Monday, November 10, 2014

A history lesson, and why Europe should try to be more Canadian

100 years ago today, Europe was embroiled in the First World War. Four years later, or 96 years ago today, the guns fell silent. The Economist showed the terrible price paid by each of the major combatant nations.

The necessity for Europe
I reiterate my comment about the necessity that created the European Union (see Lest we forget, or why you don't understand Europe):
So is it any wonder that after the carnage of the First World War and the Second World War, the countries of Europe came together and said, "Enough!"

Thus, the EEC and later the EU was born. Today, that project has largely succeeded. We have seen no major European conflict since 1945, the end of the Second World War. The formation of the European Union has kept the peace. The political elite of Europe, despite all the bickering, are still committed to that bigger than life myth of the formation of the EU.

For overseas analysts who look at Europe and only focus on the cost of bailing out Greece, Portugal, etc. Don`t ever forget the political glue that holds Europe together.

Lest we forget.

Canada's lack of the sense of Volk
Margaret Wente, writing in the Globe and Mail, had a brilliant insight about Canada and war:
Our identity is not defined by blood, or by our sense of destiny. We have no concept of Volk. We’re just folks. We don’t care who you are or where you came from or who or what you worship, as long as you share our good Canadian bourgeois values. Don’t litter. Send your kids to school. Wear a poppy.
Even though the European elite understands very well the historical necessity of binding Germany and France together so that another major war cannot happen again, they are held back by Europe`s sense of Volk. That seems to be underlying reason for the failings of the euro - economic union without political union.

Wente`s remarks were especially poignant in the wake of the attack in Ottawa that killed a Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirollo of Hamilton:
If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s an amazing video you should check out online. It was made a week after the attack on Parliament. In it, a York University student named Omar Albach and two friends set out to gauge people’s attitudes toward Muslims. They took their experiment to the streets of Hamilton, on the eve of Cpl. Cirillo’s funeral, where emotions were running high. One friend was dressed in a traditional Muslim robe; the other played an Islamophobic bigot. They wanted to see whose side people would take.
What they got wasn’t quite what they expected.

As the bigot berates the Muslim, the passersby get mad. “You can’t stereotype and judge people by their clothes,” one man says heatedly. “Or their nationality or anything else, you know what I mean?”

One woman tells the bigot that what happened to Cpl. Cirillo was “awful and tragic,” then says “I don’t think that’s any reason to persecute someone just because of what they’re wearing.”

You’ve gotta love the crowd. They’re pure Hamilton. Tim Hortons drinkers, guys in flannel shirts and baseball hats. The video ends abruptly when a bystander punches the bigot in the nose.

The video went viral, nearly three million hits as I write this, and made news around the world. Mr. Albach, the 18-year-old director, was interviewed on CNN. Watch: Canadians Stand Up To An Anti-Muslim ‘Bigot,’ said an admiring Washington Post headline. People in Saudi Arabia sent the link back to friends in Canada.
The surprise is the degree of acceptance of the enemy du jour, namely Muslims:
Shortly after the attack on Parliament, the mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., was vandalized. People arrived for Friday prayers to discover that someone had thrown a brick through a window and sprayed the words “GO HOME” across the front of the building.

Here’s what happened next. As soon as word got out, townspeople showed up with scrub brushes, paint remover and flowers. They made new signs with Canadian flags saying “You are home.” Local contractors showed up, along with soldiers in uniform from the nearby military base. Ajaz Quraishi, president of the Islamic Society of Cold Lake, said he didn’t think the incident had anything to do with hostility in the community. “Maybe kids did it, I don’t know who did it, but it could happen to anybody,” he told the Edmonton Journal. “… One guy came up and said, ‘You know, I’m a redneck, but I don’t like this.’ He came and hugged me.”
There are reasons to be optimistic about Europe. Yes, it is struggling with the centrifugal forces of localized identities. Another challenge has been the flood of immigrants and refugees from North Africa, whose Muslim identities rub the locals the wrong way. Yet, even at the nadir of the Scottish Referendum when it appeared that Scotland might succeed from the UK, the centripetal of Europe held together as Scotland showed that it wanted to be part of the EU and acknowledged its European identity.

Maybe the most realistic solution is for Europe become more like Canada, a country held together in a federation, composed of regions with strong provincial powers.


Anonymous said...

Sure, a few muslims don't hurt. But wait until they have a critical mass.

Would you like to tell me about all the societies where that has worked out well?

Cam Hui, CFA said...

Try substituting "Japs" during the Second World War for "Muslim". How did that work out?

Then try going back a few decades and substitute "Catholic" or "Protestant" for "Muslim". How did Ireland work out?

Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia are well functioning Muslim countries.

Merwan said...

Thank you for your very perceptive piece. I didn’t know about the York student test. But as the guns of remembrance sound in the distance (at 11am) it brought tears to my eyes -- scratching the surface brings up a decency.

I Will Never Accept The Terms of Service said...

Some things from a Hamiltonian to provide perspective here:

1) this is a city of immigrants. So everyone has already experienced racism, from the Irish and Scottish who settled here to the Italians, Hungarians and Yugoslavs of the 50s, the Vietnamese and Pakistanis who came here in the 70s, and everyone else who came before or since.

2) Maybe part of the reaction comes from embarrassment that, after 9/11, a bunch of good old boys here in town burned down the Hindu temple because they were too stupid to even get the religion right of the people they wanted to persecute. But I doubt it, because nobody cared about it at the time.

3) The guy who got punched looks (from the photo) like a "rich" dude from the mountain, and the guy who punched him looks like a downtown core guy. He would have gotten punched out for calling attention to himself anyway. Seriously, hair like that and a posh leather jacket get you punched out.

4) I'd like to see the same social experiment run, but one where the first "bystanders" to speak up take the side of the racist. The other bystanders, I think, would react very differently in that case. We tend to herd very strongly in this town.

Though sure, Wente's point does still stand. Europe is very racist, and it informs all of their beliefs and behaviour: so (e.g.) der Spiegel always takes pains to remind its readers that Italy and Spain are corrupt, France is full of socialist trade-unionists, and only glorious Germany is hard-working and honest enough to deserve to control Europe's monetary and fiscal policy.

Yes, the best thing would be to dissolve all borders in Europe and have it be one single country with one single government. Won't happen though....