Category Archives: Western Countries – Pays Occidentaux

Education. Education. Education.

I am being asked, as a “Liberal” – whatever that means, what we should do to protect our values against the ones of the people who don’t think like we do. Especially, when these values are of openness, tolerance and freedom for all.

The answer to just block the ones who don’t believe the same as we do is very “in” these days but I do believe in education and empathy, first. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand where they come from so to fathom their thinking and eventually modify it.

I grant you that such a feat is easier for me as a gay man living in a Western society where the religious, no matter how much we order it to shut up, still condemns and calls for the ban of everything they disagree with.

I also lived in many countries where I have experience in shutting up, looking at local beliefs and culture, and try to position myself within it as well as I could without imposing my view.

I would say that’s the first we need to do when immigration is concerned: a French immigrant like me needs to understand that our rejection of monarchy doesn’t mean the rest of the world must behave their monarchs. I disagree with monarchy. It’s everything I stand against: privileges given at birth, social immobility, laziness and the epitome of people who believe they are entitled to living off the state sucking millions up just to look presentable. And they can’t even manage that for some of them.

However, unless specifically asked, I don’t go around Spain, nor did I in England, with a soap box calling Spaniards and Britons idiots and serfs for having a king or a queen and demanding their head on a platter. How Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the whole of Scandinavia and the UK understand their own state is their own choice and I must respect it or leave it.

Do I mean immigrants who don’t want to abide by our rules should leave or be deported? No and yes. For me, it all depends on the idea of choice and open-mindness. I would say to a Westerner riling against a country they have just moved in that if they are not happy to see two men kissing or women wearing bikinis that they are free to go back to where they come from. With an immigrant from most Middle-Eastern or African countries, I wouldn’t do as such. I would educate first. The double standard is justifiable by the difference in education and environment that leads to two words I used before “choice” and “free”.

Why would I tell off a Westerner? Because I know they had access to a differentiated educational system that has taught them about the freedom of choice. A system that has laid out all the possibilities, has explained the world at great lengths, that has creates endless opportunities and freedoms within a wider democratic system where the key is for citizens to take their destiny in their own hands as much as possible and learn to be responsible.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but after seeing, like I did, an American, born-again Christian in the streets of Paris calling for homosexuals to be banned from getting married, I would, as I did, confront them and tell them to fuck off home.School has taught them many ways and they have willingly chosen one. If it’s incompatible with the ones of a country they also chose to live in, why are they here?

To Westerners, yes but to Muslims for instance, no (-ish). Why? Political correctness? For fear of being labelled racist?

No just because I understand where they come from and the need for reeducation. First-generation immigrants in our Western countries are coming from countries where education is not about choice and opportunities, it’s about repeating and maintaining. Their schools don’t teach critical thinking but dos and don’ts in an overall political environment that is violent and intrinsically unfair and unjust.

These people are coming to our countries fleeing hardship, wanting a better life but with mindsets carved deep into themselves, sometimes literally. The answer to this, I often hear, is deculturation. Especially for the first generation so their children can be fully assimilated.

Parents are asked to leave their culture behind, for their own good too, and take on the new one but what is culture? Your language? Your religion? Your dress code? Your eating habits? As a French atheist living in Spain, should I convert to Catholicism and go to church? When I lived in England, should have I become a Anglican and bow to the Queen? Am I refuse to integrate and assimilate by rejecting Catholicism or my subjecting to the Windors? No. It’s more than that, I am said, but no one can define it.

That’s the point of culture: it’s all the untold rules that we grow up with and make us behave a certain way. In Spain, people think it’s weird when I address them using the second person plural but in France, it’s borderline insulting to address someone you don’t know using the second person singular. Yet we are all share the same Latin roots with just a small mountain range between us.

How do we fix the problem? Education. Education. Education. Let’s consider some key questions I heard from good-willing people thinking some immigrants are a danger to our values: How do we make sure Muslims are not antisemitic? How do we ensure Asians are not forcing their girls into marrying older strangers? How do we ensure African girls are not excised? How do we ensure religious immigrants are not homophobic?

We do what they do in Norway, for instance, we educate them. We listen to their thinking, debate with them, show them something different, teach them critical thinking and acceptance for it doesn’t come naturally, it’s always nurtured. And sometimes, often, we play into their weaknesses of bowing to diktats and say: “Because that’s the way things are done here. So think for you have two choices: You stay and accept it or you go back to where you came from.” A hard choice for most of them but it’s a choice at the end, one that will put them in control of their own destiny, often for the first time.

