President Macron should replace In Praise of Older Women with Aristotle’s treatise on logic as his bedside book.
A couple of months of intense study, and he’ll be able to rid his oratory of such oxymorons as ‘the EU’s liberal values’ or ‘EU democracy’. Another month or two, and he may even learn to follow Mark Twain’s advice to use the right word, not its second cousin thrice removed.
Speaking to the European Parliament (another oxymoron, by the way), Manny rued that: “There seems to be a sort of European civil war at the moment where nationalism and egotism takes precedence over what brings us together” – all because of “fascination with the illiberal”.
This statement contains more than one logical fallacy per word. One of them is called petitio principia (‘begging the question’). That means using the desired conclusion of an argument as its premise.
A civil war is a war between different factions within the same country, which the EU isn’t, not yet. However, Manny, as a fanatic of European integration, would like Europe to be a single country, with him as president and Angela as PM. Hence his logical lapse.
And exactly “what brings us together”? Some kind of a Franco-German protectorate over the whole continent, with lesser lights humbly submitting to whatever obscenity the Manny-Angela axis would wish to shove down their throats?
That could be a single currency predictably reducing weaker economies to basket cases. Or an unqualified welcome to millions of cultural aliens, which is guaranteed to make Europe considerably less European – if not drowned in blood. Or imposing on other countries laws that go against their instincts, culture and historical experience. Why, it could be anything fathomed by Manny’s and Angela’s fecund minds.
If Manny meant things that bring him and Angela together, then he should have said so, without using the unwarranted collective ‘us’. I doubt that, say, Victor Orban sees himself as part of that pronoun.
“Fascination with the illiberal” is implicitly another case of petitio principia. The underlying assumption is that the EU espouses liberal values.
Of course the modern political lexicon is so open-ended that denotation has fallen out. Only connotation remains, and in this case Manny uses the word ‘liberal’ in its traditional sense: free trade, small central government accountable to the people, individual liberty trumping collective security.
Which of these apply to the EU in the real, as distinct from fantasy, world? Actually, none.
The EU is rather the opposite of free trade – it’s a protectionist bloc, constantly provoking outsiders into trade wars. It’s also the opposite of small central government.
The purpose of the EU is to create a giant superstate, dissolving all governments small and big within itself. That’s never going to happen, but, if it does, such a Leviathan could never be accountable even if it wanted to be, which it doesn’t.
On the contrary, the whole idea is to put much mileage between the state and its subjects, breaking off every feedback channel. A Transylvanian peasant or a Polish miner would have no mechanism whatever to hold such a state to account. He’d have to swallow without demurring any rancid dish cooked up by Manny-Angela. He’d huff and puff and swear, but he’d be helpless.
“Nationalism and egotism”? Manny probably meant ‘egoism’, not ‘egotism’, so perhaps he should add Mark Twain’s collected works to Aristotle on his bedside table. But let’s not split linguistic hairs.
Instead let’s remark that nationalism can easily be confused with patriotism, and egoism with concern for national interests or indeed sovereignty.
A nationalist not only loves his country but believes everything it does is good because it does it. A patriot loves his country and is prepared to defend not only its borders but also its soul.
Manny may be smart enough to detect such nuances, but not when his dander is up. It is now, and it’s all Hungary’s and Poland’s fault.
Those two countries got into Manny’s bad books by refusing to accept the EU’s mandatory immigration quotas. How very nationalistic and egoistic of them not to open their arms to a few hundred thousand Muslims.
(I’m guessing the probable demographics of potential immigration, on the assumption that, say, Canadians are unlikely to want to settle in Hungary or Poland in large enough numbers to make a difference.)
Taking a wild stab in the dark, I’d suggest that Manny, for all his absence of ‘nationalism and egotism’, isn’t out to increase the Muslim presence in France beyond the present 10 per cent of the population, and neither would he wish such a fate on other countries.
His diatribe isn’t about immigration; it’s about control. Manny detests any manifestation of independence on the part of what he sees as his vassals.
A parallel with the American Civil War is begging to be drawn. The North inscribed abolition of slavery on its banners. But its bellicose reaction to the South’s secession was caused not by slavery but by its in-built imperative to retain and expand the power of the central government.
Lincoln said as much: “If that would preserve the Union, I’d agree not to liberate a single slave.” Note also that his Gettysburg Address includes not one anti-slavery word – and in fact Lincoln dreaded the possibility that he himself might be portrayed as an abolitionist.
I’m not surprised that the people of Hungary and Poland, who have experienced every type of tyranny known to man, are ready to fight for the last vestiges of their freedom. Manny describes this as populism, as in “populism will lead us into the abyss”.
Perhaps. However, the best way to preempt a populist reaction to tyranny is not to impose tyranny in the first place.
Then again, Manny still hasn’t followed my advice to keep a volume of Aristotle by his bed. Alas, In Praise of Older Women is unlikely to give him a firmer grip on logical nuances.