Saturday, March 06, 2004

A Spectre is Haunting Europe

Niall Ferguson at the American Enterprise Institute recently predicted a downward trajectory for the European Union. (Hat tip: reader K) He proceeds from the premise that the EU began as an attempt by the poorer continental countries to cut themselves in on the "German gravy train". The French jockey on the German horse. For a while this worked, but as more countries from Eastern and Southern Europe piled onto the horse and the German economy stalled the process reached its limit. The project outran its premise and now threatens to be more of a liability than a benefit.

His second argument is largely anchored on demographics. Europe is dying. It's welfare state systems have created a class of pensioners and a system of entitlements which can only be supported by piling an intolerable burden on the dwindling numbers of working young. And when Ferguson says 'dwindling', he means just that. European populations are shrinking in absolute terms and aging in the bargain. To feed the welfare furnace Europe must turn to immigration. But since the only immigrants in hail are from the Muslim countries of the Near East, North Africa and Southwest Asia, Europe can save its welfare systems only at the price of hollowing out its culture. Ferguson notes how Gibbon speculated that absent the Islamic defeats of 732 a Muslim hegemony would have established itself all the way to British isles and wonders whether that event was not avoided but merely delayed. He concludes:

I understand Samuel Huntington is worried that Mexican culture is taking a firm root in this country and shows no sign of being dissolved into the traditional American melting pot. I read an alarmist article by him in Foreign Policy this week. Well, I have good news for him. Long before the mariachis play in Harvard Yard, long before that, there will be minarets, as Gibbon foretold, in Oxford. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, there already is one. The Center for Islamic Studies is currently building in my old university a new center for Islamic studies. I quote: "Along the lines of a traditional Oxford college around a central cloistered quadrangle, the building will feature a prayer hall with traditional dome and minaret tower." It will open next year. I wonder what Gibbon would have said.

Gibbon might have asked where European culture was. He would have remembered the many instances in which nations although physically overpowered imposed their way of life on their would-be conquerors. The Greeks upon the Romans, the Chinese upon the Mongols, Islam upon the Turks and Hordes of Central Asia. Gibbon might have observed how the actual majority of persons in Saudi Arabia, that most Islamic of countries, are actually expatriates, many of them Christians, yet how these expatriates were unremittingly pressured to conform to the strictures of Islam. He might have asked why native Europeans, with every advantage of literacy over the immigrant droves cannot bring themselves to do the same. But would that would bring us to the other missing major figure in Ferguson's argument. European Marxism.

The reality is--and it is perhaps the most striking cultural phenomenon of our times--that Western and Eastern Europe are no longer in any meaningful sense Christian societies. They are quite clearly post-Christian--indeed, in many respects, post-religious--societies. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, less than 1 in 10 of the population attends church even once a month. A clear majority do not attend church at all. There are now more Muslims in Britain, indeed in England, than Anglican communicants. More Muslims attend mosque weekly than Anglicans attend church.

In the recent Gallup Millennium Survey of Religious Attitudes conducted just a couple of years ago, more than half of all Scandinavians said that God did not matter to them at all. This, it seems to me, makes the claim to a fundamental Christian inheritance not only implausible but downright bogus in Europe. The reality is that Europeans inhabit a post-Christian society that is economically, demographically, but, in my view, above all culturally a decadent society.

Here Ferguson skips directly over most of 20th century history. Between the era of Christendom and today's decadent Europe, we had the Continent Militant, the Church of the First, Second and Third Internationals. The correct metric is not Anglican Church attendance but membership in Greenpeace. And if only 1 in 10 Northern Europeans attend church how many are religiously devoted to the precepts of the United Nations? The two phenomenon are related. The absence of a dynamic European identity is deeply connected to the soft Marxist orthodoxy that mandates its demise and regards all its manifestations as shameful. Europe is the grasp of a cultural suicide pact inked in 1848 and it will not survive until it rescinds it.

If America remains itself while Europe fades away, it may be in part due to the absence of a Western Hemisphere Islamic hinterland ready to overrun the Southern US border, but it will owe more to the fact that America escaped the sorcerer's spell which has locked Europe in irons. But perhaps people have already made their choice. America is, after all, populated largely by those who rejected the gulags, worker's parties, street rallies and manifestations of collective strength just as Europe is peopled by those who decided to remain in spite of them. Yet Europe is not doomed -- not yet -- if in the words of their own sorcerer "they openly declare that their ends" -- the preservation of their heritage and culture, are nonnegotiable. They must choose between Marx and survival. What should they fear, if sharia is the alternative? The Europeans have nothing to lose but their chains.