Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The depressing decline of Europe

This is a topic perpetually "out there" these days, but we're frequently reminded of the underlying condition by some event or another. Two books and authors getting the most attention (deservedly) are Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe and Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept. Berlinski's book is more journalistic and fragmented; Bawer's is the better thought out and better written. Read this interview with Berlinski for more.

Why should Americans care? Because Europe is the "other half" of the West and, along with Japan and the US, forms the "old core" of advanced countries. If Europe goes into a terminal tailspin, the US will need a Plan B for many things. Even as it is, the US is the only advanced country with an above-replacement birth rate and strong economic growth. This fact underlies many of the world's current dramatic imbalances (people and capital flows, military strength, etc.). But that topic deserves one or two postings all by itself.

As Jim Bennett likes to say: Democracy, Multiculturalism, Open Immigration -- pick any two. A simple yet profound related thought from Foreign Policy.

You can get a glimpse of what's wrong in Europe these days by considering the disgraceful case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch parliamentarian expelled from Holland. See here for her blog. Check this page out for Web interview videos of Ali. She spoke recently at Harvard. Her appearance was reported upon here, here, and here. (As always, truth-tellers on campus these days are faced with hostile Mulsim students and their pseudo-left PC-brainwashed allies. Remember that Harvard costs $50K a year -- as Ali herself asked, "What do they learn here?" If she only knew. Maybe she should have a chat with Larry Summers.)

Then there's the shameful case of Oriana Fallaci. This is how Europe treats one of its own; the Ali case, how Europe treats one of the Other you hear the post-modern Left chatter about so much. (But you'll hear few of them chatter about Ali.) Myopia and denial constitute the tragedy of the Fallaci case. Ali's tragedy is that an escapee from Islamic fanaticism believes in the Enlightenment values that Europe has either forgotten or repudiated.

A final thought: This topic is a beautiful example of why reading books and quality magazines, along with a few decent blogs, is infinitely better than a junk food diet of television news. When you read serious brain food, you'll actually know more than when you started, and little of the "news" will surprise you. When you consume television news, all you get is a stream of context-free and thus meaningless "news" events. Everything will surprise you. (Newspapers and radio are better, but not radically better.) The purpose of the news industry is not to enlighten, but to shock, propagandize, entertain, advertise, and generate a steady background of anxiety -- all to keep you coming back tomorrow.

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