I like and admire Umberto Eco for many reasons, but I firmly believe that the great humanist is absolutely on the wrong side of history with regards to the great post-WWII neo-fascist enterprise of the European Union. And so, it is very satisfying indeed to read of the increasing despair of the bien-pensant intellectuals, and to hear the cri-de-coeur of an elite that is increasingly conscious of its failure concerning an endeavor where, for one brief shining moment around the turn of the millenium, it believed it had succeeded.
These are hard times for those who believe in the European Union: from Cameron, who calls his compatriots to decide if they still want it (or if they never had the will), from Berlusconi who one day declares himself a Europeist but the next, if he doesn't make a visceral connection to the old Fascists, says returning to the lira would be better, to the Lega Nord and its hyperprovincialism. In summary, one can say that – at a distance of more than fifty years – the bones of the founding fathers of Europe United are turning in their graves.Nevertheless everyone should know that in the course of the Second World War 41 million Europeans died, (I say only Europeans, not including the Americans and the Asians), massacred one after the other, and afterwards, saving the tragic Balkan episode, Europe has known 68 years of peace. If one recounts to the young, (who maybe would appreciate it more if they spent a year working in another country on the continent with the Erasmus program, and perhaps at the end of this experience would find a twin spirit with those who speak another language than their own), that the French might today defend the Maginot line to resist the Germans, that the Italians would want to expand their borders to incorporate Greece, that Belgium could be invaded, that English airplanes could bombard Milan, these youth would believe we were inventing a science fiction novel. It is only the adults who understand that instead of crossing borders without passports, their fathers and their grandfathers vacationed with rifles in hand.But is it really true that the idea of Europe is unsuccessful in attracting the Europeans? Bernard-Henri Lévy recently released a passionate manifesto in defense of a European identity. “Europe or Chaos” begins with a disturbing threat. “Europe is not in crisis, it is dying. Not Europe as in the territory, naturally. But Europe, the Idea. The Europe that is a dream and a project.” The manifesto was signed by António Lobo Antunes, Vassilis Alexakis, Juan Luis Cebrián, Fernando Savater, Peter Schneider, Hans Christoph Buch, Julia Kristeva, Claudio Magris, Gÿorgy Konrád and Salman Rushdie (who is not European but has found in Europe his primary refuge from the start of his persecution. I also signed it with some other co-signers, a few days ago, when I was at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris for a little debate. One of the themes that quickly emerged, one that I found amply consequential, is that there exists a consciousness of a European identity. It occurred to me to cite the pages of Remembrance of Things Past by Proust when, in Paris during the time of the bombardment by the German Zeppelins, the intellectuals continue to speak and to write of Goethe or of Schiller as an integrated part of their culture.But this sense of a European identity, certainly very strong among the elite intellectuals, is it also among the common people? It occurred to me to reflect on the fact that even today, in every European country, they celebrate (in school and in their public festivals), real heroes, who are all men who have valorously slain other Europeans, from the part of that Arminius who exterminated the legions of Varo, to Joan of Arc, the Cid, (because the Muslims against whom he fought were of the European centuries), to various Italian and Hungarian heroes of the Risogimento, who fell against the Austrian enemy. Is there no European hero of whom we can speak? Did none ever exist? What about Byron and Santorre di Santarosa, who advanced and fought for the cause of Greek liberty, to say nothing of the not-insignificant numbers of little Schindlers, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews without concern for what nation they belonged to. What about the non-martial heroes, such as De Gasperi, Monnet, Schuman, Adenuauer, Spinelli? And could not searching into the recesses of history expose others, of whom we could speak to the children, (and to the adults)? Is it truly possible that we cannot find a European Asterix of whom we can speak about the Europe of tomorrow?
The fall of the fraud-imposed European Union will be difficult and painful for many, just as the collapse of its force-imposed American counterpart will cause considerable chaos and suffering. But in both cases, the pain will be a relatively small price to pay, because the alternative is the material imposition of Orwell's metaphorical boot-on-the-human-face forever.
The answer to his question is no. There can never be a European Asterix. Asterix is a hero to millions of Europeans because he represents the independent human spirit resisting the force of Empire. And as such, the new Asterixes of the future will be those who courageously resisted the bureaucratic stormtroopers of the failing Union, not those who marched in their ranks. The EU is in the imperial tradition of Augustus, Napoleon, and Hitler, and as such, it can never command the loyalty of an Asterix.
The intellectual elite always loves Empire. They are its parasites, its remoras. And how they hate that it is so often those men who stand against them and their will to rule that are loved and lionized by generation after generation of the common people.