POCKET EUROPE


I reckon everyone has a little personal ritual when it comes to emptying their pockets, especilly if you’re doing it just before you go to bed. I usually put my battered wallet on the bedside locker first and then my mobile phone and then scoop any change from my pocket and toss it into an old ashtray that’s a relic from my parents home (I don’t smoke and I can’t remember how it got there, but it’s been there for years now).

That done I sometimes separate the 1 and 2 euro coins from the rest and toss the small stuff into some other receptacle – at the moment it’s a silicone phone cover that has been decomissioned – because those coins will find their way into a jar and be given to charity or the grandkids (same thing really :).

When I carried out this ritual tonight I noticed an unusual pattern on the back of one of the coins. At this point I probably should explain that the front of all euro coins look exactly the same no matter what country they’re issued by, but each country gets to place its own design on the back – Ireland’s sports the Irish Harp. So I tossed the handful of coins on the bed and realised each one was from a different european country. I had eight european countries mixing it up in my pocket. In a strange way it reminded me of how exciting it was when we were beginning to understand and enjoy our membership of the European Union, before the crash and the recession and before Ireland became one of the sick-men-of-Europe.

What has been so often referred to as the “european experiment” has in fact been the vehicle for stability and peace in Europe for most of my life. Sometimes I think we have become so used to the benefits of the European Union that we tend to forget that for my father the first twenty five years of his life was marked by both the tail end of World War 1 and then his wedding day just months before the end of World War 2. In the years since the genesis of what was to become the European Union, Europe has enjoyed the longest period of peace in recorded history and my generation and my children’s generation have not known what is was like for neighbours to go to war with each other. To my mind the experiment has worked. The coins from my pocket were suitably symbolic of the success of the EU, despite its many other failings, to provide its member states with the benefits of peaceful co-existence.

This coming Saturday, September 21st, is the International Day of Peace. I wish everyone across our global village peace and prosperity in their lifetime, as I have had in mine.

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