The 20th Century was a brilliant century for human mind. Relativity, quantum mechanics, cosmology; laser, X-ray crystallography, NMR; microprocessors, computers; rockets, satellites, nuclear power; automobiles, airplanes; radio, TV, internet; plastics, fullerenes, nanotubes; antibiotics, vaccines, insulin.
But if you ask me, I tell you without any doubt: the greatest invention of the 20th Century—maybe the greatest invention ever—was the European Union.
For tens of thousands of years, this small corner of the world has been in a continuous war. From the extinction of Neanderthals to the Crimean crisis, the history of Europe has been the history of its wars, with hundreds of peoples disputing borders and resources. Neighbors against neighbors killing, slaving, raping, and expelling (not necessarily in this order) whoever didn’t speak the same dialect or prayed to the same deity.
This continuous state of war scaled up until it went way out of control in the first half of the 20th Century.
That was when the Europeans realized that a different experience could be attempted: instead of more war, the union of the remaining couple of dozen peoples within a supra-national institution.
And this integration was amazingly well built. It wasn’t done through a civil war, as in USA; neither through a heavy authoritarian hand, as in China or in the USSR; it was done through cooperation. Even more amazing, this union wasn’t rushed through as a personalistic political act, but it was beautifully crafted as an intergeneration project.
The union was built with no attempt at cultural homogenization, as in every empire ever amalgamated before. Regional cultures were respected, with the only demand that they comply to a common democratic and economical framework.
My wonder about the European Union is that in its splendor, it’s unsettlingly unnatural.
Humans are sectarian by nature. Join ten people in a room. Give six of them a green badge and the other four a red badge. After half an hour, reds will be gossiping about greens. After a couple of hours, greens—more numerous—will be raping and killing reds. This is instinct.
Our millions of evolving years transpire through our skins, labeling as inferior anyone who doesn’t belong to our group; who doesn’t speak our language; who doesn’t hold a badge with the right color.
For this reason, it makes me angry but not surprised whenever I listen to right-winged speeches shitting against the European Union. Their nationalism is a cultural expression of this biological imperative, which we can’t get rid of.
I really hope that one day Turkey will join the European Union. This will make this human experience even more extraordinary. And don’t be blind by fake labels: the European Union isn’t Christian. Sure, about 70% of its population holds a fidelity card of one of the Christian brands. But, still, there are respectable 30% of others, including (serious!) almost 20% of atheists.
First Turkey, then—who knows?—in the decades forthcoming, Russia would adhere. And then India. And China, America, Africa, Oceania. And the oceanic cities, the orbital communities, the Moon settlements (but not the Mars colonies, those bastards). The whole human species would be part of the union. Of course, the “European” label would obviously have to drop for a more general title, say, the “Human Union.”
At that point, “migration crises” would be a reminder from a shameful time when we thought natural that things could travel to anywhere on the planet, but people couldn’t.
Realistically speaking, I know that such “Human Union” is fated to only belong to cheap SciFi dreams. In the end, our instincts will always be there, thirst for hoisting a flag, hunger for a charismatic alpha to follow, anxious to build a wall.
The European Union is a magnificent but fragile flower. Unfortunately, it’s not a question whether it will die, but merely of when. We can only take care of it.
The predators are prowling.
- By the way, don’t blame me for any historical inaccuracies in this post. My main references on European history are Game of Thrones (the TV show, not the books), the Lord of the Ring (the movies, naturally), and Xena, the Warrior Princess (who’s coming back next year!).