There’s no substitute for experience. You have to be there, and watch it happening.
In the Department of Engineering of the University of Bristol, I used to watch big engines breaking concrete and wooden beams and columns. It was a rather terrifying experience, because we’d all be gathered quite close to the engines, and I used to wonder whether things would come flying out in all directions when they broke. Shouldn’t we all have been in a bunker 100 yards away, wearing helmets?
But when they broke, they just made a not-very-loud bang, and they didn’t actually look like they were broken. You had to look at them quite closely to see that there was a crack running right the way through them. They didn’t fly apart or anything like that. And I think that was because as soon as they broke the big machines stopped pressing on them. So it was a bit of a non-event. And that was why we could all stand so close.
It might have been different if they’d been steel cables that they were pulling apart. But I never saw that. Maybe I missed that class. I missed lots of classes.
All the same, it remains a vivid memory. There was fear and anticipation. Because it took a few minutes of whirring before the machines succeeded in breaking the beams and columns.
They were always making things in the Department of Engineering. And they were always breaking things as well. It was all very hands-on practical. They made you do it yourself. And that’s how people learn: by trial and error.
It’s only recently, many years after I left university, that I’ve realised that I had absorbed the engineering ethos of the university. It wasn’t that I was any good at engineering or anything. But nevertheless I absorbed that whole way of going about things, that whole way of looking at the world.
If I’d had an education in Classics, I would have read Plato and Aristotle, and read Latin and Greek, and written it as well. But instead I watched beams and columns being broken. And so that’s how I think about absolutely everything. As things being constructed of sand and cement or something, and then broken.
And that’s the way I think about society. I think a society is like a beam or column, made up of component individual atomic people, who are all stuck together just like sand and cement in a concrete beam. And, just like beams and columns, societies can also get broken. And, just like concrete beams and columns, when they’re broken they don’t look like they’re broken. They look pretty much exactly the same as they were before they broke. You have to look closely to see the cracks running right the way through them.
And I think our society is broken. And I was there watching when it broke. Britain got broken on 1 July 2007. And the engine that broke it was the force of law that came into effect with the public smoking ban.
For most people it was a non-event. Most people weren’t watching. There was no loud bang with stuff flying in all directions. There was no insurrection. There were no riots. It scarcely even made the news.
But I think Britain got broken that day. And it wasn’t the only country that got broken. Both Scotland and Ireland had been broken a few years before. And so had France and Spain and Italy and Holland. There’s hardly any country in Europe that hasn’t been broken. Austria hasn’t been broken. And only bits of Germany – like Bavaria – have been broken.
For me, everything changed on 1 July 2007. And everything still is changing. Because when Britain got broken that day, I flew off at very high speed. And I’ve been moving at very high speed ever since. Because when things get broken, stuff does actually fly out of them, just like when you drop a glass and it smashes on the floor, you’ll find bits of it months later on the far side of the room, under the chest of drawers, and you wonder how the hell it got there.
Britain got broken. Scotland got broken. Ireland got broken. And most of the countries of Europe got broken too.
And that’s why I have no belief in Europe and the European Union. Because it’s now a union of broken countries. It’s a heap of broken glass. How do you make a “union” out of a heap of broken glass? You can’t.
For a lot of people, Brexit was the point when Europe got broken. But I thought that Europe was already broken. It didn’t break when Britons voted to leave in 2016: it broke when the European Parliament voted to ban smoking in the EU, and to hold show trials of prominent dissenters, in 2009. Brexit was just a long overdue consequence of many fractures that had already happened, but which no-one had noticed. And it’s been Europe’s political class that has been very thoroughly and effectively breaking Europe. Nobody else did it. The Russians didn’t do it. Neither did the Americans. Europe’s politicians did it all themselves. They smashed Europe to pieces. There are probably about 150 million smokers in Europe’s population of 500 million. How can Europe hold together when 150 million of them have been “exiled to the outdoors”? It can’t hold together. There’s no possibility whatsoever.
Emmanuel Macron has demanded closer and faster EU integration towards a superstate, in a speech where he vowed to “yield nothing” to conservative eastern members which believe in a Europe of strong nations.
Speaking in Aachen, where he received this year’s pro-EU Charlemagne prize “in recognition of his vision of a new Europe” and his “decisive stance” against nationalism, the French president urged Brussels to move full speed ahead on monetary union and creating a single foreign policy and defence strategy for the whole bloc.
Emmanuel Macron is an idiot. He’s never going to get his “closer and faster integration”. His “vision of a new Europe” is a pot smoker’s pipe dream. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. None of them know what they’re doing.
Europe is going to disintegrate. And it’s going to disintegrate because there’s nothing holding it together. It’s broken.