Thursday, June 28, 2012

Does Europe need a new Renaissance?



In the recent years Europe comes on the spotlight of the global news, only for its economic woes and inability to cope with the ongoing economic crisis. 

Just like many times in the past, Europe is in the center of the global interest for all the wrong reasons. We have been there before so many times and as some say, we always recovered and became stronger. 

But how will Europe look like, if we ever get out of this new low we have reached? In the past after every dark page, there was a golden period; the Renaissance after the Dark Ages, new European kingdoms after all the invasions and wars. With destruction always came rebirth and Europe always remained one of the leading forces on this planet, a main contributor of human history as we know it.

Also, we should consider what would be the catalyst that will put Europe back into the reigns of any progress of this world. What sectors we should encourage to grow, what resources do we have to exploit and how we could put it all together? 

If we examine European history, our greatest achievements and contributions to this world were our culture, science and industries. In the recent years they all suffer in a bigger or lesser extend. Long gone are the days that we enjoyed European (French or Italian for example) music, films and art. The days that European fashion was in its heydays, our factories were producing, our products were sought after all over the world and prominent European literature and philosophy were influencing the way the world thought.

Europe today listens to American hit music and watches Hollywood films.  Our clothes and most of the goods and gadgets we purchase are made in China or India. There are very few prominent scientific discoveries or breakthroughs and very few well known writers, poets, thinkers or philosophers. We live in a fast consumerist and ephemeral society, largely influenced by the “Anglo-Saxon” or American way of living, while our economies are now based on services, banking, the markets and the monopolies of the few. 

Europe is the continent who influenced the most this planet, for good and for bad. Starting from the antiquity and the Greek and Roman miracles in drama, philosophy, astronomy and mathematics, other later European nations continued their traditions; French, German, Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Dutch, Flemish and Portuguese explorers, scientists, philosophers, scholars and artists contributed to the enrichment, expansion and the zenith of European culture in all four corners of the Earth. 

Later, after so many wars and strife Europe found itself at the heart of the industrial revolution, which fuelled and was fuelled by another two world wars. During this period that shaped the most our modern day Europe, we had great technological and industrial advances that unfortunately also came with great tragedies. After the wars Europe was devastated so it had to lean on and accept the help from America, in order to stand on its feet again.

That came with a price: our economies today are modeled after America and are relying on the banking sector and the markets, just like it was decided after the wars, during the cold war period. Our capitalist societies were formed during that time and 70 years later this system is in crisis. Europe is at cross-roads. But it is not just a financial crisis; it is a social, cultural and ethical crisis above all.

After the wars many of our fathers had to live in absolute poverty and deprivation and had to work really hard. So it was very easy to lure them and turn them into over spenders: all it had to be done was to pour bucket loads of cheap money into our economies and their  pockets, created in our banking system with credit and bad loans and that was it. People went mad and wanted to live our version of the “American Dream!” Be able to spend and have the lifestyle they watched for years in the Hollywood films. 

That was going on for decades in our countries. Due to globalization, a phenomenon that again seems to favour the richer of this world, we got rid of our factories and industries and moved them to China because of their very cheap work force. We became manic consumers that even the music we listen to is ephemeral and so we have created reality shows to satisfy our appetite for junk.

We even prefer to eat junk-food. Most of the young kids today in the developed European countries do not want to be doctors or lawyers anymore, rather popular celebrities, foot-balers and foot-balers' wives, pop singers and models. 

So how can we reverse all this decay and not only revive our economies but our culture as well, as those two seem to go hand in hand in Europe’s history? My opinion is to examine as a group of nations what natural resources we have in every country and exploit them collectively. We should set up pan-European bodies that will fund and invest in exploiting those resources, reinstall our industries and invest in new ones like green energy. 

But also invest in reviving and promoting our culture and heritage, our music, cinema, cartoons, art, fashion, architecture and literature. Subsidize the artists and scholars, not the bankers! Michelangelo was subsidised by the then rich religious elite of the time, in order to create his most famous artworks that we still admire today. What are we doing to promote culture to our kids and help them experiment with it and be creative?
We should be exploiting every potential recourse of growth and income we have, not just our banking, property and other financial sectors. Easy profit and money only created bubble economies and we saw the outcome of these recently. But if we want to achieve all the above, we will have to re-educate our youth and promote different kind of role models. 

With that, we should promote legislations that would help young people in Europe to express themselves, start business, start a family or become fully independent as soon as possible and that of course requires to combat youth unemployment. Only then our youth will reach their creative potential. We should establish tax reliefs for the young, not the rich few. New job opportunities in our new industries for all young people, all over Europe not just the rich “North!”

That of course will mean that many will lose their monopolies, especially in the rich countries. We will see a transfer and sharing of wealth, but not in a bail-out form as we are used to now. We won’t have the taxes of the workers of a few countries be used to keep unproductive and easy to manipulate the rest of their “partners.” Rather shared opportunities equally distributed across Europe and not just in few.

New education systems and universities that can be linked or cooperate with each other even more closely than now, will enable our young people to become young scientists. We could use those new scientists to expand our innovation and scientific research.

That in turn will create a new type of industrial revolution. Instead of wasting money in bailing out the banks, securing the interests of the few, keep the status quo and balance of power in place, we will have a collective renaissance across Europe. In all necessary fields: cultural, scientific, industrial and economic. Simply because they all have to go together, if the stability and prosperity is meant to last. 

An educated person with reasonable career opportunities does not easily make the mistakes that many in the hardest hit from the crisis countries like Greece, Portugal and Ireland did over the past decades. Tricked, manipulated and deluded by their leaders who answered to rich elites inside and outside their nations, with limited education and qualifications, is there any wonder that they messed up?

But our leaders instead of promoting growth and investments in all the spheres that I mentioned above, they are looking to promote only economic growth, in the form of bail-outs and support for the banking system. That unfortunately has negative effects in all societies and in Europe collectively. It creates divisions among the European populace and it impoverishes the receivers of this “aid.”

That aid that has as only purpose the exploitation of the natural resources of the weaker nations by the rich elites of the northern European countries. We can see that clearly in the case of Greece, where our lenders ask from us to sell to them heaven and earth, in return for their “generosity” and “support.”

Sixty years ago, while the ashes of Europe were still warm, some enlightened people dreamed of a better, different Europe. And that led to what we called today the E.U. the European Union. But this dream became a nightmare recently, simply because our leaders are so easily corrupted by money and power. They rich elites of some countries dictate the fate of the rest of the continent and drive them into the old feuds, divisions and nationalism, a dangerous mix to have with an economic crisis. 

So instead of unity, diversity, solidarity, and growth we have bigotry, nationalism, greed, protectionism and divisions. The dream of real European renaissance after WW2 was flushed down the drain with the help of billions of euro from the banks, the help of the markets and the rating agencies and the power mongering of our ruling elites. And even still, on the verge of a total and catastrophic collapse, they refuse to invest in our youth’s future rather save and protect the investments of the few.

To me they just reflect the decay that Europe suffers from; we are an old, tired and sick continent. The remedy to this situation is not just a financial one. It must include a cultural and industrial regeneration, a new renaissance that will mark a new path in our history. Hopefully we will be able to walk this path together, united in some form with the common good in mind. A utopia? Most likely. But the more our leaders waste time trying to preserve the interests of the lobbies they answer to, the more this utopia becomes more necessary and urgent!



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