The rise of nationalism and xenophobia in Europe has been a reality for the past five years. Ever since the economic crisis threw the continent into a continuous recession, many Europeans have been showing their discontent towards their leaders’ policies, by voting for far right political parties.
This manifests in the recent European Parliament elections, but also with the new reality that most national parliaments are faced with. In Greece the Golden Dawn party is now the third most popular one, while it was only a minor party before the crisis began.
In Britain and France, the UKIP and the National Front parties have both significantly gained in the EP elections, but they have also won seats in the British Parliament and in the French Senate accordingly.
Other nations like Austria, Italy, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Finland have also witnessed sharp gains of nationalist parties, while others like Belgium and Spain are faced with regional nationalist organizations and autonomist movements.
The overall picture does not look good, when the continent is trying to promote itself as a union or a commonwealth of nations who are working together for the betterment of all its members.
And most disturbing of all is that the rise of nationalism does not only threaten the very union and cohesion of the European Union, but it shows its ugly and brutal reality to the immigrant communities and other minorities in the EU.
The Golden Dawn rhetoric for example, combined with an utter failure of the Greek government to counteract it (if anything they promote it to divert the public’s anger towards foreigners), has transformed the Greek capital into a hostile place for immigrants.
On similar note other countries are following suit. In Britain for example, the UKIP bile is poured against EU migrants from the new EU member states.
We need to take a moment and think. The Greeks are conveniently reminded by the right wing elements in their country about their impressive ancient history and the achievements of this indeed great European nation.
What they forget to study though, is the part of the Greek history when their ancestors themselves have embraced cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism. In fact the first European race of people to promote multiculturalism, were the Greeks.
After the conquests of Alexander the Great to the East and the establishment of the Greek Kingdoms from the Balkans to India, the mentality of the ancient Greeks started to dramatically change.
Young Greeks migrated and colonised these new lands, promoting the Greek language and culture throughout the Hellenistic states and being influenced by many different cultures, ethnicities and religions. It was then that a new kind of social philosophy started to emerge among the Greeks, called Stoicism.
Its roots can be traced back in the very Greek capital-Athens, which now is a battleground for nationalism versus more liberal ideas. Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that was established in Athens by Zeno of Citium.
A distinctive feature of Stoicism is its cosmopolitanism. Stoicism postulates that all people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should live in brotherly love and readily help one another. A Greek Stoic called Epictetus commented on man's relationship with the world: "Each human being is primarily a citizen of his own commonwealth; but he is also a member of the great city of gods and men, whereof the city political is only a copy."
This sentiment echoes that of Diogenes of Sinope, who said "I am not an Athenian or a Corinthian, but a citizen of the world." The Stoics believed that external differences such as rank and wealth are of no importance in social relationships. Instead they advocated the brotherhood of humanity and the natural equality of all human beings.
Even Alexander the Great himself, still a revered figure in Greek history, was trying to create an empire by mixing Greek and Asian elements of culture and of course the people. He married an Asian woman, Roxana and he encouraged all his officers to follow his example.
This is something that the Greek nationalists usually leave out, or conveniently forget when they preach hatred against foreigners, referencing the greatness of the Greek nation. In fact not only do they not do any justice to it, but they are vilifying the very “greatness” that they preach.
Edited by: Ivan Botoucharov