Pan Drakopoulos: What is the European civilization?
Speech to the Association of European Journalists (Greek section) in the Hall of European Parliament, Athens, Greece, 31 January 2012
Once we decide to reflect on what the European civilization is, we immediately find ourselves before a number of questions:
What does civilization mean?
What defines it?
What is a European, except and beyond a statement on a passport?
Why should we study and support the European civilization?
What is particularly important about it?
How much does the European Union express the European civilization?
Is it possible -or even meaningful-, in our technotronic and globalized times, for the European civilization to be understood?
Speaking to you today, I will attempt to move past the whirl of questions and present the subject as a whole.
The term civilization derives from the Latin root of Europe (civilis) and expresses the right frame of a citizen’s life; however, as a term, civilization was created to convey the system of values which the Great French Revolution derived from. The term was introduced by Mirabeau, the excellent orator and statesman who participated in the writing of the first Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen – the text that was recognized as “the Credo of the new age” by the 19th-century historian Jules Michelet.”
Anthropology expanded the term so that it could express more or less the total of material and spiritual achievements, as well as all people’s institutions and ways of life. This generalization, however, has not downgraded European civilization by putting it as one among others. Instead, it showed off its uniqueness.
Nowadays we see people talk about the right in democracy of Mongolia or Thailand or Burkina Faso’s people, which means that generalization made known the substance of European civilization as a universal demand. People that never thought of what is the meaning of a human right in their history, today they demand it even when they are unable to define it.
In any case, speaking of European civilization we mean a certain frame of values of not simply people but of citizens, that is people who constitute a state, whose the ruler is the civil liberties, in which they decisively participate, keeping always the individual freedom as their base.
The characteristic of historical space-time in European civilization is the absence of long duration. This defines a central characteristic of European civilization: the possibility to carry on the discussion continually and, of course, to utterly change the institutional structure of the society, and the philosophical and artistic individual creation as well.
Egypt, since it was constituted as a united state until the end of its independence, which is from 3100 B.C. until 525 B.C., had the same Pharaonic regime. The Great Wall of China was built to protect the Chinese people from Mongolians, and went on doing so until the 16th century, that is more than 2.000 years.
There isn’t such long duration in European history; there is neither a regime that lasted for thousand of years, nor a fortress that functioned for many centuries.