You have to be an admirer of the European Union. This polity that a professor of mine once called “a negotiated negotiation system for future negotiations” has an intrinsic beauty that you can only discover when you take the time to make long random walks through its endless piles of laws and regulations, of institutions and institutional roles, of people and procedures.
However, and this is not really a new revelation but still noteworthy, only few people can walk these walks. Only few have the interest and time to pack their bags and start on a tracking tour through the Union. Only few are ready to take on the dangers of this journey. You need to be an adventurer equipped with the right tools and the right skills to find your way through this wild forest only few indigenous people – EU officials – have passed before you.
You have to be an academic with a lot of time, a journalist with a lot of idealism, a lobbyist with strong interests, or a crazy person somewhere in between the other three to be able to cross the forest from one end to the other, to find the gold in the midst of the maze or to discover beautiful pyramid that someone has built in the middle of what appears to be nowhere a long time ago.
The difficulties of finding your way in this wilderness makes the Union a polity that is only for advanced users, users who can develop these skills over years, who learn to speak the dialects of all the different indigenous people, who can smell between the branches of an institutional tree that something is wrong, who can hear from the slightly changed tone of a Commission bird’s song that something is happening in the Neighbourhood, who can find the trace of a wild regulation and track it down over several miles by following small pieces of shit that it has left below the roots of rotten trees.
This primeval forest may be beautiful, but it is not useful for the survival of most human beings. It is not user-friendly, unless you are a very specific user. Sure, the indigenous people will tell you how easy it is to survive. The idealists and old-school anthropologists outside the rain forest will tell how pure this nature and how original the way of living of the native peoples are. And sure, the environmental people will tell you how important it is to keep the forest as it is to preserve a diversity of species and to prevent climate change.
The longer I study this forest, the more I admire the abilities of the indigenous people and the beauties of this forest. I start to understand the different dialects of more and more peoples and I can finally tell from a piece of shit what animal has dropped it and what it has been eating the day before. However, the longer I bushwhack, the more I think it is time to simply build a motorway through the forest to make it easier to get from one end to the other. This may not be beautiful, but maybe you have to build a road for the tourists to make them come and to see how beautiful the rain forest is before they are ready to save it.
I’m aware that the natives don’t have the skills to do that, because they are too much adapted to their life between the old trees they have been watching grow over generations. I’m aware they also don’t want to be disturbed, that they are afraid to be extinct by all the illnesses ordinary people may bring into the forest.
I’m also aware that some journalists don’t want this street to be built because it would mean they don’t have exclusive access to the natives and their stories anymore. I am equally aware that some lobbyists may not want this road to be built because they might lose their monopoly over resources formerly hidden in the forest. Oh, and I am also aware that academics might understand that building a road would be useful but would propose to build it in a way that no car could ever actually drive on it.
So in the end, no street will be built and the primeval forest of the European Union will continue to grow. The natives will live the way they have always lived, only sometimes disturbed by people looking for gold, for a story, or for ideas on how to save a forest that is a totally self-sufficient ecosystem without much external interference. The EU will remain a beautiful and wild polity, a living system that is impossible to cross unless you are an advanced user.
Unless there is anyone who wants to start building the road…?!
In a way inspired by this talk (German).