Europe Signs its own Death Warrant

With the continent wrestling with mass immigration and losing faith in its traditions and beliefs, its civilisation faces collapse

Douglas Murray

April 30 2017, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter. When I say that Europe is in the process of killing itself, I do not mean that the burden of European Commission regulation has become overbearing or that the European Convention on Human Rights has not done enough to satisfy the demands of a particular community.

I mean that the civilisation we know as Europe is in the process of committing suicide and that neither Britain nor any other western European country can avoid that fate, because we all appear to suffer from the same symptoms and maladies.

As a result, by the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive, Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home.

Europe today has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument. Those in power seem persuaded that it would not matter if the people and culture of Europe were lost to the world.

There is no single cause of the present sickness. The culture produced by the tributaries of Judaeo-Christian culture, the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the discoveries of the Enlightenment has not been levelled by nothing. But the final act has come about because of two simultaneous concatenations — sets of linked events — from which it is now all but impossible to recover.

The first is the mass movement of peoples into Europe. In all western European countries this process began after the Second World War due to labour shortages. Soon Europe got hooked on the migration and could not stop the flow even if it had wanted to.

The result was that what had been Europe — the home of the European peoples — gradually became a home for the entire world. The places that had been European gradually became somewhere else.

All the time Europeans found ways to pretend this influx could work. By pretending, for instance, that such immigration was normal. Or that if integration did not happen with the first generation then it might happen with their children, grandchildren or another generation yet to come. Or that it didn’t matter whether people integrated or not.

All the time we waved away the greater likelihood that it just wouldn’t work. This is a conclusion that the migration crisis of recent years has simply accelerated.

Which brings me to the second concatenation. For even the mass movement of millions of people into Europe would not sound such a final note for the continent were it not for the fact that (coincidentally or otherwise) at the same time Europe lost faith in its beliefs, traditions and legitimacy.

More than any other continent or culture in the world today, Europe is deeply weighed down with guilt for its past. Alongside this outgoing version of self-distrust runs a more introverted version of the same guilt. For there is also the problem in Europe of an existential tiredness and a feeling that perhaps for Europe the story has run out and a new story must be allowed to begin.

Mass immigration — the replacement of large parts of the European populations by other people — is one way in which this new story has been imagined: a change, we seemed to think, was as good as a rest. Such existential civilisational tiredness is not a uniquely modern European phenomenon, but the fact that a society should feel like it has run out of steam at precisely the moment when a new society has begun to move in cannot help but lead to vast, epochal changes.

Had it been possible to discuss these matters, some solution might have been possible. Looking back, it is remarkable how restricted we made our discussion, even while we opened our home to the world.

A thousand years ago the peoples of Genoa and Florence were not as intermingled as they now are, but today they are all recognisably Italian, and tribal differences have tended to lessen rather than grow with time.

The current thinking appears to be that at some stage in the years ahead the peoples of Eritrea and Afghanistan too will be intermingled within Europe as the Genoans and Florentines are now melded into Italy. The skin colour of individuals from Eritrea and Afghanistan may be different, their ethnic origins may be further afield, but Europe will still be Europe and its people will continue to mingle in the spirit of Voltaire and St Paul, Dante, Goethe and Bach.

As with so many popular delusions, there is something in this. The nature of Europe has always shifted and — as trading cities such as Venice show — has included a grand and uncommon receptiveness to foreign ideas and influence. From the ancient Greeks and Romans onwards, the peoples of Europe sent out ships to scour the world and report back on what they found. Rarely, if ever, did the rest of the world return their curiosity in kind, but nevertheless the ships went out and returned with tales and discoveries that melded into the air of Europe. The receptivity was prodigious: it was not, however, boundless.

The question of where the boundaries of the culture lay is endlessly argued over by anthropologists and cannot be solved. But there were boundaries. Europe was never, for instance, a continent of Islam. Yet the awareness that our culture is constantly, subtly changing has deep European roots. We know that the Greeks today are not the same people as the ancient Greeks. We know that the English are not the same today as they were a millennium ago, nor the French the French. And yet they are recognisably Greek, English and French and all are European.

