The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, by Douglas Murray. Bloomsbury, 320 pages, $23.40
What in the world is happening to Europe? Douglas Murray provides the answer in one sentence, the opening sentence, as it happens, in his eerie book, The Strange Death of Europe:“Europe is committing suicide.”
Human beings are always curious about the “why” aspect of suicide–why their friend, relative, neighbor, or coworker took his or her own life. And that same curiosity compels many to seek similar answers apropos the suicide of Europe, the continent that not so long ago represented the apotheosis of “civilization.” Europe–afflicted by incredulity and guilt about itself, its past, and even its prosperity–has sought an “escape.” And, just as individuals so often do, the continent of Europe has found such an escape in a drug.
Europe’s drug of choice, however, is not a substance or a chemical but rather an idea; or, more precisely, a lack of an idea–a lack of any ideas. That is to say, Europe has resolved its inner turmoil by choosing to believe in nothing. Oh, sure, Europe believes in “tolerance,” “diversity,” and so on and so forth; but what do those terms mean exactly? Upon pondering, one will find that the terms are intellectually vapid. In other words, to believe “tolerance” and “diversity” to be über alles, one must be “for” everything, as it were. Which means, in effect, one must stand for nothing.
But drugs, are merely a coping mechanism. That is to say, drugs are usually the symptom of a much deeper problem, not necessarily the problem itself. Which brings me back to The Strange Death of Europe, a book that, were it fiction, would be shelved in bookstores and libraries next to the novels of Stephen King and the poems of Edgar Allan Poe.
Any stumblebum can see that Europe has tremendous problems; but a historical, analytical, philosophical, metaphysical account for why Europe has these tremendous problems, on the other hand, requires perspicacity and sagacity. Douglas Murray, it is this reviewer’s pleasure to report, is brimming with both. Consequently, the analysis he provides in The Strange Death of Europe is unmatched in its profundity. Simply put, a better explanation of Europe’s plight has yet to be put into print.
Just as, “Europe is committing suicide,” the book’s very first sentence, is probably the most accurate and succinct summary of the book’s thesis, so too the book’s subtitle–“Immigration, Identity, Islam”–is the best summary of the sources from which Europe’s crisis emanates.
Undoubtedly, there will be a great many superficial minds within the reading population that will be unable to get past this emblematic subtitle, finding it “racist” or “xenophobic.” But potential readers should not judge a book by its cover (in this case literally); for to do so would be to deny oneself the profound, philosophical edification provided by the author’s musings. Murray has much more to say about Europe’s “Identity” than either “Immigration” or “Islam.”
Indeed, potential readers would be making a terrible mistake were they to assume that this book was simply a “nativist” or “xenophobic” diatribe against immigration or a polemic plagued by “Islamophobia.” Unlike those innumerable 250-page books published annually–the ones that are written with much myopia about some ephemeral, hot-button issue of the zeitgeist but, nevertheless, become irrelevant before the ink even dries on the page–Douglas Murray’s book will be read and reflected on for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.
An Associate Editor of the Spectator, journalist, and author residing in London, Douglas Murray writes with the skill and precision one would expect. And his perspective is paramount. Indeed, this book could not have been written from the ivory tower. It is the author’s palpable urgency, his frequent invocation of the pronoun “we,” and his quite understandable melancholic mood when writing of the most depressing manifestations of Europe’s decline, that carry the work. Murray is compelled to write by an admirable, patriotic pathos; for Europe is not just any civilization–it is his civilization.
Murray, as mentioned earlier, perceives Europe’s crisis to be much deeper than mere political policies apropos immigration and Islam. Throughout the book, particularly in the incredibly deep chapter, “Tiredness,” Murray seems to suggest that the root causes of Europe’s downfall may be found in the tiredness that plagues the culture, spirit, and soul of Europeans. Readers may be surprised to learn, however, that this phenomenon did not begin with Angela Merkel or the Syrian refugee crisis.
