Can Europe Save Itself? What I Saw in Paris

Bookworm recently asked, “is Europe trying to save itself?” To that question, I can only offer anecdotal evidence from family and business visits made to France and Belgium this summer, shortly after the Greece-precipitated financial crisis.

Europe (witness the EU) is an uber-bureacracy. For centuries, Europe’s forms of governance have devolved into top-down, centralized governments that control virtually every aspect of individual life while disenfranchising the connections between citizenry and the ruling classes.  These trends metastasized under the EU and, following adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon in May, a treaty that cemented the supra-national power of the unelected EU authority. “Europe” effectively ceased being democratic. In tandem with this trend, European citizens have been conditioned to think less as “citizens” and more as “subjects” of their governments. Today, the only real power of dissent left to them has been to riot destructively in the streets or to paralyze their countries in strikes (France maintains a separate police force 100% dedicated to dealing with social disturbances). Setting parked cars on fire (car-b-cues) is a charming French tradition of civic protest that is now spreading to other European countries.

In this Bismarkian state model, the trade-off for political disenfranchisement has been a guarantee that the social welfare state would take care of all its citizens’ needs: retirement pensions, joblessness benefits at a high fraction of one’s previous salary, “free” education, public safety and health care. In France, this compact is proudly referred to in Orwellian terminology as “Solidarity”.  The EU compact also offered an end to Europe’s perpetual war and tribalism. As one of my elderly relatives put it to me, “my grandparents lived through three wars, my parents live through two and I lived through one. With the EU, I could hope that my children would never know war”. It’s an appealing vision.

Thus, for the greater perceived good, the vaste majority of citizens in France and other EU countries passively accepted what was handed to them, be it political correctness, Islamic migration, or economic and tax policy: why waste time worrying about what one cannot change? Such issues were best left for the ruling elites to address. Unfortunately, such also generated a toxic blend of cynicism, pacifism and lassitude laced with a nihilistic hedonism. Europeans stopped caring, partied on and stopped having babies. When government strips life of meaning, what’s the point of meaningful living, right? The Euros lost pride in self and pride in their own nations and cultures. They also lost their sense of civic responsibility. Whenever disaster struck in Europe (floods, heat waves, violence), I could not help but notice how passively Europeans deferred to authorities for help, rather than helping themselves. Rampant theft and vandalism is accepted as part of normal life: car windows are routinely smashed. In the nicest neighborhoods of Paris, the bottom floor windows of homes are paned in bullet-proof glass to discourage home invasions, which are accepted as quite normal occurrences…even in daytime. The cops seldom respond. In Europe, the victim is often treated as the perp while the criminal is perceived as the victim. One seldom if ever sees ordinary citizens sandbagging during floods the way we do in the U.S., for example – everyone looks out for themselves and leaves the heavy lifting to the “authorities”. Pacifism and passivity go hand-in-hand.

When visiting my relatives in France in the past, I could be assured that most (not all) had only vague ideas about what was happening in their country, their economy and the world. Most accepted the dispositions of the (mostly government controlled) media at face value. Moreover, why worry about the present and future (e.g., why save for retirement) when the government’s “Solidarity” will take care of it for you? And, while my focus in this discourse is on France, be assured that these observations apply also to Europe in toto.

All this has changed.

The Greek crisis, which closely followed the international banking crisis, caused a severe crisis of confidence and with it, an awakening. As a Dutch business associate remarked to me, “how can it be that we must work hard to pay taxes in the North until the age of 68 so that people in Greece can work hardly at all, pay no taxes and retire at the age of 60?”. Europe, like the U.S., is broken and broke.

The Greek crisis forced average Europeans to realize that the entire economic and political structures upon which their “solidarity” depended was about to collapse as the economic and political contradictions of the EU socialist state came to a head. An elderly gentleman I know – a world renown attorney, a member of the French Resistance, a former advisor to French prime ministers as well as to a U.S. president and an ardent supporter of the EU – looked at me and said, “it’s all finished, now”. I asked him “what”, exactly, was finished. He replied, “The EU, our peace and our prosperity”. The people, for the first time, were realizing that there was no money to pay for it all. For the first time ever, I saw fear and doubt in my relatives’ eyes. For the first time, I saw graffiti (most European towns are plastered with graffiti) and posted flyers denouncing the EU along with EU policies toward immigration. For the first time, I saw a steely flintiness in peoples’ eyes (not just in France) when the subject of Islamic immigration into Europe was raised. I saw also a new appreciation by Europeans of their heritage and values. Nationalism is on the rise. I saw more pride in France and its history, especially among the young. My daughter, who had been studying in France on an exchange program, remarked that many of the college students with whom she studied were returning to the Church and expressed a new-found resolve and pride in their country and heritage.

