Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

On Žižek, Eliot, and the need for an EU Reformation

Slavoj Žižek often seems to exist to be controversial, and I certainly don’t agree with many of the details of his latest piece for the London Review of Books on the Greece crisis (short version, as ever with old Slavoj: the usual consensus is wrong, and the far-left has all the best ideas). However, elements of one passage did stand out as worthy of futher consideration, as it tallies neatly with the way my thinking’s been going of late:

“In his Notes towards the Definition of Culture, T.S. Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is between heresy and non-belief – i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split. This is the position in Europe today. Only a new ‘heresy’… can save what is worth saving of the European legacy”

For Žižek, the new heresy of choice is different to what it is for me. And what he considers worth saving of what it is he means to be the “European legacy” may well differ to my take. But for once I think I agree with him on this much – if the EU/Europe is going to get through this crisis, it’s time for some radical new thinking.

The old pro-EU / anti-EU / europhile / eurosceptic divisions have long been irrelevant sidetracks to the key aim of making Europe / the EU as pleasant and prosperous as possible for the people. These days, all those old divisions are obsolete.

I’ve long been labelled as a “pro-EU blogger”. I don’t think this is true any more, if it ever was.

I’m not pro-“EU”. Not pro- this EU. Not with all its flaws. Not with all its slowness to reform. Not with its continual lack of ability to tackle the key priorities facing the people of this continent.

This European Union is simply not good enough. This European Union needs to be replaced pretty much in its entirety.

This European Union has failed.

The cause for this, as I see it, is simple – and long-term readers will find this no surprise:

– It’s not the anti-democratic technocrats that Žižek blames.
– It’s not the eurocrats and red tape so hated by the anti-EU right.
– It’s the EU’s powerlessness in the face of the governments of the member states.

You want more? Have more:

– It’s those governments’ insular, selfish “us first” attitude.
– It’s those governments’ refusal to work to anything longer than national-level electoral cycles.
– It’s those governments’ continual lack of long-term vision.
– It’s those governments’ continual abandonment or watering down of the few long-term plans that emerge for short-term gain.
– It’s those governments’ continual lack of investment in the system – not just in terms of money, but also attention.
– It’s those governments’ continual blocking of any and all efforts to increase democratic participation in pan-European bodies through fear of losing power and legitimacy.
– It’s those governments’ deliberate misrepresentation of what the EU is, does and can do.
– It’s those governments’ constant scaremongering about worst case scenarios if they don’t get their way.
– It’s those governments’ delight in claiming credit for everything good the EU does while blaming it for everything bad, even when it had little or nothing to do with that badness.
– It’s those governments’ constant emphasis on “the national interest”, even though they know that those interests increasingly frequently coincide with their neighbours.
– It’s those governments’ continued refusal to face the fact that they are powerless to survive on their own.

And those are just off the top of my head – feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

To return to the Žižek/Eliot quote above, what the EU needs it not reform – it needs a Reformation.

(And yes, this all needs to be developed much further. For starters, I need to work out a new term to describe my position, as none of the old ones fit…)