By Katarzyna Mortoń
The scales are being tipped over a little at a time. Almost invisible to the naked eye steps are being taken that tip them over to the wrong side. Far-right parties are gaining in popularity while left-wing politicians and liberals are isolating themselves from others. We are becoming more divided. The tensions in Europe are rising.
Human blood has long dried off the streets of European cities. Death, devastation, hunger and fear experienced during both World Wars have been long forgotten. We talk with pride about the European values. Peace between European nations has become a fact.
Totalitarianism: nazism, fascism or communism are still part of our history but we want to believe that they are no longer part of our nature. Arrogant, distracted by the economic and procedural issues, we point to the sources of Europe’s problems as coming from outside and forget to look in the mirror. Is the old continent free of the power of evil, which surfaced time and time again over the course of history? Do we not have to be wary of each other?
„A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.”
European Union (EU) and previous agreements – European Coal and Steel Community (ECCS) and European Community (EC) – were formed with peace in mind. Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the EU, in Schumann Declaration explaining the aims behind ECCS said the following: ‘World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.
The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war. Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.’
In 1950, when those words were written, European nations didn’t yet recover from the atrocities they themselves had committed. The evidence of human limitations were visible everywhere. Evil and captivity were still very much alive behind the Berlin ‘Wall’.
On June 23, 2016 the situation is different though. Peace on the old continent is not a distant dream of humanity but a fact. We take it for granted as something permanent.
In a few days, Britain as the first of 28 European states will question whether they should remain or leave the European Union. The ‘Leave’ Campaign will pass their vote of no confidence on the economic and social benefits of working within the EU. They stress that their safety and welfare is endangered by the outside forces. They want to slam the door shut. If they succeed, then the lack of imagination, perspective and historical context will win setting a very dangerous precedent.
It will lead to everyone downplaying the fact that it is all of us, every country in Europe, equally responsible for maintaining peace, which will continue only if we make the effort maintaining and reforming it.
History as as vicious circle
Does it have to be like this? Does history have to repeat itself? After times of war, genocide and trauma, humans distraught by their capacity for evil promise to change. Then after a while, we forget about the capacity for evil we carry within us, about our tendency to act on animal instinct and without reflection falls into a false belief that we do not pose any danger to one another.
The scales are being tipped over a little at a time. Almost invisible to the naked eye steps are being taken that tip them over to the wrong side. Far-right parties are gaining in popularity while left-wing politicians and liberals are isolating themselves from others. We are becoming more divided. The tensions in Europe are rising. Language used in the public domain is becoming increasingly aggressive. Internet is full of hate speech. The need for European project – let alone reform – is being questioned more and more.
The public domain of acceptable rhetoric is being filled with dangerous ideas, often without providing any context or explanation. It is all happening without consideration for our historical roots. As if we have forgotten why we built it all. Is short memory part of human condition?
Let me finish with the words of Hanna Arendt, a philosopher: ‘“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.” What is normal, just like peace are both relative ideas. Despite appearances they can mean a lot of things. We can never stop looking after them.
Katarzyna Mortoń is an MA graduate in Political Science . Blogger and publicist. Trainer and a project manager dedicated to civil society&media capacity building Former European Youth Press board member, Co-founder of the Middle East North Africa Committee.