The Wilting of European Identity

21st-century Europe does not know who they are anymore or what it is that they stand for. Europeans have become increasingly touchy, skeptical, and arguably meeker than their predecessors in the face of questions of their core values. It is a sad state of affairs when a nation so reliably stationed at the helm of history starts skidding down the slope — over the course of many years, slowly, progressively losing their bearings. The state of Europe today is not an insignificant matter that should be left out of discussion, especially in light of the enormous migrant influx in recent years. Such a radical demographic and cultural shift is sure to alter the continent in profound ways.

Europe’s muddled vision of itself is no match for the razor-sharp, indomitable Islamic identity that has been imported in large numbers. Objectively speaking, the two — Western liberal values and Islamic values — are fundamentally at odds. And yet most of Europe, it appears, fails to show any indication of wanting to approach this stark disparity with even a sliver of bravery. This rise in immigrants (from primarily Islamic nations) has occurred on a truly unprecedented scale. This is an enormously risky experiment. Admittedly, however, ‘experiment’ may not be the correct word here — after all, good luck trying to reverse the migration if Europe eventually decides that the experiment has run its course and royally failed. (Angela Merkel even admitted as much as early as 2010, before the largest waves of migration.) Any delusion some worried Europeans might have that a reversal of the situation could be an option if things go too awry is nothing but a naïve delusion. Clean up and wash your hands, sure, sure. That won’t be very easy. This is a relatively serious situation,because it has to do with humans and ideas. Both are quite powerful.

In any case, the question should be asked: What ever happened to Europe anyway, and the concept of European identity? How are they to fare in the face of — let me put it bluntly — Islamic invasion? A once loud and proud continent has now become a shadow of itself — quiet and hollow and unsure of what it stands for, what makes up the substance of its identity, and even moreso, worried that standing for anything is even moral of all things! They are somewhat plagued by a guilty self-consciousness, weakened by doubt and threatened by easy, peaceable notions of unconditional tolerance. The state of Europe and European identity as it unfolds currently and in the coming years will undoubtedly have significant consequences as to the state of the entire Western world. It is no small matter that today, they are wilting.

Western guilt is a strange and yet modernly rampant phenomenon. European politicians and media figures routinely put on conspicuous display their collective guilty conscience concerning Europe’s supposedly unredeemable history and its unfair (and apparently embarrassing) privilege. Europe oppressed other peoples, they participated in slavery, they “inequitably” fared better than some of their counterparts, or so the narrative goes. This contemporary obsession with “privilege” is a dangerous one. It has introduced a heavy strain of guilt into Western culture, dragging down anything of European pride in the process. What about all that Europe has added to the world? Classical liberal values, belief in the sovereignty of the individual, Enlightenment reason, what about any of that? There is little rationale that Europe should honestly feel uniquely, solely criminal when the rest of the world has behaved just as imperfectly and engaged in their fair share of exploits.

But indeed, the lack of pride in the continent’s history and culture becomes more palpable by the day. And this guilt manifests in seemingly obligatory, nearly boundless indebtedness towards the migrants flowing in. They are welcomed and enfolded into Europe unquestionably. Why, to ask questions or to express worries would be nearly unethical! (Though it is true Europeans, individually, within their own minds are increasingly distressed about the state of their nation and the changes to it occurring presently but the majority do not publicly voice these anxieties.) And despite the quiet, concerned murmurings of individual consciences, wider public society continues to endorse the “multiculturalism and immigration is a net good” narrative. Such a notion is easy to espouse after all, reflects positively on those that endorse it, and sounds good in theory. What’s more, it would appear that in wholeheartedly accepting the arrivals of immigrants, many Europeans are assuaging any guilt they may feel as a result of their privilege-infused history. Immigration has become first and foremost couched in moral terms rather than honest, pragmatic, thoughtful terms. Healthy caution is not exercised.

Sadly, this undercurrent of guilt felt by many crowds out their natural protective impulse to preserve their countries and ways of life. Little by little, the everyday changes. What with rampant immigration rather undemocratically foisted upon the citizenry, Europeans increasingly don’t have a say — perhaps they might want to keep the Europe they had before this shift. It is pried from their weak fingers and they wearily sigh, hardly putting up a fight. What’s the use? In theory, increasing levels of multiculturalism and immigration are humanitarian, right? Who are we to put our culture first? they ask.

That dampener of shame on European culture leads into something more: doubt. In a philosophical sense, Europe is afflicted by a wobbling uncertainty. Nowadays, the continent looks almost eerily hollowed out. It’s difficult to imagine anything but a sense of hopelessness and cynicism swirling around these hypothetical questions: What has made Europe great? Where has Europe’s historical greatness originated from? What made it the envy of the world? A lot of modern academics might shrug at these questions and launch into self-deprecations. (I must point out, however, that many might feel compelled to answer the question of ‘what makes Europe great’ with replies like “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” and “tolerance”.) Currently, European society has a palpable sense of inadequacy and uninterestingness, as if they are obligated to import cultural flavor because they are lacking in their own. It’s almost a cover-up of their embarrassing void of identity, a kind of compensation.

