Between the years 2005 and 2012 I published three books on the European Union. They are titled A New Europe in Search of its Soul: Essays on the European Union’s Cultural Identity and the Transatlantic Dialogue (Authorhouse, 2005), and Europa: an Idea and a Journey: Essays on the Origins of the EU’s Cultural Identity and its Present Economic-Political Crisis (Ex Libris, 2012), and Europe beyond the Euro (Ovi magazine e-book).
The titles and even the illustrations of the goddess Europa embarking on a journey straddling Zeus disguised as a bull, give the readers a preliminary idea of what those books are all about. In analyzing the present thorny geopolitical economic problems of the EU, those essays attempt to identify the root causes of those problems which ultimately are found to be integral part of the wider problematic of cultural identity, beyond mere political and economic considerations. The three books contain a minimum of 60 essay on a variety of topics, out of which I have carefully selected 16 conforming to the theme of this article, slightly changing their titles at times. Several of those essays have been published already in Ovi magazine.
It is instructive that when Italian national unification was finally accomplished in 1860 Massimo D’Azeglio, an Italian patriot, proverbially quipped that “now that we have made Italy, we need to make the Italians” which, in my opinion is a perfect exemplification of placing the cart before the horse. Similarly, now that we have made a united Europe we need to ask the crucial question: “Do we know who exactly is a European and what is the best cultural glue that can hold such a union together?” How many Europes are there? The questions are crucial given the ominous signs indicating that the union envisioned as based on solidarity by its founding fathers, is now not holding very well and that good old ugly nationalism and xenophobia may be on their way back. The writing is already on the wall as the divide and conquer strategy of Vladimir Putin would suggest. We now have Euro-parlamentarians siding with a virtual dictator and jeopardizing democracy itself. Such a disaster can only happen when a whole people forget the lessons of their own history and are seized by the loss of collective cultural identity and self-knowledge. The loss of the self and identity always implies a loss of memory. Nietzsche used to quip that we only remember what we wish to remember.
That question is at the core of the 15 selected essays which examine and analyze the history of the EU but not only at an historical level but at the philosophical level, at the level of ideas leading to Europe as an idea; an idea that can be traced back to Dante and even the ancient Greeks who identify a civilization that is Western as distinct from the Eastern. Which is to say, they attempt to place the horse before the cart.