Thursday, August 23, 2007

Euro-Doom: A Reader's Guide

Some of us have been emphasizing Europe’s current difficulties – the perfect storm of low native birth rates, being swamped by immigrants from the collapsing societies around them, the anemic economic growth that cultivates resentment against these immigrants – for awhile. But now whole books are literally being written (finally, in the view of some of us) on the subject. Some are better than others; for those with an interest in this topic, I provide my reviews of those I have read.

While Europe Slept, by Bruce Bawer. Mr. Bawer came to embrace Europessimism via a most unusual path. He is a gay man who originally left the US for Europe (Holland and Norway in particular) in search of greater tolerance. There he found deranged anti-Americanism everywhere, and the rapid spread of militant Islam, which he now judges to be a greater threat to gays than religious fundamentalism in the U.S. The book is his recounting of Europe’s irrational hatred and ignorance of America, and its rising tide of Islamism. He writes passionately, but plays fast and loose with the facts on several occasions. Once he claims, relying on an erroneous report in The Economist that they have since corrected, that Sweden now has a higher homicide rate than the U.S. This claim is absurd on its face, and that he believed it so easily testifies, I think, to the strong possibility that many of his (unsourced) claims about European demographics are probably false. Compellingly presented, but unreliable; the assertion of shocking facts without citations eventually becomes just too much.

Mr. Bawer also has a blog which is devoted not just to Europe’s troubles but to its high culture as well.

Menace in Europe, Claire Berlinski. Like Mr. Bawer, Ms Berlinski writes as a concerned secularist, who would but for Europe's troubles have much more in common with their elites than with her fellow Americans. Europe, in principle, believes in much of what she believes in. But she sketches economic dysfunction more thoroughly than Mr. Bawer, along with chilling descriptions of European youth sliding into 1930s-style nationalism; her chapter on the neo-fascist leanings of the German rock act Rammstein and their admirers is worth the price of the book all by itself. She is a terrific writer, but the book is mostly personal stories rather than hard data. Still, the stories are revealing about a Europe mired in decline and having moved beyond such trivialities as reproducing itself, despite doubts a critical reader might have about how representative they are. I recommend it highly.

America Alone, by Mark Steyn. Like Ms Berlinski, Mr. Steyn is an amazingly gifted writer; along with Christopher Hitchens he is perhaps the most compelling pundit in the English-speaking world. The book is full of terrific Steyn one-liners, and for the uninitiated it is a fabulous introduction to Euro-doom. Perhaps the most compelling story he tells is of being in a maternity ward in Paris and seeing France's future in the demographic composition of the nursery. Like the prior two books, however, it is full of demographic statistics that are not cited (the book has no notes), and some of which I know to be outdated. Don’t buy it for research purposes, but most definitely buy it to get a brilliantly written does of extreme pessimism about the future of the West.

The Last Days of Europe, by Walter Laqueur. Unlike the other authors, Mr. Laqueur is an academic. He does provide a significant bibliography at the end, but does not link particular demographic claims to particular sources. It is not as stylishly written as the others, but more solidly sourced. Mr. Laqueur was himself once a Euro-optimist, having written numerous works on the triumph of the emerging EU (a fact he ruefully acknowledges). He also wanders around from extreme pessimism to mere concern, and sometimes seems to believe that Europe is headed for Islamic rule and sometimes that Europe will come to some sort of mutual accommodation with its Islamic residents. Academic caution is admirable, but his exposition of different predictions about whether Europe will go quietly, go loudly or not go at all is a significant drawback.

One could argue (as I speculated here) that economically, things may be at last turning around at least in parts of Western Europe, although it is certainly debatable whether they can now avoid irreversible economic decline. Because the economic min-revival in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere is so young, it is hard to fault these books for ignoring it. All the Euro-doom reading is also disappointing from the point of view of accurate demographic data. But that is hardly the fault (Mr. Laqueur aside) of the authors, who are not scholars. Reliable European demographic data, broken down on ethnoreligious grounds, is extremely difficult to get for anyone. France refuses on principle (Frenchness is said to be completely separate from nationality or religion) to even collect such data. For me, as someone who wants to understand these trends, the books are thus not as helpful as I would like. And if someone reads somewhere or another that Muslims are going to be a third of the French population by such-and-such a year, and then that finds its way into an op-ed piece, and from there into a mass-distribution book, it suddenly takes on the unjustified status of unchallengeable dogma. But for those seeking to get a picture of what may be brewing in Europe, the last three books are all an immense asset despite the lack of documentation of these demographic factors. And if you can only buy one, buy Ms Berlinski’s.

If anyone is familiar with other books along these lines please pass them on and I will read them ASAP.



Anonymous David A. Steynite said...

Less funny than Steyn, but more compelling, is Londonistan by Melanie Phillips. (Canadians take note: Phippips' book could have equally being named Torontoistan)

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other books on the subject are
"The Cube an the cathedral" by George Weigel and "Rage and Pride" and "The force of reason" by Oriana Fallaci.
As a German I also don´t know what will happen.I think not all of Europe will fall.But not all European countries will survive this crisis either,especially not as democracies. Western Europe was strengthened by the breakdown of communism and the ensuing immigration of millions of people from the former communist realm of power to England, Germany and other countries.
But in a way the situation is also even worse than Steyn and the others have it. Because to destroy a society you don´t have to be a majority.A tiny minority that is absolutely determined is enough.

2:35 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Thanks, I forgot about Fallaci, whom I have also read. There is a new Euro-doom book coming out from an American next year, but the name of it escapes me at the moment.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Pat said...

"Western Europe was strengthened by the breakdown of communism" You mean the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War by the U.S.

Unfortunately, the U.S. protective blanket over Europe, financed by the U.S., allowed Western Europe to spent wildly on irresponsible socialistic programs. Accordingly, I am not so sure that Europe was "strengthened" by the U.S. victory in the Cold War.

7:17 PM  

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