In these and other identities we recognise a degree of cultural succession: a tradition that remains with certain qualities (positive as well as negative), customs and behaviours. We recognise the great movements of the Normans, Franks and Gauls brought about great changes. And we know from history that some movements affect a culture relatively little in the long term, whereas others can change it irrevocably.

The problem comes not with an acceptance of change, but with the knowledge that when those changes come too fast or are too different we become something else, including something we may never have wanted to be.

At the same time we are confused over how this is meant to work. While generally agreeing that it is possible for an individual to absorb a particular culture (given the right degree of enthusiasm both from the individual and the culture) whatever their skin colour, we know that we Europeans cannot become whatever we like. We cannot become Indian or Chinese, for instance. And yet we are expected to believe that anyone in the world can move to Europe and become European.

If being “European” is not about race, then it is even more imperative that it is about “values”. This is what makes the question “What are European values?” so important. Yet this is another debate about which we are wholly confused.

Are we, for instance, Christian? In the 2000s this debate had a focal point in the row over the wording of the new EU constitution and the absence of any mention of the continent’s Christian heritage. The debate not only divided Europe geographically and politically, it also pointed to a glaring aspiration.

For religion had not only retreated in western Europe. In its wake there arose a desire to demonstrate that in the 21st century Europe had a self-supporting structure of rights, laws and institutions that could exist even without the source that had arguably given them life.

In the place of religion came the ever-inflating language of “human rights” (itself a concept of Christian origin). We left unresolved the question of whether or not our acquired rights were reliant on beliefs that the continent had ceased to hold, or whether they existed of their own accord. This was, at the very least, an extremely big question to have left unresolved while vast new populations were being expected to “integrate”.

An equally significant question erupted at the time around the position and purpose of the nation state. From the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 up to the late 20th century the nation state in Europe had generally been regarded not only as the best guarantor of constitutional order and liberal rights but the ultimate guarantor of peace.

Yet this certainty also eroded. European figures such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany in 1996 insisted that “The nation state . . . cannot solve the great problems of the 21st century.” Disintegration of the nation states of Europe into one large integrated political union was so important, Kohl insisted, that it was in fact “a question of war and peace in the 21st century”.

Others disagreed, and 20 years later just over half of British people who voted in the EU referendum demonstrated that they were unpersuaded by Kohl’s argument. But, once again, whatever one’s views on the matter, this was a huge question to leave unresolved at a time of vast population change.

While unsure of ourselves at home, we made final efforts at extending our values abroad. Yet whenever our governments and armies got involved in anything in the name of these “human rights” — Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 — we seemed to make things worse and ended up in the wrong. When the Syrian civil war began, people cried for western nations to intervene in the name of the human rights that were undoubtedly being violated. But there was no appetite to protect such rights because whether or not we believed in them at home, we had certainly lost faith in an ability to advance them abroad.

At some stage it began to seem possible that what had been called “the last utopia” — the first universal system that divorced the rights of man from the say of gods or tyrants — might comprise a final failed European aspiration. If that is indeed the case, then it leaves Europeans in the 21st century without any unifying idea capable of ordering the present or approaching the future.

Europe has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument

At any time the loss of all unifying stories about our past or ideas about what to do with our present or future would be a serious conundrum. But during a time of momentous societal change and upheaval the results are proving fatal. The world is coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is. And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot.

Even now Europe’s leaders talk of an invigorated effort to incorporate the millions of new arrivals. These efforts too will fail. If Europe is going to become a home for the world, it must search for a definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world. This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.

So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific, not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations (the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy), today the ethics and beliefs of Europe — indeed the identity and ideology of Europe — have become about “respect”, “tolerance” and (most self-abnegating of all) “diversity”.

Such shallow self-definitions may get us through a few more years, but they have no chance at all of being able to call on the deeper loyalties that societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.

This is just one reason why it is likely that our European culture, which has lasted all these centuries and shared with the world such heights of human achievement, will not survive.

As recent elections in Austria and the rise of Alternative for Germany seem to prove, while the likelihood of cultural erosion remains irresistible, the options for cultural defence continue to be unacceptable. Even after the tumultuous years they have just had, the French electorate go to the polls next weekend to choose between more of a disastrous status quo or a member of the Le Pen family.

