‘Bastards let us down in ’14, and again in ’39…and at Suez…and they gave Exocet missiles to the Argies in the Falklands! Cunts! Why the hell are they here?’ Ricky demanded of me, referring to the French soldiers who had come to train with us for a few months.
‘Because they’re our friends and allies, and it’s important to learn to work together. Never know who we’ll be serving with when we get to Afghan,’ I said, repeating almost word-for-word what our platoon commander had told us in an effort to stop any premature feelings of xenophobia. I was also very conscious of the fact that my parents lived in France, and was determined to avoid mentioning it.
‘Bollocks,’ Ricky declared. ‘Remember Agincourt?’
‘No, not really. A bit before my time, and yours…’
‘Fuck off. You know what I meant. One hundred years of war, and then another few hundred years of them being complete bastards, and then Napoleon. We’re mates now, are we? Bollocks…’
I soothed him with a cup of tea, which is the British Army’s cure for everything up to (and including) disembowelment, and it put the brakes on his ranting until the rest of the platoon tramped in and echoed his own thoughts almost word for word at the top of their voices (after that, it wasn’t hard to keep the fact that my parents live on an 80-acre estate in southern France pretty quiet). Whatever political correctness and the government might say about old enmity being forgotten and a new age of friendship being embraced, the opinion of the common people (and, therefore, the opinion of the rank-and-file soldier) is rather far from where it should be in the eyes of our political class. EU membership brought larger military co-operation along with it, which in turn brought a few companies of French soldiers over to our islands to train with our unit.
In the spirit of international friendship and brotherhood, our platoon commander sternly warned us against a) making inflammatory remarks about French military history, b) stealing personal and/or government property belonging to French military personnel and c) fraternising with the wives of the French officers and NCOs. All of which resulted in Privates Davies and Parsons brawling with a few French counterparts over comments about French defeats in World War Two; an empty French-issued FAMAS assault rifle and kepi headdress being worn by an inebriated and half-naked Private Lawton as he was wrestled to the ground by military police, alternately singing the national anthem and threatening to write to his MP; a chase across half the barracks as Private Bailey, the battalion Casanova, fled the wrath of a French platoon commander after having used his charms and Google Translate to ask the officer’s wife voulez vous couchez avec moi, m’mselle? All in all, about par for the course, young British soldiers being what they are, will be and always have been. The French, of course, were outraged. Their company commander filed a formal complaint even after our lads had been given fourteen days’ in the lockup. Never in his life had he seen the like. What was wrong with these barbaric anglais? What would Milor’ Wellington have said if he could see l’armee de l’Angleterre of today? Surely these men must be given more severe punishments, death of his life and sacred blue. From what we could tell, the officers weren’t overly sympathetic to their viewpoints, but they tore strips off the rest of us, anyway.
It got me thinking, though, about Europe and the EU in general, something which is topical in both Britain and Georgia at the moment, and the incident described above always comes to my mind when I bother to think about it myself.
EU Membership is something that every politically minded Georgian clamours for, but without really knowing why. The reasons usually given are protection from Russian aggression (which wouldn’t be guaranteed by EU membership, anyway) and improvements within the Georgian economy. The real reason is probably something closer to free travel and the opportunity to work and live in more affluent countries…but despite these desires, nobody is really familiar with the problems that would go with them. Britain is currently undergoing something of a political upheaval, since the United Kingdom Independence Party are gaining more popularity by the day, stealing disenchanted voters from the Liberals, Conservatives and even Labour. I won’t go into too much detail as to why; you can look up that sort of thing for yourself if you’re interested, but for the benefit of non-European readers, I’ll sum up some of the issues surrounding it all. Disdain for the EU stems from a myriad of factors within Britain.
Firstly, British people hesitate to describe themselves as Europeans as a rule; during our history, we have never been as heavily involved with the continental countries (apart from the odd war) due to the fact that we are, obviously, an island. Since we’re also four countries in one, British people will usually describe themselves firstly as English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish, and then as being British. To the average person, we have little and less in common with Europe, which isn’t strictly true, but since the less affluent will rarely travel beyond our borders (and, if they do, they typically travel to strictly English-only areas of Spain, Ibiza, Bulgaria or Thailand if they’re feeling really exotic) it is difficult for them to build up any kind of rapport or sympathetic feelings towards Europeans in general. Modern continentals, however, are a rather different breed, since in today’s world travel is cheaper than ever, and people such as the Dutch, Germans and the French identify with their neighbours in a way that the British simply don’t. The European grasp of other languages also plays its part; I’m sure you’ve met those Germans and Dutch who can speak English as if they were born to it, or the French borderers who’ve picked up an admirable command of Spanish or Italian. The British are also rather xenophobic, a legacy of empire and a lack of foreign influence, brought about as being (almost) undefeated in war. We’ve had foreign kings and queens, but whatever bearing they had on our culture was almost negated by the fact that they were invariably either Dutch or German, who are of our blood as fellow Saxons, anyway, and culturally close to us.
