Darcy Levison is the Social Secretary of Cambridge University European Society.
Clare College recently played host to Cambridge University European Society’s (CUEUS) first screening of term, the docu-drama The Great European Disaster Movie.
Surveying the audience, we were happy to note that we had attracted students from a wide range of nationalities, and even some individuals who currently work in Brussels, to discuss and reflect on the future of the European Union.
After the screening, which evoked empathy and laughter from the audience in equal turn, CUEUS led a discussion of the issues raised by the film, initiating a lively exchange about the power of media representation with regards to perceptions of Europe.
We discussed the notion of ‘change’, not attempting to find the best ways to solve the specific problems of the EU, but trying to work out the best methods to transform people’s perceptions of their European Union membership. Education in schools and universities was emphasised by a number of audience members, although others noted that the internet offers the chance for more accessible interactive content.
This was expanded with a series of interventions on the media’s role, which concluded that whilst the film represents different viewpoints sensitively and sensibly, many newspapers and online opinion pieces in the UK do the opposite, increasing the sense of disconnect with the rest of Europe. An audience member from Bulgaria powerfully emphasised this, recounting their personal experience of media discrimination.
The rhetoric of the campaign for Britain to stay within Europe was also touched upon, with the general feeling being that whereas the film evokes collective emotion, the campaign currently focuses largely on the economic benefits of the EU. If this pragmatic approach results in a very close margin in the referendum, one audience member argued, perhaps the EU would be better off without the UK. This was a comment that hit home, as a show of hands indicated that a large majority of those present felt European.
Most were also ultimately optimistic about the future of the European Union, despite the many crises it faces. Some mentioned that we run the danger of forgetting the past, pointing out that the EU has guaranteed peace between states that have spent centuries at war. It was also felt very clearly that Europe still has untapped potential for reform.
We are proud to have hosted such an interesting night of discussion, with thought-provoking insights from both the film and many audience members. For the vast majority of those present, the EU is very much worth saving.
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