A wonderful article today by Bernard Henri Levy (BHL) on the future of Rome and Athens, crave of Western civilization. He argues correctly that the crisis is not one of the economy nor finance, but of Europe (the Western world we would add) itself. The culture of Europe. Its heart whose beat is slowly fading. Forget about Keynes! Read Gibbon, he says, and his vision of the end of these civilizations. The solution cannot be economical, it must, he stresses be either political, moral, spiritual.
Yet, in another article, he seems to say to the contrary, that the solution is eminently “economic: “European integration and federalism is the sole chance we have to break the disastrous spiral, to keep from falling more and more deeply into deregulation …. Concretely? This means not only a consented effort of solidarity but one of active support on the part of the wealthiest countries. (Greece’s exit from the euro zone would be for all, as we must never tire of repeating, a plunge into the unknown of literally incalculable systemic effects). It means a rigorous effort, no longer reluctantly accepted under constraint and duress, on the part of the most affected countries, one they take upon themselves, that is explained and accompanied by the mindset that must be part of it. (What good is an austerity plan unless it entails an authentic program to combat the negative spirit of cheating that has led to the edge of the abyss?)”
So the question is: is it culture, spirits and politics that drive the economic solution? Or is it viceversa? Well BHL seems to favour the second one: “And on the part of all, this harmonization of national rules, a convergence of fiscal and budgetary policies, this institution of a common economic government, even of a European Ministry of Finance, this securitization, as well, of the continental debt through oft-mentioned eurobonds — in short, this new relinquishing of sovereignty without which chaos will be added to collapse and recession to chaos. (One dreams of a Europe where the bankruptcy of a member State would have no greater and no lesser consequences than California’s failure to meet its financial obligations would to the United States.)”. He seems to confirm this when he says in the French piece that he favors “archontes et polemarques” to solve our problem. While I trust he is not arguing in favor of a military coup, I believe he refers to the need of strong leaders to rise and guide us out of this moment of intellectual and civil despair, out of this desert that his burocrats, “les intendants”, have uselessly watered.
Allow us to disagree, BHL. We are the ones that believe that without a cultural and political unity, nothing can be done to relieve us from these desperate times. Nothing. Not a strong leader, a contradiction in terms when we know he presides not his people but an abstract concept (a dream you call it), and he refuses to the modern Greeks what the ancient Greeks did not, the challenge of democracy. Not an empty fiscal union, done without representation since we are yet to become a united bunch under a common respect for our diversities (bankrupt Greece having been treated like a colony rather than like California).
First let us create the Europeans, then let us create Europe. But Europe already exists, you might say. Imagine Europe today like two twins, born with a glued head. Not separating them by surgery will imply their death. Separating them now will mean their survival, growth and, eventually, their mutual recognition, co-existence, love, unity. Twins are like that, we know it. So let us separate those who we have glued together, for only this will allow Europe to survive.