I titled my Master's thesis, "Monetary Policy of the European Central Bank and its Relationship to Member State Sovereignty." As the degree program required, I focused heavily on the economic and legal aspects of this topic. I couldn't help, however, but to briefly touch on some of the more apparent psychological issues arising from monetary and economic union in Europe. The debt crisis evoked nationalistic tendencies and ugly stereotypes. These sentiments have been exacerbated in recent years as the European Union faces new challenges.
When I lived in Budapest in 2012 and 2013, the nationalists already had a fairly strong presence. The Jobbik Party, for instance, held police-protected rallies at Heroes' Square. The people seemed accustomed to their presence and casually brushed off their demonstrations with an eye roll. A very unsettling factor, however, was that many suspected the police sympathized with the right-wing party. Fast forward a few years and Hungary now has a border wall to block refugees and is creating legal barriers for international, higher education institutions.
On the other side of Europe, we have the United Kingdom, which has formally begun procedures to leave the European Union. I was surprised that three of my British friends voted in favor of Brexit and astonished that the first reason they gave was aversion to E.U. regulation of bananas. I was not surprised, however, with the result of the Brexit vote. The U.K. asked a populace, subject to propaganda and misinformation, to vote on a complicated economic matter and the majority voted with their feelings. 'Yay' voters felt that their identity and sovereignty were threatened and therefore voted on fear and self-preservation.
Similar sentiments motivated American voters in last year's Presidential Election. I cycled 2,000 kilometers around the United States at the end of 2015 as the Primary got underway and was disconcerted by the abundance of poverty I saw. Dire economic circumstances create a population that is highly vulnerable to political manipulation. The xenophobic rhetoric espoused by some candidates in the Primary directly targeted impoverished voters who were more susceptible to believing such scapegoat tactics. Everyone asked us about the refugees in Germany and if we feel scared.
It is this climate of fear that is causing isolation and preventing deeper cooperation between countries. Suffice it to say that building walls, borders, and barriers is essentially opposite to the goals and intentions of the E.U.
As racial tensions continue to simmer in the United States, journalist Robert Kuttner on Democracy Now! reveals that former Trump advisor Steve Bannon's general strategy to create a white supremacist and neo-Nazi nation is to connect racist and immigrant nationalism to economic nationalism.
These challenges demonstrate the necessity of incorporating sociological considerations and education when developing and implementing economic systems.
We must transition from the current capitalistic model of globalization to a just and sustainable global economy. Making this transition requires environmental science to be the driver of change with coordination among politicians, economists, and sociologists throughout development and implementation.