Gret Haller
Women Shaping the Future of Europe
Lecture on the occasion of the 6th General Assembly of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (EFECW), August 25 - September 1, 2002 in Celakovice (Czech Republic)

"It is only the State which makes it possible for us to be persons; this is the chief effect of peace in terms of theory of the person. War brings a dictatorship of the present, under which life becomes a series of monotonous episodes of self-preservation. Politics breaks up this dictatorship of the present, creates a future, permits a diversity of life plans to be made. Only peace enables the flowering of personal identity, only peace gives self-determination a chance and allows a human being to live as a person." (1)

You have asked me to bring you some thoughts on how, or in what ways, women can help in shaping the new Europe. I am happy to do so, and I would like to do it in a very personal way, that has a lot to do with my own professional and political development. You have heard that I worked in Sarajevo for five years, immediately after the war in Bosnia. So you will not hold it against me if I look at Europe from the point of view of the Balkans, among others. Today – several years after concluding my work in Sarajevo – I still believe that this view of Europe's slow process of growing back together is at least as realistic as that which comes from a western European perspective, and in some ways even more realistic than the view from some other regions of central and eastern Europe.

I would like to pose the question of whether there is really such a thing as a European identity. If there is, I would like to ask whether it has something to do with matters which might usually be of interest to women, or which should interest them. Of course I can only lift up certain aspects here which seem especially important to me. So I will make this presentation as follows: first I will pick out two points of departure for ways of characterising Europe. Then, from these, I will draw two conclusions. The first of these two points of departure is the way we see ourselves in relation to the other women and men who live on this continent. The second point of departure will be the way we in Europe deal with morality, with good and bad. So first I will concentrate on the question of our way of dealing with other people, as it has developed in Europe.

I believe today that we can divide attitudes toward other people, very roughly, into two basic categories, two views of the world, each of which depends on a certain idea of what constitutes a human being. The first could be described with the phrase, "us and them" . The second is based on the conviction that all people ultimately are of equal worth, even when they are very different from one another. The first way of thinking and judging other people is always looking for differences, wanting to discover in what way other people are not like ourselves. The second way of thinking and judging others is always looking for similarities, wanting to find things which we and the other person have in common. We could also make the distinction by saying that the first way of thinking looks for the particular, whereas the second way looks for the universal. The first way of thinking makes criteria of all sorts of details, cultural influences, language, national origin, citizenship, or perhaps one's social class, whether one is "rich" or "poor" , or "good" or "bad" , or perhaps one's age or sex. These criteria are used to determine whether someone belongs to "us" or to "them" , the others. Of course not all these criteria are in operation at the same time, otherwise it would be impossible to sort people out, since different people have different combinations of these details. Usually only one or two criteria are being used, so that it is possible to classify people according to these characteristics. The classification is always "us" or "them" . I shall call this "particularist thinking" , because it uses individual, particular criteria. The other way, which I shall call "universalist thinking" , is theoretically easier. Instead of looking for particular details, it is always looking for something in common, so sooner or later it has to do with human dignity. This dignity is the one thing which all people really have in common, since in all other characteristics they differ from one another. The idea of the human dignity which all people have in common is familiar as the philosophy of human rights which belong to all people.

Europe is firmly founded on this universalist thinking. Let me give some examples of this. The religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries were concluded in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. This treaty declared religion to be a private affair, a matter of conscience. In future it should no longer be possible to wage war on the basis of religion. Here, we may say, it was officially agreed for the first time to stop playing "us and them" , us Protestants and those Catholics, or vice versa. What confession someone belonged to should no longer be important as a criterion, but rather that which unites people despite confessional differences. However, the way the problem was solved in those days was that the sovereign ruler of a country decided on the state religion, and anyone who could not or would not submit was free to emigrate. Religion did not definitively become an individual matter until the French Revolution, 150 years later. The remnants of the old confessional "us and them" thinking are still with us today, in a frightening way, in Northern Ireland.

Now I will make a leap in time, to World War II. For hundreds of years, the German and French peoples had defined themselves according to "us and them" , which had kept leading them to war, culminating in World Wars I and II. It was the horrors that had taken place which brought about a paradigm shift after 1945. Nationality and citizenship should no longer be the sole basis for our identity, but rather the common criterion of being Europeans. The process of transition from particularist to universalist thinking is still going on in Europe, sometimes by great leaps, sometimes inconspicuously and slowly, in little ways.

