PCCA Conference 2020, WALLS-OPEN, CLOSED, SLIDING? Europe and our world today

PCCA Conference 2020


Europe and our world today

Ernst Sillem Hoeve, Den Dolder, The Netherlands

Thursday 27th – Monday 31st August 2020

PCCA, through its conferences, works towards developing strategies to engage with the legacy of past atrocities and with contemporary societal conflicts that can contribute to opening up the possibility of a more hopeful future.

PCCA’s conferences have developed from the experience of a pioneer group of German and Israeli psychoanalysts and others working directly in the presence of the ‘other’ of the victim-perpetrator dyad, i.e. the “enemy”. The Tavistock Group Relations conferences model was specially adapted to create a setting where experiences relating to the Holocaust, in the first instance, and later expanded to other societal conflicts and tensions, which are ordinarily disowned, can be comprehended and voiced. Inner thoughts, feelings and fantasies about oneself, as a member of one (or more) of the groups in the conference, form the raw material that every individual brings to the work form the base of the work. Application of this experience to the members’ personal, professional, political and social context is an important part of the learning process.

WALLS – OPEN, CLOSED, SLIDING? Europe and our world today

The European Union was built in the shadow of the Holocaust and in the aftermath of war to avoid a repetition of the horrors of the past.

Today, dark clouds are gathering across the continent, and the union thus conceived seems to be at risk, fuelled by:

  • The influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East, which has introduced fears of ‘invasion’ into the social fabric of European nations.
  • The tension in the Middle East: the endless conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the disastrous situation in the region generally.
  • The fear of a terrorist attack.
  • A disturbing upsurge of xenophobia, racial intolerance, neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, fascism and authoritarianism, of a return to tribalism and a “me – first” mentality.
  • The call to narrow, exclusive national/regional identities, once confined to the margins, grows louder and now yields electoral success. So old enmities, are being invoked to drive nationalist populism – there is Brexit and the rise of far-right parties in Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, etc.
  • A growing gap between rich “elites” and the poor (“the people”) – left behind, largely white and “indigenous” – fed by globalization and de-industrialisation.
  • Instability in the financial sector, with its roots in the financial crisis of 2008, continues to generate tension between the strong EU core, located in the West, and the periphery – the austerity-ridden Mediterranean and the poorer Eastern European countries.
  • Growing alarm, alongside denial, over climate change, spawning a culture of intergenerational blame.

People experience an ongoing state of anxiety regarding personal safety, national security and control of the borders, which also give rise to hostility and mistrust towards the “others”. In this context, the idea of borders – walls to keep out the “other” in order to safeguard what defines “us” – takes centre stage, amplified, ironically, by borderless and immediately accessible social media.

How do we to make sense of this situation? Was the idea of creating unity out of diversity a realistic aspiration or an idealized dream that avoids a deep need for borders – walls, both inner and outer? Does today’s situation foretell a horrific future – are we heading for a Europe and a world in which the rigid walls of the last century will once again prevail?  Or, are we paying the price for living as if we didn’t need walls?  If so, do they have to be either closed or open, or is there another way?

This four-day residential experiential conference will create a space in which questions like these can be considered and addressed in-depth. It allows participants to supplement their views on these matters with observations of what goes on beneath the surface, including their own emotional experience and dynamics that emerge within and between groups, in order to deepen their understanding and awareness of the extent  that the current situation in Europe and in our world today also involves a repetition of the past, to be able to move forward in a less burdened way.

We hope that this conference can be of interest to participants from Europe and all around the world and their many ‘voices’ can allow a better exploration of the walls we build, open or sliding in Europe, from inside and from outside, and in our world today.

Louisa Diana Brunner – Conference Director

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