Europe: Cultural Decay
My last post on Europe expressed dismay at Frances economic situation and pessimism towards prospects for the future. The cultural climate in France is overwhelming hostile towards capitalism:
"In a 22-country survey published in January, France was the only nation disagreeing with the premise that the best system is "the free-market economy." In the poll, conducted by the University of Maryland, only 36 percent of French respondents agreed, compared with 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74 percent in China."
Economic failure is only part of Europe's problems. Perhaps the most serious is the France's cultural decline. This decline has many elements to it, but I consider culture to be the most important factor in France's gradual downfall. The French have always been proud of their culture, evident in their desire to maintain their language in the face of the English onslaught. From art to music to literature, the French have always held their own and have reason to be proud. Yet since World War Two, America has replaced Europe as the world's superpower and now is responsible for security over much of the world. Some observers believe this has created jealously on the part of the French as they now embrace a distinctly anti-American foreign policy. It was French foreign minister Hubert Védrine who coined the term 'hyperpower' to describe America's so called dominance. This dominance is not just economic, it is cultural. Observers use the term 'soft power' to describe the ability to dominate other states through cultural of ideological means. It is undoubtable that America has much soft power as Joseph Nye's book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, indicates.
The ambivalent feelings of France towards America stem not just from power but from these different cultural values. Robert Kagan, author of ‘Of Paradise and Power’, argues that the threat perception depends upon capabilities. France and Europe in general is less worried of terrorism and rogue states than America because of their relative weakness. To the strong, the risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action. Yet this analysis does not tell the whole story. The differences over foreign policy result from cultural values in France.
Ever since France removed its colonies, millions of Muslims have moved to France. Yet France has failed to integrate these Muslims (France is much less kind to foreigners than America - witness the income differences between Arab-Americans and French-Arabs) and instead has pushed them into suburbs dominated by government housing projects. To use a Marxist term, this has alienated these Muslims and not given them a stake in French society. More and more Immigrants are entering from North Africa making France's Muslim population already 6 million and climbing quickly. British Historian, Niall Ferguson notes Europe is becoming increasingly "sensecent" civilization. The rest of France is growing old and the smart are immigrating (400,000 French expatriates live in London). This means the majority of French could be Muslim as early as 2020. Already we have seen the symptoms of this emerging culture: Riots. Thousands of vehicles burnt and millions worth of property destoryed. One can ALMOST forgive Ann Coutler for suggesting 'Attack France'
The impact of this emerging culture on women is particularly disastrous:
"A few weeks ago, a young Arab burnt a teenaged girl alive in the suburbs of Paris. He was convicted of murder, but he became a hero and an example for other young Arabs living in the same kind of areas. Two month ago, ten Arab men who raped another teenaged girl in another district were convicted and condemned to spend five years in jail. Yes, just five years."
What about the Jews? Some are talking of a new 'Anti-Semitism' spreading across Europe. While not entirely true, as some places are still friendly to the Jews, for example, Germany (a consistent supporter of Israel). The number of anti-Semitic incidents in France have increased from 320 in 2001 to 593 in 2003. In light of this, one can see why so many Jews are leaving France. Perhaps the worst example was a young man named Ilan Halimi in France who was kidnapped and tortured over the next few weeks. The prosecutor even went so far as saying "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action". This sort of culture cannot be expected to produce a sound foreign policy either. French leaders are unable to see that so much of anti-Israel criticism is actually anti-semitic. Sure, you can be an anti-Zionist and not hate Jews, but its obvious that a double standard exists, one for the Arab states and one for Israel.
One observer, author Bat Ye'or, has described much of this transformation in her book, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. She sees a transformation of
It is hard to identify the exact cause of this cultural decay. AEI Scholar George Weigel calls it a 'crisis of civilizational morale'. He, like most analysts, are conservative and tend to place their emphasis upon civilizational roots (hence Christainity) as he claims Europe suffers from historical amnesia. Yet the remnants of rationality and hence the solution to Europes problems do not lie in a return to Christainity or any other traditional values. The sources of European decrepitude are found in Europe's intellectual climate that is heavily dominated by such ideologies as post-modernism.
More to come...
The Death of France