Saturday, January 05, 2019

Thoughts from Heald Green, England: 5.1.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Spain
The World
  • According to the author of this article, Brexit is a symptom of a much larger global problem which all governments, at their peril, are failing to address. In brief: - 
- A ripple on the surface of deeper currents.
- Stage one in Europe’s slow-burn energy collapse.
- A symptom of the great civilisational phase-shift to life after fossil fuels.
- A fiasco which is an example of how distant we are as a species from the conversations we need to be having.
There's plenty more - plus a rationale - if you can bear it.

The EU
  • The writer of the article below suggests that, belatedly, the EU's intellectual elite is showing a (rising) degree of euroscepticism, as they face up to the consequences of diminished national sovereignties. She might be right. Sample:Voters have forced elites to rediscover defunct concepts like “the nation” and “Western values”. For decades, we have been pretending that democracy and human rights are entirely abstract, universal ideas that can be applied to the whole world. We are instead discovering their limits. Freedom, it turns out, isn’t some ineffable life force like the spirit of God. It does not descend as an angel and convert everyone it touches, nor is it the inevitable result of technological and economic progress (a supposedly secular idea that is just a continuation of religious thinking). It is a result of power struggles, institutional development, customs and culture. It operates best when most people broadly trust one another, understand the rules and accept the legitimacy of the institutions enforcing them. Unsurprisingly, mass immigration of the kind experienced by Europe in the past half-century poses a huge challenge to our political norms. . . . What Europe’s politicians and intellectuals are starting to recognise, however, is that bigger policy changes are needed, starting with a rethink of our political institutions and how they manage globalisation. [See the previous section]
The UK/Brexit
The USA
  • Fart has made at least 2 ludicrous claims in the last couple of days:-
  1. That many, many people have called him in the last 2 weeks to express support for the infamous wall. In fact, thanks to his shutdown during that entire period, the White House switchboard was inoperative and no one could have got through to him.
  2. That he was sitting in the Oval Office on Xmas Day and New Year's Eve waiting for the Democrats to come and negotiate with him. By which, of course, he meant accept his demands. Needless to say, he wasn't there on either day and senior Republicans now insist Fart hadn't meant his claims to be taken literally. They must think all Americans are as dumb as their president.
  • With his obsession with building a wall, perhaps we should see Fart as a would-be-Hadrian. Who was Spanish, by the way.
Spanish
Nutters Corner
  • US televangelist Frank Amedia says that Fart‘s 'Space Force' is part of a plan to help Jesus return to earth. I had been wondering what its purpose was.
Finally . . .
  • I saw this letter in a newspaper yesterday and immediately empathised with the letter-writer:-

I'm pretty good at cryptic crosswords but, in the last month, have found that my performance in the same newspaper – albeit with different compilers – has ranged from 100% to 0%, with everything in between. The (unprecedented) zero success was 2 days ago and, like the letter-writer, I struggled last night to understand some of the clues even with the answers in front of me. And actually gave up in 1 or 2 cases. Very frustrating. Forcing me to ask what the point is of a puzzle so difficult.

© [David] Colin Davies

THE ARTICLE

Euroscepticism is infiltrating the EU's intellectual elite

It felt as if the Brexit bubble had suddenly expanded out into the world beyond the UK. For decades, British politicians and academics have been waging a ferocious and lonely battle over the EU’s effect on national sovereignty and our constitution. But shortly before Christmas, a major academic forum was convened on the Continent, for the first time, to discuss this very topic.

Brexit itself was barely mentioned. The conference in Milan featured academics from 11 countries that are focused on many other burning issues. But the central theme – sovranismo, which might be translated as “sovereignty-ism” – could have come straight from the educated chatter that has floated around Britain’s Eurosceptic circles for years.

To understand why this is happening now, consider the reaction in Britain to the arrival of 249 illegal immigrants on boats across the Channel over Christmas. The Home Secretary cancelled his holiday, declared a “major incident” and then called in the Navy. Now recall that more than 100,000 people crossed the Mediterranean illegally on boats last year and that even this was a 50 per cent drop on 2017.

