The European Union’s Encroachment on Distinct Political Territories

I’ve often marveled at the ingenuity, the cooperation and the will it has taken to create the European Union, particularly when you consider Europe’s long, contentious history. In many ways, it is an amazing achievement.

But this consortium of nations has been racked with problems for the last three years or so, and I imagine many people—or the ones who care—are wondering: “What on Earth is going on over there!?” Because even I, with my strong connections to that corner of the world, am wondering the same thing… major debt issues, something about Greece and Spain being broke… is that it?

I think if we were to create a parallel to the U.S., it might be something like: Florida, Texas and Georgia are financially upside down and California and New York have to foot the bill. But would anything ever be so bad as to warrant hundreds of billions of dollars in aid money to these states? It seems a bit excessive… Oh wait, we don’t bail out our states, we bail out our corporations. Ok, it’s making a bit more sense now.

But analysts say the apex of the fiscal crisis has passed. Maybe, but a whole new set of problems are coming to light—and it’s not too hard to see why. Check out this New York Times article. It’s a great little piece of journalism. Not only because of the accurate insights of the writer, Andrew Higgins, but also because of the reality-oriented comments from the sources he chose to include in the article.

The basic premise is this: Politicians around Europe are taking a break from Eurozone crisis hand-wringing and turning their attention to things like elections in their own countries and pressing domestic concerns. As Thomas Klau, head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, put it: “Now that markets no longer hold a knife under leaders’ throats, they are slipping back into their normal mode, which is to manage their own immediate reality.”

One of those concerns is a growing dissatisfaction with the European Union. Big surprise, right? Taxpayers in the wealthier countries—France and Germany—have funded much of nearly 500 billion Euro bailouts while citizens of the cash-strapped countries like Greece, Italy, Ireland and Portugal have been forced by EU mandates to tighten their belts and make concessions to wheeling and dealing politicians. Everybody is getting the screws.

This is nothing that hasn’t been said before. The question is, what does this have to do with THEE?

Well, quite a bit really. In response to a crisis, European Union politicians were able to quickly consolidate enormous amounts of power and money. Decisions were made for entire countries at a tier above where they should be made—that being within those individual countries rather than at the level of A Consortium of Nations. Popular dissatisfaction with the EU is forcing government leaders to refocus on more appropriate political territories—that being their direct constituents.

Naturally, people are resentful of those outside of their communities/regions/states/nations making decisions for them. During my travels in Europe, I asked friends, family and acquaintances what they thought about the EU. And from France to Germany to the Czech Republic, I heard different versions of the same complaint. An old man in Prague told me he felt it was no different than when the Soviets were in charge: some political body in some far-flung city (then Moscow, now Brussels) were telling the Czechs how to live their lives.

Part of the problem is a sort of twisting of two distinct types of political territory, as defined by THEE. First, there is a social territory where cohesion is created with a shared language, culture, history and an innate sense of togetherness Second, there is a service territory—much more artificial and arbitrary but nonetheless important—where governing bodies like the EU or a even a city council attempts to exercise political control. Simply put, they’re applying one-size-fits-all solutions to a myriad of social territories. And not-so-coincidentally, THEE mentions Soviet Russia under Stalin as an example of getting this distinction wrong.

Now, David Cameron of the UK is putting a referendum to his people, giving them the option of withdrawing completely from the EU. France and Germany—who have bared the brunt of sacrifice in the name of unity—are accusing him and Britain of “cherry picking” which EU policies he does and does not follow Many fear the Union could unravel completely. To me, it makes perfect sense why they would want to cherry pick and it seems inevitable that, in time, the Union will unravel. The UK is not France or Germany or Greece. Britain’s problems cannot be solved without a uniquely British solution. And that concept goes for every country in the world.

 Let’s just hope the Nobel Prize Committee is right and they won’t all start killing each other again.

Find Your Niche

I always thought how fun it would be to become the world’s foremost expert on something. I can see the newscast attribution:

Dr. Tom Kershaw, leading expert on 10th Century Viking expansion into Eastern Europe. 

There I would be, in the middle of some arcane diatribe on Cnut the Great and the population explosion of the Slavs in Kievan Rus’ after 1100.

