web analytics

When smart people go stupid

Okay, so why are the individual nations of Europe hanging onto the EU with white knuckles, throwing the last of their money down this dry hole? Two things underpin it, one sensible and one not.

They are absolutely terrified of another war. The last war still looms over everything here, fresh and vivid and awful in the minds of pretty much anyone old enough to be in government (all of them, when the EU was being cobbled together).

The not-so-sensible thing? A huge number of those people are convinced that what caused both World Wars was nationalism, by which they mean what an American would call patriotism. They are so sure of this, it’s not even an argument; it’s simply obvious to everyone.

They are horrified when Americans chant “USA! USA!” at sporting events. At best, it’s an appalling Neanderthal faux pas (much as if we were screaming racial slurs). At worst, ZOMG! ZOMG! Shut up with the nationalism, you’re going to get us all killed already!

Seriously. They think they can (and must) break people of being tribal. They think they can unite them all behind the United States of Vague Geographic Proximity. The pictures on Euro banknotes are of generic landmarks that don’t actually exist.

This is why Angela Merkel can survey the break up of European project and casually observe that peace cannot be taken for granted. It’s a perfectly sensible remark to her and her kind. This isn’t an economic union to them, it’s survival.

In reality, the technocrats of the EU have not banished human nature. You won’t stop a Brit poking fun at a Frenchman, or a German looking down his nose at a Greek. People who speak different languages, worship in different churches and have been raiding each other’s stuff since the Ice Age will not willingly pull together in harness for long.

Unless maybe aliens land and start shooting up the place.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 15, 2011, 10:58 pm

I think this desperate anti-nationalism underpins the suicidal immigration policies, too.

Also probably some of the anti-family, anti-marriage stuff. Family is the smallest molecule of tribe (and individual is the atom).

Comment from mojo
Time: November 15, 2011, 10:59 pm

They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Comment from Pupster
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:03 pm

Would it be wrong to root for the aliens?

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:16 pm

soccer hooligans
As I understand it, gang fights break out at soccer matches. So the EU was created to control the street gangs? Did it work?

Comment from Grizzly
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:20 pm

Stoatie – This is the first time I’ve ever heard it analyzed quite this way. It rings true. I remember a Dutch friend who was absolutely baffled by how often ordinary Americans display flag on their homes. Apparently in the Netherlands, there are only very specific days when that is done. If you do it at other times, people look at you funny. (btw, I love the “weasel in the flag” pic!)

Comment from Redd
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:28 pm

For all the complaining about our flag waving, I’ve never noticed a shortage of flags and patriotic bunting when I traveled in the UK, France, or Italy.

Comment from Randy Rager
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:29 pm

“Unless maybe aliens land and start shooting up the place.”

Yeah, I’m starting to think this is the best case scenario for Europe.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:35 pm

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there be, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.

It is not a project with fair prospect of success.


Comment from Sigivald
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:53 pm

They think they can (and must) break people of being tribal

I think that it might be more that they’re desperately hanging on to the idea of making a “EuroTribe” – of getting people to identify with “Europe”, rather than their actual country.

(And re. Merkel and war, wasn’t she warning about the potential for flareups in the Balkans?

Which aren’t in the EU now, and are arguably peaceful mostly because of (and this is, like, the only context in which the utterance is not hilarious) the threat of EU military power if they cause too much trouble?

(Okay, Slovenia is, and Croatia and Macedonia want to be. But Slovenia and Macedonia were never really the problem children, nor even Croatia.

But the others – like Bosnia and Serbia – aren’t even candidates; yes, they’re involved in the “process”, but I can’t believe for a second that they were interested in the EU as anything other than a way to essentially have Germany and France shovel money at them.))

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 15, 2011, 11:59 pm

No, there was something she said that implied war between the same old suspects. I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment, but bloggers in England were all, like, whoa!

Comment from harbqll
Time: November 16, 2011, 12:25 am

I had a conversation several years ago with a buddy who was a British ex-pat here in the States. He liked to say that Europeans learned the exact wrong lesson from WWII, the Germans and, National Socialism.

