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Frank, on the one hand you say "I'm not advocating a religious revival" on the other, you say... what? It's not really clear what you are advocating. You veer off from advocation towards justification at the end, but I'll deal with that later on.

As for the logic of the diary, you make a fuzzy argument trying to equate enlargement so far with "a historical christian sphere" but ignoring many other factors, principally geography. Now I don't personally believe geography should be the limiting factor for the future of the EU, but you can't ignore the historical import and the same goes for economics wrt Russia and Turkey.

Then there's this little section:

Western Europe thus had to suppress its folk memory of a common catholic (i.e non-orthodox) Christian founding ethos and identity, in order to atone for the Holocaust and take account of Islamic and Hindu immigration.  For Europe, now, to reassert its Christian identity would be profoundly threatening to its Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, or Atheistic citizens and run counter to both the multi-cultural and universalistic models of societal integration.

The problem now is that Europe had no common identity at all in its attempt to be non-discriminatory towards all its citizens.  Whereas all US citizens take a common Pledge of Allegiance and citizens of other countries are unambiguously Chinese, or South Africans, or whatever, European citizens have nothing more than a common passport or driving licence!

Do you not see the circularity of your argument here? What makes all Chinese, Chinese? Or South Africans, South African? Hell, USians, USian? Do you even have a working hypothesis?

Your remarks about "Islam" and "secularism" betray some over-generalisation, which suggests you don't really have a good handle on either the Christian faith as it stands in modern Europe, or the majority experience of Islam, both in communities in the EU and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, since that particular section is the crux of your argument:

That is all very well if your roots are broadly Christian - you can feel comfortable in any European state regardless of whether its roots were originally Catholic or Protestant.  That is what secularism guarantees you.  But what if you are Muslim?

The failure of many Muslim communities to integrate successfully in Europe is largely because the European concept of a secular state IS Christian.  Unless you agree to become a secularised Muslim (and there is really no such thing in Islam itself) you will find it difficult to integrate.

Turkey, by contrast, may also be a secular state - i.e. not run by Churchmen/Imams - but it is an Islamic secular state - and thus incompatible with a deep, hidden, but implicit Christianity at the heart of the secular (Western) European sense of identity.

...the whole diary feels like it assumes what it claims to prove. Now I shouldn't leap to conclusions, but it rather looks like you have a hidden agenda there.

I said I'd return to the end of the diary and this seems like the point to do so:

The reality is that in Europe today you can be German or French, Italian or British; Atheist, Christian, Hindu, Moslem, or Jew; but you cannot be European, because for that to be anything other than a banal regional appellation it would have to recognise the fact that it is fundamentally a Christian construct albeit expressed in secularised terms.  And that is about the only thing the vast majority of Europeans have in common.  How embarrassing is that, for those who think of religion as no more than a relic of an unfortunate past!

  1. You haven't even tried to actually demonstrate that it is a Christian construct, just asserted it.

  2. You haven't begun to consider that "banal regional appellation" might have something more to it than meets the eye. In implication you simply argue for the impossibility of multi-cultural states. Whilst you might be proved right and the USA, India and China and Russia and various others destined to implode, I think you probably need, again, to back up that argument a little.

  3. Others have taken you to task on the equation of history with identity and you tried to just ignore them, but it is the critical issue here. What are we trying to build and why?

It's worth noting that your attempts to portray yourself as having "hit upon an unspoken taboo" look a little self-aggrandizing, in the light of the above.

In fact, it's taken me this much writing to identify two sleights of hand in your diary, but now it does come clear to me:

Is there such a thing as a European identity?  Is yes, and it is broadly, catholic Christian in origin.  But the very fact that the outcome of the religious wars was an assertion that all religious beliefs had to be tolerated and accepted means that this common European identity can never become the basis for the EU project.

  1. You conflate the long view history of European identity (although notably a flawed history, but that's a topic for another diary when I have time to address PeWi's objections too) with the shorter history of European history and then with the future of European identity.

