There were five peas in one pod; the peas were green and the pod was green, and so they believed that the whole world was green-and that was absolutely right! The pod grew and the peas grew; they adjusted themselves to their surroundings, sitting straight in a row. The sun shone outside and warmed the pod; the rain made it clear and clean. It was nice and cozy inside, bright in the daytime and dark at night, just as it should be; and the peas became larger, and more and more thoughtful, as they sat there, for surely there was something they must do. “Shall I always remain sitting here?” said one. “If only I don’t become hard from sitting so long. It seems to me there must be something outside; I have a feeling about it.” And weeks went by; the peas became yellow, and the pod became yellow. “The whole world’s becoming yellow,” they said, and that they had a right to say.
These are the opening lines of the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen “Five Peas in a Pod” which is a nice and sentimental story about some ignorant peas in a pod who will learn about the world and its chances. Most of the peas are wasted away quickly, but one is shot into the air by a boy with a blowing pipe – a peashooter – and lands in the gutter right beneath a half rotten window pane of an attic room in which a poor family is living. It is a mother and a frail sick girl that has to stay in bed all the time. One day she discovers the pee that has sprouted and grows into a plant. The girls happily observes this wonder of nature and takes the pea-plant as an example and so she starts to get better, growing healthier by the day.
This week thursday the 4th of June the Netherlands did cast their peas in the European election-pot and this weekend the other nations will follow suit. Each nation neatly compartmented in their own pod. Each member state having their own inside-the-pod vision and in the end most of these peas will end up in a big pan, on a fire, be stirred, decompose into a soup. There are 27 member states with approximate 500 million inhabitants of which a major part is considered ripe enough to cast their vote. By sunday June the 7th all 736 seats of the parliament of the European Union will be divided and the stirring of the soup may begin.
Centrifugal powers will bring together and drive apart the ingredients and from the perspective of a voter, this reconfiguration may often be at odds with the specific original color and taste of a chosen pea. Transnational coalitions on ideological basis, as well as regional cluttering and opportunistic monstrous alliances. After a lot of stirring, nevertheless, it becomes one big pan of soup because the mere scale of it makes the substance into an amalgam that has lost its specific flavors and blends everything into one strong taste: peas…. and one overwhelming color: green.
But what about the one pea that by chance, or destination, jumps the other way and ends up in a moist and fertile corner and starts to sprout? Potentially there are many peas that stayed in their pod and could roll another way. In the Netherlands less than 40% of the voters did use their right. In most other countries European elections tend to have a low participation also. Non-involvement in European elections may just be an expression of a general lack of active participation in political affairs, but not necessarily so.
The four levels of delegation of power offered (municipal, provincial, national, European) may be too much for a simple pea. Active local participation where one can see who stirs the soup or even can take the spoon in one’s own hands and stir the other way around if necessary, makes much more sense for most people. Most of the parties that participate in the European elections, are also represented at the other three levels and their representatives seem hardly equipped to tackle transnational and European affairs. The public debates about European politics, as seen in most countries these last weeks, were most often projections of local and national issues, like keeping foreigners and islam out, so no new member states, like Turkey. The paradoxical question how to deal with national protectionist measures in the realities of a common European market during the actual international financial crisis, was mostly evaded, instead there was the regular local squabble and political bickering. Grand themes like the EU and the world food situation, global energy questions and new visions on migration could not be heard. It is like the babbling peas of Andersen in the green world of their pod: “It seems to me there must be something outside; I have a feeling about it”, but when the protective cover of the pod is pulled open and they drop into the real world, most of them are soon wasted away, ending up in the big soup pan, where once again everything seems to be green.
It is only 1460 days from now that you can cast your pea again and try and make a better soup than the last time …