CITIZENSHIP, MULTICULTURALISM AND CREATIVITY FOR THE 21ST. CENTURY

            António Conceição Júnior


SOME THOUGHTS ON CITIZENSHIP
Globalization of communications has brought forward a dualistic notion of citizenship. Becoming global virtual citizens requires us to revisit the notion of topical citizens, members of the cities where we live, because we cannot aspire to the world without a deep analytic view of what we are as a community.
This is an exercise that is required, and I would call this exercise of self-analysis of a community, part of a Ritual, that of civic growth.

I nurture this strong belief that citizenship imparts to the individual a constant interaction with the city to which he belongs. It is both not only a right and a responsibility but above all it carries a challenge: that of undeniable civic participation.

Having said this I recall both Plato and Confucius, as the interaction that I just referred abides to rules and conclusions, of which the one that I deem most important is:
That the citizens are those who create the city which, in turn, should respond in a permanent dialogue.
This is the cognitive perception I feel as a condition to understanding the complete sense of citizenship as a social and political profile and structure.

It is beyond doubt, no matter what historical interpretations exist, that Macau has for long been a city of Exchanges, East and West living side by side for more then four hundred years, in a constant interaction.

I think that sometimes people tend to dismiss important realities as clichés, forgetting that most of the time, the obvious is overlooked or forgotten.

The requirements for full citizen are not, to my belief, of an official or bureaucratic status. To become a full citizen of Macau or of any other city in the world, is to be ready to participate in the city’s life, and to recognize that knowledge and culture are extremely important tools for the development of cities and citizens, tools which are no more property of anyone in today’s world, but are instead, Humanity’s global heritage and property.

I would propose a visitation on Confucius as a way to understanding development through citizenship, as a weave of affections.

Confucius has left us a number of teachings that equal in the East those of Plato, in the West. Let us not forget that, for more then two thousand years, Confucianism have deeply influenced China’s society.

The Master, born in Qu Fu, in the country of Lu (today's Shandong Province), lived between 551 and 479 BC . He was to become what we could call the first professional teacher.

Confucius spoke about villages, some of his sayings present in the Analects are perfectly adaptable to cities and carry a timeless wisdom:

“Of villages, Humanity is the most beautiful. If you choose to dwell anywhere else, how can you be called wise?”

“Without Humanity, you can’t dwell in adversity for long, and you can’t dwell in prosperity for long. If you’re Humane, Humanity is your repose. And if you’re wise, Humanity is your reward.”

“Only the Humane can love people. Those who aspire to Humanity, they despise no one”.

Confucius recognized society as a structure of human relationships organized under a system of Rituals that people would incorporate in their daily lives: investing the profane with sacred dimensions.

According to the Master, who was more concerned with practical issues, society should work as a selfless weave of caring relationships – as we have seen in some of his sayings – something that, being quite an utopia, didn’t stop him from chasing the horizon, for the ethical views involved would most certainly justify his notions, as it did.

The archaic Shang Dynasty (c.1766 – 1040 BC) which bridged the transition from the Neolithic to Bronze Age Culture in China, forged a culture based on a powerful form of theocratic government. The Shang sovereigns ruled by virtue of their lineage, which, sanctified by Shang Ti (the Celestial Lord) provided the Shang rulers with a transcendental source of legitimacy of power, and as there was no ethical system separate from the religious system, there was nothing to shield the people from the rulers.

The Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 221 AD) succeeded and were faced with a problem: that of legitimacy.

While the Shang claimed their rule to be directly legitimized by Shang Ti, the Zhou reinvented the concept of Shang Ti as Heaven itself, thus proclaiming that the right to rule depended not on lineage, but upon the Mandate of Heaven.

This new concept meant that only worthiness allowed a sovereign the legitimacy to rule, representing a major change in Chinese philosophy: the first investment of power based on an ethical imperative.

This sense of practicality shown by the Zhou rulers directs my thoughts to a most recent concept in modern China. The pragmatic view of Deng Xiao Ping, when formulating the One Country two Systems thesis, which leads me to the thought of how wisdom have guided many rulers in China who thought of the Country far beyond their own times, fulfilling the thesis of the ruler who serves his people.

Confucius developed a social philosophy from the empirical observation that human society is a structure, a weave of relationships between individuals each of whom occupy a place in that structure: parent and child, ruler and subject, friend and friend, merchant and customer, etc.

Being a teacher of men, Confucius invested this anthropological insight with a philosophical dimension by recognizing that a healthy community depends upon an attitude of human caring among its members – most specially its government, which should nurture first, teach second and, only then, govern.