  2. You place an importance on "Christianity" when you state yourself that the key outcome of the religious wars was to remove from Christianity one of it's key doctrines, that of intolerance of other faiths. This is the CDU trick of claiming that all the good things come out of Christianity and we can ignore all the bad things associated with Christianity. But why is that the case? If we're defining a new identity, why would we want to say "it's Christian in concept, but not with the bad bits of Christianity, honest!"
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 08:14:57 PM EST
Excellent comment!

it rather looks like you have a hidden agenda there

I think one of ET's strengths is that if forces out (maybe unseen) agendas but without necessarily "becoming all puritanical", which would be religious, but rather using our enlightenment brains to always search for (and find!) synthesis.

Ted had the same idea as me: Wittgenstein.  Here's my quote.

A Synopsis of Wittgenstein's Logic of Language, Chapters 7-10

Games and Family Resemblances

Logic looks at the use of language from one point of view only: "what happens considered as a game".  (cf. PG p. 68, 66)

But think of just how varied games are: from chess with its strictly defined rules to the simple play of a child throwing a ball into the air and catching it.

Consider ... the proceedings that we call 'games'.  I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on.  What is common to them all? -- Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'" -- but look and see whether there is anything common to all.  (PI § 66)

Tennis and jacks have a ball in common.  There is no ball in hopscotch, but there are "jacks".  There are no jacks in jump rope, but there is hopping.  Leapfrog is child's play (but there is no equipment, e.g. no ball, jacks or rope).  In volleyball there are no racquets, but there is a ball and a net.  Badminton has no ball, but there are racquets and a net.  There is no net in bridge and no playing cards in tennis, but bridge and doubles tennis are played by teams.  There are no teams in solitaire (or, patience), but there are playing cards.  There are no cards in chess, but an individual may play chess "against himself".  Jacks is not played with a dog, but fetch is sometimes played with a ball.  There is no winning or losing in fetch, but there is exercise in it for the dog.

There are countless similarities between particular games and between types of games.  But don't take Wittgenstein's word for this.  Look at some games for yourself.

For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that.  (ibid.)

All of us were taught that a common name must designate a common nature.  That is why our English teachers insisted that we give "essences" rather than examples when we defined words at school.  But Wittgenstein looked -- not at what philosophers have claimed -- but at the facts of our language.  And finding there, not something "in which they do not differ but are all alike" (Meno 72c), but only similarities among applications of words, he invented this simile:

I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than 'family resemblances' [or 'family likeness' (<acronym>BB p. 17)] ... And I shall say: games form a family.  (ibid. § 67)

So that, when we compare using language to playing games, we should remind ourselves that games (and the rules of games) are not alike in all respects -- any more than the members of any other "family" are alike in all respects.

*

But if anyone insists: "Still, games must have something in common", he can be told that there is indeed one thing that all games really do have in common: a word -- i.e. they are all called 'games'.  Take that word away, however --.

*

Resemblances between members of a family will overlap and intersect in a variety of places (ibid.), but in some instances they may not exist at all.... The principal criticism of this simile might be its lack of clear application -- what exactly is being compared to what?  But this metaphor is more a suggestive than an exact comparison (i.e. this is not a case of one-to-one correlation, although Wittgenstein did give one such example).

There are various criteria for inclusion in a human family (belief in common ancestry is the usual one, with adoption being another), but in the case of language there is only one criterion for inclusion in a family -- namely, bearing the same family name (e.g. the common name 'game') however it was that our natural history bequeathed this name to anything.  Wittgenstein is not here suggesting a theory of common ancestry: that is not the comparison he is making with this metaphor.

Note 6:  Some rules, we might want to say, have their foundation in what is practical: the corner grocer can only stock so many apples if he is to remain in business; or indeed in what is empirically possible: a game that required participants to leap 20 feet straight up into the air would be a game that no human being could play.  [If some very general facts of nature were different; cf. the game with the word 'to know' in Parable of The Born-Blind.]

But there are many different kinds of rules of the game, e.g. the rule in chess that if you touch a piece you must move that piece and not some other seems different in kind from the rule that the bishop is permitted only to move along diagonals.  The rule that the volleyball must be returned to the opposition server under the net not over it is similar to the touch rule in chess.  Some rules, we might want to say, are a matter of etiquette.  They appear to be somehow outside the game itself; nonetheless, they are binding.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 09:11:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the considered comment, Metatone.  My hidden agenda, if I have one, is that I see the EU as having been an extraordinary success up until now, and one I would very much like to see grow and develop still further, but that it may be headed for the rocks for a number of reasons which I have already touched on in other responses here.