It was after World War II that Europe conscientiously began to encourage immigration to their continent to assuage the labor shortage. While the importation of labor was, perhaps, necessary at that time, it goes without saying that the mass importation of people today–specifically of those people from third-world Arab and Muslim countries–has become a plague on the native population, their culture, their values, and their resources. And although many, politicians as well as citizens, still claim the mantle of economic necessity as the reason behind this mass importation of third-world immigrants (most of whom are unskilled), the claim has little basis in reality.
This and other arguments for the necessity of importing vast numbers of Muslims into Europe–including the “aging population,” the purported value of the “diversity” the migrants bring, and globalization’s causing such immigration to be “unstoppable” anyway–are all taken on by the author in the book’s third chapter, aptly named “The excuses we told ourselves.” Indeed, Murray tackles these arguments in such a way as to render each of them nothing more than a sick, facile joke.
But if Europe’s immigration policies are not about economics, the aging population, the benefits of diversity, and so on and so forth, then what, exactly, are they about?
For some supporters of Europe’s immigration status quo, the understandable and seemingly innocuous feeling of “compassion” compels their position. Similarly, others believe that “diversity” is such a good unto itself that it alone justifies the rapid demographic, cultural, and value transformation that Europe is undergoing. Still for others–and more sinisterly, one might add–there is a sadistic masochistic desire to see European civilization crumble. Among these people, there is a sense that, to paraphrase Douglas Murray’s characterization, “we (i.e., “we Europeans”) deserve it.” What’s more, to these people, the demographic transformation of Europe is nothing more than the ghosts of Europe’s past–particularly colonialism–coming back to haunt it. They seem to feel that Europe’s change of demography is the price the continent must pay for its past sins.
All of these excuses for an open-door immigration policy are indeed interesting, and each one is explored to some extent by the author. Above all others, however, there seems to be one cause for support for such a suicidal policy that encapsulates all others: The European soul has become afflicted with boredom. That is to say, Europe has been devoured by such an intense spiritual listlessness, that it no longer believes in its culture, its values, its religion (Christianity), or even its identity. The only thing that it seems to believe with any resolve is that Europe needs to be “fundamentally transformed,” to borrow the words of a past American president.
Some of this incredulity, particularly in Germany, emanates from the modern European’s guilt over the barbarity their ancestors inflicted on the world in the 20th century. The lesson most Europeans learned from the 20th century was that ideology–all ideology–is bad. And while it is certainly true that had Europe eschewed certain ideologies–e.g., Nazism–it would have spared humanity many of the horrors of the 20th century that were theretofore inconceivable, Europe is now learning that a total lack of ideology is not without ghastly side-effects itself.
While Europeans no longer believe in their values, they are importing people, by the millions, who religiously believe in theirs. And the values of these “new Europeans,” so to speak, happen to be antithetical to the values of Europe’s past. Average Europeans have learned this quickly (as readers shall see later).
Unfortunately, it appears that European politicians, learn rather slowly. Some refuse to learn at all, regarding any talk of the effects of the Islamification of Europe, or immigration generally, as racist, xenophobic, bigoted, etc. But it is not they who pay the price for their policies. The consequences for clinging to rubbish like “all cultures are equivalent,” morally, intellectually, or otherwise, are ones that average European citizens suffer, not their leaders. These consequences, however, were not unpredictable.
One of The Strange Death of Europe’s most remarkable illuminations, in this reviewer’s judgment, is that of the divide between the opinions of average Europeans and those of the elites vis-à-vis mass immigration policies. Polls consistently show, and have shown from the outset, that the vast majority of Europeans do not support the immigration policies of the status quo. Nevertheless, this does not seem to perturb their politicians in the slightest. Come Hell or high water, the politicians seem to be saying, we Europeans will pursue diversity and tolerance at any and all costs.
Indeed, the extent to which politicians, judges, European media, academics, soi-disant intellectuals, and other elites have contributed to the death of Europe is striking. This reviewer has little doubt, history will judge these people harshly for their facilitation of the downfall of their own civilization, a once-great civilization.
Readers, if they are anything like this reviewer, will have hope–albeit a very dim hope–for European civilization until they reach chapter 12 of the book: “Learning to live with it.” The mind-boggling anecdotes in that chapter are surreal, infuriating, and emetic.
