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>>Frans Timmermans: Just about four years ago, my son Mark said I should start reading
fantasy novels. Now, I like reading, but fantasy was not on my screen. But since he had previously
introduced me to the brilliance of some music I didn't know before, I thought I might take
him up on this. You know, if Bob Dylan turns out to be brilliant, I didn't know that but
my son did. Perhaps some of these novels might be nice.
And he introduced me to a series written by an American author called George R.R. Martin,
"Game of Thrones," now a series on HBO. And I want to use Game of Thrones because -- in
my lecture today because Game of Thrones sort of captures the Zeitgeist more than anything
else I've seen. It's the perfect metaphor for where we stand as a society. It is confusing.
It's epic. It's about good and bad but it's not black and white. It's about challenges.
It's about good guys doing things that you wouldn't expect of them. It's about bad guys
turning out to be good guys. Sort of like society in general today.
And one of the catch phrases -- I'll use about seven quotes in my 15 minutes from the series
to try and say something about Europe. One of the most important catch phrases of
the series is "winter is coming." And "winter is coming" in the series means
a lot of different things to different people. "Winter is coming" to some means, you know,
"Hide because hard times are coming, we can't do anything about it, and the only thing we
can do is hide away." For others, it means winter is coming. That's
an opportunity to show how strong we are, because we -- in this case, the Starks in
the series -- we are wolves and wolves are best when they are challenged and winter is
a challenging time and will give us an opportunity to be better.
Whatever the response is to the phrase "winter is coming," winter is coming is very much
part of European society today because I do believe that the social contract underlying
European society since the end of the Second World War has run its course and needs fundamental
renewal. For the first time in two or three generations,
parents sense that their children will be worse off than they themselves, and whether
we are going to be successful as a society depends on our response to that fact.
Now, we tend very often to simply deny the fact and simply say, "No, it isn't true. People
are wrong. People are misguided." But I think honesty dictates that we should
say that, "Yes, indeed, this society has reached such high levels that you need to consider
the possibility of lower levels in the future." And the response to that will determine whether
we can maintain the social structure we believe in, whether we can maintain the values we
believe in, or whether we will manage decline rather than shape the future.
The second quote: "Fear cuts deeper than swords." Now, this is something I see in my society
and I'm sure you will see in many European societies, but perhaps also in the United
States; that it is not the actual fact of things going wrong but the fear that things
might go wrong that paralyzes political action in society. Because in the Netherlands we
have -- we are the second wealthiest country in the E.U., just right behind Luxembourg.
We have strong social fabrics. We have strong social systems. But the fear that this might
become unhinged dictates political -- the political environment and dictates attitudes
of politicians. And here again, we need to answer this question:
Are we going to manage decline or are we going to shape the future?
Third quote: "When the snows fall and the white winds below, the lone wolf dies but
the pack survives." Here again, Europe is struggling with this
tension between individualism and community. Now, today, because of our individualism,
we tend to highlight the importance and the beauty of community, but I am a son of parents
who, because of community, were stuck in a place and were not allowed to go to university
because they were coal miners. You didn't do that as coal miners. The pits, that was
your future. And if you were very brilliant -- we're Roman Catholics -- if you were very
brilliant, you might become priests. But nothing else. That was also community. Community could
be also stifling, and we've fought a long way to get in a place where we are individuals
and we are recognized as individuals, but we need to redefine what community is in relationship
to retaining our individual rights. And Europe is really struggling with that
and not having given an answer yet to that challenge.
Fourth quote: "Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it."
Now, here we're at the core of the problem in the E.U. today.
There is something in European nature or perhaps in human nature that whenever there's a problem,
we can get rid of it by blaming somebody else. Traditionally in Europe, we would blame the
Jews or we would blame the gypsies or we would blame some other minority group or foreigners
or whatever. Now, this is not always as fashionable as
it used to be. Some parties still do that, but others have found other people to blame.
The E.U., for instance. Blame the E.U. for everything and all our problems will be solved.
I see this -- I use -- I'm not sure I can say this here at Google, but I use Facebook
a lot -- [ Laughter ]
>>Frans Timmermans: -- to just get a flavor of what people are thinking about subjects,
and somehow very often when something happens, a tragedy happens, a human tragedy, whatever,
the immediate response is to try and find someone to blame. And the E.U. is always one
of the targets for blame. And I think that is silly. You don't blame
the U.K. as a country for something going wrong. You don't say that if things are looking
down in the economy, "Why don't we leave the U.K." -- well, some people in Scotland say
that. "Why don't we leave the U.K. and all our problems will be solved?" But here you
say, "Why don't we leave the E.U. and all our problems will be solved."