Chief of these reasons are as follows:

  1.  It has been enlarged without a prior streamlining and consolidation of decision making processes which means it risks becoming increasingly stuck in a morass of indecision in a world which is becoming ever more fast moving and which requires agile and visionary leadership if the EU is to achieve a political and diplomatic influence commensurate with its economic importance

  2. The remoteness, complexity, slowness and opacity of the decision making processes means there is an increasing disengagement by the public from the EU even in previously very enthusiastic members like Ireland.

  3. It has been seen to be ineffective when crises have emerged over Iraq, Srebrenica, Darfur, Guantanamo, renditions etc. - where the "values" people claim are embedded in  the EU project have been violated.  People will rightly ask whether the ineffectiveness of the EU on such issues is actually a deliberate strategy to mask the fact that such "humanitarian" issues are really of no concern and that the real business is about looking after the interests of the EU elite.

The Reform treaty should be a crucial document aimed at addressing these issues and ensuring that the EU becomes a more effective actor on the world stage and more accountable to its people, who in turn become more engaged and identified with it.  Does anyone truly belief the Reform treaty, even if ratified will achieve this?

In my view, a few key things might help to address these problems.

i) Possibly a directly elected President who becomes a visible embodiment and figurehead for what Europe is all about.  People want to know who is in charge and are not inspired by Government by committee.

ii) A European Commission operating more like an elected  Government - where commissioners are grilled by the Parliament on a more regular basis and are dismissed on an individual basis if they lose the confidence of Parliament.

iii) Greater transparency on the budgeting process and cost benefit studies on new spending proposals

iv) Replacement of NATO with a common European defense force and greater harmonisation/cooperation between police forces particularly on common threats like terrorism

v) Political parties campaigning on a Pan European basis and laying out their stall as to what future direction of Europe should be - particularly for the election of the Directly Elected President.  In this context the Greens, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Liberals etc. can argue their respective cases as to what direction Europe should go in and therefore what "identity" it will have.

Vi)  Speaking sociologically (and without a personal agenda on this!) I think the religion issue will be a major if not always openly articulated factor in whether countries like Turkey will be allowed to join.

Unlike Jerome, I do not think this is a technical issue to be decided by technocratic elite, but rather a political issue which should be put to popular vote.  The very fact that Jerome can speak of this as a technical issue highlights (to me) how out of touch the technocrat elite can be with popular sentiment and why there is such a growing popular distrust of what the technocrats are up to!  Ultimately it is for the people to decide what the boundaries (geographic, political, ethnic, religious, cultural) of the EU should be -- and hence its identity.

Far from engaging in an exercise in self-aggrandizement here because I felt I had touched on a hidden taboo I think it is incredibly arrogant for a bureaucratic elite to think that they can slip Turkey into the EU based on some technical economic and legal criteria without consulting with how the electorate feel about it.  

Including  a major country like Turkey (or Russia) would make a major change to the social, cultural and religious balance of the EU - and hence its identity - and the very fact that it can be considered to be merely a matter for the elite to decide highlights just what is wrong with the EU as a democratic polity.

I hope this elitist "we know what's good for you" approach does not permeate though the general mindset in the ET because, if so, there is no place for me here.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 07:48:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope this elitist "we know what's good for you" approach does not permeate though the general mindset in the ET because, if so, there is no place for me here.

There's always a place for dissent, even if you're isolated. To characterise Jerome's viewpoint as an elitist 'we know what's good for you' approach goes a bit too far IMO. There's a legitimate debate to be had on the extent to which 'competence' and 'output' can function as legitimising factors for policy -- and the other hand of that debate is anti-elitism and populism against the civil service, which is more and more common. It's good to have alternative voices.