I would say without hesitation that mainland Europeans are more progressive than the people of our islands. French and German co-operation is admirable, and a federal Europe seems almost inevitable in the not-so-distant future. The wounds of the past have healed…unless you’re British. The distrust towards Germany is so rife you’d think that World War II finished in 1995, and despite the fact that France has been our ally since the Crimean War, people still view the French as our traditional enemies. I’d like to say that’s because of our wars with the French that have stretched back over the centuries up until Waterloo, but it actually probably stems from a reluctance to learn French at school, with groans of “Fuckin’ shit waste o’ my time, ay it? I dun’ need to know this fuckin’ shit, its bollocks. Frog eatin’ cunts”. Ignorance and intolerance in Britain is, after all, at an all-time high.
There are, however, a good many reasons for Euro-skepticism. What people wanted years ago when Britain became a member was a beneficial free-trade zone. What they got was incorporation into a political body that has, arguably, impeded our own sovereignty. The deportation of terrorists to our Jordanian allies is a relevant example, an action that was blocked numerous times by the European Human Rights Court until it was finally managed very recently. Neither Germany nor France have suffered at the hands of terrorists in the same way that Britain has, and Jordan is a firm ally of the West that should be supported; preventing the extradition of a terrorist wanted by our partners is rather counter-productive. And anyway, let the bastards get what they deserve. They don’t fuck about in Jordan with terrorists, believe me. King Abdullah (an American-educated former British Army officer) is a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad, and does not like extremists besmirching his religion’s name.
The economy, too, is something that is hampered by EU membership. As part of the Union, Britain is limited with who it can trade with outside of Europe, yet it is forced to contribute to the bail-outs of member states whose economies are in peril. It is not politically correct these days to talk about how southern Europeans are not as productive as their northern counterparts, but the truth is evident when you compare the economies of Italy, Spain and Greece to Germany, Britain and Sweden. British taxpayers, then, are not entirely happy with helping bail out these countries, and a referendum on EU membership has been a long time coming. Leaving the Eurozone obviously raises the question of who Britain would trade with instead, to say nothing of who it would look to for military support. The answer, though, is obvious to me, and constitutes one of UKIP’s better ideas. Nigel Farage and co. advocate increased trade with the countries of the former British Empire, with whom we are only able to do limited business with due to EU restrictions. Since they are, mostly, our direct descendants, Britain and her people have more in common with the people of Australia, New Zealand and Canada than with European countries, even those with whom we share blood, such as the Germans or the Dutch. UKIP don’t advocate cutting ties with Europe; they still want to trade, but without being a part of a pan-continental state. Freed from the responsibility of bailing out failed European economies, if we had left the EU and a free trade agreement had been reached ten or fifteen years ago…ah, well, what might have been.
There’s talk of a north/south divide within the EU, and it remains to be seen whether the Union will break up or become Federal…maybe a combination of the two; they aren’t, after all, totally mutually exclusive when you think about it. A topic of controversy in Britain at the moment is the predicted influx of further immigration of Bulgarians and Romanians due to arrive next year. The main problem is, of course, that many of Britain’s unskilled labour jobs are currently being performed by immigrants from the aforementioned two countries and Poland, thanks to all three nations being admitted into the EU. What many on the Right like to moan about is that these jobs should be being done by British natives who are unemployed as a result of the immigration. While there is an element of truth to this, this view ignores the fact that many young Britons are more than happy to be unemployed due to the ridiculous social benefits system, which does, at times, mean they can make more money being officially unemployed than if they had a job. In layman’s terms, we have a working class who are not prepared to work.
‘Immigration’ is a blanket term that does not often reflect the reality of the situation. On a cultural level, Eastern Europeans are largely harmless (and I should know, since I both live in Eastern Europe and know a lot of Eastern Europeans in Britain). They create no issues with assimilation or cultural erosion, the same of which could not be said for members of the Islamic community, though it’s not politically correct to say so. I believe in equality as a man of liberal principles, and while criticism towards Eastern European immigrants is, at times, valid, it is neither fair nor just to ignore the growing discontent amongst British people about areas of Muslim society who detest our way of life but for some reason insist on living in our country anyway.
