By Ankita Gupta
Europe is in a state of war. It is not a war with gun-toting soldiers or hard-line military strategies. Europe is fighting a cultural war that is fuelled by the urge to build a cohesive society—where an impoverished and unintelligent citizen is granted the freedom to enjoy certain inalienable rights.
In contemporary European culture, there is a widening hostility towards populism. The war seeks to add new meaning in politics by establishing ideas of sovereignty, solidarity and an uncompromising resolution of liberty. The cultural crisis has been identified as the nucleus for the broader economic and political crises that Europe now faces. A Polish ex-Vice Prime Minister has pointed out, “There is no way out of the current systemic crisis without turning in the direction of culture.”
Majority wins: A shift to the right
In the last half of the century, European countries have swiftly turned from a minority cynosure to more majority-driven colonial powers. At present, only the will and wants of the masses are given emphasis, while the minority is relegated to the shadows. Although Western media talks incessantly about minority rights, their discourse has shifted swiftly towards the demands of the majority.
A severe political polarisation has befallen Europe. The ideologies of the far-right alliance are gaining ground, manifesting themselves through elections, street mobilisations and cyber publicity. A portal for the radical right wing has opened up in the aftermath of the financial crash of 2008, with overtones of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. National Socialism is being regarded as a relic of the ‘30s, where immigration was held as a fountainhead for plummeting living standards.
Political Stigmata: Patriotism or Xenophobia?
The far-right movements have risen from the ashes of a fallen economic and political system as a council of despair. All the countries in Western Europe are beleaguered by centre-right or right-wing parties, who are interested only in the demands of the majority. For example, the Austrian People’s Party, having Sebastian Kurz as the youngest leader of the government in Europe, has pledged to straitjacket immigrants and battle political Islam.
In the French election, the National Front, which espoused an Islamophobic campaign, won the votes of 11 million people—a proof of how even a near-fascist party can build an army of support. In the United Kingdom, Brexit received a massive splurge of votes as people found a way to channelise their dissatisfaction with present immigration policies, which allowed workers from Eastern Europe to resettle in the UK, dragooning the welfare of its native citizens.
The current political quagmire in Germany has exposed the unfeasibility of having a ‘Jamaican’ government. Despite several coalition negotiations between the Christian Democrats, the Christian Social Union and the Green Party, a stalemate ensued. The Social Democrats, which is the opposition party, is trailing behind with an unprecedented low backing from voters. It is evident that most parties have chosen to be in opposition to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party. New elections would, therefore, have to be conducted in Germany. The far-right politics have sowed the seeds of ‘patriotism’ into the minds of the masses.
Recently, Poland saw an enormous Independence Day march of around 60,000 people carrying banners with disturbing slogans like “Clean Blood”, “Prayers for an Islamic Holocaust” and “White Europe Now”.
Poppies: For remembrance or rebellion?
Polarisation has gripped Europe in its fell clutches. Europe’s culture war represents a clash between the progressive and traditional values. The innocent-seeming Poppy now symbolises the social divide in Europe.
The poppy was adopted as a symbol of remembrance in the wake of the First World War. It has been a long-standing tradition for citizens to wear a poppy as a sign of mourning and regret. But over the decades, as the memory of the wars faded, the original meaning of the flowers of the Flanders Field was lost. It has now become a mere nationalistic duty to wear the poppy as a symbol of pride for the armed forces. Instead of being a mascot for peace, the poppy now serves as a token of war. It now represents national truism.
In an utterly unintended and ironical way, these remembrance traditions may make military warfare a respectable political option. Today, thousands of people wear the poppy each autumn, but thousands choose not to. Europe needs to recognise the differences in the current situation to the era of war in the 1930s. It needs to usher in ideas for a new Europe—one that befits the 21st century and bids adieu to the crimes of the last one.
A battle to cleanse the soul of Europe
The cultural war in progress is aimed at forming a society on the foundations of solidarity and equal rights for all citizens. An average European citizen enjoys exponentially more educational and health benefits compared to their Asian or American counterparts. Populism in Europe entails a broad framework of universal rights. The Europeans are revolting against the upthrust of globalisation to retain their stable old system.
The cultural war in Europe is unique in its own way as people are willing to embrace immigrants who pay their taxes. There is a flaming social urge to create a cohesive society where all citizens are entitled to basic rights. Nationalism, Colonialism, Capitalism and Fascism are being regarded as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for Europe. There is a widespread call to end immigrant scapegoating, prejudice against Muslims and anti-Semitic conspiracies to ensure a sustainable universal welfare state. The European countries are not preoccupied with becoming global autocrats. European values stem from moderation, and moderation comes from creating a world where there is space for everybody.
Featured Image Source: VisualHunt
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