Reflections On Europe

”I love not to see wretchedness overcharged And duty in his service perished”. W. Shakespeare


Post written by Ionut-Andrei Manea

As the European Union sinks to its knees, the vultures are gathering. Never before has this teritorry been the scene of so few conflicts in so much dense, concentrated time as it happens today. Never before have the people of France and the people of Germany enjoyed the common fruits of prosperity, opportunity and equal friendship as they do today. And never before has a Romanian commoner the chance of indulging himself in decent talk and spirit with international counterparts as it occurs today. And yet, the EU’s foundation seems to be crumbling to pieces.

I appeal for clemency.

In order to facilitate understanding of the plea in question, I wish to offer the honorable reader a glimpse upon history when concepts such as change, self-determination, home-rule-movement and even independence were common music to the ears of the main actors.

Their responses were unarguably met with the needs and urges of a subjugated people whom, from the Kingdom of Hungary to the island of Ireland, notwithstanding the Romanian Principalities, had suffered an array of pain and delusion at the hands of some foreign expression.

Naturally, human beings tend to reflect a general indisposition towards change and reform.

Any derailment from our current path, any change inflicted upon our comfort zone is met with suspicion and regarded as hostile. We seem to be deeply entrenched and undivided in our responses to the world around. However, this was not usually the case. From time immemorial, concepts such as reform or change have played a considerable role in the construction of our European institutions, living-standards and identity. As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames. No light, but rather darkness visible. Milton, Paradise Lost

Back in Italy, or what was then called the Italian States, Renaissance humanism preached respect for the greatness of the human being. Ideally, the measure of things was depicted as an universal figure, l’uomo universale.

Renaissance stretches and magnifies humanity diminishing in the process the role of God. ”Renaissance humanism was the Middle Ages not Plus humanity, but Minus God”. Etienne Gilson

Or in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, ”freedom of thought, mistrust of authority, the victory of intellectual education over the privilege of birth; in terms of quattrocento, the victory of humanitas over that of nobilitas; enthusiasm for science and the delivery of the individual”.

With Renaissance, life recovered its value and importance. No one any longer willingly allingned himself or herself with Augustine in claiming that: ”we here below are travelers longing for death”. At the same time, no one any longer believed that this life is rather death than life, a kind of hell. It was on earth that people had to build their kingdom and this new conviction coloured the emergence of all positive forces that helped to spring up our modern culture.

Thus, if Renaissance came about with the concept of humanitas or individual awareness, within the framework of this context, a powerful schism was tearing up the Western Church. On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther’s 95’s thesis were displayed on the doors of the Schlosskirche in Wittenburg.

Tired and disillusioned with the Church’s longstanding method in handling with its pious congregation (e.g. the system of indulgencies), Luther advanced the notion of binding the Christian faith to the word of God alone, Sola Scriptura.

The Reformation, unlike Renaissance humanism, quickly became a mass-movement and thousands of men and women, to defend their faith, had to face Civil War and violent repressions. E.g. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Ludovic XIV.

The alternative was exile, either to the New World, or to a country which tended to be more flexible towards their faith. France decayed when the Revocation of the Edict threw the Protestants out (French, huguenots), while Englad prospered when William of Orance had invited them in.

All this violence died down during the 18th century. Protestantism survived it and today it colours a large part of the Western world.

Moreover, there was the impact of the Industrial Revolution. There were four succesive waves: that of the steam, of electricity, of the internal combustion engine and that of nuclear energy. The very first Industrial Revolution may be said to have occured in the 12th century with the wind and water mills which had been spread throughout Europe. Pre-industry consisted of: derisory agricultural productivity, primitive transportation and inadequate markets. Only labour was super-abundant.

The advent of Industrialization meant that humans were more prepared and equipped to dealing with life issues. Not only they were better fed, housed and clothed, but their surviving rate was gradually improving.

As we could see, history was not losing its momentum. On the contrary, it never ceased to advance itself on new territories infiltrating thus the premises of our future understanding as modern human beings.

In Europe, the transition from a declining human age to that of a resonable, satisfactory status quo was not an easy one. In an age of violent contrasts and impressive forms (implying here two world wars which ravaged the 20th century and almost brought our existence to a halt), there was a tone of passion in everyday life which helped produce an ambitious treaty with immediate effects to our lifetime.

In the end, I wish to conclude with a poem attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

”Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.

Where there is error, may we bring truth.

Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.

And where there is despair, may we bring hope”.


Ionut-Andrei Manea, Crossing Borders Volunteer and Blogger from Romania

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