The shed in which pengovsky keeps axes to grind is getting a bit too small, so maybe it’s time for a bit of a clean up. We might as well start in the UK, the leading candidate country in UCPWLIIHEM (Union of Countries Pengovsky Would Live In If He Ever Moved). Not only is London one of my favourite cities (London? London. London? Yes, London!) but Her Majesty, recently of Facebook and Twitter fame also exerts sovereignty over Scotland and its whiskey distilleries. One in particular. Plus, they have Viz and the Magna Farta, the BBC, not to mention curry and Winston Churchill.
Hannan (left) and Van Rompuy (right)
However, just as Slovenia, the UK has its share of half-wits who have developed selective blindness to either historical or current facts and have – combined with their preconceptions – a fundamentally skewed perception and potentially dangerous view of the world around them. Case in point being Daniel Hannan MEP (Conservative) for South East England, a member of the eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists, who took issue with EU Big Boss Herman Van Rompuy, specifically his remarks on 9 November, during celebrations of German Schicksaltag.
Van Rompuy (his ascendancy to the EU Top Spot was detailed by Dr. Arf) said among other things that “[W]e have to fight the dangers of a new euro-scepticism [which] is no longer the monopoly of a few countries. In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion: it is a lie.” He also added that “Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war”
Hannan (link thoughtfully provided by @AdriaanN) on the other hand sees this as a childish argument which he simplifies into euroscepticism = nationalism = war and counters by saying that “[C]onservatives everywhere, understand that patriotism is what makes people behave unselfishly. It’s the basis of our sense of obligation to those around us. A patriot doesn’t belittle other countries: he cheers their sense of national pride, and values their freedom.” and then adds that “[o]ur patriotism gave us a natural sympathy for those who had seen their homelands overrun. It was British – and Anglosphere – patriotism that defeated two attempts to unite Europe in tyranny, and restored democracy to its nations. Without it, the EU would not have been possible.”
Now, let’s take Hannan’s argument apart one step at the time. First of all euroscepticism is not limited to a conservative ideology any more. This is the core of Van Rompuy’s speech. He speaks of a new euroscepticism which is not exclusive to a specific political platform or a few member states but is taking hold in all member states, big and small, rich and poor, East and West, left and right. And secondly, this is not some sort of newly developed patriotism spreading all across the EU, but rather a resurgence of plain old nationalism which has raped this continent twice over, thirce if you look from the Balkans point of view.
Patriotism vs. Nationalism
At this point a slight digression is necessary. Mr. Hannan tends to equal nationalism and patriotism. In this he could not be more wrong and yet this misconception is central to his set of political beliefs. Namely, while patriotism is a state of mind, nationalism is an ideology. Patriotism (love for one’s country) is neither inherently political nor inherently ideological. It is just a set of beliefs centred around one’s attachment to his/her community. Nationalism on the other hand is both inherently political and ideological, because it is based on an idea that one nation is better than the other. We see this daily. From the good-natured jibes between the French and British, from the small satisfactions Slovenes and Croats get from each other’s failures to the mass graves of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.
To put it in teenage terms, the likes of which Mr. Hannan apparently understands: Patriotism = We love us! Nationalism = We hate you! Also, pay special attention how easily Hannan switches from nationalism (paragraph 5) to patriotism (paragraph 6), as if he is talking of the same thing. And (worryingly enough) from his point of view, he is.
But to go on: Not only is Mr. Hannan wrong in his assessment of the situation as a whole, he (predictably) picks the wrong cases to prove his point. Dole queues in Switzerland may indeed be as frequent as food riots in Norway, but with Mr. Hannan being only a couple of years my senior and growing up in what were arguably the most abundant couple of decades in the history of the Western civilisation, pengovsky can say with some conviction that he doesn’t know jack shit about how a country can indeed fail (as Yugoslavia did) or how militant nationalism can with utmost ease become a predominant rhetoric in a society given certain preconditions, none of which were ever experienced either by Switzerland or by Norway.
A Wee History Lesson
Thirdly. Although British national character is replete with history (or so the stereotype goes) Mr. Hannan would do well to brush up on his history. It wasn’t just the British/Anglosphere patriotism which defeated two attempts to unite Europe under a tyranny (I’m assuming Hannan means victories in WWII as well as the Cold War.)
