For a great thinker, the Catholic theologian John Henry Newman was clearly wounded by criticism. In the introduction to his Apologia, the British cardinal criticised those who he felt, rather than attack his arguments, attacked his character. The aim of his critics, he wrote, was to create a "suspicion and mistrust of everything that I may say" - an approach he dubbed, metaphorically, "poisoning the wells".
The euro crisis has seen a remarkable revival in the ancient wartime practice of well-poisoning, something that bodes ill for the future of European integration. What's even more worrying: everyone is at it.
The project of European integration, born in the ruins of postwar Europe, is being undermined by a dreary row over debtors and creditors – driven by pedantic politicians and jingoistic journalists who understand the price of everything in Europe and the value of nothing.
The more extensive and expensive EU/IMF financing for Athens becomes, the more simplistic and cheap the arguments on all sides. One half of the EU blames Germany for imposing a vicious circle of austerity and recession on Greece, triggering a humanitarian crisis; the other side, of Berlin and its allies, sees the root of Greece’s problems in Greece, in a clientist culture of corruption and opportunism.
Here’s some news for you: this complex crisis is not a simple us-and-them narrative. By now everyone in the eurozone sees themselves as the wronged party, but no one in this flawed currency union has a monopoly on victimhood.
This crisis is not solely thanks to profligacy of peripheral member states like Greece. Nor is it exclusively the blame of the banks in Frankfurt who lent these countries their customers' savings and pensions. You cannot track the crisis entirely back to Berlin’s disregard a decade ago for euro fiscal rules it demanded a decade earlier, nor the open season of cheap and reckless lending and equally reckless debt-fuelled spending that followed.
Everything and everyone in the eurozone have played their part in degrading the currency union into today's glasshouse where everyone is throwing stones.
As Jürgen Habermas recently noted there is an "unintended comic quality" to this series of self-contained national narratives, with 19 versions of who caused the crisis and who’s paying the highest price for the solution.
But the laughter stops when you realise the consequences of blinkered national debates: contradictory analyses of the causes of the crisis and contradictory solutions at odds with each other. We got a taste of where all this is heading after last month’s all-night summit in Brussels.
One side denounced the road-map for a third Greek financing package as a blueprint of German bullying, copper-fastening Berlin’s dominance in the EU.
Influential voices in Germany, meanwhile attacked the deal as a further sell-out of the no-bailout promise on which the euro was sold to German voters.
Five years in the euro crisis is the new normal and has morphed into an assymetric war.
Germany and its northern euro allies – from the Netherlands up to the Baltics – say they have a political majority on their side, with Greece isolated. They point out, rightly, that many of their latest demands are simply old reforms with new, stringent preconditions and oversight. Only in this way can they sell the prospect of further assistance to Greece to their increasingly doubtful voters.
When it comes to winning over those beyond their borders, this camp's political strength is undermined by increasingly negative perceptions towards them.
The Syriza government may, on the other hand, have alienated almost all euro group governments – even those sympathetic to the Greek cause – since taking office in January. But it has found a powerful ally: the English-speaking world.
Large, influential voices like the Financial Times, The Guardian, or The New York Times - not to mention politicians and economists with equal global reach - have analysed the Greek-German standoff and largely decided that Alexis Tsipras is right to demand relief on unsustainable debt and a let-up on cutbacks. The English-language world view of Greece, coloured by the Keynesian economic tradition, is as white as Germany’s ordoliberal view is black.
So while the German camp may have the upper hand politically in Europe, tiny Greece and its supporters have far better clout in influencing world public opinion.
Ex-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has not just been all over the German media of late. Last week the New Yorker, one of the world’s best and most influential magazines, published a gripping, sympathetic and thoroughly one-sided account of the Greek crisis, written by a journalist embedded with the motorbike-riding ex-minister for the last six months. Anyone who reads the piece, from Manhattan to Melbourne, will have nothing but sympathy for the plucky Greek David tackling the merciless German Goliath.
Angela Merkel had her chance to explain her thinking on the euro crisis when the New Yorker came to Berlin last year. But neither the chancellor nor anyone from her inner circle had any time for an interview - which showed in the final magazine piece.
Of course, with the the exception of Ireland, the English-language world do not count among Greece's euro area creditors. But they are involved through the IMF and their opinions matter in international markets and think tanks. To be relevant, you have to be present in the English langauge euro debate. And Germany isn't.
Rather than tackle consistently critical US economists or British newspapers on their own, English-language turf, Germans grumble that no one understands them in German-language articles that no one else reads. Berlin's engagement with the wider world in the euro debate has come a distant second to managing domestic public opinion. German officials are too busy devising short-term tactics than explaining their long-term European strategy -- assuming there is one.
The complaint, shared by Berlin foreign correspondents and German ambassadors around Europe, is of being left in the dark as to Berlin's intentions. Filling this vacuum, day in and day out, is one-sided jingoistic journalism where Germany dominates, Germany demands and Germany bullies.
And, while global opinion polls suggest Germany's reputation remains largely intact and positive, negative published opinion can, over time, contaminate public opinion. The longer the euro crisis drags on, and the more poison is tipped into the European well, the more serious the consequences for the next chapter of EU integration. And Germany, the country that has gained the most at Europe's heart, will be the first to lose.
Derek Scally is Berlin correspontent of the "Irish Times"