The West Cannibalizes Itself

Robert W. Merry, American Conservative, March 30, 2018

Some 13 European thinkers issued an intellectual protest late last year against the assault on the Western heritage that has been raging on the Continent and in Britain for years. They called their 11-page document “The Paris Statement” and gave it a title: “A Europe We Can Believe In.” The Europe they believe in, write the 13 signatories (well-known in Europe, less so in America), is under threat of destruction from the forces of globalization, multiculturalism, and the EU managerial class, as well as growing anti-Christian prejudice.

“These lands are our home,” says the Statement, “we have no other. Home is a place where things are familiar, and where we are recognized, however far we have wandered. This is the real Europe, our precious and irreplaceable civilization.”

The Statement has received a smattering of attention in the European media—broadcast television in Poland and the Netherlands; major newspapers in Germany, France, Spain, and Poland; national weekly magazines in Poland and Hungary; and opinion web sites in the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain. But mostly it is an intellectual statement written for and consumed largely by other intellectuals.

{snip} But we are witnessing the emergence of some powerful political currents within the general European population, manifest in increasingly populist voting patterns in France, Germany, Austria, and elsewhere. Hence the Paris Statement could become a significant intellectual underpinning for Europeans who are increasingly concerned about the direction of things in their homeland.

The threat to Europe, says the Statement, comes from “a false understanding” of what Europe is and represents. This “false Europe” is the product of people who are “orphans by choice,” glorifying their vision “as the forerunner of a universal community that is neither universal nor a community.” Believing that history is on their side, these patrons of the false Europe have become “haughty and disdainful, unable to acknowledge the defects in the post-national, post-cultural world they are constructing.” The false Europe, says the statement, is “utopian and tyrannical.”

The true Europe, on the other hand, encompasses a number of fundamental elements—a body of law that applies to all yet is limited in its demands; a shared understanding of political and cultural traditions and a fealty to those traditions; an appreciation of the nation state as “the political form that joins peoplehood with sovereignty”; a shared regard for the role of the Classical tradition in shaping the Western mind; and an understanding of Christianity as the religious bulwark of the civilization.

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In place of the old Europe comes a culture of “libertine hedonism.” Though the elites boast of unprecedented liberty, European life is “more and more comprehensively regulated” than ever before. Work relations, business decisions, educational qualifications, and news practices increasingly are regulated by managerial mandarins operating in darkened corners of the EU bureaucracy. “And Europe now seeks to tighten existing regulations on freedom of speech, an aboriginal European freedom—freedom of conscience made manifest.” The Paris Statement continues:

Political leaders who give voice to inconvenient truths about Islam and immigration are hauled before judges. Political correctness enforces strong taboos that deem challenges to the status quo beyond the pale. The false Europe does not really encourage a culture of freedom. It promotes a culture of market-driven homogeneity and politically enforced conformity.

The Statement decries the growing sensibility among Europe’s elites—and many recent arrivals from other lands—that immigrants shouldn’t be required to assimilate into the Western culture because the Western culture doesn’t represent anything particularly special. {snip}

Indeed, some of the dire results of this experiment have become manifest. The signatories write, “Some of our countries have regions in which Muslims live with an informal autonomy from local laws, as if they were colonialists rather than fellow members of our nations.”

And the emergence of this false Europe is robbing the European societies of their self-respect and hence their cohesion and force. {snip}

This is in part because of the indoctrination that has suffused European academic life, where “cultural repudiation” has become a cheap and easy way to demonstrate enlightenment and “spiritual election.” As a result, says the Statement, “our universities are now active agents of ongoing cultural destruction.”

{snip} And yet it’s worth pondering: when in history have we seen a civilization turn on itself with such savagery as we see in the West today? What civilizations of the past or present have repudiated themselves and their cultural foundations with such focused intent, then invited in masses of others who don’t share the heritage?

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Still, there is a populist backlash brewing in the West against this false Europe. {snip}

After all, says the Statement, this new populism challenges “the dictatorship of the status quo” and the “fanaticism of the centre.” The Statement concludes: “It is a sign that even in the midst of our degraded and impoverished political culture, the historical agency of the European peoples can be reborn.”

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