On account of the first: While Anglo/American contribution to the war effort is immeasurable, both in men and materiel as well as in political persuasion and just plain stubbornness, it must be said that Western powers liberated only part of Europe. The other part was liberated by the Soviet Union and until 1943 the Russkies were winning the war for everyone else as much as for themselves. This contributed to fact that during Tehran and Yalta conferences the UK and the US were unable to play the table against the Russians and – as a result – had to give up on the principle of “fighting for the cause of nations everywhere” in case of Poland (and in part Czechoslovakia) and recognise the ugly realities of geopolitics, abandoning these countries to Communist rule just as they had to abandon them to Nazi rule only years earlier (a fact which is today often raised especially by the Poles during crucial votes in the EU Council).
And while we’re at it, Mr. Hannan would do well to look up the entry “partisan guerilla in the Balkans” before he chalks up victory in WWII solely to Western powers. Had he done that beforehand he might have found that there were resistance movements all over Europe which have at one point or another been critical to the war effort and also that such a guerilla movement evolved into a regular army in what was later to become Socialist Yugoslavia. While obviously not a strategic player, the partisan army was important enough and strong enough to have won recognition both from London and Moscow and had engaged an entire Wermacht Army group which might have been deployed either in France after D Day or in Italy where Mr. Hannan’s father had served.
Also, there’s one area of Europe where neither the Brits nor the Russkies took any part in liberating it. Slovenia, where Slovene partisans liberated the country without any direct foreign involvement, thank you very much. With this in mind I’d be grateful if Mr. Hannan would refrain from general remarks on history, as they fly directly in the face of his other remark in the same text, where he boasts that a patriot like himself doesn’t belittle other countries. That may be, but by that measure Mr. Hannan is no patriot, but simply a nationalist, who tends to overrate the value and importance of his country and treat other nations condescendingly and patronisingly by ways of neglecting (belittling) actions and sacrifices of other nations, big and small. In the old days we had a word for that: Imperialism.
Oh, and as far as winning the Cold war is concerned, forget it. The West didn’t know the Berlin Wall was coming down until it felt bricks flying. The Wall fell because Socialism lost legitimacy, not because Capitalism was inherently better. There just wasn’t any real alternative. And yes, it did look better from the outside.
Inevitability of War
War, according to von Clausewitz, is only an continuation of a nation’s politics using other means. Wars, therefore, don’t just happen, but happen because they are vehicles of perpetuation of a certain ideology or even just plain leadership. Case in point again being the Balkans, where Slobodan Milošević didn’t so much believe in Serbian nationalism as much as he had fostered it and used it to ensure his political survival. But once his rule became dependant on perpetuation of armed conflict, it was only a question of time before he was stopped. In that time a lot of people died. This was only a couple of years before Mr. Hannan entered European Politics and yet he seems to be completely oblivious to the fact.
Nationalism (as opposed to patriotism) does lead to war. And euroscepticism of today is becoming ever more nationalistic. Daniel Hannan may not recognise this, but as the rhetoric of the extreme political right is a) being adopted by the extreme left and b) is becoming more and more mainstream, euroscepticism is becoming less and less a devil’s advocate vehicle but rather a Trojan Horse for people who will risk peace to further their political agenda. Such people and their agendas thrive in circumstances where social insecurity is great, economic stability is lacking and democratic political leadership is feeble. Which is how one might describe the general situation in the EU today. OK, so maybe not in Switzerland and Norway, but neither of those countries is a EU member. Both, however, enjoy many of the advantages of the common market and are hardly entities unto their own. Another fact which Mr. Hannan conveniently ignores.
Apparently 55% of Brits want to exit the EU. This of course does not mean that they want war (as the caption under the picture in the Daily Telegraph misleads). What it does mean, however, that once again, for the fourth time in a hundred-or-so years, we are faced with a fact that shit is brewing in the Continent and that the British will have nothing to do with it. To date, this has always lead to war. If we allow Mr. Hannan’s attitude to become the norm, it is bound to happen for the fourth time as well.
And in not so distant future, pengovsky fears.
5 thoughts on “Inevitability of War”
In Sweden euro-sceptics are quite common on the left side. This is because EU limits the changes possible in the economic system since the union is based on a free-market and capitalism.
This is of course even more true of the monetary union.
Once again, an excellent post, and one that caters to one of my pet peeves.
Even being the Anglophile I am – or perhaps exactly because of being one – I take great exception to the Euroscepticism/Nationalism that is rampant in the U.K. and has been for decades.
In the issue of HUMO magazine of two weeks ago, British author Ian McEwan said that Britain doesn’t belong in the EU because they – and I’m dumbing it down, I know – don’t want to assume any of the responsibilities yet demand all of the benefits, meanwhile blocking any attempt to come to European legislative consensus on a large number of issues. The same thing can be said in a certain measure of Angela ‘Das Mädchen’ Merkel and Nicolas ‘I’m smaller than Prince, but I’m also banging a model’ Sarkozy, but at least they have plenty of political reasons to keep the EU together, if only to enforce their own agendas onto the smaller member states. Anyway, McEwan further states that as things stand, Britain would be better served by forming a transatlantic alliance, read : actually become the U.S.A.’s 51st state, seeing the amount of lip service they pay to The Modern Day Roman Empire already.