Before one can solve a problem, one must first recognize and define the problem. Europeans are still far from ready to take charge of their destiny. I just don’t know if average EU citizens have the wherewithal to resist and upend the uber-State and its entrenched ruling classes. A Tea Party movement would be inconceivable to Europeans, for example.  However, I do believe that average Europeans are waking up to the crisis and beginning to define the problems…all problems, including the one of Islamicization. This trend will continue, especially as new economic and political crises inevitably appear. In Europe, as in the U.S., the entire “solidarity” compact between State and Subject is about to go humpty-dumpty as reality sunders its foundations.  I suspect that the consequences will be very, very ugly. I saw evidence of this on my visit to Flanders, but that will have to await another post.

I do know that what eventually happens in Europe will have profound consequences for our country as well. This is not a crisis of European civilization but of Western civilization. We all face the same abyss.

The streets of Paris

Edith Piaf sang often about Paris.  I don’t think she envisioned this.

AP writer seeks inspiration in trashy romances

This is supposed to be a “news” story about the Obama family trip to Paris.  It strikes me as coming much closer to a bad bodice ripper, with scary Messianic overtones:

People gawked and cameras clicked as the Obamas cut a wide figure through the French capital even while confined to a presidential motorcade. It was more personal for the few kept not so distant — the restaurant owner who “saw God,” the chauffeur reveling in a “magnificent mission.”

President Barack Obama, wife Michelle and their two daughters touched lives in simple ways during a private stay in the French capital that closed out a six-day presidential tour rich in history, symbolism and giant messages to the world.

[snip]

Michelle Obama, whose wardrobe choices are analyzed, gets an A-plus [from the French] for sartorial glamor, natural poise and sheer intelligence.

But the common touch the first American couple represents, so antithetical to the traditional pomp and circumstance of French heads of state, sets them apart.

[snip]

Boudon [a restaurant owner] was over the moon.

[snip]

“I saw God before me,” he said, “because I saw this smile that a million people have seen around the world. I saw her (Michelle) radiant. … It’s idiotic, but it’s like that.”

[snip]

Even the conservative Sarkozy appreciates Obama’s personal style and, multiplying direct contact with citizens, is desanctifying the office.

Barf.

By the way, have any of you noticed that while George Bush was lambasted for the fact that he’d never seen the world, Obama gets a free pass for the fact that (as far as I know) his international travels consisted for two years in an Indonesian madrassa when he was a kid, plus short visit to an obscure African village?  Apparently that’s enough to make him a sophisticate, and have people drooling over his big-boned woman.

Jerusalem — and Paris

The French Foreign Ministry has taken umbrage at the notion that Israel claims sole proprietorship over its capital city, Jerusalem.  Never mind that those who wish to share Jerusalem with the Israelis (a) deny that Israel even exists and (b) would like to see all of Israel’s Jewish citizens dead.

You know, if we’re going to go around sharing capitals, I think Paris is far too insular, insofar as it considers itself merely the capital of France.  As someone who, despite Sarkozy, has trouble warming up to France, I think I’m fairly similarly situated to the Muslims who have, shall we say, trouble warming up to Israel.  I think, therefore, that Paris should be my capital too.  And since it will be my capital, I should have all of the rights of the French citizens who currently lay claim to that City.

I can see it now.  Because there are more of us Americans who dislike France, than there are Frenchmen in total, when elections come around regarding Paris, we win.  I can just see Paris in a few years under this regime:  Those rude, condescending, supercilious French people, and those hostile, antisemitic, misogynistic North African Muslims will have been cordoned off in a small French section (possibly one of the infamous banlieus).  The rest of Paris will be ours.  We’ll have a McDonald’s on every level of the Eiffel Tower; Hillary’s hippie museum can take up a wing (or maybe two) in the Louvre; there’ll be power boat races on the Seine; the dollar will be the accepted currency; and police officers will be helpful and polite.

Oh, and if the French are right about Jerusalem, I can see that too:  Lots of filth and dead Jews.  End of story.

It is already happening there

The other day, I asked “can it happen here?”  The Radio Patriot reminded me that it is already happening there, in France.  Mark Steyn talked about the demographic destruction of Europe in his book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It.  But he didn’t include maps.  The most striking thing in the link to the post about the radical changes in France is the growth in the number of mosques.

In our children’s lifetime, the Catholic nation of France, the nation that was at the center of unimaginable bloodshed to maintain its Catholic identity (think of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, for example), will become a Muslim nation through a fairly bloodless, demographic coup.  So fall great nations.  I’ve never been a huge francophile, but I find this sad in a way I did not find the fall of the Soviet Union, an empire collapse I thought was (to borrow from Martha Stewart) a “good thing.”

