An excellent, in my opinion, column on the need to create a European consciousness, and the failure of the European Union and our national leaders to do so. The assertion that Europe needs more than just wanting to prevent war or protect rights, is bold, but boldness is precisely what lacks in current European politics (both at the national and European levels).
The author, Olivier Guez, puts the notion of culture at the core of a European consciousness, even advocating a common European school curriculum. This idea is indeed a bold one, and while each country should retain its autonomy in educational matters (the teaching of national literature and history), one may envision a common curriculum alongside the national one, a European curriculum based on the study of the Classics (classical and Christian), the very study of which has formed the minds of hundreds of generations throughout Europe from Antiquity up to the beginning of the 20th century, and as such virtually created a trans-national, European (and even Western, since this culture is also that of most Americans) Republic of Letters.
Such classical culture, together with the Christian faith, is the best training for the mind to proper thinking, which is as such liberating. But these will also help transmit certain values and ideas developed through the ages by experiencing the world. Only by knowing such experience, will we be able not only to reconnect with our roots, but also to deal with the trials and challenges of our age by creating them yet anew. Only then will a united Europe stand on firm ground and be ready to face the storms of modernity not indeed by trying to stay afloat, but by steering the helm of her history.
By Olivier Guez, English version published in the New York Times. Emphasis in bold by Aeneas’ Quest.
SO Greece didn’t collapse, and Europe began breathing easier. But not for long. Italy’s rebellious voters, who opted for a flamboyant billionaire and a clown, reminded us last week how deeply in crisis the Continent is. Meanwhile, France is going it virtually alone in Mali, and Britain talks openly of jumping the European ship altogether. This is a crisis not just of Europe’s currency, but of its soul.
If there ever was an emerging vision of a united Europe, it is falling apart for lack of support from its various peoples. Each has its own resentments or suspicions of its partners. But all suffer the same lack: very few of their citizens think of themselves first as Europeans.
Oddly enough, it turns out, back in the late 20th century, the leaders and institutions of the Old Continent never understood that to build a common Europe, they needed to find, or cultivate, Europeans with a Continental spirit, to give the project a federating mortar.
How could this be? The history of Europe’s past half-century is usually depicted as step after step toward a common future. But maybe, to understand where we are now, the story should start earlier — not with the coalescing of France and Germany in the 1960s but with the model of Europe in the decade before the calamity of 1914.