And all the time the flow into Europe continues. Over the Easter weekend alone European naval vessels collected more than 8,000 African migrants from the seas around Italy and brought them into Europe. Such a flow — which used to be unusual — is now routine, apparently unstoppable and also endless.

In The World of Yesterday, published in 1942, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig wrote that in the years leading up to the Second World War, “I felt that Europe, in its state of derangement, had passed its own death sentence.” Only his timing was out. It would take several more decades before that death sentence was carried out — by ourselves on ourselves.

© Douglas Murray 2017

Extracted from The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray, which will be published by Bloomsbury on Thursday at £18.

The Modern Worldview – ‘the birth of reason’

In the last post it was suggested that a common, inclusive framework of values that would unite us as a society in a shared vision is to be found, not in a notion of ‘British Values’ but in ‘Modern Values’. I would like to outline what I mean by this.

Let us delve in to history for a moment. What is generally known as the modern era, or modernity started in Europe in the mid 18th century. In what has been labelled the Enlightenment era, Europe begun moving from a society where the organizing principles were largely dictated by a traditional worldview (see worldviews), to that informed by a modern worldview. We can refer to a table that those familiar with this blog will have seen before.

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Expanding on what we mean by the traditional worldview, we can see that it is largely a religious worldview where all aspects of life are largely dictated by theocratic dogma. The holy book (the bible) is seen as the sole authority on the three great realms in life: what is good (morality), what is true (the facts about the universe and its history) and what is beautiful/meaningful (how to find joy and purpose in this life). As we can see from the table this can lead to rigid intolerance and dogmatism. We can also note that life at this level revolves around rules and roles.

It was against this backdrop of theocratic dogmatism that the enlightenment arose, and it was indeed a profoundly anti-religious movement. Voltaires rallying cry was ‘Remember the cruelties’, and those cruelties were the intolerant and often savage imposition of the ‘rules’ by the organized religious authorities (the catholic church).

What triggered this revolt against the theocracy? As noted in the chart above the primary trigger for the movement was what has become known as the ‘the birth of reason’.

So what is reason? Reason is the faculty of mind that fundamentally asks – why? It asks what is that reason for that? It is the mind that asks: How do I know the Bible is true?, What is the evidence? It is the mind that seeks coherence and demands rational explanation. It is simply not acceptable that irrational or unreasonable assertions are left to stand.

For example:

  • Q: How do you know the Bible is true
  • A:  It’s true because it’s the word of God
  • Q: How do you know it’s the word of God?
  • A: Because it says so in the Bible.

This circular argument is perfectly adequate to the traditional (pre-rational) mind and no amount of ‘reasoning’ with them will alter that fact, for the simple reason that they do not recognize ‘reasoning’ as a necessary basis for ascertaining truth. The modern (rational) mind utterly rejects the circular argument as incoherent and invalid.

The birth of universal reason and its growth to have organising influence on society led to the birth of democracy (why is it fair that the few have power over the many) and the birth of liberation movements such as abolition, gender equality, and the declaration of universal human rights. The struggle to truly realise the promise of these movements is still being fought of course, the point here is simply that all these developments were triggered by the emergence of universal reason. The rise of science is of course founded on rational enquiry and the demand for evidence to ascertain truth.

(Note: At a deeper psychological level the faculty we are calling reason is at its most fundamental level: the ability to take multiple perspectives, identify with them and then because of that identification be compelled to integrate them into a coherent whole. You can only truly empathise with the oppressed if you can first take their perspective and then identify with it. It is important to understand that it is this cognitive ability to take multiple perspectives and integrate them that  the level of complexity of mind that is the root of both universal human rights and modern science. In Piagetian terms it is the development of formal-operations (abstract, ‘what if’ cognition) as a level of cognitive complexity that transcends and includes the concrete-operations (concrete-literal cognition) that underpins the traditional worldview.

It is often noted that modernity clearly differentiated church and state. This is true but a more useful analysis is that modernity finally differentiated the three major realms of life: the good, the true and the beautiful. As noted above within a traditional society or worldview these three realms were undifferentiated. Theocratic doctrine gave the final word on all these issues. With the rise of modernity these three realms became distinct:

The Good (morality, or the way we life together) is to be determined by consensus and open debate, based on universal consideration of all people as equals (democracy).

