Monday, March 03, 2008
SICK. It's fine to talk about Europe, which we have done plenty of here, but it's quite another to speak to Europeans. When's the last time you saw somebody really get in their faces and tell them off? It's much more emotionally rewarding than you'd expect, even more than it should be probably, since contemporary Europeans fall into that strange category of being so damn smart they don't have a clue what fools they've become. Recently, the Swiss newspaper Junge Freiheit interviewed Victor Davis Hanson, who unburdened himself at some length about the arrogance and stupidity of Europe in its views of the United States and in the conduct of its own affairs. You should absolutely read the whole thing, but I'm going to quote a few pungent excerpts just to whet your appetite. Everything not quoted here is every bit as good.
The interview began with a somewhat condescending inquisition of Hanson's perspective on America's immigration problems with Mexico. Hanson returned serve for a winner, explained the details of the U.S. immigration challenge, and then went on the offensive.
JF: Do you see any appreciable differences between the way the U.S. is dealing with immigration issues, and Europe’s response to similar problems?
VDH: We will stop the influx soon and through our powers of assimilation and popular culture absorb those here; you may well not and thus are already seeing a tiny elite on top mouthing utopian leftwing bromides while a radical rightwing movement on bottom will grow, demanding xenophobic solutions.
I am not confident in an easy solution for Europe, given its 20th-century past — whether confronting the specter of a Muslim Eurabia, or the counter-rightwing backlash that could get very ugly. You in Europe have little facility — socially, culturally, and politically — to absorb immigrants into full-fledged Europeans. We do (as Europe’s historic critiques of America as a mongrel nation attest) — if the numbers of new arrivals are reasonable, of diverse backgrounds, and of legal status.
Officially Europe sounds more utopian, while in reality Europeans are clannish and reluctant to integrate and embrace; America sounds strident and angry, while Americans in their personal lives integrate, assimilate, and marry Mexican nationals who come here illegally — the tragedy being that if we just cut the numbers of new arrivals of illegals, the existing cohort would soon disappear through assimilation.
Right on, Victor. But at this point, he's just getting warmed up. It turns out there's a lot to tell the Europeans about us and themselves they don't really want to hear.
JF: What is it that makes the U.S. and Europe so different from each other? From the outside, the two are often perceived as a monolithic unit: the West. Does this unity really exist, or are we talking about two separate worlds? Do you think the alliance between the U.S. and Europe is made to last, or is it no more than an illusion?
VDH: We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy — whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.
But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth — and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.
Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time you’ve become wealthy — given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism — but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.
The interviewer goes on to explore Hanson's perceptions of European bias against America and then:
JF: Is there a corresponding bias against Europeans in American society? How come nobody has ever thought to diagnose such a sentiment? Is it truly non-existent, or is it just that Americans are too wise, and Europeans too cowardly to mention it?
VDH: There has always been skepticism of Europe as a class-bound, hopelessly aristocratic static society, warped by Old World factionalism, and prone to dangerously wide springs between totalitarian fascism and totalitarian Marxism. Few note such suspicions of ours, since we are self-obsessed within our borders, and don’t translate these musings into some driving ideology. Nor do we feel that Europe per se affects our lives to any great degree, despite our ubiquitous Western heritage that we owe to Europe and the billions of U.S. dollars that are held by European governments.
The irony is that while Europeans periodically chest-pound and loudly vie with each other in hating the United States for various alleged sins (fill in the blanks from global warming to Iraq), slowly, insidiously we in the U.S. are drifting away from Europe, whether defined by commitments to its security (I doubt we would intervene again in the Balkans) to sort of a popular weariness. One article in Le Monde or a quip by a Chirac or Schroeder might pass over the heads of those in Iowa or Nebraska, but not a few hundred of these per day. So the Europeans have done the almost impossible: alienated a Western powerful ally, that kept it safe and free for the majority of the 20th century.
From there the conversation turns to questions of international morality, the viability of the European Union, and the challenge facing Europe if it wants to be a true power in the 21st century. Hanson has the nerve to mention religious faith, a couple of times, which leads to this:
JF: How much political significance do you ascribe to religious faith? Do you consider the U.S. to be a religious nation? Would you consider a strong religious faith a geopolitical advantage in the sense that it is a source of strength in the struggle for hegemony? If so, what does this mean for Europe, which — speaking honestly — is a completely secularized region in the grip of rationalism?
VDH: Religious belief means transcendence, or the notion you are living for something greater than yourself. Atheism means this is it — so why have children, invest in your country, or sacrifice your health for abstractions like your country? We worry about Europe because it seems to be creating a new culture in the West: marry at 35, have 0-1 children, be taken care of from cradle to grave.
Everyone needs a god; Europeans have turned their backs on the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and adopted in its place a Rousseau or Foucault as totems. Atheism is bad enough when it worships the Calf of Pure Reason, but when logic and rationalism are themselves replaced by postmodern relativism, then the loss of god, and the trade off become an even worse deal.
For those of you who need a shot of inspiration, here's an exercise to try. Read the whole interview out loud. For the questions put on your best dry, slightly bored Swiss accent. For the answers, remember to savor the second-person pronouns. Really taste that "you."
If you're still having trouble feeling the encounter, review this clip of an interview between BBC attack journalist Jeremy Paxman and Ann Coulter. It's the Paxman part that best captures the prevailing ambiance of Euro-U.S. relations. Coulter, frankly, isn't really into her part, although bored, terse, and contemptuous is a mien more of us really should adopt in future. Hanson, bless his heart, is still trying to communicate with these enervated dimwits.
NOW read the Hanson interview to yourself.
Anybody want to call up some Europeans on the phone? You know, just to rattle their filthy gilded cage?