Will we work in the future?

In my favorite TV show, in the series of Star Trek, the people have already dealt with poverty, they lived in sufficiency, they were able to cover everyone’s needs, they didn’t have to work, but they still worked – not for profit or to get money to fulfill their needs, but they did the work which they loved, which they considered to be their purpose and they did the work where they wanted to contribute to better humankind with their natural talents. It was the 23rd and 24th century there. The people were lead to be enlightened individuals with high standard manners and to spend their lives wisely.

Note: This article is quiet longer and I divided it into smaller parts, so you can read some of them, or continue with the whole text here.

Part 1: Intro

Part 9: Will we work in the future? 

However, there is one big problem with the idea of Star Trek society. They never convincingly explained how it all could work economically. They often said that they do not use money anymore and they had machines called replicators which were something like 3D-print and it could create almost everything or every food they wanted on the molecular basis. Even if they had some miraculous and inexhaustible source of energy, there were still many occasions where the scarcity could occur. And the best example might be the condos or residences with amazing views or large properties or maybe even food or drinks which were not synthetic and so on.

I do not want to give up the idea of post-work society. However, I am very sceptical about the idea of post-scarcity or post-capitalistic society which is sometimes proposed not only by sci-fi literature, but also by some futurists or social and political thinkers. In my opinion there still will be goods which will not be free like air or water in nature are. And it seems that it is not the lack of my economic knowledge or of not being able to predict the future, but it seems that it is more about logic or physics. The post-scarcity doesn’t seem to be real if we would still be individuals with our biological or even mechanical bodies.

This all brings me to a question how our society could work if we did not have to work. Many of us would probably still work but not for money but because of the joy of their work and because they would want to contribute with their talent and time to the good of all humankind. But would it not lead to totally decadent lifestyles, wasted days in virtual reality and so on? For some people probably yes.

But I would not agree with those who think that about most people. They would be trying to demonstrate this opinion on how people spend their free time today, how students or some unemployed people live. There is a huge difference because these people today use the great opportunity of many ways of procrastination to escape from reality. They come exhausted from their jobs or they are afraid that they will have to find some job immediately so they want to enjoy at least the rest of their free time by doing nothing as their obligation.

Is our generation richer even than the kings of the past were?

It might be true that today people are better off than the kings and privileged ever were in the past. However, there is a little bit difference where they still are not. It is their time, their work and their freedom. Sure, they are free and they can do almost everything that the laws or their personal ethics do not forbid them. But first they have to have money to do that. And most people were not born into a family with huge property and almost endless opportunities.

Most people have to exchange their time, their talent, their energy and their effort for money, so that they could afford to have food, shelter, clothes and some useful stuff and experiences. They cannot do what they really want unless they earn enough money for it. And most people still cannot earn enough money to fulfill their real needs, the needs which could be fulfilled if they had millions or billions of dollars and would not have to care how much their needs cost.

And the necessity to work and not to be able to have servants for everyday routine tasks are, in my view, the main difference between today masses and yesterday privileged. It is of course changing. Many things are automatic today and more people can afford to pay someone to do things for them. However, in most cases they still have to work, and mostly more than forty hours a week.

As you will see below, I am a big supporter of the good things of our today’s system but I am also a big critic of the wrong things. Even as a centre-right classical liberal, moderate conservative and christian democrat I am still in the first place a universal humanist. And I understand the critics of what left-wing oriented intellectuals call neoliberalism.

If you imagiine behind this concept the consumerism, hurry, materialism, superficiality, commercialism, false not-added values, stress, artificiality, lack of real education, minimum time for family, for exploring, for arts, culture, humanity or spirituality, the extreme inequalities which are very often unfair, the false freedom of choice, the problem with orientation on profit and egoism, the emphasis on competition instead of cooperation, then I understand you. Before I will offer my opinions about the future of work and about what it means to be really rich, let me propose some fictional stories where I can demonstrate the problems better.

Four stories, one person, two centuries, two different lifestyle choices

Is it possible to live a fulfilled live even in our times? And is it otherwise possible to waste it in a post-work society? Let me show it on the story of one person. Let’s call him Lukas. He will be in four situations, will make two decisions and will live in two different centuries. He still will be the same person who will have the opportunity to live in two realities and in each of them he will decide to lead his life in a different way.

1) The beginning of the 21st century and the choice to conform to the system

Lukas is 28 years old and ten years ago he decided that he would not risk, that he would study a requested field diligently, so that he could find a stable and well paid job, have a good wife, have kids with her and be able to pay their mortgage and then enjoy his retirement. And so he went to a high school and then to university, then he got a good internship and his first paid job. As a relief from his studying and working he uses entertainment, mostly the passive one, such as watching serials, movies, funny and another type of videos, chatting on social media, playing computer games etc.

It is six o’clock in the morning and Lukas’s alarm clock is ringing and it tells him that his work starts in two hours. He is upset; he doesn’t want to get up. He understands his work, but if he didn’t have to pay the mortgage for his flat, which he has just bought, he would rather do something else. However, he has a fast breakfast, goes downstairs, so that he has at least some physical exercise, and he enters the public transport bus which is full of anonymous people who rather check their smart phones. And since he doesn’t want to look at them, and since he wants to spend the time somehow, he goes to check a newsfeed and new messages on his Facebook.

