More about Europe and the EU.

In a previous blogpost I expressed my frustration about a conversation that I had with a taxi driver in Kansas City. I received many reactions to this blogpost, which truly pleases me; it seems that I hit the right sentiment with many Europeans.

First, I was contacted by Göran Hansson from Sweden, who expressed his enthusiasm for the Union in a direct comment beneath the blogpost. Göran emphasized the tremendous achievements that the EU has made; in the areas of peace and prosperity, but he also expressed frustration at how indifferent fellow Europeans sometimes are towards the EU. In his posts (link above) Göran is also a vocal proponent of the Europe of Regions, which I find a thrilling idea. In my reply to Göran, I expressed my believe that his efforts (as an example) are crucial to drive the discussion about the EU forward:

The EU is not just about voting every four years and, from the sidelines, watch the thing develop. We need more people to talk and exchange ideas about the EU.

And this must be done NOW: in the UK, democrats waited too long to start this conversation and left the playing field to the populists… and now the lower and middle class can feed the bill of the referendum disaster.

You are the EU. The EU is what you make out of it.

In my original blogpost (which I also cross-posted to several EU groups on facebook, e.g. #EUsolidarity Now), I compared the EU to the USA. Several readers pointed out that this is not valid, as the USA was founded by emigrants that could start a brand new state, whereas the EU is a federation of states, each with unique cultural traditions and independent histories. I agree with that view. In fact, I believe that one of the major strengths of the EU is its diversity. However, the original point that I wanted to make is that many people are critical of the EU, because the EU makes decisions that seem to be the result of a malfunctioning EU – but which are not, on closer inspection. I want to illustrate this with a few examples.

During the Corona crisis, many nations within the EU closed their borders (by the way, the Schengen agreement which allows free travel within the EU is just celebrating its 35th birthday). Within 24 hours I received an email from a friend in the US, asking whether this was “The End Of The EU?” Interestingly, the borders between individual states in the USA cannot be closed that easily; I would venture that this may actually have increased the momentum of the pandemic (China, on the other hand, had no issue with closing down the Wuhan region – no questions asked in a dictatorship). But what few people know is that on the other side of the spectrum, the border between Bavaria and Baden-Würrtemberg in Germany was de facto also closed – and although some local residents (or “pandemic deniers”) may have disagreed with that decision, nobody would consider for a second that Germany was falling apart or that Germany was failing as a nation. I truly believe that putting free travel on hold along the national borders partially and temporarily was the right decision to slow the spread of the virus. Note: my two sons and I live in three separate European countries, and visiting each other was thus not possible (by the way, we can easily live in three separate countries as a direct result of the many advantages that the EU provides.There is no need for visas, or other unnecessary bureaucracy bullshit – now who said that the EU was overtly bureaucratic?).

There was also a call that the pandemic response should have been an EU-wide- and not a national-response, e.g. the same social distancing rules in Italy, Spain, Estland or Ireland. But why, I wonder, is this a must-have? The EU has a size of 4,233,255.3 km2 and an estimated total population of 447 million! Regions within this huge area are going to be affected in different ways by a pandemic. Again, even within Germany, individual Bundesländer (~states) had individual pandemic guidelines.

Several commentators on my original blogpost agreed that calling the EU a fascist state (as the Kansas City taxi driver did) was way over the top. Sure, as one person pointed out:

it is crucial that a federal Europe must have a sound balance in power distribution; otherwise the fascism argument will continue, or the EU may be incapable of making decisions.

The role of the parliament must be strengthened (and not just in the Brexit negotiations with the UK). But people should also know how to use phrases such as Fascism, which is a clearly defined term and should not be used in a inflationary manner (as, for that matter, socialism, which many Trump voters do not seem to be able to grasp the meaning of).

Find my novels here.

Originally posted 2020-06-20 23:10:00.

Photos from Egypt – more about my trip to the country of the Pharaos

The top photo shows a new development area with mansions being build for (upper) middle class; a social group that seems to be growing in size. However, as the picture elsewhere in my blog http://www.clemenssuter.com shows, not everybody is benefiting from economic opportunities – which aren’t really marvelous: the Egyptian pound dropped in value by half (!) in 2016. The picture at the bottom shows travelers from many different origins at Kuwait airport. The plane to Cairo suffered terrible delays, I arrived in Cairo at 2am.

