Saturday, 19 January 2013

Europe as a museum of dead ideas

Charles Moore writes interestingly today in the Daily Telegraph about Europe, but I was less interested in his points about current politics than by these remarks:

In her Bruges speech, Mrs Thatcher made an interesting appeal to her European allies: “The fact is that things are going our way… freedom is on the offensive, a peaceful offensive the world over, for the first time in my lifetime.” Despite her Euroscepticism, she saw European leadership as a rising power in the world. Her successors could not possibly say the same thing now. The European Union is becoming an economic, political, cultural and demographic backwater – a tourist destination, not a great power. This is very sad, but also, for those of us who want our country back, an opportunity.

A couple of years ago I found myself sharing a sleeping car from Bucharest to Belgrade with a Princeton historian, whose work for his Ph.D. thesis on the Sino-Soviet split had taken him around the world. He said that the cities of Europe all seemed museums, with the single exception of London which was a living place, like New York, Shanghai and the cities of China.

The Princeton man was arrogant. I wanted to disagree with him and think I did, at the time, but my heart told me he was right. 

I think we English underestimate our power in the world, cultural and economic as well as military. France and England do still have great military power and Germany has economic power but Western Europe feels like a museum, not just to the Hapsburgs or the Belle Epoque but to the 1950-1973 world, what the Communist Eric Hobsbawm called the 'Golden Age'. The 'Golden Age' was not a bad age at all, in many ways, but we have moved on. The EU cannot become a superpower, for which we in the EU must be grateful, or an economic superpower, though Germany is still one. 

At least Bucharest is no museum, although a Potemkin village was suddenly created about four years ago in the Old Town, where I live. But it is not tourism which makes cities museums, nor does Bucharest get that many tourists. Bucharest has an enormous vitality and changes every day, yet my Princeton historian had spent some days here and considered it too part of a dying civilsation.

Undoubtedly China, the Far East and India are rising in power and Europeans should not take for granted that they will always enjoy much higher living standards than the brown and yellow skinned peoples. Some people say that Western Europe is in decline for economic reasons or because of its political policies. Others because it has lost belief in itself or, according to some, lost belief in Christianity and has nothing to believe in instead, except liberalism and shopping. What is clear is that China and India do not have anything to believe in, any more than the Europeans do. It is not Confucianism, Marxism-Leninism or Hinduism that is conquering the world, nor any new idea. 

As far as religions go, only Christianity, though it is in speedy decline in the rich world, and Islam, which seems to engender economic stagnation, have any vitality. Political religions like fascism and communism come and go. The current political religion is about equality, anti-discrimination, welfare and relativism and it is doing a powerful amount of harm.

At least Europe as a museum is very much to be preferred to demolishing old buildings and clearing away traditions, which is what the 1960s and 1970s were all about in England. 'Young fogeys' who harped after the past in the early 1980s lived to see their ideas become mainstream instead of counter cultural.

Anthony Burgess in 1972 saw England's destiny as a choice between being European or American: 

I used to think that England might become just a place that liked to be visited—like that island in J. M. Barrie’s Mary Rose—but now I see that so many of the things worth seeing—old things—are disappearing so that England can become a huge Los Angeles, all motorways, getting about more important than actually getting anywhere. England is now going into Europe, not—as I had once expected and even hoped—America, and I think it will now have Europe’s faults without its virtues. The decimal coinage is a monstrosity, and soon there’ll be litres of beer, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and no cheap wine or caporal tobacco. Absorption, anyway, since England either has to absorb or be absorbed. Napoleon has won.
England has become much more European since 1972 and America has too to some extent -  and Europe has continued to become much more American. The single European currency and the extension of the EU are both Napoleonic but as far as England is concerned I don't think Napoleon has won. At least not yet. As for Europe, it seems to have something of the role in the world that France had in Europe after 1815, or rather from 1848, onwards. I hope Europe does not reach the point of being Vichy.


  1. closer to the truth. MrsTatcher is a visionnary"

  2. you continue with this democracy thing which is funny... there is no democracy.... why no word on the freemasons who hold such a strong grip on the uk playing all parties like puppets n such? u talk a lot about history n such? when are u going to admit who really pulls the strings in uk and other western countries? do you really don t see it? are you one of them?
    why are you doing this and what r u getting out of it? only a blind man won t see that people are like cattle under freemasonry. america is just uk s little minion operational base.

  3. I am not a Freemason nor do I think they rule England though they are influential in Eomania. Conspiracies are much more common in Romania than in England.

  4. First of all, why should we even bother to talk about Freemasons...?
    Power elites exist, and they'll always exist... in any world, and any Galaxy. If it wouldn't be the masons, it'll be others calling themselves maybe 'spiritual warriors', 'domino power'(in reverse)... or, maybe 'Klingonian Crusaders'... - threfore, what's the use in talking about them...?!? They'll always be on top, and more or less in the shadow...

    In regard to the world's living standards... - not to worry, in 2-300 years it'll be an unmistakable equality on every corner of the world. That includes Africa, South America, and any Arabic or Asian country...
    Thus, we shouldn't wast our time we those matters that sooner or later will fix themselves.

    As for Western Europe being in decline because it 'lost belief in Christianity', and has nothing else to believe in instead... - How about believing in itself...?!?
    "What is clear is that China and India do not have anything to believe in, any more than the Europeans do"
    On the contrary, they do have something to believe in... - in themselves! They come from the bottom... and, there is no other way for them to go but up. On the other hand, Western Europe has hit the ceiling... and, it would need to reinvent itself in order to 'survive'.