Auschwitz and Kolyma, the trauma that made Europe so skeptical of its civilization

Published by Guillaume Klossa Télémaque, “European Pride Declaration for Future Civilization”.

Published by Guillaume Klossa Télémaque

3Janek Skarjinski / AFP

Good leaf

Guillaume Klossa Télémaque published the “European Pride Manifesto for European Civilization”. The European Union has taken an unexpected place in the presidential election campaign. Critics meet with the union, saying the French do not want to give up a single currency, even without the many benefits with which they are heavily attached. Extract 1/2.

With Auschwitz and Kolyma, the European narrative of progress and enlightened civilization breaks down. Then the memory work on the criminal horrors of a colonial and slavery past creates any story suspicious in the eyes of Europeans that would confirm the idea of ​​a certain civilization in Europe, the term itself up to a certain embarrassing state and method of teaching history.

However, this is the first structural element. Europeans, aware of themselves and their abilities – economic, military, intellectual – considered it a matter of moral and cultural superiority. By the 1830s they had made the history of civilization a “complete anthropology” and a compass for political action, nurturing their curiosity for other civilizations, from the innocent exaggeration of Orientalism to the racist classification in Gobineau. But the cold light of Hiroshima and the fog of Treblinka have changed their outlook on history.

They took the idea of ​​civilization so far that historian Charles Moraze explained in the 1970s: “Until the pre-World War II period, no one doubted its existence; And most Europeans in the nineteenth century even considered civilization to be Europe’s exclusive right. What remains of it since the rise of racism and the failure of colonialism? Europe has become isolated, its civilization is a thing of the past, and our study must be a condition of rebirth. A

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It is true that after the war, the Europeans faced a three-pronged push. They first became aware of their scientists, their engineers, their ethnographers, and their moral collapse for the Nazi horror and nuclear terror for the victory of their reasoning. In Asia, as in Africa, they discover the criminal violence of colonialism in the name of the mission of European civilization. Finally, dividing the continent by iron curtains gives them the feeling that they have moved away from history and that Europe is now the theater of operations, the era of two rival civilizations, the stain between the Americans and the Russians. The policy of their civilization has led the world and Europe to disaster. And this departure from history will only be fair in the end.

This cultural discomfort explains the current use of history in many European countries, the political use of history, the permanent work on the impossibility of a common memory, the apocalypse of the debate over European cultural identity and, more broadly, the disbelief in civilization. The concept of European power.

This paradox is felt nowhere more than in Germany, the main culprit and victim of this extravagance and exaggeration of cultural superiority. There is a great deal of distrust of the main historical or geopolitical ideas, the ideas that are at the heart of Nazi ideology and, more broadly, the politicians who run totalitarian regimes. For the rest of the union, it explains the reluctance of member states to abandon the stance of neutrality inherited from Yalta, to adopt a different approach than Washington, or even to adopt a more general geopolitical narrative. It also explains the distrust of the notion of power that is associated with the reflection of European civilization and the desire for power, which was once called the “European mission of civilization” with which it is associated.

Added to these structural factors is the main conjunctival factor: until recently, Europe also did not feel the need to describe itself. The story ended with the end of the Cold War and the victory of the West. It was an influential West whose success was based on the continued development of world trade based on the promise of ever-increasing planetary prosperity that was created by the trade rules created within the framework of the GATT, then WTO. This globalization of exchange was accompanied by the spread of liberal democracy and to signify the end of history, a global story where there is no alternative to the inevitable democratization of the planet.

But the promise of happy globalization has disappeared. It’s time to dump her and move on. Not on the ghosts of the past, but on the aspirations of the future. What if the union was much more than a cornea technocratic project? What if it is not a glorious past but a civilized project referring to a desired future?

To find out the Guillaume Closer interview published in Atlantico for his latest book release, click here

“European Pride Manifesto for a Civilization of the Future” from Guillaume Klossa’s book, published by Télémaque

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