Page 3, 31st May 1946

31st May 1946
Page 3
Page 3, 31st May 1946 — WHAT IS EUROPE?
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WHAT IS EUROPE?

I ant writing this article in the centre of Europe. I am writing it in an old house where the

artistic influences of France, Italy, Germany and Austria have met. I am Writing it in a little French-speaking village, isolated 'in the middle of other little villages where a Swiss-German dialect is spoken. This little village is situated on a high plateau between the Jura and the Alps. From it, when the atmosphere is clear, you can see beyond the frontiers of Switzerland—you can sec heights in Savoy, the French and Italian slopes of Mont Blanc, and a little of the Black Forest.

This piece of land is one of the nodalpoints of Switzerland. Germanic and Latin Switzerland, Catholic and Protestant Switzerland meet in the same countryside and feed on the same bread made of the wheat of the same fields, for it is a wheat country. This piece of land is also heavy with history. It has seen, following one another, the Lacustrians, the Belvetic Celts, the Romans, the Burgundian and AirmanMau Germans; it has formed part of three empires—the Empire of Augustus, the Empire of Charlemagne, and the Empire of Otto the Great, It belonged tL) the Hapsburgs and then to the Counts of Savoy. It became Swiss, together with Fribourg, at the end of the 15th century, and the Swiss fought here a decisive battle in the course of the European War: that battle of Morat, where in the vanquished army of Charles of Burgundy were to be found Burgundians, Walloons, Flemings, Dutch, English, Scottish, Italian and even some Portuguese.

When you live where Your ancestors have lived for centuries, and see from your window as you write the tombs of your family, you may call yourself a European.

Europe is not something learnt in books but lived in the blood. It is in your eyes before it is in your mind. Europe is a mother, sometimes of glory, sometimes of sorrow, and of how much sorrow to-day! Switzerland. my cowstry, may have been spared the lighting of the war, but she is too closely linked with the surrounding Europe, three of whose languages she speaks. not to have been affected by the war to the very roots of her being. For she is the heart of Europe.

Europe is not only a geographical term; Europe is a historical being, a being which has its own existence, its own personality. The life of Europe is subject to natural and human conditions which may not be upset without causing her to die. To understand what Europe is. it is not enough to teed the newspapers, the reviews. the reportages, nor to study the blue books. To do this is too often to acquire with little cost superficial notions and false ideas. Europe is a science which goes beyond the specialists of law. diplomacy., finance, and economics: Europe is a philosophy which sets the whole problem of human destiny. What then must one know of Europe in order to gain an idea of it, still insufficient, but nevertheless just, in order to be familiar with its dynamic currents and its constants?

THE MARKS OF EUROPE

In, the first place we must realise that from the moment when Europe begins Ifs historic life, the events of its history are so linked together that it is impossible to detach present and contemporary happenings from those of the past.

History is a force. History is not the past. The past is only a part of history. History is like one of those cables which I see from my window, cables charged with electric energy, with light, but also with death if they are imprudently touched. They come from very far and very high, front a power station somewhere in the Alps, near a lake. at the foot of a glacier. They cross the countryside in straight lines without bothering about obstacles and folds of the land. Great pylons carry them. symbols of the events which mark our epoch, and they move forward beyond the horizon, into the future, to energise the labour and light the cities of peoples as yet unknown.

In the second place we must realise that Europe is the smallest cif the continents.

It has not even the dimensions of a continent: it is only the size of a great country. From the geographical priint of view Europe is only a peninsula of Asia. But this peninsula is man's land. First of all it is the maritime continent par excellence. Proportionately it has a longer coastline than the others. The sea penetrates so deeply into its lands that no spot in Europe is far from it. It is also the mountainous continent

par excellence. It owes its natural existence to the co-operation of mountain and sea. It is the sea which has detached it from Asia: it is the mountain which has defended it against Asia. To the sea Europe owes its equable and temperate climate. the most favourable to human life. A land divided into compartments and therefore suited to lix man and to individualise him, a land of quality and not of quantity, of the person and not of the mass. Europe, as a French geographer has said, is the artistic masterpiece of creation, but this masterpiece is as delicate as a gold watch.

