Why i am sceptical on the way Stefan Tsweig expressed his views on a United European Culture 


The year 1932, Stefan Tsweig, gave a lecture in Florence, with the title "Der europaische Gedanke in seiner historischen Entwicklung", which means "The European way of thinking in its historical evolution".

Stefan Tsweig, considered people as collective units, and nations according to him, had this dual inclination, to be proud of national traits and individuality on one hand, and on the other hand, were in search of supranational identifications, when it came to spiritual and cultural personality, with a view to transmit their own cultural wealth, to other nations...

He also considered those two inclinations, the national and supranational one, necessary, so that they would both, eventually conclude to a constructive procedure as humanity evolved.

The historical background of Stefan Tsweig's arguments on a United Europe, stems from two main historical references, he tends to find decisive, in shaping the basis of a european way of thinking, that would be strong enough to lead furthermore, to a European Union...

The first historical reference he finds decisive in the above-mentioned context, is the "Tower of Babel" myth. In this myth, people come out of darkness, and feel a strong urge to be united, thus turn their heads to the sky, with a view to create a tower and a town that would be high enough, to reach the sky...! But according to the myth, God watched people from above, and in order that they wouldn't become full of arrogance, and so that God would remain "intact" high in the sky, God decided to stop this magnificent project, and created a huge confusion among people, so that the one would not understand the language of the other, as everyone would speak a different one. This way, disputes started to rise, and the project of the Tower of Babel, was left incompleted. Stefan Tsweig, considers myths, as the strong will of nations, and as the dreams of whole generations.

The second, and most significant historical reference Stefan Tsweig bases his argument on a United Europe, is the organizational structure, we can observe in the Roman Empire. Tsweig, believes strongly that the spiritual and political unity of Europe, beggins with Roman Empire. He also supports the idea that the Greek civilization, presented a unique "measure" to the human soul, and put a mark on humanity, but did not serve the idea of unity, as the Roman Empire did. Inside the Roman Empire, people were governed by one unique system of administration, they had one single currency, one and only martial art, one law system, common customs, one language (Latin language), and one science. 

But as he believes, the united spirit is always succeeded by violence and fall. Tsweig supports the idea that the fall of the Roman Empire, led the European culture under the level of the Asian cultures, and that of China. He says, that in those days that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, Italians and Spanish people, were obliged to learn form scratch fine arts, and "borrowed" knowledge from the Arab doctors and thinkers, and also from Byzantine teachers. But with this argument, isn't it obvious that Tsweig, presupposes the supremacy of the European culture above the others? 

Tsweig, also considers the Roman Church, as an extremely admirable structure that helped preserve the Latin language, and led to Humanism era, when thinkers and intellectual people from all around the world, managed to interact between them again, no matter in which country they chose to study, as books were translated in Latin again, and all had access to knowledge under a common language. But the Roman Church, was also responsible for major crimes, which seem to be ignored under this argument, which purifies the Roman Churche's role to the grandeur of a spiritual protector of intellectual legacies of the past.

Stefan Tsweig, believes also that the historical Reformation, that followed the fall of the Catholic Church, was catastrophic for the Church, and it was of course, but he also underlines the non-importance of this historical fact as a fact, that cut again the paces towards a united Europe. But isn't this idea, underestimating the power of pluralism of ideas, and thus opposing to dissident opinions? Isn't is somehow imposing the supremacy of the Catholic Church, as the one and only recognized authority, people should be loyal to, as a means of being united, and this way demands for different and non-obedient thougths, to be excluded and not expressed, in the name of unity? And in the end, the non-epxression of dissident thoughts, wouldn't lead to a spiritual blindness, exactly the opposite of what Stefan Tsweig wished for Europe?

As the Latin language stoped again to unify people, in the 17nth and 18nth centuries, Tsweig refers to Classical Music, as a representative feature of Europe among nations. Classical Music, created masterpieces ofcourse, but why should anyone consider its European extension,  as a means of Unification against others? Because this can be a little dangerous, when it comes to considering a European culture superior to all the rest...

Stefan Tsweig, was a great thinker and believer of unity and peace, and it would be not wise or possible that i can judge the huge legacy he left behind him. But i can express my views and my questionmarks, on issues that i believe can be perceived extremely different and can lead to totally dangerous scenarios, having nothing to do with unity or peace. Tsweig's views, were expressed into a specific historical and political background, that personally, i find dangerous to translate and interpret in our days, especially when we listen to arguments about one European identity and one and unique European culture...! No! There are many countries inside the European Union with many and extremely different cultures. How can it be one? And why should a Union pressupose one culture? Except for the fact that this argument underestimates the pluralism of voices, and of identities inside the European territory, in other words it underestimates the wealth and the legacy of what makes a United Europe unique, it also sounds dangerous, to the point that it craves for the identification of supremacy of the "European culture", in the "dictionary" of all the cultures of the world...

                                             written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science 

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