In January 2011, for instance, two North African Muslims and seven Pakistani Muslims were convicted in London for sex trafficking children as young as 11. Prior to the conviction, many Europeans refused to report their suspicions, and even for those that did, it did not help much; for police refused to investigate the matter for fear of being called “racist.” Not only did this story go largely unreported until it was no longer possible to do so, the media and police actively tried to cover it up.
Although “the question of sex attacks on local women by gangs of immigrants had been an open secret,” as early as the year 2000, the author explains, the question was still unexplored by 2015:
Even to mention the fact in 2015 that most of the recent arrivals into Europe seemed to be young men was to court opprobrium. To question whether all these individuals might have brought modern views about women with them was unmentionable (precisely, as in Britain) because it seemed to speak to some base, racist smear. The fear of falling into a racial cliché or suffering accusations of racism prevented authorities and the European public from admitting to a problem that had spread across the continent. And the more refugees a country took in, the greater the problem became (p. 194).
Egregious evil that any sane person with a moral compass that functioned even half the time would denounce, went, and goes, unrecognized. Even if it did happen to be recognized, authorities hastily covered it up lest the word get out that the importation of massive amounts of third-world Muslims was conducive to anything less than a beautiful paradise:
[I]n September 2015 officials in Bavaria began to warn local parents to ensure their daughters did not wear any revealing clothing in public. ‘Revealing tops or blouses, short shorts or miniskirts could lead to misunderstandings,’ one letter to locals warned [emphasis added].
If Bavarians do not want their daughters raped–excuse me, if Bavarians do not want their daughters to inconveniently fall victim to a ‘misunderstanding’ with a migrant–well, they should advise her to not be so inviting. This, dear readers, is the sick, morally twisted continent that Europe has become.
As if this were not bad enough, some rape victims have even been exposed as trying to conceal the identity of their attackers so as to not, in the words of a German rape-victim, “help fuel aggressive racism” (p. 198). To describe such women as anything less than “brainwashed” would be to understate reality.
One woman associated with the “no borders” movement in Europe, to provide another example, was gang-raped by migrants at the crossing point between Italy and France. Her friends tried to convince her not to report the rape because they feared it would damage their cause. When the woman finally did report it, the woman’s friends accused her of doing so out of “spite.” Such upside-down moral thinking is sick beyond description.
The mayor of Tübingen, Germany, responded to an uptick in rapes of women and children in local swimming pools by encouraging more migrants to be swimming-pool attendants. In case such reasoning was above the average German’s level of comprehension, the mayor posted his rationale on Facebook:
Our municipality has embraced a great prevention and integration measure. We have a Syrian lifeguard who can make known in Arabic and with authority what behavior is allowed and what is not (p. 198).
Translation: We are putting a Syrian in charge of the swimming pools so that they may tell other Muslims not to rape the women and children going for a swim.
Murray’s book is replete with heart-wrenching emetic stories like these that present readers with a mere microcosm of what is happening on a massive, continent-wide scale. Some of these anecdotes are so lachrymose, that confronting the fact that such brutality is becoming the norm in Europe is emotionally impossible.
This is probably, in this reviewer’s judgment, the primary reason Europe’s politicians continue to worship at the altar of “diversity” and “tolerance.” It is as if they continue to tell themselves not to believe their lying eyes, not to accept that their god has failed. That is to say, attribution of Angela Merkel’s positions on immigration (which set the standard for the rest of the continent) to sadism or masochism strikes this reviewer as cynical. There are two other sources for her and other European leaders’ thinking that are probably much more culpable: a) Their desire to do good, as it were and b) Their unwillingness to confront reality.
The desire to good is one that is nearly universal among human beings. This desire, however, if not bridled, has as much capacity to commit evil as a megalomaniacal devotion to doing evil. In other words, intending to do good means nothing; actually doing good means everything.
