Jun 23

On this site, we’ve come back to the question of secession several times. The news a week ago that Ireland, with less than 1% of the EU’s population, single-handedly derailed the second EU attempt at political centralization (Lisbon Treaty) strikes me as the perfect opportunity to talk about the flip side of the coin: the ideology of unification.

Because let’s face it, unification is an ideology.

The EU prides itself on moving towards unification only through debate, consensus, and democratic decision-making. But increasingly, it finds itself in the impossible position of trying to convince every member state that there is something to be gained, when in many cases, the benefits are uncertain, long-term, or abstract. The EU leaders had high hopes of being written in history books when they signed this and the last treaty. In the aftermath of this episode, however, we have seen ideas seriously floated like ignoring Ireland’s vote, of procedurally maneuvering around it, of making them vote again and again until passed, even of expelling Ireland from the EU! If this isn’t the unification ideology working, I don’t know what is.

To Chinese people, the existence of such ideologically driven motivation seems only natural. Human history is one of successively larger units of cooperative society. Without pre-commitment (generally founded on an ideological faith), there is nothing to guarantee cooperation among actors, no matter what their best intentions are. If you want gains, you have to put your chips in, even as you don’t know what you will get out of it for certain. The only thing to make people realize this is a negative consequence for not participating, which often means war. Chinese thinkers have figured this out thousands of years ago, when they faced the kind of calamitous warfare like the two World Wars that finally drove Europe to embark on its current path…
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