This is a posting from a blog I did when traveling and teaching through Europe in May, 2013, Gypsy Teacher: Dixon Donnelly Does Europe [still available at http://www.dixondonnellydoeseurope.wordpress.com]. This one includes the write-up of an interview I did with one of my traveling companions, ‘BFF Marie.’
Gypsy Teacher: Dixon Donnelly Does Europe
Wednesday, 24th May, 2013: Who Is Europe?
by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly
Back in Dublin, my second hometown, after Pittsburgh. No Super Bowl rings, but great pubs. Even in the crap weather.
Before we docked I did the ‘Cultural Pre-Port’ for my assembled fellow Semester at Sea participants, to alert them to the best places to eat and drink and just hang out during our two days in port. BFF Marie and I head for one of my lunch recommendations, Gallagher’s Boxty House in the funky Temple Bar area. On the way I pull her into one of my favourite old Dublin pubs, the Palace Bar, to show her the snug, one of the last remaining in the country.
I first went to Gallagher’s Boxty House a few years ago, because my mother was a Gallagher. Good food, hearty soups with crusty bread, beers, cider, friendly waiters. Best lunch in town, if you ask me.
So Marie and I settled in to a corner table, just as it started to rain. Go figure. And I posed my question to her, Is Europe working?
I was interested in Marie’s opinions, not just because she is ‘Hey Marie! Let’s go back on Semester at Sea!’ but also because she is Dr. Marie Hooper, chair of the History Department at Oklahoma City University, whose research topics are modern European history, identity formation, mobilization and nationalism. How perfect is that?!
So, Dr. Hooper, er…BFF Marie, Is Europe working?
‘It might. I have hopes. I’m a bit disappointed to see that national identities still aren’t breaking down. This undermines the whole idea of having a “European identity.”’
How do you balance the two?
‘If they don’t merge into a common European identity, they seem to become more chauvinistic. When times are good they all want to be Europeans. But when times turn down, like now–Look at the National Front in France, the neo-Nazis in Germany, the popularity of Berlosconi. The Greeks are calling the Germans “Nazis” and saying “Heil Angela” to the German chancellor,’ she said. ‘Even the academics tend to still see Europe in nationalistic terms.’
‘But,’ I point out, ‘at the academic conference I attended in Frankfurt, there seemed to be a feeling of European identity. Most were there under funding from the Erasmus program, and were looking for more partnerships with other European universities.’
‘But they were all from business schools, right?’ she asks.
‘True. Business sees it as one big market. Bigger than the US.’
‘And politicians respond to the business community more often than not,’ Marie added. ‘But they still emphasize their own national identity. Identities are evolving things; but instead of evolving into a larger European identity, the current trend is to emphasize national differences.’
So, do you think it is working?, I ask Dr. Hooper.
‘I think the euro is a wonderful idea. Greece might have to go if the politicians follow the bankers; and then there will have to be a change in the basic understanding of the European Union. This is a particularly bad time to be re-negotiating all those treaties because the nationalists of all stripes will try to write protectionist stuff into them.’
‘We were both here in Dublin on Semester at Sea in 2002,’ I remind her. ‘The euro had just been introduced. What changes do you see in Ireland in the past 11 years?’
‘It’s certainly been revitalized. The area on the River Liffey is a great example – that development has been amazing. The new bridge and convention center are just stunning. Our tour guide on the bus yesterday was interesting. He said that the country needs the Catholic church “for values.” Hard to imagine what values the Catholic church is imparting, given their track record. It might be generational; he was in his late 50s, and was obviously nostalgic for a stable past. Even if that stability is largely fictional in terms of historical fact, it was real to him. His ‘good old days’ were the pre-scandal 1990s, the boom times. It seemed that, in his mind, the abuses of the clergy didn’t count as long as ‘we’ didn’t know about them. And he completely dismissed the tragedies of the Magdalen laundries. That was sad.
‘When we were in France a few weeks ago, the French didn’t seem to be as phobic about the Germans. But the French National Front has passed into new leadership with a much more nuanced and clever anti-immigrant platform. The German government isn’t adequately addressing the popular hostility to helping the community within the Union. The Europeans need to think of the current situation as a European economic bailout, not a “German bailout” of Greece and the others.
‘The biggest problem right now in all of these countries is unemployment, and most of the politicians are making it worse. People are basically pissed off. They all need to get past their us against the world thinking and focus on Europe, within the larger world.’
So, the big question: Would you live here?
‘In a minute.’
‘In a minute.’