During the trip that took a little more than an hour we soon slipped into a conversation with an elderly English couple, just about our own age or maybe some years older.
We talked about Shakespeare, about Sweden – and about Sardinia. The latter came up as a topic because it turned out that the couple had been living on a half-year basis on that Northern Mediterranean island for the last 25 years. They were virtually radiating that very kind of friendliness, politeness and amiability that would make you love Englishness, even if everything else in it would seem repellent to you.
After a while, towards the end of the trip, Maj-Britt – not being the more diplomatically talented of the two of us – asked them:
“What about Brexit?”
Since I had already long anticipated what their answer to precisely that sort of question would have been, I had rather wished to continue talking about Shakespeare or the Mediterranean world or simply anything other than just that. But now the issue inevitably was on the table, and the catalogue of protectionist arguments was rattled off fairly quickly, just as I had expected.
Then I simply asked:
“What would improve for the UK after leaving?”
The gentleman, looking rather perplexed for a moment, soon regained the force of his argument. All the thoughts and reasoning coming forth from this gentleman during the last minutes of our conversation could be summed up in one single theme:
Unfortunately our talk was broken when, all of a sudden, the train arrived at Gatwick (or was it Gatwick that arrived at our train?). We had to get off for the flight back home to Stockholm, the English couple for their flight back to their comely southern refuge.
Had we been able to continue, I would have said a few things like this:
Yes, I am horribly disappointed about the EU as it is today.
Yes, I personally feel a deep sorrow about seeing how the very idea of European unity, which was once a project of humanity, peace, tolerance, honesty and high ideals of togetherness as well as mutual respect, has gradually been corrupted by bureaucratic greed and arrogance as well as by the ill-disguised attempts of some member nations to rule the entire scene.
Yes, I realize very well that far too many things happening on the top have little or no legitimacy at the base.
And yes, I also admit that virtually everything in the EU has happened far too fast. Rome was not built in one day, nor will European unity be.
But – who will gain anything by a continuing disintegration of Europe and the West, and by even triggering this disintegration to happen? Should we not rather travesty Winston Churchill’s famous words about democracy, saying that even if, at the moment, we have to cope with an EU deeply stuck in corruption, we have no alternative forum for trying to build a sustainable future for us all?
To me personally, the idea of European unity from the very outset is a spiritual one – not a materialistic one. It is my conviction that once spiritual and moral unity has been established and grown mature – and it goes without saying that this kind of unity has to be based on the principle of E pluribus unum, Unity in diversity – material issues will eventually be solved by consequence of this.
But perhaps, with the prospect of the United States soon electing a Mussolini Redivivus – a true King of Disintegration – as its next president, we should not worry about these things at all. Then we should instead concentrate our efforts on building bomb shelters, storing food in our basements and getting accustomed to a world where we are all barred off from each other.