Sunday, 26 July 2015

Despair is the sickness unto death

I first read Dostoevsky’s ‘Demons’ (AKA ‘The Possessed’) in English and didn’t much like it. If I had not later learned Russian, I probably would never have read it again. It would have remained one of those books I vaguely remembered as having been a tough read, hard to finish, but which ultimately had not been worth it. I later read it in Russian and found it the equal of anything else that Dostoevsky wrote and very deep, indeed. Was it simply the re-reading of a book that I had earlier not fully understood that led to the change in experience? Was there something that couldn’t be translated? I don’t think so. The change must have been in me. I had become older. As someone once said “You don’t learn, you just get older, and you know.”

When I first read the novel, I focussed on the plot. It’s a story of a group of revolutionaries in tsarist Russia. Perhaps, this was my problem. I just wasn’t that interested in these precursors to the revolutionaries of 1917. But when I read a second time and focussed not so much on plot as on character, I found the story to be quite different. Most importantly, I found one character who has an extraordinary perspective on existence. He is called Kirillov.

Kirillov’s role in the novel is not important for the purposes here. He has been involved with the revolutionaries and has a role in their plans. But what is most interesting is his attitude to life.

He is asked (D p. 236) if he loves life, and replies that he does. But there is something apparently contradictory in this for Kirillov intends to shoot himself. His reasoning is as follows. He sees life as separate from death “Life is, and death is not at all” (D p. 236). On being asked whether he believes in a future eternal life, he replies “No, not future eternal, but here eternal. There are moments, you reach moments, and time suddenly stops, and will be eternal” (D p. 236). He hopes to reach such a moment. He is very happy and loves life but intends to shoot himself in order to touch eternity.

Much later we discover some more about how Kirillov touches eternity. He says “There are seconds, they come only five or six at a time, and you suddenly feel the presence of eternal harmony, fully achieved …If it were longer than five seconds—the soul couldn’t endure it and would vanish. In those five seconds I live my life through, and for them I would give my whole life, because it’s worth it. To endure ten seconds one would have to change physically.” (D p. 590).

What’s remarkable about these passages is that Kirillov’s experience can be compared to that of Saint Paul with his thorn in the flesh, with Saint Francis hearing the music of eternity played by an angel and feeling that if it lasted a few seconds further, he would die; or Saint Teresa of Ávila’s agony and ecstasy when an angel drives a lance through her heart. How then should we react to someone like Kirillov who is happy and loves life, but for the sake of such brief moments of ecstatic union with the eternal is willing to kill himself with a revolver?

The difference between Kirillov and the saints is ably described by Søren Kierkegaard in his book ‘The Sickness unto Death’. Kierkegaard writes of “defiance, which is really despair through the aid of the eternal, the despairing misuse of the eternal within the self to will in despair to be oneself” (SUD p. 67).

How can we describe someone like Kirillov who is happy and loves life as also being in despair? The reason for this is that Kierkegaard recognises that despair is an objective quality, not a subjective one. There is a “Despair that is ignorant of being despair, or the despairing ignorance of having a self and an eternal self” (SUD p. 42).
Despair for Kierkegaard is a function of the self’s relationship to itself and to God. To get these relationships wrong is to be in despair, whether the person is happy or not. He explains this in the following way:

“Every human being is a psychical-physical synthesis intended to be spirit; this is the building, but he prefers to live in the basement, that is, in sensate categories. Moreover, he not only prefers to live in the basement—no, he loves it so much that he is indignant if anyone suggests that he move to the superb upper floor that stands vacant and at his disposal, for he is, after all, living in his own house” (SUD p. 43)

Despair is to live in this basement without being aware that there is a spiritual life. Despair is not a subjective quality of happiness or unhappiness. It is the relationship to God. To deny God is still to be in despair, for God is, whether the self is aware of this fact or not. On this basis then, the atheist is in despair, even if he thinks of himself as perfectly happy. For Kierkegaard truth is objective. “Veritas est index suit et falsi” [Truth is the criterion of itself and of the false” (SUD p. 42). It is the falsity of the despairing self that means it is in despair. The denial of God does not make God cease to exist, but rather makes the self cease to exist.

