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doing the world differently

Great article here by Per Wirten.

The glue that holds the cosmopolitan society together is politics. In other words, having shared problems that need to be resolved democratically. And by this I mean politics as Hannah Arendt described it: the discussion created where people meet to resolve common issues...It is in these discussions, founded on the idea of democracy and equal rights, that the cosmopolitan order takes shape. It is not a simple answer to all the conflicts raging in the city, but it is a framework for resolving them. This is what J├╝rgen Habermas ingeniously termed "constitutional patriotism" – people feel a sense of solidarity with a nation's laws, freedoms and rights, rather than its ties of kinship or cultural history.

Access to this discussion, to the publicity, requires an end to discrimination and exclusion. Having publicity and politics as the sole requisites of the community means that cosmopolitan society cannot accept the exclusion of anyone; it presupposes inclusion and, thereby, equal rights for everybody. Otherwise it ceases to function.

But cosmopolitanism is not just political theory. It is primarily lived experience. Take a walk through London: through the East End, Southall, Brixton. Be shocked by the inequality – but see the life. How people every day open up the mosaic and move the boundaries. How they prove that an individual is not governed by an unequivocal cultural affiliation. How the barriers of racial discrimination are overcome. Discover music as a wordless discussion about how the cosmopolitan city should be formed. Rishi Rich, Nitin Sawhney, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, and don't miss Ellika Frisell's amazing collaboration with Solo Cissokho. It is no coincidence that London-based cultural sociologist Les Back has used improvised music and jazz as a metaphor for the cosmopolitan. You have to be able to improvise, but it is not possible without knowledge of both your own and others' traditions.

"The idea of a cosmopolitan society – or a multicultural one, if you still prefer that term – is radically open, without answers known in advance. It is an experience of uncertainty. In this respect, it is reminiscent of the democratic ideal. Both are in some way beyond control. And, as a result, also unsettling. Anything that is fixed risks evaporating; fixed communities may dissolve or even vanish altogether. Zygmunt Bauman expresses the situation as follows: "The truth may only emerge at the far end of conversation – and in a genuine conversation (that is, a conversation that is not a soliloquy in disguise), no partner is certain to know, nor is able to know, what that end may be (if there is an end, that is)."



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