The first anniversary of the C-thing has not gone unnoticed. Anniversaries provide moments to take stock, look back and think about what might come next. Last Spring, the early enthusiasm for transformational change was more tangible in the air than aerosols -but now, on our way to 3 million casualties worldwide, it seems only artists and philosophers still continue the conversation about what actually makes life worth living, how to deal with political challenges, and how we need to relate this short or midterm challenge to the bigger one looming behind, the climate crisis. The great visions of a ‘new normal’ don’t leave a big footprint in ordinary politics so far....
In this editorial for BMJ Global Mental Health, Cristian Montenegro and Francisco Ortega aim to "unsettle and expand the relatively circumscribed place given to culture and context in global mental health." And they do so brillantly, pointing out that the impementation of global ideas can push out the local realities and local strengths to deal with specific contexts. "Think Global, Act Local" does not always work in mental health implementation models. "It is important for global (mental) health to recognise that culture and context are internally contested, and that their meaning and relevance are rooted in local history and identity. Critical concerns about exporting knowledge and practices need to be supplemented with a careful examination of the internal complexity of culture and context and how they are made visible and negotiated alongside global and local policy ambitions.". Indeed!
There is little to add to all the things said about 2020. Perhaps just to note that it did not go unnoticed. It was a year that we lived more consciously than ever. From day to day, from curfew to new Corona statistics, from lockdowns to travel restrictions, moving from one ‘bubble’ to the next. We noticed differences more than ever: between groups of people who were strict and others not so strict with the rules; countries that called themselves democratic saw 'authoritarian' others with sometimes better results in controlling the pandemic; we noticed differences in eating habits, mass behaviour, greeting rituals and so on. What was unbearable interference in the private sphere for some was a natural trust in government for others. What was real fear for some was seen as overprotection by others; what was taken for care-homes turned into prisons for some of the senior citizens. One thing struck us at C4C – biased as we are of course: these were all examples of how culture shapes our lives, and even the way we die.
We feel encouraged by the initiatives in neighbourhoods and communities all over the world where people used old traditions and invented new ones to help each other. We see that new understanding is replacing old judgment: in working out how to deal with fear and isolation, how to care for the vulnerable, how to organise society in a more equal way. We keep looking for these examples and we keep using them in our interventions as we have done in 2020. You will hear more about this in our upcoming annual report.
We thank you wholeheartedly for the support you gave us, and we hope to be able to do more and show you more in the coming year. We wish you happiness and transcultural adventures for 2021!
Stay safe & stay tuned,
Bibiane and Willem
C4C participated in the final conference of COA (COA is short for Centraal Orgaan opvang asielzoekers, in English: the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers – on the project “Participation Eritreans: taking cultural differences into account”. Willem van de Put presented on the ‘refugee experience’. Wonderful day – and beautiful drawings! On the page of the project Participation of Eritreans on www.coa.nl you will find, among other things, links to the animation videos Eritreans in the Netherlands; the information range guidance Eritrean licensees and the online version of the book Eritrea and Eritrean refugees that the COA has published. There are also other project products to be found, such as the photo dictionary 'Look, here! ' and the brochure Western life is fast – handles for the guidance of Eritreans.