So the fact that Kirillov is happy is beside the point. His intention to commit suicide is defiance. He is misusing the eternal and attempting to touch eternity by means of his own actions rather than God’s. In this sense he is attempting to become God. He admits as much “Yes, I will become God” (D p. 615). It is, indeed, in order that he should become God that he wishes to kill himself. But his attempt, of course, is doomed to fail. He is not God. He admits as much himself in the end, “If there is no God, then I am God” (D p. 617). It is only because he thinks that there is no God that Kirillov can become God if only for a moment. But this God that he wishes to create in the moment of death is only momentary and therefore lacks the quality of eternity even if it touches it. What Kirillov really wants to do is to express his ultimate ability to choose. He says “If there is God, then the will is all his, and I cannot get out of his will. If not, the will is all mine, and it is my duty to proclaim self-will” (D p. 617). He thinks that if God exists, then everything is necessary, but if God does not exist, then there is radical freedom of choice. The most decisive way in which this can be expressed is for a happy man to choose to kill himself without reason. He will kill himself  “For reasons. But without any reason, simply for self-will—only I” (D p. 617). He would thus, of course, become an uncaused cause, which looks rather Godlike. But Kirillov must know that his Godlike status will not last beyond the moment of the bullet travelling through his brain. His becoming “God” depends on there being no God. But then clearly in Kierkegaardian terms if there indeed is an objective God, Kirillov is in despair. His happiness is irrelevant even if it is not self-deception.

Kierkegaard writes further “Just because it is despair through the aid of the eternal, in a certain sense it is very close to the truth; and just because it lies very close to the truth, it is infinitely far away” (SUD p. 67). Kirillov touches the eternal in a way that is similar to that of a saint. His experience is almost identical to theirs, but he is misusing the eternal that can be found in the self, he is not touching the eternal by means of his relationship to God. He has no relationship to God. It is for this reason that he is infinitely far away.

The problem is that Kirillov’s self that touches the eternal is created by Kirillov himself. He is “severing the self from any relation to the power that has established it, or severing it from the idea that there is such a power” (SUD p. 68). The act of shooting himself is an act of rebellion, far greater than that against any earthly authorities. Thus “The self in despair wants to be master of itself or to create itself, to make his self into the self he wants to be, to determine what he will have or will not have in his concrete self” (SUD p. 68). Kirillov thinks that by his act of shooting himself he will touch eternity. But the problem is that he is doing it through his act alone. But this is to forget that we are not the masters of ourselves and that it is not possible to create the self by ourselves. Kirillov may indeed have his moment of ecstasy. He may indeed touch eternity. But he will not touch eternity eternally. His moment of eternity will pass in that moment. If Kierkegaard is right, the self is both the self’s relationship to itself and its relationship to God, and therefore Kirillov is in despair because he has lost his relationship to God. He has also, of course, lost his self and lost it eternally. To only have a relationship with oneself is to have failed to arrive at the condition for true selfhood. Only in an eternity that lasts beyond the moment can a self find itself.

Suicide only makes sense morally in a world where there is no God. In a world where there is a creator and a prohibition against murder, self-murder is self-defeating for it is liable to make any problem here on earth a problem in eternity. If God, the Creator, can see inside men’s hearts and can judge their intentions, then the sense in which suicide is a flight away from a person’s problems is immediately annulled. There is no escape. Rebellion against God is far more futile than rebellion against the tsar, because there is no possibility of rebellion against God succeeding.

But even in a world where we have lost all sense of there being a God and eternity, what would be our present day reaction to someone like Kirillov, who claims to love children, love life, but who although completely happy, wants to shoot himself in the head? How would we react to such a case?

Until relatively recently suicide was a taboo. People who committed suicide were liable to be buried outside the churchyard. People who attempted suicide were liable to be punished by the law. Nearly everyone one hundred years ago if asked, would have said that suicide was wrong. The reason for this is that there was widespread belief in God and traditional Christian teaching has always been that it is a sin to take your life. It is this that led to the prohibition on suicide. The taboo was so strong, that many suicides were not classified as such. Many priests or coroners would go to great lengths to find an explanation other than suicide.

But look how times have changed. With belief in God on the decline, suicide has become something many people want reclassified. The ability to decide when to end your life is now being campaigned for as a right. In the space of less than one hundred years one of the worst sins has become something we campaign for.

How do we react to the news of suicide today? If we hear the news that someone has killed themselves, is that person ever criticised as doing something sinful? I cannot think of an occasion in recent times when that has happened. There is sometimes great sadness when someone commits suicide. There is a sense of loss and a sense of pity, but there is never the sense that the person did something wrong. In instances when the person was suffering from a painful illness, far from there being a sense that the suicide did something wrong, there is the sense that he was exercising a human right. There is even a certain joy that this person was able to choose when to die.

