Mr. Laqueur ponders whether Europe will really surrender to these adverse trends or finally resist. He is not optimistic. Perhaps Europeans will find ways to bolster their birth rates. Perhaps they will stiffen in the face of an escalating terrorist threat. Perhaps Muslims will assimilate better into Europe’s democratic and tolerant societies. Perhaps the pro-American sensibilities and the pro-growth nimbleness of Eastern European countries will drive the rest of the Continent out of the ditch of stagnation and pacifism. Perhaps.
But then again, as Mr. Laqueur observes, museums are filled with the remnants of vanished civilizations. Abroad, the U.S. has long surpassed Europe in power, influence and economic dynamism; Asia may do so before long. At home, a profound demoralization has set in, induced in part by the continent’s ruinous past century.
It was a century in which unimaginable violence sapped the regenerative energies of a wearied people; in which the seductive falsehoods of twin totalitarian ideologies undermined moral self-confidence; in which a flaccid relativism replaced the firm ethical boundaries of religious belief. It was also a century, we now see, in which the luxuries of rapid economic growth produced a false sense of security that cannot be sustained in a global age.
I’ve been whining for ages that I need to get in my Grand Tour before all the cafes are replaced by Islamic bookshops and the pretty churches are bull-dozed, and the other day Peter randomly said the same thing, that he feels like he really needs to go to Europe (specifically England, I think, in this conversation) since it seems like it’s all… Well. It used to be you planned a trip to Europe and you had to worry that the transit workers would be on strike and the museum staffs as well in solidarity so you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or do anything. Now you have to worry that your rented car will be torched and there won’t be anything to see anyway.