With these moral and ethical values, Confucius supported education as the source for development. The purpose of such education was for one to become a chün-tzu “a noble minded” person.
This term chün-tzu was formerly referred to those of noble birth. Confucius reshaped this terminology in his philosophy, so for him chün-tzu became the noble minded, as mentioned, thus bringing forth the transformation of traditional aristocracy to meritocracy, opening the minds to a government of the high-minded over those of high-birth.

This issue has since then been of the utmost importance in the Confucian style of examinations for officials in the Middle Kingdom over the centuries until the demise of the Qing.

TWO QUOTES ON THE CONCEPT OF CHÜN-TZU

“Don’t worry if you have no position : worry about making yourself worthy of one. Don’t worry if you are not known or admired: devote yourself to a life that deserves admiration”.

“The noble-minded are clear about Duty. Little people are clear about profit.”

In short, the weave of mutual care must be a part of the concept of citizenship that can reinforce the social structure of a city and develop the values of caring, solidarity and mutual respect, as a strong bond that Confucius defined as Ritual or Li.

SOME QUOTES ON RITUAL


When Confucius was in the Grand Temple he asked questions about everything he saw. Someone then said: “ Who says this son of a villager understands Ritual?
When he was in the Grand Temple he asked questions about everything”.
The Master replied : “ Questioning is itself Ritual”.

“Governing without generosity, Ritual without Reverence, Mourning without Grief. How can I see such things?”

Lin Fang asked about the root to Ritual. Confucius replied: “ What a huge question! In Ritual, simplicity rather then extravagance. In mourning, grief rather then repose.”

“If you can found a nation on Ritual and yielding, what more is there? If you cannot found a nation on Ritual and yielding, what’s left of Ritual?”

“In their dealings with all beneath Heaven, the noble-minded do not themselves favor some things and oppose others. They form judgments according to Duty”.

Be it a country or the smallest village, the teachings of Confucius surely provides us a clue for citizenship.

MULTI-CULTURALISM IN CHINA

The Middle Kingdom was no stranger to foreigners since early times, from Arab and Persian merchants traveling to Xian, to Nestorian Christians and to Jews, to Indian monks bringing India’s Buddhism, and accepting its teachings and allowing them to stand together with native Taoism.
Therefore, since the introduction of Buddhism in China, the people were guided by the moral and ethical precepts of Confucianism, prayed to Buddha Sakhyiamuni and consulted the Tao te Qing.

The Mongol Yuan Dynasty Court of Kublai Khan accepted European travelers such as Marco Polo and the Qing Emperor Kang Xi, himself a Manchurian, was in his own right an inquisitive mind, who welcomed knowledge wherever the source was. That was the root for the building of the Beijing Astronomical Observatory among other examples of total foreigners, such as the Jesuits, being promoted to high officials of his court, as it happened before with the Venetian traveler.

In short, multiculturalism is not as foreign as one may think, to China’s history which is characterized by absorbing and reshaping foreign influences into its own culture. Formidable was the feat of winning over the Mongols and the Manchus by enveloping the conquerors with their stronger and ancient culture which they adopted.

Under these circumstances Macau was the first place where European foreigners were able to settle down. I am led to believe that it was not by mere chance that the South China Coast was chosen, as being marginal to the Country, border with the sea, it would allow for a permanent flow of exchange, which was then already very important as information and exchange was and is ever more increasing, a source of knowledge and development. Let us recall that the first University of the Far East, was created in Macau by Jesuit missionaries.

We must realize that, while the power is in the center, the margins or borders are where intersections occur. Therefore I would dare say by personal choice and experience, that marginality in the healthy sense of the word, is where exchanges occur, where one learns from multiple intersections.

In today’s world no country is alone anymore, and Macau’s Past bears an incredible experience of bringing together the Confucianist world that have been described before with the first Republican experience not only in Chinese Territory but in the Far East, a Platonic experience that took place here in Macau centuries ago, when the city ruled itself by electing a group of citizens to govern on their behalf.

Macau has played an important role as a city-state similar to some extent to Athens, mainly devoted to trade.

I hope you will understand that it is more then natural that my tendency is to focus on Macau not only as a multi-cultural city, but also as a depository of immense creative power awaiting to be unleashed and brought to the world.

In today’s world, cities or countries are also no longer mono-racial or mono-cultural. It would just not be possible.

