The quotation, as most of our readers, no doubt, recognized is from Goethe's Faust, one of the greatest creations of what is the true European culture.
The two lines are from the Faustian bargain that the benighted scholar strikes with Mephistopheles. He is allowed to do anything he wants, travel round the world and even in and out of historical moments; he is allowed to demand anything he likes from Mephistopheles; but as soon as he decides that one particular moment is so beautiful that he wants it to last for ever, his soul goes to perdition. Eternity is not man's to command.
Goethe had a fairly low opinion of politicians and it is possible that he had them in mind when he wrote those lines, though more probably he was meditating about grander human designs. However, an inability to see that the present is only one moment in the long march of history and, indeed, a refusal to acknowledge this obvious fact is a failing that is peculiarly strong among politicians.
In particular they, and their lackeys in the media, feel that way when events appear to be pleasant and acceptable. What is going on now must be right, since it is so much better than what was going on sixty years ago. Yes, but that, too, happened and other things will happen.
It would appear that the entire europhile elite has ignored the warnings of the Faustian pact. They do think that if they simply dissolve historical understanding into a completely vacuous prattle – the Holocaust, the war, lack of freedom – of meaningless abstractions, then they can carry on imposing their views on the rest of us and, indeed, on history.
Well, it ain't necessarily so. The truth is that European integration, partial, as envisaged in the early fifties (though as my colleague has explained it on numerous occasions, not invented then) of the countries that definitely won, that is western Europe, was already the wrong answer to the problems of the world.
War between France and Germany, the problem the project was supposed to solve was unthinkable and the enemy was larger, stronger and looming in the east. This was an enemy western Europe, integrated or not, could not even think of taking on.
So the myth and the reality parted company until the enemy was vanquished (and no thanks to the EEC/EC/EU) and new problems arose. New problems need new solutions but acknowledging that would mean acknowledging that this moment is no fairer than the last one or the next one. And that can never be – the euro-elite cannot be wrong.
Mark Steyn points to a more specific example of this curious attitude – Will Hutton, the erstwhile guru of Tony Blair and still one of the more articulate exponents of the supposedly superior Third Way, sometimes transmogrified into the European as opposed to American way. (The rest of the world matters little to these people.)
Indeed, just as the early nineties saw an obsessive discussion of the Maastricht Treaty as the Communist world in Europe fell apart, countries became independent and started on the road towards liberal democracy and Yugoslavia slid into a bloody war with the EU’s help, so we are now obsessively discussing our own superiority while big things are happening in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
This is all part of the need to stay with this particular moment, this beautiful moment in history. Whether perdition will come to these people or not, I cannot tell. But history will certainly pass them and, if we are not careful, us, by.
I do not entirely agree with Mark Steyn's assessment of Will Hutton. Certainly, I have no argument with the following analysis:
He's the master of the dead langauge of statism that distinguishes the complacent Europhile from a good percentage of Americans, not all of them Republicans.Nevertheless, Hutton is more cogent and articulate than most of the complacent Europhiles one encounters (all of them seem to be in a blue funk at the moment) and in itself that does us a service. He outlines the differences of what he sees the American way of politics (and what some political writers call the Anglospheric way) and the European one.
Needless to say, the European one, with its emphasis on the public good, defined, undoubtedly, by the great and the good like Will Hutton, is superior to that vulgar glorification of individual freedom and, as he clearly does not see it, individual responsibility.
Mr Hutton, it seems, still prefers the French Revolution to the American one and, presumably, the English one, because the first of these "promoted a social contract" and the supremacy of the "public good".
Some of us, who have looked a little more closely at recent history in Europe would argue that the supremacy of the "public good" and "the primacy of society" have produced some of those horrors of the twentieth century that are blithely referred to by the europhiles in abstraction as evils that can be swept away by the the supranational structure of the EU.
This sounds extremely unlikely as the EU is promulgating the very same ideas of “public good”, “primacy of society” and “subordination of individual freedom for the good of all”, not to mention the need to obey the wise and caring elite.
Will Hutton, it seems dislikes the idea of freedom of speech and feels that the government should regulate the media in order to ensure “that television and radio conform to public interest criteria”.
And who defines the public interest criteria? Well, I leave it to our readers to work that out. No wonder these people dislike the anarchy of the internet and the blogosphere. Individualism, rampant individualism, which apparently does not want to stay within the political parameters designed by the guardians of the public good.
It is inevitable with this sort of writing that completely asinine statements are made and Steyn gleefully picks them up, particularly Hutton’s pompous crocodile tears about the faults of the Founding Fathers (all that emphasis on individualism and the need to control the various institutions, not like our own beloved European Constitution):
Well, you never know. It may be the defects of America's Founders that help explain why the US has lagged so far behind France in technological innovation,economic growth, military performance, standard of living, etc. Entranced by his Euro-moment, Hutton insists that "all Western democracies subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are liberal or leftist". Given that New Hampshire has been a continuous democracy for two centuries longer than Germany, this seems a doubtful proposition. It would be more accurate to say that almost all European nations subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are statist. Or, as Hutton has it, "the European tradition is much more mindful that men and women are social animals and that individual liberty is only one of a spectrum of values that generate a good society."So there we have it, dear readers. The moment that is so beautiful, that must not be allowed to come to an end. The moment of perfect statism, that will overcome the fractious individualism of the no-longer existent past and will never develop into another future.
Or so the europhiles hope. How Mephistopheles must be laughing.