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 What is Europe?
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Laellius

France
52 Posts

Posted - 19 Aug 2005 :  19:53:40  


Hi to every one on this forum. I am new on the forum and this question may have already been asked, but I thought it would not hurt to ask it. As Turkey's bid to join the European Union seems uncertain to succeed, as discussions over whether to include God or not in the Constitution go on and as Eastern Orthodox countries have joined (Greece), or are about to join (Bulgaria, Romania), here is my question: What is Europe?

Let me now tell you why I am asking this. I am reading the work of Harvard's prominent political scientist Samuel Huntington, entitled "The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order." In his work he gives a definition--though without explicitly asking the question--of what Europe is. He observes that countries with close cultural, civilizational ties come together, and countries with no common civilizational ties come apart (as in the former Yugoslavia). Hence he argues that 'Europe,' that is Western Civilization encompasses both North America and, in Europe, the territory that once was called Western Christendom, and was bound by the Western Roman Empire. To Huntington, Western civilization ends where Western Christendom (Catholic and Protestant) ended, including Poland, the three Baltic states, Hungary and Checkoslovakia, but excluding Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, all part of Eastern Orthodox civilization. If we refer to Huntington's analysis, the current European Union sits on to different groups of civilization, and may therefore be a source of conflict in the future, as he pointed out with Greece's Presidency of the Union in the 1990s. But following his analysis, this situation already makes the Union pluri-civilizational, and therefore removes the arguments of those who oppose Turkey's bid because it is 'different.' Western civilization, according to Huntington, is the fruit of the union between Classical civilization and Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy, because of its Byzantine heritage, its 400 hundred year of Turkish rule, and above all because of its limited, if inexistant, access to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution, all parts of Western history, makes up a different civilization.

To sum up Huntington's analysis, Europe cannot be dissociated from Western Christianity, and inviting countries of other civilizations might result in problems. Knowing that there are many members from Greece on this forum, I especially address them, but also others, and would like their opinion on what Europe is, or should be. Do you think that Orthodox countries should join the European Union or instead creat their own Union?

Please give me your opinion on the subject. I am looking forward to reading them!

Laellius


 

George

Greece
615 Posts

Posted - 20 Aug 2005 :  05:29:29  

 

Think of the new museum of European history (I think in Belgium), where Europe is presented to start with Charlemagne. Why this ‘expulsion’ of history before Charlemagne? I think that this is because modern Europe doesn’t want anything to do with old Rome (and Greece). The Western Part of the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, and the Roman Empire continued in the East, which only recently was named Byzantium by modern scholarship, while the (brief, at any rate) Empire of Charlemagne was baptised as Roman by the Pope for political reasons. This is why people like Emmanuel Berl or Helmut Schmidt consider, and rightly so, Byzantium as part of Europe, presupposing as Europe's foundations a continuity of old Rome and Greece, transformed in Christian faith.

However, Huntington, has a point. Under the influence of Byzantium, but without a living contact and union with it (rather envying it, as Runciman observed), the West knew ancient Greece from the texts, in particular from Aristotle. Out of this scholasticism was born, which after some centuries was transformed to modern scientism. This development is also known as secularisation of the West – an increasing distance from faith, obvious and certain with the so called ‘enlightenment’, horribly manifested in Nazism and Communism – already felt by sensitive thinkers of the West, like Nietzsche, who had started to talk about European Nihilism. Having a continuity with the past, Greek and Roman, and having a Church and not a tyranny, Byzantium and all the Orthodox world did not know such developments. In this sense Huntington is right, there is a difference between East and West.

However, this difference, is decreasing (for the worse). Just think about what happened in Russia for a whole Soviet century. Orthodox Europe doesn’t need a Renaissance, because she was always united with the ancient past. Yet, by submitting to individualism and scientism, the two main products of modern western civilization, Orthodox Europe started to abandon faith and (to make it as simple as it can be) be ‘enchanted’ by achieving power at all costs, adopting values developed only in the West, like human rights, etc. If there is a Church, there is no need of human rights – I want to help you, I love to help you, I don’t need your ‘rights’ in order to help or not harm you. The problem is not that human rights are declared, but that we seek to found our society in such declarations exclusively, i.e., to have a Contract instead of a living union.

The West developed as a company rather than a society, and all emphasis was put in rights and rules. In this development the East too now partakes. Modern Greek governments are formed in the style of the West and are trying their best to make people forget about their history and live as co-workers in a society, where rights and obligations will be the summum bonum and primary ground of their union, instead of the previously leading values of philosophy, love and faith. As long as this goes on, the East will prove Huntington false, i.e., it will become just an extension of the West – and yet, what meaning such a European union will have?

