When I was a young man I used to play a strategy board game called “Risk”. It involved concentrating armies of various sizes represented by little plastic pieces a big map of the world and then trying to concentrate them and overcome your opponents pieces by having the overwhelming numbers at the right place with the ultimate aim world domination. I wasn’t very good at it, but I soon learned one essential strategy. In order to win you always had to hold and dominate Europe.
For those with an urge for intellectual challenge on a Sunday morning, I found a detailed and challenging piece from Greek-Australian academic, author and economist Yanis Varoufakis, in which he challenges the intellectual and basis of what might be called the Federalist European agenda and the economics of the single currency entitled “The Dirty War for Europe’s Integrity and Soul”. Here is an extract:
“And it is not just Charlemagne. Other totemic notions have been usurped, even pioneered, by the continent’s Dark Side. In Europe we like to think of the European Economic Community, as an idea, an institutional blueprint, that was conjured up as a bulwark against totalitarianism. Not true. The first academic conference, with the full participation of government ministers and officials, to discuss, and I quote from the official program, “The formation of a European Economic Community”, took place in Berlin. In 1942! Under the auspices of Walther Funk, Hitler’s finance minister and president of the Reichbank. A year later, another official, had this to say: “In my view a nation’s conception of its own freedom must be harmonised with present-day facts and simple questions of efficiency and purpose… Our only requirement of European states is that they be sincere and enthusiastic members of Europe.” “In fifty years Europeans will not be thinking in terms of separate countries.” The official’s name? Joseph Goebbels!
None of this insinuates that our European Union has Nazi roots. My point is that Europeans should beware: A European Economic Union is not per se democratic or necessarily a bulwark against totalitarianism. The Dark Side can also find expression in its design if we allow the Serpent DNA that, despite de-Nazification, has not disappeared from Europe, to replicate. Our moral obligation is to keep at bay through constant reinvigoration of our democratic principles. The very principles that are now set aside by the logic of the various troikas.”
With some of his commentary I agree, with other parts I am not so sure, or whether he is “right” or “wrong” (clumsy words), I am not qualified to say. But the piece made me think about what my attitude to “Europe” actually is, and whether there is struggle for its integrity and soul. I think there is.
In most ways I am naturally “pro-European” in the sense that I would encourage free trade, openness of borders as between good citizens, the ability to exchange culture and ideas and so forth. I regard it as a major plus that unlike so many of my forebears I have not been charged with crossing the Channel in order to fight some tyrant of another nation. I would much rather see warlike competition kept on the playing field, and that my team of overpaid, stupid and underperforming footballers played and got stuffed by articulate and professional French, German, Spanish (and anybody else’s) footballers than see the sharp end of a bayonet or a bullet. I love France, and I am delighted that London is now the fourth largest French city. I regard that as a cultural boon. From the fun I had watching Germany in the World Cup last Friday evening in proximity of a team of German cheerleaders I feel sure that my attitude to Anglo-German relations is very positive indeed. I frequent my local “Polski Sklep”.
However, to put the matter in a less fatuous manner, I regard the creations of what I will loosely call European culture as the high point of mankind’s artistic, cultural and intellectual manifestation. This is, of course, a very dangerous or even illegal thing to say. Racist! some would cry. It also involves something of a distinct lack of moral relativism which is so entrenched in our allegedly cultural elite. Surely it is quite improper to favour the artistic achievement of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Beethoven, Moliere or Monet with the face painting of the Fuckawi tribe? Well, not it’s not, but again I am being facetious, and is not my point as such. There are many and wondrous glorious manifestations of artistic, cultural and even political thinking and expression the world over. But taken as a whole, from the birth of democracy in the Greek City States to the expressions of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, it is Europe which has been the brightest beacon of civilization. I am therefore proud to be a European.
But there is of course a “but”. And that “but” is that I have the instinctive feel that Euro- Federalist train has a destination where I do not want to go. Whilst it is true that I get much of my political intelligence from using my eyes and ears on the reputable news media, and also sometimes the Daily Mail, I find the appointment and attitudes of someone like Jean-Claude Junket – sorry Juncker – disturbing. Why?
When I studied history at Cambridge, I did two terms of what was called the history of political thought. I found British political thinkers – Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Bentham and even the radical Thomas Paine all had something practical, pragmatic and direct to say about every day life and democracy. I found “European” philosophers – with the honourable exception of Machiavelli – to be consumed with impenetrable intellectualism and indeed any “ism” for its own sake, and out of touch with humanity. You could put it down to a narrow minded “Little Englander” attitude, but I would rather argue that it is simply a different mindset. I do not need thirty pages of self referential moral meanderings to work out whether a man beating a helpless child or animal is wrong. I just act, and if necessary punch the man, because it is the right thing to do. As that annoying Meerkat thang on the telly says, “simples”.