Cynics from the Right will come me a utopist for thinking we can ever reverse mindsets. Why would they think otherwise? They, themselves, think the solution is to go back to a past they have fantasised.

Cynics from the Left will tell me that we can’t even get Western Christians to be gay-friendly and our own society to accept full men/women equality so immigrants…I get where they come from but all the more reasons to keep trying. We cannot stop human progress and we will learn from ourselves.

Some will point out that I’m being very optimistic when talking about our educational system, that, in more and more countries, it’s being privatised so critical thinking is now a danger to the blind acceptance of a evermore unequal, neo-capitalist society in the name of making money.

I agree and I also see that countries resulting in blanket bans and camps are the ones where education is anything but a priority.

 

No blanket blame for a blanket ban

As the two weeks have been passing, anger has been mounting to the rhythm of the unmitigated flow of Trump’s Staline-like presidency. I love how we say “draining the swamp” for what we happily call “political purges” in other countries such as China, Myanmar, Turkey or North Korea.

In the face of all, I think one of my biggest frustration is the impossibility to blame Americans for what’s happening. Akin to when they elected Bush for the first time, it was so easy and cathartic to turn to them, blame them, shame them, shove their nose into their shit for having elected such a blithering idiot and puppet of the rich and powerful.

They would be so relieving to be able to do it right now but we can’t because the fact of the matter is: they did not elect Trump. An outdated, dysfunctional system did.

The people itself voted for Clinton but, as the remains of a war fought back 150 years, an unequally put together electoral college has elected Trump. Therefore, as the blanket ban on all Muslims based on nothing tangible keeps rolling back and forth, the world can’t turn to Americans and gleefully point out that they are now the Bastards of the Decade. “Deal with it, you brainless, murderous and incestuous Yankees!”

They are not and we can’t be cheap. Like all of us, the majority of Americans has been victim of an extremely complicated political minefield that the forefathers of America thought would blow up in the face of anyone like Trump before they ever get a chance to become president. Instead, that leviathan handed him the keys of the kingdom.

So what now? Well, we can only wait and be better people. Remember Michelle Obama and try to resist our urges to blanket blame when a man the majority did not want blanket bans.

NIMBY? I am not interested…

I read that people are baffled when they talk to Trump’s supporters just to realise that the latters are not aware of the various controversies he’s embroiled in. The cheap insinuation towards the mother of that late American soldier for instance. How can his supporters not know? Especially in a world where anyone has access to everything on the tip of their finger for the media are everywhere.

But that’s where his popularity comes from – as well as the increasing one of all populists: his supporters are anything but well-informed. I am not saying they are stupid, they just don’t care about the news as such for various reasons: they have grown to find it boring, tainted or impossible to trust, and irrelevant to their own problems.

In Europe, we were baffled that George W. Bush did not where Athens or Wales were. How can a president of the United-States not know this? Because you needn’t know that to be a president of the United-States. That’s as simple as that. In America, people have been taught to think in matter of relevance towards oneself, the rest is culture, some fancy fantasy only the rich and lefties can indulge in. The view is that learning something we don’t need to make a living is a luxury and “the hard-working” have no time for this so they catch some words here and there. They are the ones who are happy when someone can reduce a speech, a piece of news, whatever that is, to 140 characters.

My manager, in France, who’s half-Canadian, is a product of such vision of the world. We were having lunch and talking about the 49:3 and she arrived telling us proudly that she had not idea what “all the doo-dah” was about. Left-wingers, Right-wingers, French and foreigners in the room, we all looked at her with disbelief as the whole country was talking about nothing but this. Or so we think. Maybe we are becoming a minority to still be paying attention as most of us are turning it off and relying on quick Trump-like statements.

Last month, she arrived telling us that she heard something happened in Nice, she read a “couple of lines here and there” but did not know what happened exactly. “Are people dead?”, she asked and I realised that what I was told is wrong: knowledge is not the key to success or power. Birth is.

How do we compare, us the employees and her, our superior? We read, watch and listen to the news and she chose not to because it’s too depressing to her taste. We go to museums, exhibitions, to the pictures, we read books for pleasure when she chose not to. She has “no time for that” and believes reading is solely to kill boredom when in a waiting room. For her, our having time to do these things unrelated to work shows she is working more than we do.