The ancient Church was united and there was One christianity. If this won’t happen again (although it can not happen quickly, the differences are very important, and are formed during many centuries, even from the first Christian millenium), there will be a failure of Christendom, regardless of any form whatever (political unions, or divisions, or anything) European nations may use to overcome the problems. It is unthinkable how can we all be Christians, and yet be also Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox. There is an obvious paradox here, a paradox that discredits Christ in the planet: if even we Christians can not be One, what is the reality of peace and solidarity that we promise to the broader world?

I don’t know if the former Byzantium fits in modern Europe. The only thing I know is that Europe needs not to assimilate the East, rather to be taught by certain merits of the East. To renew her faith and be cured from nihilism. Nazism and Communism are just forms of corruption, not the whole of it. New forms will appear, if Christianity fails to be united again, in a real, and not just 'doctrinal' and ideological unity, where differences are few (mainly the papal primacy). That is, we all need to be Orthodox again, as much as possible. Orthodoxy, as even Protestants and Catholics admit, is the living present of the ancient Church, closer than any other Church to our ancient Christian past, to which we can not return in terms of a 'Renaissance'.

Such a 'Renaissance' would mean that our past is dead, i.e., it would discredit our past: if it came to end, it deserved to end - what is it that would make it now be alive and give life, if already became to its end? Yet ancient Church continued to grow and develop in continuity in the East, and Byzantium did not fall even in 1453 – it falls now! If this concludes, if even the East becomes western instead of revitalizing the West, then all Christian or formerly Christian nations will have missed a chance to live by love, and not by ‘rights and obligations’ of a global company.

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Laellius

France
52 Posts

Posted - 17 Jan 2006 :  22:56:09  

 

Dear fellow members of Ellopos,

It has been several months since I last logged on this forum, studies occupying most of my time. I must also admit that George's replies left me thinking, because he has a point regarding the place of Christianity in Europe.

It is no doubt that Christianity is a pillar of Modern Europe. However, the Latin and Greek Churches, owing to historical reasons that I will not bother summarize here, split and went separate roads, blaming, for the following ten centuries, the other for being responsible for the separation. Then, the united Eastern Roman Empire and the divided Latin West took on different roads, politically, economically and religiously.

While the East was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Turks--an episode which rightly angers Orthodox for want of Latin support, though the Pope indeed tried to launch a crusade in support of Byzantium--the West grew more independent of Rome, and eventually of religion itself. I all but agree with George saying that the West developped "as a company rather than a society." As a Westerner, I believe that our civilization deserves better than the money society which has destroyed it from within. The following will seem heretical, even fascist, to my fellow Westerners, but the direction in which Europe is walking will lead to a deadend.

When the Roman government fell under the assaults of the Germanic "barbarians," the power vacuum that it created was filled by the Papacy, seated in Rome. In theory, the Greek Emperors were sovereign over Rome. But the political landscape of the time often asserted the Pope's independence from the Eastern Empire. This reached its climax in 1054 with the schism. Meanwhile, the Papacy strove hard to establish, in the land formerly ruled by Rome and beyond, a supernational State, which would rule over the different nationalities warring each other, in a fashion not too disimilar to the United States or the current European Union, which has jurisdiction over the member States. For a while it almost succeeded, with strong men like Innocent III or Urban II. The Crusades are in this sense a romantic Christian adventure. But as wealth grew, so the power of the papacy declined. The Popes themselves share the blame for their own fall. Corruption, simony, nepotism plagued the Latin Church. We must not forget, however, that the Latin Church often had to adjust herself to the political reality of her time, and that, as a secular as well as a spiritual power, she had to take measures she was not always willing to take at first. But the Church was human, and human weaknesses weakened her. The Reformation came along with the discovery of a new world and the assertion of the Nations. Kings and princes then used religion--Catholic or Protestant--as a political means to advance their chief interest. In this sense we can argue that the fall of the Roman Church created a Western Europe, if not more divided, at least more passionately divided than ever before. Secular and national rule trampled over the Catholic superstate. Meanwhile the Eastern Empire fell, abandonned by the West, under the eyes of a Venice not too disatisfied to see her chief rival in the Mediterranean fall. Occupied by the Turks, the East ceased for half a millennium to make European history. The West, however, reached a height never before equalled in history, in terms of trade, and economy. It was necessary, in order to give the nations ever more wealth, to get rid of the last bastions of christianity; the kings themselves, after the had supported the merchant class against the Church, became victims of the commercial and economic revolutions when they became a bareer to growth--the French and American revolutions. Now fully secularized and nationalized, Western European countries reached the height of their power in colonialism and wealth. We all know where this lead. Hitler and Stalin are byproducts of this secularization process that began after the 13th century.