Similarly, it is a natural response in the human being to refuse to confront reality. Humans have an extraordinary capacity to simply wish away, as it were, uncomfortable truths or devastating realities. Although this sentiment is universal, it is nevertheless puerile. Children avoid reality; adults deal with it. And of course, the denial of reality does not make reality vanish. One can choose to believe that 2 + 2 = 5 until the end of time if one so wishes; nevertheless, this does not actually make 2 + 2 = 5.
It is significant that the primacy placed on intentions versus results, as well as the denial of reality tend to be associated with one political philosophy more than any other. I speak, of course, of Leftism (distinct from liberalism).
And here is one of the shortcomings of The Strange Death of Europe. While the author explores some of the inner depths of the European soul, European idols, European philosophers, etc., he seemingly forgot to address the obvious. The role that ideology–specifically, Leftist ideology–has played in Europe’s downfall deserves vast amounts of ink. Unfortunately, Murray does not devote even a single page to this specific subject.
This is tragic. The author’s analysis of the civilizational decline of Europe would have benefitted enormously from an investigation into Europe’s adoption of Leftism as its continental religion. It is because it is so obvious to any reader that the author has a firm grasp of the role ideology has played in the sad suicide of Europe that it makes said reader frustrated and disappointed that Murray declined to devote much ink to that line of inquiry.
It would have greatly pleased this reviewer, for instance, to have seen a slight addition to the subtitle, “Immigration, Identity, Islam.” To be more concrete, had the book’s subtitle been “Immigration, Identity, Islam, Leftism,”–despite wrecking a fine alliteration–the book would have been the comprehensive and definitive work for today, tomorrow, and all time on the downfall of Europe.
That being said, however, The Strange Death of Europe is masterful. While this review has hitherto held little back in singing the praises of the book’s depth and content, the marvelous prose likewise deserves rhapsody.
As the writer James J. Kilpatrick once pointed out in a masterpiece of his own, The Writer’s Art, perhaps the most powerful way to write about dramatic events is to write about them “undramatically.” If the writer wishes to elicit tears, as he put it, he should not let the reader see him cry. This, however, is easier said than done.
It is only natural that writers–particularly inexperienced writers–should think that putting great emotion onto paper will elicit a concomitant emotional reaction from the reader. In actuality, however, it often does just the opposite, i.e., unbridled effervescence tends to strike readers as hyperbolic, hysterical, or even downright dubious.
But Douglas Murray has no such callowness.
He lets the story of Europe’s decline tell itself, which, on its own, creates the exact lugubrious tone he sought but which would have otherwise eluded his book had he simply chosen to emote. (A temptation, not insignificantly, that must have been difficult to suppress–especially for a native European–considering the subject is, to use his words, the “death” of his own continent.) His prose is cool, almost callous at times, thus allowing the facts alone that are found between the covers of The Strange Death of Europe to cause the great devastation that they intrinsically do.
Murray’s tone–somber, heavily weighted with solemnity, mournful rather than manic, and even sardonic at times–is, just as critical to the book’s success as the facts that are ensconced between the book’s covers. For were the author’s tone more frenetic, it would allow, however unfairly, those readers and reviewers who are in less sympathy with the book’s ideological implications than this one to offhandedly dismiss it as “alarmist,” “extreme,” “radical,” or worse.
But Murray’s equanimity snatches the proverbial rug out from underneath such readers. And thus, denying that The Strange Death of Europe is one of, if not the, most important works of 2017 becomes increasingly difficult.
The book audaciously goes where others would not dare: deep into the darkness of European soullessness. It provides illuminations that readers simply will not find elsewhere. Potential readers must be forewarned, however, that the price of these illuminations is steep. That is to say, the perspective provided by The Strange Death of Europe, akin to St. Augustine’s in The City of God, is not exactly conducive to hope and joy.
Just as St. Augustine of Hippo gazed across the Mediterranean to see the collapse of a civilization of which he was a product, The Strange Death of Europe gives American readers a similar perspective of the collapse of that once-great civilization across the Atlantic.
— Ross Dubberly is the Book Editor at The Arch Conservative and the co-founder and co-chairman of Young Americans for Freedom at UGA