Monday, March 02, 2015

The Great European Disaster Movie - the fightback for the hearts and minds has begun

The Great European Disaster Movie

Many of us who are strongly pro Britain in the European Union have been arguing for some time that the case for Europe needs to be made more strongly. The economic, political and business case is well made, but at a intellectual and  cerebral level. The case against is polemical and made by a direct appeal not to the intellect but to the emotions. And when reason faces emotion it is not always reason that wins. In “The Great European Disaster Movie” the ground has at last shifted. The rational case for Britain in Europe was made by Bill Emmott, Peter Mandelson and others and it was familiar. It was supported by strong arguments from politicians from across Europe. Notably a Dutchman who said “If you felt things were wrong in your Country would you propose the dissolution of your country?” (The answer to his question is, of course, that no rational man would -  but try persuading Alex Salmond or a Catalan nationalist of that!)

Nationalism was very much the elephant very visibly in the room in this “drama documentary”. The assertion that nationalism was the principal cause of the disasters of the years 1914-1945 should not be contentious, and it isn't. That forty years after the end of the Second World War it was still massacring people in the Balkans was a chilling reminder of its dangers. That it is still doing so in Ukraine was another. 

The German woman who showed the medals that her immediate ancestors had won in two World Wars, whilst remarking that there had been no medals necessary  for her or her children’s generation, was an articulate proponent of the peace dividend of European Unity. The Eurosceptics burst onto the social media at this saying that it was NATO or something else that should really be praised. They know that their scepticism has been revealed for the nationalism it really is. The programme was strong on the benefits to Europe of partnership leading to peace, and rightly so. As Churchill put it “Jaw Jaw” is always preferable to “War War”.

If the peace dividend was an appeal to the emotions the solid evidence of cross-Europe partnerships and commonality of culture and purpose was no less so. OK to use the example of the Austrian drag artist Conchita Wurst as being evidence of European unity was a bit over doing it, but only a bit!  The Croatian photographer enjoying the sunshine on a peaceful  island in his country, where once he had photographed dead children as the nationalists fought a terrible civil war, was powerful imagery as well. 

So what are we up against those of us who believe in the European project? The programme makers went to Margate for the answer and followed a UKIP councillor around. Mo, a Daily Mail reading woman of, I would guess about my age (68) was articulate in promoting the UKIP case. As always it was the case against  rather than any sort of case for. We were straight into scapegoating territory here;  the EU, immigrants, the political establishment. It was mind-blowingly ill-informed and dogmatic. And like her Party leader it was an appeal to the gut and to ignorance. There was a brief clip of an assertive Nigel Farage giving his stump speech as well, and very scary it was. He isn't the first British politician to try and scare us – let's hope that like his forebears he doesn't succeed.

“Nationalism brought hell to the people of this region” said the Croatian photographer and so it did. A hell like the hells of the Blitz, or of the Somme. The solution for Ukraine has to be a European solution – which is which that dangerous nationalist Vladamir Putin fears it. Hegel said that “we learn from history that we do not learn from history”. Well maybe so  if the likes of Nigel Farage on the one hand and the petty nationalists of Scotland and Catalonia on the other get their way. The opponents of division are intellectually strong and have the moral high ground, but that isn't enough. There are plenty of those on the right and the left in Europe who want to divide and rule. 

I felt that “The Great European Disaster Movie” was a welcome attempt to get to the  heart of the case for partnership and unity in Europe. The first of many I hope. For too long the appeal to the emotions has been from the antis. The fight back has begun.


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