August 31, 2012
Talking to myself
Despite all the academic debate, beyond the ever increasing number of blog post, tweets and public call for action, going from a European Union to a European Federation is a subject with little to no importance for the average Jane / Joe citizen of the EU.
I’ve been conducting a simple yet effective experiment over the past few months, trying to uncover what the people I come into contact with think of a Federal Europe. The big surprise was when it became clear that in excess of 80% of those interviewed ignore or simply are not interested in the federal agenda.
This sparked my interest into why this happens. And being preoccupied by this, and asking the right questions, a few dominant traits came out:
– The absence of the subject from the public agenda
– Lack of information and/or education on the subject of political systems
– Fear – that’s right, outright fear
The questions I asked were mostly general in nature: Do you think that a European Government can prevent local government’s shortfalls? Have you ever thought that a federal system might work? Would you like to be a citizen of the United States of Europe? Do you think you would be at a disadvantage if there was a European nation and not a Romanian one?
I was ready to debate on the subject of a Federal Europe, but this left me with no actual opportunity for dialogue. I was stuck, trying to sell an idea to people who simply would not conceive it.
Something must be done
I therefore began trying to find solutions to the issues I had identified – sort of creating a critical mass to expose the idea to later.
The first thing that came to my mind was the US Declaration of Independence, more to the point the following phrase ”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It dawned on me right then and there that this pursuit of Happiness is a concept that should be expanded to the European territory as soon as possible. And I will explain myself.
Life and Liberty are things that come without doubt all over the EU in principle. In principle, because this might be slightly different if you’re an immigrant in certain parts of the EU, or if your Ethnicity is not that praised. It’s sad without doubt, and efforts are being made within all levels of the administration to prevent this (bonus points for the administration). But this problem resides with the people, with their fears, anxieties and lack of comfort with their future. But let’s get past this and get to the real conundrum – “the pursuit of Happiness”. Ah, what a glorious concept.
As it stands, in the less fortunate parts of Europe, this pursuit of Happiness is just a movie. What would the pursuit of Happiness entail? Opportunity, access to education, fair treatment, some degree of social protection are the ones that come to mind, and all are valid. But these are covered by so many policies that it’s pretty hard to fall in-between them. What really scares me is that many people within my generation cap, say +/- 5 years (23-33), lack perspective. It’s a terrible thing to lack perspective and a sure way to lose your grip on pursuing happiness. Because perspective is what makes people wake up and go to work in the morning, it powers this whole ant-farm that Europe is. The current economic situation across the continent is depressing. Young people all around the most affected countries see their futures wasted before even imagined. They invested years and years of labor in their education, only to find that they are no longer needed. That Europe has failed them. That mobility involves resources they don’t have and can’t accumulate. They are disappointed, and we all know what happens when a charismatic extremist leader meets a disappointed, perspective-searching crowd.
Perspective & Happiness
And then it hit me. This is what a Federal Europe should primarily do – provide Perspective. And through this Perspective to enable a just and open pursuit of Happiness – now that’s something worthy of a European Constitution.
People will rally behind an idea, behind a dream, provided that it gives them hope. Perspective is one of those things you can’t outright describe. There is no manual, no guidelines and no accepted definition. Perspective is something that everyone can experience, but that no one needs to explain. It should simply exist – the surety that if you work hard you can achieve something, the solid idea that you are important, 0.0001% important, but important, the conviction that there are laws and institutions to protect you from abuse, that you have rights and responsibilities, and that both are equally important. That whatever you achieve is not going to be taken away from you unjustly, and that you can live your life here, raise children and grow old in peace.
This sort of Perspective is what the Federal Project needs, a game changer. And it needs to be explained. Because people, the average Jane / Joe, are busy making a life for them, and are too tired or bored to go head on in such matters on their own.
The travelling circus
Back at the turn of the XIXth century the travelling circus was more than just entertainment. On the back roads of America, moving from isolated community to isolated community they also provided a vehicle for ideas and innovation. Information travelled orally, and the exchange of information was also more personal. Since those times, the world has not ceased to “shrink” and information travels at the speed of light. But it is so varied and complex, most people simply put themselves out of this information flow, because it’s exhausting.
So what if we introduce a traveling federal “circus”? A group of people with the skills and determination to stop and talk to everybody that moves from town to village to city, all across the continent – providing an up-close and personal delivery of information. They don’t need to convince anyone outright. But given enough time, the seeds they would be planting, will allow for more. And informed people will be more likely to address their political representatives, and to push forward a federal agenda from bottom up.
Because here lays the challenge: the current federal initiative is powered by academia and politicians. These are people at the top levels of the game, and their initiative is somewhat mistrusted, because it’s directed bottom-down. But if we manage to change this game, to have the politicians willing and the people calling for a federal move, we will achieve a more perfect Union.