Europe prepares for World War III

April 25, 2024

The other day I read an article about olive oil.

Apparently, it’s rained a lot the last few weeks down in Andalucía, the article said, and so our national olive oil crisis might be over. Prices, the article said, are falling.

As a result, speculators are unloading their reserves of oil now, while wholesale prices are still relatively high, which in turn is driving prices down further.

Having little else to do that evening, I rushed to my nearest supermarket to check. Had olive oil prices fallen overnight?

Nope. Still 9.80€ for the store brand extra virgin. Maybe it’ll take a bit longer, I thought, for the falling prices to reach the faraway Clot neighborhood in Barcelona.

But a few days later, I went to Mercadona with Morena.

Mercadona is one of Spain’s cheapest supermarket chains – if the prices are going to fall anywhere, it’s probably there. No luck, though. A liter of EVOO costs 9.55€.

We only needed two things for our Saturday dinner: a liter of oil and a dozen eggs.

Total: 12.17€.

Unbelievable.

But that’s not what I want to talk about, today. What I really I want to talk about is…

Europe on the warpath: the great re-arming

Lots of people are blaming the high prices of everything on the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the European Union seems to be preparing for war – or at least preparing to prepare.

Recently, La Vanguardia reported that the European Commission has proposed that the EU spend more money on defense, and less on environmental causes, moving forward. They’re worried about Russia making territorial claims beyond Ukraine, they’re worried about the possible scenario of Donald Trump being re-elected and abandoning all the US’ allies in NATO.

(If I were them, I’d also be worried that Biden is 81 years old and can’t form a coherent sentence most of the time – and that he still has the nuclear codes. But I digress.)

Anyway, Europe hasn’t spent much on defense since World War II ended, the argument goes, so a lot of the weapons are out of date and nobody has much combat experience. We need to restart the war industry just in case.

Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister of Poland, says that war is no longer a concept from the past – that Europe is in a “pre-war era” and needs to budget for a re-arming. (Poland’s location in the east of Europe, bordering both Ukraine and Russia, presumably makes these things a bit less abstract for them.)

Here in Iberia, Spanish Supreme Leader Pedro Sánchez agrees we need to do more to help Ukraine, but wants to stop using the word “war”, as it might make people uncomfortable.

At the same time, the bureaucrats up in Brussels want to know when Spain will be able to change over from the old Iberian Gauge rail system – apparently, to allow an easier movement of troops and arms across borders. (The current railway system in Spain uses wider tracks than elsewhere in Europe, which slows down border crossings.)

Time for World War III?

Here on my sofa, I don’t really know what to think. On the one hand, European people are pretty proud of these almost 80 years of peace they’ve had, since the end of World War II – it’s one of the things that makes them think they’re more civilized than Americans.

On the other, the peace is bound to end eventually.

Can Europeans be whipped up into a nationalist frenzy at this point? Or a pan-European regionalist frenzy? Presumably anything is possible. A couple years ago, we all watched as the governments pushed millions of people to the point of insanity and beyond over an aggressive seasonal flu. Remember that? I sure do.

But let’s also remember that it’s not 1914 anymore. A lot has happened since young men around Europe joyfully marched off to die in the trenches of previous wars. It’s not the same world, and not the same people.

I wonder if someone will have to take the kids aside and say, “Listen. We know we’ve been telling you your whole lives that masculinity is toxic and that tolerance and inclusion are the only values that matter. But now we need you all to get over your gender confusion so that we can start handing out rifles.”

It could happen. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we’ll have a woke military worthy of progressive 21st century powers – with field bathrooms for all genders and free tampons for everyone, just like in Canada.

Only time will tell.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. What I really want to talk about is…

George Washington, a man who needs no introduction

Speaking of wars, I’m about 22 hours into the audiobook of Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington, entitled Washington: A Life.

It’s interesting. Talking about a different time with a different sort of people, look no further than Washington and his friends in Colonial America.

The disease and death everywhere, the hunger, the grinding war of attrition: those guys (and gals) were practicing Stoicism at a pretty high level. Badly-paid farmer militiamen getting through Pennsylvania and New Jersey winters without adequate food, clothing or blankets, leaving bloody footprints in the snow because their feet were wrapped in rags instead of boots – the book is full of such details.

washington crossing the delaware

And through it all, Washington tried to have principles, and do things democratically: begging Congress for money and preventing his men from going out and just taking food from civilians.

