“The most daring provocations and the most shocking scandals have lost all power to provoke and shock. That does not mean that violence is no longer a threat; quite the contrary. The sacrificial system is virtually worn out, and that is why its inner workings are now exposed to view.” — Rene Girard, “Violence and the Sacred”
Are we unfazed by violence? When the news comes in from around the world and from our communities, we hear about the death of hundreds from war, the continuing destruction of ecological systems, the abuse of children, the implosion of marriages, and the struggles of the migrant, the disposed, and those in poverty. Are unfazed by this? Are we stirred to life? To action?
Oftentimes, we are not. But why is this? Do we not care? No, we do. Do we not have the motivation? No, we do have it. What prevents us from taking on violence? I think it is our ability to blame. We single out the problems and the problem-causers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it enables us to scapegoat others, instead of taking action ourselves.
In terms of war, Europe has a general perception that intra-European war has become impossible. This is what a lot of Euro-skeptics claim, as they try to dismantle the Union. Yet they do not understand human nature nor human society, choosing the far more dangerous path. What does violence take to surge forward and overwhelm us? The answer is simple: desire. When our desires meet and mimic each other, which is the nature of desire, violence is the fruit, unless there a channel for that desire. But ultimately there is not, given the fact of limited resources. When nation-states have competing desires, it takes something above them to stop the violence which lurks beneath the masks of civility from erupting.
Europe needs a scapegoat, a channel for its violence and its desires. In the past, this has been the function of its colonization, to challenge the energies and the violence of the many countries and peoples of Europe away from itself. In the aftermath of World War I and II, Europe positioned itself, along with the United States, against the USSR, as it sought its own integration through the EEC and eventually the EU. But today, after the fall of the USSR, there is no other for Europe to challenge itself against, to channel its violence and its desires. There is no scapegoat, as it were.
So, Europe has no channel for its violence, but yet it still does not face up to violence in the ways that it could, for it does indeed blame others. At the nation-state level, the blame is place on the EU, on “Brussels”, making the EU its own scapegoat. And at the EU level, desire is still not entirely articulable, and neither is blame. What will spur us into action, into life, as Europeans is an identity of the self at that level. If we can articulate our desires, once again, on a continental scale, we will be able to face the violence in and beyond the supra-state, just as we can face it in our own “home countries.” Until then, may we dream and imagine.