It was several years ago now that my friend David Pryce-Jones told me about the European Union’s fruit police. Fruit was just the tip of the orchard, so to speak, but the fact that those preposterous bureaucrats in Europe had outlawed curvy bananas made a deep impression on me. It was V. Lenin who said that “Communism means keeping track of everything,” and here were the non-elected busybodies of the EU deciding what sorts of bananas were legal — legal. And not just bananas, of course. They were also deciding what you could and could not say, whom you could criticize, what sort of potatoes you could grow and . . . it took them nearly 100,000 pages to spell out all the things their wards (i.e., the persons formerly know as citizens) could and couldn’t do, say, buy, accumulate, spend, hire, fire, worship, play, read, draw, look at, and commune with. It was all part of what I have called elsewhere “The New Gleichschaltung.”
“Gleichschaltung”: that was the word used by certain Germans of another era — a twentieth-century moment that was supposed to last 1000 years but in the event spanned the early 1930s until May 2, 1945. The blizzard of rules, regulations, must and must-nots emanating from Brussels aims at “harmonizing” the disparate countries of the European so-called union into a single quasi-political-economic entity. As I noted then, one part of this effort was meant to make it easier for the police in one country to round up people in another country for various torts — possessing or selling the wrong sort of bananas, say, or criticizing an EU minister or directive.
So if you are British and you say something nasty about the French while on vacation in Greece, you might wind up in a Greek jail for two “or more” years. Since the EU made it illegal for journalists to criticize its policies a year or two ago, it is not clear what sort of debate this latest piece of totalitarian legislation will spark. Of course, this is not the first time that Europe has attempted to “harmonize” its laws. Beginning in 1933, there was a concerted effort to “harmonize” not only the laws but also all of social life. The German word for the process was Gleichschaltung. That time the effort came out of Berlin. It almost worked. It took the combined military might of England, the United States, and the Soviet Union to stop that earlier push for “harmony.” It is anyone’s guess what it will take to stop this new, Brussels-based effort.