She also looks down on us for she lives in France’s most expensive neighbourhood in Paris and we don’t. But it’s a give and take for most of us have learnt how uneducated, quick to judge and willingly ignorant she is. She knows her job because she needs the money but as far as her learning goes, its stops here.

For me, I am fascinated as I witness her marrying into money and living her life as if the world was not there. She has not problem admitting her ignorance, on the contrary, it’s a virtue, she doesn’t waste her time. She does’t know anything about the two parties conventions that just happened in the US because “she doesn’t need to: she is Canadian and doesn’t vote in the US.”

As long as it doesn’t land in her back yard, she has no care to give and I am convinced she is part of a majority these days. A majority easier for demagogues to manipulate, regardless of age, gender and race.

Sadiq Khan: a person above all else.

A lot of questions have been asked to me since Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London and all have to do with his being a Muslim.

I live in France where most of our immigrants for the past 60 years have been coming from Muslim countries and yet, we still can’t seem to be able to get our heads around the fact that one of them has managed to reach such a position. “How brave of them to vote for…him. I mean…you know…”, we say as we still call “immigrants” the great-great-grand-children of these who left what was still colonies.

No! I don’t know and frankly, I am not interested in what you “mean”…

On the English side, people have been asking why the continentals are so obsessed with his religious beliefs. A bit hypocritical I have to say, considering the headlines of most of their tabloids but It is true that the headlines from Europe’s newspapers looked like the Tory campaign with the indissociable words “Sadiq Khan” and “Muslim”.

We are obsessed the same way the world was when Paris elected her first gay mayor. It was everywhere because that’s what we do: we put people in boxes that comes with expectations and prejudice. These boxes were called “minorities” until the people living within them decided to call themselves “communities” in this schizophrenic idea that letting the differences define not only what they are but also who they are…well, that would allow them to somehow eventually make these differences irrelevant. Maybe…

However, what I see instead is the “majority” using this idea of community to further exclude them, bringing the minorities to work even further for a place in the system they are no longer a part of as if they had some emancipated. Some going as far as excluding themselves from the rest of the society altogether and turning against it with inconceivable violence.

But I digress.

The fact is that: when one manages to go beyond the hindrance the “minority” tag erects in our Western society, when someone makes it against the odds of our narrow-mindness, we are surprised and that’s all we can talk about. And not really in a good way so far.

First, there is our sickening self-congratulation. Bétrand Delanoë, Barack Obama, Sadiq Khan: all were used by their respective countries as proof that these very countries were now beacon of modernity, acceptance and forwardness in a world of neighbours they could legitimately look down on. We do the same for every woman reaching a position of responsibility; she is here to prove we are not that sexist. The same way Obama was used to prove to the world that the US are not racist. Yeah…

In this, these people are still defined by their status of minority that was bravely disregarded by the good majority of the West who has been giving them a chance to prove they can make it. That’s why “Sadiq Khan” and “Muslim” were inseparable in most news outlets. He’s a poster for something new about us: we are not the bastards we thought we were.

Yes, we are! Because he was elected in London, a city so diverse that the concept of majority doesn’t apply. Because his opponent’s campaign used his personal religious belief to attack him and it worked. Not in London as a whole but in the rest of the UK and Europe, yes! And very well with that. I mean, his being a Muslim is all we knew of him! Hence and because such a thing would never happen anywhere else than in a city like London or Berlin. Not even Paris.

Secondly, we talk and talk and talk but we forget that Sadiq Khan’s biggest achievement is being overlooked: he has managed to be himself, an individual person beyond the realm of communitarianism.

Being gay, I know what the “community” does to you. You will find support when isolated and endangered in the face of intolerance and rejection but you are also sucked in and you lose your individuality. I have never liked what we call “the gay community” as such because there’s a sense of autarky that comes with belonging. As the community looks to be stronger on its own, you lose yourself in the name of something bigger that needs to be as homogeneous as possible because this is where it finds its strength.

The problem with the community steaming from the status of minority is that we often look for a common enemy to soften our inner differences. There is the need to level out, to standardise, to all be the same so we can present a united front, in mind and appearance. People are no longer individuals, they are members who abide by the same rules for a common purpose: to gain recognition.

I am not damning communities as a whole but I do distrust it as much as I distrust establishment in the way that both are looking to deny my identity: one through what it means to be gay and the other through the need to impose nationalism.

