Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. November 2003
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The Messengers of Poverty

Patrice Fuchs (ÖH, Vienna)


One often hears today a person claiming that he or she is a real European!

The implication, which is being attributed to someone, like a quality unifying cultures, has come to arouse in me a strong feeling of ambivalence. Usually this statement is made in order to subtly flatter not only a person - precisely a "real" European - but also at the same time to enhance the image of the EU, for the purpose of building up positive support for the EU.

But what does it mean to be a real or proper European? What does it mean for the EU and wherein lies the ambivalence?

Let us think of the many people who live in the EU and who by no means can claim to be "real Europeans." They force their way illegally into our European countries. They actually shouldn't be there at all. Nevertheless they have brought along demands: for example, they want to be permitted to work among us. They want to have their living among us legitimized. Yet their presence often makes us feel insecure.

I have been thinking for a long time about what causes this feeling of insecurity. Immigrants arouse a certain image in us. Not integrated in this image is the idea of a father and mother, whom they let grow up, nor is the image of their husbands or wives or their children. Also not integrated into this image is the fear they experienced when they left their homeland.

We can, of course, know nothing of their personal story, when they pass us on the street. On the other hand, we just see them go by us on the street simply as male individuals or small groups of men, who are pursuing a common goal. This idea creates the picture of warlike soldiers. Fighting in the war for survival and traveling without family. They besiege us stealthily. Yet what is that supposed to achieve? We naturally fear that they have come for the purpose of taking away our wealth.

Yet what remains of this image, if we exclude our wealth and the wish to preserve it?

Then the soldiers become messengers. Messengers, who travel to the EU, to tell us of the poverty, which prevails around us.

Their message has arrived in Europe, and we have hysterically begun a defensive war. This happens so quickly, without reflection, that one must almost speak of a flight within.

My first reaction when I hear the heading the Unifying Aspects of Cultures is the EU and that we in the EU - above all in economic terms - try to be unifying. We must understand Europe much more as a cultural area and the European Union as a political area in the most comprehensive sense of the word "political." I think, however, also of the fact that we often unjustifiably exclude other countries and build moats around us. I also think that the plus we gain in the bottom line by prudent financial management results in a minus in the countries around us.

Thus we have long been united with the countries over the borders of the EU - by a dependency, which we have created, and by the consequences which result from this dependency. We must therefore be honest, recognize this fact and reduce the harassments - and unify cultures.

© Patrice Fuchs (ÖH, Vienna)

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For quotation purposes:
Patrice Fuchs (ÖH, Vienna): The Messengers of Poverty. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003.

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