Tuesday, March 2, 2010

 

Theodore Dalrymple, in an essay adapted from his forthcoming book The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism:
God is dead in Europe, and I do not see much chance of revival except in the wake of catastrophe. Not quite everything has been lost of the religious attitude, however. Individuals still think of themselves as being of unique importance, but without the countervailing humility of considering themselves as having duty toward the author of their being, a being inconceivably larger than themselves. Far from inducing a more modest conception of man, the loss of religious belief has inflamed his self-importance enormously. . . .

So what is left for Europeans? The present being all that counts, it remains to seek the good life, the enjoyable and comfortable life, for themselves alone. Europeans are fearful of the future because they fear the past; they are desperate to hang on to what they have already got, what the French call
les acquis, because it represents for them the whole of existence. So important is the standard of living that they see children not as inheritors of what they themselves inherited, but as obstructions to the enjoyment of life, a drain on resources, an obstacle to next year’s holiday in Bali.

Dean Acheson said that Britain had lost an empire and not found a role. You might say of Europe that it has lost its purpose and not found any to replace it.
And a warning to the U. S.:
The United States finds itself at a historical conjuncture when its relative power in the world has weakened. To be sure, no decline in power comparable in extent to that of Europe in the 20th century is in view; nevertheless, the realization of this weakening, that the United States is re-entering a world in which it is only primum inter pares and not utterly dominant, might cause disappointment to those who see the cup of power dashed from their lips. Self-hatred and self-denigration might then take hold with disastrous wider effect. . . .

[A] defense of all that is best, and of all the achievement, in U.S. history is necessary. That is why the outcome of the so-called culture wars in America is so important to its future. A healthy modern society must know how to remain the same as well as change, to conserve as well as to reform. Europe has changed without knowing how to conserve: that is its tragedy.