The question is not why the Continent’s intellectual elites are finally asking what exactly national government means in an age of mass migration and rampant globalisation, but what on earth took them so long. Unlike in Britain, where this debate began among disgruntled members of the establishment and trickled downwards, it is the intelligentsia that is playing catch-up on the Continent.

Voters have forced elites to rediscover defunct concepts like “the nation” and “Western values”. For decades, we have been pretending that democracy and human rights are entirely abstract, universal ideas that can be applied to the whole world. We are instead discovering their limits. Freedom, it turns out, isn’t some ineffable life force like the spirit of God. It does not descend as an angel and convert everyone it touches, nor is it the inevitable result of technological and economic progress (a supposedly secular idea that is just a continuation of religious thinking).

It is a result of power struggles, institutional development, customs and culture. It operates best when most people broadly trust one another, understand the rules and accept the legitimacy of the institutions enforcing them. Unsurprisingly, mass immigration of the kind experienced by Europe in the past half-century poses a huge challenge to our political norms.

There are two issues. The first is to what degree newcomers arriving on such a scale will adopt and integrate into a democratic political culture, especially if they hail from highly authoritarian or religious countries. The second is how the pace of change, combined with technological advances and our unsustainable welfare states, affects the attitudes of the native population.

The general trend is a decline in voters’ feelings of trust, empowerment and political legitimacy, leading to support for less liberal policies. Naturally, voters look towards institutions that they think should or might be accountable to address their concerns. The EU cannot perform this function, both because national governments will never hand Brussels enough power to secure its borders and because it is ideologically committed to policies, like free movement and a particular interpretation of human rights law, that make migration hard to manage.

We are therefore seeing a revival of the politics of the nation. If international policymakers cannot help or, worse, do not want to, national governments must step up. This political reality is what brought together a small but significant group of European academics in Milan.

Most of those who attended are not especially focused on migration. The convenor of the conference, Giuseppe Valditara, is a mild-mannered law professor. But explosive issues brought up by the euro and the management of non-European migration have spread their tentacles into every area of legal and political life. You cannot be interested in European law or political philosophy without confronting them. As a result, some of Europe’s intelligentsia are embarking upon a new journey.

Its direction is shown by the political evolution of Paolo Becchi, a philosopher who was, until 2016, deemed to be the ideological godfather of Italy’s radical Five Star Movement. He has now shifted his support from Five Star, an anti-establishment hodgepodge of Left and Right, to Lega, the hard-Right, anti-immigration party led by Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini.

In Milan, interrupting a staid, academic atmosphere, Mr Becchi jumped to his feet to demand why Italy should have constitutional articles dictated to it by Germany or Brussels. An audience member jumped to his feet to applaud.

Polls suggest many Italians have followed Mr Becchi’s trajectory: since Five Star and Lega went into coalition together, the former has declined by nearly 10 points in the polls, while Lega has gained roughly the same amount, giving it a strong lead.

This isn’t just about the EU, but how Western democratic societies respond to globalisation. Rising wealth and access to technology mean migration pressures will only increase, just as we face growing global economic competition. The imperial era, in which European countries led globalisation and managed it for their own benefit, is well and truly over.

Yet our political classes are fixated on the idea that post-war European values and the particular form they now take – international human rights law and democratic government – can and should be on offer to the whole world, whether through military intervention, liberal migration policies or aid programmes. Voters were never really convinced of this.

This isn’t to deny that we have strategic interests outside our borders and it certainly isn’t because of some racist notion that democracy is fit only for white, Christian peoples. It’s because electorates sense instinctively that our hard and soft power are both in relative decline, that we must look after our own house first and that cultural and political change in foreign countries must come from within.

If the public is now hyper-sensitive to the arrival of a few Iranians crossing the Channel on dinghies, it is because they have seen politicians ignore the bigger issues for decades. It is quite reasonable for Britain to enforce its laws, with sea patrols or lorry inspections or deportations. What Europe’s politicians and intellectuals are starting to recognise, however, is that bigger policy changes are needed, starting with a rethink of our political institutions and how they manage globalisation.

2 comments:

Alfred B. Mittington said...


Should you not add a mention of the author's name to the article?

ABM

Colin Davies said...

Should you face this massive challenge again, type the title into Google . . .

Euroscepticism is infiltrating the EU's intellectual elite JULIET SAMUEL

No charge.