Tue Feb 24th, 2009 at 06:01:44 PM EST
In light of recent conflict here on ET and the very real possibility that our beloved website won't be around for much longer, it got me thinking a bit (though, be forewarned, very rarely do me thinking lead to anything good) about why I'm here in the first place. Obviously, ET is an excellent source for information when it comes to matters European, and all the hard work and effort that Jérôme and everyone else are putting in is just absolutely tremendous. And highly appreciated. If I never said it before, I'll say it now: thank you.
But I think the main reason I frequent this website is because it's human nature to seek out people who in some sense "get" you. Pro-European and left-wing? Well, sign me up!
Which, of course, leads you to wonder why you're left-wing and pro-European in the first place. I can't say it's based entirely in rational arguments; many discussions on the economy go way above my head. Maybe it's my heritage from various European countries or being a minority that makes me, in some sense, "feel" European, I don't know. I just have some sort of notion of how things are supposed to be, and that notion seems to put me on the political left.
Whatever the case, my beliefs were reinforced a couple of days ago, as I left work. I walk by the bus station, and my eyes are immediately drawn to an old man, double-amputee, missing several teeth and looking about as miserable as you could possibly be. He's sitting there, begging for money, as people hurry by, doing their best to ignore his presence. The look in his eyes is near indescribable.
Of course, you would have to be naive, ignorant or both to be unaware of the pain, misery and suffering so many people go through each and every day, and I've certainly encountered beggars and homeless people before. But still, every goddamn time, it just breaks your heart a thousand times over, it's just...such a horribly perfect illustration of everything that is wrong.
But he's not one of us, so it doesn't matter. In recent months, there's been an influx of primarily Romanian immigrants who are looking for work. Unable to find any jobs or even afford the trip back home, they're reduced to homelessness and begging. There are of course compassionate people out there, who offer to help and provide whatever the can. But more often than not, it seems people are annoyed and inconvenienced by this sudden burst of reality.
It would seem to be such an obvious idea that those who have lot would help those who have nothing, if only just a little. But the way people react is just...fucking disgusting.
"They're just scam artists, trying to play on your heart strings!"
"That's how they choose to live, so they don't have to work!"
Really? Who the fuck would want to live like that, if they genuinely had a choice? Who?
And when the minister of immigration has the audacity to propose looser restrictions on immigration, one of the right-wing parties latches on to it as a campaign issue and demand the minister resign. What.the.fuck. is wrong with people?
As if it was only the "foreigners" dragging down the average for the rest of us. The number of people subsisting on food packages from the church is ever increasing, and the Salvation Army is as busy as ever. But it's all okay, because my taxes have been lowered. Yeah, those few extra Euros on my bank account sure as fuck will keep me distracted while the right-wing government are busily and furiously dismantling the welfare state.
I mean, there is really only one conclusion you can draw here: something is HORRIBLY AND FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG! It shouldn't have to be this way! And it all just makes you feel frustrated and angry. Mostly, it makes you feel powerless that it only seems to be getting worse, and you're unable to do anything about it.
This is not the way the world is supposed to work. This is not the way human beings are supposed to be treating each other. This is not how society is supposed to function. A society's worth should not be measured by its ability to bolster its rich, but by its ability to care for its poor. No matter whom you are or where you're from, you should have access to health care, you should be able to receive the same education as anyone else and you should be live in decent circumstances and with adequate infrastructure. And should something happen to you, you will not fall through the cracks, there will be a social safety net to help you back on your feet. None of these should be left to the mercy of the profit seekers or to those who would rather engage in a race to the bottom; these are the things that should be provided by government! Government is pooling our resources together, for the betterment of all of us. This is why I strongly support the welfare state, and this is ultimately why I'm on the political left. THAT is how it's supposed to work.
And that, to me, is also the essence of the European project and of our "ever closer union", the very idea that working together and helping each other is the only way forward. Our union can, and should, be the triumph of compassion over conflict.
And that's why I'm pro-European.