Tags

, , , , , , ,

Europe is actually a state of mind. It began as a myth, the abduction of Europa, daughter of Agenor in Tyre, and it evolved into a way of life based on the sense of  belonging to a common civilization. this mentalité collective developed through the civilizing process itself, the shared experience of living under Roman law, Christian religion, and the secular culture developed in the Age of Enlightenment.
That common culture fell apart in the nineteenth century, when Europe broke up into nation-states, but its principles endured. Having been articulated by philosophers everywhere from Kant in Königsberg to Filangieri in Naples, they were proclaimed in 1789 by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights… These rights are liberty, security, and resistance to oppression.” They were reaffirmed by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man adopted by the United Nations in 1948. They stand still as the foundation of the Europe that has risen again at the end of the twentieth century.

Kissinger’s famous boutade — “If I call Europe, what number do I call?” — misses the point because Erope corresponds to a set of symbols and a system of values. The euro is one of them, but its value will fluctuate erratically, whereas the values of the Enlightenment are rooted deeply in the past.[1]


[1] Robert Darnton, “The Unity of Europe: Culture and Politeness”, in: Robert Darnton, George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century (New York, 2003), 76-7.