The irony in the whole Britain vs. EU is that both Hannan and President Van Rompuy are conservatives. At least Van Rompuy is smart enough to see that on a global scale, the Belgian nation’s credo ‘Strength Through Unity’ is the only way forward for all the EU member states. That this comes with (in some cases severe) growing pains, is a fact no one can deny. But I agree with Van Rompuy that in this day and age, any member state that thinks it can go the distance on its own is severely mistaken and only sees the short term political profit. But then, nothing is a bigger axioma in politics than short term profit. I’m being confronted with the excesses of this line of thought here in Belgium every damn day and I’m sure the same can be said to a greater or lesser extent for everyone else, wherever they live in the EU.
I do have a couple of remarks, though, P. You make the clear distinction between nationalism and patriotism, where the former is exclusive and the latter inclusive. Living as I do in a country that is divided and which has had nationalist issues ever since its inception, and knowing several (Flemish) nationalists – some of which are friends of mine – I have to say that being proud of one’s cultural identity isn’t necessarily exclusive. I know nationalists in every shade : from the most moderate and therefore non- excluding, to the extreme, all excluding, racist haters (who are NOT among my friends, to make this very clear, as I don’t tolerate bigotry).
In fact, if anything, Belgium doesn’t have a tradition of patriotism, because there is nothing to be patriotic about. This country has been divided from the start and any and all artificial attempts to rally the country together have failed spectacularly, exactly because of the politicians on both sides of the cultural barrier, who only think of their short term – and local – gain and much less of the bigger picture for this country. And look where it landed us. So, in this country, there’s only nationalism that defines the cultural identity. And in spite of what they want us to believe down South, it’s as rampant there as it is over here up North. It’s just expressed differently. Small yet significant example : the new European license plates for cars can’t have black lettering on a yellow background, even if this has been scientifically proven to provide the best contrast, because is it is too ‘Flemish’ (the Flemish flag’s colours being black and yellow’). *Sigh*…
The second remark is that while you are absolutely right to say that the Wall came down because Communism (and not Socialism, but that’s a whole different ideological kettle of fish and a different issue) lost its legitimacy, let’s not forget that it did so because it had no validity economically. The Cold War was ‘won’ by the West because the Communist economy was a closed affair. The Wall came down, in essence, because the communist leaders of the DDR were no longer able to fund the East German economy, even with the loans they received from the BRD (a ‘petit histoire’ often overlooked is that the BRD financed A LOT of the DDR’s economy). When the USSR under Gorbachov ceased to fund all its CoMEcon satellite states – the notable exception being Yugoslavia, this created a domino effect. Hunger and poverty create dissent, which, to put it simplistically, topples governments. That Capitalism isn’t inherently better is absolutely true. I don’t even want to count the people who crave for the olden days in the DDR alone, where the socialist infrastructure within the communist government made sure that, when everything was still monetarily safe and sound, the state made sure (almost) everything was provided for. Then again, an ex- DDR acquaintance of mine still exclusively eats bananas for lunch, because they simply didn’t have that in the DDR. Not past the borders of the Honecker residence anyway…
Once again, I would urge anyone with an interest in the recent European history to read Dutch author Geert Mak’s book ‘In Europe’. It is translated in both English and Slovene, as well as most other European languages. He aptly juxtaposes the histories and stories of the average Joes and Janes in the European countries against the political events and the stories of politicians who were part of crucial events in European and EU history. Written in part as a travelogue, it is a masterpiece of political non fiction, if only because Mak is a neutral observer as well as a good storyteller, who describes events and settings on his journey so vividly, as if you were there with him or with the people of which he chronicled the stories. Or maybe I just have a vivid imagination…
@Mr. P: Thanks for a most enlightening riposte.
I am delighted with your blog and have just recently become a ‘regular’ of sorts, albeit I’ve only read backward a couple months. I appreciate your seeming neutrality on most issues and you appear to be generally accurate in your interpretation of Slovenian political happenings.
That said, I am curious to know what you believe are the five most sensitive political issues facing Slovenia at present as well as what Slovenians believe its political infrastructure is most lacking.
I look forward to your reply at your convenience.
Hi Chris, welcome to the blog! 🙂
Thanks for your comment. As you probably noticed my posts are a bit irregular these days, but I will most definitely write something along the lines you suggested very soon.
Have a good one!
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