The True (facts!) is to be determined by science, rational enquiry, and observable and shareable evidence.

The Beautiful/Meaningful (how to live a good life) is to be left to the individual to decide without interference from any doctrine, either from church or state. All shall be free to decide for themselves what God to worship and what activities to pursue to find meaning in their lives.

This differentiation was a monumental achievement and is the foundation of what we can consider to be ‘Modern Values’.

We can see from this analysis that the values that underpin our modern world are not a list of rules to be obeyed (this would only demand a traditional mind-set) , but are largely the natural value system that unfolds when one has adopted universal reason as an organising principle in one’s own identity.

This has profound implications for education. Everyone is born at square one, whatever type of society one is in. The goal of child-rearing or education has to be to develop as many adult citizens who share (as a minimum!) the worldview of society as a whole. In the case of a modern society this means that the more people that attain a critical thinking, rational and questioning level of cognitive development the better.

It is a tragedy that schools and colleges do not see their ‘raison d’etre’ as challenging and encouraging critical analysis of all the dogmatic, traditional and limited belief systems that children often inherit from their family conditioning. Under the banner of a non-judgemental multi-culturalism (a pathology of the post-modern worldview – a topic for another time!) young people are left embedded in their traditional intellectual silos and taught simply to ‘tolerate’ each other. The mutual understanding and unity that we desperately need to build a resilient society is not found here, it is only in the exploration of universal reason that a modern, unifying and yes – largely secular vision can be found. After all there is no such thing as Christian science or Muslim Science – there is just science. There is no such thing as Christian gender equality and Muslim gender equality – there is simply gender equality.

This post has emphasised the ‘good news’ of modernity. There is of course a ‘bad news’ as all development brings new opportunities and new dangers. The tendency towards scientific reductionism, consumerism and materialism have led to all sorts of traditional backlashes and complications. Untangling these issues is complex and delicate. I have mentioned them simply to acknowledge that I am not trying to present a one sided rosy picture of the modern world, but am emphasising the underlying developmental achievement that is implicit in all our ‘modern’ debates.

 

Socio-Cultural Evolution 2 – worldviews

The table below was introduced in the first blog in this series socio-cultural evolution 1. It suggests that there are clearly identifiable stages of development of deep cultural value systems.

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courtesy of ICE
Explaining the rich complexity of these conceptions is beyond our scope here. I will make a few points that hopefully start to clarify some of the key ideas:
  1. These worldviews appear in individuals as ‘mind-sets’ that underpin behaviour. When they coalesce in societies as dominant modes of thinking and being they can be identified as forming the basis of that communities organizing principles and norms of law and behaviour (ie: the centre of gravity of the ‘culture’ of that society).
  2. Each worldview provides a framework for meaning, an idea of what ‘the good life’ is and a distinct identity for the individual or community that identifies with that structure.
  3. These worldviews unfold developmentally in both individual lives and the bigger sweep of socio-cultural development. Each structure transcends and includes the previous one. A good way of visualising this for an individual is that our compound individuality consists of a number of ‘sub-selves’ much like a nest of Russian dolls. It is the interaction of this ‘committee’ of selves, each with their own worldview that makes up the richness of our character.russian-dolls
  4. This means we have to be very careful and sensitive when correlating individual stages of life such as infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood with cultural phases of development such as pre-traditional, traditional, modern etc. Although it can be demonstrated that these structures share similar cognitive foundations, they are obviously very different in many ways. (I have lost count of the number of times I have lost people on this when I crassly refer to entire communities as ‘adolescent’!!)
  5. A person or community is never ‘at’ a level. All the levels up to and including the highest stage realised is available as a crucial component in ones compound individuality and the key enduring competencies of any structure can be activated by suitable life conditions. Often the more stressful and threatening the situation, the more the foundational ‘survival’ structures are activated.
  6. It is meaningful however to identify the highest structure that has stably emerged in a society or individual. This will be the structure that is active when we are ‘at our best’ or, conversely, if we fail to act from our most inclusive and wise self we feel we have ‘let ourselves down’.