I would probably be quite giddy and nervous, as there is no reason I can think of that an expert on this matter would ever be on a newscast—perhaps if there was some revolutionary archeological finding in Poland.

Maybe my time has passed. I’m sort of a journalist now, and my expertise is supposed to be sounding like an expert in anything and everything—like Will Durant. Ever heard of this guy? He traveled the world 7 or 8 times before the 1930s and ended up writing a 9-volume history of the humanity called The Story of Civilization. It goes from pre-history in Africa through all the great empires of Rome, China, Mongolia, Persia, etc.—all the way up to Napoleon. He died before he could get any further. And each volume is 1,000 pages or more—very well written as well.

You’d be tempted to think: this guy knows everything! But just imagine how much he left out. Really, in the entire scope of human history, nine, 1,000-page volumes probably glosses over most of details. Now that I think of it, there was only passing mention of the Vikings. It’s cool though, it’s not like they helped shape Europe, and thus Western civilization or anything.

Anyway… This little musing is brought to you by THEE’s Interacting for Benefit framework. More specifically, the spiral of career development and even more specifically than that, stage 3: Commit to a Path.

Committing to a path is basically specialization, which seems more and more difficult in this post-modern world. I see it in the music business. Every musician now must be a multi-instrumentalist, a sound engineer, a fashionista, tour bus driver, promoter and social media manager. And as a writer/blogger, you’ve got to be able to write as well as take into account social media, SEO, promotions and networking.

That being the case, it might be more important than ever that we remind ourselves to really hone-in on something specific. For example, I spent much of my earlier years as a professional musician advertising myself as “that multi-instrumentalist guy.” I was the guy you call in a pinch when your bassist or drummer of guitarist can’t make the gig. It was a lot of fun—and it could be argued that this is a form of specialization all its own—but it’s rather limiting in terms of long-term projects. As it turns out, there are quite a few guitarists, bassists, pianists, etc. who are quite a bit better at their chosen instrument than me and therefore, they are more desirable options for musical entrepreneurs trying to put together something solid and potentially more lucrative in the future.

It might not matter much for many of us by stage 3. Not completing all 7 stages of career development doesn’t mean you are, or will be, a failure. Many of us do just fine in life after mastering stage 1: Do the Job Well.

But everyone is different. For my part, without knowing anything about THEE, it was my intention to skip Stage 2: Work the System by striking out on my own as a freelance writer. And I did for a time. But by joining TOP and confronting the newness of THEE as well as the specifics of the job, I've been thrust back to Stage 1: Do the Job Well. Yet, I maintain other clients and continue my education, hoping to ultimately find my niche--which might end up being THEE. Or political analysis. Or fiction. Or songwriting... and I'm back to where I was as the "mile wide and an inch deep" guy that defined my music career.

Now, for me, the challenge is stage 3. I guess it’s time to get my ducks in a row. Even any Viking worth his salt had to specialize in something: sailing, pillaging… skull cup manufacturing.

Freedom in Society

Welcome to part 3 of my little series on freedom as THEE sees it. We started with Individual Freedom, moved on to Freedom in Organizations and now, the big one folks… Freedom in Society!

I tend to see freedom in society as a two-part equation, with both parts equally important. We need balance, like in an algebraic expression.

On one side, society accounts for the full range of human diversity. People should be free to believe what they want, pursue the activities and interests that they feel are appropriate for them, practice whatever lifestyle they choose and, in short, be themselves freely without fear or oppression. This includes all manner of races, religions, genders and sexual orientations. The caveat being, of course, they don’t hurt anyone else doing whatever it is they do.

You could say that understanding and using THEE rests almost entirely on this principle: awareness and respect for diversity is paramount and that achievement is inextricably wrapped up in identity. However, THEE goes much further than race, religion, etc. in identity identification. These are but superficial human qualities in comparison to things like THEE mentalities—fixed mindsets about how you decide or how you get on with others. This is, and has been, a topic for another blog.

The West has made incredible strides in the arena of accepting diversity and allowing people to live out their lives in peace. There is much work to be done, but if viewed from the perspective of all of human history, the last 100 years or so has seen major breakthroughs from allowing women to vote to the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement, the gay rights movement and more.

