Like millions of other Europeans, I am grossly disappointed with the EU’s lack of moral fibre, which is precisely why the very essence of European identity is in such a crisis.
Admittedly, a lack of moral compass and the obsessive pursuit of commercial success are also worldwide problems. But the crisis in European identity goes well beyond man’s insatiable greed for money and power, because the EU continues to deny its Christian roots.
It also came up with the idea of selling EU passports, which definitely mocks European identity.
I recently came across an opinion piece in a British newspaper asserting that the notion of a European identity only made sense during the Cold War because it was fired by the warring ideologies of democracy and communism espoused by the US and the former USSR respectively.
In fact, the very same article pointed out that up to the end of the World War I in 1918, citizens in Europe (of whatever race) did not give a second thought to their European identity since they were utterly subjugated by the imperial sway that stamped European history for centuries on end.
Furthermore, the interwar years and its aftermath were too taken up with preparing for, dying in, or if having survived, picking up the pieces of the worst conflagration ever seen on European soil.
While there is no denying the impact of empires that carved out Europe between them for millennia and pillaged their colonised lands in the process, such a myopic vision of European identity clearly manifests a disturbing obliteration of cultural roots forged by the heritage of Ancient Greece and of Ancient Rome, in turn melded with the indelible impact of Christianity. Whether people like to admit it or not, the essence of European civilisation is Christianity, having itself soaked up the influence of Classical Greece, Classical Rome and Judaism.
As a result, Christianity has shaped our European way of life, moulded our traditions, infused our languages, imbued our literature, inspired our architecture and art in its myriad expressions, sparked our philosophy as well as informed our view of life and mankind, even generated atheists.
Christianity was even exploited to justify unjustifiable political, economic and theological decisions. For there was nothing Christian about the feudal system, the Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews or the rape of colonised territories whose ongoing repercussions make Shakespeare’s Prospero and Caliban more prescient than the Bard ever imagined.
However, it is no coincidence that in the wake of the collapse of Rome and well into the Renaissance, Europe was synonymous with Christendom despite horrifying atrocities committed by warring Catholics and Protestants in the name of the same God.
Millions of Europeans are besieged by the vested interests of a club of fat cats
It must also be added that the peaks and troughs of Europe’s history have been constantly tinged with cross-culturalisation from all quarters of the globe, meaning totally different cultures have left their mark, enriching European culture in the process. ‘Leaving their mark’ is a key point because it is not synonymous with erosion or negation of core values.
Acknowledging Christianity as the bedrock of European identity is no bigoted rallying call for a theocracy as the way forward. On the contrary, the absorption and reaction to Christian precepts have enabled the sharp divide between religion and state (which Muslim nations have no notion of) coupled with democratically elected governments, freedom of expression (increasingly under threat), freedom of belief, the right to a fair trial, and the inalienable right to private ownership that render an authentic unity in diversity. All this needs Western values (despite inevitable political shenanigans) not the EU to become a reality.
As wonderful as celebrating unity in diversity is, the ideal of harmonious multiculturalism is annihilated when dealing with fanatics who embrace evil. And since thousands of IS recruits are born and bred in the EU, what kind of integration has been going on? Real integration would have had the millions of Muslims who have long had a good life in Europe openly manifest their condemnation of IS terrorist attacks as well as express sympathy with the victims’ families.
To be fair, men and women of all faiths, including several Muslims, came together in a manifestation of peace and friendship hours after an elderly French Catholic priest was beheaded while saying Mass in a village church outside Rouen in July 2017. It was a most moving and heartening sight of good people (irrespective of what they believe in) coming together to express all that is humane in humanity.
If only this happens in droves. New Zealand’s denunciation of and its response to the abhorrent massacre of Muslims is a lesson in Western values.
The much-banded buzzwords of ‘unity in diversity’ only make sense when social cohesion exists precisely because a community feels and lives a sense of belonging, when its individuals breathe and live basic shared beliefs buoyed by a love for peace, an untampered collective memory and reciprocal respect for national differences and for totally divergent individual opinions within and without each community at any level.
National differences are significant in the European context because they are intrinsic to European history which the EU has chosen to ignore in its agenda of uniformity – a uniformity which must sustain German hegemony and the Euro as the Deutsche Mark in disguise. In other words, the EU itself does not practice what it preaches.
As a result, millions of Europeans in the EU Member States are besieged by the vested interests of a club of fat cats that have ensured that the strong Member States get stronger at the expense of the weaker ones. (Nothing new in the world of politics!) So, despite the rotating presidency between the states, the core structures of the EU are intrinsically flawed. What is the point of having elected MEPs when they can be overruled by the Commission (not elected by the people) who rule the roost? What kind of democracy is this?
Worse still, the EU is utterly spineless in tackling today’s terrorism, dictators and the immigration problem. The latter is clearly showing that the tsunami of irregular migrants going on for the past 40-odd years is a nefarious business larding a few pockets. The EU grew out of a trade agreement; so that money being central to its ethos should have rung the first alarm bell.
Sadly, our grandparents’ desire to give their children a better future free from the horrors of world wars plus our own infatuation with materialism, hedonism and decadence, can only tune in to the jingle of financial success whose pursuit runs roughshod over any ethical and moral considerations.
Today the echo of Conrad’s “sepulchral white” Brussels brings the first stanza of Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ to mind:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer:
Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The EU no longer stands for European Union, but for Europe Undone. Wretched indeed.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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