The Overlooked Religious Origins of the Eurozone Crisis
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying...that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals...
(Amos, 8, 4)
Introduction: The Past
The Eurozone Crisis has been going on for over a year now; indeed many who considered it inevitable would trace its origins back much further to its very inception. What has become clear, even to the most euro-blinded is that at its heart there is a different but unspoken understanding of what the euro is for. In North-Western Europe, especially in Germany, the euro was seen as a way for the rest of the EU to become as hard-working and economically prudent as itself. In South-Western Europe, the euro was seen as a way for it to become as prosperous as North-Western Europe, while remaining as relaxed as sunny South-Western Europe always has been. However, beyond this misunderstanding there is a profound religious cleavage, which goes back to the sixteenth century and beyond that to the eleventh century.
On the one hand, ever since the sixteenth century most of North-Western Europe has been moulded by Protestant values. Wherever those Protestant values have been strictest, as in the cold highlands of Calvinist Switzerland, Norway and Scotland, as well as in the Netherlands, Prussia and the rest of Scandinavia, there the work ethic and the banking of money earned have been vital. This ideology, adopted in the sixteenth century and made into a religion, meant that societies there focused on organising life in this world through hard work and investment. Modern Capitalism thus began, because it is founded on Mammon or Money (= Capital), in other words on interest or, put simply, usury.
Banking based on usury, or interest, meant industrial development. This began in England with the Industrial Revolution, where modern Capitalism had begun as soon as the processes of demonasticisation in the sixteenth century and the vicious civil wars in the seventeenth century were complete. (From here modern Capitalism was exported to English colonies, especially those in North America). Calvinist Puritanism decreed that sin was in sexual relations, not in the Capitalist exploitation by man of man and nature, hence the high Protestant ‘sin taxes’ on alcohol, tobacco etc. If people enjoyed something, they were to be taxed for it.
On the other hand, South-Western Europe remained Roman Catholic. For it, usury, and therefore Protestant Capitalism, was a sin and, where it was necessary, it remained largely delegated to Jews, as it had been in the Middle Ages. The work ethic remained foreign to it. Certainly, people did work hard, but hard work was regularly punctuated by a great many feasts and holy days, by the enjoyment of life, not the dreary, boring work ethic of the cold killjoy Protestant North. The organisation of life in this world was not seen as the priority; the priority was the organisation of life in the next world. Sin was in Money, in Mammon or Capital, not in enjoyment.
The origins of this mentality are and were in the Church Christianity of before the eleventh century, in the first millennium, which has been preserved in both North-Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Four EU countries there, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, have remained within the orbit of this original Christianity, known as the Orthodox Church, to this day. Their mentality, unknown to or despised by Protestant North-Western Europe and diluted by Roman Catholic South-Western Europe, said that the essential in life was not hard work, banking and exploitation. The essential in life was and is the inevitable meeting with God after this world has ended, the salvation of the soul for eternity and the preparation for this in the here and now. This is why the vast majority of Europe, whose culture is also of the Orthodox Church, has remained outside the EU.
The Present Crisis
Today all the Non-Protestant countries of the Eurozone are in trouble: Ireland (which, though in the North-West, remained Roman Catholic through nationalist opposition to British Protestant Imperialism), Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus (Romanian and Bulgaria were never even allowed to join the euro) form this group. And even semi-Catholic France is threatened with financial problems.
Their mentality is not the Protestant one of save and thrift, it is the Non-Protestant one of spend and enjoy. This told, quite reasonably for the Non-Protestant mind, the bankers of the Protestant EU in their cold and rainy North: If you are foolish enough to give us huge amounts of money, then we shall spend and enjoy life. After all, since death (taboo to the Protestants) awaits, we cannot take the money with us, so we may as well enjoy it in our sunshine while we can.
Conclusion: The Future
Thus, at heart, the Eurozone crisis, which drags on and on because no-one has the courage to face up to it, is one founded on a difference of religious mentality. Until this is recognised, the myth of a non-existent ‘Europe’ (= EU), of European homogeneity and European unity, will endure. To the tyrant gods of Brussels and Berlin who want to create a Europe in their own image and likeness, let us say what has been said at the European Football Championship, though with quite a different meaning: Respect diversity. The EU will only ever be what it claims to be, a ‘European Union’, if its members agree to give up their freedom and sovereignty and become homogenised slave colonies of Brussels. If you do not want that, then give up the whole EU euro ‘dream’ (actually nightmare) and accept a European Confederation of Sovereign Nations.
15/28 June 2012