The actual lesson, the one they should have learned but didn’t, is that Socialism leads to death and destruction, because it requires outside resources to sustain it. Eventually, people get tired of paying your bills for you, which means either your Socialist Utopia collapses under it’s own weight, or you invade your neighbors and steal their stuff.

Unfortunately, the lesson everyone seems to have learned instead is that Nationalism is bad. Because, clearly, it wasn’t the ideology the Germans were pursuing that was the problem, no it must have been the fact that they all thought Germany was the shizz. That’s gotta be it. To admit otherwise would require some objective introspection, which is the one thing that leftists are utterly incapable of.

But, on a lighter note, as for the idea of Europe only uniting in the face of alien invasion – you must check out Harry Turtledove’s WorldWar series, in which he does exactly that. If I remember correctly, the invasion happens right around the middle of 1942. Give it a whirl.

Comment from thefritz
Time: November 16, 2011, 12:31 am

Enlightening post! So why did most of Europe think it was necessary to bind themselves together in an EU? Was it the fear of being left behind economically by the ascendency of Asia? Was it a way to cure the envy Europe had for America? Did they think really think by forming the EU it would eliminate the possibility of future wars between old enemies?
Been in ‘rehab’ since the late 90’s…missed it all.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: November 16, 2011, 1:18 am

A-LI-ENS! A-LI-ENS! A-LI-ENs!!! (sorry about that)

Recently I was in conversation with a group of people, one of whom was discussing the need to find a costume for her son that was “European.” I don’t remember the specifics, due to the overwhelming horror of her words, but she mentioned using items that were distinctly British. I protested her choice, but her rationale was that the England was a part of the EU, and so therefore qualified as European.

I wept quietly inside, even though I have zero lineage from the British Isles. It wasn’t really the appropriate venue for me to get my dander up over a conversation that I was only indirectly involved in, and had nothing to do with the current venue.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: November 16, 2011, 1:19 am

– thefritz

I think the EU was an attempt to be a superpower like the US and China, sold as an economic and financial union. Now that this has gone bad, the papering over of the cracks is starting to fail.

Another thing that the cooling of “Patriotism” gives you is a waning of interest in governments in general. Its the only way you can sell giving full power over your life to a set of officials even less useful and in touch than your national government officials. Instead, the creeping crud becomes a part of the environment, like the weather. Nobody does anything about the weather.

Comment from BigBluBug
Time: November 16, 2011, 2:04 am

I think the EU idea was a mechanism for the collective elites to assure themselves prestige and comfort, and to keep the proles in line.

What I find fascinating is their propensity to enumerate each and every right accorded to their citizens within their declarations and such. Along with this is the idea that you can regulate human interaction; ignoring reality in the hopes that by doing so you can change it.

I’ve been all over Europe and have learned 2 things:

– Their capacity for denial is incredible.

– I liked all the people I met there.

– Finland is the only place in the world where you find the drunks passed out on the street wearing Armani suits.

– In Madrid, the Wendy’s chicken sammiches sometimes have chicken feet in them. Madrid is disgusting. Andalusia is all kinds of awesome (it’s not in Madrid).


PS Feynmangroupie, the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics killed my brain.

Comment from BigBluBug
Time: November 16, 2011, 2:11 am

Just as a follow up. Spain sucks because when they show the A-Team on the telly, they dub Mr. T’s voice with a high whiny voice of a UniVision dbag.

And EuroMTV.


Comment from JeffS
Time: November 16, 2011, 2:11 am

Would it be wrong to root for the aliens?

If they limit their occupation to the Eurasian landmass — no. If they hold true to any such treaty, I can see only improvements.

Comment from James the lesser
Time: November 16, 2011, 3:02 am

Is there something about this site that attracts physicists or those fond of the field?

Comment from BigBluBug
Time: November 16, 2011, 3:05 am

Is there something about this site that attracts physicists or those fond of the field?

It’s because Stoaty plays the banjo.

