Category Archives: Philosophy and Miscellaneous

Philosophical thoughts and other miscellaneous notes

2012 Review and Comeback

It takes a lot to come back to something you forgot you had. Well, that is what is going to happen with this blog. Ever since I started studying a Masters degree in European Politics and Policies, as well as working for Revolve Magazine, I have neglected to write for my blog. Now, I am back. In the coming weeks I will make a review of the past year, when I attended a forum in Sofia, Bulgaria on renewable energy and waste management; traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 Conference; became acquainted with the challenges facing cross-border connections in the EU through an organization called Friends of the Supergrid; and visited Tunisia to research the ongoing transition to democracy in the North-African country. So, dear readers, get ready because in the coming weeks there will be stories about political gambles, near-death bus rides and about people from around the world.

Contemporary Misconceptions of the Democracy We Live In

In the past two weeks, two events have dominated the news coverage on the European continent. One was the new bailout deal agreed by the now removed Greek government with the European Union, especially through the help of Germany and France. The honorable attempt of Mr. Papandreu to call a referendum was quickly silenced and he is no longer in office.

The second was the recent step-down of Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The only reason this occurred was that his own government passed emergency fiscal measures under pressure from the European Union, especially France and Germany. I do not argue that many may rejoice at the news, neither do I defend Mr. Berlusconi.

It seems we live in a new era of democracy, where the same states that uphold the principles of the Treaty of Westphalia whenever they feel threatened, ignore those principles when they want to defend their own interests. I draw parallels here, because in the contemporary situation financial and economic sovereignty is just as important as territorial sovereignty was in 1648. Continue reading

European Analogies and Myths

In the midst of the current financial/debt crisis in Europe, there are many opinions formed on the ‘way out’, as well as proposals for ‘a solution’. On a more satirical note, I wish to express some views on the charge to unify Europe through tighter fiscal policy and the single currency we use.

Firstly, not many people are aware of where the name of our continent comes from. In Ancient Greek mythology, Europa is the name of a Phoenician woman of high lineage. In one myth, Europa is abducted by Zeus, who disguises himself as a white bull, and takes her to the island of Crete. There, she becomes the first queen of the island, and receives three gifts from the God –  a giant man made of bronze, a dog that never fails to catch what he is hunting, and a javelin that never misses. From this stems the myth of “The Abduction of Europa”.

How is this relevant? Well, Zeus was a Greek god, and he abducts Europa. In the current crisis, the EU Member State which is in most trouble is Greece. It has a debt of approximately 160% of GDP and is having problems paying it. They have already received one bailout and are in the process of obtaining another, given that they erect fast reforms designed to raise capital. It seems they have gotten the myth backwards though – Zeus abducts Europa and gives her gifts, while at the moment the Greeks have abducted Europe and are receiving gifts from her. Using this argument, any politician would probably blame the Greek educational system for not teaching people the myth properly, therefore completely missing the point.

Secondly, the last time that most of Europe was united was during the Roman Empire. At its maximal extent, it covered approximately 6.5 million km of land surface, which is more than the EU’s current 4.3 million km. One would say that the EU might have less area, but it has more democracy than the Empire. Wait… who elected Barroso, van Rompuy and the college of Commissioners again? Sounds like the return of Julius Caeser’s appointment as perpetual dictator by the Roman Senate. Food for thought right there.

However, we should not forget what happened to the Roman Empire – it broke down. The societal collapse and disintegration of the political, economic, military and institutional setup of the Empire, together with the foreign barbarian invasions, led to the great fall. Since then, the people of Europe have fought amongst each other, defined borders and built fences to keep foreigners out. Breaking down the borders through the Schengen Agreement marks a huge leap forward, which has led to a more inclusive EU, and a more exclusive Europe. But the real question is – is the single European currency erecting more borders than it breaks down?

Finally, there is a nursery rhyme which goes like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Using the ‘replace’ function on your word-processor could yield the following result:

Europe sat on a wall,
Europe had a great fall.
All the Member States and all the Eurocrats
Couldn’t put Europe together again.

You would think that Nicolas Sarkozy, who has three children, would have thought of this before. Yet, Angela Merkel has no children, but she should heed the advice anyway.

In the end, I can actually combine the three points above to form a coherent picture, clearer than an EU Regulation. In Greek mythology, Europe was abducted and made a Queen. Under the Roman Empire, Europe was united to a larger extent than it is now. Then it fell like Humpty Dumpty and broke into the contemporary 50 countries constituting the territory of the continent. Whether all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can put it back together again is the EU’s ongoing battle.

Thinking Outside the Box

When faced with a difficult situation, you often hear the phrase ‘think outside the box’. People who can do that in a good way are often rewarded for being clever and insightful. For certain, this way of thinking is difficult, but for a variety of reasons.

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Kant’s Conception of Cosmopolitanism and its Limitations

Immanuel Kant lived from 1724 until 1804 during the time of the Enlightenment, but more importantly it was a time of revolution and nation-building. To him, sovereignty was the most important right of each individual nation-state, as specified by the peace of Westphalia in 1648. It was based on two principles: territoriality and the exclusion of external actors from interfering in domestic affairs. No state was allowed to interfere with the workings of another state. Kant’s cosmopolitanism is tailored to suite this ideal as much as possible, and this is what limits his conception.

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World Cup 2010 Squads

I know that this post is not like anything else I have written, but there is an unusual connection between football and politics sometimes. I think everyone who has seen or heard a match commentary knows that there is a lot of war-type jargon used in football. For example, the players are sometimes called troops and the match is a battle, with the cliche of ‘last line of defence’ coming up now and again. Nevertheless, there is something interesting which struck me when I was examining the World Cup squads: some of the biggest national teams, and favorites to win the tournament, pick players only from their domestic leagues!

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Why is Bulgaria Celebrating Today?

For people in Western Europe it might be interesting to know why the people of the East European country of Bulgaria are celebrating today. When asked, we answer: “today is the third of March, our independence day.” Yet, there are a few details, myths and historically misinterpreted facts which should be noted. Continue reading