There were, however, and still are, steps backward and relapses, and they began right away. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 did succeed in preventing religious wars from then onward. But when the Romantic period came along and invented the concept of the nation, the nation took over exactly the same role in Europe which had previously been played by religion. So wars continued, under the flags of the nations, or rather of nationalism, and this was extended on into the 20th century through the conquest of numerous colonies outside Europe, also under the flags of European nations. This is also the reason why the gradual separation of statehood from the concept of the nation is so important in Europe.

Now I would like to take some examples of such relapses from the present day. What is the increasing xenophobia in Europe, if not particularist thinking, "us and them" ? The same goes for racism or extreme right-wing excesses of violence. Election campaign slogans such as "Austria first" or "Denmark first" , wherever they are heard, illustrate the "us and them" with frightening clarity. The enmity of the Swiss towards the rest of Europe also belongs under this heading. But the most horrifying form of particularist thinking, in "us and them" categories, in our time has been that of the last ten years in the Balkans. The Balkan wars, as you know, were not religious wars, but religion was misused to strengthen nationalist hate language. The Balkan wars showed what the ultimate consequence is of particularist thinking: there comes a moment when this thinking reaches critical mass, and suddenly there is no longer any room for "them" alongside "us" . These "others" are suddenly so different from "us" that they are no longer regarded as individual persons with their own dignity, but are reduced to nothing more than their "otherness" . From this point on, particularist thinking totally shuts out universalist thinking, and the other person is no longer even a human being. The final consequence of particularist thinking, if you will forgive me for using this ghastly word here, is "ethnic cleansing" .

I would like to make another distinction here. Sometimes we speak of "recognising" other persons. I have a lot of trouble with this concept, because it has something negative in it, besides the positive. Recognition means that I am doing something on my side, I am recognising the person with a different cultural background. Does the other person really need this? Does this person have the right to be, independent of my recognition? This concept comes from a certain idea, that a society should "recognise" groups of people with a common cultural background which is different from the majority culture. What happens then is that new groups which are formed struggle to gain this recognition, in fact must do so. I find that this group thinking does not make sense for various reasons, in any case not here in Europe, for ultimately it is opposed to universalist thinking.

Not long ago I took part in a panel discussion on communication between religions. I had been invited because of my experience in Sarajevo, to round out a group consisting of a Protestant and a Catholic theologian and a rabbi. The rabbi made the same reflection that I have just done on the concept of "recognition" , and also on the concept of "tolerance" , in connection with what is currently going on in Israel and Palestine. He said more or less that for Israelis to say that they can quite well tolerate the Palestinians is presumptuous. It is not a question of tolerance, since tolerance is a one-sided decision which one can just as easily reverse, in the direction of intolerance. And in Israel this is not possible, he said, since the Palestinians are already there in that country. So the word "tolerance" , too, can be classified as particularist thinking. Its opposite, then, would not be "intolerance" , but rather universalist thinking, in which the decisive things about other people are those which bring me together with them. Then there is no longer any question of tolerance or not. That aspect of this word was new to me, but very much worth thinking about. So, on my first point of departure I can say in conclusion that an important element of European identity is "universalist thinking" , which does not emphasise individual, particular characteristics, but rather those which we have in common.

Now I come to my second point of departure for characterising Europe. As I said, it has to do with the way we deal with morality, with the value judgments which could be tersely expressed in the terms "good" and "bad" . For this second point of departure as well, I will go back to the year 1648, to the Peace of Westphalia which ended the wars of religion. Its effect was not only to make religion a private matter, a matter of conscience, but also, in a way, to separate morality from the law. During the wars of religion there was widespread anarchy – we would say today that the wars were being waged by private "warlords" . State and law had ceased to exist, robbery and murder on a private basis had become the order of the day and offenders were not prosecuted by any state. The reaction, in making the treaty, was a clear agreement that wars should be conducted only by states. This was, for all practical purposes, the beginning of international law. It was further agreed that the laws of individual states should guarantee to each individual person the same right to protection of life and limb as every other person. This was a very important moment in the transition from particularist to universalist thinking, as I have described it above. From now on, the state had to guarantee the safety of the individual, the safety of life and limb above all. That was about as far as it went in the 17th century, but this guarantee existed independently of the moral views of any particular person. Not only virtuous people had human dignity and enjoyed the protection of the state, but also not very virtuous people. The responsibility for meting out punishment, too, was to be carried out according to strictly legal and not moral criteria. It is still true today that it is not supposed to make any difference whether the person found guilty of a crime is considered "good" or "bad" .

