Friday 6 May 2016

The EU An Empire Of The Mind

The EU is becoming and intends to become another form of Empire.  Unusually, it began as an agreement to avoid wars and allow trading and arrangements for mutual advantage.  As Europe had suffered two bloodbaths within thirty years between contending Empires of different kinds, a respite was needed.

Just as treason will out, so human ambition, the nature of politics and the habits of greed and corruption are so tempting.  While the founders of the EEC and EU may have had a vision of unity of equals in a socialist paradise, as history teaches us it rarely, if ever, comes to be.

For those in the UK, the word "Empire" means what was once The British Empire, although that had phases that differed, or The Roman Empire of film, TV and the media.  Even the history of that which is taught has a basic story line that seems simple.

The historian Mary Beard, as on TV, has a book, "SPQR" recently published and I am making my way through the 520 pages of what is analysis and discussion.  It deals with what we think we know as opposed to what might have been the reality.

This involves examining what the Romans thought they knew, which might have been a version removed from truth; and what they wanted other people to know and think about them, perhaps even further removed.  As she comments, it was the Empire that made the Emperors rather than the reverse.

What is striking is that the Roman era involved taking over the remains of other empires and eliminating challengers and other potential empires within or near to theirs.  Given the internal civil wars and other strife within the bounds of the Roman Empire for those seeking power, it meant continual war or preparation for war and bloodletting on a major scale.

This is an empire for which we have some information albeit much has been lost.  Other empires have left us little information.  Some we know more about but only on their terms, for example those of the further East.  As for our own Empire, where more, but far from complete, information is to hand our understanding is impeded by fixed ideas of one kind or another.

Trying to estimate or predict what kind of Empire the EU might become is therefore fraught with problems.  Comparing it with those of the past is a bad idea.  If our understanding of past empires is more limited than we think, then how we predict an empire of the future will be governed and to what purpose then we could be seriously mistaken.

Moreover, there have been many and various empires down the millennia and there might still be remains under the earth or below the waves that are undiscovered and which might have lessons for us.  Even then our preconceptions of what an empire might or should be would be influenced by our present information or lack of it and often distorted ideas about its meaning.

At least I am in a position to make wild guesses and jump to any conclusion I like without fear of losing my political status or job or indeed for anyone to be bothered much, so long as I am mindful about our UK libel laws.  So here we go.

The Empire of the EU will be less democratic that that of the Roman, even at the time of The Caesars and other Emperors.  It will be less well organised and more badly managed than that of the Tsars of All the Russia's.

It will have similarities to the Empire of the Incas.  Its administrative system will be akin to that of the Quin Dynasty of China.  In effect it might for its peoples be similar in rule to that of the Mughals.

That is, if the EU Empire survives.  But as in history when we study the major Empires we forget those that they destroyed or conquered.  So is there out there in the big wide world another polity or aggressive grouping with imperial ideas who might come to control the EU?

China might have been one, but its structural and other problems might be too great.  The sub continent of India and Pakistan is another but compromised by severe local differences.  Russia could if it was organised well enough but history is against this.

Then there is the USA which has been a major influence in Europe.  A Trump Presidency with a German-Scots in charge could seek more and crucial influence, those McLeods get everywhere.  But the USA seems to have too many problems of its own and could be in an unstoppable decline.

If as some suggest there might be a Caliphate of Europe, where might it be centred other than Brussels?  Frau Merkel might give Potsdam, Islam with a Prussian edge.  Italy perhaps Assisi.  The French might offer Domremy La Pucelle.  Spain has old centres of Islam but Santiago de Compostela could be chosen.

The UK could offer Windsor or Wembley, our current holy place, and if independent Scots wanted their own place in the EU with open borders they might well clinch the deal with Arbroath.

To return to Rome, had Julius Caesar not changed his mind one Ides of March, or Caligula stayed longer at the games and in company, then there might never have been an Augustus or a Claudius.

1 comment:

  1. The more I read about the Romans, the more I wonder which were the barbarians.