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Self-Deception over the New Europe.

A 1989 piece about the facile exaggerations
surrounding the many problems presented
by European unification, even ten
years later still largely unsolved.
Published by Language Technology, Amsterdam.

(Original Title: SELF-DECEPTION OVER 1992?)

So intense is the pressure to solve Europe's language problems by 1992 that some rather odd claims have begun to appear. One computer translation company, for instance, promises that monolinguals will perform "truly automatic translation .....without assistance from bilinguals, polyglots or post-editors.....but meeting the quality standards of professional translators—no less." While such claims may appear reasonable to some, they strike others as far-fetched and raise broader questions about how attainable Europe's overall goals for 1992 can possibly be.

One problem of course is that this renewed movement towards unification, with all its accompanying confusion, is the first major initiative taken by Europeans since World War II. And, before that, World War I. The fact that neither of these broad movements worked out too well either for Europe or the world beyond it tends to make some would-be well-wishers somewhat nervous. Also less than helpful are the not too subtle manifestations of anti-Americanism accompanying the 1992 impetus in some countries. Much emphasis is laid on the goal of not only equalling but surpassing the United States as a world power and of making Western Europe a full partner of the United States and the Soviet Union in matters involving war and peace. Further confusion has of course also been generated by the simultaneous movement towards liberalization within the USSR and other communist states.

Typically ignored in these considerations are not only the role of Japan and the Pacific Rim countries, but also matters concerning South America or former colonial possessions in Africa and the Orient. But after all, respond its advocates a bit gruffly, the EC is a purely European development. To this extent, skeptics about 1992 may be justified in wondering how much of the pan-European impetus represents a wistful return to pre-1945 colonialist and imperialist attitudes. But the most telling assumptions and/or self-delusions continue to deal with the United States. As this century draws to its close, it is for better or worse an incontrovertible historical reality that the ideas, economic policies, and cultural outlook of that nation have eclipsed opposing doctrines in most nations of Europe. Indeed, the whole impetus towards a unified Europe came originally as much from Truman and Marshall as from Jean Monnet.

Europeans realize and recognize this undeniable reality as part of their daily lives in a variety of ways. At the same time, they also practice a form of unconscious psychological double-think, permitting them to suppose that it cannot be true. This takes the form of a common mental aberration, termed by psychologists as "denial and projection." Thus, in many ways Europeans deny the more negative and frightening side of their own emotions and history, preferring to project much of this onto Americans. And so, side by side with the accepted realities of various transplanted American features in Europe, one also hears almost routinely that Americans are less cultured than Europeans, more prone to violence, less sophisticated. They are also (and at this point European readers are welcome to add their own) more brash in their manners, less able diplomats, far more poorly educated than Europeans, and springing from "lower class" origins. Naturally all Europeans are invariably friendly and peace-loving, innate aristocrats and consummate diplomats. Thus, there can hardly be any choice between these teenage, irresponsible cowboys and such fabulously mature and accomplished Europeans.

It is really hard to find a European who does not subscribe to some or all of this catechism. It is indeed a pity that there is nothing in European history, whether during this century or previous ones, to support such a fantasy. Here again one must wonder whether Europeans, in their rush to find common ground, may not have unconsciously slipped back into their colonialism and imperialism of yore. And what, one may legitimately wonder, will become of a Europe ruled by shared, unconscious delusions about their own role in history and the nature of the rest of the world?

While Europeans may feel themselves justified in their fear that trigger-happy Americans will embroil them in a disastrous war, history favors precisely the opposite scenario. The greatest violence in this century has come not from uncouth outlying provincials and colonials but from the very heart of alleged brightness and lightness, Europe itself. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the EC will necessarily function as a force for world peace and harmony. As 1992 draws near, it seems important that Europeans should begin to criticize themselves as well as others.

This article is Copyright © 1989
by Alexander Gross. It may be
reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It may
not be used for any commercial (i.e.,
money-making) purpose without
written permission from the author.

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