Saturday, 5 March 2016
Hypocrisy, thy name is Juncker
"Whoever does not believe in Europe, who doubts Europe, whoever despairs of Europe, should visit the military cemeteries in Europe.”
Those are the words of Jean-Claude Juncker. Inappropriate to say the least. Having visited the many graves around Verdun, I don't need Juncker to interpret anything for me, or the gravity of what I saw. I know of no more sorrowful landscape than those fields in northern France.
I must have been in my early twenties. Notable was the fact that most of the graves were men younger than me. Teenagers. Hundreds of thousands of lives needlessly extinguished in some of the most barbaric fighting the world has ever seen.
Looking at the social setting in which this transpired we can say they did not die to protect democracy; they were the midwives to it - a process we have yet to complete. It is only in the years that followed did the people exert their collective power to shatter the existing social orthodoxy. And following the second world war, a new age was given form by the mass availability of consumer goods and household conveniences.
At the advent of containerisation, we saw an explosion of world trade and technological innovation. In this I often wonder whether World War One could could happen again in this age of smartphones and mass communication. With a video camera in every pocket, we would soon not permit our rulers to commit our lives to such a pointless meat-grinder.
It is ultimately through liberty do we promote peace and prosperity, and that which we now have was paid for up front by those who lie in those French graves - each of them victims of sweeping political ideologies. Only when the people are free to choose can they configure their societies to meet their needs and aspirations so that they may prosper. It is only when order is imposed from above do we find the human spirit is held captive.
In this I can think of few more constraining political ideas than the EU. A supranational entity based on an almost fanatical ideology that in order for there to be peace the people must be deprived of their identity and their right to choose.
We should note that the EU was not the first to try this approach following the Second World War - where nations were told to bury their aspirations and sacrifice their needs on the altar of brotherhood and unity. Yugoslavia was a mutation of the same philosophy.
Time and again the people were lied to, told that their fears and concerns would be addressed. They waited patiently until a turning point was reached. Then soon after, mass graves, ethnic cleansing and savagery were once again known to Europe.
And even now, after ten years of bloody conflict, another supranational authority tells them to wait - that reform is just over the horizon. And they have waited. But they suspect it isn't coming. As the people of the Balkans look to Ukraine, they can see what EU solidarity means in practice. It means nothing at all. In this I am reminded of words by W. B. Yeats.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Perhaps Mr Juncker needs to take a trip to Srebrenica before preaching to eurosceptics.