John Hinderaker at Powerline has posted the following discussion of two articles, one by Ralph Peters on the Europeans ethnically cleansing their Muslims and one by Mark Steyn, on the demographic time-bomb that threatens Europe. At the end there’s a response from Mark Steyn to Peters. My interlinear comments in italic; longer comments at the end.
They Report, You Decide (with update from Mark Steyn)
Most of our readers are aware of Mark Steyn’s “Demography is Destiny” theme, which he has elaborated in much of his recent writing. Steyn thinks that low birth rates among Europeans, in particular, will inevitably lead to their replacement on the European continent by Muslims who are reproducing at a far faster rate. Steyn pursues the theme in today’s article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Quartet of Ladies Shows Where We’re Headed. He contrasts Fatma An-Najar, the 64-year-old Palestinian grandmother who became a suicide bomber, with Katharine Jefferts Schori, the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:
An-Najar gave birth to her first child at the age of 12. She had eight others. She had 41 grandchildren. Keep that family tree in mind. By contrast, in Spain, a 64-year old woman will have maybe one grandchild. That’s four grandparents, one grandchild: a family tree with no branches.
Meanwhile, what of the Episcopalians?
Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: “How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?”
“About 2.2 million,” replied the presiding bishop. “It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations.”
This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: “Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?”
“No,” agreed Bishop Kate. “It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.”
Is that a death wish, or what? As Steyn points out, “Here’s the question for Bishop Kate: If Fatma An-Najar has 41 grandchildren and a responsible ‘better educated’ Episcopalian has one or two, into whose hands are we delivering ‘the stewardship of the earth’? If your crowd isn’t around in any numbers, how much influence can they have in shaping the future?”
This question underlines the extraordinary combination of supreme self-confidence (bordering on arrogance) of “moral Europe” on the one hand, with, just below the surface, a profound lack of confidence that makes the same people who want to take care of the earth unwilling to defend it.
Steyn’s logic is persuasive to me, but Ralph Peters isn’t buying it. He thinks that, far from taking over Europe, that continent’s Muslims “will be lucky just to be deported:”
Have the Europeans become too soft for that sort of thing? Has narcotic socialism destroyed their ability to hate? Is their atheism a prelude to total surrender to faith-intoxicated Muslim jihadis?
The answer to all of the above questions is a booming “No!” The Europeans have enjoyed a comfy ride for the last 60 years – but the very fact that they don’t want it to stop increases their rage and sense of being besieged by Muslim minorities they’ve long refused to assimilate (and which no longer want to assimilate).
Far from enjoying the prospect of taking over Europe by having babies, Europe’s Muslims are living on borrowed time. When a third of French voters have demonstrated their willingness to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front – a party that makes the Ku Klux Klan seem like Human Rights Watch – all predictions of Europe going gently into that good night are surreal.
I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe’s Muslims. After all, we were the only ones to do anything about the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans.
It’s true that the Europeans have historically been willing to act much more harshly that Americans when they have felt threatened. But I wouldn’t start sending the Marines to Brest just yet.
As Steyn will point out below, Peters is above all a polemicist who throws out assertions with perhaps excessive ease. He does have one good phrase:
Muslim minorities they’ve long refused to assimilate (and which no longer want to assimilate).
Nice formula that gets at both sides’ contribution to the problem (it’s so much fun being even-handed), and the element of lost opportunity (“no longer want…”). But it’s not conclusive in that howevermuch they may despise (not “hate” — that’s too strong an emotion for the Europeans, especially where a victim minority is concerned), that doesn’t mean they are ready to act. The characterization of Le Pen’s group as more ferocious than the KKK strikes me as silly. I don’t know of one lynch of Arabs by Le Pennistes, much less a systematic pattern of such aggression. More like wishful thinking on Peters’ part. Indeed, much of the essay seems like wishful thinking, which bespeaks what an abysmal situation we’ve gotten ourselves into, when we who want to see civil society survive, start hoping the fascists come back.