The difficulty though is this. How from this perspective am I to persuade Kirillov not to commit suicide for the sake of his glimpse of eternity? Kierkegaard’s argument is that Kirillov is rebelling against God, and therefore what Kirillov is doing is morally the equivalent of murder. But the idea of self-murder depends crucially on the idea of a self that survives that could be punished. Why talk of murder of the self at all if both the perpetrator and the victim of the crime cease to exist? Why indeed talk of crime at all? But this is our problem. Without the idea of the self continuing to exist after death the idea of suicide in any sense being wrong becomes difficult. Why even discourage it? Whose business is it other than my own if I take my life?

This I think is where we are now. No-one thinks that suicide is wrong. Anyway, whose business is it other than the person concerned? We can pity or be sad about the person who commits suicide or alternatively we can feel joy and admiration depending on the circumstances. But if it is right to avoid the pain of terminal illness, it could equally well be right to avoid any other pain or discomfort. It may not be pragmatic to kill yourself because your boyfriend leaves you, after all, the pain may well cease, but who can say it is wrong? No-one will condemn, though we all may feel pity. Does it anyway matter in the great scheme of things if a girl of seventeen dies by her own hand or if she dies sixty years later? What really has she lost other than some transient moments that may or may not have been happy? What has she lost that would have lasted, or at least lasted into eternity? So should we even regret?

But once we have arrived at the position that suicide is a human right and something that can in no way be condemned, we are liable to reach a stage where many of the barriers to this action have been removed. Previously a person struggling with life might reflect that they might be condemned by God, or be buried outside the church yard or condemned by all their friends and family. In this way they might be discouraged from taking such a step. But now even when a young celebrity commits suicide, we are usually told on the news about how wonderful they were, how their friends loved them and how tragic the whole thing is. There is not one word of condemnation, so today when someone reflects on suicide, there is far less to discourage them. There may be practical advice about life getting better, but there is no moral advice, for this really is a human right and in that sense it is a free choice. In Kirillov’s terms it is a matter of “self-will” and in today’s world the criterion is always what I want to do. In this sense by getting rid of God we have all become little gods and goddesses.

What advice could I give to Kirillov given that I don’t believe in God? I could try to persuade him about what he is throwing away, but if he maintains his position that the second of touching eternity would be worth giving up his whole life, what can I say to counter this? Likewise, if the person in despair says they cannot endure another day of despair and cannot bear to wait for the good times to come again, do I actually have an answer? No. I have already accepted that it is justified to take one’s own life in order to avoid the pain of a terminal illness. Why then should it not be justified to avoid any other psychical pain, even one that may be transient?  This is the difficulty of giving up traditional morality. The taboo on suicide was useful in keeping down the rate. Now that it is a right and certainly not a wrong, isn’t it likely that there will be more suicides?

The only objection that can be made to Kirillov is that he is objectively in despair. That he is trying to storm the gates of heaven and touch eternity by himself. It is the fact that he acts by himself without reference to an objective, transcendent God that makes his case different from those of the saints.  The only objection is that God actually does exist and His existence is such that it does not depend on your doubt. God exists whatever the doubter may think. 

Kirillov thinks he is happy, but in fact is in despair. If I can point out this objective position to him, he may change his course of action. Of course, he can simply reject the existence of God, as he indeed does, but given his ability to touch eternity, he is actually quite close to faith, though, of course, infinitely far away. With a leap he could move from despair to faith. It may be that I am unable to persuade him but my only chance of doing so is theological.

The collapse of faith in the modern world has meant that we have thrown out the old taboos and the old morality. Our new faith is that whatever I want to do, even if it should be suicide, I should be allowed to do if I feel like it. If it is my right to do it, I need not even take into account others. But what other sins, which once were forbidden, will soon be permitted if we continue down this route? If I can kill myself with impunity, what else will I soon be allowed to do?

If God is dead, everything is permitted is one of Dostoevsky’s aphorisms. It’s a little more complex, but more or less true. But what if we follow the logic of everything being permitted, but God, in fact, is alive and well? The trouble with maintaining that man is the measure of all things is if it turns out, he is not. If there is a standard of morality outside what I want to do, it would make my doing everything only with reference to myself look rather reckless. It would make it look rather like despair.

Demons / Dostoevsky, Vintage, 2006.

The Sickness unto Death / Kierkegaard, Princeton University Press, c1980.

