Whither Europe?

Dan O’Brien in The Irish Times on the ECB’s and EU’s desperate firefighting attempts to hold the Euro (and European union) together (again).

crisis replay

With each passing week it seems increasingly clear that Europe is coming to a fork in the road: one route leads to deeper integration, with very considerable political implications; the other leads down into the dark valley of disorderly disintegration. The decision on which way to go will be among the most important collective choices taken by Europeans in the post-second World War era.

In the bigger global picture, is this all part of the wider decline of Europe and America in the face of the rise of China, India and the developing world and increasingly scarce global resources like oil?

I’m no economist, but it sure looks like a historic power shift to me when it is China (the lender) telling the US (the borrower) to get its financial house in order.

Big and probably unanswerable questions. And big ’emotions’ at play – fear, uncertainty, worry, anger, helplessness to name but a few.

What’s your feeling about the crisis of confidence in the West?

The late 20th century Western lifestyle has been built around numerous assumptions including – continual growth, stability, progress, ‘the West being best’ and, fairly recently, an unbounded no-limits ‘turbo-capitalism’ being the means to fast-track even more prosperity without damaging side-effects.

And, as Michael Kruse is often pointing out, Western capitalism has delivered an astonishing success story.

But it seems to me that modernist assumptions of endless progress are now looking profoundly shakey.  And I wonder if those assumptions have shaped the western mindset so deeply that we Westerners are struggling to contemplate a new global order? Are we living through a paradigm shift? Where we are being reminded that there is no guarantee that the West is the default ‘normal’ way life ‘should be’ and ‘always will be’.

And more personally, what does it mean to have faith in God in the face of unemployment, an unpayable mortgage and deep insecurity?

As the bard said a while ago, the times they are a changin.

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2 thoughts on “Whither Europe?

  1. Allow me to quote another bard – not quite so well known as Mr. Zimmerman but worth a hearing none the less. He is reflecting on Israel’s wilderness experience and maybe has a message for ours:

    “Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”

    “Israel learned at Sinai, and most especially in the fourth command on Sabbath, that there is a viable way to organize the neighborhood outside the rat race.”

    “Our immediate experience of the kingdom of scarcity is our entitled consumerism in which there is always a hope for more, in which we imagine that something more will make us more comfortable, safer, and happier.”

    “Empires set quotas that can never be met”.

    “Why do you sign on for scarcity when you know the truth of God’s abundance?”

    All from – Journey to the Common Good by Walter Brueggemann

  2. Thanks Sean, wonderfully apt words of Brueggemann. The world of global finance and the media which report it sure is one huge ‘anxiety system’.

    The older I get with more to worry about, the more profoundly searching Jesus’ apparently simple words in Matthew 5:25-34 seem. Worth pasting them in to read again …. I can’t imagine any teaching so shockingly counter-cultural (and liberating) for life in the 21st century West as this?

    25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

    28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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