He spends the whole day in his job. Although his job is useful for the company, he has doubts about the usefulness of its products for society. Sometimes he wonders if people would ever want them if they weren’t be persuaded by a sophisticated marketing. Moreover his primary reason he goes to this job is not to do some useful work for the humanity, but mostly a way how to earn some money for his survival and his interests.

Sometimes he finishes his work earlier, but since he works in a big open space, where some of his super ordinates still walk behind his back, so in these moments he rather pretends that he is working or he prolongs his work, so that it doesn’t look that he isn’t working. He can visit a toilet whenever he wants and he is glad that he was studying a lot and is not for example an assembly worker who could visit a toilet only in exactly defined intervals. However with lunch it is quite similar, his company has a canteen and it is expected that also with waiting the queues he will be able to eat in half hour, so that he can return back to his work.

After eight and half hours spent in his job and half an hour of commuting there he has also another thirty minutes on the way home which are extended by an additional half an hour spent in the supermarket. At half past five he is finally at home. Tired of his job and of the contact with mostly unknown people, he launches Facebook to be in contact with his real friends, family and his girlfriend. He also switches his new plasma TV on and is preparing dinner.

Accidentally, he has seen some news where some center-right politician was saying that liberal capitalism is at least good in that we all are free and that it would be better if citizens began to care about politics a little bit more. But Lukas was just pissed off it because he absolutely doesn’t know when. He rather starts watching his favorite serial. His job is intellectually difficult and he really has no energy for issues like politics. The evening is closer, Facebook and serials has already tired him, so he at least reads his favorite fantasy book. He is glad that his first working day is behind him and he will now have only four like this, so that he will be able to enjoy the weekend with his girlfriend and also some movies, sport activities or some larger shopping.

He sometimes has dark thoughts which ask him if he really wants to spend another forty years like this until he retires. Sometimes he has doubts about his freedom but he always rationalize it with saying that the people in the past had it harder, that most people in the World are in worse situation as well as most of his former classmates. Emotionally he melts those doubts by some serial, movie or a book. Moreover he is glad that he has finally found his amazing girlfriend, he has quite a good flat and maybe he will have wedding and children in a while. Hopefully, he will have more free time for them later than he has today.

2) The beginning of the 22nd century and drowning in consumerism

Lukas has the same personality and is the same person as our Lukas from the 21st century. He is also 28 years old and he also made a decision. His parents didn’t have a big impact on him at his age of 18 anymore. He didn’t have to look for a job or to study for a living anymore. At this time everybody studies or works only if they want to. However, the achievements of this new century allow not only to have a fulfilling life in a material abundance for everyone, but also to waste it all. And this is Lukas’s story.

Our hero begins to wake up around 2 pm in his bed on the 30th floor of the residential skyscraper where his condo is placed. He has an astonishing view from his flat – other residential skyscrapers and a lot of others in the background of his megacity. Therefore, since he was already bored of the necessity to look for his smart phone everywhere, he has decided to install a minicomputer with the internet connection right into his brain. Now he can launch it with just a thought. Although, he is not such a conservative person as his parents are, fighting against this kind of progress, he says to himself that he is not even so stupid as some of his peers who do not quit their implanted computer even during their sleeps. Anyway, he tried it and the targeted ads in his dreams annoyed him.

And so Lukas checks the newest updates of his fellows on the social media site, his money account status and the courses of the stocks of his companies in which new servants of the human, the hi-tech and very often even humanoid robots work as investors, entrepreneurs and often as universal employees for everything.

Although each citizen receives unconditional basic income because of the market-efficient and socially-fair taxation of gains, and this income is a combination of fixed amount per capita plus another amount which is counted through clever algorithms from all available information which corporations and governments have about everyone, the additional amount can be created just to fulfill everyone’s individual needs.

However, for most people it is still not enough and it would not probably even be sustainable. People have always been used to being motivated by profit and by the aim to have more than others, so even Lukas invests everywhere trough his robots, so that he could one day have his condo in the orbit of Saturn, or to have genetically modified body, or to prolong his life up to 160 years.

Suddenly, it is four o’clock in the afternoon and annoyed Lukas goes to the toilet. Moreover, it has been for a long time one of the things which burdens him most. Even though he has a personal gym in his condo, as most people have, he is no longer interested in it. He just used his thought and his personal android prepared a fresh breakfast from high-quality bakery products and vegetables and brought it to his master right into his bed. The necessity to eat food physically annoys him too but he does not want to become one of the losers who already live only in virtual reality and are getting the essential nutrients through putting them directly into their veins.

Once again he checks the updates of his fellows on the social site. He has breakfast, so he had to refuse an invitation to one game in virtual space. One status of his friend from high school annoyed him. She boasts that she works on a great project which helps people to live their real life. It pisses him off. He himself spends all his days by consuming and he very often feels unfulfilled. However, he is too lazy to live somewhere near nature, to work on his self-development, to educate himself or to think how to improve other peoples’ lives. He would have to force himself too much. Fortunately, he finished his breakfast, so he can close his eyes and fully delve into the virtual reality where with other of his friends he experiences various adventures which are not yet technically possible in his current world.