I see myself in Sadiq Khan, like I did in Bétrand Delanoë before, because they too refused these terms. They did not run as a member of their communities for the purpose of bringing their peers to national acceptance, They ran as themselves. Plain and simple.

The Tories tried to reduce to Khan to his religion – like UMP tried to abuse Delanoë’s homosexuality – and it failed. Not because the whole of the Western world has suddenly decided to be tolerant of anything, rather because Khan has proven that he was not different because he belonged to a community but because he is an individual: he had a history to tell in which Islam belongs but we actually don’t know much about it, except that he has always fought against the ones who prey on people’s uncertainties and doubts about belonging. He had an actual programme with clear policies that went beyond his own interests and the ones of his religious peers, he had ideas and he defended them.

In being his own creation, Khan has never been divisive but always uniting. He talked to everyone and did not target certain people for gain – expect his being a Londoner, obviously. He has managed to make people forget that he is a Muslim and see the individual beyond all labels. I am even sure some people who voted for him did not know he was Labour until they took the ballot. And that is the victory we should celebrate.

This London’s Mayor race was the victory of the individual above all categorisation, whatever they might be: gender, sex, religion, ancestry, skin complexion. It is the victory of one man as his own who managed to appeal to people as their own.

How to reach the Millennials?

Last week, I was at the regional assembly for Amnesty International and a decision was made to target the 18-35 year-olds, especially on the campaign regarding the treatment of the most vulnerable refuges. Cue the debate on how to reach us with all the usual clichés about us, the so-called Millennials. It is true to say that I was the only 30-something in a room full of late Baby-boomers and people in their early 50s.

First and foremost, no. We are not apathetic, uncaring and careless, heartless and utterly materialistic. We are a generation that has been told to shut up about our problems because “no one had ever had it so good”: the big bedroom with a queen’s bed just for us when our parents had to share, the game consoles, the mobile phones, the clothes, the shoes, the things, the more things, the even more things. We have choice and education.  We can make anything and achieving everything. We do not have a path to follow like our elders rather a path we can make for ourselves. We are just too lazy and accustomed to comfort to do it.

But rather than fight and work hard, we find excuses in ridiculous “diseases” like anxiety, depression…Fake ills that we pretend to be paralysed with when we should just strap-on a pair and get on with it. We are told we’re just good at shouting loud enough to get what we want. A generation raised to be more attuned with its emotions, our deepest turmoil have yet been deemed childish and irrelevant. “What are you complaining about again? We gave you the last Playstation, haven’t we? We bought you a car, haven’t you? Isn’t it what you wanted?”

Is it? Yes, it is but not because we truly believe it would make us happy but because we grew up and was raised by a generation that was in fact the one who genuinely had it good. Millennials are not the ones who think ownership is the key to happiness and true freedom because we don’t owe anything and yet manage to be happy in a way. Nothing I have is mine except for my two cheap laptops, my phone and a couple of plants.

I live at my mother’s, I drive one of her cars, I eat the cheese she buys, I tend to the house and garden she owns, have Sunday naps on her couch. I only managed to buy my very first bed last year. I was 31, what an achievement! And yet, the mattress was the one my mother bought years ago.

I am 32 and like many of peers, I haven’t got anything. Nor have my cousins. Our parents do. My grand-parents do. Hence the double standard of constantly showering your children and grand-children with things they do really want or actually need, to jump on your wallet at their every whim and then label them spoilt and ungrateful. Maybe because we have discovered that there was more to life than counting your blessings. The older generations raised us in their world of endless plenty, we abode by their model of endless consumption until the day we became “too old for this” and suddenly the world fell on our shoulder.

There is a sense of betrayal. Not because I don’t have as many gifts as I used to but because I did everything I was told and yet, I still don’t fit in and I am not the only. I studied, got two Masters, went abroad for ten years, worked terrible jobs, made myself completely exploitable to managers and shop-owners because I was told it was the way it has to be to gain experience. Now, I am 32, stuck in an endless roller-coaster of temporary contracts, never knowing what I will earn the next three months or if I will actually still have a job that helps me scrap a little of money to put aside to leave doomed France again.

We work like dogs for jobs that don’t pay, for managers in their 50s who use and abuse their power to get the best out of us for the least money, all the while telling us that they would be forced to let us go if we went all the way with our claim for better working conditions.

