About 20 years ago, I asked Conor Cruise O'Brien what would have happened to us if we had been colonised by Germany instead of Britain. "We'd all be dead," he answered drily.
That was a hypothetical question then, but it's certainly not so now.
What our rapidly shrinking number of Europhiles don't seem (or want) to notice, is that the European project today is a much different thing from what it was even a few years ago.
The idealism that existed in the days of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet has completely gone in a Europe wracked by economic, fiscal and banking crises.
The mobilising of German war guilt to pay for the creation of a peaceful, united Europe in which all were respected and treated equally has run its course.
German voters, who work hard, keep their wages down, and are world leaders in precision engineering, are sick to the back teeth of paying for the 'reckless and feckless' who got into the Euro Zone Club when times were good, including ourselves. Angela Merkel's voters are saying that if the 'reckless and feckless' need some of the money we ourselves have earned through hard work, we do not want to give it to them any more, we have purged ourselves sufficiently to put an end to that particular guilt trip.
Not far below the surface, most Germans don't really believe we are able to live with the pace set by the Deutschmark-driven euro, to reach the productivity, or achieve the wages and spending control that it requires.
They tell us, with the certainty of the dogmatist, that there must be no inflation, no depreciation, no printing of money, no burning of bondholders. The master race gives us this as an absolute, and we obey supinely.
Have we, the ungovernable, unruly, insubordinate, the fighting and indomitable Irishry, become a subordinate race of mammy's boys and daddy's girls?
Where has our famous cussedness, our sheer bloody-mindedness, gone?
In any mix of people, there are two not always easily identifiable groups, the 'useless' and 'the worse than useless'.
The latter is by far the more dangerous, because it distracts and obstructs, and it is into this category I am forced to place many of our political class.
Over the past 20 or 30 years, full-time career politicians have taken over the show, people who -- whatever their qualifications -- have never had a job in the real world.
Their livelihoods, their pensions, their families' welfare, depend entirely on politics.
They possess a politics-obsessed mindset that cannot be shifted. It has become what they are.
They think politics at all times, they don't think economics, and not only can't they help it, they don't even know it. It's probably alright in normal times, but in wartime, it is nothing short of a disaster.
We now have a dismal type of puppet government which is held in the grip of the ECB and the IMF, however much it tries to pretend otherwise.
It struts and postures and, every time it gets a kick in the ass from the ECB-IMF, it makes statements about initiating a spending review.
The political circus is, by and large, 'worse than useless' because, no matter what its entertainment value, it is a distraction, and is blocking our view of the true picture.
I believe that people are weary of the pretence that the government is in charge, and would be greatly relieved if somebody in office (if not in power) would say something like the following:
'Look, we are nominally in the Government, but the truth is the moneylenders are calling all the shots.
'To tell you the truth, we are as sick of it all as you are. What we would really like is to kick the applecart over and to stick the euro up their you-know-what.
'The reality is, as we all know, that many of our people are being crucified, another large number is struggling harder and harder in order to stand still, and we have a public sector in denial, which is convinced that it has endured more than enough sacrifice and should not have to take any more.
'We have a bottomless pit in the banks, which is a nightmare, but admittedly is useful enough to us when we are looking for scapegoats.
'On top of that, as politicians, we are very reluctant to make substantial cuts in public spending. At the end of the day, we will be forced kicking and screaming to do that once we are caught in the final pincer movement between the ECB and the IMF and nailed to the wall by the technocrats.
'We have to borrow nearly €20bn year in and year out for public services, public sector pay and social welfare, but we have an annual income of only €30bn in taxes.
'We have to thank the banks, bad and all as they are, for distracting people's attention from our deep political reluctance to do anything much about this.'
That is the kind of honest testimony that, I believe, people would welcome as a breath of fresh air, but there is about as much chance of it happening as of Ian Paisley taking out a subscription for An Phoblacht.
On Friday, the Government made a big PR thing of telling us the ECB and the IMF were pleased with us after three months into the €85bn bailout, which is €50bn for public spending and €35bn for the banks. As far as I can see, Michael Noonan is the first to openly acknowledge that we are trussed up by the moneylenders. Personally I don't like the sight of four guys from the IMF telling us that we are good boys. Who would want to be praised by the Brother Superior for having the best May Altar?
Meanwhile, we muddle on, led by the carrot and coerced by the stick but, as Brendan Keenan said last week: 'Most of these rescues at some point come to a place where the IMF refuses to sign a cheque, everybody is fed up, there is no money for the next three months. I dare say we will come to that point.'
There is certainly fear in the air. Philip Larkin called it 'the inimitable thirties fear, the sense that something is going to fall like rain.'
Come on, lads! Lighten up! How about a bit of quantitative easing before it's too late! Action, not achtung!