I am watching the speeches of Democratic leaders (e.g. Hillary, Michelle, Bill, Joe) at the Denver presidential nomination convention and the old story of the "American Dream", the "Unlikely Journey", pops up as narrative of the past and policy vision for the future. The American Dream is something every American and every not-yet American can relate to.
This idea can outshine trifle policy discussions and the bureaucratic attention to every little detail, it can serve as the guiding thread of a story that connects to the audience as whole and as a collection of individuals with their individual hopes and dreams. And the "American Dream" is something understood by each and everyone without explanation, without reference to specific stories, and without difference in social, economic, and political background.
But is there also a "European Dream"?
- Is it the dream of free movement? - Yes, as long as we are personally concerned. But as soon as someone from another European nation comes by to seek a better life or if a factory moves from one country to another, the freedom of movement is quickly seen as an evil, not as a good.
- Is it the dream of peace? - Yes, as long as our own countries are concerned. But as soon as we need to bomb civilians in Afghanistan or invade Iraq, many of our nations are ready to send much more than just humanitarian aid.
- Is it the dream of social justice? - Yes, as long as we do not have to agree on what "social justice" is.
- Is it the dream of a European Union? - Yes, it is, but for some this dream is rather a nightmare than one where you can fly through the air.
- Is it the same as the American Dream? - No! We are not looking for those individual success stories, the unlikely paths, the improbably journeys. This will for once and ever remain the "American Dream".
That is actually our biggest problem: There is no single European Dream. Our leaders have nothing to tell. They know a thousand different stories, they can enumerate a thousand little policy steps they would like to make, but they can not tell the one single story we all could relate to.
All the discussions around an elected European president or the lack of appeal of Mr Barroso and even about a "Constitution" or a "Lisbon" are kind of useless without this one story, this one dream, this one thing we can all work for, individually and collectively. Because without the dream, we are discussing about empty containers, not about real differences.
For me, the European Dream is the dream of unity in diversity, of unlikely cooperation between unlikely partners. It is the dream of meeting people who seem different in first place but are so similar at a second glance. It is the dream of realising that shared problems can only be solved together. It is the dream that the implicit virtual construction of "nations" as divisive features of our times is replaced by a more explicit construction of larger union that is inclusive instead of exclusive.
But too often, I wake up from this dream and realise that it is not shared. It is not something everyone around me can relate to. The "European Dream" in itself is an improbable journey, and I can only hope that this journey will find a positive end, and will not get lost in the confrontational disputes of the past.