No, we are not unreachable, lazy and expecting everything to be given to us. We just don’t belong to the world as the Baby Boomers and the 1960s-born people have built and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the way they want. We don’t recognise ourselves in the box they have put us in, in the path they have still managed to back might for us. We are rebelling as we refuse to abide by their definition of what we are and what we should be. This is not tantrum, this is just doing what they did in the late 1960s and the 1970s: becoming our own self as a generation.

And it takes time. It took time for women to realise they were not alone in their misery, to organise, to talk about it and finally to claim.  It will take time for us all to realise what we are all experiencing: living under the rules of States that were built to only cater for the needs of our elders and policed to protect their privileges.

In this black picture, there is positivity in that we are all looking for alternatives we can call our own, for something to do in this world so despite the ignorant jibes, we are actually way more accessible than the previous generation. It just takes a bit of finding out how to communicate with a generation that highly flexible, skilled and adaptable.

First, stop with the labelling of ‘right’ and ‘left’ or any extremes when it comes to politics. It’s not that we are not interested in politics as such. Look the French youths besieging the squares of Paris, fighting for their future. We are interested in politics, we do talk about it but there is nothing out there that offers the flexibility we need. How can you interest young, educated, informed people with an  ever-increasing Manichean message from people who are constantly condescending towards us?

I mean, just consider the people we have to choose from: our parliaments plagued with a majority of men wearing black suits, even in blistering summer, using big words to hide the tree in the forest, and bluntly telling us we are “fools for believing their promises” and we should have known better – Thank you, Nick Clegg! Why can it never be straightforward? Why I am “childish” for asking? That’s the problem: not only have we been deceived too many times but mostly these people don’t speak to us and when they do it’s from their ivory tower.

When the President or the Premier blabber endless speeches on the age of retirement and the security in old age, they don’t speak to us who can’t even find a job to begin with. Politicians have become like the adverts we have grown with: it’s noise in the background for things we are given by our parents but do not actually need. They are akin to commercials selling us insurance when we have no house, no car, no job, no children…

Secondly, stop trying to use traditional media. TV is for little kids who have no control over what they watch, and our parents and grand-parents. I don’t watch TV and actually don’t understand the point of it. It is anything but flexible and open for a generation that multi-tasks easily and like the pick-and-mix of everything, from food to sources of information. TV and radio are nothing but tight-scheduling of things one can never double-check, having to sit there doing nothing, not having any control over what we are fed. You have to be at one place at one time or you’ll miss it. What on Earth is that in a world with Internet on the tip of your fingers and its everyday pick and mix? You read, watch, play, listen to any time, any place.

Instead of labelling us as scattered, undecided, disorganised and not knowing what we want, use our flexibility, our desire to see more, our craving for change for the great and good because it makes us open-minded, more tolerant and willing to find our place in the world. A place that has not been pre-determined by anything: place of birth, money, skin complexion, gender…We have been raised to believe it is possible and the way forward, and we still believe it. We want to believe it.

The move from Amnesty International is the right one because they are not right or left, Christian or Muslims, high or low, men or women. They are all of it and much more. They are everything and anything we, the Millennials, want them to be: a place to find and fight our way. As political parties rot under their own contradictions and need to please the ones with money and power (anyone but us), Amnesty International is the opportunity for us to be someone, beyond our name and our job.

All they have to understand is that we are not children, but adults. Adults who need be addressed like adults, not irresponsible tantrum-throwing brats.  Adults who want to build the future they were promised but that has never materialised because it turns out we have become a threat to the privileges of older generations. Adults who are looking for new ways to exist, have a voice and express it. Adults willing to be something and do something for the world. Adults who are just one click or one finger-tap away from them.

One quota for one ubiquity

In our minds, the word quota is associated with restrictions and therefore the idea that what is subjected to a quota is somehow negative.

When quotas are mentioned, it’s mainly to remove or restrain something: we want quotas on migrants so the country can cope with the new arrivals and isn’t “submerged”, we have quotas on our food production in Europe because over-production is by definition waste and money thrown out of the window, we have quotas on the number of soldiers Germany or Japan can have so we never have to fight yet another World War “because of them”…Our mindset is that quotas are for the great and the good in that they limit something that could be potentially damaging.

No wonder in this mindset that even feminists or people fighting against racism and segregation see quotas as the wrong solution to making the plagues they are fighting disappear. They say they favour education rather than imposing something on the white man to end his dominance. And I agree but we need to do both.

