This account will anger many and comfort none.
Three years ago, Douglas Murray published a pithy take on Islamophilia, focusing on his native Britain. Expanding his coverage of this issue, immigration and identity, Murray conducts a possibly premature, but probably prescient, early autopsy. The Strange Death of Europe‘s title plays off a 1935 popular history of the decline of the Liberal Party before the Great War, The Strange Death of Liberal England. Why Douglas Murray leaves out the second adjective may reflect his purview. He surveys a mostly liberal continent; he then glances at his fellow neo-conservatives. For both blocs have furthered an “existential civilizational tiredness.” This clunky if apt phrase is less graceful than what follows in his 350 pensive pages. This account will anger many and comfort none.
If Europe wishes to invite the world in, what worth does its Christian heritage and commitment to liberty hold? The proliferating “race-relations industry” pits cowed politicians against dour natives. Told that “multiculturalism” and “diversity” tower as the perfect duties in the contemporary West, everyday folks coping with mass movement of immigrants and migrants constitute a “general public” despised by academia, the media and administrators. Accused of “close-mindedness and intolerance, xenophobia and barely disguised racism,” anyone opposing open borders tempts a “toxic” backlash.
Murray demonstrates how “negligible” the historic rates of migration into Britain have been. To serve a “greying population,” its recent rulers admit millions on the assumption they will be eager workers. Murray tots up hard data calculating both past British immigration and recent welfare. Here the reader’s attention may quicken. Most chapters cite avid journalism and sift social sciences. When Murray suspects their naive truisms and foregone conclusions, he turns sleuth. Proponents recite by rote how nearly all non-European arrivals benefit Britain. Murray uncovers evidence to the contrary.
Few tally the costs, which Murray estimates in the range of £114-156 billion during the years 1985-2011. This short-term solution for a small island nation adds to crowded cities, strained infrastructure, reduced natural resources and ruined nature. Murray labels this policy “a pyramid scheme in order to keep more and more people in the style to which they have been accustomed.” He doubts this can last long.
Overall, most of Europe is easy to enter, easy to disappear into and safe to stay in. Angela Merkel’s Germany has given up verifying asylum seekers. As Christopher Caldwell’sReflections on the Revolution in Europe documented (a 2009 study oddly absent from Murray’s cited sources), the mass of claimants overwhelms the Mediterranean outposts aiding boats full of refugees and “economic migrants” from Africa. Since then, the Syrian crisis worsens this dire situation. Visiting the Greek island of Lesbos which welcomes foreign “visitors,” Murray learns that the Afghans he interviews bristle. Their 15 years of war leave them stranded, second in line to Syrians who have spent a third as long in a collapsing country. Furthermore, anyone can pose as a Syrian. No identification is needed.
Murray explores the vast tent city of migrants in the Parisian district of St. Denis. He reports from, or covers the reactions to, immigration from those entering and those receiving them in Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Denmark. In each country, compassion overrules pragmatism. The human instinct to help those asserting their need trumps entry quotas. Caution gives way to charity.
The Europe that millions will move into (as Caldwell explains more than Murray) allows “parallel lives” thanks to the self-appointed “community activists” who function, often at lucrative gain from grants, as middlemen scheming for “pork barrel politics.” Tolerance, pluralism and “get over it,” they repeat. Within enclaves, many refuse to assimilate, or cannot. They are often isolated from the public front of ethnic cuisine and skilled talent promoted as boons. Westerners likely see the most motivated of these immigrants who seek integration; many more do not emerge from their “encampments” and flats.
The limits of a host nation loom, although the mass media and politicians collude in covering up or ignoring much of the sexual abuse, assaults and rapes within hostile bastions. In the Netherlands, the fates of Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh cautions Westerners who assume permissive mores prevail. Van Gogh’s associate, the Somali “model minority” figure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, found herself the next target. Her atheism angered the Left and the Right. Murray observes “minorities within the minority become the most threatened people of all.” Bruce Bawer had warned at the start of the last decade the rising number of attacks on gay men by Muslim men. Even in Amsterdam such incidents increased.
Yet the Muslim world channels its outrage against Salman Rushdie, Scandinavian or Parisian cartoons and satirical jibes. The stable Arab neighbors of Syria and Iraq do little to take in refugees. Meanwhile, Murray chronicles in depth how the West blames itself. Wallowing in guilt, liberals look past practical measures to ease Syrian suffering. The West will be blamed whether it does or does not act.