In this way, the Enlightenment in Europe separated law from morality, once and for all. The conviction became established that what was important was only the outward actions of individual persons. What such persons think about it, whether they find that the laws make sense or not, is not supposed to matter, as long as their outward conduct is lawful. Thus freedom of conscience was the first of all human rights to be defined, one may even say that freedom of religion followed from it, when religion became a matter of individual conscience. Human rights especially can only exist when morality is separated from the law, and not only virtuous persons, but also those who are not virtuous, enjoy the same rights. In fact, the latter are especially in need of them – whatever one may understand as being "not virtuous" .

Here we find a very decisive difference between Europe and the United States. This difference has always existed, but it has only been noticeable since the end of the Cold War. Before 1989 we used to think in terms of East and West, and the European way of thinking was overshadowed by the East-West conflict. In the United States, law and morality are not nearly so clearly separated as in Europe, sometimes not at all. I won't go so far as to say that, in this regard, the Enlightenment did not take place on the other side of the Atlantic, but the history of the US American nation has been very different from that of the European nations. That capital punishment still exists in the United States is exactly what I mean. Somehow, I would almost say in the popular psychology, the need still exists to keep trying to eradicate the evil represented by criminals who have committed murder, and this cannot be done by life imprisonment. Even those trying to abolish capital punishment in the United States almost always argue exclusively on the basis of the legal process. They say that the probability of failures of justice cannot be excluded, and therefore capital punishment is irresponsible, because there is no remedy after execution has taken place. Arguments at the fundamental level of human rights are very rare.

Since the terror attacks of 11 September, the transatlantic divide in these matters has become much clearer: the fight against evil is now to be pursued intensively world-wide. What has become evident above all is the understanding of human rights which differs from that of Europe. US Americans recognise the universal equality of all persons' human dignity only with a moral qualification. The Taliban and al Qaida fighters imprisoned on the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are regarded as participants in an immoral war, and therefore the US public finds it self-evident that their basic rights can be questioned. For example, there is public discussion as to whether the ban on torture should apply to these prisoners or not.
Here I would like to conclude my presentation of the two points of departure, for the moment, and summarise the characterisation of European identity, based upon them, as follows: in its concepts of what a human being is and of the way to think about relations among human beings, Europe is moving along a line of development from particularism to universalism, a development which has been going on for centuries. There has been decisive progress towards universalism since 1945. An important prerequisite for this development in Europe has been the clear separation of law from morality, which also goes back centuries. These two points of departure lead, for me, to two conclusions. The first has to do with the state, or rather with the quality of statehood; the second, with politics.

If women want to contribute to Europe's future, they should concern themselves with the quality of statehood. Why that, you may perhaps ask. Let me begin, here again, by making a distinction, between the concept of "the state" and that of "the quality of statehood" . I would rather speak of "the quality of statehood" rather than "the state" , simply because what I am talking about is not confined to traditional nation- states. In Europe today, the competencies and activities of the state are, in part, moving to a level which takes in a larger area than that of a nation-state, in particular in the European Union. In our time there are also more and more international agreements at a world-wide level. These, too, belong to this quality of statehood, because they are being agreed by states. The word "international" itself means "among states" , since in this context the word nation means state. On the other hand, there are also states which have been in organised existence for so long that they also contain elements which have the quality of statehood at the next lower level. The key word "subsidiarity" indicates that it has been made a goal always to have public responsibilities fulfilled at the lowest level at which it makes sense to do so. This is in no way a form of privatisation, but is rather the creation or development of the quality of statehood in sub-regions of the traditional nation-states. Both these developments, the extension of the quality of statehood upward, and its extension downward, I find make a great deal of sense. First, these developments make it possible for each public function to be carried out in the most appropriate way. Second – and we shall see that this is no less important – this development brings another development with it, one in which the quality of statehood in Europe is gradually being separated from the concept of nationhood. I will come back to this.

