The comments on the shock announcement of a referendum in Greece on the European aid and austerity package have opened up a revealing insight into the everyday business of moulding European public opinion. It’s strongly reminiscent of how evangelical groups work.

The Brussels-based, reasonable community of professional Europeans who stand by “Europe” are celebrating a kind of open mass. The bearers of the vestments prompt each other for prayers, which are recorded for posterity by the journalists in the audience.

The most important formulae in the current form of the European rite are: The Greek Prime Minister has started a “reckless game of poker”; a “No vote by the Greeks would have unforeseeable consequences”; the matters currently being negotiated are just too complex to be left to the people to decide – let alone now of all times, before the measures come into effect! – and perhaps the current, national variant of parliamentary democracy isn’t actually up to the job of tackling global issues.

Like the Roman Congregation, the professional Europeans have developed an elaborate system of standards for testing for orthodoxy. Mirroring the complexity of the postmodern world, there are hardly any unique features marking the apostasy from the European faith.

Only those who, for example, hold obdurately to the belief that national interests should be not only the legitimate, but perhaps even the decisive element of European politics, must reckon with excommunication. Everything else – typical of Europe – is negotiable.

European opinion-priests

For believers, the existence of such a supreme authority in doctrinal matters is vital. Just imagine if every European had to make up his own mind about whether it’s better to respond to the disintegration of the eurozone by reducing the number of member countries sharing the common currency, or by bringing in a central government which, by a laying on of hands, heals the rift between the economies of the Netherlands and Greece.

That would almost be like asking every single visitor to a Catholic Mass to come up with his or her own interpretation of transubstantiation (in the popular lingo, “transformation”): impossible, not to say intolerable.

And so we have to imagine the European opinion-priests as a blessing upon us. One ought even to consider chasing down heretics who fall away from the pure doctrine of the United Central States of Europe in a restrained manner, as an outward sign of respect, so to speak.

Heresies have arisen at all times by asking questions. To question means to doubt, and doubt is the poison of orthodoxy.

What do the United Commentators from Europe want to tell us when they declare with deep indignation that a “No” from the Greeks to the resolutions of the Brussels Congress would have “unforeseeable consequences”?

Without dogma there’s no heresy

Do they somehow mean to contend that the consequences of the previously adopted “measures” were foreseeable? Has this past year delivered even a single clue that this is the case?

And why should a country's citizens not be allowed to vote on measures that add up to a substantial limitation of their state sovereignty? Is it their fault that they don’t understand what it’s about, or is it the fault of those who can’t explain it to them?

And is it not true that they can’t explain it because they don’t understand it themselves? And why should they decide, though they understand it no better than those who are not permitted to decide?

Exposing the religious guardians is a good thing. Without dogma there’s no heresy, and without heretics Europe won’t be saved. Where everyone is thinking the same thing, not a lot of thinking is going on. For Europe, it’s what’s standing watch against the current diktat.

Translated from the German by Anton Baer