– Carlos M Frota
Europeans are living in troubled times, as we all know. Countries are feeling unsafe, old political elites are perplexed, social movements are pushing for new forms of participation in the political arena, and young ideologues are arriving at the public square advocating extraordinary solutions … with old recipes!
And because they are so young, those new leaders or aspirants don’t know that their remedies are old, very old … and poisonous!
From Italy to Hungary, all across the continent, whether already in government or waiting for their hour, people obsessed by power, or just unhappy with the situation, are dreaming of an European renaissance imitating a glorious past that never existed.
They talk about identity, they talk about Christianity. In societies closed to the outside world, because everything from afar is dangerous. Or so think the new heralds of disgrace, cultivating the nostalgia of the good old days .
Good old days that never never existed!
As a former diplomat, I am inevitably oriented to analyze our time as a sequence of events obeying a certain process, with a certain degree of rationality. Where causes and consequences are linked “almost” as in other scientific domains.
The problem consists in disclosing, deciphering the mystery of such explanations …
I know of course that history and politics (which is history written now, in the present) are particular fields where human freedom prevails – and being so, puts its finger with a darker color on the raw material of our days.
Looking through these lenses at the transformations going on in Europe, I am keenly interested in (and a little bit scared of) understanding how and why history and its old demons resurrected so easily and abruptly throughout the Old Continent, awaking from their sleep of several decades.
Xenophobia. Intolerance. And the opportunistic political response, populism.
Populism intrigues me. And much more than the ideology, the immediate appearance of big or small leaders, ready to gamble for a place in history. But populism scares me by the fragility of people ready to embark in old dreams of tragic consequences.
I must confess: I am deeply disturbed by seeing how young people in several European countries are giving their time and devotion to old myths and prejudices that reduced many parts of Europe to ashes, forgetting the toll of victims and the immense human suffering.
Born after WWII and living for more than forty five years in a microcosm where propaganda was easily detectable (less now, with the emergence of the fake news!) I suffer from seeing how the lack of memory gives to part of the new generation a sense of adventure in pursuing new dreams that are in fact old tragedies!
This mistake is facilitated by how mischievous are the messages of the new leaders.
RELIGION – A TOOL FOR POWER
If there is something that touches deeply every person, it is his / her faith, the basic beliefs and values upon which they build their lives. Religion (or Philosophy) can summarize all this.
After the first wave of refugees from the Middle East some three or four years ago, opportunistic politicians in some European countries, playing with fear and sense of insecurity, raised the flag for a new combat: fighting to preserve the Christian identity of their nations in the face of new invaders, the Muslims.
Astonished, I saw myself in a cinema, watching an old movie about an old subject, the Crusades. Oh my God, I told to myself, but these guys are wrong , they bought tickets for the wrong show!
But the message was very quickly propagated , group vulnerabilities were transformed into social movements and at the end social anxieties were transformed into political organizations, prepared to strive for power.
The old establishment, taken by surprise, didn’t react quickly enough and the new politicians filled the vacuum, being the first to deal with the insecurity within different communities.
And in the coming European and national elections, an entire continent will stay in silence, waiting for an outcome that can be crucial for the European Union. Populism is there to stay!
CHRISTIAN IDENTITY: JUST A POLITICAL SLOGAN?
The populists fight for the reestablishment or reinforcing of Christian identity in their countries, diluted under the present dictatorship of relativism, as some proclaim.
The old European Christendom is ready for resurrection? Erasing centuries of evolution, are we going to rebuild the Sacred Empire, having its Head in the throne of Peter? And what about the “infidels”? Put them in containers and send them back to their origin?
Or are we going to convert them by force, emptying lakes and rivers, with uninterrupted, non-stop baptisms by immersion?
But something is strange here! The debate about Christian identity in a renewed Europe lacks one or several key figures! Whom?
For instance …the Pope! And the leaders of the different Protestant denominations!
Or they were considered uncomfortable interlocutors , and silenced even before the debate, in order not to disturb the fake and biased discussion, in the public square, where the politicians, searching for legitimacy, are promoting themselves to the ranks of secular “shepherds” …
… paying homage before the altar of Goddess Reason?
Do you remember some turbulent times in the past?
Me too! Liberté! Cecité! Mediocrité!
HOW MANY GOSPELS?
In the Populist Gospel, an unknown Messiah (there are many, in the infamous gallery of criminals) preach division instead of communion, call for walls in place of bridges, sing praises of racism towards people with a different skin color, recommend closed doors when foreigners arrive.
The Voice, the herd and the shepherd. Then the true questions: What Europe? What Christian identity? Pope Francis is persistent and absolutely coherent in defending the rights of immigrants and refugees since 2015, when the first wave of displaced people arrived at the shores of Europe.
And the only responses the Pope tireless asked for from Christians and people of good will was and is: generosity, solidarity, humanity.
Crazy? Nonsense? A-political?
And in face of so many difficulties of social integration of foreigners by small communities, Francis insisted on the same attitude of openness, not excluding a more general debate, as expressed later on during the discussions of a UN Global Compact for Migration.
Crazy? Nonsense? A-political?
The heralds of the new populism in Europe are far away from St Peter’s Square because they fear to be undermined in their authority by the Holy Father himself, refusing to accept the fallacies of their demagoguery.
Because, simply put, Christian identity is not white supremacy plus intolerance vis a vis different people, plus indifference before the misery created by war or extreme poverty .