Archive | March 2012

Stuff Europeans Do #3 – The Little, Angry Brother

Freedom for Scotland!… ¡Viva Catalunya!… Long Live the Carinthian Slovenes!

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You never have to go far on what Americans call ‘The Continent of Yerp’ before reaching a smaller country within a bigger country.

Treaties, invasions, settlements, amalgamations, annexations, expansions to their ‘natural’ frontiers, marriages, divorces and pure ‘nicking it while nobody’s looking’ have all played their part in creating a Europe which is riddled with smaller provinces within bigger countries which now seek independence from their bigger evil overlord.

It’s happening in Britain (Scotland and Wales today, Rutland tomorrow!), Spain (in fact, I’m not sure there’s a part of Spain that actually wants to be in Spain), Belgium (well, nobody really believed it was a country anyway), Germany (Bavaria has Audi and Oktoberfest! Who needs Berlin?!)… Even that most One Nation-y of countries, France, has a Celtic fringe threatening to spoil their little solidarité and fratenité bun fight. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if one of the lesser-known suburbs of Lichtenstein turned around and declared they’d be better off if only it wasn’t for those power-crazed Lichtensteinians and their alpine empire-building ways.

The level of enthusiasm for the independence movements varies massively from country to country, of course. Some involve million-man marches, mass terror campaigns and starvation protests, while others prefer to go down the bumper sticker and local-jam-selling route.

There are two main paths to freedom for any region that seriously wants their independence. The first is to start a race war and ethnic cleansing policy, wait for the UN to intervene and eventually get your own country. The second, possibly less dangerous, route starts with abysmal local television shows about artisanal crafts, then moves onto setting up a bloated, self-serving and utterly powerless devolved parliament and ends with a referendum on independence (in which the larger country has no say whatsoever).

It never happens, though, does it? Self-determination. The little country hardly ever gets to wave bye-bye to its colonial master and raise its own taxes and be ‘independent in Europe’ and all that. The big guys always win and the little guy always gets to be the disenfranchised minority dreaming of the day his people will be richer/happier/more racially pure/be able to keep their own natural gas. But at least the little man has the feeling of self-righteous indignation, which is almost, almost as sweet as freedom.

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