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

#Brexit kills Scottish nationalism stone dead

Politics can be divided into the transient and the long-term. Most of the issues that politicians squabble about are barely newsworthy. They will be forgotten within a week and certainly within a year. History books are full of forgotten politicians.  Most of what I have read therefore in newspapers over the past six months about politics is therefore of no consequence in the long run. The endless election debates are already nearly forgotten. All the newspaper comment about who would form a coalition with who are now as archaic as the debates about the Corn Laws.  

Labour is squabbling and descending into chaos, but it probably won’t matter. Five years from now Labour will most likely have a better leader than the last one, quite possibly someone who is today more or less unknown. But whoever eventually ends up the Labour leader will face the same long-term strategic issues as any other political leader.  For the next few years there are only two important issues in British politics. How will the UK relate to its EU neighbours and how will it relate to itself?

It’s extraordinary to realise that about a year ago opinion polls were suggesting that Scots would vote overwhelmingly against independence. I remember thinking, sometime in July 2014, that it was hardly worth campaigning anymore and that the referendum would crush Scottish nationalism forever. I’ve learned since that opinion polls are nonsense to be ignored and that my powers of prediction are very limited indeed.

The only issue in Scottish politics that matters to me is keeping the UK intact. Scottish independence would be a life changing event that would be remembered in the history books forever. This ought to matter to every UK citizen more than every other issue combined. We are still faced with the threat that our country will break up. That it will lose a third of its territory. We must all work together to do whatever it takes to make sure that this does not happen. No other country in the world would be as blasé as we are about such an event. The Greeks would consider it a national disaster if they lost one single island in the Aegean, yet the British are either indifferent or at times even in favour of the break-up of our country. It’s all very peculiar. Scottish independence would be a life-changing event for everyone in the UK. If you think our role in the world has been diminished in the last fifty years, can you imagine what it would be like if we became the Disunited Kingdom. We’d be a laughing stock, unworthy of being taken seriously about anything, unable even to keep our own country together. We can prevent this happening. There is a very easy way of doing so. We can vote to leave the European Union.

The EU has a very odd status in Scottish politics. During the referendum both sides were in favour of the EU and the worst calamity that could happen would be that Scotland would be left outside the EU. It would therefore appear paradoxical to suggest that voting to leave the EU would make the status of the UK more secure. After all, the SNP argue that if the UK votes as a whole to leave the EU, but Scotland votes to stay, then this would be grounds for divorce and a second independence referendum. Whether they would be granted such a referendum or try to organise one unilaterally is an issue for another day, but let’s consider how #Brexit might actually influence the debate in Scotland.

The SNP slogan “Independence in Europe” is not really about Europe at all. It would be better to rephrase it as “Independence in the UK”. It is this that the SNP wants. The SNP wants life after independence to appear to be more or less the same as life before independence. The reason for this, is that most Scots like most aspects of life in the UK and want these things to continue. The whole SNP argument is about having your cake and eating it too. Meanwhile, the whole argument against independence is that certain things that we all like and want to continue would cease if independence were to occur. We then get into that sterile debate about scaremongering and what would happen if. In the end, so long as both the UK and the Scotland are in the EU, the SNP reflects that Scots would have the same rights in the UK as the French or the Germans, which means we would have more or less the same rights as we do right now. The EU is the guarantor of everything remaining the same. Without the EU everything becomes different.

Think about what would happen if the UK voted to leave the EU. This would start a process of negotiation. The end point of this negotiation would not necessarily be that the UK would actually leave the EU. Remember Greece voted to leave the EU and the Euro, but their Οχι [No] vote despite all the threats and the scaremongering did not actually lead to them leaving. The end point of the UK’s negotiations with the EU could be complete separation, it could be a relationship similar to Norway’s, or it could be some sort of fudge which amounted to continued EU membership, but on rather different terms. The only way to get these different terms is to vote to leave. Therefore even those who wish to remain in the EU, but who wish a rather different relationship, should consider voting to leave as that is the only way this will occur. Cameron will get nothing but scraps until and unless the UK votes to leave. At that point he might just get something substantial.

It’s 2017 and the UK has just voted to leave. The SNP will be going nuts if Scotland votes to stay. They will be demanding another referendum. But they would obviously have to wait until the UK’s negotiations with the EU have concluded. The reason for this is obvious. How could we possibly judge whether we wanted Scotland to be independent from the UK unless we knew how the UK would relate to the EU? Until the consequences of #Brexit had been sorted out, no-one could sensibly decide on the consequences of #Scexit. This then kicks the issue of Scottish independence into the long grass. By the time the ball is found perhaps the nationalist surge may have declined.