Only the state or, as I have been saying, the quality of statehood, can guarantee universalist thinking on human dignity – only the quality of statehood as a basic structure of society, founded on the existential quality of belonging of all persons. In speaking of belonging, I mean something quite different from citizenship; I am speaking of whether other people matter to me, or whether I am indifferent to them. This is best illustrated by taking a look at the alternatives. What are other possible basic structures for a society, other than that of the state? In a so-called "theocracy" , the basic structure of the society is provided by religion. I think this need not be among the variants for us to consider here.

Structures can also be distinguished on the basis of the mechanisms through which decisions are made, and in our time the most explosive polarity is probably that between state mechanisms and market mechanisms. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the great art which is called for today is that of employing each of these mechanisms there where it makes sense and gets the best results. In the context of human belonging, the two mechanisms are relevant to the degree that the philosophy of the state is based on each person's belonging simply because he or she exists, what I am calling "existential" belonging. The market philosophy, on the other hand, is based on belonging only through one's accomplishments. Each mechanism is justified in certain areas. I can expect wages only if I earn them by doing some work. On the other hand, there is no sense in expecting small children, those who are ill or very elderly persons to earn their own living, since even if they were willing they are unable to do so. It is very important in our time to bring the two philosophies, that of the state and that of the market, into a balanced, right relationship to one another. Market mechanisms are appropriate in situations where a product or achievement can be expected. For all situations in which this is not possible, a state structure is needed. In addition, the state must provide a legal framework within which the market may operate. Europe has a great tradition in this regard, which is usually called the "social market economy" .

However, there is another domain which must be kept distinct from the state structure, which I shall call the domain of "communities" . By communities I mean private sector associations of every kind, including religious communities, but in no way limited to these. I mean clubs which one can join, charitable associations, all sorts. What all these communities have in common is that one must take the step of joining them, one must take a decision. For some, one has to achieve something, for others not; some have clear entrance requirements, others do not. From the point of view of belonging, the decisive feature is that all these societies do not practice existential belonging, precisely because they are not part of the state. Such communities can carry out certain functions for which they are suited. However, they are not suitable as the basic structure for the society, in a European context, because they cannot guarantee existential belonging and the universalist thinking of the human worth of all persons in equal measure. Only the state can assume the responsibility of granting and actively guaranteeing human rights, and in this regard, in Europe, it is the international community of states which has this responsibility. This philosophy is an important part of the European identity.

When we now ask what that has to do with women, it becomes a bit awkward at first. We all know very well the idea which men in our patriarchal society have of the division of labour between the sexes, and how they are still able to enforce it, by and large. In the world of men, economics rule, while the world of women is dominated by caring for others, especially children and sick and elderly persons. To put it even more drastically, in the patriarchal society, men are responsible for money, earnings, and possessions, while women in the patriarchal society are responsible for love. As for the love which we sometimes have for individual men, I would like to leave these very diverse experiences to one side for the moment and perhaps just mention that, even when they are heavenly, women usually have to do a lot more to keep them going, over the long term, than men do. Here too, patriarchal society with its division of labour has cleverly provided for the advantage of the male half of humanity.

But what I want to talk about here is much more the care – which can certainly also be called love – given to people who are least able to do anything themselves. This work of caring is still done almost entirely by us women. Why do we accept this assignment from the patriarchal society? Simply because humanity needs this care, and the majority of men are not prepared to give it. Whether they don't want to or cannot, it amounts to the same thing. According to your point of view, they are either the exploiters of or those damaged by the patriarchal division of labour. They either must or would rather concern themselves with money, earnings and possessions, and that is the area in which productivity is required in order to belong. In the other area, that of care, there is existential belonging. One can relax and be cared for, even if one is weak, a child, sick or elderly. Of course I am exaggerating the distinction between these two worlds, but I have done so on purpose. I think it is fair to say that women, at least on average, are likely to be much closer to the philosophy of existential belonging than the average man is. This is probably a matter of socialisation rather than nature. The patriarchal division of labour is, after all, four thousand years old, and therefore will always prevail. You can see where I am going with this: from this point of view, Europe also is really a women's project, and has been for a long time. And it can only remain so as long as the concept of the state, and the quality of statehood itself, continue to be highly valued in Europe. Here I come to a first conclusion: I am convinced that if women want to contribute to the future of Europe, a Europe that works according to their views, they must not forget to be concerned with the quality of statehood as such.

