The European Union is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of inter-state co-operations that have ever existed. However, despite its stunning achievements in the last half a century, the EU had become the sick man of the world by the twenty-first century. The symptoms of her illness are the obvious and many crises we have witnessed on the surface since 2008; however, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath, the roots of these crises (e.g. financial, immigration, economic, foreign affairs) are partly structural, but predominantly ideological. After the Second World War, extreme liberalism emerged as the most attractive ideology in Western Europe, and gained absolute dominance in the whole of Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Compared to the exclusion and terror of extreme nationalism and Bolshevism, extreme liberalism was cheered as an inclusive ideology, which was supposed to be able to promote openness and pluralism. However, it was clear soon enough that the political Left (often disguised as Centre or mainstream) is en bloc unable and unwilling to offer real solutions to those problems affect the people the most, which led to the rapid loss of its credibility.
The ultimate reason behind the rise of populism (both on Left and Right) and the cementation of illiberalism is the utter failure of extreme liberal governance. Radicals on the Right had set the Russian and Turkish illiberal democracies as an example to follow, attempting to get ever closer to govern with catchy promises. Despite the relative attention gained by radical political forces, the overwhelming majority of the European people are dissatisfied with the political elite’s incompetent crisis management in general. More specifically, the people desperately seek a third way, which is neither liberal nor conservative, but trustworthy, expert, and decisive. Therefore, the time is ripe to offer such an alternative by reforming our mindset and resetting our priorities.
The most severe crisis of Europe is the sinking of European identity into oblivion. In order to successfully challenge political extremism on both poles, we must rediscover our spiritual and moral origins, and live in accordance with them, translating and fitting their values into our modern era. The return to the real European values and heritage is the primary precondition of reforming the European Union into an enlightened and united superstate.
The pillars of European identity
By conquering the whole of the Mediterranean, from Hispania to Asia Minor and from Northern Africa to Gaul, the Roman Republic – and its successor the Roman Empire – created a solid legal and political entity, which was capable to host, preserve, and further develop the Hellenistic culture dominated the known world at the time. As the consequence of Roman military victory, the eastern Greek-Hellenistic civilisation could spread into the western basin of the Mediterranean Sea without obstruction, allowing the cultural transformation of the Roman Empire under the influence of Hellenism. It is not a surprise that the Romans admired the culture of the ancient Greek city states, as their cultural and intellectual superiority have laid down the foundation of civilisation already centuries before. By learning, applying, and constantly developing various sciences known already in the great empires of the Middle East, the Greek city states – especially Athens – lit the fire of civilisation in the darkness of barbarism.
The emergence of the Graeco-Roman civilisation was interpreted in Rome as the cultural triumph of the militarily conquered Greece over Rome. As a result of their openness, and solving the challenge of living in the intersection of numerous cultures, realising that they live in symbiosis with each other, the Romans could further develop a value system, upon which European culture was born and raised. To the contrary of the Greek city states, Rome never isolated itself, but was open to learn, and form the foreign elements of other cultures to its own image, for openness did not mean the loss of identity; moreover, it helped them to express their intellect even better. Rome understood that connectivity is crucial for a civilisation to grow and flourish, and applied this mindset on a high level and to a great effect, which enabled the Latin city state to be the centre of a civilisation. The Graeco-Roman (or classical) civilisation, completed by the Judaeo-Christian tradition, gave us that intellectual heritage, which is the foundation of the entire European culture and value system.
Due to the purposeful destruction of the original Jesus-like Christianity by the Catholic Church, the concept of Judaeo-Christian heritage might need some explanation. The difference between Christianity as an underground movement and as the religious institution created by the Catholic Church could not be bigger. Based on the Bible, moreover on Jesus’ words, it is obvious that the latter has nothing to do with the former. From times of the Apostles until the institutionalisation of Christian communities, Christianity was the embodiment of Jesus’ teachings. Being faithful to their principles and values, Christians truly cared for each other and for anyone in need, whilst waiting enthusiastically for the promised return of their Lord. There was love amongst them, which proved their faith real. They also understood and recognised their Hebrew-Jewish roots. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, Solomon, and all the prophets – amongst many others – were Hebrew-Jewish. Jesus himself was born from Jewish parents in the Jewish city of Nazareth. Christianity roots back to the Torah and to the numerous prophecies talking about Jesus as the Messiah in great lengths and specifics. Christianity is inseparable from Judaism; in fact, the latter gave birth to the former. Jesus transformed the Old Covenant into a newer and thus different alliance, in which the salvation of the individual became the core message (New Covenant or New Testament).