Sometimes he takes a break to get the annoying food. At eight pm he quits the games and he launches a serial on his huge television which is as big as the wall in his room. He watches seven episodes and then he enjoys a virtual porn. By five am in the morning he feels fatigue. He closes the window by his thought since the bird-singing is depressive to him. He had a dream that he could live a totally different life but he would rather forget it until the new day.

3) The beginning of the 22nd century and the aristocratic life for all

It is half past five in the morning and Lukas happily wakes up next to his pretty girlfriend. She usually sleeps longer than him but this day she wanted him to wake her up at the time when he usually gets up, so that they could enjoy sunrise together. They live in an average nice part of the city which consists of family houses and bungalows covered by trees, pathways and a park with a little lake in the middle. There is an observation tower in it from which it is possible to see the kilometers far skyscrapers in the downtown of their megacity and on the other side to see the skyline of astonishing mountains. Lukas is again 28; he is the same person and has the same opportunities. Ten years ago he just decided to live his life differently than most people and even as his mirror self from the previous story.

He refused consumerism, superficiality and materialism. He wanted to live close to nature and to live much more natural authentic life and also to do some useful work for the humankind. He is aware of all technological achievements of his time but he rather as an old school uses his smart phone and he enters the virtual reality only occasionally. After the sunrise they both went to the gym in their bungalow to work out together. Then everybody did their own work in their own office. Lukas was writing an article for his global blog where he very often writes about politics and social issues and now he was writing something about how people could live in 23rd century.

After about an hour they have breakfast together which was prepared for them in several minutes by their android from some fresh ingredients. They enjoy it on the patio in their beautifully maintained garden right next to their pool. In the forenoon they both devote their time to their work. No one is paying them for it, no one is forcing them to do it, and still they both love to do it every day with enthusiasm. They could waste their days but they believe that they have their mission and purpose, so they organize their days during the week. On Wednesday they have day off and they learn to play the piano, to dance, to ride a horse or they travel or visit their friends.

Lukas is writing an analysis of arguments to current political topics. He is a convinced humanist so he thinks that robots should be used only to fulfill human needs and he is also very sceptical about the possibilities of transformation of humans into several types of cyborgs or other life forms. Once he would maybe want to be a representative of people in the parliament but now he is preparing himself for his lecture at university which he is having at half past one pm right after lunch and after some post-lunch rest with his girlfriend.

Fortunately it is possible only to walk through the park to the main route where he parked his floating mini car which can transport him to his department. He could easily use even some shared car which would be near but he often prefers personal property. After he said the destination to the computer, he can devote himself to read or to look both ways before or below him and enjoy the beauty of the clean city full of greenery.

His lectures are not crowded because most people prefer the boundless consumerism but it does not have to bother him. He is a postgraduate student and he is thankful even for the dozen of students and critical minds which are ready to discuss interesting topics. In his time the universities became true academies which do not serve as a place for bored overgrown teenagers who are trying to get some degrees, not even as a place where people would learn the necessary skills only to compete on the labour market. After an abundant discussion about the importance of old ideologies in the context of new age he is preparing himself for dinner in the historical centre of the city which he arranged together with his girlfriend.

They both are already looking forward to having their first baby in a few months. They are a little bit scared because at their time it is more usual that women let themselves artificially fertilized and very often from the best donors or even from the artificially modified, and they also very often do not want to carry their child even in their bodies, and they prefer its prenatal maturation in specialized institutions, which are by some people pejoratively called laboratories. Our couple decided that they would have it in old way and naturally even though they do not refuse sensible technologies or knowledge and experience of specialized empathetic robotic doctors which can help them with everything.

They left their automatic floating cars in the city centre and they took one of the shared ones and let themselves to be transported to a city lake where they enjoyed the evening walk during the sunset. At home Lukas checked today’s news and talked with some friends on chat. Then he enjoyed his meditation and before he went to bed with his girlfriend, he had been reading for a moment. While falling asleep together they were looking at stars above their heads and were thinking about what beautiful is going to happen to them in the new day and where they will have to overcome themselves to be able to enjoy their authentic, fulfilled and natural life.

4) The beginning of the 21st century and the freedom of enterprise

We are back with Lukas from our century. He decided that he does not want to live either as his version from the first, either from the second story. Otherwise, he realized that the only option how he could live as his version from the third story is that he would stand on his own feet and little by little he would build it through overcoming and through creating a real added value.

Of course, his motivation is also his personal interest and profit. But we would be far from the truth if we thought that this was his only motivation. He could do business in something that would not bring a real added value, which would be only parasitizing on the stupidity of other people through sophisticated commercials. But, he really wants to help the World. He wants it to be much more like the World from the third story. It was not easy. In all stories Lukas was born into a family which was in his country relatively poor. Nevertheless, his family had some values and ambition to bring up good people from their children and also to give them the opportunity to be able to fulfill their dreams.

