Bismark’s Greatest Error

December 12, 2008

I was taking part in a discussion about the persons that people considered were admirable in history, and someone (not a German but an American, I think) said they admired Bismark because he had brought about the unification of Germany. Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, Count of Bismarck-Schönhausen, Duke of Lauenburg, Prince of Bismarck, nicknamed the Iron Chancellor, did indeed unify Germany, but at what a terrible cost! Because he did it by the exercise of war, and of power, and of dictatorship from above, he caused untold suffering to the ordinary people of that country.

And his actions also paved the way for the imperial expansionist policies that would come later, and which led to the two World Wars of the 20th century.

So while it is true that unification of the country can be seen as a good thing, the way that Bismark did it was the wrong way, and so it must be counted, not as his greatest achievement, but as Bismark’s greatest error. We now know that what he SHOULD have done is the following:

1. Give every man and woman the vote.

2. Institute a High Authority to regulate coal and steel production, thereby creating a “de facto solidarity” among the many small states of Germany.

3. Devolve as much power as possible to the lowest level of government, so that decision-making and policy-making power would be as close as possible to the citizen.

If he had done these things, instead of ruling with a rod of iron and building up powerful armies, the sufferings of Europeans in the 20th century would have been averted.

The Cultures of Germany, Italy, and France

December 11, 2008

I did a post a couple of days ago that was prompted by a question someone had asked on BlogCatalog and which I just randomly happened to see on there. The question was “What comes to mind when you think of Sweden?”

Well, I was thinking a bit more about this, and I decided to do a similar thing for all the other countries of the European Union, and in that way, I can compile my own personal view of the EU. To keep this a bit manageable, I will start with just a few of the 27 countries. I’ll start by looking at the bigger countries, and the ones I know most about, the larger countries of Western Europe. These are Germany, Italy and France.

When I think of Germany, it is music that comes to mind. Among my favourite classical composers are Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler. This is cheating slightly because two of these were from Austria, and another spent most of his life in Austria, but as Germany and Austria are both in the EU it doesn’t matter, because in a sense, they are now both part of the same country.

When I think of Italy, it is food and painting that comes to mind. I love Leonardo and Michelangelo, and also Botticelli and Masaccio and Caravaggio and Tintoretto and many others. I also like pizza and pasta and ice cream.

When I think of France, it is science and mathematics that comes to mind. The list of French scientists is much too long to be contained in one blog post. I also think of Paris, which is the greatest city on earth.

My aim is to post in detail on all of the above topics in the coming weeks. Also, I intend to look at all the other countries of the European Union in the same kind of way.

So I suggest that you bookmark or favourite or follow or subscribe to this blog, to partake of the delights that are to come! And I will welcome any comments (nice polite ones please) with any thoughts you may have about the EU and its amazing culture, or about any of the individual countries.

The European Union

December 5, 2008

The European Union is rapidly moving towards being a country in its own right. Some people are still resistant to the idea, but attitudes are gradually changing. This is because when people see the benefits to themselves and to those around them, they begin to come around to accepting the situation. This is always the way the European Union has worked, since it began.

Though really, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the time when it did begin. This is because the European Union was not inaugurated on any particular day, as the United States of America was. The European Union grew organically. The prime movers of the project were those people who had a vision of how things could be, and they gently began to work towards the fulfilment of those visions. The whole process had to be gradual, to give everyone the time to get used to the changes.

After all the events of Europe’s history, the people of the continent have a deep mistrust of anything that seems to them to be in any way dictatorial. Europe has had to suffer more than its fair share of dictators. So everything now has to be done by agreement, and by treaty, and by the democratic process.

So everything takes time. But over the last 50 years, the countries of Europe have moved inexorably towards what is termed “ever closer union” in the now famous phrase.

The original dream of the Union was to create a situation in which the European nations would never again go to war with one another. The dream actually began not long after the end of World War I, but because the punitive sanctions set upon Germany after that conflict were too severe, the continent had to endure the rise of Hitler and the Second World War before the dream of union and peace could at last be set in motion.

On this link http://eurofile1/2008/12/ode-to-joy you can hear the famous “Ode To Joy” by Ludwig van Beethoven, which has been adopted as the anthem of the European Union. Beethoven incorporated the tune into the final movement of his Ninth Symphony, setting it to the lyrics of the poem by Schiller which gives the tune its name.