A few years ago I was at a conference discussing the woes of the single European currency, when a central bank official reached into his pocket and flung a euro note on the table. “That’s what’s wrong with Europe,” he declared, pointing to the crumpled piece of paper. “It’s just windows and bridges!”
Waving the note, he went on to explain that when bureaucrats created the modern European monetary system, they did not want to spark a bitter, nationalist dispute about which faces to put on the notes. So they ducked the issue and decided to put architectural symbols, such as famous bridges, on the notes instead of famous people — fa?ades instead of faces.
To the casual observer, this might not seem to matter — not when compared with Europe’s other woes, such as the migrant crisis or its lingering economic problems. After all, most people never notice what’s on their banknotes, except when a political spat breaks out (as it has recently in the US over the lack of women on dollar bills).
But if you want to understand why it is so hard to sell the dream of a united Europe to its citizens — or why globalisation evokes such mixed feelings among voters — it is worth thinking for a moment about faces. Or the lack of them.
In most currencies, banknotes are dominated by images of heroes or leaders. That is no surprise. Social groups of all sorts tend to be bound together by creation myths — stories that centre around people. From birth, humans are hardwired to warm to faces and we find it easier to remember narratives when these are personified, be that in biblical tales, Hollywood films or political campaigns.
But Europe today faces a problem: it lacks a clear creation myth with unifying heroes. To be sure, there have been historical figures who have glued the continent together. At one extreme, there is Charlemagne, the medieval ruler who united much of Europe; at the other, Jean Monnet, a 20th-century French bureaucrat who is considered one of the European Union’s founding fathers. These days Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, is providing another unifying force (of sorts). But these are not faces that command popular respect across the continent — or not compared with the heroes of individual nations.
The dream of globalisation has the same problem. This year, Yale professor Jeffrey Garten published From Silk to Silicon, a book telling the tale of globalisation through the lives of 10 people who helped to break down barriers across the world. This is a fascinating endeavour, not least because it should challenge us all to think about who we would choose as the “top 10 globalisers”. Garten’s picks — which include the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan, Robert Clive (also known as Clive of India), Cyrus Field, whose company laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Andy Grove, a technology pioneer and former Intel chief executive — achieved remarkable things. Jean Monnet is also on his list.
But as I read through this roll call, it strikes me that few of them are ever cited in defence of globalisation. We take our interconnected world for granted. Instead, the debate tends to be dominated by the likes of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, who epitomise anti-globalisation rhetoric. Globalisation’s heroes are harder to picture.
Maybe it’s just a matter of time. If the single currency lasts another 20 years, perhaps Draghi will be on the banknotes. By the middle of the 21st century, the faces of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Jack Ma might become symbols for cyber unity too. But for now what is becoming clear is that you cannot fight nationalism solely with economic figures — you need faces too. So if anybody has any suggestions, perhaps they should send them to those (faceless) European bureaucrats who design the banknotes — assuming that the euro stays.
但今天的欧洲面临一个问题：缺乏清晰、由统一英雄主演的创世神话。当然，这里曾诞生过将欧洲大陆各部分统一起来的历史人物。从一个极端来看，我们有统一了欧洲大部的中世纪统治者查理曼大帝(Charlemagne)；从另一端来看，我们有20世纪的法国官员让?莫内(Jean Monnet)，他被视为建立欧盟的元勋之一。如今，欧洲央行(ECB)行长马里奥?德拉吉(Mario Draghi)贡献了了另一种（勉强称得上的）凝聚力。但他们都并非在整个欧洲大陆获得普遍敬重的人物——或者无法与各个国家的英雄相提并论。
全球化之梦也面临同样的问题。耶鲁大学教授杰弗里?加滕(Jeffrey Garten)今年出版了《从丝绸到硅》(From Silk to Silicon)一书，通过讲述世界各地10位曾打破过全球化壁垒的人物的经历，讲述了全球化的故事。这是一次引人入胜的尝试，尤其是它启发我们所有人都去思考该选择哪些人作为“十大全球化人物”。加滕选出的这些人都非常了不起，其中包括蒙古皇帝成吉思汗(Genghis Khan)，罗伯特?克莱夫（Robert Clive，也被称为“印度的克莱夫”），旗下公司铺设了首条跨大西洋海底电缆的塞勒斯?菲尔德(Cyrus Field)，英国前首相玛格丽特?撒切尔(Margaret Thatcher)以及科技先锋、英特尔(Intel)前首席执行官安迪?格罗夫(Andy Grove)。让?莫内也在他的名单中。
但通读这份名单时，我惊讶地发现，这些人中几乎没人公开为全球化辩护过。我们认为眼前互联互通的世界是理所当然的。相反，围绕全球化的辩论往往被唐纳德?特朗普(Donald Trump)、奈杰尔?法拉奇(Nigel Farage)之流所主导，他们将反全球化的言论人格化。全球化英雄的形象则很难想象。
或许这只是时间问题。如果欧元还能再存续20年，或许德拉吉的头像会出现在上面。到21世纪中叶，马克?扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)、比尔?盖茨(Bill Gates)或者马云(Jack Ma)的面孔或许会成为网络一体化的符号。但现在越来越清楚的是，人们不能仅靠经济数据来反击民族主义——我们同样需要纸币上的面孔。如果任何人有建议，也许他们应该向那些设计这些欧元钞票的（无名）欧洲官员提出——如果欧元将继续存在的话。