Ever growing migration movements all over the world fostered by competitive transportation rates have not only provided for the increase of migratory flows since the 1970s, but also to the rise of a new Order of citizenship that comes from inter-ethnic and inter-racial marriages that will give way to even more genetic mixtures.

These will definitely change the concept of Order and Citizenship that the world has known by posing a challenge to what the present Order is, meaning that what is to come is the human genetic reaction to globalization.

Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore share, in different proportions, this genetic experience, which undeniably are most enriching and creative elements.

Multi-ethnic cities must be encouraged to foster, as these are already the characteristics of the cities of the 20th. Century.

In Macau, as anywhere else, it is the collective acceptance of a city’s Past that can transform it as the main propelling force for its Future as much as the Zhou converted the Shang Ti concept into the concept of Heavenly Mandate.

To this I would like to refer to Jean-Paul Sartre. He said:
We are the product of what they made us to be. But the important issue is what we are able to make out of that”.


FROM PAST TO FUTURE
CREATIVITY AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL


Macau’s essential characteristic is that of a a Trading Post, not only of goods but also of different knowledge, experiences and common memories that are above ethnic differences.

The main Challenge that is posed to Macau today is how to grow from what it is, which is to say, how to convert itself to face the challenges of new technologies and globalization and to make its statement as part of Mc Luhan’s Global Village?

The emergence of the Macau Special Administrative Region does not change the Essence of the City. On the contrary, it reinforces it, posing a more demanding challenge, as it is ruled by its citizens, which should increase the driving force that should nurture the necessary changes for the Future that is everywhere, not waiting for anyone.

As a Macau citizen I must acknowledge that multi-cultural identity must be the foundation and the pillar of Macau’s overall identity. But I would also like to express that the notion of full citizenship is a powerful asset to development, as we cannot view development as just an economical factor.

That would very much impoverish its real meaning of an overall social, educational, cultural and political achievement.

Creativity is the main answer to topical development, as much as it has already proved itself in the global realm, in the sense of ingenuity, of imagination, supported by proper technology.

What is creativity then?
I would answer this question in two ways:

In a symbolic way I would say that all act of creativity is a re-enaction of a divine act, an approach to the divinity. Let us not forget that most probably, the wheel was invented as a projection of the Sun, and from there, use was found to the circle that was cut in stone or wood.

On a more down to earth answer, creative people are all those who dare to believe in their visions, their understanding that what they think and do is to forge today what will be the past of tomorrow.
On an industrial or commercial basis, I would say that creative people are the mediators between the producers and the consumers, creating products or goods that will respond to the unsuspected needs of consumers. That is to say: the creative mind previews what the consumer is going to want next without the consumer knowing that he is going to want it.

On a political approach I would say that creativity is the ability to anticipate the necessary social changes that are to happen, and find the evolutionary or revolutionary solution to respond to them.

Many people fear change, as change tends to bring something that is, to some extent, unknown.
However, the world’s language of today has two main dominant words: permanent change.
Therefore change is only feared if one’s mind is not open and void of any kind of prejudice.
This reminds me of a Chinese proverb about permanent renewal which could be adapted to this case.
It says : “The back wave pushes the front wave”. In short, it speaks of change, as tides are a permanent flow of change.

If we look into the fabric of Macau’s urban weave, it very much reflects both East and West and this urban fabric is like a book that is there to be read, as it contains the main indications of the city’s essence, and the natural evolution it should follow.

So, when we speak of Creative Industries, I would like to imagine that the first industrial body that requires a strong investment is the human mind, as it is the most powerful and determining pillar to development and change.

Change comes with strong investments in important social aspects such as Education and Culture.
Education is much more then a school project. It’s a city or a country’s project, as the primary commitment and investment on the human mind that I have just mentioned. Growing with a global vision of the world is part of the present interpretation of Confucius’ legacy on Ritual, because real Education is not a passive and bovine acceptance of knowledge, but a dialogue between those who learn by teaching, with those who learn by questioning. So the ancient concept of Educational Cities is once more relevant because they may very well become the answer to cities that find themselves cornered by inactivity in the realm of creativity.

With Education comes Culture

My understanding of culture is that of an integrated pattern of human knowledge, beliefs and behavior encompassing a broad range of human activities such as language, ideas, beliefs, customs, codes, taboos, rituals, institutions, ceremonies, art expressions and other related components of human activity, such as tools and techniques.
In short, the definition of culture should involve all capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.
Culture is also one of the most powerful and constructive ways to provide mankind with the tools to respect socio-cultural differences and to unite on what it has in common.
No matter what definitions we make on Educational and Cultural aspects, it is of great importance to acknowledge that there must be an important percentage of common ground both in Education and Cultural aspects for one to be able to relate to the world of today. Accessing world citizenship means pertaining with full conscience both to a specific and to a global culture.

