Thursday, 20 February 2014

Europe is burning

As I write these lines, flames rise over Kiev. Scores die; the land is ripped apart.

Kiev is a centre of Europe. Not that we remembered. Curtains came down - woven of purple from that other Rome, showing eagles with one and two heads, and reinforced with iron. Yet Kiev is a centre of Europe.

In Kiev, Christianity was, remains, reborn. In Kiev, north and south, east and west, were tied together by Norsemen, by Byzantines, by Tatars, by Rzeczpospolita. In Kiev, Vertov showed us modernity.

You may not care much for Christianity, for the four corners of the world, for modernity. But these are, now and forever, major elements of Europe. And Europe is burning.

We should forget, now, that Europe is peace, unquestioningly. Europe is nothing of the sort. It can be peace, yes, but it can be death, too. It does not do to isolate the turmoil, quieten the illness. We could keep Yugoslavia out of the EU until it learned to behave itself. And we can certainly do the same to Ukraine. But the EU is not Europe. Metternich was wrong - and Blok was very, very right. Landstrasse is just a road. And we, Europe, were not born in Athens. We were born as the Other - and as the Other we shall remain.

Sure, the big boy from Donetsk is not a very nice man. And from the Kremlin emerge the nefarious plans of SPECTRE. But this explains nothing - and it helps less. Certainly, protesters are being shot down (and policemen, too, by the way). Yep - Vova the Dread has sent his henchmen southwest to skulk (or whatever it is that henchmen do). But can we please, now, forget that infantile rubbish about a !Ukraine divided between East and West! As if we could save Ukraine from itself, or somesuch. If only we thwarted the Villain - that Eye in the East...

Dear EU and all your member states: By all means strike the Ukrainian government with every sanction in the book - and please get personal, too. Viktor Yanukovych and his administration bear a heavy responsibility for what is unfolding. At best, they have been headless chickens. At worst, this was premeditated provocation. These guys fear for their wallets - OK, then start seeing how you can hit the regime on its money. They won't run to Russia - that's a big pond with dangerous fish over there. And the savvy Ukrainian oligarchs know that (I wonder what Akhmetov is thinking right now...).

Still, don't forget that Yanukovych was, actually, democratically elected. A depressing fact, perhaps (and he may have been playing a bit fast and loose with l'esprit des lois ever since), but we cannot just put him in a box and make him say "Boo!" Let's say Yanukovych is toppled. OK, what then? What form should European democracy take? Klitschko? Tymoshenko? Some of the lovely right-wing groups (that's the nice word for them...), who always like a bit of the old ultraviolence. Maybe we should just put Ukraine as a Mandate under the EU? That used to work so well in the Middle East...

Nah, better isolate the place and let Ukrainians deal with it themselves. It is their country, after all. It is nothing to do with us, no sir, with EU, with Europe. Well, not in half a year, anyway (or however long it took before we forgot about the Orange Revolution). Or, perhaps, we in "the West" / the club / the EU could, now, start to think about what Europe really is, and what we want it to be. There is so much talk these years about a Brussels losing its purpose. About bureaucrats, inefficiency, the Euro and its doldrums. Well, the EU was not created to make Europe rich; it was created to make Europe peaceful. The money was a sideshow. And peace is still missing in a centre of Europe.

In half a year, Kiev will, probably, be quiet again. There will be time to mourn the dead. Yet unless we - in the EU, in Ukraine, in Russia, in Europe - stand by our Europe, constantly create it and recreate it (perhaps by being a bit more interested in it), this will happen again. In Ukraine or elsewhere.

Back in the Renaissance, Sebastian MΓΌnster - he of Ingelheim - created a map of Europe as a Queen. I urge you, dear reader, to look it up. Sure, the Queen's heart is in Germany, her head in Spain, her royal sceptre in Britannia. But her legs are in the Balkans, in Moscovia, in Scythia. Maybe we should put this Queen on the EU flag? Just a thought...