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: November 16, 2011, 3:20 am

Well if ever there was a Strange Attractor that would be our genial chicken-wielding hostess. (me: PhD, Solid State Physics. Ask me about cut-rate subscriptions to PhysRev B!)

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: November 16, 2011, 3:22 am

If one were to replace a subatomic particle with a weasel and then expose it to varying magnitudes of energy, upon observation, the resulting excitation would exactly mimic that of the aforementioned particle.

Oh and “String Theory” wasn’t named accidentally.

Comment from BigBluBug
Time: November 16, 2011, 3:34 am

Oh and “String Theory” wasn’t named accidentally.


(me: PhD, Solid State Physics. Ask me about cut-rate subscriptions to PhysRev B!)

me: washed out of science skool.

– Quantum mechanics -> I got this.

– Statistical mechanics -> Not a problem.

– Specially Relativity -> Just don’t make the questions hard.

– We’ll integrate over all paths by expanding them as Fourier series and then integrating over all possible Fourier coefficients -> Look! Corgis!

Comment from Barb the Evil Genius
Time: November 16, 2011, 3:46 am

In my admittedly limited experience with Europeans, they didn’t exactly identify with their native countries so much as the specific region they were from. So a German friend considered himself more Bavarian than German. A Spanish college TA considered himself more from Catalan than Spain. The fact that several of these countries, such as Germany, were thrown together relatively recently, and that these regions still have their own dialects, doesn’t help. Forget seeing themselves as “European.”

Comment from gromulin
Time: November 16, 2011, 4:03 am

Well put. Put, well. Damn straight.

Comment from dawn
Time: November 16, 2011, 5:31 am

ditto what gromulin said.

I heart Angela Merkel. She’s a class act. But the only race of people more arrogant than Germans are Texans.

Comment from Oceania
Time: November 16, 2011, 5:54 am

How many physicist are there here? I quit my PhD in nuclear physics, and went bio … after several degrees in physics, I decided to diversify into fields with a stable income.

Comment from Oceania
Time: November 16, 2011, 5:56 am

Oh, you will be pleased to know that NZ has a Ferret Farm, where they are bred, housed, trained and shipped for Export.

Comment from enter exiting sandman
Time: November 16, 2011, 6:25 am

I harped about this last night. The Europeons have cobbled together this paranoid union out of fear of another war happening or Hitler getting started. They have institutionalized their paranoia. The big dogs have chained themselves to the little dogs, those yapping expensive lap dogs like Greece and Italy and now it’s coming back to bite them on their collective backsides. The EU will fold. Old grudges will arise once more. Conflict will ensue at some point. For now the shots will be of the monetary kind but that will change. One of Merkel’s lackeys today told the UK that the EU speaks German. And Britain needs to ‘get into line’ with the EU. That sounds like German nature coming out again.

Europeons doing what they do best: not getting along while lecturing others. Still not my fight. Let em have at it. Bon chance!

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: November 16, 2011, 6:27 am

What’s funny is that the EUrocracy has been tacitly encouraging subnational tribalisms: Scots and Welsh in the UK, Catalan and Galician in Spain, probably Breton and Corsican in France (though Idunno for sure).

Orwell had an essay on the difference between patriotism and nationalism. The former he saw as healthy, the latter as toxic.

The EUrocrats area confused, though. It’s possible for people to be patriotic about their country without getting into wars with other nations. England and Scotland remain distinct countries, and retain the patriotic loyalty of their citizens, but haven’t been in a fight for over 400 years. (The Jacobite rebellions were Scot vs. Scot; the Scots involvement in the English Civil War was in alliance with an English side.)

The degree of nationality felt by Europeans varies. All Swiss are Swiss – despite the language and religious splits. All Poles are Poles. But some French are Basques, Bretons, or Corsicans.

