Monday, May 17, 2010

European mirrors

I just finished writing a research paper about the unification of Eastern and Western European countries since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I will not bore you with the 10 pages of quotes from 7 authoritative sources, but I will share some of my own observations by extrapolation.

For starters, the same obstacles that face the EU since its current configuration beginning in 1992 are the same obstacles that have faced all of us -- persons and countries alike -- since the beginning of time: money and power. In the case of the Eastern European countries, I mean the financial instability of their new post-soviet independence, and the political power that those fledgling countries strove to build out of the ashes of their former U.S.S.R.-military-backed selves.

In short, one of the largest problems was that the dream of having the democratic advantages of the Western European countries was far less complicated than transforming that dream into reality.

The Western European countries, for their part, were a bit skeptical to quickly admit the Eastern ones into the EU, and take responsibility for the financial ramifications of the fledgling nations. Can you blame them? Think about the current debate over Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state, if you need a current reference.

But back to Europe. Ideally, the fall of the Berlin Wall represented hope for all of Europe to be united as one continent, one smorgasbord of peoples, one allied group of nations. Realistically, there were not only financial obstacles to overcome with the Eastern countries disparity troubles, but also political corruption in the new countries, where emergent governments were still rising in their own yeast. Trust had to be built -- trust in one's own country, trust in neighboring countries, trust in the EU... trust everywhere! Trade had to be established, commerce had to begin and then begin making a profit. No longer was the statist government going to do it all for you, so there were even some bootstraps that had to be pulled up.

Nostalgia set in. "Oh, for the good ole days when the government just told us what to do and we did it." Now it's "work work work, and there's no guarantee at the end of the day."

Ah, capitalism, how comfortable you are to me. Risk and reward, ventures gained, ventures lost; opportunity abounds regardless. But not everyone thinks as I do, which is fortunate, because then the choir would be singing and I'd just sit down from my pulpit bored with the sound of my own voice.

So these fledgling countries finally got the chance to graze in that greener pasture of the Western European countries that they had so longed to graze in and found out that it takes work to move from one patch of grass to the next. They floundered, they scraped by, they fought with themselves, they argued with the EU, they whined, they picked themselves up, they cried blood and shed their own skin and they redefined themselves in spite of, if not because of themselves. Hoorah! Possibility can begin to become probability and even fact. History evolves before our very eyes, and fiercely we charge into the future.

So what? So what! You tell me. There is a mirror before you. Do you dare look at it?

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