I know this has been done to death here (cracking post from RAB!) and elsewhere but it needs to be said or re-iterated at least. I was born in England in 1973 (the year the UK, the Irish Republic and Denmark joined the club) and I have subsequently been to (in no particular order) France, Spain, Belgium (briefly), Holland, Germany, Yugoslavia (as was – twice!), Hungary, Czechoslovakia (and subsequently the Czech Republic), Poland, The Irish Republic, Portugal, Hungary, Austria (very briefly), Greece, Malta and indeed Turkey. Some of the above several times. Many of the above I shall happily re-visit. There is a picture (I really have to sort my piccies out) of me hugging a statue of a bull over the Asian side of Istanbul and no I wasn’t pissed at all. I was just thinking cool! Another continent bites the dust.
You think that artificial? Of course it is! The East side of the Bosphorus is no more or less culturally European than Porto. Being European is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with (often nominal) religion either. An odd thing about Istanbul is that it has maintained into this century the habit of having streets of x,y or z. Just down from the Europa bull is the street of wedding dresses. And by wedding dresses I mean things Jordan would regard as OTT.
I mean Katie Price not the near-East country.
I have met gits on three continents. Mainly I have met decent people. I have met many of both in my own country. I have met many of both in Europe or the USA and many in my “toe in the water” trip to Asia. I even met some recently in Paris! I have met gits of course but for good or ill they seem to be fairly evenly distributed. In a deluge in Istanbul I slipped and fell awkwardly on subway steps. A Turkish businessman in a nice suit helped right me and asked if I was OK (I was – I only fell awkwardly to protect my camera bag). He spoke perfect English. He was very nice. I know “nice” sounds like damning with faint praise but it was nice. On the far side of this continent people were just the same.
Well, almost. I found the Turks to be polite and helpful. Sometimes witty (hard to gauge sometimes given the language gap) but be aware the restaurant barkers are tiresome.
We can all get on. I like (some) French wine, Czech cars, Polish vodka, Scottish salmon (not the Alex version), Italian cheese, Finnish software, women from everywhere (as long as they are smart, funny and good-looking), German ham, Belgian beer, Spanish tiling, Swedish crime stories, English novels…
We build airliners that are duralumin overcasts because we have engineers, not politicians. Have you flown on an Airbus? Probably. The wings are designed in Bristol and made in Wales. Final assembly is Toulouse. Whatever! OK, the last two ‘planes I was on were Brazilian but that is not the point is it? I’ve flown on a fair few Embraers and they always got me back (good on you Brazil!). So are all the rest I have flown on. If the ground traffic was bad it has taken me longer than the one hour fly time from Paris to Manchester to get from my outskirts to Manchester Town Hall.
This they don’t get it. We can fly, we can twitter, we can Skype… All this has nothing to do with the EU.
In the 1960s my Gran phoned her sister who had emigrated to Melbourne. My Gran didn’t have a phone. She used a local grocer’s shop she had an a/c with. A twenty minute call cost nearly a week’s wages. She hid the bill.
We have created a global society not because of politics but in spite of it.
I am writing this near Manchester. The latest kitty in the count is Julie (near Chicago – spot on virgin post Julie btw!) and the server is in Queensland, Oz. Did legislation and politics make it possible for us to all run and play? Did it hell! I am typing this on a Lenovo laptop. This was made and designed in China but that’s because Lenovo bought up IBM’s brand for laptops and it has USA DNA so to speak. It runs Windows 7 for a start.
And that is the point. The EU (and more broadly) is an exercise in stealing our intrinsic internationalism and then parceling it back as a “gift”. If you, as I do, read late Victorian/Edwardian stories then the World was at least as globalized as it is now. Seriously. Read the Holmes canon if you doubt me. We don’t need a superstructure in Brussels to give us back (and we must thank them for it) rights we always had. They took those rights and are now parceling them back and expect us to be grateful for giving us a semblance of what we had a century ago! They call it progress. I call it graft.
No, I don’t exactly. There is graft obviously but it is more than that. It is about the political class making itself important whereas in a rational World none of this is needed. We are not a nursery school. We don’t need an authority figure to make us “play nice”. We certainly don’t need this to be self-imposed with the tacit concept that if we don’t have nanny we will automatically be at each other’s throats. The EU is many things. Ultimately it is patronising. We don’t need looking after and we really don’t need the aggression of the EU because the same political class (note I don’t say working class, middle class or upper class but -political class) building barriers only to partially tear them down and then claim credit for it. The EUrocrats are the sort of people who will piss on your rug and then want a lollypop for cleaning half of it.
Europe is united at the the most fundamental level. This is bottom-up*. Officialdom never helps. It hinders and when it “tries to help” it requires praise and a gold star sticker on the infant school merit board. This is toxic. This is politics – making out they are heroes for granting rights you had anyway if not for politics taking it away and then drip-feeding you such rights back (or not). When I lived in Stepney, East London, we’d go to the Globe pub and round the table would be Brits and Americans, and French and Italians and Germans and all the rest. We’d do the pub quiz**.
We don’t need nanny to get on. We need ourselves. Just that. And we need cheap flights. The sort of things that the EU goes berserk over in terms of CO2 and stuff. They like trains instead. Trains. Fucking trains. Like Orv and Will bust their humps to go by fucking train.
We are not united by politics. We are united by cheap ‘planes that our EU Lords hate. Have you ever wondered about the concept of a geographical super-state in a non-geographical age? I have. They haven’t. They are playing the C21st with C19st pieces.
And if I had a single Euro for every time I have been accused of being anti-European (I am European for God’s sake!) for speaking out against the EU or the single currency despite loving Europe I’d be able to bail-out Greece. Well, for a week at least. If I were Angie I’d tell the hairy-backed fuckers to fuck off***.
So, I shared a joke about a bottom with a Frenchman. Is that not what it should really be about? If the powers that be realized just how similar we then they would melt like the Wicked Witch.
We need each other. Well, we are best with each other. We don’t need them telling us that. We don’t need them to “make it so”. We need shared laughter in a bar in Paris over a bared bottom. That sort of thing does more for genuine European integration than any quantity of expense account genuflecting from Brussels or Strasbourg.
And of course the sort of cheap flights the EU hates. Here “integration” and “environment” lock horns. Here I speak truth.
*Literally. I was in a bar in a student area of Paris recently (Thanks MHG!) and there was a birthday going on. Several students were somewhat Brahms et Liszt. One had forgotten to wear a belt and his trousers had slipped somewhat. My wife did a “pull-down gesture” and one of his mates yanked his underwear down revealing bare bottom. Generalised hilarity ensued. A bit later I got chatting with one of the lads outside whilst we were having a fag. He said, “You liked my mate’s bum?” I said, “Très bien!” and we chortled.
**I particularly recall one event because we were all bamboozled by a single question. “What was the first London Underground station to open?” That made very little sense to us all because a railway with one station makes no sense.
***The Greek male national sport would appear to be sexual harassment. They are largely right mummies boys you see. I was in this street in Athens once and I’m asking directions and this git (see above about gits – partially) starts fondling my girlfriend’s buttocks. I should have lamped the hairy backed troglodyte (he seriously didn’t look like a Spartan from 300). I didn’t because it was so off kilter I scarcely believed myself. Oddly enough the nicest town I saw in Greece was Sparta. Had a bloody good kebab served by a Greek-American who was back to the old country to help his uncle out. Jolly decent sort. Much can be done with a Greek if you catch them early enough.