Now, the opposite attitude is as silly as this attitude. Frankly, the French president,
not being able to reform his country at this stage, not taking the steps he needs to take,
giving a huge speech saying that if -- once we create a European government, all our problems
will be solved, is not much removed from Nigel Farage's statement that once we leave the
E.U. all our problems will be solved. You know, you need to be -- to create an honest
platform and just be honest about what is necessary and reform will be necessary.
Fifth quote: "A man who won't listen can't hear."
Now, this brings me to the point of how we communicate in this day and age. If I look
at my kids and the students I had when I was a professor at university in Utrecht, people
have -- what we did when we were young, we were taught to find things. Finding things,
the process of finding things when you were studying, was actually part of your education.
When looking for things, you found the context and you zoomed in on what you needed to find,
and this process was part of your education. Now, thanks to Google, finding things is no
longer the problem. You can find things within a few seconds, just going to Google.
But then contextualizing what you've found has become more difficult. You know, the difference
in the way my kids and my students operate with this and we did is fundamental in the
way society is going to operate in the future. So I think their capacity to sort of skid
over reality at incredible speed, combined with our learned, acquired capacity to contextualize,
should be part of the solution of today's problem.
We have a legitimacy problem in governance. You have it in companies. Look at the debate
on, "Yes, it is right, it is legal to evade taxes, but is it moral to evade taxes?" This
is something CEOs of companies will have to face if they want to keep their customers.
This is something politicians will have to face if they want to continue to try and get
support for projects that shape our future. And I believe what is asked of politicians,
what is asked of people who have responsibility for management, is to contextualize, to know
what you're talking about, and then to explain what we are talking about.
This time and age, which is much more about eclectic seeking of solutions and not -- you
know, when I was raised and when I was a student, we tended to think in complete systems of
ideology. You were either a socialist or you were a conservative or you were a communist
or you were whatever. But the system, the complete closed system of ideology would provide
a solution to the problem, and politicians acted upon that.
This is what the E.U. is still doing today. Not engaging people in trying to come to collective
solutions, but telling people what the solution is. And whenever the E.U. comes under criticism,
it will come up with very easy answers: "Yes, but it makes so much money so you should be
part of it." I think there's an op-ed in a British newspaper
today of British industry, of industrial leaders, saying, "We should stay in the E.U. because
it brings 3,500 pounds a year to every British household." I guarantee you this will not
win the argument for Europe. It will never win the argument for Europe.
Why are Euro skeptics strong today? It's because they make a leadership argument, a moral argument.
They say, "This is not the right way for us to go. We need to go a different way." And
instead of responding to that by saying, "It is the right way to go, it is the only way
to go, because only if we stick together, if we create a stronger community of 500 million
people, can we resist the forces outside of Europe, can we engage with the future" -- if
you don't put the argument that way, if you come up with roaming tariffs, if you come
up with certain percentages of income per household, the argument will fail completely.
I tried, believe me, in our referendum campaign in 2005 in the Netherlands. We had our economics
board analyze what the profits are for the Dutch public of the internal market, and they
came up with the fact that this would lead to an extra month's salary for every individual
household, and immediately I got emails from people saying, "When am I going to get this
extra month's salary?" [ Laughter ]
>>Frans Timmermans: Which is a natural response to such a statement.
And I think that is not a serious way of talking about this. And honesty also dictates.
But we talk about the downsides of European integration. But we talk about things that
we'll have to show in terms of solidarity with other people.
Today is Europe is in a bad place not because our economy is in a bad place. Our economy
is strong. We have the best educated generation in our history. We are at the highest level
in our history. We've never seen so much peace and stability in Europe in human history.
So we are in a strong position. We are only made weak because we are interpreting
"winter is coming" as something that is terrible and not something that is a great challenge
to pick up on. I do believe that if politicians start to
talk -- and leaders in business start to talk openly about the challenges, start to understand
that political leadership is no longer about ideology per se, is no longer about saying,
"This is what you need to do," but it is about explaining what the complexities and realities
are of today -- because if you start explaining, if you start stating your case in terms of
showing reality, people will engage, people will talk to you, and people will know that
we have a few limited options we can choose from, and then you start talking to people
about the options you can choose. Europe needs to be doing that.
Europe is doing all the things it should not be doing. It's still in this pre-1989 mode
of having an answer, even if -- even if you don't have a problem, Europe will provide
an answer. [ Laughter ]
>>Frans Timmermans: That is a silly, silly place to be, and it's a silly attitude to
take. Europe should be honest about the fact that we can't solve all the problems and should
be honest about the fact that we can solve the problems that will create a better and
stronger society in the future. Let me end with one of the nicest quotes in
the series because I think it sums up everything we need to think about today and tomorrow
and everything we need to discuss. Very profound. "if we die, we die" --
[ Laughter ] >>Frans Timmermans: -- "but first we live."
Thank you very much. [ Applause ]


Action This Day - Frans Timmermans, Zeitgeist Europe 2013

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王惟惟 2018 年 11 月 29 日 に公開
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