TAG | europe
Getting to grips with the pathologies of multiculturalism is no easy task, but here from the Wall Street Journal is retired (center-right) Dutch politician Frits Bolkenstein having a go. This, in particular, caught my eye:
The other foundation of our current masochism is, ironically, the very Christianity that modern generations have been so eager to cast off. Whether we like it or not, our civilization remains deeply marked by Christianity. Consider the Gospel of Saint Matthew, which states that “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (23:12). Friedrich Nietzsche characterized this as “slave morality.” But one does not have to go that far to realize that this saying, along with instructions to “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile,” do not exactly prod people to stick up for their own.
If Islamic civilization may be described as a shame culture, Christianity is a guilt culture. Listen to Bach’s “Passion According to Saint Matthew.” The chorus—that is to say the people—sings, “I shall be punished for what you [Christ] have suffered,” and, “You are no sinner, like we and our children.” Pride joined guilt and we in Europe soon came to believe that the mote in our eye was heavier than the beam abroad.
This would not be a problem if the burden of a bad conscience came with atonement, forgiveness, confession, expiation or any of the other theological or liturgical forms for purging guilt from the sinner. Formerly, Catholicism and Lutheranism provided for the atonement of guilt. But these traditions no longer have credibility in Europe. Feelings of guilt are not sublimated. This also goes for Calvinism, which in its purest form knows no remission of guilt in this life. Its effects have been deep in Europe and outlast the doctrine.
Thus in 1996 the Dutch government declared that its “debate about multiculturalism must be conducted on the principle that cultures are of equal merit.” And so it has gone, for years.
A stretch, I feel, but intriguing…
Under pressure from a growing nationalist movement, the government in Denmark on Thursday reintroduced stringent checks on its borders with Germany and Sweden, dealing a major setback to one of the European Union’s most popular and tangible measures: the freedom to cross frontiers without controls.
It was the second major assault within weeks on an agreement originally signed in 1985 at Schengen, a town in Luxembourg near France and Germany, and has gone a long way toward abolishing border controls across much of Europe.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, proposed amending the Schengen accord this month in an effort to deal with the wave of refugees fleeing to Italy from North Africa and the Middle East.
For what it’s worth I think the idea of some sort of unification of the present nation-states of Europe isn’t implausible. The Kalmar Union once bound Norden together. But an assemblage which includes Greece and Finland in the same manner as Finland and Sweden is just incoherent geopolitical engineering. A pan-European project has to leverage organic cultural affinities at lower levels first, and integrate in a step-by-step fashion. But that’s hard, so Euro-elites tried to generate unity by fiat.
The New York Times Magazine has a Europe-themed edition. I thought it would be interesting to look at the five big Western European nations in Google Data Explorer.
Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker, A SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC SIGH:
Furthermore, it’s not as if German conservatives are a bunch of crazy far-right nihilists. This is not the Republicans we’re talking about. Both the CDU and the FDP recognize the urgency of global warming. Neither of them has a problem with gays. (The FDP’s leader, soon to be foreign minister, is the country’s other openly gay political bigwig.) Nor do they have a problem with allowing a woman to end a pregnancy if she feels she must, or with telling kids to use condoms if they can’t resist having sex, or with the theory of evolution, or with gun control—or, for that matter, with “socialism.”
People have “schema” which they use to organize their models of the world. In many ways conservative parties in Europe, in particular on the Continent, are oriented in what to an American would seem to be a socialist direction. Social insurance famously began under the Prussian junker Otto von Bismarck as a pragmatic measure. But life is more complicated than simply shifting the political spectrum to the Left. Note that the dominant conservative parties in Germany are called the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union. Their basis of support are among Catholics and conservative Protestants, and their connection to religious sentiment goes back to the old Catholic Centre Party. Therefore, it should not surprise that Hertzberg’s glib assessment is a bit misleading: