February 19, 2013
There is a far more “alive” EU on the digital front. Far more alive than what you see on the streets, in Parliaments and cabinets across the continent. And it is alive because it’s not being run by politicians but by people.
People debate and argue, write blog posts and Facebook rants, go on Twitter to express views and opinions. They start up online platforms for pan-European debate, friendships are struck and sometimes “e-war” is waged. But everything settles down without too much fuss because the people want to get together. Common views on a particular subject create bond, that extends then further into cyberspace, and becomes a viable link between two individuals separated by thousands of miles.
Cyberspace creates European citizens with more speed and eloquence than most political initiatives. And it works. It works because when people find common ground and start to share information they reach a point where that information has an added value of personality, beliefs and life experience. Which only enhances the exchange. Critics will argue that in turn cyber-connections don’t survive outside of cyberspace. Yes sometimes they don’t, but the simple matter is that they have existed.
Their existence, even if not long lasting, is important. Connections enable a certain tolerance to set in. People in general tend to be less antagonistic if there is an experience that allows them to relate to the subject at hand. And if that topic would be related to inter-EU immigration, then established relationships between people are a great way to prevent negative experiences.
I have said it before, and I will say it again – this Europe can only be made real by the people. Because no matter how strongly argued the political and economical positions, it is the common man, my average Jane/Joe, that builds the unity. This is the brick that this “house of Europe” will be built with – people.
Citizenship can be a great argument with the people. But it will work only when the advantages oh having that citizenship, the power it entrusts with the individual, will be known and understood by all. Most EU citizens have never been in the position, let say, to reside for a longer period of time in a certain popular country in Asia for example. But if the would have, they would find out that their European Union branded passport means 10 minutes to get a temporary residence stamp rather than a 3 hour queue and a couple of days of uncertainty. But this type of experiences are limited. For most people this can be a interesting piece of trivia and that is it. But they will still know it. One piece of information, then another, and given enough time change will come naturally.
That is the thing with change – forcing it on people tends to be counterproductive. Seed it and then slowly work and it will do the job for you.
The past couple of years have seen a huge leap forward in European cyberspace communities. Because as the online spreads further and further into our lives so does our interaction level. We interact more and more with people we haven’t actually met, from far away countries or from the city next-door. We are part of a global community, and we have started building smaller communities. Which is actually a key point – being part of a global community has allowed us to amass the skills needed to build smaller communities. And we have, we are, we will continue to do this.
All these pan-European online communities are one of the backbones of a future populous that will place first a European Identity. And they are transitioning from online to offline. Nicknames and handles are evolving into faces and handshakes. And memories.
Erasmus students are another backbone. Any other ideas?Horatiu Ferchiu