The past never closes on the dark chapters of European and colonial crimes. No statute of limitations, Murray avers, terminates these open charges prosecuted on behalf of the dead. Perpetrators and victims sustain their long-silenced voices. Murray adds that “there are few if any ways to alleviate such sentiments” which exaggerate beyond “an appropriate level of historical humility” gestures of “hyperbole” for past sins. Politicians apologize, albeit in acts Murray dismisses as inevitably futile.
This cringing helps nobody. Murray laments patriotism replaced by shame. Countries lack confidence that they can do any better. “The Empire Strikes Back” sums up the constant atonement demanded for centuries of wrongdoing from those today who never perpetrated such outrages. Murray chides how “only modern Europeans are happy to be self-loathing in an international marketplace of sadists.”
“They had it coming to them” chortle advocates of violence in the name of a religion declaring itself one of peace. Identifying operatives as “radicals” or “terrorists” hides the creed of perpetrators. But to call them otherwise, authorities risk a “toxic” shaming. A similar elision admonishes those attempting to arrest “illegal immigrants” or “failed asylum seekers.” Meanwhile, agencies assist those who fight to stay, supporting lawsuits and litigation against the very governments of these earnest host nations.
This capitulation emanates, Murray reasons, from the loss of Western confidence in faith, and a post-modern dismissal of the ensuing Enlightenment. Outside these pages, Murray has identified as a “Christian atheist” and as gay. His stance critiques a continent content to parrot the pieties of human rights as a grandiose replacement for religion. He quotes Michel Houellebecq’s scathing satire. Sparing not even himself, this French novelist strips bare the facades of consumerism, nightclubs, entitlements and self-indulgence peddled as substitutes for substantial meaning. Language policed, ideas silenced, philosophy deconstructed and an economy exploited prove the banality of Europe.
What does this continent stand for? If it cannot confront female genital mutilation justified by custom and faith-claims, “it seems unlikely it will be able to defend some of its more subtle values in the years ahead.” Murray turns to Hirsi Ali for corroboration. She had to flee Holland after death threats.
She continues to annoy many “progressives” in her adopted American residency. Last year, she testified that “it is better off not to ask the questions because the answers are so bad.” Her fellow dissenters in her former European haven tire of convincing the right-leaning leftists who control much of the media, schools and government. The divide between what politicians say and do and what their public thinks widens. Neither faction may dare to question “radical” attacks in much of the mainstream press or in prudent scholarly circles. The media confronts dissenters and links them to fascists. “So Europeans are blamed for what is happening to them, are denied any legitimate way to object, and the views of the majority are made to appear not just dangerous but marginal.” The gap in opinion in different lands indicates shifts in national moods. Swedes invite immigrants and refugees. Murray regards many fellow Britons as wary. He insists this does not shunt them all to the “far right.”
By 2050, Christians will become an English minority. Ethnic Swedes will count themselves another minority. Most among both will still speak of “angels” and “forever.” But these will be empty metaphors. For Murray, post-Christian culture runs on empty. Democracy and skyscrapers seem less likely to inspire and comfort than a Jewish-Christian bequest and cathedrals. Human rights fractures into identity politics and moral relativism. Art and music “throw off” the inheritance of a rich legacy. The continent leaves its door open, not caring who walks in anymore.
Murray suggests in closing chapters what he wishes could be and then what will likely be. European traditions will be mocked or abandoned. In a continent as polyglot as the U.N., its indigenous allies will dwindle as their sentiments echo. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s flight into exile presages the fate of her truly progressive (ex-)co-religionists who speak out against Islam. “Polite” society turns away from it all.
Murray’s analysis deserves careful attention. It merits accurate quotation. His range can ramble. When he scrutinizes the dimming energy of high European culture, he sharpens his sober gaze. The ideological reflections in the latter chapters, as he contemplates his continent’s surrender to a set of imported or secular standards, retain the intelligence and diligence with which he compiles his research. He supports his avowals by relevant, up-to-date media from both detractors and defenders.
Many will take advantage of Europe’s largesse. Compassion may be endless there, but Murray warns that it cannot be “boundlessly so.” Murray measures a continental drift, as local climates change. Readers able to face a stern depiction of culture clash will witness in The Strange Death of Europe a panorama of a receding landscape. One wonders what next transforms European mores and beliefs.