To comment on this post, go here.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn comments:
Steyn’s comments are more vitriolic than necessary, although obviously someone who thinks hard and writes well doesn’t like to be call a “pop pundit” by a pop pundit.
I don’t know whether Mr Peters is referring to my book, because, as usual when this particular columnist comes out swinging, he prefers to confront unnamed generalized opponents: thus, he refers to “a rash of pop pundits” predicting Europe will become Eurabia. Dismissing with airy condescension “a rash” of anonymities means you avoid having to deal with specific arguments.
Had he read America Alone, for example, he would know that I do, indeed, foresee a revival of Fascism in Europe. He concludes: “All predictions of Europe going gently into that good night are surreal.” Which of us predicted anything about “going gently”? As I write on page 105 of my book: “It’s true that there are many European populations reluctant to go happily into the long Eurabian night.” What I point out, though, is that, even if you’re hot for a new Holocaust, demography tells. There are no Hitlers to hand. When Mr Peters cites the success of Jean Marie Le Pen’s National Front, he overlooks not only Le Pen’s recent overtures to Muslims but also the fact that M Le Pen is pushing 80. As a general rule, when 600 octogenarians are up against 200 teenagers, bet on the teens. In five or ten years’ time, who precisely is going to organize mass deportations from French cities in which the native/Muslim youth-population ratio is already – right now – 55/45?
This is a bit weak. Le Pen may be pushing 80, but he’s got followers who are young. The point about Le Pen’s overtures to Muslims, however, are curious and troubling. If Steyn doesn’t like cheap shots, he shouldn’t take them.
As I’ve said innumerable times, the native European population is split three ways: some will leave, as the Dutch (and certain French) are already doing; some will shrug and go along with the Islamization of the continent, as the ever-accelerating number of conversions suggests; and so the ones left to embrace Fascism will be a minority of an aging population.
As far as I can make out, it’s a minority who will leave (just as a minority of Jews left Germany in the 1930s); and another minority who will convert (at least for the time being). Possibly an important number will acquiesce quietly, but that number is as yet undetermined — isn’t that what the debate is about? So all in all, it’s not at all clear that the remainder — those drawn to active resistance — will constitute a minority.
It will be bloody and messy, as I write in America Alone, but it will not alter the final outcome. If you don’t breed, you can’t influence the future. And furthermore a disinclination to breed is a good sign you don’t care much about the future. That’s why the Spaniards, who fought a brutal bloody civil war for their country in the 1930s, folded instantly after those Madrid bombings. When you’ve demographically checked out of the future, why fight for it?
This may well be right, but it is hardly so certain as to preclude other possibilities. It has an almost aesthetic appeal because it is so laden with ironies (Catholic Europe with no kids!). But the future is too complex to be this sure about anything. I think we should think in terms of multiple possible outcomes. History is full of surprises (including the one that Steyn has systematically mapped out).
Ralph Peters is late to this debate. If he’s going to join the discussion, he might do better to tackle the facts. But that would require him to acknowledge real specifics rather than “a rash of pop pundits”. You’ll notice that his column and mine differ not just in their approach to worldviews but in their approach to argument: mine cites four specific persons, their actions and assertions; his boldly batters anonymous generalizations. I know which I regard as more effective.
Thanks to Mark Steyn for this addition to the discussion.
While Steyn’s work is clearly significantly more careful and thought out than Peters — who does seem to be shooting from the lip, as if the last 60 years hadn’t brought huge and possibly permanent(ly debilitating) changes to Europe — I’m not sure I’d be so certain that Steyn’s perspective is more accurate because he’s looked at four specific people. They are anecdotal, well-chosen (as far as I’m concerned), but hardly a guarantee for drawing the big picture. (I’d have tossed in Segolène Royale, but it would not have changed Steyn’s conclusions… au contraire.) But I think this unpleasant polemic exchange obscures more than it illuminates.
