America and Europe: The Moral Fiber | Opinion

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday at Mildenhall Air Force Base, Suffolk, UK at
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday at Mildenhall Air Force Base, Suffolk, UK atJoe Giddens / AP

The new president of the United States, Joe Biden, has come to visit Europe. It comes at a difficult time, in which the deep crisis derived from the pandemic is fully affecting the economy, but fortunately it brings a positive message to the old continent. The North American giant is back in the world, that is what he comes to say, Donald Trump’s laziness and disinterest in international affairs have passed away, and countries that share democratic values ​​would do well to row together to emerge stronger from this nightmare caused by the virus. It is a good moment for those old complicities to resonate between one side of the pond and the other, and for that faith to be reinforced, that historian Bernard Baylin so well summed up in The ideological origins of the American Revolution, “In which a world better than all known hitherto could be built where authority is mistrusted and kept under constant observation; where the social position of men derived from their works and their personal qualities, and not from differences conferred by their birth; and where the use of power over the lives of men was jealously guarded and severely restricted ”. A handful of democratic values ​​in the face of the advancement of powers with clear authoritarian wishes.

It is about building a better world. Bailyn also pointed out in that book that “the preservation of freedom depended on the ability of the people to maintain effective controls over those in power and, therefore, in the last analysis, on the vigilance and moral fiber of the people.”

That is where it surely hurts the most. The historian Tony Judt, in a conference he gave in 1995 and which met in A great illusion? observed already in those days, that “the obsession with growth has left a moral void in the hearts of some modern nations”, and that “the abstract and materialistic condition of Europe is proving insufficient to legitimize its own institutions and maintain trust. popular”.

This is how things are: that “moral fiber” of the people, so necessary in the battle to preserve freedom, has ended up becoming “a moral vacuum” in which many modern societies are shipwrecked after losing the compass and giving themselves completely to the demand to grow and grow, whatever the cost, regardless of the price, and leaving behind those who are not capable of fulfilling the plan. The United States and the European Union appear today, in a part of the collective imagination that increasingly reaps more adhesions, not so much as those democracies where there is room for everyone and where it is possible to conceive a decent future, but as soulless lands in which economic powers always impose.

Beyond the tear point, the most serious problem that Biden has hanging on his back is Trump’s legacy (and previous enormous mistakes, such as having wanted to impose democracy in different places by bombing) and the evils that weaken to the Union come from those populisms that are devouring the outlines of the European project with vain promises and high emotional intensity. Be that as it may, and insufficient as it may be, democracy is the answer. And without that moral fiber it is impossible to defend it.