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02 June 2005

what part of NEE don't you understand?

Two days ago the French voted NON, and now today -- Magische Dag, as we polyglots say in Dutch --
the results are in just moments ago, 61% of the Dutch have voted NEE (danke en obrigado, syf!). Majorities of voters in France and the Netherlands have rejected the proposed new Constitution of the EU, the European Union.

You heard it on Vleeptron first.

(If you heard it somewhere else first, just play along and let Bob think you heard it on Vleeptron first. We thank you for your cooperation.)

A few days before the French vote, on a Parisian sidewalk, a 50-ish middle-class Frenchwoman explained (in translation) how she would vote. "I will vote Non. Because this is the only way France can defend itself against the United States."

So. The big fracas and dustup, le Misunderstanding, over the war to regime-change Sadaam Hussein and save the world from the Evil non-Christian Terrorist-Assisting Fiend's Weapons of Mass Destruction and A-bomb-making African uranium, has not just had the desired effect of destroying my neighbors' lives and raising the cost of 87 Octane to U$2.10 per gallon (ya need that in Euros per Litre? Leave a Comment.), now it has flushed the next phase of a Somewhat United & Homogenized & Usually Peaceful Europe down le Bidet.

President Jacques Chirac led the Oui forces of rich white French businessmen and their young Scandinavian trophy wives. Apparently they had their heads up their derrieres all the way up to the ascending colon, and assumed all along that the French people (who work happily in factories for the rich white businessmen) would overwhelmingly agree with the limo elite and vote OUI, because this would in the long run lead to a smoother and more prosperous and secure future for France and yaddeau yaddeau yaddeau. The NON vote is French for Fucquez-Vous and Bitez-Moi.

In another translated television interview, a French journalist who covers this high-level political stuph explained, "This leaves Chirac with just one choice: To jump, or be pushed." In other words, this catastrophic defeat of Chirac's prestige and influence gives him maybe six weeks to empty his belongings from his desk and find a new job in the private sector, or retire to write his memoirs.

A very handsomely attired spokesman for the Dutch JA forces said: "Oh, great, now we are officially the Village Idiots of Europe."

Hmmm ... I've been to the Netherlands now seven or eight times (sometimes IcelandAir, sometimes Zeta Beam, sometimes Heathkit TM-212), and they grow not only tulips, but a very odd crop of Village Idiot -- certainly the most highly educated, sophisticated, newspaper-shootin'-up Village Idiots I have ever encountered. In the words of one lady hotel manager, "Excuse me -- I of course know that the Spinoza man was famous and important, but I do not exactly know for what. What did he do?"

I only knew the word Philosof, but she immediately smiled and nodded and we chatted a little about one of the screwiest Dutchies who ever lived. The Dutch have a cool word: Wisgeer. Which I think if you perform surgery on it, means "Wise Geezer." (Leave a Comment for complaints or corrections. When are we going to get some people from Benelux in here?)

So the least sophisticated Dutch lady I know loves to learn about famous Dutch wisgeers from her American hotel guests, she has time to devote to that. (She had very nicely made a phone call in Dutch to Spinozahus in Rijnsburg for me to find out if it was open, the hours, etc.)

I told her how much I admired the Netherlands for its long history of tolerating great screwballs (also Descartes).

"We are a small country," she explained, still smiling proudly. I didn't exactly grok the conclusion of her argument. Most small countries I know aren't world-famous for centuries of giving liberal sanctuary and residence permits to screwballs. Don't know many big countries whose governments think this is a cool idea, either. But the hotel lady perfectly understood why this is a fine and necessary way to run Holland.

Last week, the Dutch PM, in a rowsing JA speech, publicly admitted just a little that Dutch people have occasionally been known to be a bit stubborn.

The French -- well, only zipped through little corners of it to get from Somewhere Else to Calais by train. But now, because of the Rive Gauche Labyrinth, Rilke's panther, and the nave floor stone Labyrinth at Chartres, I guess I have to go. It is more than just possible, through the confusing filter of my excellent Microwave NAFTA French, that they really do think it's France vs. USA in some bitter, intractible but fortunately sub-lethal global struggle. And when Push comes to Jump in that struggle, the French who do not ride around in stretch limousines vote NON. I would like to comprender a little more, a lot more about porquoi.

The commentators who are thoughtful to comment about all this in English also talk about a big shadow on Brussels' Big Plans for the Future, and the buzzword is Expansion.