Hidden Transcripts and European Awareness
The key issue, as far as I can make out, is the relationship between the public sphere and the private. Part of what’s so astounding about this entire exchange is that the Europeans, by and large, are not yet even discussing the matter. European elites, who dominate what gets said in public, are in an increasingly astounding condition of radical denial. And anyone who dares point out the looming demographic and political tide on the horizon is immediately dismissed as alarmists, Zionist agents, fascists and neo-cons (which in French means “neo-jerk”). We are faced with a phenomenon that is not unique but relatively rare in history where merely addressing what seems like the obvious and very threatening is almost impossible.
So how do these kinds of dynamics work out? One way to think about them comes from James C. Scott’s brilliant book, Domination and the Arts of Resistance in which he discusses the dynamics at work between public transcripts (like deference to superiors, politeness, political correctness), and hidden transcripts (resentment, grievances, plans for vengeance). Most of the time, these hidden transcripts remain hidden. But on rare occasions, these hidden transcripts can breach the public sphere, often with dramatic effect.
“Society is a very mysterious animal with many faces and hidden potentialities, and… it’s extremely shortsighted to believe that the face society happens to be presenting to you at a given moment is its only true face. None of us knows all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population.”
Vaclav Havel, May 31, 1990, quoted on the opening page of Scott’s book
Right now, my impression is that many Europeans have begun to realize just how serious their condition, and although the elites who dominate the public sphere punish anyone who dares break with the consensus, more and more people begin to exchange worried thoughts in private. Numerous times I have heard people say something on the order of “I wouldn’t say these things in public…” or, “I wouldn’t say this to another Frenchman, but here, on a plane…” (One of Scott’s points is that liminal space that offers anonymity encourages the expression of hidden transcripts… as does alcohol and other disinhibitors.) With the internet making this information available, Europeans have access to information and discussion that they ordinarily would not (including translation services).
Of course access to this discussion is not enough. One needs both the motivation to find it, and the courage to absorb the information it offers. One of the problems with cyberspace is that one can just as easily self-brainwash as self-educate: it’s a lot easier to visit the sites that make you feel good by reaffirming what you want to hear. And realizing that your entire civilization is in danger of falling to a ruthless religious enemy does not come easily. The forces that lie behind European political correctness include not only the fear of being ostracized as a racist, but also the fear of realizing how perilous one’s condition.
This latter point, of course, brings up the great dilemma: what to do? My sense is that all over the Western world, the reluctance to see Islamism and global Jihad as serious threats — terrorism is a criminal issue to be handled by police and courts — derives primarily from an unwillingness to engage in the kind of defensive/offensive moves that would seem indicated. People have difficulty acknowledging a problem until they have an answer. Liberals have no answer to a religious war waged by demopaths who disguise themselves as proponents of human rights, so they prefer to take them at face value and hope against hope that, if we’re nice and play by our rules, they’ll reciprocate.
So the Europeans keep popping blue pills, and anyone who points it out becomes either ridiculed or an enemy, a provocateur who insists on goading the poor Muslims to the violence we all hope they want to avoid.
On breaching the Public Sphere
The question then becomes when and how this awareness, that simmers under the surface will make its breach and what will the consequences be. As I have often lamented, by suppressing this awareness of the danger, liberals and progressives make the problem infinitely worse, increasing the likelihood of massive violence when the actual hostilities do break out, just like in the 1930s.
But each incident increases the awareness that matters are at an impasse, that placation/appeasement only creates a balloon mortgage of deferred conflict which at once weakens those who placate and encourages those who can gain so much just by threatening violence.
What both Steyn and Peters share is a monolithic view of Islam that, while not wrong potentially, is still not true now. The demographics of Muslims vs. (post-)Christian Europeans are not pure and simple arithmetic. Many Muslims know how dangerous Islamism is for them, and although some may take pride in the way that the Muslim “youth” have the cops on the run, and Jihadis have the Europeans quaking in their boots, they also know that the victory of these forces would be a disaster for everyone but the mafiosi who take over.
