the devision of Germany and Berlin after the second world war had such a huge impact on the people living there. Aftet the wall came down everything changed and every generation was burdened with the task to deal with this momentous change.
Now, twenty years later, the new generation is burdened with another task, namely to create a unified Europe that includes the former communist countries in eastern Europe and to defend and expand the freedom that Europe gained after 1989. The older generations, who have witnessed the collapse of the communist regimes, can’t stress this point enough. Herr Litfin is a clear example of this. His brother was the first person to be killed while trying to escape to west Berlin after the wall was built. He keeps the memory of his brother alive by maintaining a watchtower in the Kieler Strasse, then east Berlin. His wish is that our generation builds its own democracy, without the old notions of left and right. I guess to him, our generation represents hope. We haven’t witnessed a divided Europe. For me that means that Poland or Slovakia for example are countries just like any other and should be treated accordingly. This makes the idea of a unified Europe much more acceptable.
Mrs. Radicova and mr. Timmermans were also adament about our generation being the one which should work on the European project and give a fresh start to international relationships in Europe. Mrs. Radicova called her generation the ‘lost generation’ and mr. Timmermans called upon our generation to ‘reinstate the values we call democracy’. Although these are distinct calles for renewal, especially mr. Timmermans stressed the point that Europe’s past, in particular that of the year 1989, should not be forgotten. I think it should be used as an example of what can happen when things go bad, but also that these bad things can be overcome.
I don’t know if people like mrs. Radicova and mr. Timmermans put these tasks in the hands of the new generation because they actually trust us with them or maybe because they have no other options. Eitherway it doesn’t matter. In ten or twenty years from now our generation is the one making decisions and it’s our choice whether to listen to the generation before us or not. I’d suggest we’d listen. I was simply blown away by the appeal made by the older generation to us and for me personally the hope they express is well founded because I just don’t see any reason why Europeans shouldn’t be able to work together.
Mr. Timmermans said that it was necessary to make a unified Europe an ideal again, something worth creating and maintaining. Anyway, by calling himself an ‘old fart’ he’s got my vote and sincere attention to what he has to say. In my opinion a bit more humor in politics couldn’t harm anyone. Maybe that’s another task for the new generation. But for now, let’s just leave it at creating a Europe we can be proud of twenty years from now.
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