Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I have returned from Europe. 

The old continent feels strange, out of sync almost, when compared with a world where newcomers, both good and bad, believe in themselves at least. Coming from the West Coast of the United States, where ''upstarts'' rule, Europe feels to be in a state of coma, shell-shocked. The Mediterranean has become a nightmarish path for people who want to escape, and is now an insolvable problem for countries which feel like they have had "enough".  The EU, which acts hapless in this as in most other matters, is seen as an over-regulating, unloved Orwellian construction, adding  more gloom to the usual grey Brussels (the Mayor must have deleted the words "clean street" from his priorities). The euro was sold as a "high", but has become another "hangover".  Even Putin has more fans than the Commission. There are also some unpleasant late Weimar Spring-like "awakenings" in member states which, unfortunately, have nothing to do with Wedekind.

Obviously others have their share of problems, but compared with how Americans manage to deal with them, the many bumps in the American road appear to be more temporary and manageable than their European counterparts. The EU appears unable to create a narrative. The relative strength of Putin or Xi Jinping resides in their ability to spin a mythology.

I was surprised how Kominterm-like Europe is becoming.  Entertainment, which can give a therapeutic (and economic) boost, is lagging. Most things remain bourgeois, the opposite of the American rap/hip-hop (etc.) phenomenons, which are too often considered (wrongly) low-brow. This "wave" has set in motion a pluri-cultural/economic tsunami. The Europeans try hard to copy but often look pathetic in comparison. On the other end of the American cultural commodity spectrum, Tim Cook & Co. are today's Magellans, navigating every spot in the ocean of the imagination, transforming innovation into something operatic. Europe feels like such a tired continent, making all the wrong moves and forgetting that there is a story waiting to be told. Even the European peace dividend is becoming shaky!

In the non-American world only Narendra Modi seems to have the ability to dream up an approachable alternative to India's enormous problems which so many (Octavio Paz comes to mind) chose not to confront head on.

To ignore the collateral damage of immigration in the EU is almost unforgivable. The inability to come forward with political or moral answers regarding the more human toll of this continuous "on line" tragedy is equally inexcusable. The timidity seen in grass-roots innovation is also staggering. The right wing parties have their "Hail Mary" moment in a continent in denial, taken hostage to the "other half" in the east and to the above-mentioned human spill out of Libya in the south!

Internally, less desirable provincial attitudes start to occupy the media and front pages. From Finland to Belgium a kind of perverse Heimat war is being waged. Almost everywhere, the extreme wins over moderation. Europe was more perceived as an added value up until the '70s. Yesterday's positive engagement has become today's negative resignation. It is hard to see how this growing negative trend can be reversed. Unfortunately, there is a total lack of a blueprint for the future while the EU or European defense and even monetary policies have become unconvincing. Hence Europeans now look and act more fatalistic, preferring a selfish "Me" lifestyle rather than facing the fact that they have become more irrelevant among the influential Others. Where is the EU heading, confronted with the aggressive Left of Syriza and the dubious Right-turn of Orban?

History makes for very strange overtures. The death of Klinghoffer was, together with the Munich Olympics tragedy, the first note in the terrorist Requiem. The recent Lufthansa suicide tragedy feels like the prime indication of a malaise, of a kind of European collective morbid Third Act wish.  Humans have become lemmings!

In case the United Kingdom decides to leave the Union, the grand ambition of the Treaty of Rome might as well crash.

Mark Leonard wrote a book ten years ago claiming Europe would run the 21st Century. Now he asks himself if he was insane. Edmund Phelps, 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics, pleads for innovation and philosophy to help revive the continent. I am afraid that innovation has packed its bags for unforeseeable time. The Medusa raft arrivals on the Mediterranean shores will only accelerate the European brain-drain rather than compensate for it. Yet again the EU commission tries to tackle the tragedy with some bureaucratic band-aid, engineering a diaspora rather than going for a multilateral therapy to solve it at both ends.  A contrite Mark Leonard writes now that Europe has to come to terms with its own "Galapagos moment".  Its former achievements isolate it to a point where it has lost touch with others who refuse to follow suit and prefer to advance without constraints and over regulation.

The European hare is beaten by the other's tortoise.

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