It’s a detail few know, but the famous remark of Sarkozy about the raquaille (rabble), which now has earned him a reputation for being a fascist and a racist, was in response to an Arab woman in one of the ZUS who shouted to the minister of the interior as he walked through one of the rioting neighborhoods, “When will you rid us of this raquaille?” That was her term for the hoodlums of her ethnic and religious persuasion who made life more miserable for her than for the Frenchmen living in chic Parisian arrondissement. To assume that a Muslim or an Arab is automatically against Western values is a serious error.
There are, in fact, numerous fissures in the Muslim world, and in particular in the Western Muslim population, most of it concerning the value of civil society and human freedom. It is a testimony to our ambivalence that we at once assume that they will share our values (based on the draw of a consumer society) and that we don’t really try and inculcate them. This is only partially a demographic battle; it’s more significantly an ideological battle, and to see it merely in demographic terms is to give up the ideological battle entirely.
Of course, to phrase it that way runs a major risk: we are so ready to declare ideological victory — the “vast majority of Muslims are moderate” — that we fail to understand that the ideology that confronts us has enormous potential appeal on three levels:
- first, to a small group of zealots who find it really appealing to shed blood in the name of Allah and to look forward to exercising dominion such terror provides;
- second, to a much larger group of people for whom the blows against the West restore their sense of honor, for whom the blood shed on 9-11 and all other such events, washes away their deep sense of humiliation; and
- third, for an even larger group of Muslims (and non-Muslims) who keep track of which way the wind is blowing, and if they sense that Islam is going to be the winner, they will “convert” to Islamism as a way to protect themselves.
Orientation for Red Pill Takers
Above all, we must learn to distinguish between demopaths and people who are really interested in the values of a civil society. If we embrace demopaths, they will destroy us; if we reject sincere Muslims, then we alienate potential and critically important allies. This means we need to do something very different from the current suggestions among the placating “progressive” set. Instead of avoiding conflict lest we alienate them — as Loki puts it, hate-mongering (i.e., any criticism that offends Muslims, RL) polarizes — we need to criticize them civilly.
This means, among other things, challenging gently but firmly their commitment to honor-shame concerns. Most (largely unconscious) demopathic discourse comes from people who justify extremism by explaining how it’s understandable that Muslims find x, y, and z violently unacceptable (where x is depictions, no matter how anodine, of the prophet, y is descriptions, no matter how accurate, of Islam’s tendency to violence, and z is the existence of the state of Israel). We need to hold Muslims to the standards of civil society. If the nations of the world, and the “progressive left” had insisted that Muslim countries recognize and deal with Israel rather than “respecting” their sense of honor by allowing them to isolate and demonize Israel, I don’t think we’d be in the pickle we’re currently in.
Ultimately such concessions reflect a condescension that easily slides into contempt for the Muslims that they, even as they exploit it to the fullest, deeply resent. Destroying us for not having the courage to hold them to our standards makes psychological sense, even if everyone loses in the process.
These issues of honor-shame are, imnsho, critical. Here we have to deal not only with the (not-so-secret) resentment that Muslims feel at the abysmal standing of their culture in the real world of 21st century globalization — their economic retardation, their appalling record of political dictatorships, their complete failure in the realm of human rights — and the less than mature ways they compensate for that public humiliation — Schadenfreude at Western losses (9-11 celebrations), their rage at any hint of criticism, their obsession with demonizing Israel.
We must learn to discuss these matters rather than ignore them. We must learn to insist that Muslims match the standard of others in both giving and accepting civil criticism. Should we do so gently? Perhaps. But not if that means allowing them to make outrageous accusations, and then restraining ourselves from making the least criticism lest that offend and provoke them. And when we run into Muslims who insist that they are sincere about their commitment to principles of fairness and who nonetheless treat Israel as a pariah for doing to them a fraction of what they do to each other, and who justify the vitriol that passes for news in the Arab world, then we must confront them. It is in part our inability to ask for a minimum of reciprocity that encourages the worst among Muslim irredentists.
The Issue of Muslim Moderates
And in so doing, we abandon that “vast majority of moderates” who are less genuine moderates than potential moderates. Civil society and positive-sum relations may seem rational to those of us who grew up in them, and there’s no question that, especially for someone who grew up in a repressive system, whether in Eastern Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, the appeal of both freedom and a society of abundance have enormous attraction.
