June 02, 2005

The Need for Roots

The Need for Roots is an important book for me. It's difficult for a libertarian to put aside economics but in this case it's absolutely essential as the economic analysis was way off. The importance of the book is that it seems very much to capture the sociological collapse of France that led to Vichy. It does so as a precondition for its true aim, the post WW II reconstruction of France and Europe in general (it was commissioned by the UK government for that purpose). After reading this book, I've come to believe that reconstruction failed and the France that collapsed so easily under German assault is still fundamentally with us in the behavior and beliefs of its elites.

Contrary to the mythology of the Resistance dominating French society, it seems to me that it is more the spirit of Vichy that animates today's French elite than that of the Resistance. We do not think much about Vichy in the US and thus misunderstand France at just about every turn because we do not recognize what is staring us in the face. We have a France that is unsure of itself, unsure that it deserves to remain on this planet. It loves the idea of Europe because it no longer truly loves its own identity with all its heart.

For a largely self-confident people like the US, such a country makes no sense. We have no idea how to deal with it. France certainly has no idea how to deal with us.

Thus we both move along in mutual incomprehension experimenting blindly in ways to reach a modus vivendi. When we reach temporary agreement, it is by accident and surprises both sides but because we do not understand why we agree we do not know how to preserve the peace we have accidentally found and we soon return to snarling and spitting at each other as the political stars go out of alignment and there is nobody at the controls who knows what can change and yet still preserve comity.

The most crucial battle of the just defeated EU Constitution is likely one of the ones that got the least serious attention by the US government, the fight by the christian churches of Europe to include a mention of the historic role of christianity in forming Europe. It was a struggle over roots and christianity lost.

The EU is rootless in its parliamentary voting majority and this is a danger that the US ill perceives because the nature of US roots is not unitary, but federal. The US concept of factions teaches americans to be rooted in a very unique way (so unique that the author of The Need for Roots skates right past the US model, probably because she couldn't grasp it). We are americans, members of a state, rooted in our own faiths, and these multiple sources of stability (along with others too numerous to mention) allow both for the stability and health that rootedness provides a nation and the simultaneous mobility that allows the mind numbing swirl of factions to adjust to each other peacefully instead of smashing into each other and warring.

The difference between the european and US models is the difference between a tree and a ground runner that periodically puts down roots along the the length of its runners. Neither is likely to understand the other without great effort. The difference in survival strategies is too great. As long as the tree and the ground runner both "work", are both self-sustaining, they don't have to understand the deep mysteries of the other's model. But the suicidal impulse of France in 1940 was not self-sustaining. Weimar was not self-sustaining. And I don't even have an idea of how many other EU nations today are in the same boat as Weimar Germany and Vichy France but it was enough that the nations of Christendom were unable to even mention Christianity in the preamble of their proposed constitution. A Europe that is not self-sustaining is a Europe that will cause trouble the world over.

This is not currently the sort of trouble that a Zimbabwe, North Korea, or Iran will cause. The present manifestations of rootlessness are largely benign but rootlessness will cause backsliding and growing dissatisfaction with current governments in Europe, leading to new parties, new leaders, and far less connectivity to Barnett's Functioning Core.

The unified impulse of all current mainstream political currents in the EU to further integrate make it incredibly likely that any new movement is likely to rise as a rejection. Integration will be perceived as a source of rootlessness and to become rooted, integration will be rejected as a necessary price. How far the backsliding goes is a great unknown but what is guaranteed is that it will be an unpleasant and likely dangerous development.

Understanding the need for roots in today's europe is the first step in lancing this boil on the global body politic before it becomes dangerous. You could do far worse than pick up Simone Weil's 1943 attempt at diagnosing an earlier manifestation of the same malady.

Posted by TMLutas at June 2, 2005 10:20 AM