Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Death Of Europe

There are increasing apocalyptic fears about the imminent demise of Europe, though not from some kind of quick death like war or terrorism but from the simple fact that Europeans are not breeding enough. The demography is clear, as Europe has developed people are having less children. People live for longer so there are more elderly, it is a "problem" of the developed world, as if living longer and not overpopulating the earth was actually a problem rather than in fact a goal but there we go. The problem in the eyes of those who see it is rather that as Europeans get less those pesky immigrants become more. Those selfsame reactionary tabloid types are of course the first to employ cheap foreign labour but resent it when they actually dare to hang around here and try to vote or have children, or most heinously retain any of their native culture. In Europe you can be any culture you want, as long as its not too Foreign.
The fear is simply that these hordes of Islamic types are coming over here, breeding a lot, refusing to assimilate totally into Western culture and slowly outnumbering "us", in a few years we will be the Caliphate of Europe and they will murder us all in our beds.
Now this is a thesis very popular with anyone from your common racist to nationalists, tabloid editors and military planners. The fear is largely unfounded, or at least in some way mistaken as it just assumes immigrant are a monolithic block intent on cultural colonisation. The fact is that Europe is not one culture, it is a culture made of immigration, some parts have been here longer so they seem familiar. All these new people with ways we have not seen before are a bit scary, especially when they are all ghettoed together. Which is of course directly the fault of selfsame right wingers who insisted they be all housed in areas in the rotting inner cities or on estates nobody wanted to live in. Blair’s attempts to institute faith schools and a strong background racism mean that the cultures are artificially separated and just glower at each other over a wall of mutual superstition. Yet they don’t, after a while the cultures mix, and not a one way process as those on the right fear, especially for the second generation- those born into Europe and knowing no other home. They will speak almost certainly the language of the country, and will usually have the regional accent too. They will for the most part consider themselves both European and Muslim/African/Asian. What is forgotten in the debate is that this has happened before, the fear of the other who may have some shadowy allegiance to something other that the nation they reside in, or who wants to change the nation they have entered into in their own image. Its been said against Jews, Gypsies and most especially in Britain Catholics. There are still laws I believe preventing Catholics from taking the throne. So the fear is simply the old fashioned xenophobia, with a healthy dollop of ignorance, in not actually bothering to talk to the generations of migrants who have come to Europe. They are not intent on cultural jihad, though the Muslim community especially has been backward on a whole range of Rights. They are a lot of them pissed of that they get lumped in with terrorists and that they face a large degree of discrimination while at the same time propping up the economy of Europe by working for less than their white counterparts. It is interesting o consider that Catholics, mostly old Ratzinburger are afraid they will be swept away by a tide of Muslims who consider their loss to Charlemagne in the eighth century merely a temporary setback on the road to domination of Europe. Considering that’s how Catholics were thought of I most of Northern Europe for a great deal of time they would have looked at the logs in their eyes for a bit.
It may come to pass that Europe is dominated by a Muslim majority but it is unlikely. Firstly Europe really needs immigrants, what with the whole getting old and having no kids thing so we really should be a bit more welcoming. Also as immigrant become more settled, more absorbed into the country they become part of the nation. As with America the massive influx of immigrants didn’t really alter that much of the cultural landscape. The lingua franca has remained English, most of the festivals and religion solidly the same, even both the contenders for the 2004 presidency could trace ancestry back to the people who sailed over on the Mayflower. The US for all its other faults does not have so much fear of the immigrant, though it too has had its doomsayers over the years, and has imposed heinous restrictions on them in its time. Europe will not die anytime soon. As time goes on the immigrants will speak more of the language of their host nation, their children will celebrate Christmas a most Europeans do- without any reference to Christianity whatsoever. It becomes obvious to that to immigrants in order to get ahead they have to start speaking the language, to assimilate a little, though it is easily possible to do that without compromising your identity whatsoever.
It is the same as the experience of any of the large scale immigrations of the past, in Britain we has waves of Irish and Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century. The same fears were raised by scaremongers of the time but now there are still communities proud to be Jewish or Irish but playing a full part in the national life, and considered as British as anyone else. The fear then now is based almost solely on skin colour, though that too I hope will fade.


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