Warning of the coming “Strange Death of Europe”

Summary: Immigration and loss of confidence in its culture and values. Either is survivable for Europe as a society. The combination might not be. Here is the Introduction from The Strange Death of Europe, a controversial book about one of the great stories of our time. This is the second in a series about this book.

The introduction to one of the most important books of the year:
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam

By Douglas Murray (2017).

Strange Death of Europe
Available at Amazon.

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.

Douglas Murray
Douglas Murray at the Bush Theatre. By Matt Writtle.

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.” {Full speech here.} 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. 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”.

The World of Yesterday
Available at Amazon.

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.

Order your copy of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.


Other posts in this series about Murray’s book

  1. Martin van Creveld’s reaction to Europe’s rape epidemic.
  2. Learn about the “Strange Death of Europe.”
  3. Different perspectives on Europe’s elites project to remold its society.

About the author

Douglas Murray is the Associate Director at the Henry Jackson Society (see his articles there). He previously founded the Centre for Social Cohesion, a think tank studying extremism and terrorism in the UK. A bestselling author and award-winning political commentator, Douglas is a regular columnist for both the Spectator and Standpoint and writes frequently for a variety of other publications, including the Sunday Times and Wall Street Journal. See his wikipedia entry.

For More Information

See NPR’s Robert Siegel talks to Douglas Murray about his book.  Also see reviews of six others books about these problems of Europe in “A New European Narrative?” by Anne Applebaum in The New York Review of Books.

The Gatestone Institute, a far-right advocacy group, is one of the few reporting about this problems of immigrants in Europe. As always with such sources, whether Gatestone or Wikipedia, follow the links to the original sources.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about Europe, about immigration, and especially these…

  1. Must our population grow to ensure prosperity? — Spoiler: no!
  2. Europe’s elites use immigration to reshape it.
  3. Stratfor: How immigration will change German politics, which will change Europe.
  4. Torching Utopia: Sweden tries mass immigration.
  5. Sociologist Wolfgang Streeck explains the politics of the migrant crisis reshaping Europe.
  6. Stratfor: Is the West Being Overrun by Migrants? — By the famous sociologist and historian Ian Morris.
We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative
Available at Amazon.

Why our elites opened the borders.

George Borjas is a Cuban-American labor economist specializing in immigration issues and a professor of economics and social policy at Harvard. See his latest book, We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative (2016). From the publisher …

“Borjas pulls back the curtain of political bluster to show that, in the grand scheme, immigration has not affected the average American all that much. But it has created winners and losers. The losers tend to be nonmigrant workers who compete for the same jobs as immigrants. And somebody’s lower wage is somebody else’s higher profit, so those who employ immigrants benefit handsomely. In the end, immigration is mainly just another government redistribution program.

“’I am an immigrant,’ writes Borjas, ‘and yet I do not buy into the notion that immigration is universally beneficial. …But I still feel that it is a good thing to give some of the poor and huddled masses, people who face so many hardships, a chance to experience the incredible opportunities that our exceptional country has to offer.’”


13 thoughts on “Warning of the coming “Strange Death of Europe””

  1. i just returned from a business trip in Catalonia and Southern France. Meeting with our partners from the Czech Republic I learned that the new right wing government there is likely well to the left of Jeff Flake. At the level of senior business people and dealmakers, I had no sense that Europe is falling apart. Quite the contrary, my sense was that my colleagues are quite optimistic. Driving around Catalonia, which was supposedly experiencing a revolution, all I saw was citizens happily experiencing their daily lives. Barcelona felt more like Southern California, with clogged highways being the major problem I experienced.

    On the other hand I did experience some of the immigration issues. Everywhere I went in the tourist parts of town, I ran into street vendors spreading contraband goods on blankets on the sidewalks, hundreds in all. It reminded me of New York in the early 1980s. Many, but not all, appeared to be Africans. When I asked my partners, they said this was common around the continent.

    Crossing the French-Spanish border, speeding past a former border post, I was left with the distinct impression that Europe has no desire to return to closed national borders. It felt more like crossing the Mason-Dixon line fifty years ago. There were cultural differences, but more like the differences between our states than the former national identities, although the different languages do still provide a real barrier of communication.

    From one of my German partners I learned that Cambridge Analytica messed with Brexit much as they appear to have with the US election. There’s more there than we yet know.

    I’m not discounting the author’s perspective, just saying take it with a grain of salt. Europe has come a very long way since the 1960s and not all of the changes are bad. In terms of public facilities, maintenance of roadways, etc., even a comparatively poorer country like Spain runs circles around many US cities.

    1. John,

      “Driving around Catalonia”

      This is a constant in history — bad intel from foreigners driving around. The Pentagon Papers are filled with examples of cheery reports from US officials and visiting experts, as the nation is burning. It’s not a matter of being smart. It’s a flawed methodology.

      Until the last stage or two, a revolution is not visible to foreigners driving around. Often not even during a revolution — like 1932 Germany.

