Euronews recently published the interesting article entitled ‘This Shameful Europe’ by the editor of Mediapart, Edwy Plenel. The text is a crisp representation of how a one-sided view of the EU was imposed over the last 30 years; how it failed the expectations of citizens from most walks of life and led to the growth of support to the Far-Right parties. In an article of around 1,900 words, not a single one addresses the worries of a great number of ordinary European citizens. The article blows the hot fire of the Inquisition against what Plenel implies is the guilty imperialist Europe. What an insult.
Works by German scholar Victor Klemperer rightly point to the dangers of an extremist poisoning of language. The article by Plenel does the same when putting everybody that wants to discuss immigration and the preservation of the “European way of life” in the same racist, fascist, imperialist bag. We need moderation, inclusion, dialogue and common sense rather than exclusive, radicalising and extreme nationalistic rhetoric.
We are currently seeing a systematic deconstruction of the democratic European values (yes, they exist!). For some, it seems like we citizens and our EU member countries are guilty of some of the sins Plenel mentions. The fact is that those that want to discuss immigration and the European way of life in a meaningful way are not fascists but are just fed up with being blamed for the issues of the world. This “Shameful Europe.” Should all of it be shamed? No. Plenel’s title is wrong, and part of the text’s assumptions are too. France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain were once imperialist. But not Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Slovakia, Iceland, Norway, Luxembourg and other. Undoubtedly, to put all European countries and peoples in the same bag is a generalisation. And most of these generalisations are extremist and dangerous.
China, Russia, India, Turkey, Japan, the Zulu Empire in South Africa, and even further back in time, the Mongols, the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar and even the bands of cavemen in the Stone Age, were all colonialist. They maimed, mass-murdered, deported, enslaved and yes, they exploited their subjects too. Everywhere you read about a Golden Era in a particular country, there is high probability it was made possible by exploiting others while the occupier enriched itself the process. However, when we read the article ‘This Shameful Europe,’ we are wrongly given the impression that only Europe is to be blamed for its imperialist mistakes. Only Europe must pay back for it.
Let’s only bash Europe. Because we are guilty, we cannot discuss our European cultural values. It is forbidden. Because we are guilty, we must have an open doors immigration policy. Because we are guilty and because we have a higher standard of living, we are morally mandated to resolve the issues of all other countries in the world. To think otherwise is apparently a fascist thing. We are guilty, therefore we owe something to somebody.
For those that think this is a new approach from an innovative person, I would like to point out that it is not. It is an old tactic. To understand what I mean, I recommend that you read a now rare, long-forgotten book, ‘East Wind over Prague’ by Jan Stránský.
Czechoslovakia was the seven largest economy in the world during the 1930s, with a highly industrialised society and a well-designed social policy protecting its citizens of all social classes. Its education system was inclusive and of a high standard. The lands of the nobility were purchased in 1918-1921 and redistributed to the people, resulting in good-sized farms boasting large scale production and high productivity. Czechoslovakia was a successful democratic country in all respects. Czech writer Jan Stránský lived through the process of the Communist takeover and destruction of the Czechoslovak democracy. He was not a theoretician. He knew in depth what he wrote about in his book. He was a young but already experienced, moderate politician. His book is full of information about his personal interviews with voters, personal dialogues, description of meetings at town halls across his voting region in the now Czech Republic.
Many know and will tell you that the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia took place in February 1948 when the minority Communist Party, with the help of radical syndicalist militias illegally armed with equipment stolen from the army arsenals, took the control and arrested politicians from other parties. However, few know about what Stránský describes in his book: that the non-official totalitarian takeover was in the works from as early as 1945. This was not part of a vendetta like we saw in, for instance, France where collaborators were imprisoned or shot, and women collaborators had their hair cut. In Czechoslovakia, this was a very well-planned operation aimed at bringing about a deep psychological submission of its people while democracy seemed to fare well on the surface with fully democratic elections between 1945 and 1947. How? By imposing guilt indiscriminately on every Czechoslovak citizen and on the country as a whole, exactly like Plenel’s article does indiscriminately with the whole of Europe.