In the past Lukas changed high school so that he could devote himself to much more general education and to decide what to do with his life later. From similar reason he started studying the field of his heart instead of going to study something that would bring him good and stable wage. During his studies he was just hanging around, he lead consumerist lifestyle, and he had no day order or clear way in his life. But the necessity to begin doing something for his living was approaching fast.

It was not from one day to another but step by step he became successful in building the habits which made a better person from him. He realized that no one will save him and also the technological progress which would allow the post-work society will probably not happen before the end of his studies. And if he wanted to be independent and one day spend his days with only those activities which fulfill him, he must start a business.

And so he arranged meetings with successful entrepreneurs who were his role models, he learnt from them and even during his studies at university he studied everything important for his success in business. He had to overcome himself very often but in several months he began to feed himself and to employ some people.

All about the age of 28 he can almost live similar life as the one in the third story. He gets up early in the morning and before he launches his computer he does some exercise. He has his girlfriend who is also trying to start some interesting projects. He likes to write and after breakfast he starts his work in his company. First at home, then he moves into his office. He works until late afternoon because he starts also another business so that he could sell one of his companies and have the opportunity to buy his own dream house without a mortgage, and also have more time for writing or for continuing his post gradual studies at university. His evenings he usually spends with his girlfriend or friends or he attends some interesting event or discussion. He is now very close to his desired lifestyle.

But, aren’t we only lazy and weak individuals with bad habits?

It would be great to live our dream lives. However it must bring us to a question if we are not only too lazy. It is possible that people who really want to live their ideal life or to do their dream job really can do so already in our time. There are examples of many people who didn’t give up and they instead worked hard to achieve what they wanted. But most people just give in and make up with the false external circumstances and do not live their real life.

Nevertheless, it is still not so easy. Even if I worked hard, surpassed myself, built useful companies so that I could live my life independently on money or time, I would still be unhappy because most people could not do this. The technologies would still not be so developed so that everyone could be financially independent of their work and their time. And of course we would still have a lot to do to improve the lives of those people who still must do the work which they would not do if they were rich, and which I believe one day robots will do.

What does it mean to be really rich?

It brings us to this important question. Someone answers that having a lot of money. Someone else would say to be happy with what you have no matter how much it is. I don’t believe it. I think that being really rich means that you can spend your time in the way you really love, on a place which you really choose, and only with those kinds of people you really like, and still be able to feed yourself and to have your needs sufficiently fulfilled at the same time. Not doing a job which you hate just to have more money for some free time to enjoy. Not doing a job which you love but making a huge compromise with your desired lifestyle. Of course, the second would still be better but we have to find better ways.

I really find it problematic that many people today do not do what they love, they have to spend a lot of hours in their jobs, sometimes even overtime, sometimes they have to take their work home, or have to have more jobs, or cannot have enough time for lunch, or cannot choose the place of their work and so on. They also do not have enough sleep, are much stressed, use synthetic stimulation to be awake and focused, and that all just to be able to feed themselves and their families. I doubt it that they could feel as really free people.

However, they are still much freer than in other political or economic systems. They do not have to be members of the “right” party to keep their jobs or to stay alive. They do not have to do the jobs which government forces them to do. It is only nature, their willpower and their habits which decide. Almost everyone was born with some potential, with some abilities and in our societies we also have an opportunity to develop our skills or knowledge through mostly free education and if not, then on the internet.

Liberal capitalism is individualistic in the way that it can make us free from the government or from other individuals and it can let us live our free lives with the money which we are able to get from our work, our enterprise, our investments or from any other form, and to choose to fulfill the variety of our needs. On the other hand, liberal capitalism is still very collectivistic because it forces us to cooperate and compete with other people, to use our skills, knowledge, time, work and effort to do the activities which fulfill the needs of our whole society.

Will we work in the future?

This is a big question. It is clear that now we still have to work because we do not have such developed machines which would be able to do everything for us. It is also true that most of us can change their jobs and that people who really want to do their dream job which they consider as their purpose probably mostly can. And it is also true that we can do some systematic improvements to make the lives of average workers or entrepreneurs better.

However, I would like to believe that one day all people will be able to live their real free lives as Lukas from the third story could. That we will be very developed society where most individuals will want to live like real aristocracy and they will want to devote their time to some voluntary work which would still be improving the lives of all people. And that they will still have a lot of free time to do what they really want to. I suppose that also our relationships and our laws would be better if people have more time for them and for politics.

So let’s create the robots which will be able to do the necessary and unpopular work for us. Let’s educate all people in the way of better humanity and let’s develop the necessary habits to be able to live truly free lives. Let’s teach our machines how to work, how to do business, how to invest money. Let’s become a society of rich capitalists who will be able to live their dream lives not from the real added values and from surplus created by other people, but from them, created by machines and robots. And keep in mind that if we want it, we cannot give them human rights.

This essay was originally written with a title “The ideology in sci-fi genre and the future of work, freedom and inequality” and it was done for a course lead by Aleš Debeljak at the University of Ljubljana during my Erasmus exchange programme. I give thanks to him for the possibility to creatively write what I wanted and also to my high school English teacher Lucie Adamusová for her useful grammar tips. 

