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The End of the European Canon

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wipes his face during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wipes his face during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The eurozone's finance ministers are set to weigh a last-minute Greek proposal for a new aid program, submitted Tuesday afternoon, in a conference call which will take place on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Greece isn't Cuba, and Merkel is not Hitler. European rules aren't written in stone like the Commandments, and the Euro is not the tool that will dismantle an entire continent. The art of politics has always been partly about simplification, but the temptation to use this dramatic Greek affair to reinforce this or that personal position is not only unacceptable: it's pointless.

No matter how this plays out, Grexit or otherwise -- and here one cannot help but root for a solution that will put a country that has already suffered a great deal back on its feet again -- the clash over Greece will have already had one irreversible effect: the Europe people are criticizing or defending during these days is no longer the institution we once knew. During this conflict, something we can call the European Canon has been shattered.

Ever since its inception, European unity has been invested with a strong sense of higher good, a sort of State of Grace; the secular equivalent of a virtuous path on earth, accomplished through the difficult act of overcoming national egoism. But then how could we not believe in a State of Grace when dealing with the blending of different people, panoramas and currencies into a unified whole?

In this sense, the European Canon was defined with an identity completely different than that of its member nations: a noble, authoritative, third-party entity, insofar as it is the expression of superior rules; insofar as it is made up of everyone together. "Europe says." "Europe wants." The move toward collective conventions in Europe was built as a sort of Supreme Court of the Best, placing the priorities of the powerful over the wellbeing of its people. National crises, like the one that struck Italy, have been regulated through "instructive" letters (the one the ECB sent Italy has been and still remains our main route), and the men and women who comprise the European institution have been invested with exaggerated status compared to the leaders of Europe's various member nations. Then came the Greek crisis and Tsipras. And that's where the Canon broke. The stubbornness (or craftiness, or falseness, as Europe prefers to point out) of the Greek Prime Minister, his offenses to the status of leaders with the most infantile of stratagems (unbuttoned shirts and motorcycles), and last minute changes of direction due to the political difficulties inherent to Greece, have all worked together to provoke that which Almodóvar would define as a nervous breakdown. It may not be a breakdown, but it is undoubtedly an unveiling: Europe is abandoning its State of Grace, its Olympus of Rules, and doing something that in the language of international politics is brutally labeled "meddling": it is turning directly to the Greek people, asking them to vote yes on the referendum. This amounts to calling on Greece's voters to hand Europe Tsipras's head on a platter. The fact that this appeal has been entrusted to the pallid Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Commission and up until this point the living incarnation of that Homo Europaeus born and raised among the cubicles of office buildings in Brussels -- the man who until this point has preferred to defend the regulation of the amount of milk allowed in chocolate over standing up to take responsibility for dealing with the waves of immigrants landing regularly on Italy's shores -- is a marvelous and surreal representation of the new Europe borne of this battle. Boxed in and on the ropes, the EU has abandoned its technocratic guise and waded into politics. It has staked out its interests, measured the strength of its relationships, and isn't afraid to use the power it possesses. The fact that these interests are only those of certain countries, and that the power is above all in the hands of a limited few, Merkel among them, is no great discovery. The difference is that the strong relationships at play in this battle over the fate of Athens have been openly declared. Forget the Olympus of Rules, forget impartiality. The king is naked. And in his nakedness, he's proven he is just the same as everyone else. This is what has happened during these extremely difficult days. The EU government has crossed a border, moving into territory from which there is no return: it has abandoned its technical/impartial role, abandoned its superiority and exposed itself for that which it is -- just another political government, full of its own politicians, limits and frailties. There is, however, a bright side to all this drama. The fact that this Europe is no longer the Europe we dreamed of is already a widespread sentiment; the fact that the way they're managing this continent is deformed and biased is something people have been pointing out for some time now. The Greek crisis may have finally lifted this awareness to a new level, one where change can longer be delayed.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost Italy and was translated into English.