LAUGHING THE DAY AWAY….Jonah Goldberg writes today about the possible breakup of Belgium into a Flemish-speaking north and a French-speaking south:
Here’s the hilarious irony of all this: The European Union is in effect subsidizing nationalism in Belgium and across the Continent….The catch-22 is delightful….This points to why I take so much pleasure in the troubles in Brussels….But what I really like about the Belgian crisis is that it puts a dent in the myth that Europe represents some enlightened new model exportable to the rest of the globe.
As a factual matter, Goldberg is only partly correct. The EU doesn’t subsidize nationalism so much as it emphasizes regionalism — or perhaps re-emphasizes is a better way of putting it, since Europe has long been a collection of “marches, limes, militärgrenze, krajina: zones of imperial conquest and settlement, not always topographically precise but delimiting an important political and cultural edge.” (Tony Judt, Postwar.) Regional cultural distinctions have always been important in Europe, and in some ways the safety of being part of the EU makes it easier for regions to assert these distinctions without fear of war or isolation. But there’s no single reaction to this newfound security. In certain cases it helps to contain regional desires for independence and in others it makes it more attractive.
But that’s not what gets me about this passage. I understand schadenfreude. We all do. But why on earth would anyone take such great delight in the belief — mistaken or otherwise — that an experiment in building comity and economic integration had failed? If it were exportable to the rest of the world, wouldn’t that be a boon? If it really is failing, where’s the hilarious irony?