We Europeans

Europe’s mistaken identities

History suggests that it may even be easier to create an identity for others than to find one for oneself. The ‘Us and Them’ syndrome, where the ‘Them’ are dumped together in a separate communal basket, makes the process a bit easier… The Greeks called all foreigners barbaros because they couldn’t decipher their babbling. The… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

It’s not surprising that the best way to describe a profound longing for something unattainable is a German word: Sehnsucht. According to Wikipedia, it “is difficult to translate adequately and describes a deep emotional state. Its meaning is somewhat similar to the Portuguese word, saudade.” Maybe, but it’s a lot more than that. This Sehnsucht… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

One of the things that sticks out in the perception of a foreigner is the overriding sense of fairness of the Belgians in their dealings with others. I say this as one of the English who supposedly invented the concept of fairness and gave the word to the rest of the world. The people of… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

The French, who for so long talked about ‘nos ancêtres, les Gaulois’, may have felt justified in not looking too closely at their antecedence. The Germanic element is in fact more important: according to Luigi Barzini, the Italian author and politician, almost half the inhabitants of present-day France are the descendants of Germanic tribes. As… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

East, West, who’s worst?

Minor yet significant events are easily swallowed up in the digestive tract of history. Personal tragedies get buried under the steamroller of power politics. Over 60 years ago, in 1948, I was drafted into national service in the British army. After training in Northern Ireland (in the company of IRA sympathisers on the run from… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

Saint Nicholas of Myra has a lot to answer for. For a start he was responsible for a Nordic Council meeting that was devoted to a bitter dispute over claims to his namesake, Santa Claus. The Norwegians presented a carefully argued but sentimental case for ownership, matched by equally nostalgic pleas from the Icelanders and… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

A tribute to Belgian pragmatism and opportunism, Brussels has become the host city for the most important of the European Union’s institutions. Operating physically in the Quartier européen, and metaphorically in what observers call the ‘Eurobubble’, the European Commission and the European Parliament have attracted an impressive community of lobbyists. In the words of the… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

Media commentators are talking about the long-term risk that the European institutions will “disintegrate”. But the foundations on which these institutions are based – the subsoil of the European Union – are also shaky. There are a number of long-term trends that all seem to point in the same direction: the ‘balkanisation’ or fragmentation of… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

We owe this statement to the original Henry Ford, pioneer of the ‘Model T’. He went on to tell the journalist interviewing him: “It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we made today.” But even the… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill

With the help of new technologies and the social media, our world is changing so fast that we have difficulty in keeping up with it. Instant videos and SMS messaging fuel grassroots movements and challenge the established order. They create novel situations that, as in the Arab world, bring the need for new social constructs… » read more

Posted by Richard Hill