Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Artists Against Racism.EU

Andras Schiff tells me that following my interview with him in the JC about the rising tide of racism in Hungary, he has been on the receiving end of a new slew of virulent anti-Semitic abuse, some of which extends to Holocaust denial.

I'd like to draw your attention to an organisation founded by the conductor Adam Fischer, who has recently resigned from the Hungarian State Opera. Artists Against Racism has an excellent website that, amongst other things, highlights the incidents that somehow do not always make our news pages. It is largely but by no means entirely focused on Hungary. It is described as "a union of artists opposed to racism and intolerance in Europe and the world" and it has come into being not a moment too soon.

Less than two weeks ago the conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi (grandson of the composer Erno Dohnanyi) cancelled some appearances in Hungary in protest at the appointment of a new intendant and artistic director with far-right associations at the New Theatre, Budapest. Read more here. Artists Against Racism has further information on this situation and publishes an open letter to the mayor of Budapest, as well as a link to a petition.

Fischer founded the organisation in April. This is his introductory message:

Dear colleagues, dear friends, 
I would like to welcome you on this website. Together with other Artist colleagues I have written an open letter, published in early January in Brussels, calling for more tolerance in Europe. In this letter we expressed our concern about growing intolerance and increasing racist tendencies in Hungary and in Europe as a whole. I would like all artists who feel the same way to start building a network that helps us to coordinate and stand up together against this growing wave of intolerance. In times of economic crisis, it is easy to direct peoples’ frustration against the more vulnerable in society and to use them as scapegoats. Demagogic politicians, due to opportunist and short-sighted reasons, will often stir up hatred against minorities. I think that artists must use their fame to work against such demagoguery. On this site, I would like to create a forum where we can share our thoughts and ideas. I would ask you, first of all, to simply get in touch, so so that we know how many of us who share these ideals. I look forward to your letters and I wish you all the best.
Adam Fischer

This is not an isolated matter. Hungary is not a small East-European basket case, despite its impenetrable language. It's a major European centre bang on the Danube. And in many fields, in many countries, in many ways, there are signs not only of rising racism but also the repression that usually goes hand-in-glove with it. In the US, National Public Radio has just jettisoned an opera show because its host, Lisa Simeone, took part in the Occupy movement. Nor is she the only one to lose her post because of her personal outlook: more info and some interesting, disturbing questions in The Guardian

I am still haunted by Maria at Wexford and its evocation of the brute force to which totalitarian states almost invariably resort sooner or later. How do they take control? Their populations, eyes wide closed, let them. They do not notice what's happening until it's too late.

You will find a permanent link to Artists Against Racism in the JDCMB sidebar section entitled MUSIC INSPIRATIONS.