It could also be argued, I think, that there is a sad lack of meaning in the whole of the Western world. Nobody searches for “truth” — though that’s a very problematic word nowadays isn’t it? Relativism and flimsy, rather pathetic proddings of “oh, just try to be happy; life is in the end meaningless anyway” are common. Now, contrast this attitude with that of the (disproportionately) Islamic immigrants flooding into the continent. Their religious ties are extremely strong and thus, their sense of identity (both as individuals and as a community) are heavily rooted and forces to be reckoned with. However, not much consternation about this wide disparity in the strength of identity (European and Islamic) is aired in public discourse. It would be nice to believe that these immigrants are, by and large, perfectly willing to assimilate and to pledge primary allegiance to Europe and its Western values (which are still at least existent). But this does not happen and furthermore, is somewhat irrational to expect. After all, Islam is a way of life. It takes precedence over (and is fundamentally at odds with) traditional Enlightenment-era beliefs. Much of Islamic creed runs absolutely counter to classic liberal sentiment. This should be talked about! And yet, in a a perfectly contradictory fashion the most left of left-wingers clap the hardest for more of these people to be integrated into their homelands. It is stupid to think that the religious beliefs these masses carry over the borders with them will effortlessly melt away (or otherwise be so inconspicuous as to be nothing to worry about) and will leave in their wake a docile, malleable people eager to brandish themselves Europeans without a fuss.

A presently disillusioned modern Europe is a bad match for a such a people — so firm and certain in their identity and convictions. So strong, in fact, that many would die for these very beliefs. Make no mistake: the stronger the identity, the more difficult they are to topple. Islam is at odds with the ideology that characterizes Europe and if this isn’t a clearly visible problem now, it will be in the future. An atomized society of European people weakly linked who are unsure of what they believe in (if anything at all) carries a threat of greater vulnerability. Two groups of diverging belief systems and eventually there will be a clash, a confrontation, a power struggle. The stronger will surely win in such a battle — not the most erudite or the most diplomatic.

You see, democracy and identity work best if they cooperate in conjunction with each other. The trouble is, Europe imagines they might be able to have democracy without identity and the Islamic factions would like to have identity without democracy. Do you see the problem? And these two are both supposed to coexist just fine, if we would just keep preaching about tolerance until our voices grow hoarse.

Oh, tolerance. That golden-boy of modern virtues. In theory, in theory, tolerance sounds wonderful. But time and time again, it woefully endangers when taken to great lengths (because of course it will be). Absolute tolerance, like peace, is a concept championed by those who care little for practicalities and care altogether for theory, especially ethics. This line of thinking goes, world peace can be attained if everyone would just put down their weapons and disagreements. Oh, in theory! I mean, wouldn’t that be marvelous. But taking into account that at its core human nature is messy and imperfect (and we couldn’t change this even if we wanted to) this is just not reasonable to suggest. But this does not stop them. Similarly, these people can’t see how tolerance could possibly be anything but a net good. Because inclusion, diversity, and radical tolerance will solve all ills, will render all problems and differences impotent. In practice, and in reality, tolerance is not this faultless, solves-all-problems, smooths-all-ills concept. Cowardliness and fear can easily masquerade as tolerance. Tolerance is something of a social virtue that many brandish to appear like good, moral, nonjudgemental people. Politicians and media figures are out there clamoring for more diversity and multiculturalism, insinuating that these concepts are the shining, highest aims to have. They insinuate that these are the paragons of the best cultures and that these concepts in theory will, without a doubt, enrich us and yet reality simply doesn’t correspond to this gleaming ideal. Tolerance can also be a way of avoiding reality. Just continue talking about tolerance and ignore the effects of it, or at least that’s the trend nowadays. Radical tolerance is one of those leftist notions that falls into the “good intentions” category but realistically speaking, is nonsense in practice. Good intentions are not enough. Good intentions do not solve problems. They just make people look good. This excessive discourse of tolerance with absolute disregard for what is happening in real time as a result of unbridled immigration (the majority of which, again, are Islamic) is nothing more than a distraction and furthermore, indulgence in a fantasy. and a dangerous one at that. In the short-term, virtue accrues to those that sermonize on tolerance while accumulating a stack of problems in the long-term for anyone alive to deal with them.

Guilt, doubt, and weakness are the unfortunate cultural undercurrents in contemporary Europe and will be its demise if caution is not heeded. In the face of cultural shifts due to unprecedented levels of Islamic immigration, Europe will have to contend with its wilting, dying identity, bravely ascertain as to what it wants to believe in and stand up for itself in the event that it will ever have to go to battle more frontally with the ideology it so foolishly imported.

Writer of economics, psychology, and lots in between.

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