Mark Mardell, of Mark Mardell’s Euroblog, a BBC blog that seems to get better and better over time, has a rather typical post on Europe called A country called Europe. It is typical in that it centres around the issue of Europe becoming a superstate or not. Nothing new here. Some people dream of a United States of Europe, others cannot even stand the very thought of that idea, and then there are plenty of people who could not care less. Still, the comment thread to Mardell’s post makes for some very interesting reading and provides some wonderful quotes and ideas. Just reading this single thread brings you completely up-to-date with current popular viewpoints on Europe. All sides, pro or con or indifferent, are present and there is a good dose of history lessons and “outsider” views. In short, the very concept of blogging at its best.
What I especially like about this thread is how people talk about Europe and how their opinions reflect European culture(s). I would like to invite AFOE readers to go and read Mark Mardell’s post and the comment thread from this cultural perspective. Culture is not just about the Arts with a capital A, culture is first and foremost, for me at least, how everyday people live and perceive their lives. If only we could have had comment threads like this from, say, the times of the Roman Empire or the Middle Ages. What a wealth of information that would be for scientists, who now have to rely solely on ancient relics and the writings of contemporary elites, to explore and analyse. Very little is known about public discourse in those periods beyond what elitist literature left behind. And even then much must have been lost in translation. Nowadays, with the internet among other things, we are documenting our own era, from all levels of society, without really being aware of it. We are so rich. So here are a few quotes that I particularly like to wet your appetites. All emphasis is mine.
The first quote, wonderfully emphasising some European stereotypes, brought a big smile to my face, as it seems so familiar:
18) At 09:32 AM on 12 Jul 2007, Erik wrote:
I welcome all sentiments on the matter; federalism, confederalism, supranationalism etc. At least it keeps a debate going.
Unlike what has now happened in Holland. People don’t take sides anymore, they no longer care. They feel Europe is irrelevant. The British are waving their arms in panic as ever, the French probably have a secret agenda somewhere, the Germans never really know what they want and the Polish seem to have gone insane.
We have the euro now, and it allows Holland (a traditionally utterly capitalist nation) to do what it wants and needs: trade. The average Dutchman/woman shrugs his/her shoulders at anything else.
In a second quote, from an Italian reader, poor Europa is not just at risk of being kidnapped. No, it is much worse this time, and he does have a theoretical point, she could be turned into a prostitute:
4) At 05:37 AM on 12 Jul 2007, Giacomo Dorigo wrote:
The concept of Nation is a purely rhetorical and emotional one, built on the primitive base of feel of belonging to tribe and projected to a bigger community. Well, if someone starts from the point of view of objectively existing Nations, then you will see any federal project as the construction of a bigger Nation. (…) …this is precisely what happened during the construction of all the so called Nations! United Kingdom… United… what has been united? If it has always exist a nation called United Kingdom, why there was a need to unite it? The same with France, the north kingdom army made a kind of crusade in order to destroy the south culture and language! And what about the kingdom of Spain? It was the result of elite engineering as well as UK! And what about Germany and Italy built on military effort by Bismark or Garibaldi… (…) Now USA are the rulers of the world, tomorrow maybe Chinese will be, we don’t know. (…) Anyway they did, they merged their territorial diversities in giant so called National States. We, Europeans did it before, but our products were smaller, and now we are in this half-river-crossed situation. I don’t know. What we now call Italy has been in a similar situation for many centuries, many kingdoms, the Pope state, some city-republics, in the meanwhile Spain, Britain, France were built… but Italy not. Dante in the 13th century was already complaining at that, saying that Italy was more or less like a bitch (“Ahi serva Italia di dolori ostello, non donna di province ma bordello”). And now we are here the process seems very like that one…
Or: If Europe does not “really unite” pretty soon, it will be owned and abused in a who’s-your-daddy kind of way by greater world powers. And what to think of the next quote, comparing expanding EU powers to colonialism:
12) At 08:15 AM on 12 Jul 2007, John wrote:
President Barosso this week described the EU as an empire. In my opinion this word captures what the EU would become if the federalist dream was fulfilled because multi-national federalism is empire. It always involves centralised authority over its constituent nations who must live under this authorityâ€™s decisions whether they like them or not. Empires need not be tyrannical but they are always despotic. The enlightened despotism of the British Empire imagined (or deceived itself) that it was doing more good than harm in bringing civilisation to remote parts of the world. But to the people of Boston or Bombay it was still a despotism to be despised because so long as it lasted the governed could not replace their masters or even significantly influence their decisions.
There is a lot more, go and have a read if only to see what contemporary vox populi culture is like. Regardless of their content several arguments are posited quite elegantly and eloquently and are interwoven with cultural references. And, lest we should forget, Europa is supposed to be quite an elegant, sophisticated lady. Now that I come to think of it, to what extent is this actually true? Here is an idea for a debate on AFOE:
How elegant do you think Europa is? Culturally speaking and compared to, say, the US or China or Russia or whatever important world power you can think of. Does she still have some of the refinement of, for instance, the Renaissance, or has she turned permanently into a cheap and vulgar fishwife – as evidenced by, for example, public “talk” in soccer stadiums? Not to mention the recent exploits of the Polish twins and the reactions to their, alas not so unique, kind of discourse…