“Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude”
Rome. The eternal city. As I hand-draft this thought Agrippa’s second century Pantheon soars above my head, its oculus open to the heavens. Still the largest unsupported concrete dome ever built it is a testament to a political truism as cogent today as it ever was; structure may endure long after power and principle have collapsed.
Your blogonaut has been stung into writing this piece by the base accusation from a Euro-Caesar that I have become a Euro-septic. Me, who has suckled from the teat of the Onion’s she-wolf like some latter-day son of Aeneas. Even the insults are archaic these days.
Rome’s great sons Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and, of course, Octavian all claimed the power of Dictator to save the Roman Republic from disaster. “Trust me”, they all chimed, “the Republic is safe in my hands”. The rest is history as the Republic fell to be replaced by the autocracy of Empire. Cicero and Cato were isolated voices railing against the loss of Rome’s ancient liberties but so seductive were the crisis calls that their respective sticky ends elicited little public concern. What mattered was the here and now, not the maybe and then.
Now, I do not for a minute see the Onion as Dictator. Nor do I doubt the good intentions of those members of Europe’s leadership class now clambering for more Europe not less as we approach the 2012 Euro crash. But beware what you desire. More Europe would be a less accountable Europe. The Onion would become even more bureaucratic and thus offer more opportunities for the bureaucracy to do what bureaucracies have always done; draw ever more power unto self. There would be much talk of effectiveness and efficiency as conformity replaced diversity and free-thought was reduced to sedition. The result would be incompetence tinged with intolerance. The curbing of liberties no doubt offered as progress cynically celebrated by the trappings of a false Triumph, and all of course done in the name of the People.
The danger is real. The Onion has traditionally expanded its unaccountable ‘competence’ (good Onion-speak that) at such moments of friction. Known as neo-functionalism it is power creep beloved of the bureaucratic classes that sit at the right hands of the Euro-Aristocracy. There is real pressure to ensure that no other state becomes another Greece to the Onion’s Rome and this is pressing the Euro-Aristocracy to call for more state sovereignty to be poured down the Brussels black-hole like some inverted Pantheon with the oculus now drain.
The forthcoming annus horribilis thus sees the Onion as Aristotle's Metaphysica reversed in which the hole is less than the sum of the parts. At its heart lies an incapable Onion that in turn renders its parts impotent. Today, Europe has a very bad pretend super-state allied to ever-weakening under-states the latter led by politicians forced to talk the language of pretend power. It is just at such points when legitimate government has been rendered incompetent that would-be Caesars call for power to be ‘centralised’. Act in haste; oppress at leisure.
There is something else I notice sitting here beneath the cavernous emptiness that is the Pantheon. The original Roman magnificence has been blighted by what can only be described as appalling Baroque marble graffiti. Today, the Pantheon really is the Roman equivalent of a Yorkshire outside toilet with bay windows on it.
If the Onion was just an Onion and focussed on supporting Europe’s states by co-ordinating and harmonising state action then common sense might just prevail. But so many ‘ambitions’ now adorn the Onion that it has taken on a whole new architecture that very few ordinary Europeans ever signed up for. The Plebs are thus reduced to being distant, impotent witnesses to a political destiny over which they will have little control. They may be offered the odd plebiscite but only if they give the answer deemed Euro-politic by the Euro-Aristocracy.
The Pantheon’s magnificence reflected the vigour of power that was Agrippa’s and Hadrian’s second century Rome. But, in time the very creeping competence of the Empire destroyed it. Lacking legitimacy from within it had to conquer without to prevent the political edifice from crashing under the weight of its own political obesity. Rome the idea became Rome the mighty and perished because of it.
Scroll down 2000 years and the 2012 Euro crash. If the Onion’s power is increased yet further the still utterly immature European Parliament will offer no protection for Europe’s citizens in the face of an over-mighty but incompetent Euro-bureaucracy. Its Tribunes will either be co-opted or dismissed and the most we may hope for are Consuls and Praetors loosely legitimised by a European people knowing not why they vote nor for whom.
So, I am no Euro-septic, just a European who at this moment of profound danger fears for a politically septic Europe. I believe in Europe; but not this Europe.