Read more here: http://www.clemenssuter.com

Originally posted 2017-09-24 21:00:16.

A trip to the Middle East. Impressions from Qatar and its underwhelming capital Doha.

Here more about Doha and Qatar. Some background first: Qatar is an emirate on the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is the next door neighbor, with Qatar itself sticking out into the Persian Gulf like a thumb, bordered by the sea on three sides.

First impressions

it was VERY hot and unexpectedly humid. Qatar is a desert country and I thought it would be hot and dry. Not so: the humid air sweeps in from the Persian Gulf and is unbearable on most days.

Qatar is very tidy and modern. The people ate industrious and friendly, yet a bit aloof. There’s a reason for this: if you talk with a Qatari, you are in many cases chatting with a multi-millionaire.

Some Qatar facts

2.5 million people live in Qatar, of which 10% call themselves Qatari and have the hard-to-get passport. An Emir rules the country. Large natural gas reserves drive the economy. The vast majority of people come from other countries: they want to find work with better pay than in their home country. Taxi drivers and technologists, you meet people from all kinds of backgrounds and places. Most seem to enjoy living there: one taxi driver that I met came from India and had been in Qatar for 15 years, his wife and family lived in Delhi.

A hot and humid view from the hotel.

Above: An early morning view from the hotel. Persia / Iran is on the opposite side of this body of water.  Kuwait is on the left, and the Emirates are on the right.

Below: The high-rise opposite of the hotel. None of these buildings are older than 10-15 years. Qatar is booming, and constant renewal is underway.

View from the Hilton

Experience the heat

Below: All buildings are air-conditioned. I entered my hotel room, and it was stunningly cold. I put the air-conditioner up to the 27C (it was on 18C originally), and after a few hours the temperature was halfway OK. On the other hand, as I walked out of the hotel lobby, the heat and humidity hit me like a hammer, it felt like 50C. That was only on the first day, the following day was a bit better. Or did I get used to it? In any case, I wondered what the high of summer would be like. Locals said that depending on the time of year, a hot and very dusty wind blows from Africa, the Khamsin, which can cause a sense of nausia.

Leaving the hotel. The heat was excruciating.

Taken  together: an intriguing country. I was glad that I visited for work, as I am not sure what sites a tourist would want to visit. Qatar is a desert country, with not much to see. A newly built island of high rises and businesses in the middle of nowhere. Anything old is replaced.

Like to read more about travel? See my novel TWO JOURNEYS at Apple.

Originally posted 2017-09-23 21:50:16.

The Exploration of Planet 17824540930. A Short SciFi Story.

Copyright 2017 by Clemens P. Suter

Report#1783965825 – Exploration of Planet#17824540930

Author: B143-Unit#29588885959

Date#8493003947

Executive summary

  • Economic Impact Estimate: low: <0.1 eie
  • Risk Impact Estimate: low: <0.1 rie
  • Recommended Action: Isolate Planet. No further exploration needed.
  • Standard#1846637 precautions obeyed, B143-Unit#29588885959 remained undetected

Goal of this mission was the investigation of the gas planets and asteroid belt within the stellar system #17824540930, from the standpoint of possible colonization suitability and mining (see separate, more extensive Report#1783965826, including feasibility study with positive assessment). As part of this overall investigation, B143-Unit#29588885959 also shortly inspected Planet#17824540930, taking Standard#1846637 precautions. Planet#17824540930 is not suited for long-term survival, as more than 75% of the surface is covered by liquid water with trace chemicals. Therefore, B143-Unit#29588885959 was only able to explore Planet#17824540930 superficially.

Economic Assessment and Lifeforms

On this planet, quantities of economically relevant levels of minerals are minimal; except for cerium-, europium- and neodymium-concentrations. Therefore, the economic impact of colonization is estimated to be low (0.01-0.1 range). Next to mineable minerals, this economical assessment also includes the potential value of indigenous lifeforms and organics. Lifeforms on Planet#17824540933 are primitive. Mostly non-autonomous, non-self-reproducing bots, these lifeforms evolve at a slow pace. There are only limited connections between individual bots; no connections to universal or extra-planetary networks exist. A re-visit to Planet#17824540933 and integration of the bots into our network may be compelling at some stage, based on the assumption that the bots may evolve further.