What happens when the state is transcendent

People have always recognized Napoleon’s over-weening ego.  Heck, we have a whole phrase for it, especially when applied to men of shorter stature:  “Napoleon complex.”  Still, Napoleon is generally admired for breaking down the last medieval walls on the European continent, both figuratively and literally.  Also, people with a bone to pick against British Imperialism like the way in which he kept the British on their toes for decades.  And considering that he lost to the imperialist power, he has the lovely smell about him of a victim of, yes, imperialism.  In France, he’s lauded for breaking down social barriers and bringing about universal education.  All of which leads to the “but….” sentence, explaining why we shouldn’t admire him too much.

It turns out that there is quite a big “but” to append to Napoleon’s accomplishments — and it may explain, beyond the shared idea of world domination, just why Hitler admired Napoleon so much.  More than 120 years before Hitler, Napoleon was big on mass torture and genocide, including gassing 100,000 people to death using sulfur smoke in ship holds.  As with the Nazis, Napoleon believed in collective punishment, public torture and execution, and the destruction of those races he deemed inferior (Caribbean blacks, and Turks).

It all makes for harrowing reading, and it reminds us, yet again, that a State has no conscience so that, once its leaders set a goal, there is nothing to stop their most extreme efforts to carry it out.  Conscience resides in individuals, and when they are subordinated to the state, anything goes, no matter how foul.

Hat tip:  Danny Lemieux

American voters have their eyes wide shut *UPDATED*

Terry Sater writes about the fact that, coddled by loving euphemisms, Americans are marching headlong into the same dreadful socialist experiment that failed all over Europe — a failure that took place within the lifetime of every single American voter.  This is not a case of a few centuries or even decades having dimmed the lessons.  We saw socialism die, and we’ve seen the havoc it still creates in Europe.  Nevertheless, lulled by PR-approved phrases such as “Fairness Doctrine” and “Universal Healthcare,” we’re on the verge of voting in a completely Leftist government, beginning with the White House and ending with Congress.  I urge you to read his editorial and to email it to your friends.

UPDATE:  In the above post, I included a throwaway line about the havoc of Europe.  DQ appropriately challenged that conclusory statement, pointing out that many Americans think that Europe runs perfectly.  I happen to believe the contrary is true, based on reading European newspapers, having been to Europe myself recently, and speaking to Europeans here in America.  However, a combination of laziness and business meant I never took DQ up on his request that I enlarge on that conclusion.  Fortunately, Danny Lemieux did a lot of that work for me in a comment to this post, which I’m reprinting here:

Don, Americans go to Europe as tourists. They enjoy the tourist areas where people, on a day to day basis, look happy and prosperous. You can see happy people just about anywhere in the world. Americans eat great food (because it is different) that many ordinary Europeans will never enjoy, use efficient rail systems that drain public finances, and never have to worry about negotiating their ways through the regulatory mazes that define day-to-day life in those societies.

I happen to think Paris is one of the most beautiful and happy places in the world. I love visiting there.

What American tourists will never see is that I have solid upper-middle-class relatives in Paris, living in affluent neighborhoods, who must park their cars on their tiny lawns in locked compounds for fear of getting their cars torched or stolen, have bullet proof glass on their first-floor windows to prevent (prevalent) home invasion, whose daughters are terrified of being gang raped by Muslims “youths” (“un tournant”) and who, either foolishly or because their tax system leaves them relatively little disposable income, have failed to save for their retirement because their government promised to take care of them in their old age…when it is becoming quite apparent that their government can’t… and won’t. One of the reasons (foolish as it may be) that European governments are frantically allowing swarms of Muslim immigrants to invade their countries is because they need laborers to keep the economy going as European baby boomers retire, having left behind far-to-few children to take their place.

For the most part, Europe is no longer democratic. Ordinary people long ago lost their ability to make themselves heard, other than by rioting. Their governments are ruled by distant, unelected aristocratic elites, most of whom reside in Brussels. Freedom of speech? Forget it. Right to self-defense? Forget it. The right to own property? For far too many Europeans, forget it? As my astute daughter observed, they are simply regressing to their historical comfort zone, one defined by landlord and serf relationships.

Europe is a cesspool of age-old mistakes that get repeated over and over and over again. Americans just don’t know how good we have it here because we so-called “sophisticated” Americans have never had a proper frame of reference.

So, I will always love to go to Europe as an American visitor, but I go with no illusions about what it is and where it is going.