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After Brexit, Europe's 20th-Century History May Be Rewritten

LONDON, ENGLAND- JUNE 24:   Young protesters demonstate outside Downing Street against the United Kingdom's decision to leave
LONDON, ENGLAND- JUNE 24: Young protesters demonstate outside Downing Street against the United Kingdom's decision to leave the EU following the referendum on June 24, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has gone to the polls to decide whether or not the country wishes to remain within the European Union. After a hard fought campaign from both REMAIN and LEAVE the vote is too close to call. A result on the referendum is expected on Friday morning. (Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images)

England is leaving the EU, and the initial reaction (heralded by the media) was to focus on the stock market collapse. As soon as the referendum results were announced, the conversation started revolving around the financial costs. This is an understandable, yet ghastly obsession.

This reaction in itself reveals something about "why" and "how" we lost: On both sides of the Channel (and, in fact, the Atlantic) the EU referendum was reduced to a purely economic question. "How does this benefit me? What belongs to me? What could be taken away from me?" The debate in the UK became very self-serving. In London, a city that cares deeply about financial gains, the Remain camp presented a slew of terrifying statistics, and the Leave campaign offered a rebuttal, using the same fear tactics.

Things did not go much better on the other side of the Channel: European politicians also adopted a discourse focused on numbers: "We will make you pay, we will punish you, you will have to pay every single cent you owe," they threatened.

International institutions such as the IMF and ECB have voiced both reassurances and threats. Money, money, money.

The concern over finances is certainly a natural one -- but ultimately, it stems from a selfish, transactional place. It's all about who can do what for whom, not merely with regards to the future, but also -- disturbingly -- with regards to the past.

There is one opinion, however, that was not voiced. We have not heard leaders on our continent say: "Please remain. Stay because here, in our land, among the bones of thousands of your fathers, husbands, sons and brothers who gave their lives to save not only England, but the whole of Europe."

The break with England will upset much more than the economic equilibrium. It will compromise a significant part of our history -- the part that has been collectively forged, for better or for worse, over the past few centuries. Brexit will undermine the part of history that was forged by a whole generation of young men, including some of the most brilliant minds from English universities, that died in the trenches of World War I. It will challenge a history forged by Churchill's stubborn drive to save Europe, and by the thousands of Englishmen killed during World War II to save our continent from Nazism, Fascism, Communism, and from itself.

The rejection of a united Europe is a death sentence to the phoenix that rose from the ashes at the end of a century dominated by totalitarianism.

Now that England has turned its back on us, will these sacrifices be remembered differently?

The UK's departure will bury a significant portion of 20th century history. The rejection of a united Europe is a death sentence to the phoenix that rose from the ashes at the end of a century dominated by totalitarianism.

There is nothing wrong with putting the past to rest. But we must pause and consider who we have become.

This is a world in which the sole driving force of our economy is no longer the quality of what we produce, but the quantity of wealth that it creates. The only legitimate government has become that which dictates spending and taxes. Governments that for years have been managed by accountants have created a Europe that is glued together by administrative rules.

The rejection of this system will have repercussions across the globe. It may shatter the entire world order. The result of this referendum is thus disappointing, but not surprising.

In fact, it is rather miraculous that this rejection of the EU has not manifested in a worse, more violent form.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.