Tuesday 31 August 2010

Europe of the Cuckoo Clock

In The New Republic, a blog I wrote elsewhere on the European Union, I alluded to the fact that we are all ruled by the Commission in Brussels as if we were unruly children, ruled on the nanny knows best principle.

Relating to this I read Edward Heath, Philip Ziegler’s recently published biography of the former prime minister, the one who took Britain into Europe knowing full well what the future implications for national sovereignty would be. There are all sorts of reasons why Heath wanted us to join, not least the view he took that the nation state was dead, though that was something he kept largely to himself at the time.

For Heath, for the Commission and for all those who think like them there is one simple truth: Europe needs to be saved from itself, to be saved from its past. Our diverse history, you see, is a ‘bad thing’, whereas a united Europe is a ‘good thing.’ I’m minded here of Sellar and Yeatman’s classic parody 1066 and All That, minded of the conclusion, which I propose to adapt ever so slightly – “Europe was thus clearly top nation, and History came to a .”

Last year I saw a sixtieth anniversary screening of The Third Man, a wonderful movie, possibly the best example of British film noir ever made. I imagine most of the people who read this have also seen it; it’s been on terrestrial television often enough. My favourite quote from that movie also touches on history, on the past as drama and greatness contrasted with the past as tedium and mediocrity. Cue Harry Lime;

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed—but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Europe as Switzerland, that’s the vision of the Commission, that’s the vision of all those who embrace this ghastly ideal; a tepid Europe, a safe Europe…a boring Europe. A Europe without demons, yes, but without demons there are no angels; there is nothing of the sublime.

I want no part of the new Europe with its Beethoven anthems, its glamour and easy charm. I want the old Europe of the nation state, the Europe of risk and the Europe of adventure. If it comes to a choice between Manuel Barroso and Cesare Borgia I have not the least doubt which I would go for.

For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and greatest enjoyment is - to live dangerously.


  1. Very good indeed. For me the most crucial element is that Heath had a deeply personal almost an emotional hatred of the nation-state--frankly to the same extent to which he harboured his illogical hatred of the female sex--perhaps the two are related psychological phenomenon. Both of the things he had this hatred for represent independence and independence is not a state lending itself to cold Swiss predictability.

    In his talks with Monnet, it was made clear to Heath that the aim of the European project was to circumvent, chip away at and ultimately render redundant the nation state. Everyone SHOULD know this by now, but I still encounter many Tories who say, "We thought it was simply a kind of trading pact at the time". What rubbish. If Powell knew what it was at the time, so then should they ALL have known--rather than take the liar Heath's word at face value.

    I've you've not heard this speech please listen when you've time. Without doubt the most crucial political speech since the War. He was so far ahead of his time...ahead of this current epoch's prejudices too, really.


  2. There truly has been no finer speech since the death of Sir Winston.

  3. ana, you are dangerous!
    i am tired/sick of those who seem to be universally loving or tolerant and ever lasting peaceful... great point and i always believe the same!

  4. Hello, Ana. I think there are two elephants in the room, if I may be permitted a cliché ... WW1 and WW2. Without them Europe would undoubtedly have been safer, and perhaps more boring. Those who died could no doubt have done without the risk and the adventure. Most people wish to live in peace and prosperity.

    There will always be angels and demons; I'm not sure that transnational as opposed to national arrangements affect this at all.

    People like Adam who spend their time banging on about Heath, Powell and Monnet are living in the past.

  5. Yun yi, mad, bad and dangerous to know. :-))

  6. Brendano, it's nice to see you. You must know me by now, must know how I like to test ideas, to play with notions. Yes, Europe has had a bloody history...and a glorious one. I don't want war any more than you want war, but at the same time I don't want my life to be determined, and the destiny of Europe to be determined, by a handful of we-know-best illuminati. The Second World War was fought to deny Europe to Hitler..only to give it to the Euro-crats. :-)

  7. Anyone naive enough to think a gaggle of in great part ex-Communist technocrats are the only things standing between modern Europe and a third world war, then heaven help us all. The EU as I've said has fanned the flames of sectarian tensions by depriving people of their local cultures--thus giving succour to those who would exploit this for their own extremist gains. The EU is therefore coming closer to creating new Hitlers, Lenins, Mussolinis, Francos and Greek Colonels--not fewer.

    The EU are driving people into the arms of extremists day after day in Hungary, Slovakia and now throughout Southern Europe where Communist and far-right parties are attracting more support than at any times since the late 70s.

    Powell was addressing the future--his time is yet to come. When asked if he'd ever re-join the Tory Party in the 1980s he said, "The Tory Party still have a long way to go before rejoining me".

  8. Yes, I know you by now, Ana. :-) Just saying my piece.

  9. Not something you are reluctant to do or I ever have a problem with. :-)