Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Brussels and Babel

Well, 'I ha'e me doots,' (as someone used to say, meaning I have my doubts). My son who knows about these things tells me I don't need to and that my grasp of the referendum debate is ill-informed. No, he's not that severe on his old dad. But he thinks I'm wrong, as do most of my family.

As I told him last night my reservations are not to do with the economic arguments or the security ones or even to do with migration, since it seems that like statistics they can used on either side to prove a hypothetical case. 'If we leave, we'll be cut off from our largest trading market, and the EU will be so cross with us they will extort a swingeing price from us.' Or, 'If we stay, we'll have to keep open borders to the ever-increasing population of the expanding EU and be "flooded" with immigrants, taking lower paid jobs, making demands on our services etc etc.' I guess that we won't sink or swim whether in or out. I'm certain that no one can predict our future either in or out in 2020, 2030 or 2040, and it's a foolish man who pretends to. 

So wherein do my doubts lie? I think it's to do with concentration of power. The well-known episode of ancient near-eastern 'protohistory' serves as a powerful myth illustrating the point. 

'Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.'
European Parliament Building, Strasbourg

It is not immediately obvious what the LORD's problem is with the tower-building. After all, this human cooperation has limitless possibilities. But that is, I suspect the problem. Humans being as they are, this monolithic community has limitless potential for evil, which is something that history bears out whether it's a Roman empire, a union of soviet states, or the numerous attempts to establish empires through the ages. When a state becomes too large, the misuse of power increases. A diversity of communities with shared languages and cultures limits the potential of a single super-state. Don't mistake me. I'm not say that the EU is such a super-state, but with continued accretions and centralised institutions it runs the risk of establishing the infrastructure for one. That danger is one I am wary of. 

Separate nation-states, defended by treaties, connected by agreements, seem to me to provide a safer and more interesting world in which to live. Europeanisation is no more attractive than a world state. For my readers who are too young to remember that far back, I came across this summary of our involvement with what is now the European Union written by a friend's brother on Facebook. (By the way, I am impatient with the lazy shorthand of 'staying in' or 'getting out of Europe'. It is of course true that whatever happens we will remain a part of Europe. It's a geographical fact.)

'Regardless of individual circumstances today, the organisation Britain voted to join back in the 1970s was a good one: a Common Market, a union of individual states each with a desire to assist its partner in a friendly economic future that would progress towards a common economic policy. BUT the EU today has and continues to metamorphose into something very different! An unwieldy unholy leviathan where individual states, cultures and societies are subject to the singular authority of an impossible political union at any cost.' The writer then becomes increasingly polemical, but he has a point. 'Hence the Euro has only highlighted the diversity and incapacity of various nations to trade on an equal footing. What the future of Greece and Spain and Italy or even France will be against Germany is a very dark cloud that still looms over the continent! The complete breakdown of the EU in being able to deal with crisis such as migration through individual states and the EU's resolve to combat military threats such as in the Baltic states or the Ukraine is alarming! In effect the entire edifice of a European Union, a political union which is today the central desire of bureaucrats within the Closeted European state, is in danger of utter collapse! The question should be if we stay in this power what will our future be when we can see no future in this monstrous state! To vote to remain within this organisation can only delay the inevitable of a complete breakdown in society and our eventual withdrawal at an even greater cost! In view of this overriding National and Cultural concern we can only properly vote for an exit because it will be beyond stupid to continue along the spiral of destruction that the EU is set upon. Alas, many have short memories and are taken in by Cameron and his brigade of sycophants who led by selfish desires are prepared to sell this land down the toilet' (Paul Daly).

It is certainly true that the EU is far from the Common Market, and it is naïve to believe that we could reform it from inside, changing it back from a leviathan into a mackerel. The argument that we have influence from inside is hardly evidenced from our recent voting success in European institutions. Perhaps starting again would be worth it. So overall, I ha'e me doots. Maybe, Ernst F Schumacher was right, 'Small is beautiful.' 

PS Having searched European Parliament building on google, I see I'm by no means the first to connect the EU with Babel, but I can only ask you to believe that I had not come across it before.

PPS As my later post Pluses and minuses both sides of the Atlantic makes clear, my doubts have entirely been resolved. I shall be voting Remain, and so I hope will my readers. The xenophobia of the Exit campaign distresses me, as does in the Christian sphere the raising of the spectre of an Islamic destruction of the Church, or more generally "our Christian heritage". Jesus Christ, by the way, was quite clear about his church: "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". That seems to me not a call to militancy but to trust.