I don’t know that many Germans have much investment in regional identity. A large part of the population are post-WW II transplants from the east, with only a vestigial Prussian, Silesian, Pomeranian, or Sudeten identity. Bavaria probably has the strongest identity. And about 40% of present-day Bavaria was added during the Napoleonic Wars, first as an ally of Napoleon, and then as a reward for turning on him. So there’s a lot of Germans with no identity except “German”.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: November 16, 2011, 12:45 pm

…the only race of people more arrogant than Germans are Texans.

Guilty, yer honor. In my experience the two of us get along reasonably well. There are sound historical reasons for that, of course.

Which suggests a possible course of action. We keep saying that geography is less important in the age of the Internet, and if so alliances should reflect compatibility rather than mere proximity.

Break up the EU and redo the alliances. Germany becomes part of Texas — the individual States are too big to be reasonable Counties, but surely some arrangement could be made; possibly Austria could be included. France would fit well in a union of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, presuming we could find ways to keep NYC and Paris from launching mortar attacks on one another. The PIIGS, less Ireland, are just California 1.0 anyway, and Benelux/the Low Countries would fit well with New Jersey and Maryland. Other possibilities may occur to you… of course this leaves Britain on its ownsome, but that’s probably best for all concerned anyway.

This could work, at least until die Texanische Volk und Reich starts casting eyes at Poland…


Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: November 16, 2011, 1:31 pm

I think there is a great deal of truth in what you say, Stoaty.

But “tribalism” is – in the final analysis – instinctive. And messing with instincts – especially complex, little-understood ones – is fraught with dangers to both society and individuals. Doubly so if the “messer” is a scared, naive, do-gooder socialist. Nothing good has or will come of this exercise.

We must remember in the coming melee that if Germany invades France again, we have to INSIST that this time they keep it.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: November 16, 2011, 2:08 pm

I have long thought that Europe and the US learned very different lessons from WWII. In Europe people tended to view the problem as “those damn Germans at at it again”, and thus the conclusion that nationalism was the problem.

The US, however, facing both Japan and Germany (and with the Russians as a rather questionable teammate) tended to view the problem (more correctly I believe) as a problem of ideologies and education of citizens in the ideologies.

The Germans and the Hitler youth; the Japanese with the cult of Bushido twisted into dying gloriously for whatever they tell you the Emperor said.

The European response to the aftermath of too much government getting into every aspect of peoples’ lives has been more and bigger government, in the belief that the German pack of dogs must answer to a bigger alfa dog. Who hasn’t had the thought (in the office) that “if I only had a little MORE POWER I could fix this mess”?

The American response has been to teach the children to question authority in the belief that this will prevent the government from taking the country down paths to madness. Tnis, of course, has its own problems, among them that it hasn’t stopped our own trend towards creeping socialism. However, at least some of us question it.

Comment from Goober
Time: November 16, 2011, 4:26 pm

Would it be wrong to root for the aliens?

I, for one, would welcome our new alien overlords!

Comment from Oldcat
Time: November 16, 2011, 4:32 pm

I’d think if the European governments really feared a new growth of something like Nazisim, they would not be consistently ignoring the Isamists in their midst.

It seems that appeasement is still the order of the day

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: November 16, 2011, 4:55 pm

Goober, there was actually a SF novel written on the premise that “no otherwise-intelligent species is capable of running its own government efficiently and fairly and productively. It is an impossibility.”

So a bunch of species got together and “conquered” each other and got amazing results. No species managed its own affairs, but did manage someone elses.

Fast forward ten thousand years and its earths turn.

Pity I can’t remember the name of the novel. I must have read it over 40 years ago.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: November 16, 2011, 5:36 pm

Among the human race’s worst vices are pity and mercy.*

*clever nietzschean aphorisms made to order while-U-wait! Order yours today!

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: November 16, 2011, 6:03 pm

But the only race of people more arrogant than Germans are Texans.

It’s not arrogance if you are better than everyone else. 😉

Seriously, to the point of Stoaty’s post, tribalism is natural. Hell, look at Top Gear. Clarkson invokes all kinds of stereotypes. I know he’s not 100% serious, but man, he really leans hard on them. You start to wonder if there is some truth behind that, kind of like what Ace calls “kidding on the square”.