The European Dream

Is there any? Do we have only one Europe? What does it mean to be a European? What is our future, our challenges and what distinguishes us from Americans, Asians and others? Are we really united in diversity?

A Czech student, writing an essay on the European Dream, in Slovenia, during his Erasmus program, in a building with many other Europeans, and in the same time when we have the first European Games in Baku. It brings us to a question: Which countries and nations do belong to Europe, and which do not and why?

We have the Council of Europe, The European Union, The Eurozone and other entities. Could even Russia be a part of our European Dream, or does it want to have its own, e.g. the Eurasia Dream with its leadership? Does even Turkey belong to Europe? And what about the Caucasus countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia? What about Israel? And what if Iceland, Norway or Switzerland would never join the EU? What if others like e.g. Greece would leave it?

First, I would like to focus more deeply on the basics of our European Dream, then on our European values, then also on our European specifics which we can be proud of, then what differs us from others, and finally even on the possibilities of the future arrangement of Europe and mostly on our coming challenges.The reason for the Dream

An area of extinct civilization, of medieval religion domination, of colonialisms, of gradual enlightenment, of devastating nationalisms, of huge technological progress, of social failure and massive wars and totalitarian regimes, of finding a new humanity and a prosperity with social aspect, and finally a civilization of creating a new unity in everlasting peace. This is our history and this is our dream.

After terrible wars, the European statesmen decided to create a project which was supposed to secure European nations from any other wars. They continued in an idea of many others from the past, including the Czech King, George of Podebrady, and they began to build a united Europe. As Americans have their founding fathers, Europeans have them as well. Monnet, Schuman, Adenauer, Churchill and others.

The idea was simple. After the experience of expansive nationalisms and their wars, after the totalitarian regimes, after the economic protectionism and so on, we needed to build a new open Europe. An area of free nations that would live together in peace, freedom, prosperity and democracy. There should be no barriers or internal borders between them. It should be an area of free movement of goods, people, services and capital and even much more.

Of course, there is a question if we should be only economic union or even the political one. And if political, so which kind of political entity. Should we become a federation, a kind of super-state and create a new European nation? I will try to offer my opinion to these difficult questions later. Now let’s focus on what makes us Europeans.

Are we special?

I believe that Europe could become a place which truly focuses on individual. Not in the way of egoistic one who tries to seek only his or her own interests. Not even in the way of an economic unit who has its own social capital that one can sell on the labor market. But in a way of a human. Of a person with his or her own dignity. Yes, I think that Europe can be a place of real humanism. It is a question how much it is influenced by our founding fathers’ ideas of Christian democracy and how much it comes from catholic social teaching.

However, Europe is also a place of enlightenment and secularization. We believe that we do not have to have a specific collectivistic religion which would make us moral, more human and more social. We of course believe in religion freedom, but it is more. We believe that we can be better people even without a religion.

We also believe in prosperity – that all peoples’ needs should be sufficiently filled. We are not materialistic egomaniacs who want to have more and more useless stuffs, who would want to sacrifice their humanity for creating more and more economic and materialistic progress. We believe in progress, but more in the human, scientific and technological one. And if technological, then for the better good of humanity, not to suppress it.

We also believe in work. But we require that our work makes sense. That it creates a real added value for another people, for our common greater good. And we also do not want to spend all our lives and days by work for others. We want to have regulated working hours, have our evenings and weekends for our families, have vacations, sick leaves and mother’s and paternity leaves, and also have a time for our hobbies and personal interests.

We do not want only to work. We also want to play the piano, read fictional literature, write poems, sing and dance, play with animals, take care of our gardens and flowers. And more, we believe that those things are not only for the privileged elite or only for economically successful individuals, but that they should be available for all, even for the poorest ones.

We also believe in freedom. But when I say freedom, I mean the kind of freedom with a sense of responsibility. Not only a personal one, but also with the sense of duty to others, to our common entity, and to our ancestors and descendants. That we should care not only about ourselves, our families and friends, but also about our community, our city, our region, our countries, our continent, our civilization and also about our whole World.

And also the freedom should not only be formal, but also real and we are using our governments to wisely redistribute our wealth to create more opportunities for everyone. To have a high-quality educational system, to have a universal health-care and to use another instruments that provide real social mobility in our societies.

It makes sense that we also believe in competition. But in our understanding it is not the wild and egoistic one. We understand that free market is the best way to our common prosperity and that it works on the principle of competition. But it is a competition with rules. Not only the legal ones, but also and more the moral ones.

We recognize that our cooperation can work based on this healthy competition. And so we pursue not only free market but also a fair market. We try to find sensible regulations which can provide a high quality of food, goods and services, and again for everyone, and with the understanding that also overregulation would be hurting for our lives, so we try to eliminate it where possible.

Culture and environment are also values which we care of more deeply. We try to learn from our history and we also try to preserve the beautiful things and places from our past, like our sights and monuments, historical centers of our cities and we also maintain a lot of museums, galleries and so on. When it comes to environment we try to make a place where there are cleaner ways of production, energy and our lifestyles. We try to reduce wasting and we also afforest our landscapes, build local and national parks and we pursue of having clean water and fresh and natural fruits and vegetables. We are also a culture of music and art and we find the folk traditions as important.