The exact, precise translation of Expansion is Turkey. Turkey has been invited to maybe perhaps slightly in a little while under these 703 (human rights, political freedom, end to torture, etc.) conditions eventually become a new member of the EU.

And at that moment, if it ever comes, suddenly Europe would no longer be and would never again be something it has taken for granted since about 700 AD: Christian. Turkey is a nearly all-Muslim nation, and for a millennium was the most dreaded and dangerous boogeyman to Christian Europe. In one quite recent moment, the highly successful and powerful Turkish Army was at the gates of Vienna, just a few centuries after the Turks had been at the gates of Constantinople, Christian capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. At the gates, then over and through the gates, and Istanbul is Constantinople, Istanbul became the Muslim capital of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and now of more secular post-Attaturk Turkey.

Christian Europe has 1500 years of being psychologically unready to have a huge Muslim, non-Christian partner voting at the table in Brussels on Europe's guts-matters. The French, German and Italian industrial powerhouse economies run largely on the labor of imported -- legally or illegally -- Turkish and North African Muslim cheap, desperate labor, they do all the heavy lifting and grunting for the Western Europe postwar economic miracles.

Now Western European cities are filled with Turks, Moroccans, Libyans, Tunisians, Moluccans and Indonesians, entire neighborhoods in Hamburg and Paris and Rotterdam are Muslim, Arabic and Turkish signs on store windows. That much is a permanent feature of contemporary Europe, and the labor Muslims and their families have been granted, usually grudgingly, certain equalities and human rights protections.

Expansion would give them full legal and civil equality. Some semblence of basic human rights are one thing in a Europe that has considered itself Christian Europe for 1300 years. Full equality is a very different thing. Another faith entirely -- the traditional enemy faith -- would have equal status to Christianity in all official matters.

For many Europeans, this is a future they cannot imagine. For many other Europeans, this is a future they do not want. And to a large degree, this played a big role in NON and NEE.

But perhaps the most pathetic and interesting interview came hours after the NON vote, from a woman who was a leading official of the EU. The interview ran at some length, some very thoughtful length -- they let the Eurocrat say whatever she liked. And she said that the biggest tragedy of the NON vote was that the Eurocrats assembled in Brussels had worked so hard and so long on this proposed EU Constitution, to make the perfect Future for all Europe (if the member states voted Oui, Yes, Ja, Si).

The big tragedy, she said, was all the hard bureaucratic work career Euro functionaries had labored at for perhaps a decade -- and now their heroic bureaucratic efforts, designed to shape the Future of all Europe, designed to be Europe's next fifty years -- it was all falling apart, it was all going to nothing.

It was remarkably patronizing and infantilizing. We experts and career Euro politicians knew what was best for you, she was saying, and you ordinary people spat on all our hard work to give you a perfect Future, like the Village Idiots you are. Where did we go wrong? In letting you vote on it.


Blogger pat's pub said...

I'm quite impressed !!!!!
Very nice piece of work. You got the background and you got the facts and the analysis of the current stream of conciousnes in Europe is more or less korrekt. If you go on like this , they will nominate you for a Pulitzer Prize someday
Now that's what I call good journalism !
Weiter so.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

/Bob has heart attack & stroke from shock, thanks Pat for awesome compliment from Helvetia just before he dies.

What does all this broohaha and fistfighting and NEE and OUI and NON and JA and Expansion mean to Switzerland?

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

I would just like to add: It ain't easy being Vleeptron's European correspondent from 5.623 x 10^9 light years away.

Blogger pat's pub said...

Switzerland is not an official EU member, but we are monitoring the situation very closely. Some people, as you have clearly pointed out, are scared of the future and in the case of CH that would have an enormous effect on societyand economy. We would have to give up our system of direct democracy and neutrality and that's too scary for some people (including myself, to be hones)
but we have realized that we cannot live without the EU and so this coming weekend we have to go to the polls and decide wether we want to join the Schengen/Dublin Treaty or not.
More News as they unfold.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...


Blogger Bob Merkin said...

What's the Schengen/Dublin Treaty when it's at home? Maybe I was betronken when it was explaining itself to me on the Amsterdam - Copenhagen train.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

And while I got you on the line, what's that fancy-schmanzy deutsches word for "World View"? Not die Weltschmerz, that's something different entirely. die Weltsomething.

But I really love Zeitgeist.

Anonymous Brian Brunett said...



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