Who will raid Josep Borrell’s civilization garden? - SELÇUK TÜRKYILMAZ

Who will raid Josep Borrell’s civilization garden?

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell’s opening remarks at the inauguration European Diplomacy Academy, a specialized institution for aspiring diplomats reverberated. Borrell said, “Europe is a garden. We have built a garden. Everything works. It is the best combination of political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion that the humankind has been able to build – the three things together. The rest of the world, is not exactly a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden." 


Those who interpreted these words, rightfully stated that they find Borrell racist, provocative, and rude. In fact, some drew attention to the colonialist language reminiscent of Europe’s colonialist past. These interpretations are, of course, important, but Borrell’s statement needs to be analyzed in greater detail. We had previously drawn attention to the vagueness of the term exploitation, because it failed to fully correspond to colonialism. A similar situation applies to orientalism as well. Orientalist criticism is generally built upon the context of how right or wrong the West’s perception of the East is. Yet, in Borrell’s statement, the difference between civil and barbaric is based on location. It would be wrong to analyze these critical statements within the context of interpretation errors. The “garden vs jungle” metaphor gains meaning within colonial history, and civil and primitive gain meaning in the context of savage, uncivilized, and anti-barbarism. 


We must mention Borrell’s Spanish past, because Spanish history played quite an important role in laying the foundation of modern Europe’s colonialist history. Latin Italy is often quoted in reference to the development of Europe’s intellectual history. This leaves Spain a little behind in terms of the rise of modern Europe. Yet, it is impossible to understand modern European history without Spain and Portugal. In this respect, we need to know Borrell’s Spanish past as well. However, this does not change the fact that Borrell’s approach is a general state either. 


So, what is Borrell saying? When we characterize the statement as colonialist language, have we analyzed it by drawing attention to the racist and white supremacy tone? Similarly, is it enough to draw attention to the uncivilized and civilized distinction based on the garden and jungle metaphor? The fact that we determined these is not enough to understand Borrell’s words. Based on the reaction shown, we can understand that his last words, “the jungle could invade the garden,” were overshadowed. This shows Borrell’s words cannot be comprehended within 19th-century ideological opposition. When colonialist countries were colonizing the non-European world, they had a great faith. Every move they made was strengthened with this faith. European’s self-confidence, their faith in themselves can be seen clearly in Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart of Darkness.” The uncontrollable desire to take over had turned into irresistible invasion operations. The “civilization mission” comprised the ideology of this operation. But now, Borrell is afraid this garden will be invaded. According to Borrell, the jungle poses a threat to civilization. 


Can Borrell’s fear show that some things have changed in terms of Europe almost two centuries later? They were competing to share the world in the mid-1880s, claiming they had a great responsibility in terms of the civilization mission. Back then, there was no danger in question for the garden of Europe. When we join famous Turkish poets Mehmet Akif Ersoy and Faruk Nafiz Camlibel’s verses based on the civilization and garden concepts, we will see a distance between them. While Ersoy states the monster grows in that garden, Camlibel places the spring in our land against their garden. The difference between “Us” and “Them” is clear. It is surprising that the garden metaphor is brought up years later by someone like Borrell. However, this time it is obvious the owners of the “civilization garden” are in fear. But is this fear or something else? It is at least obvious though that there is no trace of the confidence and faith they had in the mid-1880s. 


The origins of discrimination or opposition lie in Europe. Those who interpret Borrell’s words rightfully criticize the racist, colonialist, white supremacy language. Though, we cannot ignore the fact that this reaction is deficient and misleading. If we identify Borrell’s words using terms such as discrimination, marginalization, or racism, we would be limiting the meaning. 


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