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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Two Europes or One Europe?

Two Europes or One Europe? This is the title of Neelie Kroes’ farewell speech as Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda. In it she says what she really thinks, which is similar to what I have being saying in my blogs since I first started blogging back in July 2013 – that Europe has become like Prometheus, being bound to the rock of the past by invisible and unbreakable chains, regenerating itself in exactly the same form that it was yesterday. I told President Barroso this when I wrote to him in October 2013. I also told Anne Glover something similar when I wrote to her as well at about her delusions. They did not listen. They are still not listening. They orientate their ears towards the wrong people, because they too are the wrong people – their feet and minds are firmly planed in the past. They are part of the problem, as is Neelie Kroes. Changing the name of the Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda will not change anything, for whoever takes over will also be the wrong person.

So, back to the matter of Neelie Kroes’ farewell speech and I ask: why did she not publicly say this five years ago? I ask this because, from what I learned through my involvement with the European Commission, she was evidently asking some challenging questions of those who run the European Commission’s ICT research programme – questions for which there were no satisfactory answers. There are still no satisfactory answers, even though some efforts at reform have been implemented. The problem that is that the Prometheus Syndrome is little understood, and people like Kroes have no answers, for she too is like Prometheus, as she demonstrates towards the end of the speech by her insistence on maintaining this outdated concept of a single Europe defined in the way it has been since the time of …. One can insert many words here depending upon how far one wants to go back into European history. Try a few words like, the Romans, the Sun King, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Hitler. The means of achieving it may be different, but the goal of a unified Europe against the wishes of its peoples remains the same.

Without the consent of the people! The politicians complain about the rise of nationalism in Europe, but cannot see that their own actions create the conditions for this.

The fact is that European minds are caught up in the past, and their thinking is determined by such things as the Enlightenment, technocratic beliefs, and the delusions that bodies like the European Commission are still relevant and can gain mastery over Europe’s competitive woes and bring about a transformation.

The problem is that people like Kroes, and those who work in the European Commission, and industry leaders too, do not sufficiently understand what is happening in the world, and are inclined to say, as Kroes does herself, that there is nothing fundamentally wrong, all we need is … here you can fill in the blank yourself, depending upon the narrative that you believe provides the solution, the silver bullet, that will restore Europe’s fortunes.

There are many such narratives, some of which I have mentioned in my past blogs: New Narrative for Europe; Valley of Death; Responsible Research and Innovation; ICT & Art CONNECT, etc.

I leave you with a reminder, a lesson from history concerning Copernicus. Most people do not know much about Copernicus, and what people do know is often shrouded in myth. Copernicus is credited with the idea that the solar system (in those days referred to as the universe) is heliocentric. The dominant scientific theory (dogma) of his age was that the solar system was geocentric.

Copernicus was a priest. He worked alone. He was not the source for the idea of a heliocentric universe. This can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. He knew that. What Copernicus did was to produce a detailed model of a heliocentric universe, using observational data from the ancient world (he did not have his own data) – the same data that Ptolemy had used in the second century AD to construct the geocentric model that was to endure for close to 1500 years. Scientists in academia, Copernicus’ contemporaries, could have done what Copernicus did, but they did not. It took someone, working outside of the established system, to overturn a dogma. But it did not happen overnight. He published his book and died, and no-one took any notice for close to 40 years. 

Kepler was the person who made the big step forward. He recognised that Copernicus’ model was also in need of change – that change came in the form of elliptical orbits which finally did away with all strange fictions that both Ptolemy and Copernicus used to make their models fit with that which can be observed.

Europeans have a long history of behaving like Prometheus! And the reason you do this is because you are like Prometheus. Say hello to Anne Glover, Chief Promethean Advisor to the President of the Europe Commission, if that is, Junker does what is expected and reappoints here. Why would we expect that Junker is going to be any different from Barroso? They are all like Prometheus and what they will say, as they preside over the decline of Europe is “evidently we are not doing with sufficient vigour, that which we are familiar with, that which we have done in the past” which is what they are already saying.

It is time to disengage from this failing system. Time for ordinary people to build a different type of civilisation, a different type of Europe, for without any doubt, Europe is heading for yet another one of those horrors that it has so much experience of creating. The European Union in its present form has the potential to create the very circumstances that its founding fathers were seeking to consign to history.

So yes indeed there are two Europes – thankfully! There is the old one that the political classes (people like Kroes, Barroso and Junker), technocrats, the European Commission, industry, Chief Scientific Advisors, and more, are part of, and there is the new Europe that is being built by ordinary people working outside the system. The challenge is to support the latter and to isolate and marginalise the former, without resorting to their methods. And to do that one needs a pen, a brush, people’s wallets, their lifestyle choices, and new politicians that are not part of the old order (whether they be nationalist or single Europeanists).

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