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In the Face of Financial Crisis, Redo Ancient History

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Rome and Athens, epicenters of the economic and financial storm currently shaking Europe and the world.

You read it right: Rome and Athens.

In other words, the two cradles of Europe.

Two of the three sources (Jerusalem, thank heavens, not yet included) of its ethics and its religions.

The double matrix of its languages.

The great blocs of faith and memory that seal its destiny.

The site of the invention of the models of democracy and citizenship we have lived by, until this very day.

The source of our knowledge and of our legal concepts.

The idiom of our double commerce, of things and of minds.

The native land of our philosophers, our rhetors, our jurisconsults, our pontiffs, and our artists.

Our compass, in both senses of the word.

Our secret but all the more imperious ancestry.

Obviously, I'm leaving things out.

I'm leaving out a great deal.

For this is a sign that, clearly, points to two things.

First, it is Europe itself that is in crisis. Not finance. Not the economy. Europe. Its culture. Its genius. Its unconscious conscience. Its immemorial and its memory. All that makes up its bases and its origins. Its heart, that beats more and more faintly. Its soul. Its common and hidden grammar. The distinction, that it invented, between law and right. Or between man and citizen. The articulation, that is its own, of multiple forms of the Multiple and of the unique name of the One.

In short, its being. Its substance. To such an extent that, in order to understand what is happening, to know what it entails when we speak of the crisis of the debt or of the euro, to understand, just to understand, what the popular movements of protest currently shaking Rome and Athens, the two great capitals of European intelligence, are saying, we should be rereading Gibbon, Humboldt, or even Polybius -- these theoreticians of the fate and the fall of the Athenian paradigm or the Roman road -- rather than Friedman or Keynes.

There was the time when the Greek Idea spread, via the Empire, and then through its budding catholicity. There was the schism, early in the second millennium, between the masters of the Idea and those of the medium, between the inheritors of Athens and those of Rome, each retrieving their own. In the midst of crossing over to the modern European political project, there was the reconciliation of 1965, with the lifting of excommunications, the peace of the Churches and their priests, the disarmament of minds.

Well, perhaps we are entering into a new new phase, outwardly resembling a rapprochement, in superficial appearance a reunion, but this time for the worst. Sudden and cataclysmic, as though Rome and Athens joined together in the same disaster, as though both dead legacies were conspiring in the same amnesia, posturing of relations, caricature. So it is.

Second, the solution to this crisis will be neither financial nor economic, either, but once again, according to choice, either spiritual, moral, or political. Governments of technocrats, of course. Eminent civil servants, experts, competent individuals, Mario Montis and Lucas Papademoses, very well. Plans of austerity and rigor, stress tests for the banks, reformed States that have broken off with Berlusconian antics, obviously, and no one can escape it.

But if the above is exact, if it is no accident that Rome and Athens are the two names of this suspended apocalypse and of its horsemen gone mad, if, behind this explosion of sovereign debt, the apprehensively expected bankruptcy of States, the widespread crisis of confidence, the speculation, the crazy money, the increasing irresponsibility of the actors involved, all hiding, henceforth, behind an anonymous and inevitably irreproachable "System ", there is, indeed, this radical unbeing, none of these efforts will touch the heart of the matter. If it is really the seat of Europe, its axe of foundation, its symbolic and imaginary double name, its profane religion that are struck to the quick, none of these measures will suffice, not one of these ligatures will reshape the world of Europe, and there is no reform that will succeed in staving off the anticipated catastrophe.

Europe was established, a first time, by substituting the word of the citizen-magistrate for the sayings of the oracles and auspices. It reconstructed itself a second time by favoring reason over anathema, preferring that a consciousness become transnationally national to the schism of faith and corps. Well, here, in the same way, we must confront these new soothsayers (the agitators of the financial markets), and the new grand excommunicators (agents of the triple A ratings), with a word, a wisdom, a manner of speaking and listening of the archons and the polemarches, faithful to the best of European heritage.

Go back to Rome.

Restore Athens.

That is the only plan.

For the rest, in other words the administrators, will follow, as usual.