On the world of yesterday, witches and ghosts


by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

(text in the memory of Jo Cox, British MP, 41, upholder of refugees’ rights and the continuation of United Kingdom in the EU, who was appallingly killed on 16th June).

Jo Cox’s murder was a senseless attack on democracy itself“, via The Telegraph.

Jo Cox MP death: David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn unite in tributes“, via BBC.

Jo Cox death: ‘The well of hatred killed her,’ Corbyn says – latest updates“, via The Guardian.

Jo Cox’s tragic death may halt pro-Brexit momentum, analysts say“, via CNBC.

The price of caring“, via The Economist blog.

Jo Cox’s death should make us reflect on our polluted, abusive politics“, via Mirror.

After Jo Cox’s Killing (…)“, via The Wall Street Journal.

Before the adversities we have been facing in Europe lately – financial speculation, migratory boom, terrorism, Euroscepticism, populism, intolerance, Brexit, etc. – sometimes it seems it could not get worse. A sort of perfect storm, as it is said. But it can always get worse. In fact, it was worse in the past. We can acknowledge that by simply reading Stefan Zweig’s memoirs, The World of Yesterday. In it the author gives us a nostalgic picture of a missing world, the one of Europe pre-1914 which is opposed to heinous period of the wars, interleaved by a short time of peace and hope in the European renaissance. It was during the exile in England, and then Brazil, where the Jewish Austrian wrote his memories – as well as the iconic Brazil, land of the future, in deep demonstration of gratitude to the country that hosted him.

At this time of profound consternation due to the harrowing assassination of Jo Cox, this “world of yesterday” described by a war refugee in the end of the 1930s proves that there is still space for a normative approach of the European integration process, inclined to create solutions that help neutralize the fragmentation forces against which the Union is being confronted, and mobilize its cohesion forces.

As Stefan Zweig explains, the liberal idealism of the XIX century overlook with disdain past times, with their wars, famine and revolts, as a time in which humanity was inferior and insufficiently enlightened. Barbaric setbacks were as believed as witches and ghosts. Unfortunately, though, Europe was not free from a collective bestiality eruption. Its culture and civilization, as Freud explained, are like a narrow layer always at risk of perforation, at any time, by the destructive forces of the underworld. The Europeans live together since the Roman Empire, almost always in a domestic violence relation, except from the period of integration – which, however, could not avoid the war at the door, either as in the ethnic conflict that lacerated the Balkans throughout 1990s or the recent Ukrainian conflict which led to a state of alert in the Baltic member states of the EU.

The turbulence of the crises makes us forget that the European integration, despite its imperfections, has extraordinary achievements to present – the largest of them being the transformation of enemies into neighbours following the two World Wars. As Ulrich Beck elucidated, several of the EU achievements became so obvious that we would only notice them if they ceased existing – and maybe for that reason some Europeans are renouncing them in such a frivolous manner with severe consequences to present and future European generations but also, and recklessly, to the rest of the world.

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