Robert Menasse

    is an Austrian writer and philosopher based in Vienna. He studied German, philosophy and political science in Vienna and Salzburg. An acclaimed author inspired by Hegel’s philosophy, Robert Menasse is also an incisive critic of Austria, the European Union and globalisation. His works include the trilogy Wings of Stone, Meaningful Certainty, and Reverse Thrust, the novels Expulsion from Hell and Don Juan de la Mancha. Between March 2010 and the end of 2012 he commuted between Vienna and the EU’s administrative centre, intending to write a novel set amongst the bureaucrats of Brussels but instead he ended up writing an ode to Europe: Der europäische Landbote, die Wut der Bürger und der Friede Europas (The European Country Envoy, Citizens’ Fury and Europe’s Peace, 2012). “The Auschwitz lie is an extreme, though not the most dangerous, example. Only a radical minority subscribes to it. However, what I regard as much more problematic are opinions or ideologies that can potentially appeal to the majority. Nationalism, for example. People equate nationalism with patriotism, regard it as something innocent that gives them an identity, a sense of belonging. But history shows that nationalism has triggered the bloodiest of wars and the greatest crimes against humanity. Stefan Zweig said it was nationalism that destroyed European culture and civilization, reducing Europe to rubble and ashes. While it may appear in many different guises, for example during world football championships, it always ends in aggression and war because, by definition, it is opposed to human rights. Human rights are indivisible whereas nationalism puts members of its own nation above all others and defines itself by setting itself apart from them. I don’t know what more needs to happen for people to understand that national pride, national fervour and eventually nationalist frenzy are not ways to achieve their goal of living a dignified life. Recently I took a cab in Vienna and discovered the driver was Serbian. He was fuming about the fact that the whole world sees the Serbs as scoundrels whereas, in fact, they are the victims who, to add insult to injury, have been robbed by the disintegration of Yugoslavia of territories that belonged to them from times immemorial. Forever. The Albanians might claim that the Serbs only arrived in Kosovo in the 15th century but the taxi driver wouldn’t have any of this: ‘That’s a historical lie. We Serbs have always been there. It’s been proved by architectural finds, bones of Neanderthal men with scientifically verifiable Serbian DNA!’ It is funny, sad, mad and – dangerous.”