A line from ‘Life of Brian’ kept going through my head in Brussels: Brian: ‘You’re all individuals.’ Voice from the crowd: ‘I’m not.’ It’s funny because the person who says, ‘I’m not’ seems to be the only one with any individualism. But it was also provocative while on a two-day visit (organised through the IEN, Irish Environmental Network) to the European Commission and European Parliament. One of the first things we were told was that the benefits of the EU include the free movement of people (and meanwhile we were in buildings the entrances to which are governed by stricter security measures, in my personal experience, than entrance to JPL/NASA buildings in Pasadena, Ca., ones that might, conceivably, be associated with militaristic activities). We could most certainly not leave the group.
Yoga means Union, of course, and I’m not anti-union. In fact, I think that one of our key survival strategies, as humans, as organisms, is cooperation although competition (or ‘aggressive symbiosis’) provides grist for one another’s mills, as it were. We are not entirely as individual as we think we are. We are interdependent, even if we have deeply held personal beliefs and commitments. But our interdependence goes much more than species deep. Any organisation that fails to recognise this interdependence does us a disservice.
In other words, if the EU is to benefit us as fully as it has the potential to (and it has huge potential to benefit those within, and even those beyond, its borders), then it needs to work much harder to identify the grounds on which it bases its policies. Those began with a motivation to create peace and stability (within which to trade, primarily). The ground is shifting, though. We now need to realise that the constraints we live with are not ideological alone, but are also very real: we are a growing number on a finite planet and we depend on the health of the systems that have evolved along with us to sustain us. We need to shift the balance of attention from one that sees Nature as pretty, or even inspirational, but not essential, to one that puts the maintenance of natural systems at the heart of policy. The health of ecosystems determines the health of human systems and not the other way round. No amount of self-interested agenda-pushing is going to change that. Politics may be the art of the possible but it’s going to need to reexamine its roots if it is to represent and deal with what’s really going on.