Back in 1945, the Czechoslovak communist officers placed blame and guilt on everybody too, except themselves, even though the Soviet-Nazi pact and the cooperation protocol between the NKVD and the Gestapo was signed just five years before. If you are guilty of something, you owe something to somebody. If you owe something, you must pay compensation. You pay with connivance, with support, with doing everything the ones that imposed you your guilt you ask you to do. Others would call this political blackmail.
The farmers were guilty for having sold cereals and cattle to the Nazi occupier. The winemakers, too, were guilty of selling their wine. They should have thrown it away in the nearby river and died of hunger in droves during the cold winters. The workers were guilty because they worked during the war and this helped the German war effort. They should have refused to work and because of this, forced the relocation of their factories to Germany while the qualified Czech workforce, now expendable, would be gassed in the nearest concentration camp. But, hey, there were the non-Communist resistance fighters, who were in much more numbers than the few Communist resistance fighters during the war. They certainly were not guilty, because they risked their lives and died fighting the invader, right? No, they were guilty too, of associating with “the West” and with the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London. The Czechoslovak soldiers who fought and died gallantly together with the Western armies were guilty for not having joined the Russian Soviet army instead.
You, reader, would be guilty too because you are reading press articles like this one instead of fighting bare-handed day and night against the armed occupier of your country, dying in the process. You were guilty individually and Czechoslovakia was guilty collectively as a nation.
Now, dear reader, you’ll know why these facts jumped into my mind when I read the article, ‘This Shameful Europe.’ Its author, most probably unconsciously, does the same by placing a collective and indiscriminate guilt on Europe; on all its nations and on the European citizens. You are European? Shame on you, you are guilty. Therefore, you must pay back. How? By accepting everything the author imposes, including opening the EU’s borders to any and all kinds of immigration and avoiding selective immigration according to the real needs of every country. We must allow everybody in. We are prohibited from discussing the European way of life and other things that jumped to the author’s mind according to his own beliefs.
Because we Europeans are guilty, we should take to our care all the problems in the world; in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are guilty and for this reason we are not allowed to protect our way of life, our centenary culture, our social stability. We must allow any immigration and import ethnic and religious disputes into our societies and put under enormous strain our police authorities, whose increasing costs we pay from our pockets.
We Europeans have the right to live and protect our way of life and our culture, like other peoples do with their ways and their cultures. I would hardly call this xenophobia, because if I did this, I would be calling the protection of, let’s say, the indigenous Aymara culture in South America a xenophobic thing too - and this is absolute nonsense.
Enough is enough. Instead of shutting up our mouths like some want, we must speak louder. Politicians must hear the worries of the citizens. There must be no taboos, no guilt blaming, no imposed silence, no Inquisitorial interdicts from any self-appointed high priest. Those are totalitarian things. We, on the contrary, are democratic. Fortunately, we can freely debate the issues that affect us. If European citizens are indeed worried about the immigration issue, let’s discuss it transparently and find a solution. If there is need to protect our European values - because they do exist - let’s discuss it and resolve it.
This decades-long blaming and shaming has only led to pushing European citizens into the arms of Far-Right parties. We are no more guilty of anything, good and bad, than other acts committed by countries and peoples in the East or in “the West” throughout their interesting and bloody histories. At last, after decades of taboo, the EU has created a commission to try to protect what many of us cherishes most: our cultural ways. This is welcome move. It is a step in the right direction to hear the worries of some of our citizens. Let us not be blind to the bones to the point of looking for deconstruction when times asks us to construct.
- E. Montenegro is an independent researcher and author who has published books on Anarchism in Siberia in 1915-1923 and Celtic surname etymology 'The Book of Celtic Surnames'.
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