Divided Europe, History Repeating

It was the election heard around the world, as the French Front National party known for their anti-immigration, anti-Euro and the EU, anti-anything else that signifies unified Europe won 25% of the vote, increasing its number of representatives from 3 to 24.  “Earthquake” as one French newspaper’s headline called it; the results of French election which ultimately is reflection of French people will have an enormous impact on French, and ultimately Eurozone politics.

Then again, as with all political and social movements, the triumph of the French Front National party didn’t happen overnight.  It was a shift that was long time coming.  Although the Eurozone economic crisis in the recent years has exacerbated the concept of united Europe and the need for more integration among Eurozone economies, across Europe, anti-establishment parties of the far right and hard left has been gaining support for more than a decade.

The European continent is the homeland for many diverse cultures struggling to maintain their national identity, their ways of life, culture and traditions.  It has been a hotbed (hyperbolically speaking) of conflict since the beginning of time.  The drive toward homogenization, wars and ethnic purification isn’t anything new in Europe, and as “seismic” as it may seem, the recent political movement in Europe is merely history repeating.  Sadly, many people who are facing spiraling economy, recession and unemployment have willfully chosen to forget the horrific outcome of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, and European politics is increasingly turning to the simplistic and populist forces that brought 20th century Europe to the brink of destruction.

France’s National Front, Greece’s extremist Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik and, for the first time, a parliamentarian representing the neo-Nazi German NPD are on the rise.  In other words, political parties whose core constituencies are attracted by xenophobia, nativist nationalism, anti-immigrant rhetoric (especially against Muslims) and anti-Semitism are now shaping European social, economic and foreign policies.

So, what does this mean for the citizens of Europe?  Aside from the theoretical rhetoric and hyperboles on front page news, how does this “political earthquake” affect the daily lives of Europeans?

Although dismantling European Union and single European currency is still unlikely, the tension and divide between nations are increasing.  Almost everyone I’ve talk to have been all too eager to tell me a list reasons why countries other than their own are the root of the problem and in turn EU and European Central Bank are to be blame for their economic demise – looking for a scapegoat.  In the eyes of the Germans, it’s the frivolous lifestyle of the Greeks that are to be blamed, and for the Greeks, it’s the frugality and austerity of the Germans that are policing and stunting their economy.

Although most Europeans would vehemently deny that they support political parties that are openly anti-immigration, anti-foreigners, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim, they are more than willing to share their xenophobic and ethnocentric views and wouldn’t hesitate to make derogatory comments about foreigners and immigrants.

While setting up a research center in Frankfurt, Germany that would serve as a training center for university students from all over the world, I was told by the managers that although they were willing to bring and train these highly educated and qualified students from countries like Poland, Spain, and Nigeria, they were not willing to offer permanent positions for them to stay and work in Germany, as it means taking jobs away from Germans.  It was the same sentiment shared and communicated throughout my company’s research center all over Europe – “Germany for Germans”; “France for French”; rest of the world be damned.

While Europe’s political leaders are buried in bureaucracy, and power struggle persists among its members, more and more of its citizens are joining their parliamentarians who seeking to douse the flames of intolerance in order to gain votes.  Tragically, they’re gaining ground, and history is repeating itself.

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About S. In

a cultural critic, an avid traveler and a purveyor of social justice and education equity View all posts by S. In

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