After the continental victory in the war, when he was revered as an American demigod, the “normal” thing to do would be to stay on as military dictator, or proclaim himself king. He instead retired to his farm, hoping never to be called back to public life.

There’s a lot I could say about this book. But let’s just take one point, today.

Most countries don’t get better following a revolution – actually, they tend to get worse. Just look at what happened after the French Revolution in 1789, or check out my article about the Soviets in 1917 – there’s those pesky Russians, again.

The US, though, did pretty well after winning the war against the British. And I think the reason is that we had guys with some integrity running the show: they weren’t perfect, of course, but they don’t seem to have been in it purely for selfish gain, either.

If Europe or the US had more leaders of Washington’s caliber, I’d be less worried about the future.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about. What I really want to talk about is…

Doubling down on the Stoic Virtues

About a year and a half ago, on the occasion of my 40th birthday, I wrote an article about the stoic virtues.

The big four are wisdom, justice, courage and discipline, in case you’re keeping track. More about that in the article: Turning 40 and getting stoic.

Since then, I’ve gotten married, stopped drinking, and become even more interested in developing some virtue.

Looking back, it occurs to me that I’ve been pursuing external goals my whole life: getting good grades in school, working my ass off to survive in the adult world, and then struggling to get by as an illegal immigrant after I moved to Spain.

Chasing after some girl, trying to get a work permit, trying to make some money, chasing after some other girl, trying to be “successful” as a writer. Etc.

Most of this wasn’t entirely a waste, at the time I was doing it, but at my current age it mostly seems like a series of empty pursuits and existential dead ends.

In other words, I seem to have mostly lost interest in the hedonic treadmill.

More sensible people advise me, at this point, to just find a bigger hedonic treadmill to jump on, and to ride those dopamine waves forever higher. But I’ve never been sensible. Who knows? I might end up as a hermit, or dedicating my life to the service of Lord Krishna.

Or I might end up fighting off drones in a war against the great enemies of Europe. Either way, I’m guessing what I come up with won’t have much to do with the standard ideals of a consumer society.

In search of the good life

Arthur C Brooks has a recent article over on The Atlantic about Carl Jung’s 5 pillars of a good life. To paraphrase a bit, they are as follows:

  1. Good physical and mental health.
  2. Good relationships.
  3. A reasonable standard of living, and satisfactory work.
  4. Finding beauty in art and nature.
  5. A faith or philosophy that fosters resilience.

Seems like as good a list as any.

And that word “resilience” seems especially important.

So much of the current vibe in Western cultures seems to be about finding new reasons to be offended, and expecting everybody else on the planet to follow some long list of rules in order to avoid hurting your feelings.

And that’s just not a practical plan. In the real world, people are sometimes going to be assholes, and life is going to be a series of obstacles, insults and disappointments – at least partially.

Wishing it were otherwise (or hoping for some future utopia where everyone is fully decent and life is easy all the time) is just a recipe for further suffering – the suffering of unmet impossible expectations.

So let’s practice some courage, and some temperance, and let’s have the wisdom to do the right thing, even (or especially) in difficult and uncertain times.

Let’s live good lives off the hedonic treadmill – and hope we can still afford eggs and olive oil when World War III comes.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Next stop: Madrid.

(More on that soon.)

Hasta la próxima,

Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.

P.S. I had this article in drafts for a while, but I woke up this morning to the shocking news that Pedro Sánchez might resign as President / Prime Minister. I’ve never liked Sánchez, so this should have brought me some joy, but mostly I thought about the fact that I called him “Spanish Supreme Leader” in here and if I didn’t publish soon, the whole joke might be irrelevant. Anyway, like I said in my recent article about why Americans love Spain, politics out here is a shitshow, and ol’ Pedro claiming he might resign seems like more of the same. I’ll report back, whatever happens… so stay tuned!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Wait what?!?!?! No wine! Ouch! How many more sentences can I write with exclamation marks?!?! Man, I'm over 60 and wine, coffee and food are my remaining joys in everyday life. I think I could just curl up and die without them. As I'm not inclined towards the "sugar daddy" life, hot chicks are something I can only dream of but I'm probably better off for that, really.

    1. Hey Jay… Yeah, giving up wine wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it’s for the best. Gotta get my kicks elsewhere, for now. Thanks for reading!

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