Friday, May 06, 2016

Pope, Charlemagne, walls, and European dreams

There are situations in which I envy other countries their religious credentials but at the end, it's likely that I consider Czechia's status as the most atheist country of Europe (and 3rd in the world) to be a net benefit. That's surely the case when I look at the comments by the newest winner of the Charlemagne Prize.

Left-wing Argentine pundit Jorge Mario Bergoglio wasn't expected to accept the Charlemagne award because Charlemagne was as earthly and as physical as you may get while the Vatican claims to be a spiritual country – and Bergoglio runs it under the artistic name "Pope Francis". But Bergoglio's thirst for awards and spotlight was strong enough to defy all the expectations and Pope Francis gave a would-be emotional speech attacking the Europeans.

Holy cow, it was a stupid speech. See The Guardian for a summary.

Francis focused on two main topics: the recommendation to Islamize Europe; and the advice to re-introduce socialism for Europe (now all of Europe, Stalin wasn't ambitious enough), at least for the unemployed youth. Concerning the European visions, we were told:
Europe is struggling to live up to the vision of its founders.
The sentence made me think: Who were the "founders of Europe" supposed to be?

There are different time scales from which we may look at the question. The longest time scales have something to with the oldest founder of Europe – the continental drift. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the continents looked different and you couldn't have isolated Europe on the maps. A sea was separating Northern Europe from Asia some 50 million years ago but at that time, Northern Europe and Southern Europe were largely separated, too. However, some 20 million years ago, Europe was already clumped together – and unified with Asia, too.

Clearly, he didn't mean the geological origins of Europe. He meant Europe in some civilization sense. Who is the founder of Europe as a civilization space?

The early civilizations were born in the Middle East and South Asia a few thousand years ago. Two thousand years ago, the Greco-Roman civilization covered the region around the Mediterranean Sea. North Africa, Southern Europe, and a part of the Middle East belonged to the same empire. People wouldn't think in terms of Europe. Romans used the term Ethiopia (The Land of Burned Faces) for the whole rest of the African continent. But the Roman North Africa didn't belong to Ethiopia, of course.

When did Europe start to "isolate" itself from the other parts of the world? Ironically enough, it was during the reign of Charlemagne (740s-814 AD, reign 800-814 AD). At that time, the newly born Islamists were severely disrupting the interactions between the Roman and Byzantine realms. Charlemagne realized that the civilization he was identifying with has already lost much of the East and he found it important to protect the West.

Charlemagne, who has been a Frankish leader since 768 AD, became the first Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. The Holy Roman Empire that started to exist geographically coincided with the Western European civilization as we know it today. It was Charlemagne who may be called the founder or father of Europe (people have called him Pater Europae) in the sense of a well-defined civilization space. It was Charlemagne who finally placed the Germanic tribes – who used to be the "barbarians" from the Roman viewpoint – to the role previously played by the Romans.

The main reason I am spending so much time with Charlemagne is not that he died 1202 years ago but that Pope Francis accepted a prize named after Charlemagne. I think that it would be pretty much a rule for a person educated in the history to adjust his talk at the Charlemagne Prize ceremony to the life of Charlemagne. For example, I was impressed by an essay by Mr Weigl, an aide to ex-president Klaus, about Charlemagne in 2014 (the 1200th anniversary of his death).

But it seems pretty obvious that unlike his predecessor, Pope Francis has just an extremely superficial knowledge of the history. There was no history or Charlemagne in Francis' Charlemagne Prize speech. Instead, as the rest of the talk made clear, the "founders of Europe" were the Western European politicians who founded the European communities after World War II. Holy cow. It's not only a sign of Bergoglio's lack of education. I think it's also disrespectful. It's like a speech by a winner of the Newton Prize who would talk about Robert Hooke's being the founder of science or something like that. It would be offensive and stupid, right? Bergoglio's comments about his alternative founders of Europe is equally offensive and stupid.

Even if he weren't talking about "Europe" but more specifically about some "peaceful project of integration of the European continent", it would be just plain stupid to place the beginning of the project to the late 1940s. The first European Union of this kind was planned to be established since 1464 AD according to a plan penned by the Czech king George of Poděbrady, an elected king and the last truly ethnic Czech king of Bohemia. There should have been a treaty among all the European Christian powers to preserve peace and cooperation on our European continent – and to stop the "abominable Turk" who had conquered Constantinople in 1453, too.

Fortunately or unfortunately, back in 1464 AD, the project wasn't started because of the opposition by a predecessor of Francis, Pius II. Pius II had different plans than peace on the whole continent – including a crusade to Bohemia. Fortunately, this aßhole didn't realize that plan, either, and even more fortunately, he died in the very same year 1464 AD. But unfortunately, his successor Paul II was an aßhole, too. ;-)

But I am sort of amazed by the arrogance with which this Latin American leftist castigates the Europeans – obviously, his main criticism was addressed to nations in Central Europe such as mine. But first, some socialist memes:
[T]he pontiff called for Europe to reclaim the principles that had been established after the second world war, above all by embracing integration and revamping its economic model to “benefit ordinary people and society as a whole”.
These principles cherry-picking the "ordinary people" were only embraced in the Eastern, communist part of Europe – which partly ceased to be the real Europe. And today, this kind of stuff belongs to speeches of Bergoglio's soulmates such as Hugo Chávez (thank God and His son Jesus Christ, that aßhole is also dead by now). They do not belong to the Western civilization.
His remarks reflected a concern that Europe is coming apart at the seams: from the unwillingness by some countries to deal with the refugee crisis, ...
Some countries such as Greece or Merkel's Germany have been unwilling to deal with the migrant crisis – on the contrary, they have deliberately made the problems worse – but many others are dealing with it just OK. My country and most of its neighbors is protecting the law and our borders – but also the sustainability of the borders in the future – exactly as it should. Clearly, Bergoglio tried to squeeze as many insults to every sentence as possible. The Guardian also recalls his talk from 2014:
The award committee highlighted a speech by Francis to the European parliament in 2014 in which he compared Europe to an old woman who was “no longer fertile and vibrant”.
Excellent. With all the talk about non-discrimination and politeness, it's always OK for a Catholic apparatchik to say that a woman above 40 years of age can't play hide-and-seek because no one would search for her anymore. ;-) So he got the prize and the opportunity to make a new speech because he has made a speech in 2014 saying that Europe was no longer "fertile and vibrant". It's surely true to some extent but the reasons why Europe is no longer fertile and vibrant – to the extent to which it's true – are pretty much diametrically opposite to Bergoglio's explanations.

