Sunday, September 9, 2012

On European Politics and "Bad Words"

Greetings again from across the Atlantic!  After spending the last week gallivanting around southern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, going to lectures taught by former VCU professors who now work in a Belgian think tank, a Fatboy Slim concert, and getting a winter coat, I finally have the chance to sit down and write a little bit.

We had a couple meetings with officials from both the Danish and German governments, which was really eye-opening in a lot of ways.  We met with a woman in the Danish parliament (called the Folketing), and it was truly refreshing to hear a politician who wasn't so afraid to give a direct answer when asked for their position on something -- even something as conflicted as whether Denmark should join the Euro zone (spoiler alert: they totally should, the currency is already tied to the Euro so it's stupid not to).

But because most of European Union and European domestic politics come down to a culture of consensus, I thought the coolest thing was that the word "compromise" and "lobby" weren't bad words.  They weren't things to be afraid of.  Lobbying - pitching the facts and rubbing elbows to make the right friends to assert your political agenda - is just a necessary part of getting things done in a system that isn't strictly majority based.  And they recognize the difference between compromise and rolling over and playing dead.  Especially within the EU, compromising and giving up a little bit of what you want allows you to influence the direction the discussions and decisions take, so maybe you might lose one thing you wanted, but ultimately you come out with the things that were really important.

When the system is less driven by conflict and campaigning, it doesn't become such a bad thing to make some sacrifices for the good of the greater cause.  And that, to me, is cool.

You know what isn't cool, though?  How expensive soda is here.  I'm superthirsty right now and I don't want to walk all the way to Netto for a five dollar can of soda.  Rawr.

Politically yours,
Rachel Leigh

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