However, I don’t want to get dragged into that discussion today. Back we go to the Georgians. Georgians inevitably complain about foreign dominance, whether it be from Russia in the past or America in the present. Quite why they think Europe would be any better is something that I don’t think they have properly considered, especially as the rules and regulations of being a part of the EU would be more stringent and binding than the current ones they have to suffer as being an American client state. When you consider how xenophobic Georgians can be, the idea of trying to convince them to pay taxes to bail out another country is simply laughable (a hypothetical and unlikely situation, admittedly, but you get the point).
If Georgia ever does get EU membership (which it won’t, because if it was ever accepted then Turkey would have to get in as well, and that will happen when Berlin is in ruins and Munich becomes a wildlife park) then I think they will be disappointed with the reality of things. It would probably take only a year or two before people would be honking ‘The Germans don’t understand our country! They don’t have a right to tell us we can’t ban gay rights!’ or something similar. Whatever they might like to think, Georgian culture is not European in nature; it has far more in common with Russia.
To any Georgian who’s reading this and doubts what I say, I would point out that Europeans do not gawp at any woman who is unfortunate to walk past because of extreme sexual frustration, nor do they discriminate against homosexuals or judge women on whether or not they are virgins. Russians don’t do that either on the whole (apart from the gay bashing), but Georgians would (and do), I think, fit in more easily with Russian life than in Europe. Russians have a fondness for Georgians and their culture which is not shared in Europe. (Actually, Georgian social behaviour is actually far more Islamic than they would care to admit; sticking a cross on it instead of a crescent moon doesn’t change the Asian nature of it. I’m mostly referring to how Georgian men stare at women, or don’t respect women, or insist on family values that they themselves hate living with but see no other option just go along with things as they are. That, more than anything, is why Georgian culture is not European.)
Anti-EU arguments in Britain are probably the same ones that would crop up in Georgia, given enough time. A common one is that Germany’s insistence on bailing out bankrupt countries is a symptom of national guilt over the instigation of two World Wars. I doubt that, personally, though it is, admittedly, hard to argue with the opinion that the Kaiser, Bismarck and Hitler would probably be quite satisfied with Germany being the premier power in Europe (having worked with German troops in the past, however, I understand German dictators rather better these days. The efficiency and the professionalism…well, having millions of them at your beck and call would probably make the temptation to yell ‘Occupy Europe at once!’ almost impossible to resist).
I’m not a Euro-skeptic in the sense that I believe the possibility of a European Federation is the next Axis of Evil; I just don’t think it would be right for Britain or Georgia. Would a Federal Europe even work? Possibly, but in my opinion, not in its current form. I can imagine (just about) Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden forming one nation…but the inclusion of Spain, Italy, Greece, Romania and Poland just seems unrealistic. Europe is too diverse, no matter whether it be in the form of languages, work ethic or what have you, I just can’t see it working, and the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria is already seen as being a step too far. Does Georgia, then, really have a hope? I highly doubt it.
What, then, is Georgia to do? Well, in my humble opinion, it needs to get things sorted with Russia…but if it does that, it’ll mean the end of American investment, probably. On the other hand, friendship with Moscow does mean the end of a continuing fears over renewed war. If I were Georgian, I’d say bollocks to South Ossetia and Abkhazia; at the moment in Britain, the Scottish are thinking of leaving the UK, which is a big deal in Scotland but not in England. Our attitude seems to be something along the lines of goodbye and good luck, lads, it was fun while it lasted. I’m still unclear why Georgians want Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be a part of Georgia. If Cornwall was full of whiny dicks who didn’t want to be a part of England, any sensible Englishman would cut them off forthwith, just as we’re doing to Scotland (the government isn’t making any efforts to keep them in, you see. The official statement of ‘oh, that’s a shame’ surely doesn’t constitute caring).
I read somewhere recently that Azerbaijan and Turkey want to forge closer ties with Georgia, and I’d be interested to see what the reaction will be from Georgian people. They have a negative perception to both Turks and Azeris on the whole, and their intolerance towards Islam makes the right-wingers in the UK look like Martin Luther King. If you ask me, such a move is a product of Ivanishvili’s premiership, wherein the Georgian government has managed to piss off Moscow, Paris, Berlin and Washington to the extent that Ankara and Baku are the only ones interested.
Well, there you are. Another post finished with a whole host of things I forgot to mention left out, complete with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors etc. because I write these things over a period of weeks and never bother to read a draft through after I’ve finished it. This week, instead of Megan Fox, we’re rocking Mila Kunis. But what if they got together…