Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:
“Fatherland” was first conceived as a nonfiction book, this time about the Europe that Hitler dreamed of creating.
But a summer vacation in Sicily in 1987 changed his plan. “There were a lot of German tourists on the beach,” he said, “and if you closed your eyes, you could just imagine you were in the victorious German empire. Suddenly, everything came to me as a novel, the idea of a cover-up, a sequence of deaths, someone investigating them. I went splashing into the water, and by the time I came back onto the beach I had it written in my mind.”
A fortnight or so ago – before setting off for Berlin on my quadriga-spotting tour – I heard the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, on Radio 4 opine that what Europe really needed now was for Germany to, once again, take a proper responsibility for the continent’s security and vastly expand her armed forces, which, since 1945 have been a mere bundeswehr rump.
I nearly fell off my Brandenburg Gate of a chair: the whole point of the European project had been to bridle the bellicosity of her big powers – and in particular that proven troublemaker Germany – and that in this respect at least, the European Union represented one of the few examples in human history of the political classes of several nations acting selflessly and sensibly.
That these same politicians were afflicted by a strange sort of doublethink – both aspiring towards unity, and desperate for their own nationalistic electorates to preserve the substance of their sovereignties – was and is the peculiar vaulting horse upon which Europa’s crotch has now painfully descended.
For myself, I had always been an enthusiastic pro-European and an unashamed believer in a federal European state. Like many English people of my tastes and proclivities, I rather fancied myself propping up zinc bars, sipping pastis and listening to the musical chink-clank of petanque.
I viewed an increasingly united Europe as a necessary counterweight to US world hegemony and Russian idiocy, while also being a handy cosmopolitan stick with which to beat the backs of uptight Little Englanders.
But times and opinions change: the continent’s sixty year double-thinking reverie has turned the European dream into something of a nightmare: the quadriga’s remaining obstinately faced to the East has resulted in an unfeasible extension of the EU in that direction also, while the attempt to reconcile national sovereignty with a single European economy has resulted in a bloated bureaucracy full of the wind of its own democratic deficit.
— “The European Dream Has Become A Nightmare,” Will Self, the BBC, May 20th, 2012. As Orrin Judd writes in response, “Must be tough to admit that the Iron Lady understood things so much better than the left.”
At the Corner, Andrew Stuttaford has more on “Crumbling (Euro)land:”
In yet another article to be read with whisky and revolver loaded with a single bullet (for a slightly more cheery view try Roger Bootle here), the Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner throws in his usual grim twist:
A bizarre money-go-round has developed, which works something like this. Fearing crippling property losses and a possible exit from the euro, the Spanish depositor removes his money from Spain and places it in an apparently “safe” German bank account. But unable to invest these inflows safely, the German bank places the money on deposit with the Bundesbank. Denied access to market funding, the Spanish bank taps the European Central Bank for the money instead, which in turn uses the excess liquidity building up at the Bundesbank. It’s unclear where the ultimate liability would lie in the event of default and/or exit from monetary union, but in all likelihood with the German taxpayer.
The German taxpayer, that is, who was never asked whether he wanted this nonsense currency in the first place.
For her part, Angela Merkel veers between steely prudence and the dream-language of grand schemes, the language of delusion and disaster:
In a speech this month, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, spoke of the euro in utopian terms as not just a currency. Rather, she said, it is a “schicksalsgemeinshaft”, or “community of destiny” that Germans are committed to seeing through, almost whatever the costs.
Stalingrad will be taken.
Finally, at the London Telegraph, Janet Daley writes, “Europe finally awakes from its utopian dream.” Considering that various European utopian dreams been the cause of most of the world’s ills since 1914, I’m sure they’ll have another all set to go, once the fail on this latest utopian dream reaches even more epic proportions.