Btw, BS in biomedical engineering and master’s of electrical engineering here. So, kinda physics-adjacent.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: November 16, 2011, 7:34 pm

Keith Laumer wrote a book -“The Monitors” where earth was taken over by nice nice folk in Gold Suits who turned out to be aliens in disguise. When the kind of crackpot fringe groups managed to ‘beat’ the aliens, the hero hired them back to run things.

What was funny is that every one was calling the Monitors them by a different name – “The Russkies”, “The Israelis” so it was very confusing when these groups ran into each other.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: November 16, 2011, 7:35 pm

Masters in Physics.

Comment from mojo
Time: November 16, 2011, 9:31 pm

Poul Anderson: “No Truce With Kings”

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: November 16, 2011, 9:57 pm

Not the story I was taking about – but good! In the one I was talking about, the truth only came out towards the end, when the overlords (or whatever they were called) told Man that it was now our turn to go conquer race x and begin attending to their business.

– and, MSEE here, with a nice li’l dab of extra math and physics because they’re just good, clean fun. Retired, of course!

Comment from Frit
Time: November 16, 2011, 10:05 pm

Yet another book to add to the list of those with the theme of aliens supervising humans and humans supervising the aliens:

Piers Anthony: “Triple Detente”
Official book description: Earth and Kazo have created a unique peace. Kazo administers Earth, and Earth controls Kazo. Nothing is really complicated until both humans and Kazos discover the existence of a third intelligent race in the galaxy and try to bring them into the newly developing peace.

Comment from Mitchell TAFKAEY
Time: November 16, 2011, 10:05 pm

College drop-out and window licker (apparently) here.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 16, 2011, 10:50 pm

You got it all over me, Mitchell. I’m an art school drop-out.

Believe me, when you can’t handle the intellectual rigors of painting class, you’ve got no business taking on the demanding pursuit of window licking.

Comment from Mitchell TAFKAEY
Time: November 16, 2011, 11:35 pm

Ah, well I was an art major too. I’d say we can handle window licking duties.

I like Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth as my favorite human / alien relationship. After an initial rocky start Humans & the insectoid Thranx figure out that we’re WAY better together than either of our species are apart so we merge our cultures & governance.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: November 16, 2011, 11:53 pm

I assume the one Piers Anthony wrote involves a ton of breasts and alien sex.

Stop licking that window. STOP IT. You don’t know where it’s been!

Comment from James the lesser
Time: November 17, 2011, 2:10 am

Me: Was collider HEP; shifting to IceCube but trying to avoid traveling to the cold place.

Comment from Frit
Time: November 17, 2011, 6:09 pm

Humm, also a college drop-out. And a voracious reader of SF & Fantasy, and a few other subjects, including some ‘hard science’.

Claim to fame: Was at an SF convention, attending a panel on “Why we don’t have flying cars” – and other technological gadgets my generation had been led to expect growing up, watching The Jetsons and Star Trek. I enjoyed a rousing conversation with the panelists, pointing out assorted items and why we didn’t have them yet, and adding more reasons why we didn’t have things they mentioned. At the end of the session, a lady approached me from the back of the room, handed me her business card and said; “I work for Lockheed, send me your resumè.” (She went on to say she had been impressed with my contributions, and that I sounded like I knew what I was talking about.)
I don’t think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the convention. 🙂

Comment from memomachine
Time: November 19, 2011, 5:15 am


So we’ve had the EU. And now for it to come around again only this time as a farce.

Looking at the world. Politics in the USA. Economic disaster in the EU. And economic insanity in China.

Why is the world seem like it is spinning to the sound of Benny Hill theme music?

Pingback from Re-making Reality Doomed to Fail | Daily Pundit
Time: November 21, 2011, 5:58 am

[…] Reality Doomed to Fail Posted on November 20, 2011 9:30 pm by Bill Quick S. Weasel Okay, so why are the individual nations of Europe hanging onto the EU with white knuckles, throwing […]

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny