Friday, October 28, 2011

The Jabbering Idiots Have an Answer to your Question on Values

“Yes, but what is a European?”
A student asked Gareth Harding, a freelance journalist (and journo-publicist for hire) based in Brussels. He replied:
And yet I found myself stuttering and stammering as I searched for an answer. I waffled for a bit about European values – freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law – but realized any American or Australian could also lay claim to these values.

In the end I settled on a statement of the blindingly obvious. “A European is someone who lives in Europe.”

I didn’t convince myself, let alone the class. I left utterly dejected and deep in thought.
Well the answer is clear. You see it now in plain view in any image of the rioting hooded masses or the needy, long-screwed-over pot-bangers. The bickering masses causing, when otherwise not wondering why leaders are putting off disastrously big issues until the last possible moment. Heads of state making the ritual of sumiteering and negotiating the height of their leadership itself.

A people deserve the leaders they elect, so I think we can appoint “the social thing” that they laud far and wide as a mark of neo-everything-ism. Today we see it, with all of its chaotic pointlessness acting out in a bloodless form of natural European interaction.
The more I mulled the question over the more I came to the conclusion that after over half a century of European integration and over 200,000 pages of EU laws, we still have little idea what Europe is, what it stands for, what binds its people together and where it is going?

Until recently these could have been dismissed as existential questions – of interest only to policy wonks, Economist readers and Brussels eurocrats.

Then came Europe’s most profound economic crisis since the 1930s. Like the United States Europe is in the midst of a deep depression. Unemployment is high, growth low, banks are collapsing and indebted governments are running out of money. Some countries, like Greece, Ireland, Portugal and possibly Britain, Spain and Italy, face the prospect of a generation of penury.
He cites a moment from 2004, which itself came too late after much delay, about the very same question, and it makes one ask: is European civilization just a cozy human warehouse with artifacts, traditions that no-one practices, and beliefs that people ignore?
Those who argue for an ever wider union – or even an even deeper one – often fall-back on the argument of common European values in an effort to prove that Europeans share a set of immutable ideals that bind them together. Yet they are often sketchy as to what those values are.

The Dutch government held a series of seminars about European values during its presidency of the EU in 2004. “European fundamental values are sacred,” intoned former Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende at one event. But when it came to defining those values, he was fuzzier. “We have been discussing the idea of Europe for the last 12 hundred years. But we cannot grasp what it means, we cannot pin it down,” he said.

Values matter because they are the glue that binds a country together.
For which I think we see the answer. A people afraid of having to personally make good on those values, for whatever postmodern or selfish reasons vigorously DO define the state of the Union and its capacity to come unglued. Privacy violator Wikileaks is widely regarded as a democrat, many have personal expectations that all of their life needs will be served by their neighbors, and the rest of humanity is expected to bail them out of whatever trouble they’re in. There’s your value system at a glance.