      1. Larry, your focus on drawing incorrect conclusions from limited information is as always correct, but that is often all we have to go on other than sharp analysts at Stratfor, etc. Most of my new information came from conversations with leading M&A dealmakers from all over the world, but particularly from most of the EU countries. Our Russian member left the network because no private deals are being done there so unfortunately I did not receive any input from the Russian side. The people with whom I met were quite well informed and connected, though in most cases not political. They are concerned about the movements on the right, but I got no indication that they feel that an EU breakup is imminent. Quite the contrary, everyone felt quite optimistic.

        I did get some indication that these various movements on the right have overlap and may be orchestrated to some extent by outside forces, though there was no discussion about Russian meddling. Obviously that has an echo with the developments in Germany in the 1930s and cannot be discounted. One difference is that Europe in general is not a heavily armed continent so war would be very difficult to orchestrate without a tremendous logistical effort. Thanks to the US push in NATO, Germany will begin to spend more on armaments so that has to be watched.

        One other observation from a colleague is that the millennials in Europe are very disconnected and not interest in political matters, much as in the US. Not sure what that means, but there attitudes are not yet fully formed and are subject to being molded one way or the other as they get older.

        My driving around observations are more related to the differences between Europe now and in the past. The open borders are a very big deal and critical to the current level of prosperity on the continent. Europe feels much more like the US except for the language differences. The opposition to re-closing the borders within the EU would be tremendous. Additionally the Euro makes commerce within the continent immensely efficient as compared to pre Euro days. There may be some desire for regional independence, but not at the expense of open borders or loss of the common currency. My discussions in Catalonia indicated the real interest level there for independence is likely around 30%. They want their cake and to eat it as well.

  2. Chocolate Veloceraptor

    “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”

    Gotta love the way neocons retell the tales of their blood-soaked disasters. They’re just too gosh darn good for this rotten world…

  3. It’s a complex subject. To the extent the article flirts with nativist sentiment, that sort of thing can lead in some very ugly directions. On the other hand, encouraging migration from outside Europe does indeed strain the ability of societies and economies to absorb the newcomers. Looking at those limits, I’d like to highlight a couple of other dimensions besides the ones mentioned in the article.

    1. Inviting the most needy vs inviting the most able. There is a tension between selecting immigrants based on humanitarian obligation (e.g., we mistakenly encouraged disruption of your former country, let us help you out) – vs filling out the ranks of the educated / talented / hungry-as-in-highly-motivated. Failure to articulate what’s going on there leads to a situation where everyone has cause for complaint, and can accuse pro-migrant policymakers of hypocrisy.

    2. There are lots of people already in the EU who feel they had place a place in line, and are being cut in front of. This is especially significant for Eastern Europe, but also anyone experiencing “downward mobility”.

    3. In case you invite the “most able” – The effect on the source countries. Removing the “top of the class” for several years in a row doesn’t really help the source country rebuild.

    4. The tendency of “centrist” politics to more effectively target their critics on the left, leaving critics on the right as the sole remaining protest option. If you wanted to make immigration less disruptive, you would need to increase your society’s capacity to absorb – which implies dedicating more resources to social services, redistribution, pro- social-mobility policies etc. That, together with refraining from causing chaos in the source countries, would be the sensible and morally responsible compromise solution, IMO.

    1. Pete,

      Wow. That was a great brief analysis! I could have said that — but would have taken me 2000 words, and not done it so well.

      Number 3 is especially important — and ignored. The US gets a significant share of its doctors from lower-income countries. That’s cost-effective for us, since we don’t bear the cost of training them. But not so good for their home countries, or the many Americans who would like to become doctors.

      I don’t understand these “humanitarian obligations”. First, what is the code that requires this? UN Charter? The Bible (Israel then and now was and is quite exclusionary)?

      Second, there are a billion people whose lives would be improved by moving to Britain. A large fraction of which suffer from some form of discrimination or risk (e.g., war, disease) at home. Does this obligation mean Britain or America or the West should let them all in? Does nobody have an obligation to stay and fight to fix their own lands?

    2. Regarding humanitarian obligation- It’s narrower than an obligation to the world’s poor.

      In the case of this EU policy, I believe it is via the UN, the UNHCR, which I can’t say much more about, other than Merkel referred to it. http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/1951-refugee-convention.html

      Besides that, I do think if a state creates refugees via its foreign policy, it ought to have some obligation, in some form. I realize that’s opening up an enormous can of worms in a million ways, is wishful thinking etc.

      1. Pete,

        The Convention does not say that States have to accept refugees. It merely states how they should be treated.

        “I do think if a state creates refugees via its foreign policy, it ought to have some obligation,”

        (a) I doubt that many people in history believed that (most would consider it insane).

        (b) I doubt that a large fraction of the people of today’s world agree with it.

        (c) I doubt many of the migrants flooding into Europe resulted from Europe’s actions. What was Sweden’s role in the Afghanistan Civil war, which began in 1978?

    3. I thought it said you can’t deport a refugee back into a warzone. Preventing them from entering seems to be ok, and would actually be the only option?

      In the case of the EU, this creates further conflicts – what do you do if a mass of people is able to enter Croatia or Italy or Greece or Hungary, and are stuck at the next border on their way to Germany, but can not be sent back… This did provide a sortof broken logic for the quota system. It’s a mess.

      The remaining points – All probably true, I was stating my own personal belief. I do agree completely with point (c), which is yet another difficulty.

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