Monday, 24 October 2011
I was recently reminded of the brave, bold words of Abraham Lincoln, delivered at the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg in November, 1863. Then he said that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. It may not be perishing from the earth, but it’s certainly perishing in Europe.
Reflecting on this, I remember reading an insightful opinion piece on the Charlemagne page of The Economist on the mind, the collective mind, of the bureaucrats who run the European Union. I’m being disingenuous because no mention was made of a ‘collective mind’ – a ‘hive mind’ for the Trekkies among you-, that’s my particular spin. Rather the point was made that hard-line Eurosceptics believe that there is a Minotaur at the heart of the Brussels labyrinth plotting a dictatorship, which the author considers to be “cheap demagoguery.”
I certainly consider myself on the hard wing of scepticism when it comes to the whole European project (actually, no; I'm a Dawkins-style atheist), but I have never advanced that particular view. I believe, rather, that the Eurocrats, my preferred term, represent a new senatorial elite, a post-democratic elite; that they are, by this standard, just as much of a danger to democratic self-determination as the advocates of an old-style tyranny. They are the philosopher-kings, the guardians, of Plato’s Republic; the priests, if you prefer, of the sacred flame.
Their outlook, their attitude and, yes, their condescension, is based on the single guiding idea behind the Treaty of Rome and all that followed: nationalism is a ‘bad thing’ and democracy, insofar as it embraces nationalism, is not that desirable when it comes to advancing the interests of the Community as a whole; and the interests of the Community are their interests.
This credo of anti-nationalism carries distinct risks, at best making the Eurocrats push for higher levels of integration than most Europeans - and here I mean real Europeans - are willing to bear; at worst it makes them sound hostile to democracy. They are the philosopher kings after all; they know best. When the French and Dutch voted against the EU constitution in 2005 the view in the labyrinth was that it was nonsense to put such complex proposals to ordinary voters. They don’t hate democracy; they just equate democracy with selfishness and populism.
The only effective counterweight to this frightful condescension is a pan-European democratic movement, but nobody believes in that, or if they do they are most awfully self-deluded. As far as the European parliament itself is concerned I find myself partially in agreement with Charlemagne, who wrote;
The European Parliament is the great disappointment of the European project. It is the revenge of the B-team; an assembly lead by posturing second-raters dedicated, in their every waking moment, to grabbing new powers at the expense of national governments…ordinary voters have no idea who represents them in the parliament, or even whether the left or the right dominates there…As a result, the parliament has utterly failed to capture the public’s imagination.
I say partially in agreement because I’m not disappointed at all: the parliament is a joke; it will always be a joke, the biggest sinecure in human history, a retirement home for political mediocrities and clowns. It makes the idea of Europe look ridiculous, the idea that the Continent is more than a collection of nation states. And long may that continue.
That brings me back to the benevolent philosopher kings in Brussels, those people in the high castle who know what is good for us, who will deliver what is good for us, whether we like it or not. And what is not good for us is government of the people, for the people, by the people.
For God's sake let's do the sane thing and get out. I'm utterly tired of my country being held hostage to German history, this endless blue crucifixion. And on that hangs another tale entire. :-)