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A Misguided Diagnosis of the EU Centrifugal Forces?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2016-08-10 10:32:57
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Author’s preamble: On August 1, 2016 an intriguing lead article appeared in Ovi magazine titled “Will Europeans finally make a decision on their own future?” I wrote a rather lengthy comment to the article which I assume will have appeared as such by the time this reproduction of the same is published. Why did I decide to send basically the same comment as an article in its own right? Well, because I am convinced that there exist nowadays much confusion and consternation on the diagnosis and prognosis of the causes for the centrifugal forces presently afflicting the European Union. This may be a mere intuition, but it ought to be rather obvious that more readers ought to be aware of the misguided diagnosis that are at times offered by both experts and non-experts on this very issue. What follows expands in greater detail on this initial premise. A dialogue is urgently needed, for unless we solve our problems amicably with reason and common sense, we will have to resolve them the hard way, with conflict and strife and destructive ad hominem attacks on each other. I believe that most intelligent readers would prefer the former to the latter.

The above mentioned article, which appeared in Ovi on August 1 2016, attempts an analysis of what ails present day EU; the following elements are mentioned: being in just for the money, or the power, “naturally promoting one’s interests first,” to wit Germany, (that adjective “naturally” is instructive…as if saying with Ayn Rand that selfishness is a natural state of affairs…), desire to dominate by the more prosperous member countries, especially Germany once again, the promotion of fortress Europe that keeps the undesirables out, ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, nostalgia for strong men who bring back law and order, resistance to change, especially globalization, resistance to the sharing of resources, equality, adaptation, and so on. What comes through is a rather bleak and desperate scenario:  a EU at war with itself, wallowing in disunity, where the center does not hold, a Machiavellian political entity whose highest considerations seem to be geo-political realities, and of course, the chimera of prosperity that appears to be disappearing for the majority of people in the EU, never mind half of the world’s population living in dire poverty. A far cry, to be sure, from the vision of the EU promoted by its founding fathers.


The question arises: is this diagnosis by itself enough to bring about a solution, what the US Constitution calls “a more perfect union”? Are there lessons from previous history (previous to the EU) that can be learned? For example, the example of Italian national unification as treated repeatedly in these pages? Are the elements in this diagnosis sufficient in themselves or is a prognosis also needed? The original ideals of a united Europe are hinted at but nowhere spelled out in the above mentioned article (they are clearly announced actually in the original foundational documents of the EU founding fathers which precious few have read and reflected upon), but then  more globalization is recommended as the ultimate solution. This is what Europeans are called to adapt and conform to. But what is the brutal reality of globalization? Globalization, on both sides of the Atlantic, has brought about more income inequality and economic stagnation, for the last thirty years or so, beginning with Regan and Thatcher, for the middle class. That class is presently very frustrated and discontented, but then populism as a reaction is found undesirable. But most of us would probably concur that populism and fascism and nationalism and xenophobia are the ugly reactions to economic injustice, to wit the rise of a Trump or a Le Pen.


So what might a more cogent solution possibly be for a dire situation as described in the above mentioned article? A modest proposal: how about exploring the genuine cultural identity of the continent; something I have been attempting for a decade or so in the very pages of this magazine. What is it, pray, that makes us all Europeans beyond, power plays, prosperity, geo-political considerations, ethnic-national loyalties, soccer games and reality- shows and circuses galore? That something that may blessedly allow for the center to hold? To be sure, there are brilliant examples for this; one that jumps to mind is Christopher Dawson’s The Making of Europe, which I dare say, precious few Europeanists have read and pondered. And there are many others that could be mentioned and have been mentioned in my analysis over the last ten years.

I remain convinced that once we know what that cultural glue is and debate it thoroughly, it may perhaps keep us together, or at the very least takes us on the right road to “a more perfect union,” and we may perhaps hope to overcome the powerful centrifugal forces at play as we speak. Analysis is fine, but it is only a first step to a correct prognosis which is essential to restore health and sanity. Any doctor will confirm that. As I said, this is intended as a modest proposal, perhaps a mere speaking in the wind in the desolate intellectual desert of the brave new world of global realities in which we live and have our being. Frankly, even after ten years of speaking into the wind in the pages of Ovi magazine, hoping for a budding dialogue on this issue, with few precious responses or even negative responses, what I, with Ignazio Silone, call “the conspiracy of hope” is not dead, for indeed loss of hope and despair are equivalent to death itself.  


“Getting it off one’s chest,” as the caption on top of the Ovi comment section recommends, can of course be cathartic in itself, psychologically speaking, but there are more important, more philosophical-ethical considerations: for evil to triumph in the world, all that is needed is for good men to simply observe and then keep their mouth shut refusing to dialogue and even argue on the issue of cultural identity pretending that all is well with the world. Eventually, they may find out, when the calamity hits closer at home, that all is not so well with the world, albeit it may be well with them personally at the moment.


Globalization as understood by the rich and powerful

The wiser route, I would strongly suggest, is to work for a better more just and humane world for everybody concerned, and that literally means everybody. The rich and privileged living in a comfortable self-created delusional bubble may sooner than later find out, once it bursts, that the world they have created has become uncomfortable for them too.   

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