Even more than most other first-world nations modern Europe suffers from a potentially fatal cognitive dissonance. All the time we hold two wholly contradictory ideas in our heads.
The first idea is that our countries are multicultural paradises where anyone from anywhere in the world can come and deserves to settle if they so wish. We believe that those who come here will assimilate, but at the same time we do not especially mind if they do not, and offer no incentives for them to do so. Indeed if they do not wish to assimilate we respect them for holding on to their own culture. At the same time it is natural that we should decry as “racist” anyone who wants to hold on to what is left of our own culture. This part of our brain talks about “integration” and “radicalisation” and “violent extremism” and all the other weakly euphemisms of our time.
Yet all the time our brains hold another idea—ordinarily pushed to the very recess of our minds but always capable of breaking out. This holds the possibility that this is all nonsense. That integration if it does ever happen takes centuries to occur and has certainly not happened in present-day Europe. This part of the brain knows from observation and from an awareness of history that a strong religious culture when placed into a weak and relativistic culture will make itself felt long before it will significantly adapt. If there is a reason why we repress this instinct and favour the wilfully optimistic version of events it is because the consequences of accepting this truth are so utterly calamitous and damn the majority beliefs of a whole generation.
Douglas Murray reviews Michel Houellebecq’s Submission
in November’s Quadrant
The migration crisis, which has been going on for years but has gained particular attention this year, is a fine example of these two parts of our brain struggling with each other. This year Germany is talking of taking in an additional 800,000 citizens—or 1 per cent of its current population. It plans to bring in a similar number of people mainly from Muslim-majority countries in each of the coming years. In other European countries the same numbers emerge. Perhaps to see this best you have to see it on a local level. In Malmo, Sweden, which once had a thriving Jewish community, just under 1000 Jews remain. Today, every day, around 1000 Muslim refugees arrive in Malmo. So every single day’s immigration of new immigrants dwarfs the remnants of a long-established community.
There are so many things to be said about the rotten thought-culture that has led to this pass. But the most instructive way of considering the confusion of Europe is to consider something that Chancellor Merkel herself said only five years ago. Back in 2010 she gave what at the time appeared to be a crucial speech. “Multiculturalism has failed,” she declared. So striking and significant was that 2010 statement that the then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister David Cameron gave their own “multiculturalism has failed” speeches in the months that followed.
I remember the excited copy that ran. I wrote some of it myself. But when you look back on those speeches of only five years ago they make less than no sense. If by “multiculturalism” Merkel, Sarkozy and Cameron meant—as they seemed to mean—the living of parallel lives in the same society, then what have they done in the five years since to change this around? If you go to parts of the north of England, to Marseilles or the suburbs outside Paris and Berlin, the lack of integration is as bad as it was then: the men who wander around the north of England dressed for the hillsides of Pakistan; the women who wander around London dressed for seventh-century Arabia. Have these people changed their views but not their mode of dress? It seems radically unlikely.
And so we come to the true perplexity: if multiculturalism had failed when immigration was relatively low, why on earth would it work now that immigration is at a historic high? Why would multiculturalism in Britain have failed in 2011 but not in 2015 when the UK government has seen a ten-year high in immigration even before you take the latest migrant-wave into account?
But then almost nothing about the grand schemes of Europe’s political elites has made sense for some time. All are good at talking about how they will tackle problems “over there”. Few if any have any idea what to do about our problems “over here”.
After the latest terrorist atrocities in Paris, President Hollande said that France would be “merciless” in its pursuit of the perpetrators and in taking the war to the barbarians of ISIS. But surely he must know by now that this is the easy part. Bombing ISIS from the skies of Iraq or Syria is a pretty much cost-free exercise. The likelihood of losing even one French pilot is minimal and what fall-out there will be in Syria or Iraq can be ignored from France. The problem is the people at home. What is anybody going to do about them? What is Hollande going to do in an EU which has the free movement of peoples as one of its core objectives?
This is when a whole set of other aspects of our cognitive dissonance chime in. We will pretend, for instance, that we don’t have the domestic problem we have because we will reassure ourselves and each other that the “vast majority” of Muslims in our countries are opposed to terrorism like that which occurred in Paris. Earlier this year, after the first atrocities of the year in the French capital, the BBC commissioned a poll of British Muslim opinion. It found that 27 per cent of British Muslims were “sympathetic” to the Paris terrorists with another 10 per cent either saying that they didn’t know whether they were sympathetic to the attackers or refusing to answer the question. Our national broadcaster gave this story a necessarily positive spin by headlining it, “Most British Muslims oppose Mohammed cartoon reprisals”. There is your “most” and that is your “majority”. Only a mere quarter of the Muslims in your country are so fantastically unaware or unbothered about your laws and customs that they sympathise with violent reprisals for breaching Islamic “blasphemy” codes.
Two parts of the same brain. The first tells us that to be properly “European” we must allow anyone who wants to come here to come here; we must be against borders and for multiculturalism. The other part of the brain watches and waits. It can see that the new arrivals are not only coming in unprecedented numbers but are bringing unprecedented problems. The first part of the brain pretends they will assimilate and that given time Islam will go through its own “reformation”. The second part of the brain starts to realise that we may not have that time.
What will be the long-term effects of this? I would suggest that, as noted scholar of Islam Daniel Pipes has pointed out, the European publics will migrate further and further to the political right. And in reaction the European political class will migrate further and further to the left. You can already see it. In Sweden one liberal newspaper editor responded to the latest polling triumphs by the until-recently pariah Sweden Democrats by saying that he would be happy to flood Sweden with ISIS fighters in order to punish the Swedish electorate for voting for the Sweden Democrats. That isn’t such an unusual instinct. It is the same instinct that made one female refugee aid-worker and her colleagues hush up her recent rape at the hands of some recent arrivals. They feared that mentioning the rape might exacerbate anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe. This instinct fears that the European publics are far-Right extremists just waiting to break out, and the sad irony is that only by treating them in such a way for such a long time could anyone ever make them so.
The part of our brain that has fallen for the myths all these years has pushed restrictions on speech and behaviour and it is pushing them now. Sitting beside Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook at a UN lunch the other week in New York, Chancellor Merkel was heard by a microphone that was still live asking Zuckerberg what he was doing to stop Europeans writing anti-immigration things on Facebook. “We’re working on it,” was his reply.
And so we see the manner in which our continent will blow—restricting legitimate concerns and dismissing honest fears as dishonest bigotries. The only good news is that this suicidal part of our European mind, which has been the dominant part for several decades now, is beginning to lose ground to the part of the brain that still has some survival instinct. Perhaps it will succeed in wrestling back our collective mind. Perhaps it will be too late. What is certain is that after the dead of Paris are mourned the European publics will ask of their politicians why they have spent years setting the scene for just such attacks to happen. After the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, criticised the magazine’s publication of cartoons of Mohammed, saying, “Is it really sensible to pour oil on the fire?”
The European publics are beginning to ask, “Who made our societies into this fire?” There will be many physical casualties to come. But the next political casualties should be the entire political class who fed us lies for years because they themselves would not face up to some bitter truths.
Douglas Murray is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It, and is the Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society, a British think-tank.