This Jesus-like Christianity, together with its Judaic self is another fundamental pillar of European identity. The Judaeo-Christian heritage and the Graeco-Roman culture are yet to break into the public’s interest and attention, but I am certain that it cannot be delayed for much longer. It is clear that from time to time they always came back to the stage of European culture and politics – even when faced certain persecution.
The adversaries and allies of European identity
In the end days and after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Catholic Church has gained an immense ideological power and influence, which resulted in the systematic exploitation of the society, the rapid spread of anti-Semitism, merciless terror, and the death of intellect in Europe. Philosophy, art, literature, and science did not exist anymore, only in the narrow and dumb narration of the Church. Instead, torture, murder, and public execution were all part of the daily routine in the Church’s business.
The first real intellectual challenge to this plagued ideological system emerged in the era of Renaissance (rebirth), which was the attempt to resurrect the Graeco-Roman culture. The rediscovery of classical Greek philosophy and Roman Humanitas inspired many to develop the idea of humanism (as they called it), which was recognisable in art, architecture, politics, science, and literature. Experienced primarily in the Italian city states between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, this era is mainly famous for its geniuses (e.g. Bruno, Da Vinci, Dante, Galilei, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Petrarch), who could present an alternative to the Church’s rotten spirituality, expressing the virtues of the long-forgotten antic world. Despite the harassment and persecution, extraordinary talents and uplifting ideas were born and flourishing, proving that Europe did not cease to be the world’s grey matter. Whilst Renaissance tried to reach back to Graeco-Roman antiquity, and reinstate its ideas and culture, Reformation aimed to search the roots of real Christianity – as once taught by Jesus –, reforming the sick Catholic Church. Reformation – initiated by monk Martin Luther in the sixteenth century – was an absolute direct hit in the Church’s dark heart, unlike arts and sciences, which were more of gentle and indirect expressions of the desire for something else than Catholicism. Although, both Renaissance and Reformation were constructive forces, which fought valiantly to resuscitate the values of the Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian world; overpowered, they ultimately failed to complete their missions.
It was not until the unfolding of the Enlightenment movement that the Catholic Church began to lose its power significantly, when feudalism started to crumble and eventually collapsed. The Glorious Revolution in Great Britain was the first remarkable act to open political and economic institutions, which would include not only a narrow circle of the elite, but broader segments of the society too. Along colonial expansion, international trade, creation of financial markets, and the accumulation of capital, the Glorious Revolution established fundamental conditions to the Industrial Revolution, ending feudalism in Great Britain. Even more exceptional was the storm brought by the French Revolution a century later. Influenced by the achievements of the Enlightenment movement, and their manifestation in the birth of the United States of America and in the Industrial Revolution, the ideology of classical liberalism implemented the principles of social contract, constitutional state, democratic governance, and basic human rights. The achievements of Enlightenment are the liberation of intellect, the prosperity of science, technological advancement, rule of law, general liberty, improved working conditions, emancipation, broadening suffrage, and general well-being.
Conservatism, supported by the aristocracy and clergy, tried to reinvent itself as enlightened absolutism in order to forcefully regain its power – without lasting success. Later, conservatives gave their full support to extreme nationalist political forces, such as the Nazis in Germany, the fascists in Italy, and the autocratic governments of Hungary, Poland, and the alliance of Little Entente. Whilst nationalism in the nineteenth century was moderate, democratic, and even liberal, extreme nationalism of the twentieth century was violent, aggressive, and oppressive. Originally, liberal nationalists primarily fought for the creation of nation-states independent from dynastic feudalism, broad range of autonomy for ethnic minorities, and the inclusion of every single person in the state as citizens, but conservative extreme nationalism was focused on destruction.