Education is indeed the key: let’s make girls understand that there are not limits to what they can do and what they can be interested in, let’s teach to boys accept it. Let’s make people understand from a very young age that the colour of your skin has no bearing whatsoever on your personality, your ability, and that being a Christian does not make you any more tolerant or enlightened than belonging to other religion. Just to name a few examples.

Hackneyed clichés, yes, because most of us agree with them and we are working towards them. Towards tearing down the narrow sides of the boxes in which we put people so we have to make a an effort to actually get to know them for who they are rather than relying the shallowness of prejudice and making life-changing assumptions based on what we see.

I disagree in that we need quotas because we cannot afford to wait another 50 years for the narrow-minded white men currently in power to all wither away and finally get the new generations in. Also these new generations, these young girls and women, these people of different skin colour and religion need role models to look up to. Not just in fiction but in reality so they can see that everything is possible as long as you are a human being, not just a born white and male.

However, we need to change how we deal with quotas. As the LSE puts it in their last report after Ireland’s decision to impose certain quotas, we have been making a mistake with our discourse. We have used quotas to force women on men making women in power the issue when the problem we want to address is the over-representation of men.

Putting a quota on women forced the focus on the under-representation of women  but, in that way, it also pits against one another all the ‘minorities’ looking for fairer representation or share of power, because it’s not just women who are under-represented in Western countries. If we have a quota on women, we need a quota on black people, one on Asian people, one on gay people, one on Muslims, one on Jews, one on single parents, one on young people so our institutions, at least, do represent the society they have a duty to serve. So everyone gets a genuine voice: all the under-represented individuals of the Western societies who still have to rely on aloof, unconcerned white men when it comes to life changing laws and decisions.

I am not saying that all white men are unable to understand and serve greater purpose that the ones of their own kind but it does take a great amount of enlightenment and empathy to make selfless decisions that could possibly even trigger the end of your own privilege. And such men are few and far between, especially in Right-wing circles and increasingly an endangered species on the Left.

The economic plight of the young and single mothers, the half-baked solutions to fight racial prejudice, the constant questioning of abortion and women’s rights, the rise of Islamophobia and racism, and the ever-slow recognition of the gays as normal people all spring from the dominance of one group of people: the white, heterosexual, Christian male, old “enough to have experience”. That very male who has never been a majority when it comes to number but has been playing on dubious scientific and religious beliefs to impose and justify its privilege across the world.

All inequalities today find their source in the fact that people in position of responsibility have very little to no idea what it means to live with these prejudices and economic conditions they have created. Provided they actually care and are not completely blinded by their eagerness to ensure the order that favours them remains unscathed, which they unfortunately mostly are.

How many times was I told, as a gay man, that there were “more important things to deal with” than my right to marry? That may not be the focus of straight white males who like to make people think they have a duty as “a real man” to flee marriage like the plague but it does matter to me. And the fact that it’s not the mighty economy doesn’t make it any less important.

I am all for quotas but we need to use them in a constant manner: to contain a problem. And the problem is the ubiquity of white men in all public and private, national and International institutions and bodies.

What we need are not countless quotas to address the fair representation of women, each skin colour, each religion, each sexuality, each level of wealth but a quota on “males in power”. One quota limiting their presence. If we do, it will force us to genuinely look and prepare for viable alternatives for the present and the future.

The question is: will the white man be enlightened and selfless enough to dare put the spotlight on himself as a problem we need to solve?

20 years down the drain

I have been a Europhile for the past 20 years.

When I was 11, I decided that I was not a Frenchman born in Versailles rather a European born in France.

I have believed in Europe. I have loved Europe. I have fought for Europe. I have defended and argued in favour of Europe. In 2005, I shouted, cried and ranted so much in favour of a Yes vote to the French ratification of the European Constitution that it seemed I had taken the weight of a continent on my shoulder.

I have believed in Europe for I have been convinced that we indeed had finally put our fratricidal past behind us. That we have learnt from it. That we have learnt to stop pointing fingers at each other, constantly trying to get pay back and to avenge something that was done to us before.

I have believed in Europe because we were ready to try and work together so we can truly help each other and find new ways, new solutions, new beginnings.

I have believed in Europe because I have had the conviction that after our centuries-long enterprise of bleeding and burning the whole world to its knee, we had matured, changed our ways and now have had to show the world that our past selves were wrong and we can indeed live together in solidarity and peace. Because at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters, and only dysfunctional families are ready to disown and let their kin die alone.