But civil society demands as well as provides, in particular it demands a sense of reciprocity, of respect for others’ freedoms as well as one’s own, acceptance of others’ successes perhaps greater than our own. Modernity is messy and difficult: it’s constantly shifting conditions create a perpetual wake of anxiety, demanding tolerance for high levels of cognitive dissonance. It’s abundance creates enormous problems of addictive behavior and moral laxity. Its extensive freedoms make women at once more accessible and more challenging. Unlike traditional society, modern ones are enduringly challenging, unpredictable, unstable. And as Macchiavelli explained, the reason a prince should prefer fear to love among his subjects, fear is predictable.
These are problems for all of us, but particularly strong for a population that has, for a variety of cultural reasons, done significantly less well than other immigrant groups in Europe, on the one hand, and have a de facto membership in a religion that offers a ready response to the discomiture of modernity, on the other. For those who find modernity primarily a source of anxiety, temptation, emptiness, and ego-injury, Europe is the Cancer, Islam is the Answer. So while plenty of Muslim immigrants prefer the world of plenty and freedom offered by Europe, even the most successful can find the alternative alluring (e.g., the London bombers).
Every Muslim in the West struggles with the contradictions of modernity, and the contradictions between that problematic modernity and a religion that offers anti-modern solutions to these problems. Instead of the narcissistic injury of daily life, they can find the comforts of a religion that tells them “you are God’s chosen; you are superior to all the infidels around you; you should rule the world and restore the morality God demands.”
This appeal helps explain why Muslims in the West who opt out of secular modernity prefer Islamism to the traditional Islam of their ancestors. In its resounding response to the humiliations of modernity, the Islamist project offers a spectacular solution. Muslims have a cosmic superiority which globalization now makes possible to manifest here on earth. Such a goal can make any sacrifice meaningful.
The ugliest expressions of this millennial vision, including its newest contribution, suicide terrorism, appeal to everything selfish in humans: the desire to dominate, to strike fear in the hearts of infidels, to humiliate, to win a high-stakes game where winner takes all. Global Jihad creates the ultimate anti-modern, anti-positive-sum conditions, where one cannot afford to be on the wrong side of history. There, loss is as catastrophic as victory is indulgent.
We Westerners do not, by and large, understand how our enemy thinks. (Very few people understand “others” in their own terms.) But this time, we can’t afford to misread the signals, to think that those who think that way don’t really, or, conversely, to think that those who think like us don’t. And complicating it all, are those who aren’t sure how they should think.
We are all at a point where we must choose. For many who are oly superficially aquainted with the miraculous victory of civil society over the last two centuries, the choices line up in terms of which side looks like the winner. After all, in the world of zero-sum, rule or be ruled, might makes right. Why else would 9-11 have inspired many in the West to convert to Islam, and many Muslims to move in the direction of Islamism (veil, Ramadan observance, mosque attendance)?
How Muslims perceive Western behavior matters more in this case, than how Westerners perceive their own behavior. And when the Pope apologizes, however minimally, rather than rebukes Islam for its violent response to his calling it violent, they think we have lost. When Muslims tell us that Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace, and we nod our heads eagerly in agreement (and relief), rather than ask them what Dar al Harb means, and what Dhimmi “rights” consisted of, they think we are weak-willed and foolish. When Muslims tell us they might not become terrorists so easily if we would align our foreign policy to their demands and we do so (as in Spain after the bombings), then it’s pretty clear which way the wind is blowing.
Peters and Steyn are both right in discussing the problem even as Europeans continue to ignore it. Their predictions, though, seem more assured than they ought to be. We cannot know the future. The fall of Rome can warn us of another fall of Western European civilization to a hostile tribal culture. But it does not guarantee that fall. We can, as Peters argues, wake up in time. But how we wake up, how we deal with the awareness we then confront, how we analyze our dilemma find solutions that enhance the strengths of civil society… those are the marks of our character.