It is common practice for the establishment to occasionally wage battles aimed at consolidating its strength and boosting the confidence of its different components. In a similar way, Europe’s systemic powers are fighting a war against the “nationalism,” “racism,” “nazism” and “fascism” of the purported extremist parties ahead of European Parliament elections in May.
However, what we are essentially about to see is a shift in the balance of power in the European Parliament, an institution whose operation has been formulated on the basis of two dominant political alliances, namely the Christian Democrats and the Socialists. It will not be the end of the world. Things are changing fast, and new adaptations are called for.
During a speech in Paris early last year to mark 100 years since the end of World War I, French President Emmanuel Macron, a politician who is quite inventive with words, remarked that “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” It was a catchy phrase, no doubt, but not even a million words would be enough to clearly define what it really meant.
If one was, for a moment, to ignore the political context of the issue (which, after all, is rather shallow for it is about controlling the mechanisms of power) one would say that it really is about a division between citizens who prefer to live in a homogeneous society and those who harbor internationalist ideas.
None of the two standpoints is really “progressive” or “reactionary,” for they have alternated throughout history. The Israelites were the first who fought to shape a homogeneous system on the basis of the pact they reached with Jehovah. The Greeks of antiquity built a homogeneous system based on education.
Every society that has managed to survive through the ages did so on the basis of a shared cultural identity, a common set of values and ideas. Great thinkers made great efforts to shape different sets of national ideologies which occasionally took on an abominable manifestation – a fact that cannot discredit the idea of the nation.
Meanwhile, there are reverse trends which iron out national particularities and which also had an impact on civilization as we know it – namely Christianity, which was the ideological construct of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Catholic Church, which civilized the barbarian tribes of European North, lending ideological and in some cases political unity to the West, beyond nations and tribes.
The European Union is the most recent attempt to create a multiethnic system which has however failed to incorporate groups that were shaped by different cultures. Only the Church – Orthodox or Catholic, it does not matter – can meet the above challenge. Not the existing status quo. The Left with its internationalist ideology is more flexible than traditional political forces. That would explain why Pope Francis said that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras deserve the Nobel Prize’s for his remarks that “human rights are more important than agreements.”
We will perhaps see more such paradoxical alliances in the future.