But you'll find that we have quite vigorous debates on this topic here, with people coming from very different positions. See for instance this thread.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 12:01:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my view, a few key things might help to address these problems.

i) Possibly a directly elected President who becomes a visible embodiment and figurehead for what Europe is all about.  People want to know who is in charge and are not inspired by Government by committee.

ii) A European Commission operating more like an elected  Government - where commissioners are grilled by the Parliament on a more regular basis and are dismissed on an individual basis if they lose the confidence of Parliament.

iii) Greater transparency on the budgeting process and cost benefit studies on new spending proposals

iv) Replacement of NATO with a common European defense force and greater harmonisation/cooperation between police forces particularly on common threats like terrorism

v) Political parties campaigning on a Pan European basis and laying out their stall as to what future direction of Europe should be - particularly for the election of the Directly Elected President.  In this context the Greens, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Liberals etc. can argue their respective cases as to what direction Europe should go in and therefore what "identity" it will have.

vi)  Speaking sociologically (and without a personal agenda on this!) I think the religion issue will be a major if not always openly articulated factor in whether countries like Turkey will be allowed to join.


We talk about our disagreements because they are what tickles us, but you know, you will find that nearly all people agree with you on at least one of these points. Myself, I prefer ii) to i), I agree with iii) except that CBA is just an aspect to be weighed and should be accompanied by EIA and SIA, and I agree with iv) and v).

I think that the Turkey issue mainly has to do with our view of the 'other' and that ethnicity has at least as much to do with it as religion.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 12:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK I think I can meet you half way on this.  I don't think competence is a form of our substitute for accountability but it can certainly render the effects of a lack of accountability less acute.

A good example of this is the recent enlargement of the EU which was a major change, and therefore should have been put to popular vote.  However the inclusion of the 10 Eastern European states after the collapse of the Iron Curtain was generally quite popular (less so the recent inclusion of Romania/Bulgaria) and so the lack of direct consultation was less of a political problem.  

It would still have been preferable had it been put to the popular vote because:

  1.  The process of an election campaign itself is a healthy exercise in consultation and engagement and means people take greater ownership and feel part of the EU decision making process

  2.  If things go seriously wrong with the expansion the elite can always say - "well we did ask you and it was your decision"

On your previous point, it was not my intension to personalise  - I was quoting Jerome but criticising the EU elite - which are , I'm sure, complete different entities!!!  However, the point I was making about religion was essentially sociological - as is your point about ethnicity - but it seemed to be taken up by other contributors here in a personalised way - implying I had a hidden agenda.

It certain circles you can't raise ethnic issues in the context of identity without being labelled a racist, or religious issues without being labelled a bigot.  I thought there might have been a touch of that here.  Both are critical to the issue of identity and the boundaries which people may legitimately want to set for their polity.  

Politics is also about sentiment or feeling -it is not purely an economic or technocratic issue and people have to feel and want to be part of something.  The enlargement to 27 was quite a shock to that system and will take quite some time to be fully absorbed.  The EU wasn't structurally ready for it and I doubt its people are ready for a further expansion just yet.  There is only so much "otherness" that people can take in and accept within a short period of time.

Turkey is unfortunate that its application comes so soon after the ill-digested expansion eastward and before structural reform has been achieved.  It sheer size and location and religious and ethnic differences compound that problem - particularly in the xenophobic atmosphere created by the "War on Terror".

I do not personally have a problem with Turkey's accession so long as it is preceded by structural reform and democratic consultation - neither of which seem to be on the agenda in any serious way at the moment.  In fact, I would positively welcome and campaign for Turkey's inclusion if I felt that Turkey's people, too, genuinely wanted to embrace and integrate with multiculturalism, secularism, and other "enlightenment" values discussed here earlier.  

However, on my reading, there is a great deal of tension between the secularist army and Islamic elements in Turkish civil society who want an Islamic state.  This needs to be resolved before accession because we do not want to import any more of those tensions into western Europe.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 01:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sociological point has some validity! But it's also unsatisfactory. Politics is the art of the possible, but we're engaged in advocacy here, not politics, so we tend to practice the art of the desirable. I think. If that makes sense...?

I'd like to have a popular pan-European vote, but I'd dread to hold the first one on Turkey. I don't know if we can set up the institution quickly enough for people to familiarise themselves with blocking something nationally, but not on the EU level.

The problem is also that any state can still veto Turkish entry. So there's your point for institutional change.

Then again, a pan-European vote on Turkey would be vastly preferable to a set of national referenda (as promised by Chirac for France, IIRC).

So, I guess we agree...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 03:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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