Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just Because you don’t Believe in Yourself, it doesn’t Mean that you aren’t Right

Walter Laqueur on Europe’s Crisis of Wishes:

The idea that economics would trump politics supposed, implicitly for the most part, that morale could flow from affluence and social security alone. It does not seem to have worked out that way. Europe has been affluent and its population socially secure for the most part, but it has been suffering a subacute case of Abulia—a psychological term first used in the 19th century to connote listlessness and apathy. No one has as yet provided a satisfactory explanation for this condition, either regarding individuals or societies. It has been connected, of course, with a decline in Europe’s self-confidence, but that just begs the question of why Europe’s self-confidence has been declining.

It seems to have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with beliefs—specifically, belief in the values for which the society stands. Many Europeans cannot figure out for sure what those values are, for the Euro-elites seem to have been struck dumb in this sphere as in no other. The sense of involvement in a great mission, of preaching the virtues of a better world, has vanished. The closest thing to a shared noble cause is now an anodyne, lowest-common-denominator environmentalism. It is hard to generate much enthusiasm for the commandment to separate green glass from brown. The European model has thus approached that of Latin America, whose countries have a common ancestral culture, generally live in peace with each other, and fail to cause the rest of the world much trouble.
Somewhere between the apathy and the tacit desire to “rule the world” lies a ugly truth: their weakness remains a point of risk for US and Asia, beyond bum loans and passivity in the face of dictators flexing their muscles.

The widely held idea remains that it’s all okay, because in their VERY unique historical and geographic circumstances, that they have lessons to teach the rest of the world. Hardly. The idea is that they need to believe that they have something to illuminate the world with.

It is not, therefore, unfair to ask what pieces of Europe’s “promise” should America and others look to for guidance? To Spain’s nearly 20 percent unemployment rate? To Italy’s surreal political melodramas under Silvio Berlusconi? To near bankrupt Greece, Portugal or Ireland? To the para-democratic Balkans or still struggling Eastern Europe? Surely not to Britain, which does not belong to the Eurozone. That seems to leave us with perhaps France and Germany, but their present leaders wouldn’t recommend their own present models for their want of far-reaching reforms.
Call it a never-ending conversation about the never-ending reformatorium. My sense is that even the talk of reform of this or that is undertaken to reinforce the illusion of their own intellectual facility and depth, which, objectively speaking, is no better developed than any other mature, marginally successful society on earth.

Even that kind of dialogue just makes THEM better at BEING THEM than everyone else, and that’s supposed to be the special thing they have to teach the rest of us. That aside, one has to look at the uglier alternatives. To quote Walter Russell Mead:
“A peaceful, prosperous and geopolitically boring continent that exports tedious platitudes about global governance is a far better place than any other Europe we have seen in modern times and American national interests are in no way enhanced by economic and political instability in the Mediterranean — to say nothing of Ukraine and Turkey.

Europe’s problems end up in the American in-box.”
Which is to say: “take it or leave it”.

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