Sunday April 20 2014

Where is Europe headed?

By Timothy Kalyegira

For the last several weeks, Europe has been caught up in a crisis, the likes of which it has not had to face since the early 1980s.

Sensing and perhaps acting on secret intelligence, the Russian Federation has moved to counter the recent reach by the Western military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for greater influence in Eastern Europe.

Civil unrest that began in Europe’s second-largest country, Ukraine, in November 2013 climaxed into a popular, pro-West uprising in February 2014 in which the elected president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted.

Hardly had celebrations in Ukraine’s capital Kiev and in Western capitals begun than Russian special forces were sent to the border with Ukraine, which then took control of the historically Russian region of Crimea, a referendum was hastily called, the residents of Crimea voted unanimously to return to Russia and that was that.

The annexation (according to the West) or re-possession (according to Russia) of Crimea came as a major shock to the United States, not used to seeing any country answer them back since the end of world Communism in 1990.

Right now, there are similar moves by pro-Russian agents to repeat what happened in Crimea in other parts of eastern Ukraine, and there have been enough skirmishes to suggest that by the end of April, civil war such as what we saw in breakaway republics and enclaves of Yugoslavia in the 1990s could be raging in Ukraine. In the meantime, the West appears unable to do anything about Russia.

Since the end of Communism and the triumph of Western liberal political and market economic thought after 1990, the West began a steady moral decline.

Its politics became increasingly celebrity-centred, the issues often petty, Pop culture came to permeate almost every area of life, a consumer lifestyle led to personal and governmental debt and the last vestiges of historical Roman Catholic-Anglican-Lutheran Christianity came under assault with fewer and fewer Europeans attending church or believing in God.

If it were not for the increasing number of Muslim immigrants into Western Europe and a few pockets of conservative Catholicism, Western Europe by now would have become almost entirely pagan and secular.

Complacency sets in.
However, Europe continued to innovate at a rapid pace as the world entered into the digital era, with the Internet spreading into every corner of daily life.

White Europe remains what it has been for centuries: The most influential continent, culture and people in history. “No other continent has had such great influence on world history,” stated the World Book Encyclopedia in its 1994 edition.

Some of the biggest corporate and brand names today (Google, Amazon, Apple, the Daily Beast, Facebook, Wikipedia, Cisco Systems) were founded or re-invented during this time starting in the late 1990s.
European football leagues, from Spain to France, England, Germany and Italy, became global attractions in a way never before seen.

By Europe, I don’t just mean the main continental land mass and offshore islands between Asia to the east, the Atlantic to the west, the Arctic to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.
I include American Europe that is Canada and the United States in North America and Oceania Europe that is Australia and New Zealand in Oceania and White South Africa.

That is what most strikes one about Europe. Theirs is a world of continuously thinking, innovating and breaking new ground in an upward spiral to ever and ever greater heights, the goal of which seems to be spiritual.

When one buys an electronic item, there is usually an imprint at the back stating that this product meets European Union quality standards. The EU standard has now become the de facto standard of the world.

I have not seen people so well informed to the level of in depth as Europeans.
After watching these people, it comes as a shock to tune in to a Ugandan or Kenyan television or radio station and observe how much we struggle to think creatively.

It is charming watching people for whom thinking and piecing together disparate ideas comes so easily, when I consider how much we struggle with abstract thought here in Africa.

In fact, because we are now in a period of history driven by high technology, the people best suited to solve Africa’s endemic problems are not Africans, but Europeans in this, their area of long-standing expertise.

Every single branch of human knowledge is important to these people. No single stone will they leave unturned in their pursuit of the best, the most complex, most unreachable and most important.
Their demand for information, the need to know, analyse and understand among Europeans is of an insatiable kind such as is wholly unimaginable in Africa.

Europeans are the primary Explorers of the Mind and of Space and Time, penetrating as many corners of reality and the known universe as it is humanly possible to get.
They lead the world in technological innovation, philosophical though, fashion and materials design, formulation of legal, administrative and economic systems and in all branches of research and development.

Russia, though, has exposed the complacency and self-indulgence that nearly a quarter of a century without the fear of nuclear war hanging over them has created in Western Europeans.

The tension between the West and Russia over Ukraine is even more threatening to Europe’s sense of security than the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States and the last 12 years of living with the fear of militant Islam.

Russia is a foe far more complex than militant Islam. Russia represents Europe as its traditionally most lethal and threatening nation.

As the Ukraine crisis continues to raise questions about Europe’s ability to cope with security challenges, this historic continent of thinking people will be forced to return to the drawing broad and re-examine its assumptions.

Out of it will re-emerge a more sober, solid Western Europe. Europe, when it is sober and determined, as history shows, can be a very creative, deep thinking, productive --- and dangerous place.