Macau, in its smallness, can indeed provide in a much easier way for this to happen.
I have written and said since the late 70’s that Macau had and still have the optimum physical dimensions to be a permanent social, anthropological, economical and cultural laboratory. Our city is what I would place under the slogan that small is great, provided that meritocracy can prevail.

I dare say that I first proposed a Cultural Center in 1977, because it was obvious that the need for cultural equipment and a place to relate to culture both on a local and international basis was of much importance for the social and cultural development of the City. The Cultural Center was inaugurated in 1999.

Around 1994 I begun making proposals for a Creativity Center, outlining the profile of something that could be a place of thought, of research, of experimentation of social, anthropological, economical and linguistic investigation, a place where creative people would interact and work alongside with students, interacting, discussing…

Now I have the pleasure to see that there is concern about this very close topic that has brought us here.

Every city has in fact its own culture and specifics that characterize it. It is not necessary to emulate other socio-economic models but to adapt the city’s specific characteristics to attain a new social and economic solution that is in tune with the world of tomorrow, which, to my understanding, means healthy diversification.

A creative city is one which is able to permanently re-invent itself, to find or redefine resources in order to be able to develop all its components, and to establish the necessary social pact that will provide an indispensable set of rules to full modernization, which does not necessarily mean destruction of the Past, but its optimization.

Re-inventing a city is a permanent activity whose aim is to better the rules that govern the city and its citizens, based on a strategic global plan, destined to create a most sought after interactive relationship between rulers and ruled, in which, the ruled will have the duty and the power to contribute to the overall well being as much as the rulers.

This is a social contract between rulers and ruled, as both sides are in fact, only the two sides of one single aim: to foster overall development towards an ingenious and healthier economy based on the tertiary sector, bringing added value to every part of the city and its inhabitants and visitors.

At the beginning of the third millennium, the whole world has access to a huge amount of information and the concept of nation’s boundaries and citizenship is being put at stake by a most powerful media: the internet, the global society.

Virtual citizenship brings to my thought a number of measures that require urgent implementation: full access and liberalization of all communications, full access to all means of information, full electronic banking, full implementation of an online economy commonly known as e-commerce, as well as maximization of online contents.

Reshaping of the economy from its traditional model through the real implementation of the tertiary sector will mean, as said before, an overview of all social components, an added value to the existing model and available infrastructures.

Development is not only education. The concept of development must include, I insist, in the establishment of a new social pact in which all essential parts of the city and its inhabitants are optimized. That is to say as an ultimate goal: development is the full achievement of the socio-economical and political components that will provide citizens with access to all benefits they are entitled to as well as the demand of fulfillment of all duties under the same deal.

Therefore, in my opinion Creative Industries can only really exist and fully flourish under a full and complete development strategy for the City.

It has been noticeable long ago that China’s policy was to open its immense coastline to development, using capillary effect to bring development from the coastline into the innermost cities and villages within 50 years.

Therefore, the role of cities like Macau are to interpret this goal and, instead of trying to compete with mainland China in the industrial sector, should rapidly reshape their attitude in a new tertiary sector relationship with the Mainland, capitalizing on its different character.

This means that Creativity is just part of the deal of being able to arm the city with the necessary tools for the world, as we all know that 40% of the world’s retail commerce is done in the internet.

But products need to be conceived, and that could be one of the Creative Industries of Macau. To re-launch traditional small industries in a larger scale, such as re-designed furniture, re-designed jewelry, re-designed garments, other products and services that are unique to Macau or the the city’s imagination.

But again most important of all : a real change can only occur when at least one part of the social contractees demand a new contract.

Let me just add a word of caution: development does not mean eradication of some very important assets, such as Tourism. What it means is diversification.

Thus, development in today’s world cannot be reached without full opening to the world, without minds that are eager to exchange views to teach and to learn, to absorb, interacting permanently with the city and the world, bearing the notion that not a single city contains the world nor a single city is containable by the world.

Let me just recall once more the wisdom of Confucius:

You may understand it, but if you can’t sustain it with Humanity, it will slip from your grasp

You may understand it and sustain it with Humanity, but if you don’t govern with solemn dignity, there’ll be no reverence among the people

You may understand it, sustain it with Humanity, and govern with solemn dignity, but if you don’t put it into practice according to Ritual, no good will come of it”.


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