Today, Europeans, conscious that nationalism has lead to destruction and blood, have taken a new step in their history and forged a common Union, so that their destiny might be better. The European Union represents in this sense the secularized version of what the Roman Church has tried to be. But it will not suffice. Most of out problems arise from the fact that, as a Christian civilization, Europe has forgot her Christian root. Several scholars, mostly Greek, have argued for a reunification of the Latin and Greek Church (see link below). Let the Roman and Greek Churches reunite. But let Western Europeans aknowledge that they are a Christian civilization. In secular France, for example, it will take time. But as long as we ignore our roots, we will not liberate our full potential, and will be stuck in a self-denial of history. It is the role of the European Federal Government to help bring about the reunification of both Churches, and to help Europeans take conscious of their History.

Western societies emphasize civil rights and economic freedom because they have lost the sense of freedom, that is communion with the Logos, or God. A State is not a company, and morals are absolute. Our liberties are in fact a form of disguised slavery, economic autocracy taking the mask of individual freedom. May Europe recovers the path which she has left by taking the road of nationalism and capitalism five centuries ago. Nationalism seems away, and capitalism will fall.

Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, The Churches and the Emergence of European Unity

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James

40 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  17:20:47  

 

Hello Laellius

I don´t think that the problem, or the so-called "identity crisis" regarding the European Union can be solved by returning, however earnest, neccesary, or urgent, this calling or turning may be, towards the Christain religion. If this were accepted, then the solution would have to be regarded as some type of universal truth applicable to all Europeans, regardless of what their actual cultural identity is? Even a Jewish or Muslim European would then have to be subsumed by this definition into some type of Christan European, which would finally make the European Union, resemble a Hegalian super-state, without of course the necesary cultural contradictions, that would give it life and a unique cultural identity of its own!. Firstly, we need to accept the fact, despite the high blown talk and aspirations that we often hear from the "many" who "manage" the European Union, that the EU is, and should be nothing more than a network of economic arrangments between willing trading partners. The so called problems regarding the notion of what Europe is, arise because certain people wish (namely the French) to transfer this economic network into a form of pan European culturalism, which ends up signifying nothing, because it actually means nothing to any person living in England, Spain or Greece. Much of the current wrong-headness and general myopia that we see in Brussels is precisly because certain types of people and nations in the past, wanted to re-make this "economic union" into a form resembling the structures of western Christanity, which would eventually end up representing only the name of "Europe" rather than the content or act, in much the same way that the western church in the past only stood for the name of the thing it signified, rather than the actual meaning inherent in its living content.

Until we face these facts, and accept that there must not only be differences that we have to recognise between the purely economic spheres of human existence, and between what we mean as Europeans by the terms European "Culture" "Religion" and its "Future"; and the possible limitations about what these terms mean in any "European context",is I feel, something that needs to be questioned radically. Is it even possible, for example, to talk in such contexts about what an English Anglican, would or could divine or derive from any form of reunited pan european Christanity?? We could ask this same question, numerous times, to many different types of Europeans, and again and again, we couldn´t answer it, because perhaps this very question, regarding what we mean by a particular type of European identity is totally meaningless within the context of what the "European Union" actually is? Perhaps its simply better or more honest to say that the European Union has no "identity crisis" for it hasn´t got an identity to loss in the first place, and economic unions shouldn´t have the identity of a religion or particular culture in the first place anyway!, and this, I feel, is where the problem arises. There simply can be no going back to some grand vision of a unitified christain europe, as it will either fail terribly, or produce something even worse then we see in Brussels these days.

Likewise, I also think that the notion of revisiting the philosophy of "Nationalism" as a posible solution to the woes and pains of European Union, is prone to failure, for there can´t be any form of authentic European Union in the context, of an array of states who are wholely nationalistic in their outlook? Yet, the impulse towards various forms of subtle and not so subtle nationalism will become a stronger feature, not just in Europe in the future, but in other parts of the world, where countries have to scramble, and then justify, their acquisition of dwindling natural reserves that they need in order to support the economic well being of their citizens. Under such conditions, its difficult to see how nationalism wouldn´t become a dominant ideology again?.

Maybe, its worth considering now, that perhaps there is no glue that can magically stick togther again what is essentially broken, perhaps there are no roads that lead back, and perhaps all our ideolgies are nothing more then dreams, that should also remain just that. In the end, a person must become just that person, who no longer needs nor desires the protection of the state or religion, for only then perhaps does he really know the measure of that difference, between all things?

Regards


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