Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Proof is in the Pudding

by Madeleine Kando

In his book 'The Tyranny of Guilt', Pascal Bruckner explains the causes of Europe's guilt complex vis-à-vis the rest of the world. The best approach to living conscious-free is to become a passive observer. Europe stands on the side-lines in fear of repeating the atrocities it has committed in the past.

Is there an analogy to be drawn here between nations and people? Does old age inherently imply that one is more careful, less adventurous, less confident about the future and one's ability to affect it?

Youth, on the other hand, is quick to act, certain that it has the answers to any problem. Bruckner points out that America is now in the driver's seat, not because it wants to, but because it still believes in itself, in its ability to change the course of world events. Compared to Europe, America is the offspring. Europe looks on, a passive, critical, judging parent, but does not want to get involved.

He has good advise for Europe: let it teach America to restrain itself, to become more critical of its own actions, to not be so intoxicated by its own vigor. Exactly like a wise parent would do with an unruly teenager. But Europe is still licking its wounds and cannot exercise the wisdom that it has acquired after all its suffering.

Europe's days of colonialism were full of atrocities, injustices and insults to the colonized. But it also gave those former colonies a way to look at themselves through the eyes of a culture that respects the rule of law, individual freedom and democracy.

Introspection is the hallmark of maturity. That is what the West has accomplished. Introspection and an ability to tolerate contradictions. The ability to acknowledge its faults. Islam, on the other hand, does not tolerate ambiguity. It is a safe-haven against too much liberty, too much freedom and too much equality.

Europe and America can tolerate the scrutiny of the light cast upon them by the press and still remain intact. That is what Muslim fundamentalists despise the most in us. That is what is most threatening to them. A light shining on an imperfection with all its ugly truths revealed, for everyone to see, to judge and eventually, to forgive.

Bruckners' advice for Europe is to stop wallowing in shame and move on. There is plenty of injustice in the world that needs fixing. Nobody is served by having a catatonic giant sit on the benches watching the game while wallowing in self-pity.

I would add that Europe now has a real chance to prove that it can let bygones be bygones. Because of the economic crisis, there is a threat of re-nationalization and the collapse of the EU. The stronger nations (in particular Germany) should step up to the plate and do what’s right by ‘Europe’, not by their own countries. leave comment here