Much as The Knife enjoys travelling round Europe and revelling in its unique and brilliant civilization, the truth is that the finest years of continental Europe were a long time ago. A correspondent with today’s Financial Times, named James Preston summarises it perfectly, in response to a recent article. I have to quote it in full:
From Mr James Preston.
Sir, Tony Barber’s column “Ruritanians, revolt, you have earned the right to speak out” (October 15) is a reminder to us all of the dysfunctionality of Europe – and why the peoples and politicians of Europe will, once again, fail to avert a catastrophe.
If the countries of Europe were individuals, put one by one in the psychologist’s chair, the results would be terrifying.
Germany. Created only a little over 100 years ago; half was freed from Nazi dictatorship in 1945, the other half from communist dictatorship in 1990.
Italy. Again, created little more than 100 years ago; dictatorship until 1945 and a real fear that it may have fallen into communism through the years of the cold war. To this day, it remains politically dysfunctional.
Spain. Bitter civil war followed by rightwing dictatorship for most of the 20th century, with democracy returning only in 1977.
Portugal. Ditto. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, the 1976 constitution headed immediately down the communist track, including an urge to “socialise the means of production and abolish the exploitation of man by man” – a direct appeal to Marx.
The countries of central and eastern Europe were, of course, under communist dictatorship until around 1990.
The French were not, but Vichy reveals some worrying issues for the psychologists.
Greece. A bitter civil war after the second world war, a coup d’etat in 1967 and a return to democracy in only 1975.
I could go on – Belgium, with its paranoid schizophrenia of Flemish/Walloon issues. And I haven’t even mentioned “the wars”.
All of the above is within the period of biological memory. European countries remain, sadly, extremely damaged adolescents in need of considerable therapy, if not of being “sectioned”.
It is terrifying. Anyone who believes Europe is capable of sorting out the current eurozone mess is basing their assertion upon naive, blind optimism. Not once have the peoples of the countries of Europe shown themselves capable of avoiding catastrophe. Not once.
Great stuff, and true, particularly when you consider the contents of the President of the European Commission’s (Barroso) latest Brussels rant, neatly summarised by John Redwood. George Santayana‘s now cliched aphorism has never been more apposite:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”