Now to a second point, a second conclusion which – as I have already mentioned – has to do with politics. If women want to contribute to the future of Europe, they have to become concerned about politics. Here you will probably ask, even more than of the first conclusion, why that? What is politics anyway? I am not going to give you a scientific definition of this concept. But I would like to maintain that "politics" includes everything it takes to do the business of a state. Politics is not only about electing parliaments, discussing party programmes and the activities of legislatures and governments in power. Politics is also public discussion about the laws being passed; politics is monitoring the work of administrations, the election of judges; politics is reading the newspapers, following public debates, being interested in everything having to do with one's community, with the way tax money is spent. In short, politics is being interested in the quality of statehood. Or, politics is each person's identity with regard to the policy of the state.

If the quality of statehood disappears, politics also disappears. Let us not fool ourselves on this point: this also is happening in Europe. It has become the fashion to run politics down, to think the parliament isn't up to its job, even to pour scorn upon it. As Peter Glotz expressed it recently: "Someone who is good, young and left-leaning will join Greenpeace rather than the Social Democrats. Someone who is good, young and more right than left will join (the auto-maker) BMW rather than the Christian Democrats. In the 1960s the best of the young generation wanted to be like J.F. Kennedy, Willy Brandt or Dag Hammarskjöld. Now such people dream of being like Jack Welch, Steve Case, Rainer E. Gut or Joe Ackermann." (2) The political identity of statehood is being replaced by economic identity. This means that the philosophy of existential belonging is being replaced by the philosophy of belonging through productivity. The patriarchal society has struck another mighty blow. It is narrowing the scope for the values it has assigned to women, in order to widen the scope for the values it has assigned to men.

In the course of this development, another extremely interesting thing is happening as well. When the political identity of statehood is replaced by economic identity, the society begins, understandably, to notice that something is missing. It doesn't work to have only economic activity, which is assigned to men; the caring activity assigned to women is needed as well. Until now in Europe, the source for this caring has been the philosophy of existential belonging, which is grounded in the quality of statehood. When the political identity of statehood disappears, caring has to find another structure in which to be embodied, and it has now found its home in the many private sector communities or societies, which have joined together in a new structural order. The quality of statehood, which until now has represented a framework for both the economy and the caring activities, is being pushed out, the economy is being freed from its state framework, and the caring activities are being pushed from the state's structural order into one created by the private societies.

These communities, however, are not based on the philosophy of existential belonging; they are not universalist, but rather particularist. They are communities which bring people together by free choice, based on certain criteria. Thus the second criterion is here tending back, at least part way, towards the first criterion, that of "us and them" . To become part of such a community, one has to join or be received into it; one has to declare that one wishes to belong to it. In other words, belonging here includes a moral qualification. Only those who have proved that they are making an effort to be part of the community really belong to it. That is no longer the philosophy of existential belonging, on which the quality of statehood as we understand it in Europe is based, but rather the particularist thinking of "us and them" . The community ideology, which certain circles, even in Europe, would like to see take the place of the quality of statehood, is particularist. It pushes universalism out of people's thinking and out of their concept of what it is to be human. To separate people who are worthy of belonging, because they make an effort, from those who are not worthy, because they do not make a proper effort, is not compatible with the universal principle of human worth shared equally by all people. It is ultimately, once again, the same moralistic division into "good" and "bad" .

