The EU seems to have set out to prove that Newton’s Third Law (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) doesn’t just pertain in physics.
Being a generous man, I’m prepared to accept for the sake of argument that the EU founders genuinely thought it both advisable and possible to toss all European nations into a cauldron and boil them down into a new entity: the generic, denationalised European bossed by a single state.
However, even clearing them, against all evidence, of the charge of wickedness, one still has to bring up another accusation, that of woolly thinking. On what common element did they think all European nations could overlap?
European culture, is their usual reply. True enough, this is a powerful unifying force. Speaking from personal experience, I feel more in common with a cultured Frenchman or Dutchman than a loutish Englishman.
Alas, it’s an unfortunate fact that most Europeans aren’t privy to European culture, in the sense in which the term is properly used. The problem is much worse now than ever: if in the past culture was off limits only for the uneducated majority, these days it’s beyond the reach of even most of the university-educated minority.
As a gregarious type, I talk to many people, most of them blessed with higher education – only to find out that one can no longer confidently assume that we all share a common corpus of knowledge. Most young university graduates can’t even place many of the names that used to signpost the cultural universe of reasonably bright 10-year-olds.
Analysing this situation is beyond my scope today. Suffice it to say that the belief in culture as an adhesive gluing Europe together is an indigestible pie in the sky.
What brings two Englishmen together isn’t their shared admiration for Byrd’s motets and Donne’s poems. Two Frenchmen don’t perceive commonality because they both read Ronsard and Baudelaire through the night. Two Germans sense kinship not because they’re innately sensitive to the subtleties of Heine and Brahms.
In each case, the glue is a complex cocktail of tribal loyalties and historical similarities. Language plays an important role, but the underlying Mowgli-like understanding is really unspoken: “We be of one blood, ye and I.” Two English tourists can establish their own commonality by merely exchanging faint smiles at a conversation between two effusively gesticulating Romans.
Xenophobia is a fashionable bogeyman these days, but to some extent all nations are latently xenophobic – perhaps not in the proper etymological sense of fearing foreigners, but certainly in the sense of perceiving foreigners as alien and vaguely suspicious.
What’s called the ‘European project’ is well on the way to converting latent xenophobia into the active kind. Sensing that their ill-conceived undertaking can only succeed by diluting each European nationhood into eventual demise, the EU insists on ‘free movement of people’ – it’s one of its four founding principles, and the most essential one.
Not only that, but they’ve also flung Europe’s doors wide-open to millions of non-Europeans, most of whom aren’t just alien to our civilisation but actively hostile to it. These multitudes are the battering ram used to breach the walls of nationhood, and the walls are crumbling.
That’s where Newton’s Third Law comes in. The grassroots reaction isn’t yet equal to the EU action, but it’s definitely opposite to it – and gathering momentum.
An election in Ostia, a seaside town near Rome, has delivered nine per cent of the vote to Casa Pound, a party that honestly calls itself fascist. The tattooed whorish-looking girl who fronts it explained that “Fascism in Italy left behind so many positive things, otherwise Mussolini would not still have so many admirers.”
She also pledged to become the dominant national force and succeed in Italy where Marine Le Pen has failed in France. Le Pen’s failure may actually be seen by some as success: her influential fascisoid party punches way above its intellectual and moral weight.
The Ostia election reflects a rise of populist-chauvinist, in essence fascisoid, parties throughout Europe. This is worrying not because they commendably want to destroy the EU and leave the euro, which, according to the Italian tattoo-bearer, is “slowly killing Europe”, but because of the kind of society they’ll usher in to replace it.
We may – in fact, I do – gloat over Merkel’s inability to put a governing coalition together, but her failure is largely due to the tremendous electoral success of the faschisoid AfD party.
Those who sow a single European superstate may well reap fascism, a result they might have predicted had they studied their Newton.
Above all, the current shift in European politics testifies to the abysmal failure of conservatism – the only political and philosophical movement that’s truly in touch with European culture, along with its geopolitical ramifications.
Conservatism as a mass, or even influential, movement is impossible without the old triad of God, king and country, the only logical answer to the question of what it is that we wish to conserve. Yet religion is no longer a factor in European affairs; monarchy, where it still exists, has been reduced to a largely ceremonial role; and country alone can’t sustain conservatism.
Reliance on patriotism above all is more likely to yield a fascist, or at least fascisoid, order rather than a conservative one. Some people I know may not mind that, but they may be in for a let-down.