Jan 142008

There aren’t many living people in the world I would describe as heroes. Across politics, business, media, the arts, and even the environment, very few individuals excite my imagination or lead me to think world progress is really possible. Still fewer persuade me that they themselves can bring about that progress. So it was warming to read on Guardian Online just now that Daniel Barenboim has become the first Israeli in the world to be granted Palestinian citizenship. This is of course in recognition of his inspirational work with young Arabs and Israelis, divided by political conflict but united in making great music, through the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. I was once lucky enough to hear them play at the Proms – a performance that rivalled any long established great symphony orchestra. In a TV documentary, Barenboim once explained the parallels between listening to each other in conflict and the need to listen to each other when playing to make a great sound. His argument is simple – if we can have a dialogue when we play music, which we must for it to sound good, surely it will be easier to do so when we are arguing about borders and statehood. Music can bridge divides that words cannot. Barenboim has already done enough for the world through his genius as a pianist and conductor. Not to mention his brilliant Reith lectures last year.  But the way in which he has harnessed his talent to foster understanding in the Middle East makes him a giant in my book. Yet here we all sit, watching reality ‘talent’ shows invade our TV every night, when a pioneer like Barenboim is out there giving people a future. Victoria Beckham, a woman of no definable talent, musical or otherwise, changes her hair and it’s front page news.  If only people knew what they were missing!

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