Forty-three years ago the Second World War ended. Europe was devastated, its major cities in chaos, millions of its citizens dead. The bitterness between ancient foes, particularly France and Germany, was deeper than ever.
If in that bleak landscape someone had forecast the Europe of the Eighties, he would have been described as a fool or a dreamer. Yet it happened – because leaders had the vision to suggest new ways. They recognised that if the peoples of Western Europe, with their deep differences and fears for their survival, had chosen the wrong path to protect these differences, the results would have been ruinous for Europe as a whole.
After 1945, men of vision tried a new way. They sat down with former enemies to hammer out agreed institutions which settled relationships and preserved differences . One thing is certain: they would never have achieved it had they continued to dwell on the past and call up the ghosts of the past. That approach would have led, as it always had done, and as it does in Ireland, to conflict in every generation. (The Week, 8 Oct)
This piece of statesmanship, imperfect though it is (as are most of the constructs of mankind), can be interpreted as a truly Epicurean move, giving peace of mind and better lives to most Europeans, including the poorest and most historically oppressed. Unfortunately, the fact of the millions dead and the suffering caused by European divisions, is barely, if at all, understood by a large number of European citizens, for whom Facebook and Twitter are more relevant than learning history at school. We reap what we sow. If you don’t like how an institution is run, reform it, don’t try to wreck it.