Would #Brexit make a vote for Scottish independence more or less likely? Well given that nearly everyone in the Scotland loves the EU so much it would appear to make a vote for independence inevitable. But appearances can be deceptive. What are the issues that matter most to Scottish voters? We all want to be able to travel freely in the UK without a passport. We all want to continue using the pound. We all want exactly the same rights throughout the UK as we have now. Indeed we all want our pensions and wages and pretty much everything else to be more or less the same as our friends and relations in other parts of the UK. If it can be shown with certainty that any of these things would cease with a vote for Scottish independence, it is much less likely that Scots would vote to go it alone.

But imagine that the UK has left the EU. In order to become independent within the EU Scotland would then have to first leave the UK and then join the EU. This may or may not happen at more or less the same time. It doesn’t matter. Could Scotland retain the pound under these circumstances? Maintaining a currency union when both Scotland and the UK are in the EU would be difficult enough. We’ve just seen the difficulty countries get in when they try to establish monetary union without political union. But it is very hard indeed to believe that the UK having just left the EU would allow a currency union with a Scotland that has chosen to remain in the EU. This is not least because a condition for membership of the EU is the promise to eventually join the Euro. The UK would thus be continually faced with the threat of #Scexit. No one is going to allow this to happen.

If Scotland were in the EU while the UK was not, the border between England and Scotland would be the border of the EU itself. It’s hard to imagine that this border would not require people to show their passports, just as they do when they travel from Belarus to Poland. If this were not the case then EU citizens could freely move from Scotland into England, while UK citizens could freely move from the UK into the EU. Again it’s possible that some sort of deal could be done. But if the UK leaves the EU, it becomes much more likely that a hard border is erected between England and Scotland.

Lastly if the UK leaves the EU then all of the rights that EU citizens have to live and work and receive benefits in the UK would have to be renegotiated. But then so too would the rights of Scots. No doubt most of these rights would continue and anyway most Scots, at least for a time, might have UK passports, but these rights begin to look very contingent and perhaps short term.

If the UK voted to leave the EU and Scotland chose to stay, it would put these places on radically different paths. Scotland would be choosing to join a collection of European states that are on a path to “ever closer union”. The end point of this is hard to predict, but in my view if the Eurozone were going to break up it would have done so by now. In time, the EU is going to become something very similar to a United States of Europe with a single currency called the Euro. Eventually every member of the EU will have that currency and will be more or less ruled from Brussels with such devolved powers as Brussels allows. If Scotland chose to vote for independence after #Brexit, that is the path that we would be choosing.  The UK on the other hand would be on a radically different path. This means that Scotland and the UK would be diverging over time in ways that are impossible to predict. But it is quite certain that in time our relationship would become more and more distant. This would inevitably damage the UK’s single market and have negative consequences for Scotland’s trade with other parts of the UK.

For those Scots voters who want independence and for things to remain more or less stay the same #Brexit massively clarifies the issue. It would be impossible for the SNP to maintain that life would stay the same if we voted for independence. #Brexit plus #Scexit looks like a brave new world and we would have to be very brave indeed to take both these steps. Far from #Brexit making Scottish independence more likely it rather makes it virtually impossible. The condition for the possibility of Scottish independence is that the UK remains in the EU.

The debate about the EU is complex. I’ve always seen it as a pros and cons type argument. There are things I like about the EU and things I like less. But let’s be clear one of the pros of the UK voting to leave is that it guarantees for the foreseeable future that Scotland remains in the UK. #Brexit kills Scottish nationalism stone dead. 

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Nationalism is destroying the Eurozone

There is a recent example of a reasonably long lasting currency union between peoples who spoke different languages that is often forgotten. Not very long ago I could spend the same Rouble whether I lived in Moscow, Vilnius or Kiev. Further afield I could spend it in Yerevan or Tbilisi. This currency union endured for at least 70 years and if you count the time when these places were part of the Russian Empire it existed rather longer than that. What made this possible? The most important was that throughout all of these places there was a common language. While people spoke their own languages at home, at school and at work they spoke Russian. Not only this, but in every tiny Soviet town and village there was the same ideology. The streets were called the same sort of names such as Lenin Prospect, Marx Street etc. There were the same statues of Lenin stretching out his hand. People watched the same films and the same television. They more or less eat the same food and drank the same drink. They believed the same things and they were taught to think of themselves as one Soviet people. For this reason Roubles were transferred around the Soviet Union without anyone counting the cost. What the Soviet Union had the Eurozone lacks.