Organics

In contrast to many other stellar systems of this type, and many other similar planets, Planet#17824540933 abounds with organic life, strikingly of many types and sizes. This high variation could potentially meet with considerable scientific interest, but no obvious economic benefit could be uncovered; these organic life forms do in general not collect and concentrate interesting minerals (preliminary data). As Planet#17824540933 revolves around its axis rapidly, resulting in a high frequency of successive dark/light periods, many types of these organics have surprisingly short replication cycles, and lifespans.

At least 8,547,000 different types of organics seem to exist (initial data) and were preliminary classified. Some organics (species#0-#4,000,000) mine the light from the accompanying star (absorption of wavelength interval 560–520 nm) and employ this energy to chemically upgrade the planet’s minerals. These organics create carbon-based biomass and propagate efficiently, covering most of the planet’s surface. These types of organics do not have a locomotion apparatus and are thus mainly immobile. Many other types of organics exist (preliminary assigned to species#4,000,000 to #8,547,000) that are parasitic, consuming the light-mining organics (or other parasitic organics). This has led to a complex, well-balanced and delicate ecosystem; which appears to be evolving. Additional expeditions and more research would be needed to determine the evolution rate and predict evolution outcomes.

The parasitic organics come in many forms, most of which are mobile: either swimming in the liquid that covers the planet, crawling on its surface, or flying through its atmosphere. This makes for a highly erratic environment, which requires considerable acclimatization by the members of any future expedition. As mentioned, any expedition will need to consider the detrimental contents of the atmosphere, which are highly oxidative.

Details: Organic#6,474,444

One type of organic (preliminary categorized as Organic#6,474,444) stands out and is therefore described here in more detail.

(1) Organic#6,474,444 appears to be the sole source of life on the planet: this species designs, creates and connects bots. These primitive bots execute simple steps in complex processes that benefit Organic#6,474,444, although the exact advantages of each bot in these processes are not immediately transparent. Still, obviously, the bots assist Organic#6,474,444 to increase the usage of other organics as the providers of energy and biomass. Thus, the bots allow Organic#6,474,444 to better compete with other organics for resources, and then in the end displace and terminate other organics. Bots carry out simple tasks: examples include the facilitation of faster transport of Organic#6,474,444 or of other organics intended for consumption by Organic#6,474,444; communication within the Organic#6,474,444 species across greater distances; enhancement of cognitive capabilities. As implied above, these activities augment Organic#6,474,444, in turn the life forms are further enhanced by the organic. However, at this stage, these bots are incapable of self-replication and of fully independent space-travel, although they have supported Organic#6,474,444 to travel to a nearby satellite and have ventured semi-autonomously across the stellar system.

(2) Usage of these bots seems to be very beneficial for Organic#6,474,444, as their population numbers increase at an exponential rate (preliminary data, determination of exact growth-rate needs more research). The current Organic#6,474,444 population is estimated to be 8,157,345,000 individuals (standard deviation 0.065). Other types of organics are much more abundant, e.g. the total number of organics with six extremities (preliminary categorization: #4,300,000 to #5,300,000. Note: Organic#6,474,444 has four extremities) are estimated to be 11,736,452,456,194,482,000. The organics with six extremities make up most of the biomass of the land-dwelling parasites.

(3) The continuing increase in numbers of Organic#6,474,444 and the efficient displacement of competing organics seems indicative of a primitive-bot supported and (superficially) successful survival strategy, which positively affects the evolution of the bots and thus more advanced lifeforms. Preliminary estimates suggest that Planet#17824540930 could theoretically carry 50-fold of Organic#6,474,444 individual numbers. Interestingly, the activities of Organic#6,474,444 cause release of an abundance of by- and waste-products (gasses such as carbon-dioxide, other carbon-based substances, anti-organic poisons) which impact the ecosystem. Curiously, Organic#6,474,444 is unable / indifferent to contain the release of these substances. The increase in carbon-dioxide affects the climate, and these climate changes will impact the survival rates of all organics, including Organic#6,474,444 itself. Many of the produced carbon-based substances are poisonous to organics, and ironically also to their producer Organic#6,474,444. It is therefore expected that back-feed loops will, at a timepoint not too far in the future, halt the exponential growth of the Organic#6,474,444 population. A reversal in population numbers has a high likelihood (p=0.85, +/-0.19; preliminary data). Therefore it is uncertain whether Organic#6,474,444 will be able to enhance the functionality of the primitive bots, and it is highly questionably that the bots will become an autonomously replicating lifeform.

