This is a great article
An everyday fantasy of farming folk
By Mark Steyn
My favourite headline last week was in the International Herald Tribune: "EU leaders and voters see paths diverge." Traditionally in free societies, when the paths of the leaders and the voters "diverge", it's the leaders who depart the scene. But apparently in the EU this is too vulgar and "Anglo-Saxon", and so the great permanent Eurocracy decided instead to offer up Euro-variations on Bertolt Brecht's jest about the need to elect a new people. Whatever the rejection of the European constitution means, it certainly doesn't mean the rejection of the European constitution.
"I really believe the French and Dutch did not vote no to the constitutional treaty," insisted Jean-Claude Juncker, the "President" of "Europe", continuing to celebrate his stunning victory in the referendum. Even if the French and Dutch had been boorish enough to want to vote no to the constitution, they would have been incapable of so doing, as the whole thing was designed to be way above their pretty little heads.
"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," declared Valery Giscard d'Estaing. "Europe's Jefferson" has apparently become Europe's Jefferson Airplane, boasting about the impenetrability of his hallucinogenic lyrics. The point is the French and Dutch shouldn't have read beyond the opening sentence: "We the people agree to leave it to you the people who know better than the people."
The Guardian is still sufficiently Anglo-Saxon that it's not entirely comfortable signing on to such exquisitely Gallic disdain, so yesterday they settled for that familiar refuge of the pompous - the old lofty sonorous plague-on-both-their-houses shtick: "The European democratic deficit is not only a matter of secretive or unresponsive leaders but of muddled and unrealistic citizens, and both must change their ways."
The Guardian seems to resent the way Europeans refuse to vote as "Europeans": instead, Britons vote as Britons, Dutch vote as Dutch. For years, Britain's Eurosceptics were presented as some kind of aberration in a union of sophisticated continentals at ease with their European identity. But it turns out even the principal beneficiaries of the European Union aren't that European: French farmers vote as French farmers. The thinness of the veneer of European identity among its core demographics ought to bother the Europhiles far more than the UKIP voters do.
In that sense, who's being "unrealistic"? The European political landscape is like a reverse version of Hans Christian Andersen - the Emperor's subjects' new clothes. "To a fool, Your Majesty, the people in the streets as your carriage rolls by will appear as gnarled old French rustics grasping for their Euro-booty or German racists twitchy about Turks. Only a wise man such as yourself and the Guardian's editorialists will see them as sophisticated post-nationalist Europeans fully committed to pan-continental institutions."
Oh, to be sure, there are a few genuine "Europeans" - commissioners and their staffs, Ken Clarke, Ted Heath, Guardian and Independent writers and many of their readers; the sort of people who scoff that it's impossible to get Sunni, Shia and Kurds to come together in a functioning democracy without noticing that their preferred unit of political identity is far more tribal and incoherent.
Nevertheless, something has changed. "Europe is faced with a fundamental choice," says Peter Mandelson. "One way, we sink into economic decline, losing the means to pay for our preferred way of life. The other way, we press ahead with painful economic reforms that can make us competitive once again in world markets." The big concession was so slyly done you may have missed it: the European Trade Commissioner is acknowledging that the one thing even Eurosceptics were in favour of - a "common market" - has been a failure.
Is it likely that "Europe" will muster the will for "painful economic reforms"? It was always a political project masquerading as an economic one, and thus the ruling class's investment in it is more primal and less rational. A couple of years ago, Chris Patten made some remarks to the effect that he thought we'd seen the forging of a European identity in the enthusiastic support for the Ryder Cup team and the objections to Bush's steel tariffs. You couldn't help noticing that this "European identity" expressed itself mainly as opposition to America.
It all rang a very weary bell for me: for decades, the definition of "Canadian identity" has boiled down to a list of ways in which we're not American, most of them counter-productive. But, given we have privileged access to the US market, Canadian anti-Americanism is about the nearest you can get to having your cake and eating it. All European anti-Americanism does is redefine defects as virtues.
Hence, the Guardian's attack on the Prime Minister for demanding reform of the CAP: "It is unreasonable of Mr Blair to repeatedly flourish as if self-evidently outrageous the simple arithmetic of 40 per cent of spending on four per cent of the European workforce, when rural life is of such social, psychological and aesthetic importance to a vastly larger proportion of the continent's population."
I think "aesthetic importance" means "we have to drive past a lot of French farms to get to our holiday homes". Rural life was central to France's sense of itself. But so was the Catholic Church, and it's empty now. And so were Catholic-size families, and they're down to one designer kid in their late 30s. So the character of those quaint villages is utterly changed. Why should the British taxpayer subsidise an ersatz French heritage park about as authentic as Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame? If Pierre's given up the church and the family, what's the big deal about giving up the farm?
Ah, well, it won't be a problem much longer. Under the CAP, it's Europe that's bought the farm.
"Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"
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