The Europe we would like to think about is the one described by Stefan Zweig in his book The World of Yesterday, a place where one could live as a cosmopolitan, because “the whole world was opening up before us. We traveled where we wanted, needing no permission; and nobody asked us about our ideas, our origins, our race, our religion.” And when, after the war, for the first time a passport was required in order to leave the country, it was for Zweig a strange and unpleasant experience. At that time there were neither Europhiles nor Eurosceptics, there were just Europeans. It was the First World War that dissolved the Europe in which Zweig, but also Freud, had lived, and in which psychoanalysis was born.

There was a moment when in Italy the majority was absolutely pro-European. Being welcomed in the single currency, at the time of Prodi, appeared as a point of pride. Perhaps the European identity militated against the Italian one, which felt debased and expropriated by what was then called the “caste”. Today the anti-European mood is dominant, and every sovereignist proclamation, shouted at full volume, feeds a national pride whose wounds have never been adequately soothed.

In France, in May 2005, a referendum rejected the European Constitution, followed closely by the Dutch veto. In 2017, the anti-European spirit of the hexagon is reversed with the spectacular parade of Macron in the courtyard of the Louvre accompanied by the notes of the Hymn to Joy, with the announcement of the hope of a rebirth for Europe.

Germany has always been pro-European in its own way, in such a way as not to compromise its own interests and its economically hegemonic role. Greece is at the forefront of the Eurosceptics, despite having had to accept a bailout that, it must be said, came at a considerable cost.

The European community was born, after all, from the failure of nationalisms. But nationalisms are being reborn today under the new star of sovereignty.

The feelings of Europeans are now conflicting. The sense of belonging is defined only by money. There are no links to the so-called dignified parts of the institution, the solemn components, those that mobilize feelings and passions, and which support identification.

However, we cannot say that passions in Europe have been lacking, from the time of the Thirty Years’ War to the fall of Hitler. But they were rather destructive passions, apart from the brief interlude of the Belle Époque of which Zweig tells us. A Union founded only on money serves to exert the function of sterilizing them, of suppressing them, of forgetting them in a past only partially elaborated.

Without the glue of the ideal, which conveys ambivalent feelings by making love profitable and by economizing on hatred as transformative energy, passions overflow; they are unleashed in an uncontrolled manner, they create alternating currents, frictions, collisions, encounters sought out and at the same time avoided. Psychoanalysis has made known the phenomenon that Freud called ambivalence, which Lacan called hainamoration, love and hate inextricably fused in the same lava flow of feeling.

We know the destructive passions that the logic of the obsessive addresses to his object of love, engulfing them in a labyrinth of thoughts in which the subject himself remains imprisoned or gets lost. We know how the hysterical curtain traps the beloved object by removing the carpet under his feet. In contemporary symptoms, these symbolic traces are lacking, labyrinths and traps are lacking. Hatred and love are manifest without embankments, and they feed disproportionate fears along with unprecedented hopes inevitably pregnant with disappointment.

The Europe of security that we see today, populist, traversed by real or ideal walls, is the result of these fears and these disappointments, which inevitably turn into anger. We know what Lacan says about anger: it is the correlate of the sense of impotence, when les petites chevilles n’entrent pas dans les petits trous, when the little pegs do not fit into the right holes. Europe today is a puzzle made up of pieces that do not combine with each other. We can love it or hate it, but we cannot stop building it and give life to a space where, with the aid of psychoanalysis, desire does not become an extinct passion.

Marco Focchi

Traslated by Roger Litten