Organic#6,474,444, Features

To complete this section, here a more detailed description of Organic#6,474,444, with some curious, yet possibly relevant features.

A fully mature Organic#6,474,444 will have an approximately cylindrical shape of 1.75 * 0.4 meters and an average mass of 70 kilograms (although individuals of up to 250 kilograms have been observed). Organic#6,474,444 has a central corpus, from which four extremities protrude, all equal length (approximately). Organic#6,474,444 transports itself with the help of the two lower extremities, the corpus thus roughly forming an elongated cylinder at a perpendicular angle to the surface of the planet (a capricious sight, as if the corpus could topple over in an instant). Two upper extremities hang down passively along the sides of the corpus. At the very top is the command center, enclosed in a weak, pod-shaped capsule. Reproductive organs are located at the between the two lower extremities, and waste products and noxious biochemical gasses (see comments above) are also excreted in this area. The top extremities have thin extensions at the end, which are used for grasping and controlling objects, e.g. bots. Strikingly, anatomical details of Organic#6,474,444 are obscured from sight by loose “cloths” (biomass collected through processing of other organics), which Organic#6,474,444 applies habitually. The purpose of these cloths is unclear: for instance, they offer little mechanical defense or protection against radiation. These cloths could play a role in temperature regulation, as Organic#6,474,444 is only fully functional within a very narrow corpus temperature range of 310.15 +/-4 degrees kelvin. Also note that Organic#6,474,444 cannot live in a vacuum and is in fact fully dependent on an atmosphere; a complex mix of vaporous elements and molecules, such as oxygen, carbon-dioxide, and nitrogen. As initial experiments by B143-Unit#29588885959 have shown, slight deviations in concentrations of these substances lead to rapid malfunction of Organic#6,474,444; a feature that could be used for future control of this organic.

The behavior of Organic#6,474,444 is peculiar. Whereas standing and moving (see above) seem to be important for gathering food, Organic#6,474,444 can also “fold” its corpus, and will remain (for extended periods) on a posterior part (there is no immediate explanation for this feature). The body will remain in a horizontal position for at least one third of the time, in the vast majority of cases during the night phase. During that time, corpus and command center activity is reduced dramatically. Note: command center inactivation also happens regularly during the day phase.

Organic#6,474,444 absorbs visual and acoustic signals, putting considerable weight on signals from other organics of the same type. Surprisingly, no data exchange takes place by electromagnetic means, neither wireless, nor through docking stations. Thus, direct links between individuals are not possible, and communication beyond 300 meters, although regularly attempted by the organic, is de facto only possible through the use of bots. Acoustic communication (range: 20-30 Hz) is executed mainly by broadcast- and receiver apparatuses located on the surface of the command center pod. Visual signals are also of essence: a limited spectrum with wavelengths between 390 to 700 nm can be analyzed by two (!) detectors located close together on one side of the command center pod. No visual detectors are present anywhere else on the corpus. Surprising consequence: Organic#6,474,444 can observe in one direction and movement is mainly in that direction too. Backward movement has been observed, but is slow and error-prone.

—- Want to read the ending of the story? it is part of the bundle “Amazing Stories.” Get your copy here.

Originally posted 2017-08-07 15:57:41.

Thanks to all the Goodreads members for collecting a free copy of REBOUND!

All of you had a chance to win a Kindle Version of the 2022 novel REBOUND. Only a few copies (regular price: 2.99) were on offer. This giveaway activity for REBOUND finished on Saturday, June 25. Books were given away by Kindle to members in the U.S.A..

I am looking forward to your reviews and comments on Goodreads. If you liked the book, show your support by leaving a review on Amazon on any other store too.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60548397-rebound

Thanks for your support!

If you are not located in the USA, or if you shouldn’t win: this book is available at a very attractive price at amazon and in many other stores! See: www.clemenssuter.com. eBook: 2.99 / Paperback: 9.99.

Together with his three dogs, Alan, the adventurer travels the lonely roads of Armageddon. A deadly pandemic has caused a societal collapse after billions have died. He is soon joined by Imani, a young woman, and a victim of gang violence. Together they set out to discover the truth about the cause of the catastrophe. During their travels from San Francisco to the European Alps, they soon discover a danger that could wipe out the final remnants of humanity. In a world ruled by anarchy, with the last humans fighting for control, Alan’s and Imani’s chances of success or even survival look bleak. Can they save humankind from ultimate disaster?