I have believed that these dark times were behind us.

Why? Because that’s what I was taught Europe was for.

Ever since I was born, I have listened to teachers, politicians, philosophers, journalists, writers, my mother telling me about the mission Europe has: to defend democracy against its enemies, whatever their shape or disguise, to protect its citizens against the peril of misery, humiliation, famine, economical decadence for our past had shown all too well whither such plights always lead.

I have argued for the past 20 years that Europe is humanity’s one chance to show that the world is not the unforgiving, ruthless jungle the neo-capitalists like to portray to justify their murderous greed. I have argued that being together and talking about problems, rather than bringing each other down to brutal and silent submission with weapons or bank account closures, is the proof that we are actually naturally inclined to working together, to helping each other.

For the past 20 years, I have fought for a Europe that would finally put the people in charge of their fate above politics and money. A place where the everyday man, woman and child will not have to suffer from the bad decisions that were made from above, without or against their consent because everything will be in their hands.

I have had a dream of a Europe where we, the people, could genuinely decide our fate in a truly democratic system. A system that would value, respect and listen to the opinion of the citizens it relies on in order to ensure the life they live is the life they actually choose.

For 20 years, I have replied to its critics by saying that yes, it is not perfect, but we are working on it and that everything that is being done is for the good of the European people. I have said time and again that at the end of day, the European Union is and will be true to what it preaches: a transparent democracy dedicated to us, to our better life and better future. A genuine democracy that will only serve the genuine interest of the people.

Today, it’s 20 years down the drain.

Today, I am shattered, angry, disappointed and ashamed.

Today, I can’t believe I bought into all these fancy concepts politicians had been throwing around to get us on board a project that, eventually and again!, turned out to only serve the rich and powerful.

Today, I cannot believe I fell for it. I feel like such a fool.

Today, Europe has proven to be ruled by money. Again. It’s nothing new. And I have been used, abused, deceived and mislead.

Today, in the name of democracy and the better future, the people of Greece, a democracy itself, will see €50bn worth of “valuable” public assets taken away from them and from their democratically elected politicians forever. They will never see them again because investors are refusing to embrace the monster they are themselves feeding, they are refusing the first rule of capitalism as defined by their beloved Adam Smith: you have to take risks and tough beans if you fail.

Today, the democratically-based European Union has made the decision to turn a blind eye and to forsake its fundamentals and ideals of democracy, citizenship, freedom, sovereignty, equality, solidarity to give way to the Eurozone and its unelected and unaccountable, financial ilk: the Eurogroup and the ECB, seconded by the almighty IFM, where Washington holds 16% of the vote when 85% are needed to reach an agreement.

Today, the European Union has made the conscious decision to disregard the voice of the Greeks, to betray all of its citizens and prove its enemies right by what it calls the Monetary Snake destroy a hard-earned democratic sovereignty.

The European Union is now nothing less that the League of Nations Wilson had created after WWI to ensure “peace and prosperity” in Europe but which silently oversaw Germany being sacrificed on the shrine of peace because it was in fact dominated by France and all the other winners of said war and they all had a bone to pick with the evil Germans.

It did not matter that Germany was a young and fragile democracy, like Greece, which, like Greece again, had become the complete opposite of the autocratic regime it was before the war. It was not enough. We needed more to soother our grievance and the League of Nations gladly let Germany suffer to oblivion in the hands of its creditors. All because everyone seemed to agree that they were at the time the biggest threat to our peace and prosperity.

Like Greece today with its bailout, the puny democratic power was forced to accept every single humiliating, undermining and dangerous clauses of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This treaty would legalise further humiliation and would force the country’s economy to its knees as it faced having to literally pay back all the damaged it had caused.

I remember reading about the rise of Hitler and the fall of Weimar when I was 15. I remember reading about the invasion and occupation of the Rhur by the French in 1922 that triggered the spiralling downfall. A unilateral and unstopped decision made on the basis that Paris was not getting the money Berlin was supposed to pay back on time.  I remember reading about the endless vicious circle of the young German republic’s economy, its hands tied in the back by this peace-preaching League of Nation led by vengeful winners.

In history lessons, we are repeated again and again that all these measures to ensure Germany would rightly pay for what it has “alone” caused was one of the main cause of WWII as it pushed Hitler to be democratically elected in 1933. In the name of peace, the League – like the EU today – never lifted a finger, on the contrary, it became the accomplice.

