Creating Happiness: On the Notion of European Capital of Culture
2 August 2014
 Rossen I. Roussev, Ph.D.
Happiness has been the long-standing and undisputed telos of the human nature. Our purpose is to promote and maintain through culture an environment that conditions happiness. We understand happiness – in line with a long European tradition of thought – as well-being.

Indeed, happiness has been differently viewed throughout the history of culture, but its sense of well-being has endured since Antiquity. Socrates thought of it as self-improvement aimed at living well, which for him was the same as leading a moral life. Aristotle and the stoic philosophers understood it as well-being that consists in a life accorded with virtues. Whereas hedonistic thinkers like Epicurus saw it in a life of moderate pleasure aimed at peace of the mind and health of the body.

Centuries later, the modern quest for universal knowledge imbued the hope for happiness for all. Kant anticipated it in the community of rational beings acting out of universally good maxims, while treating each other as ends in themselves (and never as means). Marx envisioned it as a social well-being spreading out to all members in a classless society. Whereas utilitarian theorists like John Stuart Mill hoped to achieve it as the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Thinkers of the past century focused their attention on the happiness of the individual person more than ever before. Jean-Paul Sartre linked it to one’s individual freedom unobstructed by basic material needs. Emmanuel Levinas thought of it as joyful accomplishment along an ethical concern for others. Jürgen Habermas viewed it as a normatively fulfilled human emancipation. Whereas Michel Foucault saw it in an innovation in practice carried along the values of truth, self-care, and self-creation.

Amidst the myriad of ideas and hopes for happiness in our cultural tradition, today we acknowledge that its pursuit is as multifaceted as it is open-ended in its both individual and social dimensions. Whereas our individual well-being has always been our immediate concern and responsibility, in our cyber age we have never been more disposed to seek it in association with others. We believe that culture helps create the bond of our community of peoples in Europe and the world, while offering its insights to every person to pursue and create happiness on their own. We believe that culture can create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and tolerance, which conditions efficient thought and productive interaction in our age of globalization, multiculturalism, and diversity. We believe that culture can bring people closer to one another by creating bridges between them, regardless of their differences in ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, age, disability, social background, or sexual orientation. For it is indeed the creation of culture that has always welcomed everyone ever labelled “other.”

This is why our goal is to create culture of highest quality and integrate it as essential component of our lives in pervasive and sustainable manner. We want to promote culture that reflects the concerns of our European and global community for prosperity and emancipation, for human development and self-creation, for social justice and environmental harmony. We want culture that enhances one’s critical thought and creativity, one’s self-development and self-esteem. We want culture that conveys a sense of belongingness to a larger community and prepares the citizenship to respond to challenges through active participation.

We know we can ensure prosperous and joyful co-existence for our diverse community of people, because we create the culture that sustains it. It is the culture of happiness, as simple and as needed as the well-being of freedom and beauty, care and love, joy and success is for everyone. We know how to bring it to YOU! And we will!
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