Europe is in a bad way. And as studly as he can be, Nicolas Sarkozy isn’t likely to save it from itself. So Bruce Thornton argues as he shines a bright light on suicidal tendencies across the pond. Thornton, a professor of classics and the humanities at the California State University at Fresno argues in his new book Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What was the first sign that Europe was suicidal?
Bruce Thornton: If we take just the period after World War II, I’d say the collaboration and support of Communism and the Soviet Union on the part of many European intellectuals and politicians, coupled with hysterical anti-Americanism, was an important sign that European civilization was intellectually and morally bankrupt. The failure to see the true nature of Communism — that it is an ideology diametrically opposed to all the ideals of liberal democracy Europeans touted and enjoyed — bespeaks a suicidal collapse of certainty in the rightness of Western Civilization’s achievements, particularly respect for the individual, human rights, and political freedom. More recently, the flacid response to jihadist terror and European Muslim aggression against those same ideals also signifies an exhausted civilization unwilling to defend itself, and resentful of those like the United States who will.Lopez:
What will be the last? How slow is this slow-motion suicide?
The establishment of large swaths of European societies handed over to Muslim control and sharia law will be one sign. Increasing estrangment from the United States and its policies, and more active diplomatic efforts against the U.S. and its interests, will be another. Perhaps the most obvious sign will be the appeasing response to a terrorist attack against Europe on the scale of 9/11. If Europe repeats the shameful response of Spain after the Madrid train-bombing — blame America and give the jihadists what they demand — then you’ll know Europe is through.
The suicide is “slow motion” because the forces eroding European civilization are themselves slow-working, compared to the cataclysmic wars of the 20th century. The demographic crisis — Europe’s failure to reproduce — and the economic problems — sluggish economies burdened with expensive social welfare entitlements — and the immigrant problem — unassimilated, sullen, underemployed but fecund Muslims ripe for jihadist recruitment — will take some time to reach a crisis point. But it is likely to be a question of decades, not centuries.
Lopez: Is it overdramatic to say Europe has “abandoned God and country”?
Thornton: Certainly not, if one is speaking, as I do, of the European political and cultural elite. Refusing to acknowledge, in the European Constitution, the historical fact of Christianity’s role in creating Europe in the first place is pretty dramatic. So are the empty cathedrals across the continent. And the creation of the European Union, which requires the ceding of some national sovereignty, is a dramatic sign of the discrediting of the nation state and patriotism. Time will tell whether these attitudes reach beyond the E.U. elite into the mass of Europeans.
Lopez: What and where is “Eurabia”?
Thornton: Eurabia is a state of mind, as well as a set of policies pursued by some European nations. It represents a devil’s bargain with the Muslim Middle East, in which the abandonment of Israel and the acceptance of Islam’s cultural superiority were traded for immigrant labor, access to oil and markets for weapons, economic development in the Middle East, and protection from terrorism. In Europe, it is manifested by the refusal to demand that Muslims assimilate to Western political values and mores, and abandon those that clash with Western ideals. It is accompanied by a denigration of the West and an adulation of Islamic civilization. Thus Eurabia is another version of that peculiarly Western self-loathing and failure of nerve that make Europeans (and many Americans too) so eager to don the hair-shirt of colonial and imperial guilt and appease a culture that wants to destroy them.
Lopez: Is there a European view of free speech? How poisonous is it?
Thornton: Generally the European view of free speech is much more restricted than what we enjoy in the United States. Like politically correct American professors, many Europeans — certainly not all — are all for the freedom of speech that attacks the U.S. or Chritianity or Israel, but then they put out of bounds criticism of Islam or Muslims. Hypocritical double standards are always poisonous, for they undercut the authority of the principle in question. If we make an exception for one group, then other groups will agitate for the same privilege. But more important, the European sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities bespeaks not principle but fear: Hence it is another sign of suicidal appeasement.