Europe nowadays looks to be caught in a never-ending crisis, whether it be financial, institutional or political.

Brexit, the euro-zone and the refugee crises plus the recent Catalan referendum for independence, portray a continent that it is tired and at war with itself, lacking a vision for the future, its leadership and a sense of direction.

In under such circumstances, people understandably tend to look back to “better days,” that they know and are used to. The time when nation states and local governments defined their future and fortunes. Change is scary and every new challenge of the status is often met with suspicion or resistance. Nationalism becomes more vocal and prevails because in every upheaval, people tend to seek solutions from local “saviors”. Even if they are just opportunists that seek to serve their own interests.

The wrong direction

The mentality of “us against them” sinks in and “freedom” movements, together with radical ideological political groups are on the rise. But what can they offer apart from the temporary satisfaction that any knee-jerk response brings? Our continent seems to be in a desperate search for a new identity or a set of values to aspire to. Nationalism and our past offer a guideline of who we are until now, but can we rely on them to design our future?

If we keep looking at our bygones for inspiration, we keep going in circles and repeating the same mistakes. Nationalism is in most cases a toxic sentiment that limits our potential by constant segregation and division. It is not detrimental to look at the past for inspiration, but I doubt the people that fought and died for the formation of today’s Europe would want things to remain as they are. They died for change, whether this was a social upheaval or a fight for justice or liberty.

We do them no justice though if we turned them into icons of conservatism, resistant to change, fanaticism and lack of intercultural dialogue and collaboration. Potentially the solution would be instead of nationalism, to promote a constructive form of patriotism. There is no harm in loving your country or your heritage or being proud of it.

Promote your nation positively

So instead of trying ferociously to protect it, you would do better service to your nation by exporting its values to the rest of humanity. What good will you do by being intolerant towards foreigners or minorities, or against of your country becoming a modern Western democracy, integrated into the rest of Europe and the world?

Today’s battle among our nations should be about which of us can positively influence humanity and its future development. That must be our goal, not constantly admiring our past achievements and glory. We should be excited about who will find solutions to the problems that the world is facing first, not building walls to stop people from coming in.

Nowadays that there are no more lands to discover and conquer, or tribes to colonise and Christianise so what will we leave for the future generations to be proud of their ancestors? Perhaps instead of desperately trying to protect our past, it is time to design our collective future. Pushing humanity as a whole forward may be what Europe needs to be focusing on. By reforming our own societies first to become role models of equality, freedom and economic development, we could inspire others to follow suit.

In addition, by helping other regions to reach our living standards, eradicating poverty and reducing the inequalities among the world’s populations, we can give our future generations something to be proud of. Europe should become a beacon of scientific and technological innovation, leading the world in the fight for a cleaner environment and sustainable energy resources.

Big is beautiful

But we can never achieve all the above alone. Individually, member European Union states are very small when trying to tackle all these issues by themselves but additionally, they can join together and help other nations to follow our example and contribute to the overall progress of humanity.

Our continent is known for its glorious conquests, classic art, financial might and technological advances of the past. But the world is changing and other regions are now rightfully claiming their place on the globe. Why would we retract within our own borders, excluding anyone from coming in and turn on each other once again, while we could turn Europe and all its nations, into bright examples for others to follow and aspire to?

What would give you greater satisfaction – people talking about your distant past, or viewing you as a role model for their future?

Christos Mouzeviris
Christos Mouzeviris is a Greek journalist and photographer based in Dublin. Christos is a pro-European federalist.

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