Schengen in the rain

Drood was bent over his desk. One of those inclined, pulpit-like escritoires once found in clerks’ offices, it had come from his uncle’s actuary practice (whatever that is). He began with the words: “it was 1789 and a merchant was travelling from Königsberg to Cologne when he fell among thieves.”

Drood’s intention had been to make a neat dissective analysis of current European socio-economic problems as seen from the historical perspective of central European trade in the early 19th century. He would brush up on the customs abuses common in the German principalities and states of the 18th century (the thieves of the opening line, who would rob our merchant 18 times before he reached his market). He would investigate the rise of the Zollverein and its role in unifying Germany after the fall of Napoleon, Europe’s first “little corporal”. He would show how the strength of the Zollverein as a buttress against British industrial hegemony was also its weakness, sapping the competitiveness of the economy through an excess of protection, and would (when coupled with war reparations and a lack of young working men to support the tax base, all pushing up poppies in Flanders by then) eventually cause the depression of the 1920s. He would demonstrate how the German workers’ exodus of the 18th and 19th Centuries built the rust belt of the American industrial Midwest, and how neither the proclamation of the republic in 1848 nor Bismarck’s great unification of 1871 could really prevent that haemorrhage. He would outline how the transatlantic effects of this migration would later prove Hitler’s undoing when that other “little corporal” sought to profit politically from the humiliations of the depression and the Great War.

“My English she is more better now”

Drood was going to tie these themes in cleverly with current EU woes caused by a similarly protectionist attitude and over-dependence on subsidies in the face of the expansion of the far eastern and Chinese manufacturing base. He would reflect on the collapse of Belgium, once the torchbearer of international idealism, into a sorry heap of Communitary squabbles; an apt symbol of the new European malaise. He would mourn the loss of the English language as a potential bridge between these disparate tribes of Europe, since the English themselves cannot even be bothered to learn it, let alone how to translate and interpret it in the context of a new communications age. He would end up on another “potential” bridge, that of a boat, the “Marie Astrid” in the inland harbour of Schengen in Luxembourg (once a Zollverein member) on a rainy day in June 1985, when a plethora of florid, statesmanlike signatures rained down upon a portentous document, hopefully signalling the dawning of a new era in trade and economic expansion, as the world’s largest single economic zone opened its borders to the free and unimpeded passage of persons, goods and services.

It was intended to be witty and scholarly and eminently readable and highly informative all at once. He would have them all ‘Schengen’ from the same ‘him’ sheet by the time he was finished; they would want him to run for president of the commission. There would be cheers … and maybe even gardenias. Then his quill crashed.

The Greeks (them again) have a word for it: it’s called hubris. Sorry, he’ll try and do better next time.

Edwin Drood

One Comment

  • loved it…

    God bless Dr. Gates’ Magical Crashing Quills for saving us from potentially pompous drizzle and helping us channel frustration into clear-flowing exposition.

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