Are there any impossible questions
Europe - my SCHMERZ : The delimitation of the impossible
“The only possibility of something is the experience of impossibility.” These words, with which Jacques Derrida summed up his idea of unconditional hospitality, carry a truth in them that can be applied to any pursuit of an ideal. We can perceive the overwhelmingly invigorating nature of the impossible-possible in many ways: in forgiving, writing, loving, and - perhaps most importantly - in every attempt to improve the world.
The European Union embodies the idea of the impossible as a prerequisite for the possibility of something. It is truly a fantastic project that brings dozens of peoples together through open borders, concerted economies, and equal rights and opportunities for hundreds of millions of citizens - in the sense that it is both unlikely and great. Had the Union's goals been more realistic, we would probably never have come this far - to a point where countless Europeans have experienced a kind of unconditional hospitality across large parts of their continent, a hospitality that would have been unimaginable here just a few decades ago and in so many parts of the world still exist.
For ten years I commuted between London and Berlin without having to ask anyone's permission, without experiencing any restrictions or having to meet any requirements. In Germany nobody insisted that I have to learn the language, nobody questioned my values or suggested that I would be a burden for the state. Millions of others have had a similar experience of being welcomed in the EU. Many of us have become exemplary Europeans without an integration course or naturalization tests; we have assumed an identity simply by being able to live it.
Progress comes from failure
At a time when it is so controversial who has the right to be in what place, under what conditions, the EU stands for a wonderfully broad conception of belonging. Yes, the model is flawed, plagued by inhospitable tendencies - as evidenced by recent dealings with Greece and refugees in general - but it is still unique how the EU has expanded both our imaginations and the real limits of the impossible. As a result, at least half of all EU citizens will - yes, can - never return to a narrow, purely national identity. All of this can easily be lost sight of at a time when nationalism is shamelessly breathed new life while its ugly and mendacious rhetoric is gaining ground in societies where sensationalism thrives.
If the impossible is strived for, deficiencies in the process and result are inevitable. If this is also disheartening, it doesn't have to be a cause for despair, but a chance to reconsider, to try again. Progress comes from failure - this is the bedrock of science approaching the truth through falsification and confirmation: an approach pertinent to the EU, a kind of experiment, the potential of which is largely unexplored and unrealized. From this point of view, Brexit and its chaotic aftermath are testing the continued validity of the EU.
“If someone only does what he can, what is in his power,” remarked Derrida, “then he only develops those possibilities that are already inherent in him, he follows a plan. To do something, more has to be done than what an individual can do. ”What does that mean? It means staying on course even when the going gets tough. It means exercising freedom of opinion, speech and action and, against all odds, insisting on the impossible ideal of the EU. It means failure, only better.
- Translated from the English by Franca Wolf
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