So it was values, but if we were something like a nation, we would probably try to find a lot of other things which we have in common and which we can be proud of. When it comes to cities we have our beautiful London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Vienna, Bucharest, Hamburg, Budapest, Warsaw, Barcelona, Munich, Milan, Sofia, Prague, Copenhagen, Brussels, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Zagreb, Frankfurt, Riga, Athens, Helsinki, Lisbon, Vilnius, Dublin, Tallinn, Bratislava, Ljubljana and many others outside of EU like Kiev, Minsk, Belgrade, Zurich, Oslo, Sarajevo or maybe even Istanbul or Moscow.

We could also name our seas, our rivers, our mountains, our bays or islands or our languages and ethnicities. We could be proud of the largest brands of our world-famous corporations, our skyscrapers and sightseeing’s, the historical buildings, statues and monuments, our famous universities, our scientists, our artists, thinkers, singers, actors or statesmen. Europe has so much to offer to the World and we have so many things which we can be really proud of.

What distinguishes us from others?

I could write about a lot of other things. However, we can recognize our identity better if we compare ourselves with our overseas brothers (someone would say children) in the United States or with Asians or with another cultures in the World. Here might also come a comparison with Eurasian cultures, with Arabic or Muslim ones or with Africans, South Americans or Indians. Let’s start with (North) Americans.Europeans have a soul. Even it looks much more as sad or melancholic one. We do not smile at everybody. We do not say that things are OK when they are not. We are not so obsessed with celebrities and cheap entertainment. We are not so much individualistic. We are seeking for true friendship, not for business friendships. We try to have higher standards for everyone, not only for the successful. Our success is not to win over the others, but to be better people. We aren’t so religionist and if we are, it is not to feed our social hunger, but our soul’s hunger. We are not friendly with everyone and not so extroverted. We also like our privacy but more in our minds and in our feelings.

We are not so whopping, we do not make so monstrous shows. We do not want to have commercials everywhere. We want to have some things for free, we want to have some common public space, we want to have our public services and our public media with its balanced news. We see our governments in a different way. Not only as a repressive necessary evil, but also as a common body, which with transparency, appropriate decentralization and with the right people can provide us those services which Americans would rather prefer to have provided by a free market.

After what I have written, some Americans could think that Europeans are collectivistic socialists who need to have their governments to play a parent’s role for them. Sometimes it might be true but I would say it is not so easy. It is more because of our mentality. We are not so individualistic as Americans or individualistic in their way.

But we also are not so collectivistic as our friends e.g. in Eurasia. We believe in individual, we believe in people’s freedom, we believe in democracy and in the ability of everyday educated citizen to wisely choose the best representatives with the best policies for their countries. We do not believe in a supposedly enlightened leader who rules over his or her serfs. We truly believe that all people were born equal and are equal before the law and should use their natural inequalities wisely and freely for the common good.

We do not need and do not want governments which would take care of us in the sense of watching us everywhere, saying us what to think, what to read, what to write or what to speak. Although we take care of economic externalities and redistribute wealth to the less fortunate, we still believe that it is not government’s role to rule the economy, and if we give it the right, it is usually done after a long discussion and democratic consensus which takes into account the various social groups and their interests. We also value our privacy and we pursue that the big players will not destroy our values and our ways of lives only for the faster or bigger profit.

When it comes to Asians, we as Europeans do not believe that our aim is only to work, sleep, eat, and have some fun and some time with family and friends. We need more from our lives. We need education not only for our jobs, but also because of the joy from the exploring and from the pleasure of knowledge. We even do not want to work so hard and so long hours and do not want to freak us out only to over-compete the World. We also like to do nothing very often, just to rest or to do things without a purpose.

Yes, my previous sentences were full of stereotypes which might be far from truth, but they are a reflection of what I see among our today’s differences between us as Europeans, and them as Americans, Eurasians or Asians and others. It of course does not apply to all nations and maybe we could find a lot of differences also here in Europe, and we could say that Britons or Germans are more like Americans and that East-Europeans are more like Eurasians.

To close my part with European values, let’s try to summarize them. I believe that our values are: the focus on human, freedom with individual and common responsibility, solidarity, subsidiarity, quality of life, preserving our cultures and environment, openness, tolerance, religious freedom and secularization and many others.

But what if we are different?

It all sounds very positive and beautiful. But maybe it is just a wishful thinking. What if Europeans are really bad in nature? What if we have lost our real elites? What if is it in our genetic code to do this? Yes, we have a lot of light times which we can be proud of, but what if the dark ones defines us more as who we really are?

Executing enlightened people for their different opinion. Having brutal wars against each other just because of religious wordplay. Destroying or enslaving origin cultures in new discovered worlds. Trying to get more space and resources for our nations at the expenses of the others. Doing genocides of another ethnicities and races. Leading class wars against our own people and suppressing other peoples’ talents just because of jealousy. How many great people have we executed, gassed, imprisoned or forced to emigrate? And are the European ideas really only the positive ones, or also Nazism, fascism and communism?

