4 Nov 2016

My perception of Europe after studying “European Culture and Politics”




EU Leaders in 2014
I just completed a short course in “European Culture and Politics” and really qualified for a fantastic "Certificate of Achievement" award from the University of Groningen, Netherlands. Partly sponsored by the European Union, I really learnt so many things in this course—What is Europe? What is Culture? Europe as a cultural project; Europeanness in European Capitals of Culture; Cultural Europeanisation; A common identity? Europe, top-down and bottom-up; Creating Europe: top-down or bottom-up? Europe and EU’s Cultural Policy; Art and Political Legitimisation; Politics of Aesthetics and the Crisis; What is Secularism? Defining Open Society; Religion and Public Space in Europe; Laïcité: the state, nation and citizen in France; A Secular German System? Europe and Secularism; Religious Pluralism in Europe; Europe and Christianity; Secular State in Crisis? European Secularism; Features of European Secularism; Religion, Citizenship and Otherness; Addressing Inclusion and Exclusion; What is Modernity? Power in the EU: The Supranational Thesis;  Renegotiating Nation-State in Europe; European Integration: The Rescue of Nation-State? Objectives of European Integration; Evaluating Democracy; Principles of European Democracy; Rethinking Democracy in Europe; and so many other issues.

Almost throughout the short period of the course I spent time debating many controversial issues with secularists, agnostics and atheists from around the world! Perhaps I will find time to write a book on what I learnt about modern "Secular Europe" in this short but challenging and thought-provoking course—so many issues but absolutely nothing about God or His religion! What I wish to present here is just one of the important assignments I did, particularly the last one. We were asked to:
  
“Write a reflection blog on the topic: Which insights and qualifications did I gain in the course “European Culture and Politics” and how can I employ these in my daily life?” (Must not be more than 500 words). As part of the assignment guidelines, we were told that the reviewers of our work “will be asked to give you feedback on the following aspects of your assignment, so you should consider these when writing:
  • Has the learner considered what they have learned, how they have changed, and what they can do after following this course?
  • To what extent has the learner critically reflected on their learning processes, development and future goals?
  • Did the learner write in a concise and clear language? Was their essay coherent and reader-friendly?"
There is now the tendency to simply identify the entire Europe with the EU (an international political institution and indeed the first form of supranationalism in the world, simply unprecedented in modern history). In other words, any country that isn't a member of the EU is seen as being "outside Europe''. Countries that were formerly members of the EU but have now left—such as Britain—are seen as having "left Europe". Also, there is the ever willingness of EU members to "integrate" almost all countries in the world—especially the Muslim countriesinto "Europe" which they tend to see as "borderless". Below is my assignment which partly addressed this FALSE EUROPEAN MENTALITY. (Surprisingly the feedbacks I got from my two reviewers, a European and an American, were favourable!):
         
My perception of Europe after studying “European Culture and Politics”

by Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi

My perception of Europe as just a continent has slightly changed! However, what I learnt—namely “a borderless Europe”—is what I consider to be “a new European mentality”. As a classicist, further reflection on what Europe is led me to a different conclusion, which I intend to demonstrate here.

What is Europe? Europe is not a continent, says the course. But I observe that Europe is equally not a political entity. Europe may best be defined as the outcome of a long historical process that engendered unique institutions and a unique vision of what men ought to be. Europe has no founding fathers. Its birth was not orchestrated but completely spontaneous. Its development was not imposed by armies and governments but was the voluntary product of clerics, merchants, serfs, and intellectuals who were seeking to interact freely with each other. Europeans were united by their freedoms and divided by their governments. In other words, Europe was built against States and their arbitrary restrictions, not by them. The course seems to contradict some of these.

Also, on the origin of Europe we were told the story of “Europa”, but nothing was said about Christianity—except some negative impressions. Now according to a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2012, 76.2% of Europeans considered themselves Christians—yet the Islamic map we were shown is just as BIG as the Christian one!

Christopher Dawson has addressed two of the most pressing subjects of our day (namely the origin of Europe and the religious roots of Western culture) in the book “Religion and the Rise of Western Culture”. Classical “Europa” notwithstanding, the emergence of the notion of “Europe” or the “Western World” is intimately connected with the idea of “Christendom”, especially since Christianity in the Middle East was marginalised by the rise of Islam from the 7th century, a constellation that led to the Crusades, which although unsuccessful militarily were an important step in the emergence of a religious identity of Europe. For at least a millennium and a half, Europe has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, even though Christianity was inherited from the Middle East. Christian culture was the predominant force in Western civilisation, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science. Movements in art and philosophy, such as the Humanist movement of the Renaissance and the Scholastic movement of the High Middle Ages, were motivated by a drive to connect Catholicism with Greek thought imported by Christian pilgrims. I was just amazed to observe that all these were not considered throughout the course. Certainly because of the effort to “integrate” non-Christians?

Finally, I am one of the Igbos agitating for a Biafra republic—following Islamic menace in Nigeria. EU is aware of our case (see references below). I believe, like Czech’s President Zeman, that integrating Muslims into Europe is dangerous. But the course champions this very idea. Hence, my different conclusion.

References

Dowson, C.  Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, New York: Doubleday, 1957.

The Guardian. Integrating Muslims into Europe is 'impossible', says Czech president, Monday, January 18, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/18/integrating-muslims-into-europe-is-impossible-says-czech-president 

JONATHAN, NORTHERN MUSLIMS AND BOKO HARAM SAGA! February 27, 2015. http://pointblanknews.com/pbn/exclusive/jonathan-northern-muslims-boko-haram-saga/

The Authority. Biafra: EU gives condition for support, January 20, 2016. http://www.authorityngr.com/2016/01/BIAFRA--EU-gives-condition-for-support/). 

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