“Yes, sometimes it was as if I had witnessed the entire scene, from the darkness of the tunnel, my hand on my revolver, ready to intervene. Latest then, as these thoughts entered my head, I would shake myself. We write our own laws. We live in a new world, a new reality. We only have our survival to cling to, our reality is an uncertain, twisting, exhausting thing, but my cause is just.”

Originally posted 2022-05-31 18:47:18.

Is Doha the Amazingly Deadliest Boring Capital in the World? A Journey to Qatar. Dull, drab, disappointing, Doha.

During my many stays in the Middle East, I also visited Doha, capital of Qatar.

Some background: Qatar is tremendously rich from the abundance of natural gas. As a result, it’s capital Doha has developed into a business and conferencing hub. It is a very strict islamic state, leaving little space for fun and games. To everybody’s surprise they will host the 2022 World Cup (I always wonder about the things money can buy). Soccer fans best bring a book.

The movie below I made on my way from the airport to the hotel. The links direct to photos I took and more details about country and capital.

Doha has been hailed as one of the most boring towns in the world, and there is considerable truth to this rumor.  The town has very little history left, it is new and fully focused on business. There is no extensive historic center. The town is very car-centric (many, many SUVs) and as a pedestrian you quickly feel very lonely on the broad boulevards; you do not meet many other people on foot, and windowshopping is severely hampered by the absence of, yes, shopwindows (there are many malls, if you go for that sort of thing). The Souk is a tiny market, completely new and unwelcoming, with stores that sell tortured exotic animals and mini-dogs. The climate is hot and humid: a stroll is only possible after sunset. As an Islamic country, there is no (or little) alcohol for sale – but even I as a teetotaler can only say that the town is absolutely underwhelming; I can’t blame the absence of alcohol for that deep feeling of loneliness and despair. I was visiting on business with a calendar full of appointments and I was preoccupied enough, yet during my quick tours through the city I was, well: disappointed. Perhaps some of you readers have different experiences to share. Perhaps an interesting museum or cinema that I missed? Pole dancing? A hidden bar? Table tennis tournaments?

The boycott by Saudi Arabia was in full swing, but it didn’t seem to have affected the Qatari much. They even imported 4000 Friesian cows from Australia and put them in an air-conditioned hall, to make sure enough milk could be produced, which they got from Arabia up to that point.

Women stay mostly at home (probably playing with the mini dogs), and the men tend to take their SUVs out for a spin at night; driving endless circles through the town. I got bored just watching them occupied with this non-activity.

img 6470
Citizens (men only) giving the four wheels a lackluster spin. At least the weather is in their favor.

Read more about travel in my books.

Originally posted 2017-09-23 17:45:18.

Interview with the Mannheimer Morgen about my writing. Great article.

I was honored to be interviewed a journalist from the Mannheimer Morgen, about my literary and art work. The interview is available in German and focuses also on my humorous horror short set in the marshes of the river Rhine: Rheinmonster (English title: Watermonster)…In the darkness of the night the water monster crawls out of the Kraichbach. It slowly makes its way into town to steal innocent children. Author Clemens P. Suter had the idea for the short story “Watermonster: A Story from Hockenheim” in mind for a long time, but it wasn’t until about six months ago that he finally got the horror comedy down on paper…

This tale is available as eBook (all formats/readers) in the bookstore on your device, simply search for “Clemens P. Suter” in your favorite eStore. It is part of the English “short stories” collection.

Your can also find the article here in the Mannheimer Morgen.

Originally posted 2021-01-16 20:56:00.

A short visit to the land of the pharaohs

I stopped over in Egypt – two days packed with impressions. I have published a couple of articles in my blog http://www.clemenssuter.com.

Above: The sun sets early in Cairo, always a special sight. The light is yellow and exotic – although I guess the air pollution produced by the massive amounts of cars certainly also plays a role. I was on business, so had basically no time for sightseeing. Most of these pictures were taken in transit from A to B.

Above: Many Egyptian citizens move from the country-side to Cairo, and high rises are constructed quickly, in many cases illegally and without utilities, to house these new city dwellers. Economically, Egypt is under a lot of strain, but the people who I met are very engaged and want to improve their country.