I found European intellectualism to be divorced from practical, every day democracy, even humanity, and prone to idolatry of self appointed elites. And whether by accident of geography or different cultural values, mainland Europe has a long history of totalitarian regimes, which last expressed itself to disastrous effect in the form of the Nazis. By comparison it is an oft repeated mantra that – at least since the death of Cromwell – no English speaking nation has ever fallen under the grip of a totalitarian regime of that ilk.
And so yes, I am concerned about seemingly faceless men like Mr. Juncker. I am concerned about the democratic deficit. I am concerned that there is a concentration of power in hands which appear to me to be without proper scrutiny. I am concerned that there is corruption and incompetence and a gravy train. I am concerned that the EU’s accounts have not been signed off in donkey’s years.
But most of all, I am concerned that people like Mr. Juncker are not the best people to defend and protect Europe. There are three imminent threats to Europe. They are financial incompetence, lack of political accountability, and the global rise of racist and sectarian violence. I want to talk about the latter because it is the most serious.
I read with horror a week or so ago of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, probably by Hamas. I heard with equal horror of the probable revenge kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, forced to drink petrol and burned alive, so it is said. So the cycle goes on and on…. Open any newspaper or turn on any news station and we see that very large parts of the world, but particularly the Middle East and the Indian Sub Continent are involved in the ruthless sectarian conflict.
Now, I need to acknowledge that that when it comes to racism and sectarianism, Europe has a track record which is second to none. The glory of European art and cultural is set in a bloody background of sectarian and racist violence at every turn, and one could pick out a thousand examples; the destruction of the Cathars, the 100 Years War, constant pogroms against the Jews. One can even look closer to home and more recently at the troubles of Northern Ireland.
It is indeed one of the great ironies of life that so many young men supposedly gripped by religions which advocate the love and piece of God are prepared to carry out utter wickedness and cruelty in their name.
But through the Enlightenment and the convulsions of two World Wars Europe has reached a degree of secular calm in which that has mostly been put aside. My concern is that it is not imported again, from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan or wherever. I understand that there are now more British Muslims fighting with the ruthless “ISIS” forces in Syria and Iraq than there are serving in the British army. That is not healthy. I want a free, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Europe which is kept free of this kind of behaviour. I want the powers that be to be totally uncompromising and intolerant of intolerance. I am very concerned that the present instigators of the European Federalist project are not the people with the character and ideas needed to defend European culture. What we need are latter day Charlemagnes. What we have got is Brussels sprouts.
Bouchard. New balls, please?
On a slightly lighter note, my spies on Twitter have reported that former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss was caught on mike calling Kevin Pietersen “an absolute c**t”. An unfortunate faux pas, to be sure.
Now as I perused my Daily Mail yesterday morning I noted that it was reported that there had been a falling out between tennis beauties, Britain’s Laura Robson (20) and Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard (20). It appears that the two who were formerly “bestest friends EVA!” have fallen out and are not on speaking terms. The reason…shock horror! A boy! Actually I was hoping for some salacious gossip, but it seems to be something to do with the services of a coach, and Ms Bouchard’s driving ambition. It seems that rather scarily toothy, self aware and flirtatious Ms. Bouchard (20) is not adverse to a bit of self publicity on “social media” and is quite determined to make it big, on and off the court and at any cost. Anyhow, later on she got a pasting in the woman’s final from Anna Kvitova. I was listening on the BBC radio. Clare Balding was doing the main commentating and she had Judy Murray, Tracy Austin and none other than Miss Robson (20) doing the summarizing. It all passed off rather gently and with good manners as Ms. Bouchard (2O) got tonked, but after a couple of jugs of Pimms I drifted off and the Strauss incident did make me wonder how things might have gone…
BALDING: Oh what a great shot from Kvitova, back hand return, passing Bouchard..!
MURRAY: Bouchard has to hand on in their now, she needs to hold serve, and keep her nerve, keep up those deep returns and fight for each point.
ROBSON: Nothing. I just though I saw a cow somewhere…over there. Oh no, it was a ball boy. Sorry.
BALDING: Right….well now it it’s Bouchard’s turn to serve, let’s see if she can hold her nerve…
AUSTIN: She needs to get a good first serve in now….
BALDING: And it’s an ace! And she waves to the crowd!
ROBSON: I’m just enjoying this nice lemon tart…
BALDING: And Bouchard serves deep, but oh… what a return, a winner from Kvitova! What can Bouchard do about this I wonder?
ROBSON: She might try wearing a skirt rather than an excuse for a belt for a start.
BALDING: Erm…yes, well Bouchard serves again, this time Kvitova returns… forearm slice from Bouchard…Kvitova tries a lob….and the smash from Bouchard is good!
MURRAY: Great shot!
ROBSON: Not bad I suppose. For a man eating bitch with bingo wings…
(Enter BBC security personnel….)
Gildas the Monk