 

I would like to quote Wilber, to reinforce the inclusiveness of these models:
An Integral Synthesis, to be truly integral, must find a way that all of the major worldviews are basically true (even though partial). It is not that the higher levels are giving more accurate views, and that the lower levels are giving falsity, superstition or primitive nonsense. There must be a sense in which even ‘childish’ magic and Santa Claus myths are true. For those worldviews are simply the way the world looks at that level, or from that wave, and all the waves are crucial ingredients of the Kosmos….
….It will do no good to say “Well we have evolved beyond that stage, and so we now know that Santa Claus is not real,” because if that is true – and all stages are shown to be primitive and false in light of further evolution – then we will have to admit that our own views, right now, are also false. It is not that there is one level of reality, and those other views are all primitive and incorrect versions of that one level. Each of these views is a correct view of a lower yet fundamentally important level of reality, not an incorrect view of the one real level. The notion of development allows us to recognize nested truths, not primitive superstitions.    Wilber, A Theory of Everything

I like this passage as it really emphasises the inclusive aim of the integral project. The next post in this series will try and flesh out some of the contours and characteristics of the major worldviews.

I would also like to highly recommend the system of worldview analysis that is Spiral Dynamics. It is a very elegant system that uses colour codings to identify at least 8 distinct ‘Value Meme’s’. It is one of the most useful models in that the terminology facilitates very precise analysis and diagnosis of the complex multi-dimensional meshing of these systems and how they play out in the real world.

Some links to follow:
SDi home website:         Spiral Dynamics.net
An excellent book review:  Spiral Dynamics book review Esalen
Ken Wilber’s summary of the model:  Ken Wilber on SD

 

 

 

Socio-Cultural Evolution 1- surface/deep culture

I want to launch into the controversial topic of socio-cultural evolution. This is the idea that there can be identified certain cross-cultural stages of development that appear to be universal.

Firstly we need to make an important distinction. We can distinguish between two aspects of any culture:

exterior/surface culture

Surface culture includes all the superficial expressions of a culture. Whether we wear a sari or a suit, wear a bowler hat or a headscarf, eat curry or fish and chips, pray in a church or a mosque, listen to reggae or bangra, drive on the left or the right, celebrate Eid or Christmas. These are the things that make life vibrant, interesting and colourful. They are what most people mean when talking of the joys of multi-culturalism, diversity and tolerance. They are the aspects of culture where there is no better or worse or higher and lower. There is simply personal preference, historical familiarity and sentimental attachment. Although we need to be sensitive to peoples preferences and fear of the unfamiliar there is no question of legitimately ranking these aspects of culture in terms of ‘more evolved’ or ‘less evolved’.

interior/deep culture

Deep culture refers to the hidden value systems and world-views that lie behind the surface expressions. Whether we believe in gender equality or misogyny, whether we believe in individual freedom or subservience to a theocratic dogma. Is truth handed down from the king, an omnipotent deity or do we need to use reason to struggle towards understanding the universe? Is our primary allegiance to elders and the clan, our nation state or all of humanity? How do we understand concepts like honour, freedom, guilt and duty?

These are the aspects of cultures that can legitimately be studied and examined for patterns and stages. We can attempt to outline how these stages could be related in a holonic way, with each stage transcending and including the last. Perhaps to see how modern, progressive and inclusive worldviews are a result of building on successive stages of previous development. This will enable us to honour and respect the contributions of all worldviews whilst negating the negative effects of their partiality.

We may then have a framework for trying to discuss and untangle some of the enormous cultural dynamics that the globalised world is facing today.

An organisation at the forefront of developing these ideas is the Institute for Cultural Evolution.

This excellent paper on their site explores the philosophy underpinning this approach:

Premises and Principles of an Evolutionary Worldview

The next post on this topic will introduce some of the cultural worldviews that have been identified in these types of models. As a taster here is an excellent diagram from the ICE that illustrates the sort of information that can be organized using this approach. I will be using this diagram extensively!

1_X5JZveA4ZcOkFQvCDYbK-A[1]courtesy of Institute for Cultural Evolution