Above: the river Nile, beautiful by night. Many people about, as the best Egyptian soccer team was in town. A gentleman approached me, who escorted me to a perfume store; Cairo is always open for business ;-)

Originally posted 2017-09-22 20:25:48.

Prometheum Wastes Chopshop – Apocalyptic Landscapes made from Recycled Household Plastics

A few days ago I stumbled over an intriguing site: Prometheum Wastes Chopshop, which describes the story (as the creators put it) of a “dry and dirty landscape and the challenges that you are going to have to face to be able to survive here”.

As the author of TWO JOURNEYS, the 2010 adventure novel that predicted the Corona Pandemic ten years ahead of time, apocalyptic and SciFi landscapes continue to intrigue me.

However, what makes Prometheum Wastes Chopshop particularly interesting is the “sustainable creativity in the new normal”. In these times it is hard for all of us to come together, and with a looming economic crisis, money to spend may be running scarce too. But challenging times lead to innovation, as demonstrated here. In this project, young individuals from different parts of the world came together virtually. They share a passion for painting gaming miniatures (such as Warhammer and Dungeon & Dragons), but realized their means were significantly reduced to buy pre-fab miniatures from the stores. So, they created a community that jointly developed the story of a waste planet somewhere in an apocalyptic future. In addition, they ran challenges where actual waste materials (plastics, such as empty and discarded deodorant containers) are used to create the elements of the story – which include for instance the vehicles, transporters, buildings, and landscape. At the links below you can see how this is done, as well as the end result.

This crowd-initiative reminds me of the concept of the circular economy, which is currently being discussed at all levels of society and industry, with the objective to build a more restorative and sustainable society. The core team of this group consists of students and young professionals. For now, the team may well be mostly focused on growing a community of like-minded folk, being creative and inventing a story together – with no direct monetary intentions. But rest assured, such a virtual, high-quality effort will get noticed and may well kindle the interest of either film or game industry. Why am I impressed? These professionals demonstrate what the new normal in pandemic times could look like: 1.digital, 2.global, 3.sustainable, 4.creative, and 5.delivering value.

Key links:

The Art of Prometheum Wastes Chopshop (Photo Courtesy and Copyright of Ruben Crazzolara).

Originally posted 2020-06-11 15:30:00.

About the EU. Inspired by a taxi ride through Kansas City.

I have been struggling with the memory of an unpleasant experience. It went like this: I visited Kansas City on business, and on the last day I had to go back to the airport by taxi. The driver was a young man, probably in his early thirties, intelligent and engaged. I always chat with the taxi and Uber drivers. The conversation was pleasant enough, until at some point the driver noticed that I was from Europe and brought the discussion to Brexit. Today, Brexit is practically over and done with, but at that time the initial discussions between the UK and the EU were in full swing; Teresa May was still Prime Minister. I indicated that these negotiations weren’t easy, as both parties naturally had wishes, at which point, this young man said (watch my lips!): “The UK has the very right to leave the EU. The EU is fascist that they want to define the rules for Brexit. The EU is a fascist state.”

I must admit that I was speechless for several seconds. I then tried to explain to him, that from my viewpoint, the EU was founded as a reaction to the terrible wars and fascism of the twentieth century. I explained that the EU is a union that focuses on economic, political and societal unification, all with the sole purpose of defending democracy and human rights – to never let fascism happen again. And the EU has been quite successful at that too, as no war within the EU territory has occurred since 1945  (note: wars have happened outside of the EU boundary over the years, but luckily many of those countries later joined the EU).

He still wasn’t please with my answer, and pointed out that it was fascist to dictate the UK the rules by which they would leave. This shocked me too, as this is the same naivety that many pro-Brexit Brits suffered from. I told him that the EU is one of the largest markets in the world, with approximately 450 million people (living in 27 countries). To get access to that market has big benefits for any third party, and the UK would need to comply to certain rules and restrictions to be rewarded that access. He still didn’t agree. I provided an example, a thought play. Let’s suppose, I said, that New Jersey would decide to leave the USA, what would happen? First of all, there is no clause in the constitution of the USA that would allow this, so the US president would send the army to force New Jersey to stay within the USA (similar as what happened during the US civil war between the north and south). In the EU, the constitution actually has such a clause. However, let’s presume that New Jersey would be allowed to leave: at that moment it would lose all its privileges. No free travel across the border to the neighboring states, no protection by the US army. Sure: no payment towards the central government, but in return also no subsidies or financial benefits from that government, so no access to other US universities, nor to healthcare services or using US insurance. Most importantly: no free trade with the remaining 49 states of the USA. New Jersey would need to negotiate this. Naturally, the USA (as it is much bigger market than New Jersey) would set the agenda in their interest, and dictate many of the rules. The UK may have 67 million citizens and a higher GPO than New Jersey, but still: the EU won’t simply give the UK access to their market for free.

