It’s just seven days to go until the UK holds its referendum into EU membership, and I fear that the leave camp will win.
A lot of EU leave voters hold the mindset that in the UK and Europe, we’re all from different tribes, and as a result the union was doomed to fail from the outset. A British soldier would never take orders from a French general, so extrapolate that example across relations in the continent as a whole and you get the picture. “Beleave in Britain [we don’t want no Frogs nor Krauts tellin’ us what to do],” and so on.
So I think it’s admirable that we’ve got this far without a simple, compelling, unifying narrative for the European project. Let’s, for a moment, consider ISIL – how is it that a brown-skinned man from Pakistan could fight alongside a white, ginger man from England? How can they be so ready to take up arms and even die alongside each other on the battlefield? Because they share a common cause, obviously, that was literally designed to be passed on through the generations, spur people into action, be adhered to through routines and rituals, and never be forgotten, yet is malleable enough to have been warped into the radical Islamism of a brutal minority today. And for all the United States’ faults, you can’t fault the patriotism of a large bulk of the populace. Their belief in a shared destiny, pledging allegiance to the flag every day at school, the Bellamy Salute.
What separates us from the other hyper-evolved monkeys that went by the wayside, like neanderthals, homo erectus, and so on, is that we as homo sapiens have the ability to gossip, and construct and then submit to sophisticated, mental fictions like religion, culture, and art as a whole.
In their quest for ‘Ever Closer Union’ – a not unreasonable ambition – the enablers of this project have singularly failed on this fundamental issue to create a simple, compelling narrative to unite all European Union nations, which should have been their primary action item, back in ’51. This failure to do so literally misunderstands, even denies, our humanity. And – worse – their actions in the last few years have utterly undermined the idea of a cohesive, unified EU. Look at the way the Greeks were shat on, from a great height. Look how our Ukrainian brothers and sisters bled in the streets during the Euromaidan, desperately waving the European flag for the EU Superman to come and save them. But neither Angela Merkel, nor Francois Hollande, nor David Cameron are Clark Kent, waiting to spin into action.
No, the pathetic, uninspired extent of our leaders’ ambitions since 9/11 have led to pointless wars in the Middle East, leading to more destabilisation – indeed, the outright destruction of entire nations – and two million dead. Four-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with blood. It’d take a crap swimmer about five minutes to wade through all of it, not even counting for its viscosity versus chlorinated water. A third of the Holocaust. Not to mention GCHQ’s five football fields’ worth of underground servers, dedicated to cataloguing the internet, and spying on us on a population-wide scale. And are we safer, for pursuing this revenge against the primitives? What has been achieved at the end of it all?
Whether we leave or remain, the EU needs a unifying narrative in order to survive. It needs to be about more than just tying up Germany and France to prevent another world war starting in Europe. It needs to be about more than revenge against the primitives.
This is a public relations problem, as much as it is a political one. And it goes to show that, as well as being an absolutely awful Prime Minister, the former public relations man David Cameron is also terrible at PR – at this time when he’s needed it the most.
So how do we save the European project using PR? We need to be grand and proud, like the Americans. We need a project that shows the best ambitions of humanity.
It always comes back to this with me, but I think it’s more logical than spending trillions on killing brown people, or hundreds of millions on a garish new headquarters, or an obscene amount trotting over to Strasbourg for its monthly farcical circus:
We need a manned European mission to Mars. European scientists working with European space pioneers, working together to penetrate Martian soil with a European flag.
And we needed it yesterday. On that day, there would be no ambiguity. I would wave that European flag, and I would be a proud European.