I have believed in Europe because I have thought we had understood this. And we had, for a moment. After WWII, all countries, including Greece, agreed that the stupid war reparations and the finger-pointing at one people and blaming it above all others were creating nothing but ever-growing antagonism, hatred and resentment. It was making us ever weaker. We needed to work together so we cancelled the debt. We had matured. I thought…

 

However, today it’s Versailles and the occupation of the Rhur again. The people of Greece are facing with exit and misery or endless misery in the hands of the people they were taught and told to trust.  In the 1920s, the League of Nations just watched as we pushed Germany down the drain and now, in the 2010s, the European Union just spectates as we push Greece down the drain.

The banks want their money back after eight years of bad investments they gladly jumped on and austerity they happily championed, all without results they swore would show. Regardless of all the hurt they have been doing to Greece since 2008, no matter that Greece is now enduring a situation akin to the US before Roosevelt decided to make the State intervene, they are now going to get what they want and dismantle the State even more. End of.

How? By using the one bit of Europe that has never been touched by democracy yet: the Euro and its institutions. These have been called to openly overrule Greece’s democratic regime, like we did with Germany in 1922 as the banks are getting ready to open the tilt and take whatever they think ought to be theirs whether the Greeks agree or not.

When it comes to greed and destructive capitalism, history has taught us nothing. Once again, we have set countries against each other, people each other, North v South in a flourish of damaging, uneducated stereotypes feeding endless xenophobia for throwing their people against their people is the best way economics has found to hide the fact that we actually have nothing to say on the matter.

20 years.

Until weeks ago, I was still arguing that we were truly looking for a solution that would benefit the people above all but now that “we have a deal”, I don’t believe it anymore. Until weeks ago, I was still arguing against the people who were saying that our leaders were not interested in working for the great and good of everyone, rather just for themselves. But today, I am not sure especially when I see the ones shouting victory in the name of the union.

Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, is righteously standing there telling us that it’s all about saving the union, it’s about fairness and doing the right thing, it’s about the sake of the other millions of us but then it turns out that the tax heaven-based private company which will be handling the Greek public assets and managing the burning sales is chaired by him.

To me, this man’s commitment into ensuring Greece pays every single cent given with interests is actually driven by his desire to get a piece of the cake. The biggest one, in that. And no one is lifting a finger! The fate of millions of people, from new-born babies to ageing grandmothers is resting in his sole hands, despite the Greeks refusal and I hear “Bravo!”.

Junker, as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, spent years resisting, fighting and lobbying against clearer, better defined, more integrated European tax laws that would put an end to his country playing with the system and remaining a tax-heaven and now he’s standing there on his plinth of hypocrisy telling us that the Greeks are only reaping what they sowed by not playing by the rules. And no one is lifting a finger!

And our leaders. They have been calling us to vote during European elections because it is “our future”. We have been told that our voice matters and will make a difference. Yes, that’s until money is involved and suddenly there are superseding considerations we cannot possibly understand so our voice is irrelevant. Is that their idea of democracy? You serve the people unless you get scared, ignore us, serve the markets alone, screw it up but because we did vote for you, it’s actually our fault so we pay the prize for generations to come.

I have come to understand they are calling us to vote just to be able to lecture Russia or China from their high horse when shit hits the fan. “At least, I am here by the will of the power…I don’t care for it says but I am better than you.”

20 years that I have been defending a fraud, the building of a union that clearly puts its cherished, richest few before the livelihood of millions of its citizens because they have convinced themselves and trapped themselves in an economic understanding where they have reduced the States to irrelevance so these very few are now the only, untouchable, precious key to our well-being.

Today, however, it’s not time for me to argue for the destruction of the union.

I am now a Euro-sceptic because I trust what is accountable to the people, which the Euro institutions are not. There are the enemy of social-democracy.

I am not however a Europe-sceptic. I still want to believe in the dream because I am socialist. Call me utopist, drag me in the dirt, frankly do your worst if it makes you happy.

If democracy cannot express illusions and crazy hopes; if it cannot contain narratives of emotion and ideals, it dies. – Paul Mason

The time has come to make the union accountable to what it has been preaching: democracy, solidarity, equality, peace and well-being of its people above all else.

It is time to change properties: to fight against the Euro and for the European Union.