Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Holy Roman Empire and the EU

In the Thirty Years' War, with an eye on westward expansion, the Ottoman Sultan supported a Prince of Transylvania's ambitions in a war that saw the end the Holy Roman Empire. It was an outside intervention, a reach for territory, but the Ottoman interference in European affairs got nowhere except to give Transylvania a reputation in the European Imagination of a place where evil and treacherous monsters lurk in gloomy forests. By the end of the Thirty Year's War, most of Europe was bankrupt, people were starving, labor was in short supply except for the Dutch and the Swedes who did quite nicely. Funny thing about war, and about bubonic plague, if a working man survives it, he often gets some kind of pay increase and an improvement in working conditions. During the war the English, who were more like pirates and adventurers back then, sneaked around, took advantage where they could. The war ended in 1648 and for the next three centuries there was no European Empire, just a bunch of nations for whom making war was pretty much a given. Interesting too, the war started because the Emperor wished for a uniformity of religion, he didn't like Protestants who were doing pretty well for themselves money-making-wise and most of them were going to go to hell when they died, and the Protestants didn't like Catholics for being envious, or lazy, or devoted to the Pope, or whatever. Then at The Treaty of Rome in 1957 European Nations reckoned upon a whole new idea for a European Empire. It was to begin as a trade agreement with the hope that one day Europe would be a single Political Entity united by common purpose. This more perfect union was to be called the European Economic Community and despite it's incredibly boring name, it was argued the arrangement would benefit all European nations equally, they'd no longer regularly feel the need to engage in what is a fundamentally barbaric behavior which as time went by was becoming increasingly more and more barbaric and expensive.

With respect to the European Economic Community the English whose own traditions were to dominate the foreigner rather than make any attempt to  understand him or attempt to speak his languge, remained very suspicious of some kind of traditional French Trap until 1972 when the United Kingdom agreed to join the Union of Europe on the understanding that it was a most sensitive issue for the an independent former World Power's psyche which would require a Referendum of Public Opinion just to make sure it was good idea and that everyone was actually onboard and had heard about it. In 1975, during the summer, on the 5th of June, the day before the D-Day celebration of the 1944 English Speaking Landings on the beaches of Normandy, the English had that referendum. 67% of the participants in the referendum thought membership of the EEC was good idea. Turnout was 65%. The cynical will argue that the referendum of 1975 was a sneaky tactic used by the British Government to negotiate the best terms for British interests within the Economic Community. More recently Perfidious Albion, following an understandable restlessness in confronting the new economic realities that have followed from the globalized economy, has arranged for another Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in what is now the European Union, which is another totally vapid name for a Noble Dream and bold adventure. This new referendum will be held on 23rd June of this year. And naturally enough there has been outside interference in the form of opinions expressed by people like the United States President, the Europeans themselves, some Australians and the Corporate World. One of the things about the English in particular is that if a foreigner tells them what to do, their immediate instinct is to do the exact opposite. It's an Island Story, it's ripping stuff, passions are high, June is a good cheerful month for these sort of get togethers, you can almost wear a tee shirt, you can have a beer in the back garden if you have a back garden, and the referendum polls are pretty much neck and neck. In 1975, I thought it was an excellent idea to join Europe, but this time I'm staying out of it, and I'll try to tell you why sometime on the 5th of May....

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