In general, these days, we can see a dangerous "re-moralisation" of many areas of life. Kurt Imhof recently offered an analysis of the entry of morality into politics and economics, especially the mechanism of "indignation" which is being used very purposefully. He speaks of "the communication of indignation" and, even more revealingly, of "the economics of indignation" . (3) These processes go back to the increasing tendency towards deregulation; people are less and less able or willing to depend on protection from the legal system. Instead, one can depend on waves of indignation. Morality is thus flowing directly into developments in the society, instead of passing through the legislative process into laws which remain in force for the long term. Professor of philosophy and theologian Richard Schröder asks whether the moralising which is on the rise in today's society is not damaging the political process, in other words, making it impossible. He believes it is causing citizens to disengage from politics, to demand that politicians be more highly moral than they are themselves. This is the source of all the scandals, great and small, over murky financial dealings which, Schröder points out, are the way of the rest of the world and would in most cases be treated as peccadilloes. Of course Schröder does not seek to justify these financial muddles, but rather to dig deeper into the problem of morality in politics, to speak of a dangerous degrading of politics to an infantile level. (4)

Isn't it true that in many circles today, it is the done thing to say casually that one would rather not have anything to do with politics, nor anything to do with politicians? All this is especially dangerous for Europe, because it allows the centuries-old foundations of European identity to be shaken. If law ist to be replaced by morality, politics will be replaced by religion. And when politics is replaced by religion, reason will be replaced by religious belief. The Balkan wars have made us see once again how dangerous that is. These developments I have just described all have one thing in common: they are causing Europe to backtrack once again in its long progress from particularism to universalism, which has taken it forward, despite some setbacks, ever since 1648. We are now going backwards from universalist to particularist thinking.

Politics in Europe is still the right place to talk about moral precepts, about what is just and therefore should apply to everyone. The results become part of the legislative process, and this applies equally to every person, independently of moral criteria. I am convinced that in Europe today it is not only important to analyse precisely the economic effects of globalisation. Beyond that, at an even more fundamental level, it is important for the survival of this continent that it claim its identity, with regard to the role of the quality of statehood and politics as well as the function of law and of morality. And with regard to women especially, I am no less in earnest about my second conclusion as about my first. If women want to contribute to the future of Europe, a Europe that functions according to their thinking, they must not forget to be concerned about politics as such.

In this connection, I would like to add one last thought. We are all familiar with the development in which certain professions suddenly change from being men's work to women's work. In many countries this has happened to teaching, at least at the primary school level. In others it has happened, or is happening, to doctors. What is behind such developments is changes in the social prestige, salary structures, workload and so forth. In short, as soon as a profession becomes less attractive, men seem to leave it to women and turn to more attractive things themselves. I am not sure whether this is happening to politics. I don't even know whether, if it is, I should consider it good or bad. I do know that in certain historical situations it is possible to turn a discriminatory phenomenon to one's own advantage. In any case I would not consider it dangerous if politics in Europe unexpectedly became the affair of women.

What I know, however, with great certainty is that wars are, in practice, always organised by men, even when they misuse women to stir up emotions. I also know with great certainty that western Europe, thanks to its consistent progress from particularist to universalist thinking, has created a peace structure which, up to now, has proved durable. To this degree also Europe is a women's project, but today it consists of central and eastern as well as western Europe, and the two parts are being slowly knit back together. The peace structure can only reach into this whole space if all Europeans, those in central and eastern as well as those in western Europe, look after their political identity of statehood and thus contribute to the universal, equal worth of all human beings. I would like to close with the quote from professor of philosophy Wolfgang Kersting which appears at the beginning of this lecture, because here at the end is where it makes sense.

1) Wolfgang Kersting, Politik und Recht. Abhandlungen zur politischen Philosophie der Gegenwart und zur neuzeitlichen Rechtsphilosophie (Politics and Law. A treatise on the political philosophy of today and the modern philosophy of law), Wilerswist 2000, p. 137

2) Peter Glotz "Dein Abgeordneter, der arme Schlucker. Die Politiker müssen besser bezahlt werden. Sonst verlieren sie gegenüber der Wirtschaft weiter an Macht und Ansehen (Your M.P., poor devil; politicians must be better paid, or they will keep on losing power and credibility with the economy)" , in Die Zeit (newspaper), 18 July 2002

3) Kurt Imhof: "Der hohe Preis der Moral (The High Cost of Morality)" , in Neue Zürcher Zeitung (newspaper), 7 June 2002

4) Richard Schröder, "Das Volk hat die Politiker, die es verdient. Groß ist die Empörung über jede neue Korruptionsaffäre. Aber mit welchem Recht empören wir uns eigentlich? (Our nation has the politicians it deserves. There is great indignation over every new corruption scandal. But what right have we to be indignant?)" , in Die Zeit, 25 July 2002.