From Susan Stepney

Panel — Byzantium at our Borders in the 21st century: the Future of Europe

Would we have needed a different past to have a different future? What would be the consequences if “recognition of Europe’s Christian heritage” is inserted into the constitution.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Patrick J. Gyger, Nicholas Whyte, Harry Turtledove, Keith Brooke

[panel]
  • PJG — SF museum of Europe
  • I don’t think that we could have got here any other way
  • looking at Europe from across the water — it’s a different scale — complaining about the distance to Brussels — I’m looking at cultures compressed into a v small scale
  • smallness defines us and defines how we feel — are boundaries wiggly or straight: it tells you how the country was formed
  • the only boundary in Europe that makes sense on linguistic, cultural, whatever grounds is that between England and France — all the rest are the ebb and flow of various empires
  • more people voted on Big Brother than in the European elections
  • how much of the history we learn in school is real — Trafalgar, Waterloo — how can we have a united Europe if we all have different histories?
  • lots of small countries bickering — like spoiled courtiers knifing each other in the back — as power shifts
  • what I think of as being English, and what others think, are v different things
  • we ought to “recognise the Christian heritage”, because it exists, but I don’t want it written in, because it excludes many people now, and ignores other important heritages: Jewish, Islamic, …
  • national history gets used by politicians — buttons can be pushed — not history in any sense an historian would understand
  • Yugoslavia — saw the messes of the whole country replaying themselves — is there no way off this wheel?
  • prejudices remain, but nowhere near as important
    • don’t need to take Sun/Mirror seriously — but Daily Mail readers think it is a serious paper
  • changing linguistic regime in Europe
    • Canadian approach — “bilingual” — include a paragraph in a bad version of the other language
    • European — speak own, pretend to understand other
    • Swiss — 4 languages — use English as a common language to unite us in an artificial way
  • JCG — Arabesk trilogy — liberal strand of Islam, does exist now, but not nearly as strong as it was 70 years ago — came out of two photos from 1905, one in Croydon, one in Turkey, almost identical — only difference was religion — middle class families with nearly everything else in common
  • Nazis make wonderful villains — were really really evil, and they really really lost
    • alternatives: victory, or three cornered standoff
    • WWII breaking out over Sudetenland — a year earlier, with Poland on Germany’s side
  • if Germany won WWI — wouldn’t have run out all scientists under the Kaiser — would have got bomb first
  • war against terrorism
  • votes on European constitution — turning away from Federal Europe
    • French no vote — it was a rejection of the the constitution, not of the Union — just wanted a different one — 200 pages! — should be three pages, a few points — nothing written by 300 people that couldn’t be written better by three
  • UK pulled in two directions — Europe: proximity, history — North America: history, linguistic
    • European feeling increasing, because of feeling less in common with US — so Europe needs to be stronger
  • what does it mean to “feel European”? politically? culturally? …?
    • rest of Europe is investing in English speaking culture
    • in Scotland, tradition to view England as the enemy, tradition of looking to Europe — Auld Alliance
  • I come from Belfast, which is the only place people call themselves British before anything else
  • I’m Norwegian, European — the EU is trying to steal my identity
  • Ryan Air, Easy Jet — have changed our view of Europe
  • what will happen in Europe with Turkey is like US+Mexico
  • in LA, two of the three radio stations are Spanish speaking — the US is not monolingual
  • in the 19th century, it made a lot of sense for a cultural or linguistic body to be a nation — we need to tease out the relationship between culture, nation, government — separate church and state, maybe need to separate state and culture – same currency and road signs, but own cultures
  • I’d feel more European if Europe didn’t define itself as “not American”
  • Brits are more likely to have relatives in India/Pakistan than in Canada/Australia
  • I was at a wedding in deepest Hampshire — huge big Irish/Bengali affair — that was my cousin, marrying an Englishman
  • welcome Turkey in Europe, for getting over the Christian heritage
  • Byzantium — orthodox Christianity + Greek language — could do what you wanted, but stay a local bum
  • Islamic Spain — three religions existing side by side
  • US is a patchwork of cultures — Europe could keep local cultures, doesn’t need to be homogenised

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