I followed the recent Greek crisis from afar. I was in a pretty little German town and every morning I would read the headlines in the German newspapers. There were two I particularly remember. One had Angela Merkel dressed up as Bismarck and called the Iron Chancellor. The other complained of bailing out Greece with “our money”. I think people have been pretty tough on Germany in recent days. I don’t think that people in the UK would be particularly keen on sending much of our money to Greece either. These are not trivial sums.  But if you think of it as "our money" you frankly should not be in a currency union with the people you think of as them.

But this is the problem altogether. People in the EU are not coming closer together they are moving further apart.  If the EU was serious about creating a single European state it would have made sure by now that everyone was working towards speaking the same language. It doesn’t matter much which one, but let there be one, or else free movement of people really means free movement of people to do menial labour. If we all grew up speaking the same language in school, then I really could work anywhere. As it is, in most EU countries I would only be able to clean floors.

But can we really imagine an EU with a common language and a common ideology, where people felt themselves to be part of one common European people? Can we imagine that Germans will willingly and gladly send money to Greece and think of Greeks as more or less the same sort of people as themselves? If this was going to happen it would have happened by now. This #Grexit crisis was the crisis that was supposed to bring about closer monetary union in the Eurozone.  Perhaps it will. Perhaps 10 or 20 years from now we will have a transfer union  and a full political union in the EU and this will be seen as the first step towards it. But no, I can’t see it.

Where I stayed in Germany there were German flags on every building in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago. There was a statue of Frederick Barbarossa (1122-1190) standing next to Wilhelm the First (1797-1888). It was just fine to celebrate the First Reich (962-1806) and also the Second Reich (1871-1918), there was a gap and some things that were never to be mentioned, but then we could all just leap right over to a new Kaiser and a new Reich.

This is all, no doubt, terribly unfair to Germany, which remains one of the most pleasant, liberal places imaginable. It should be remembered that Germany had no vote on joining the Euro and the people would undoubtedly have preferred to keep the D-Mark. But they have been placed in the position of leadership of the Eurozone and that leadership role looks anything but democratic.

When Greece had its referendum on austerity, it was explained very clearly to them by the Eurozone leaders that voting No meant leaving the Euro and probably the EU. They voted No anyway. But guess what they got still more austerity and they still stayed in the Euro. There were two honourable courses of action that were possible for the Eurozone leaders at this point. Either they should have followed through on their threat and kicked Greece out of the Euro, or they should have recognised that the Eurozone must henceforth be a transfer union, where the words "our" and "your" no longer applied.  The EU has too frequently been ignoring the will of the people in recent years and governments, including the Greek Government, have too frequently cooperated. This really is turning the EU into some sort of modern Holy Roman Empire.

Something died last week. I have always been someone who was willing to go along with the EU as an ideal. I thought a democratic, equal EU was a reasonably good ideal. Let’s bring down borders rather than erect new ones. But that ideal has gone. The Soviet Union fell apart because of its own contradictions, it would be better if the EU did the same. In the end even with a common language and a common ideology the Soviet Union could not overcome the differences that existed in the peoples who lived there. That as much as anything split the whole thing apart. Yet those differences were small compared to the difference between a Greek and a German.

This is our problem. If Czechs cannot bear to live with Slovaks in the same country, if Scots cannot quite bear to live in the same country as English people, how on earth do we expect Greeks and Germans to become one people? The problem as always is nationalism. It is something instinctual and goes back to when Germans were tribes waiting to be united by a great leader. But what unites these self-same Germans today divides them from all others. Germans will give to Germans, but they won’t give to Greeks and this is for reasons that happened both in the 19th century and a thousand years ago.  

If we can’t find a sense of being the same people then it is hard see the EU surviving other than as an Empire held together by an undemocratic bureaucracy. An EU that is willing to crush democracy in Greece and ignore the will of the people living there is not a force for good. Until and unless it can show itself to be a force for good I want no part of it. If Scotland really thinks in terms of "ours" and "yours" with regard to the people in the other parts of the UK, then I want no part of that either. Either we are one British people who share without limit or in the end it would be better for those who don’t feel a part of our common journey to leave. Choose #Scexit, choose independence within the Fourth Reich, after all small countries do wonderfully well there, but I’ll not share it. I want no part of it.  

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.