7'hirdly. w&i must realise that Europe the true, the European Europe. stops where the nionntains stiv. ends where the influence al the Sea • is no longer felt.

The Carpathians are, in the East, its natural limit. Geographically, Russia is no longer European: it is part of the immense compartment of upper Asia.

Fourthly. we must realise that Europe Is above all the work of men, he cont/sent of tht spirit.

At the end of the glacial epoeb, Europe was still only a hunting land which, apart from the game which became rarer and rarer as it retreated towards the mountains in the north, grew only a kind of cabbage. This austere vegetable hardly provided a sufficient economic basis! The economic basis, corn, came from Asia in the Neolithic age with the white-skinned men who were the Europeans. Changes of climate no doubt made possible the working of the soil and the stability of human groups, but by themselves they do not explain the formation of Europe. They do not explain that astonishing happening which touches on the miracle —a word I use with every prudence— the miracle of how this poor little spare, torn peninsula became the dominating centre of the world, the home of the only civilisation which has revealed itself capable of being universal.

Fifthly, and in order to explain this miracle, this phenomenon. we must realise the European civilisation has been the common work of two worlds, apparently irradicable and mutually antagonistic: the world of the north and the world of the south, the ancient world, or, to be more precise, the Greco-Latin world, and the world of the barbarians, or. to be more precise, the Celto-Germanie world.

When, M Hellas, 2,000 years before Christ, the Acheans, coming from the north, met the civilisation which came from Asia, the impact gave birth to Greece, that first form of Europe. Indeed, the name of Europe si.mbolises this meeting. for Europe was the Asiatic princess whom Jupiter, the god of the north, disguised as a bull. carried away to cross the Mediterranean and unite with her in Crete.

But that was only a preface, a rehearsal of European history.

Even the Roman Empire did not make Europe, though it prepared the framevark of nearly all the European nations. It was a Mediterranean empire, not yet a European one. It allowed itself to be penetrated by the barbarians. but it did not succeed in fusing with them. This fusion from which Europe was to spring was the work at Christianity. of the Church. Christianity generated European civilisution by bringing to peoples, too diverse and too much opposed to one another to create a common civilisation. a common faith, sole principle of unity.

Europe is Christianity. From the

moment when Europe lost its religious unity. the series of great historical 0iLlSirOphieS of which it was to be thc victint began, and this i,s the most hi,. portent thing CO realise about Europe.

EUROPE'S WEAKNESS

And now we must understand Europe's weakness.

Europe is too small to contain and nourish a population when that imputa tion exceeds a certain figure. It is divided into too many compartments, and consequently made up of too many peoples too different the one from the other, to enable it to create a unity of itself. These peoples will not cease to fight together in order to find. defend and increase the vital space which each of them needs. Europe, therefore, seems doomed to nationalism and perpetual wars. And, in fact, Europe was, from the 16th century when it lost its religious unity, condemned to perpetual war—the 16th century (adding civil wars to foreign wars) knew no single year of peace, the 18th hardly twenty.

Europe's salvation came from the sea, but its colonial expansion and its overflow into America ended by exhausting. it. Then it was that it entered into the series of crises of which the final result is the situation to-day.

Europe's danger is to be read on the map: it is the .4siatic danger.

That inunense empire of steppes and forests. that compartment of upper Asia which to-day is called Russia, has always weighed over Europe, seven times smaller than iteelf, with a crushing weight. The nomadic peoples enclosed in that immense prison have always sought to escape by conquering the peoples of a. stable civilisation and

reaching tho open seas. Every time Europe became divided it provoked the pressure on itself ol nomadic Asia.

It was from this upper Asia that came the Modes, the Persians, the Syrians, the Huns. the Avers, the Hungarians, the Mongols, the Tartars, the Turks. And let us not forget that these last were at Vienna's gates in 1683 and Europe was only saved at the last minute by the Polish knights.

All this is but a scheme, as rigid as

piece of iron wire. How can one treat such a subject in a newspaper article! If, howeVer, despite its shortcomings. it could show that you CanitOf improvise a policy with regard 10 Europe, it would not have been useless. But what is to be done to-day when— only for the moment. I still hope—there is no longer a Europe?

There is no longer a Europe. but there are Europeans who have understood • Europe.

GONZAGUE DE REYNOLD.




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