There are many parts of the world that cannot say the same—be it the treatment of Kurds in Iraq or Christians in Egypt or homosexuals and women in the Muslim world. Many people still hide and/or fight for their lives simply because of who they are.

But Western society (though we couldn’t say the same for our governments), is heading in the right direction, I think. The time is right for us to delve deeper into what makes people different and diverse. See above links on identity, decision and getting along with others to get started.

It’s the other side of the equation where things appear to be headed down a dark path.

To get a clear picture, let’s think in terms of another ultimate value for a moment: equality.

Ideals of social equality can be viewed two ways: equality of opportunity or equality of result.

Perhaps as a byproduct of advancements in our first type of freedom (freedom of identity), the West seems to have chosen to prefer equality of opportunity. This is not a new concept by any means. For an eloquent and poignant argument, read Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

We as a society have adopted a set of values where the goal, the endgame, is an equal standard of living for all. It comes from a place of goodwill in the human spirit and it is the blueprint for the West’s social welfare democracies. But in the end it hampers freedom.

THEE outlines the benefits of freedom of opportunity in the Spiral of Political Maturation’s Individualist Mode. When freedom of opportunity trumps equality of result, we get a prosperous society where there is incentive to work hard, use your talents and get creative. America, for example, has always been called by its residents “The Land of Opportunity” where any industrious citizen or immigrant can make a nice life for themselves based on their merits and hard work.

But cries of inequality have paved the way to a culture of entitlement, where government appears to be the solution for everything. We look to government to stamp out poverty and hunger—and they (sort of) do with food and cash assistance. We look to government to provide us with education—which they do (in the U.S.) with government loans. We look to government to provide us with housing—and they do in government housing projects. We look to government to provide us with ever more safety and security—which they do with an ever-growing prison system, paramilitary police forces, enormous military expenditures, surveillance systems, the PATRIOT Act, the NDAA and on and on and on.

Like frogs in boiling water, some of us are starting to see the bubbles rise to the surface. POP! You need the government to eat, perhaps the most basic human need. Better not rock the boat or you might starve. POP! You’re tens of thousands of dollars in debt to the government for your college degree. It’s turning into a rolling boil now. Housing projects are festering sores on society, seeding the ever-expanding prison industrial complex. The water is roaring, steam is pouring out. You’re being watched everywhere you go, drones fly over your neighborhood, your phone is being tapped, all your emacils are screened and police show up to peaceful protests with grenade launchers and tanks—and it’s all completely legal.

This is not freedom. It’s polite totalitarianism. And anyone courageous enough to call it as they see it is a paranoid lunatic.

Not to mention, the expanding bureaucracy and the constant call for tighter, stricter regulations chokes the private sector, the common man’s only chance at class mobility. For example, it costs $14,000 to get a two-year permit to sell $1 hot dogs on the street in New York City. The poorly-conceived decisions of the financial class (who are propped-up by government-funded corporate welfare, the other side of the corporatocracy coin) have paralyzed banks and business loans are next to impossible to come by.

The next technological revolution, the next activist entrepreneur, the next small business in your neighborhood could be buried under a pile of red tape.

Do you want job security? Get a government job. In countries like France and Germany, the public sector accounts for between 30 and 40% of the economy. Unfortunately, governments don’t make money; they only spend their people’s money. But who will be left to pay taxes? A government employee paying taxes is as ridiculous as a central bank printing money. It does absolutely no good for the bottom line. They’re currently making up for it in France by taxing people up to 75% of their income. Where is the incentive to succeed?

The expanding network of problems is so tight; there is no visible way to extricate ourselves from it. Society needs a complete reordering. And the only thing that can do that is some sort of meltdown. And it’s a major bummer, but THEE saw it coming—from the rising power of the financial class to the growth of the welfare state to the inevitable crash.


The saddest part: we brought all of this on ourselves.

There will come a time with this blog will be dated and we’ll have to reevaluate freedom in society.

Until then…

I hope to see you, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the other side, ready to put some work into a new and better world.