4/15/2018 0 Comments
Back when I was pulling pints as a 19-year-old regretting my decision to leave university, Douglas Murray, who was about the same age, was doing something productive with his life. He was polishing off his book about the literary figure Lord Alfred Douglas, a volume published while Murray had yet to sit his second-year finals at Oxford. After graduating Douglas went on to write and debate the major issues of our time not only with flair, but also with erudition and wit. This makes Murray, at least in my humble view, the intellectual heir of the late great Christopher Hitchens.
When I was behind the bar of a drab and dreary dungeon in East London, I heard many costumers complain about illegal immigrants and immigration in general. Sometimes these comments were less than PC and a tad xenophobic. But on plenty of occasions legitimate points were uttered, even after the harvesting of a pint or few, and these comments were not always made by white people. My job as a smooth-talking bar steward was to neither agree nor disagree - never peeve punters or they’ll get pissed and not the type of pissed that pays the pub’s bills!
But what I couldn’t quite comprehend was how Britain’s politicians brushed off concerns about immigration. Those who complained were either ignored or dismissed as bigoted or racist. What a dereliction of service on the part of Britain’s political elite. If immigration and multi-culturalism was policy, it should have been explained properly to the electorate and then defended in public debate.
What Douglas Murray highlights in The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, is the consequences of shutting down the debate. Murray is not really describing death at all, but mass European suicide by seppuku. Although unable to cope with successive waves of immigration, Europe’s political elites continued to facilitate mass immigration in the hope of creating multi-cultural and diverse societies. And this was despite European leaders such as Britain’s David Cameron, France’s Nicholas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel all having admitted that their respective versions of multi-culturalism had failed. The words on the tongues of many was no doubt a three-worded sentence ending with the word “Sherlock”. Murray documents the reasons associated with integration that have infuriated many Europeans over the years, namely, terrorism, extremism and challenges to traditional European enlightenment values, especially, in Murray’s view, by immigrants of the Islamic faith.
Murray also demolishes some of the arguments for mass immigration. He explains that immigration does not necessarily solve the problem of an aging society and might not be the best way of doing so anyway. Murray destroys the view that in the long-run immigrants financially enrich society, highlighting that this is only true of some newcomers but not others, especially when one factors in costs associated with shelter, health and education of accompanying dependents. Looking to the examples of Japan and China, Murray adds that immigration is not an inevitable consequence of globalisation either.
One of the many reasons which Murray points as a culprit for Europe’s coming demise is its loss of confidence and pride. Somehow political elites developed a self-deprecating tumour in the centre of the European mind. A feeling spread that life in European liberal democratic societies lost its meaning and is devoid of purpose. This led the way for European elites to berate themselves and spit upon their own values and culture while being hostages to their own history which is reflected upon with guilt. European ideas suffered from the German philosophical tradition that gained traction across the continent with its drive to absolutism and its propensity to crash, leading to the great catastrophes of the twentieth century – the rise of Fascism, the horrors of the Nazis and the rise and fall of communism. But this feeling of emptiness, Murray adds, is also a result of the decline of the Church. Life is apparently empty without the centrality of Christianity (religion rather than faith or belief), a void that cannot be filled by the latest Apple headset, retail therapy or a holiday, even if it’s all inclusive.
But couldn't there be other explanations for the self-deprecation of European values and culture? I can’t fully subscribe to the decline of Christianity bit of Murray’s argument. It seems to me that there are other plausible reasons than the reduction in the number of church goers. Perhaps the end of imperialism was a factor - despite the sins of European colonialism, the sense of imperial adventure gave meaning to some. Perhaps more potent than the decline of religion was the deconstruction of the nation-state. In many respects nationalism is akin to secular religion with all the motifs and symbols of the nation. You may die but the nation lives on, and many died for King and country. And what about Europe’s pacification? Previous generations fought great wars of survival. Despite recent terror attacks, it is imaginable that many Europeans still do not understand the nature of the threat. And with nothing to die for, it is conceivable than many Europeans have forgotten why they live.
Douglas Murray makes important points with intellectual clarity. There will no doubt be some who will decry Murray a racist, Islamophobe or even both. But surely it is legitimate to express concern about unfettered and under regulated immigration? If a country is to open up borders to political or economic migrants, surely a working model for integration and a system to regulate who is let in is needed? Surely European values are worth saving? Surely, politicians owe it to both migrants and the host society to make things work as smoothly as possible. And if it’s not working, change it before it is decided to let in more people in? Surely?
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