• Daniel Ethan Finneran

The E.U. and Europa

June 2019

In my foregoing post, I wrote at unexpected length on the subject of Europa—a subject in whose telling such themes as royalty and promiscuity, abduction and divine impregnation, trauma and triumph, mythology and history all converge into a curious tale. Indeed, in my mind, it’s the curiosity that fortifies its enviable position in my memory. Though I’m incessantly enamored of this myth and never in need of any real impetus to bring it to mind and, having so brought it, to share it in words, I found myself reflecting on it as I began thinking about the present condition of the world. Specifically, I was thinking about that part of the world to which our dearest Europa lends her now celestial, now continental name.

I speak, of course, of Europe, as if you hadn’t the aptitude to guess. In a word, her state of affairs and her affairs of state look to be very badly off. Pallid, in fact, might be the more accurate word—undoubtedly the more clinical—to describe exactly how this continent in decline looks at this moment in time. Feeble, diffident, and fully drained of its prior vigor and health, the countenance of stolid-old Europe has changed in a dramatic way. Now, with cheeks sunk, eyes weary, skin sallow, and head so crestfallen that it remembers not how it ever stood fully erect, Europe is hardly the recognizable friend upon whose strength we ardent Atlanticists used to rely. She’s no longer the burly ally at whose entrance the Pillars of Heracles stood and from whose mouth the Delphic oracles spoke. Gone are the days when she was the last bastion of Christendom, the promulgator of freedom, and the defender of the practice of every faith.

Europe, at least so far as we knew it, is being drained of its vitality, of its unity, of the very essence of its life. Certainly in disrepair, if not in the throes of outright dissolution, the continent is hastening toward an important juncture. It’ll prove a moment in its millennia-long history from which it can’t hope to escape. Inevitably, this moment will arrive and we, gathered eulogists the lot of us, will record it point by point. Indeed, it (or, as we might more accurately call that schismatic body of twenty-six discordant states), they are barreling toward a head-on collision with their future. When finally it arrives, as always it does, it’ll make for a philosophical as well as a political crash.

At its point of impact, you’ll see the destruction of high-minded ideals and the restoration of realities. Governments will have to revert to their first and founding principles, the reasons for which they were made to exist. Chiefly, they’ll have to assure the protection of one’s property, one’s liberty, and one’s self. America has, of course, appropriated and imbibed this happy triune of rights. More than that, presumptuously and, as it’s turned out, salubriously we’ve come to think of it as our own. It’s become, in our own way, a sort of secular Nicene Creed—a mellifluous political ode to our exceptional past. Even those most exiguously educated about or ill-disposed toward our nation recognize the resonance and permanence of this truth.

Europe, whence this idea first arose (from the mind of that Leviathan of a thinker named John Locke), seems to have forsaken this idea—that which I consider its greatest export. Sovereignty—of the nation, of the township, and most importantly of the self—has been sacrificed on the altar of inclusivity. To be anything but radically cosmopolitan has become, in the eyes of many within the intelligentsia, shameful and indecent. That’s putting it rather gently. Most of the thinkers under whom we menial workers exist would consider it unforgivably barbarous and uncouth. Multiculturalism, they proclaim in response, is an unmitigated good. It must be embraced unquestioningly even if its acceptance is to result in injury. Euroscepticism, they soon thereafter follow, is obviously an evil concept. It’s consistent with the thought of a churl, of a nationalist, of a bigoted mind. Thus, it’s fully deserving of the opprobrium it roundly receives.

Fertile Europa, mythical mother of this confused and withering landmass to which she gave birth, was taken against her will from her home. A princess by lineage, she was brought from the tranquil shores of Lebanon to the rugged landscape of Crete. It was, if you will, the very earliest instance of translatio imperii—the movement of empire from the east to the west, the former dwindling and the latter burgeoning. The duration of her travel was unrecorded, but we can assume she made haste before landing at her adopted home. Her mode of transportation was the sturdy back of a bull—an animal for whom the adjective rambunctious rather than amphibious normally applies, but even the severest skeptics among us smile at this incredible part of the myth. After all, as it turns out, the bull was in fact Zeus. Upon reaching Crete, he accomplished his goal. He celebrated his taxing Mediterranean crossing by planting in fecund Europa’s womb his Olympian seed. A continent and a king named Minos were instantly born.

The symbolism of this rape or abduction of Europa (the former word, archaic in construction, is grating to modern sensibilities), when viewed through the lens of the politics of today, strikes me as being very clear. Playing the part of the taurine, sexually intemperate Zeus is the European Union. Like a haughty and divine power, its central governing body stands above the continent at Brussels as Zeus stood among gods in the sky. It’s a supranational body administering to an amalgam of fiercely nationalistic states. Its bureaucrats dictate from on-high to a populace from whom they’ve earned little in the way of respect. They’ve seen it fit to use every method to make one vision of Europe coincide with them all and they’ve acted, as did Zeus, in a peremptory and self-righteous way.

Then there’s Europa herself. Abducted by that now omnipotent, now complacent European Union is the sovereignty of each member state. Each country’s ability to determine its own governance and the manner by which it desires itself run has been forcibly overtaken by the E.U. On such ideologically-fraught questions as immigration, customs, culture, and trade, one solution is annually deemed appropriate for them all. Each country, impotent in response, thus sees its sovereignty sailing away—as if it were Europa scurrying involuntarily toward Crete.

Not only Europa, but the very Europe to which she gave her name might be on the verge of becoming a curious part of history. The most recently held elections for the E.U. parliament saw a striking increase in the number of moderately right-wing, unabashedly nationalistic individuals chosen. Instead of clamoring from without, it appears these exasperated nationalists will change the supranational system from within. There may not be, however, a Europe when they’re finished.

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