It was our past but what about today? Aren’t we too much week? Would we even be able to protect our lands without the help of the American army? Will the next generation be able to stand on their own feet and to take care of themselves? Or will they fail because they were too dependent on the hand of the government and too pampered by their ultraliberal parents? What to do with our failing welfare, especially the pension systems? What to do with our declining fertility? What to do with the danger of some places where the idea of multiculturalism failed and turned into ghettoization and radicalization of some young descendants of immigrants who sometimes turn to be terrorists?

We Europeans love theory and thinking of things but are we even able to solve real problems? Can we be the kind of problem solvers like Americans are? And aren’t we choking our economies and lives too much with some useless regulations? Haven’t we failed with not having an approach which would make young people proud of being independent small entrepreneurs or craftspeople? Aren’t we taxing too much and ignoring that tax heavens might not be founded only from the greed of the rich but also from the reason of unsustainability of such high taxation?

And yes, we love freedom of individual but haven’t we become too much collectivistic? And when I say collectivistic, I don’t mean altruistic. It might be a kind of collectivistic egoism. To rely too much on others, on governments, their agencies and publicly donated NGOs, on corporations etc. instead of relying on our own powers, our own abilities and our own decisions, and also on our families, churches, charities, foundations, local communities and so on.

We have also made a terrible moral hazard of being too generous with those who lied and cheated on us and giving them money from poorer countries to preserve their privileges and to save our dream of the single currency. And we have a big trouble with how to solve the waves of mass migration from outside of Europe. It is sadly said from the human perspective but can we really accept millions of poor mostly uneducated people with totally different habits and cultures? And how to help them and not to destroy the advantage of free movement of European citizens across European countries? How not to awake the anti-immigration, nationalistic, xenophobic or even the racist moods among the wide European public?

What kind of Europe do we want to be?

It would be nice to be a strong federation with the strongest economy on the Planet. To be like America. The United States of Europe. Nevertheless, there are a lot of reasons why it seems to be unreal. The first is language, the second is not having common media and the third is the lack of common national identity. When it comes to the last one, it might not seem to be such a big problem. At least in the future. We can have ethnic or civic nations. And when it comes to sports, we can see it on the example of the United Kingdom and their football teams – England, Scotland, Wales etc.

The second problem could be solved through the whole-European public television which would broadcast in English and for free in every European household. And it brings us to the language. It is of course logical that we have so many official languages in EU. However, the next generations will be able to speak English and even if we maintain our mother tongues, we will be able to communicate with everyone across Europe. The problem is that our mother tongue will always be the first for us.

And there are also another things which could help us to be more united and to feel more like a (super)nation. For example the (direct) president election. If we would choose the leader of Europe like Americans do, and with so huge and for months lasting debates among several important issues, I believe it would really help us to feel more like Europeans.

But this is very problematic. We are not a federation. And it doesn’t seem that we would become one in the following years. The social, cultural and mostly political identifications of Europeans are much more tied to the national level. And I am afraid it is not only the domain of East Europe. When I watched the election debates from the United Kingdom, it really seemed that Britons do not want to melt themselves in a new European nation and to lose their own national identity, sovereignty and independence, indeed. And it is much more difficult because they feel probably not even so much as Britons, but mostly as English, Welsh or Scots. But at least they have the same language (or very similar, if we count the accents) and the common head of state.

And it is not only UK. Someone could be happy that the eurosceptic party UKIP did not succeed, but would it really happen if they had a proportional voting system? And what about the National Front in France, the Pegida movement in Germany, the right-wing populist parties in North Europe? Can we ignore it if we know that it is not only a minority of extremists, but that those movements and parties have a huge support across the average middle class citizens who are just afraid that they will lose their culture, their civilized society, their security and the other things?

And we should not only be careful when it comes to North-Western Europe. In the Eastern part we have Victor Orban and his much more extreme version Jobbik. And mostly it is not about the parties which we have today but more about the ideas which can logically occur. In those countries are not many Muslim immigrants or their children. But they can see the potential problems in West Europe on their televisions. The riots and terrorist attacks in London or Paris and many other timely revealed attacks which were planned in Belgium, Germany etc.

And it is not only the fear of immigrants or potential terrorists where European nations could be afraid of losing their national identity and their ways of lives. It might also be a huge liberalization in the area of social issues which might imply (and I hope that very often wrongly) that it is causing the decadence of Europe. And they might think that if they close their countries, they will be able to resist it. Or worse, they might to reorientate themselves on another kind of society and state than liberal democracy is, and they would want to put themselves closer to Eurasia, and with all what comes to it. Closed and directed society, oligarchic economies, and intolerance to diversity and various opinions.

However, it might be much worse in Europe. What if the hunt for Jews from the past would turn into the hunt for Muslims? What if there would happen another holocaust? What if the countries would once again begin to protect their economies and then would cause another wars? What if we turned from Europe of free and united nation states into a Europe of totalitarian, isolated and nationalistic states? And it is necessary to say that nationalism or fascism are not the only threat.

