Game of Thrones in Europe

Apart from beautiful filming, Game of Thrones has also educational character. Its political content can help immature citizens understand why we need more integration, not isolation as postulated by Brexit.

Looking at recent developments, one might expect that Europe is falling apart. Shaken by terror, economic struggles, political instability and separatism, the institution EU has been questioned on the grounds that it was too bureaucratic. As repeatedly in history, populists seek cheap answers to complex problems by blaming larger cooperation for individual loss without seeing that governing shared resources asks most of all answers to distributional questions. It is this failure that has brought us to where we stand, and, tackling it is thus the key to finding a way out of the worldwide social impasse in which we are trapped. Seeking an answer in isolation is repeating history and thus a step back in time.

Backwards thinking might be attractive, but it is not a cure. Although plundering resources and enslaving entire populations in Latin America, Asia and Africa has given us Europeans power, it is not a medication with long-term effects, particularly not now that global resources are getting scarce. As many other world citizens demand their share in global benefits, many among us feel that it might be safer to restrict their access to our accumulated wealth by their exclusion. The UK, a world-leader in exploiting resources and oppressing peoples, has recently decided that while it was OK to take from European partners, sharing with them was not really what they want. Apart from the political value, what made me really sick about the whole Brexit debate were all these stupid voices desiring to have back achievements such as the ‘Great Empire’ or the freedom to ‘spoil oneself in luxury’. While slavery is sadly enough still practised in Europe, even the dumbest among us should realize that stronger light bulbs will not make even the littlest brain of whatever actress brighter.

Above all the entire Brexit debate has shown that Europe is governed by immature citizens. While we believe in democracy as the core to justice, we Europeans fail to understand that complex problems need solutions that might be unconventional and difficult to understand for non-experts. However, while we don’t bring our children to the bakery when their teeth ache, we all want to have a say in politics as we believe to have expert-knowledge in everything. Endless referendum and cyclic movements are the result. Democracy as understood by us Europeans is most of all inefficient, since it keeps us focussed on the process rather than providing solutions to our real problems. The re-merging power of populist parties in Europe can consequently be seen as a failure of citizens to understand the causes of our current problems and avoiding to provide solutions to them. Instead of overcoming well-established customs and habits, we claim democracy and more power to the peoples as the solution to economic problems.

In times of economic difficulties, we find the panacea of better performance by asking for local control and exclusion of everything ‘not from here’.  This racism in its purest form prevents us from seeing the distributional deficiencies within (the system). In Spain, a country that has become a democracy as late as the early 1980s and which has ever since been manipulated by elites and their corrupt practises, young citizens fail to see that it is the rotten system that needs to change not the countries’ relation to Europe. While the EU is probably the best tool to overthrow the establishment they have, many citizens that have been politically passive for most of their life all of a sudden stand up against the EU in order to express their frustration over lack of perspectives. Of course, it is easier to receive many ‘likes’ by re-tweeting or posting anti-German paroles than questioning some domestic deficiencies. Change means also confronting oneself with risk and requires skills and capacities that one first needs to develop. Throwing ones wife from the balcony and blaming emancipation for lack of bread is easier than becoming a noble man and an educated citizen that abides from stupid customs such as torturing animals for public amusement. Improvement within a critically sick system often requires significant change and mandates that one needs to leave their comfort zone, not something cowards really seek.

Maybe the most disturbing element of European politics is the failure to account for distributional factors. As an expat returning to Europe I am year by year more shocked by the arrogance that our pensioners expose. While their rude, selfish and ignorant behaviour resembles that of hordes of uncontrolled punks, the comparison might not be too far-fetched as these proud ‘68er revolutionists’ have mostly thought about self-fulfillment all their life long. Rhetorically rebelling against established institutions in the late 1960s they have turned their back on important environmental and social issues that became apparent in the early 1970s[1] and instead, successively in-filtered politics and bureaucracy to take over key positions that allowed them to exploit wherever they could. Negating pressing issues such as climate change and social injustice for decades, they grabbed what was within reach and waited until their retirement to ask for policies that protect the wealth of the wealthy while the poor in the developing world and future generations should pay the bill for all the environmental damage that their life-long resource exploitation has caused. It is these 68er punks that manipulate the entire political agenda across Europe in their own favour and at the expense of better outcomes. This is all the more disturbing as they don’t have to account for the long-term effects of their current votes.

Achieving sustainable development, the main target of the global development agenda, means working on inter-generational as much as intra-generational justice.  It means speaking out against politics that further skew distribution in favour of those who already have. It also means putting our fingers at our parents and might cost a bit more courage than closing the door in light of some stranger in need. How much easier is it to ignore the thousands of drowning refugees in the Mediterranean Sea while enjoying the comfort of our parent’s home – funded on stolen resources and built by the sweat of migrants? True, Game of Thrones showed us that justice is a fragile concept. While we Europeans believe in democracy as a means to justice, in reality justice not only needs to address questions around access to vote, but also distributional issues. From an equity perspective there is no doubt that Europe will never see justice as long as actresses demand privileges that have made queens untouchable. From a resource perspective, it is evident that we need more cooperation in face of increased scarcity. Put two and two together, we need more integration, not less. The EU was a good start to cooperation, now we only need to upscale it.

While the UK has taken the path of isolation, in reality the answer to its problems lies in more integration. Rather than distancing itself from Europe, it should reach out to the world and embrace nations such as China, which it forced to centuries of political isolation from Europe by starting an economic motivated war in the 19th century. Indeed, the EU and its apparent bureaucracy are not UK’s true problems, nor those of any other country. What we European need is seeing the full picture rather than following mainstream politics. Maybe the best way forward would be less democracy, not only less bureaucracy.

[1] Notably during the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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