Most trivially, it's funny that this man is complaining that Europe is no longer fertile and vibrant. He is 79 and if he's vibrant, it's due to Parkinson's disease. But more importantly, the ideas he offers are just slight updates of the dead and no longer vibrant 19th century fringe ideas of Karl Marx and his comrades. Does he really believe that those will make Europe vibrant again?

And then he mentioned the walls:
“Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading. We, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there,” he said.
He told us to tear down the walls. Mr Bergoglio, why don't you start with the huge walls around the Vatican City? Walls are natural and they help to protect what Europe has stood for. Europe had to defend itself by some kind of walls at since Charlemagne's reign when it was born.

He also asked some questions that would be good if the details in between the lines weren't totally wrong:
Francis questioned, in halting language, the direction Europe has taken: “What has happened to you, Europe … the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters? What has happened to you … the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?”
Why are you so f*cked up, Europe, Bergoglio asks? From some perspectives, this whining is just an obnoxious unjustifiable insult of 500 million people by an old foreigner. From other perspectives, it's a good question. Why do the people who should normally be successors of Charlemagne – like Merkel and Juncker who were present in Rome when Bergoglio was getting the prize – fail to be doing what Europe has been doing since the times of Mohammed or Charlemagne, namely protecting our civilization against the powers and people who don't respect our values and who just don't belong here? Why do they allow our poetry, philosophy, art, music, and letters to be threatened by the intimidation by the uncivilized parts of the world? And why don't they show this Latin American man his proper, modest place?

Latin America as we know it today is largely a settlement started by the Europeans, too. But it's still dramatically different than Europe and it's obvious that Bergoglio doesn't understand Europe. For example, we hear:
Europe, he emphasised, had always had a multicultural identity and that required a culture of dialogue and the “respect [of] the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to”.
But that's simply not true. Europe has always avoided "multiculturalism" – the amalgamation of cultures. For at least two thousand years, Europe has been a diverse place with many cultures. But that doesn't mean it worshiped multiculturalism - in the sense of the amalgamation and day-to-day interactions of the different cultures. Instead, the different cultures were largely separated by borders and protected in their rather pure forms. This is true not only for the "universal European flavors" that were protected against the non-European ones. Even different European cultures were carefully preserving their differences. For centuries, the Europeans resisted the temptation to mix goulash with lasagne and strawberry dumplings.

"Multiculturalism" is obviously a new word but in the context of Europe, it's even a new policy. It has simply no tradition in Europe. All other continents are used to much more "multiculturalism" than Europe. The United States is a melting pot of cultures. Latin America has mixed the Spanish immigrants with the Native Americans etc. But that's simply not how Europe has worked. He tried to describe Europe but what he said about Europe was pretty much exactly upside down – they were properties that are famously not characteristic for the Old Continent. Europe is a place where we try to keep the numerous good old original flavors. So even though Latin America may be considered spiritually closer to Europe than the Middle East, for example, as I said, Bergoglio is still defending values that don't coincide with the European ones.

This kind of a foreign intervention is arrogant and unreasonable. I would always find it natural not to dictate how Latin Americans should organize their affairs. It's a different part of the world I am not familiar with. And if other Europeans were trying the Latin Americans what they have to do with their economic, social, and immigration policies, I am sure that the Latin Americans as well as all the leftists of the world would scream something about colonialism. But when a Latin American guy tries to castigate Europe, it's considered OK for some reason.

Bergoglio is in no way a European leader. He is not supposed to help to direct Europe in any direction. If he has some influence on the Europeans, it's an influence related to some Europeans' Christian belief. But for many centuries, Europe has respected the secular principles that separate the faith from the political power. The influence over religious affairs simply doesn't give anyone any legitimate political power over the earthly affairs anymore. "Europe" in the political sense is a political issue (and so are all detailed European matters) so the name of our continent simply has nothing to do with the content of Christianity (which isn't specifically associated with Europe) and Bergoglio has no credentials to talk about the European values and politics. He has the freedom to speak but he can't be surprised that we consider him a pushy talkative bastard if he does so.

Aside from the pro-immigrant comments, he has advocated some form of socialism, too. I don't want to go into that mess. But in all cases, what he is doing seems inappropriate for the head of the Catholic Church and I think that the leader of such a church who just blindly adopts all these fashionably kitschy slogans that we normally hear from spiritual monster minds such as Leonardo DiCaprio is de facto a sign that the Catholic Church is approaching its death.

Why should the people need the Catholic Church if the officials in the church are doing pretty much the same things as folks in Greenpeace or some George Soros' organizations? With leaders such as Bergoglio, the Catholic Church is pretty much redundant. It's just a small appendix of all the world's left-wing NGOs. Similar left-wing or pro-migration talks may attract new fans to him. But these people won't be attracted to Christianity or Jesus Christ. With this attitude, the Catholic Church is simply dissolving as a sugar cube in a cup of globalized left-wing coffee.

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