05 April 2007

History for sale

Last week, I was reading some free evening newspaper distributed in the subway (Direct Soir, dated from the 27th of March).
There, I came across an interview of Flavia Prodi, wife of Romano Prodi, the actual Italian Prime Minister. They are currently publishing a book written together. In her interview, she was expressing that she would have liked the "Christian roots" of Europe to be mentioned in the European Constitution. This was a wish shared by many Christian-Democrats and other political parties around Europe.
To me, this is a brilliant example of how history - in this case European history - is used as a contemporary political tool. Confronted with the fear of "external" influences overthrowing the christian white predominance in Europe, political leaders feel the need to remind us all of where this continent is coming from.
I don't mean to doubt Mrs Prodi knowledge of history but I gotta say this concept of "Christian roots" is a big piece of joke. Flash news to her: the "Christian roots" are dissolved in many, many, many roots. You could probably locate them more in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, between the actual Greece, Turkey and North Africa, where the Greeks spread the influence of their political and economic systems. It's probably in the Roman Empire - later split with the Byzantine Empire - which casted a wide net from the British Isles to Egypt, that an "idea" of Europe emerged, consolidated by a system of roads, population circulation and... army. When Roman emperors embraced christianism, paganism was still predominant, notably in Barbaric tribes in what is now France and Germany, and it stayed that way long after the decline of the Western Roman Empire.
In the Middle-Ages, with Maures and Jews in Spain among others, and the various schisms in christianity, there was never a Europe that stood as a Christian whole even with the (failed or shortly successful) attempts of unity under Charlemagne or Charles Quint. If anything, Christiadom, with the the crusades and the later hatred between the different doctrines, led to more wars and destruction than any other predominance. Claiming a "Christian root" nowadays is directly refering to the idea of "christianitas", a time when Popes would define a Christian Europe to better arm population against those-who-were-not-christians. A dangerous idea to play with...
The construction of the European Union as we know it was engineered by a French-German political post-war analysis. The 1st agreements were economic, never religious.
Some sense a "clash of civilisations" coming - the truth is multiethnicity was the only real paradigm of Europe, the continent that kept being crossed by thousands of cultures and people bringing the best and the worse of their civilisations. And that's how it goes, it's just not the end of it. And that what's exciting.
Side note: that's also the reasoning behind the legitimacy of Turkey to be included in Europe. You can't be seriously ruling out the land of Constantinople, heart of the other half of the Roman Empire.


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