I have mentioned the North-West Europe and the East one. But let’s see what is happening in the South. Syriza won the election. The radical left-wing and populist party consisted of communist and socialist parties. Greece used to be on the successful path to recovery before the election. Now it is on the path to bankruptcy. And did the people win? Did democracy or the freedom win? Did Europe win? No, it will be stock exchange speculators who will win. It will be Chinese corporations who will win. Not the people of Greece. They might enjoy some artificial public jobs or cheaper energy for some weeks, but then they will cry. And we will be happy if some left-wing intellectuals will not be right and Greeks will not turn from radical left to radical right.

But the inspiration of Syriza might come also to Spain or Croatia or other countries. Maybe it will be seen as a bad example to follow but who knows. Anyway, it brings us to another kind of Europe. If we can imagine the extreme of total disintegration of European Union, let’s imagine what could happen instead of the federation. In my opinion it is very problematic with federations in Europe. And not only here. It seems that federations has automatic tendency to become much more centralized during the time. And I am afraid that with centralistic countries like France we would not become a new Switzerland, a new Germany or a new America.

Today it is a coalition of Christian democrats, Social democrats and Liberals who lead the European Union. But what if social democrats with radical left and with greens, who are mostly somewhere between these two, would get a majority? What if they wanted to change Europe into, not a federation, but into a superstate that would directly redistribute the wealth, which would adopt the welfare systems from nation states on the European level? What if they wanted to regulate the economy from Brussels and also to nationalize some companies? What if they brought the minimum wage on the European level?

And the fuel of their policy would not be the main problem. There would probably still be free election so another parties could win and make another policies on the European level. But what if they were less in the spirit of today’s Europe? What if the new superpower would want to manage European society more in the Chinese or Russian way or also this with the combination of so huge influence of largest multinational corporations and special interests like in America?

What if we turned from the trial of spreading socialism across all Europe to the reality of spreading there a new kind of corporatist and etatist totality? There could also be welfare policies, even the very inclusive ones, but there could be very huge approach on the efficiency and also on the security. There could be less democracy and less subsidiarity. It would be more centralistic, more professionally managed, more controlled and worse – it would work. And people would accept it because there would be ways how to convince them to do so. They would be already too much materialistic, consumerist machines who would be convinced by direct commercials created exactly on themselves.

However, it is time to come back from this dystopias or federative utopia and to look where we are today and where, in my opinion, we should come. Today the European Union and the integration in Europe at all works better than most people think, but does not work so well as it could and should do. We have difficult processes of implementation of new union rules, we respect the majority of states and the majority of citizens, we have the yellow and red cards of national parliaments if the principle of subsidiarity is broken.

But we have a problem with not having clear common policy on immigration. We create new regulations on businesses and our lives which might not be necessary. We sometimes break the principle of subsidiarity. We often waste our common money through union donations on things which could be provided by the private sector or local governments. We have no clear vision of what kind of Europe we want to be.

My idea is that we should be a multispeed Europe. Maybe one day all European countries will be united in one European federation and we will be an equal partner of America or China. But it needs time. If some countries do not want to participate in the political union like Switzerland or if some countries do not want or more cannot participate in the Eurozone like Greece or do not want to have the same currency and monetary dependence like UK or Denmark, it should really be their right to do so.

We should do much more to strengthen the European identity. Above I proposed some instrumental ideas, but it is not only about what more we could do, but sometimes about what less we could do. For example, if the majority in the European Union would force the member states to accept the refugees on the bases of quotas, then I am afraid it would only strengthen the anti-EU opinions among the wide European public. And it would be possible to mention another examples where people have the feeling that they cannot decide on themselves, but that someone else who they even directly have not elected decides behind them.

Learning from each other

The main way how to strengthen the European identity in Europeans should according to me be made in the cultural discourse. We should try to find not only what joins us but also where we can inspire ourselves among each other. The working economy and institutions from Germany, the tradition of parlamentarism and the politeness from UK, the successful integration of immigrants and tolerant society from the Netherlands, the sense of duty to our own country and the romance from France, the sense of good cuisine or importance of fashion from Italy, the transparent and efficient public space from Scandinavia and so on and so on.

Western Europe has an opportunity to learn from the Eastern Europe. To learn from our failed experience of government-directed economy, from our anti-communist instinct and the caution before similar efforts of etatization. And there would be a lot of things to mention where we on the East could learn from the West, starting with the real rule of law, independent media, the positive attitude towards our own state and towards our own democratic elites, having wisely regulated economies, cultivating our public manners or with having strong civic societies and large public participation.

In all cases, it is a question how much is my view of our common European Dream influenced by my idea of the Czech Dream or to which extent I was writing more about the Central Europe, and not the whole Europe. We will also have to define our future relationships with former Soviet republics, and with Turkey and with other Balkan states. Maybe these countries will never consider themselves as European and West countries. And when I mention the West, it seems that in our century it will not be only about the European integration but also about deeper integration with the USA and other Western countries which also the European ones are its actual part.

(This article was written as an essay during my exchange program in Ljubljana in 2015).