Europe is in a real bad way. Secularism, immorality, porous borders, an inability to understand Islam for what it is, the rapid decline of Christianity, a loss of purpose and identity – these and other factors have resulted in a weakened and dying Europe. Things are looking very worrying indeed for this once great continent.
Over the past decade a number of important volumes have appeared warning us of the slow death of Europe. Here are just a few representative titles:
Berlinski, Claire, Menace in Europe. Crown Forum, 2006.
Caldwell, Christopher, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West. Doubleday, 2009.
Dalrymple, Theodore, The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism. Encounter Books, 2010.
Laqueur, Walter, The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009.
Murray, Douglas, The Strange Death of Europe. Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017.
Thornton, Bruce, Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow Motion Suicide. Encounter Books, 2007.
Thankfully there are some leading European conservatives, thinkers, philosophers and others who are well aware of the current malaise that is Europe, and are seeking to do something about it. Ten such leaders have done just that, and ten days ago they released the Paris Statement. The signatories are:
Phillipe Bénéton (France)
Rémi Brague (France)
Chantal Delsol (France)
Roman Joch (Czech Republic)
András Lánczi (Hungary)
Ryszard Legutko (Poland)
Roger Scruton (United Kingdom)
Robert Spaemann (Germany)
Bart Jan Spruyt (Netherlands)
Matthias Storme (Belgium)
The 36-point statement is a timely and important reminder of how grave the situation is in Europe, and what must be done to turn things around. Points 2 and 3 lay out the case for what ails Europe:
2. Europe, in all its richness and greatness, is threatened by a false understanding of itself. This false Europe imagines itself as a fulfilment of our civilization, but in truth it will confiscate our home. It appeals to exaggerations and distortions of Europe’s authentic virtues while remaining blind to its own vices. Complacently trading in one-sided caricatures of our history, this false Europe is invincibly prejudiced against the past. Its proponents are orphans by choice, and they presume that to be an orphan—to be homeless—is a noble achievement. In this way, the false Europe praises itself as the forerunner of a universal community that is neither universal nor a community.
A false Europe threatens us.
3. The patrons of the false Europe are bewitched by superstitions of inevitable progress. They believe that History is on their side, and this faith makes them haughty and disdainful, unable to acknowledge the defects in the post-national, post-cultural world they are constructing. Moreover, they are ignorant of the true sources of the humane decencies they themselves hold dear—as do we. They ignore, even repudiate the Christian roots of Europe. At the same time they take great care not to offend Muslims, who they imagine will cheerfully adopt their secular, multicultural outlook. Sunk in prejudice, superstition and ignorance, and blinded by vain, self-congratulating visions of a utopian future, the false Europe reflexively stifles dissent. This is done, of course, in the name of freedom and tolerance.
The false Europe is utopian and tyrannical.
The Christian foundation of Europe is covered in points 9 and 10:
9. The true Europe has been marked by Christianity. The universal spiritual empire of the Church brought cultural unity to Europe, but did so without political empire. This has allowed for particular civic loyalties to flourish within a shared European culture. The autonomy of what we call civil society became a characteristic feature of European life. Moreover, the Christian Gospel does not deliver a comprehensive divine law, and thus the diversity of the secular laws of the nations may be affirmed and honoured without threat to our European unity. It is no accident that the decline of Christian faith in Europe has been accompanied by renewed efforts to establish political unity—an empire of money and regulations, covered with sentiments of pseudo-religious universalism, that is being constructed by the European Union.
Christianity encouraged cultural unity.
10. The true Europe affirms the equal dignity of every individual, regardless of sex, rank or race. This also arises from our Christian roots. Our gentle virtues are of an unmistakably Christian heritage: fairness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, peace-making, charity. Christianity revolutionized the relationship between men and women, valuing love and mutual fidelity in an unprecedented way. The bond of marriage allows both men and women to flourish in communion. Most of the sacrifices we make are for the sake of our spouses and children. This spirit of self-giving is yet another Christian contribution to the Europe we love.
Christian roots nourish Europe.
However, rugged individualism, libertarianism and hedonism are tearing Europe apart:
14. The false Europe boasts of an unprecedented commitment to human liberty. This liberty, however, is very one-sided. It sells itself as liberation from all restraints: sexual freedom, freedom of self-expression, freedom to “be oneself.” The Generation of ’68 regards these freedoms as precious victories over a once almighty and oppressive cultural regime. They see themselves as great liberators, and their transgressions are acclaimed as noble moral achievements, for which the whole world should be grateful.
A false freedom prevails.
15. For Europe’s younger generations, however, reality is far less gilt with gold. Libertine hedonism often leads to boredom and a profound sense of purposelessness. The bond of marriage has weakened. In the roiling sea of sexual liberty, the deep desires of our young people to marry and form families are often frustrated. A liberty that frustrates our heart’s deepest longings becomes a curse. Our societies seem to be falling into individualism, isolation and aimlessness. Instead of freedom, we are condemned to the empty conformity of consumer- and media-driven culture. It is our duty to speak the truth: The Generation of ’68 destroyed but did not build. They created a vacuum now filled by social media, cheap tourism and pornography.
Individualism, isolation, and aimlessness are widespread.
Real leadership is required at this very dark hour:
26. Breaking the spell of the false Europe and its utopian, pseudo-religious crusade for a borderless world means fostering a new kind of statesmanship and a new kind of statesman. A good political leader stewards the commonweal of a particular people. A good statesman views our shared European inheritance and our particular national traditions as magnificent and life-giving, but also fragile gifts. He does not reject that inheritance, nor does he chance losing it all for utopian dreams. Such leaders covet the honors bestowed upon them by their people; they do not lust for the approbation of the ‘international community,’ which is in fact the public relations apparatus of an oligarchy.
We need responsible statesmen.
27. Recognizing the particular character of the European nations, and their Christian mark, we need not be perplexed before the spurious claims of the multiculturalists. Immigration without assimilation is colonization, and this must be rejected. We rightly expect that those who migrate to our lands will incorporate themselves into our nations and adopt our ways. This expectation needs to be supported by sound policy. The language of multiculturalism has been imported from America. But America’s great age of immigration came at the turn of the twentieth century, a period of remarkably rapid economic growth, in a country with virtually no welfare state, and with a very strong sense of national identity to which immigrants were expected to assimilate. After admitting large numbers of immigrants, America closed its doors very nearly shut for two generations. Europe needs to learn from this American experience rather than adopt contemporary American ideologies. That experience tells us that the workplace is a powerful engine of assimilation, that a generous welfare system can impede assimilation and that prudent political leadership sometimes dictates reductions in immigration—even drastic reductions. We must not allow a multicultural ideology to deform our political judgments about how best to serve the common good, which requires national communities with sufficient unity and solidarity to see their good as common.
We should renew national unity and solidarity.
The Statement rightly recognises the vital importance of marriage and family:
33. Marriage is the foundation of civil society and the basis for harmony between men and women. It is the intimate bond organized around sustaining a household and raising children. We affirm that our most fundamental roles in society and as human beings are as fathers and mothers. Marriage and children are integral to any vision of human flourishing. Children require sacrifice from those who bring them into the world. This sacrifice is noble and must be honoured. We endorse prudent social policies to encourage and strengthen marriage, childbearing, and childrearing. A society that fails to welcome children has no future.
Marriage and family are essential.
I urge you to read the entire Statement. It offers a glimmer of hope in a very dark place. It will not be a panacea, and it does not claim to be one. But it offers us a way forward, and a way to turn things around. Europeans especially need to get on board with this important document, although it presents all of us with wise advice and incisive reflections.