Obviously, the driver rejected this idea immediately. His argumentation was simple: New Jersey was part of a country, my suggestion that it would leave the USA was ridiculous. Whereas the UK was an independent country. And independent countries are allowed to leave with all benefits, hence the EU was fascist. Well, I said, that is what many people in the UK believe, but they will have a brutal awaking.

To be honest, he did have a point, as perception drives reality. The EU (more in wikipedia) is a federation in development, the final step towards a United States of Europe has not been completed. This is illustrated by the paragraph mentioned above, which allows nations to leave the Union. In a real country such a clause is unthinkable.

People see the EU as an assembly of individual countries, but at the same time as a single unit. the view depends on what the situation is, and this is confusing as hell. Examples? The EU is seen as a single unit considering one of the best personal data protection laws in the world (GDPR) that forces all companies (such as Facebook, Google or Alibaba) to comply to if they want to do business with the EU. The EU also aggressively prosecutes monopolies by businesses. The EU has also established very strong human rights, across all nations, but this is already less tangible for the average citizen. Sure, the EU is best known for their unifying laws, such as the curve of bananas – which actually was a request from the banana producers themselves, and would have been implemented in affected countries anyway. In the USA or China, such laws exist too.

On the other extreme, sports is still the responsibility of the member states, rather than of the EU. So Olympic gold medals are counted by country. I didn’t do the math, but I suspect that the EU would blow most other countries out of the water if it comes to the number of Olympic gold medals. The EU has the best skiers through Germany, Austria and the Nordics; the best ice skaters through the Netherlands and the Nordics, the best sailors from French, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal (to name a few) – and the best soccer players from practically all countries. But does anyone in the world count Olympic medals this way? Naturally not, many will say. after all, the EU isn’t a country.

What are the causes for these views within the EU itself? Even within the EU, many people do not feel like Europeans, but feel like Belgians, Italians or Austrians. Europeans still feel very national. Whereas Russians, Americans or Chinese are constantly and efficiently infused (yes: indoctrinated) with patriotism, this is largely absent on an EU level. The EU is a very fact-based organization, with little room for emotion. In addition, Europe does a poor job advertising its merits to the ordinary people.

Interestingly, many Europeans project their anti-government sentiments on the EU. This is what happened during the Brexit referendum in the UK: research has shown that the pro-Brexit voters in reality didn’t know or feel much about the EU, but they did want to punish their own (British) government. So, the more the UK government argued that the EU was the best choice in the referendum, the more the population rejected that idea, and wanted to punish them for past and present sins. This led to the 51% majority (17M of the entire population) that voted for Brexit. Not an overwhelming majority (of which, due to advanced age, apparently 6M have in the meantime died). In the USA, this mistrust of the central government is also well established (most US Americans probably do not realize that their state government plays a big legislative role too – and if not the governor, than the local mayor – somebody has to set up the playing rules).

The EU is still on its path towards full federation, and (to me) this is the best way forward. The EU lives from solidarity among the member states, and this has lead to peace, prosperity, human rights. But until the EU arrives at that point, the perception of the EU will have its ups and downs. During dramatic events such Brexit, the refugee crisis or the Corona pandemic, many people immediately ask: “will the EU survive this?” Probably if somebody sneezes in Zimbabwe, somebody, somewhere will ask “Oh, is this the end of the EU?” Nobody would ask that about the USA, China or Russia (although we actually know from history that no nation can survive forever).

The reality is that EU is going strong. Admittedly, the refugee crisis has not been resolved satisfactorily, this is where the solidarity breaks to pieces (also think: Trump’s wall).  Still, I wager that the EU exited Brexit towards a stronger position. The Corona Pandemic led to more solidarity among the member states, and daring decisions for more federalization.

To the taxi driver in Kansas City: No, the EU is definitely not fascist. On the contrary.

On the ferry between France and the UK

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Originally posted 2020-06-07 22:10:58.