Classical liberalism did not face extreme nationalism as its only adversary, but Bolshevism from the Left as well. Both ideological extremities did their absolute best to crush any moderate political ideologies in between. After the defeat of extreme nationalism in the Second World War, Western Europe was strongly influenced and gradually conquered by American extreme liberalism, whilst in Eastern Europe, millions of people suffered under Bolshevik terror. Extreme liberalism in the West and Bolshevism in the East reproached every form of nationalist consciousness; therefore, even the thought of patriotism disappeared from the identity of those generations.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, extreme liberalism has been the absolute dominant ideology in Europe. Extreme liberalism has influenced people in the West since the generation of 1968, unleashing a spirituality, which quickly led to a value system disorder. The symptoms are clearly to be seen in the ardent support of homosexual propaganda – which supports same-sex marriages, child adoption, and genderism –, radical feminism, illegal immigration, multinational companies, and wealthy individuals, whilst ignoring the overwhelming majority of citizens and salaried workers. The value system disorder caused by extreme liberalism is a direct threat to our societies, which is materialising in the forms of anti-social legislation and praise of deviant behaviour. Libertine-ism, excess, consumerism, and numerous perversities combined with the ideology of capitalism created an amoral extreme liberal social, political, and economic system in Europe. Despite its moral erosion, the influence of extreme liberalism had been unchallenged until the financial crisis in 2008, when it became obvious that it is not only ideologically insolvent, but also inexpert, and thus incompetent in governance. The disastrous economic and social consequences have alienated a significant amount of people, who express their dissatisfaction and anger towards the mainstream political parties, marking the beginning of a radical ideological-political turnaround in the member states of the European Union. Exploiting the ordinary people’s desperation, populism began to rise and spread.
The essence of populist rhetoric and propaganda is the conscious and calculated manipulation of emotions by twisting and bending the facts or ignoring them altogether. Its language is vulgar, negative, unintelligent, fearsome, intimidating, and hateful, whilst its message is based on this communication and on irresponsible frequent promising, generating false hope deliberately. Populism promises protection, security, and peace to its followers, but in fact, it creates fear and hatred, and builds up a semi-autocratic governmental system. It appears mostly – but not exclusively – on the political Right as a method of extreme nationalists to get closer to governance. The best known examples of populism on the Right are the success of Brexit (from the campaign to quitting) and Trump’s political breakthrough in 2017. Despite the current trend and popularity, populism in itself is going to collapse sooner than later, because it is nothing, but a radical protest ideology, which does not stand on its own feet, but exists only as the opposition of extreme liberalism. For that very reason, populism is nothing, but a political-ideological dead end.
Reacting to populism from the Right, Viktor Orbán (Prime Minister of Hungary) declared the ideology of illiberalism, which describes a method of democratic governance, which is not liberal. The main pillars of an illiberal state – according to him – are the values of Christianity and nationalism. Illiberalism is populist in its rhetoric and propaganda, but also different from populism, because when it seizes power, it is somewhat capable of successful governance. Illiberalism, which is also called Christian democracy by Orbán, is the twenty-first century version of extreme nationalism in a resurrected form. Illiberalism preaches conservative values to its followers, steps up as the apparent supporter and protector of Christian religion, and praises national homogeneity and unorthodox economic policy, whilst it is extremely inflexible and exclusionary. Despite standing at different stages, the examples of Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey, and Orbán’s Hungary show that in an illiberal state, power concentrates around the self-assigned strong leader. This leader and his party intend to demolish the crucial elements of democracy gradually, silencing the critical press, and make the functioning of non-governmental organisations impossible. Although, the political branches seemingly remain separate and independent, neither the opposition nor the media has any real power to act. The political opponents call it pseudo-democracy or autocracy, whilst the illiberal forces and their allies argue that it is still a democracy, only that is not liberal – thus illiberal.
My verdict is that neither extreme liberalism nor their extreme nationalist challengers is a desirable alternative to the great many European moderate conservatives and patriots, and moderate socialists and liberals, who are compelled to choose between these two extreme ideologies. European identity must be redefined upon the pillars of Graeco-Roman values (e.g. virtue, honour, valour, restraint, love of justice), Judaeo-Christian heritage (e.g. comradeship, social justice, generosity, solidarity), and the achievements of Enlightenment (e.g. science, expertise, progress), resulting in the idea of enlightened Europism, which is the translation and integration of traditional European values into the modern era of science and technology. It is my proposal as a third alternative, which would hopefully prepare the way for the total political unification of Europe, enabling us to successfully deal with European affairs of the present and future. Once extremism is isolated and vanquished, necessary reforms related to the suffrage, political system, economy, social system, armed forces, and foreign policy can be introduced and implemented. This blog is going to focus on the introduction of these reforms.