Whose fault is that?
In the time of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in May, the support of the far-right parties has been intensifying across Europe: in The Netherlands, France, Hungary or Switzerland among others. The campaign of the political party “Úsvit přímé demokracie” in the Czech Republic follows the similar direction while being inspired by the anti-migration campaign from Switzerland. What does this growing support of far-right in Europe mean? Is it warning signal?
I am not one of those people who believe that the current socio-economic situation in Europe is causing growing xenophobia and extremism in hand with the achievements of far-right parties across the continent. I rather believe that the belt-tightening of the states as well as the scarcities in households’ budgeting are only exacerbated the situation that has been here for the long time as a part of the “European dream” of integration, multiculturalism, cooperation, equality of opportunities and vision of prosperity for all. Fear of diversities, differences or otherness, fear of losing the comfort of a certain living standard, or in the worst the intolerance among people, they are simply features of human history.
In the climate of uncertainty and insecurity of current living standard, people often look for someone to blame for their troubles. “Why this is happening to me? Whose fault is that? What to do with this or them?” Fear, loss of seemingly unshakeable stability and security, even hysteria. In the “favourable” circumstances, the search for blaming one for worsening the other one’s life may turn to a witch hunting. Fear turns to hate. The alleged suspect becomes the enemy.
From the economic crisis to the social one
In the words of Professor Joseph Stiglitz, the winner of the Nobel prize in Economics, the majority of U.S. citizens still did not record the end of the economic crisis of the years 2008 – 2010. As he stated in his speech at The International Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia, at the beginning of April 2014, only one percent of U.S. citizens yet have felt the new economic growth of the country. This is an illustrative example demonstrating the alarming consequences of a crisis: indebtedness, increasing inequalities, disappearing middle class and social changes. It sounds like the analogy to present and future Europe, in particular.
The European countries, especially those enjoying the long-term prosperity, social welfare and security, convenience and economic growth, are now facing challenges and concerns with which they have stopped counting. These challenges have surprised them unprepared. Furthermore, it is not only about the economic crisis anymore. It is about its impacts on the society as such. In an everyday life the economic problems are simply mixed with the personal, family and social ones.
One could feel that the air in Europe is hardening, it is getting more difficult to breath there. People in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine are showing their discontent, fear and anxiety, impatience and intolerance – in elections, in public life, in discussions, in social networks, in medias, on the streets. What will be awaiting us then when the following symptoms get synchronized and inflamed more intensely at the same place and at the same time?
- xenophobia, extremism and racism;
- islamophobia and anti-semitism;
- influence of far-right parties and movements sharing their extremist ideas in election programs;
- anti-immigration and anti-terrorism laws changing our perception of freedoms;
- major budget cuts in the public finance, indebtedness;
- rising unemployment and social insecurity;
- widening social scissors, inequality and disappearance of the middle classes;
- violent disturbances and demonstrations on the streets;
- general dissatisfaction, anger, frustration and stress in hand with work overloads and pressure to be even more efficient, faster, to make more money, to get more power;
- weakened defence and security mechanisms in order to protect;
- inability of the international community to effectively respond to the growing threats;
- tensions and the threat of the armed conflict in Ukraine;
- existing violations and “proxy” wars in Central Africa or the Middle East.
In the number of the European countries most people do not remember wars, systemic violence and repressions, the uncertainty of future anymore. Yet, the Crimean crisis reminds us once again how fragile our lives are in the brace of the superficially safe, stable and strong Europe. In my view, we are not going to the past, to the times of the Cold War or the beginnings of World War II. However, the current situation of living in peace may be compromised similarly to the past.
Putin’s dictatorial and self-serving behaviour sounds as a threat. And the whole world is turning to prevent a possible conflict between the East and the West. Flashback? The world, however, has changed since the Cold War. We may pay a way too much attention to parables with the past while ignoring the warning signals of the future events. The violence is happening on the streets where the anger, hatred and fear of ordinary people is misused and turned to a weapon. Then a single spark may outgrow to a flame, anywhere and anytime.
Crimean crisis has uncovered the fragility of the current world system and unpredictable performance of Russia in the international relations, but it also strengthens our fear of the future. It is restoring the old injustices and harms that never entirely disappeared and it is doing it with the new intensity. Can we recognize the warning signals and pay them enough attention? Are we able to act upon them in advance, to prevent a fire? Or do we rather quench the fire in its full strength when its flames threaten our lives and property? Or do we just mourn at burnt place?