Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wake up, Europe -- it may already be too late

By Aussiegirl

Mark Steyn reports on two books that try to warn Europe of its coming demise. And don't fail to read the final paragraph, a prescient quotation from Gibbon on the Muslim menace.


Macleans.ca | Culture | Books | Wake up, Europe. It may already be too late.

[...] Two books have just hit the shelves -- While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer, and Menace In Europe: Why The Continent's Crisis is America's, Too by Claire Berlinski. In media-speak, two of anything makes a trend, and Clive Davis doesn't care for this one. Davis is a perceptive commentator for the Times of London and, in reviewing Bawer and Berlinski for the Washington Times, he sniffed: "What worries me about books like this is that they risk reducing Europe to a caricature in much the same way as Stupid White Men turns America into one big Wal-Mart with drive-by shootings."

That's unfair, and does a disservice to both authors. For many Europeans -- and Canadians -- the Stupid White Men school of anti-Americanism is a form of consolation: the Great Moron may be economically, militarily and culturally dominant but we can still jeer at what a bozo he is. Bawer and Berlinski, both genuine American Europhiles, have a serious purpose: in his titular evocation of the young JFK's book on pre-war European appeasement, While England Slept, Bruce Bawer makes plain that he wants to wake Europe up -- and, if it's too late for that, then at least to wake up America. Neither is a xenophobic yahoo: Berlinski "divides her time" -- as the book jackets say -- between Paris and Istanbul; she has a doctorate in international relations from Oxford. Bawer is a homosexual who moved to the Continent because he was weary of the theocratic oppressiveness of redneck America and wanted to live his life in the gay utopia of the Netherlands. Alas, when he got there he found the gay scene had gone belly up and, theocratic oppressor-wise, Pat Robertson has nothing on some of the livelier Amsterdam madrasas. Both books are somewhat overwrought -- Berlinski dwells on her own relationship with some Muslim lad who later figured in Zadie Smith's hit novel White Teeth, and Bruce Bawer is reluctant to give up on the idea that a bisexual pothead hedonist utopia is a viable concept rather than, as it's proving in the Netherlands, a mere novelty interlude; his book might have been better called While Europe Slept Around.

Nonetheless, if Clive Davis thinks this is anti-Euro rotten fruit-pelting, that's more of a reflection on the complacency of the Continent's own commentariat. The difference between "anti-Americanism" and "anti-Europeanism" is obvious. In, say, 2025, America will be much as it is today -- big, powerful, albeit (to sophisticated Continentals) absurdly vulgar and provincial. But in 20 years' time Europe will be an economically moribund demographic basket case: 17 Continental nations have what's known as "lowest-low" fertility -- below 1.3 live births per woman -- from which no population has ever recovered.

[...] The only question about Europe is whether it's going to be (a) catastrophically bad or (b) apocalyptically bad, as in head for the hills, here come the Four Horsemen: Death (the self-extinction of European races too self-absorbed to breed), Famine (the withering of unaffordable social programs), War (civil strife as the disaffected decide to move beyond mere Citroƫn-torching), and Conquest (the inevitable victory of the Muslim successor population already in place). I'd say option (b) looks the better bet, for a few if not all Continental nations: united they'll fall, but divided, a handful might stand a chance.

However, if, like Clive Davis, you find Bawer and Berlinski too shrill, try Charles Murray's new book, In Our Hands. This is a fairly technical economic plan to replace the U.S. welfare system, but, in the course of it, he observes that in the rush to the waterfall the European canoe is well ahead of America's. Murray stops crunching the numbers and makes the point that, even if it were affordable, the European social democratic state would still be fatal. "Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," he writes. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant." If Bawer's book is a wake-up call, Murray reminds us that western Europe long ago threw away the alarm clock and decided to sleep in.

And, if even Murray's too much, go back to the granddaddy of them all -- Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Recounting the Muslim march on France 1,300 years ago, Gibbon writes:

"The decline of the French monarchy invited the attack of these insatiate fanatics. The descendants of Clovis had lost the inheritance of his martial and ferocious spirit; and their misfortune or demerit has affixed the epithet of lazy to the last kings of the Merovingian race. They ascended the throne without power, and sunk into the grave without a name. . . . The vineyards of Gascony and the city of Bordeaux were possessed by the sovereign of Damascus and Samarcand; and the south of France, from the mouth of the Garonne to that of the Rhone, assumed the manners and religion of Arabia."

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