Sunday, November 15, 2015

Two, three, many banlieues *

One of my favourite William Gibson quotes: 'The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.'

And so to the Future of Europe.

In the Sunday Times today, Niall Ferguson writes an opinion piece:
"I am not going to repeat what you have already read or heard. I am not going to say that what happened in Paris on Friday night was unprecedented horror, for it was not. I am not going to say that the world stands with France, for it is a hollow phrase. Nor am I going to applaud François Hollande’s pledge of “pitiless” vengeance, for I do not believe it. I am, instead, going to tell you that this is exactly how civilisations fall.

Here is how Edward Gibbon described the Goths’ sack of Rome in August 410AD: “. . . In the hour of savage licence, when every passion was inflamed, and every restraint was removed . . . a cruel slaughter was made of the Romans; and . . . the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies . . . Whenever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition, they extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble, the innocent, and the helpless. . .”

Now, does that not describe the scenes we witnessed in Paris on Friday night?"
Ferguson then quotes extensively from Bryan Ward-Perkins' excellent book, 'The Fall of Rome'. (which I recently wrote about here).
"The end of the Roman west, he writes in The Fall of Rome (2005), “witnessed horrors and dislocation of a kind I sincerely hope never to have to live through; and it destroyed a complex civilisation, throwing the inhabitants of the West back to a standard of living typical of prehistoric times”.

In five decades the population of Rome itself fell by three-quarters. Archaeological evidence from the late fifth century — inferior housing, more primitive pottery, fewer coins, smaller cattle — shows that the benign influence of Rome diminished rapidly in the rest of western Europe. “The end of civilisation”, in Ward-Perkins’s phrase, came within a single generation."
Ferguson sees the parallels:
"Uncannily similar processes are destroying the European Union today, though few of us want to recognise them for what they are. Like the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, Europe has allowed its defences to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its shopping malls and sports stadiums. At the same time it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.

The distant shock to this weakened edifice has been the Syrian civil war, though it has been a catalyst as much as a direct cause for the great Völkerwanderung of 2015. As before, they have come from all over the imperial periphery — from North Africa, from the Levant, from south Asia — but this time they have come in their millions, not in mere tens of thousands.

To be sure, most have come hoping only for a better life. Things in their own countries have become just good enough economically for them to afford to leave and just bad enough politically for them to risk leaving. But they cannot stream northwards and westwards without some of that political malaise coming with them. As Gibbon saw, convinced monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire.

It is doubtless true to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent. But it is also true that the majority hold views not easily reconciled with the principles of our liberal democracies, including our novel notions about sexual equality and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities. And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilisation within these avowedly peace-loving communities."
And his conclusions?
“Romans before the fall”, wrote Ward-Perkins, “were as certain as we are today that their world would continue for ever substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”

Poor, poor Paris. Killed by complacency."
Ward-Perkins observed that the Roman Empire in the West could have collapsed four or five times in the preceding centuries. Simultaneous massed incursions at different edges of the empire would have defeated the Roman legions which were only about ten percent better than tooled-up barbarians (the Romans had better training, discipline and logistics).

The advanced capitalism of Western Europe is not going to be militarily smashed by Islamic fundamentalists. If it were absolutely necessary, if we were to put aside moral scruples and worries about collateral damage, the 'terrorists' could be annihilated any time we chose. But in any foreseeable circumstances, no popular sentiment or credible politician is going to sanction that.

No, we already know what a future Europe with millions of middle-eastern Muslim immigrants looks like. That future is already here, just currently unevenly distributed.

To see it, you only have to look in the banlieue suburbs of Paris and Brussels.

Such a great idea, to replicate those banlieues across Germany and the rest of the EU. **


* Younger readers may not recognise the allusion to Ernesto "Che" Guevara's famous 'Create Two, Three, Many Vietnams!' (1966).

** Bonus question. What real-world experiences would it take to alter the open-border, uncontrolled-immigration fantasies of The Economist and economists such as Bryan Caplan? Writers and thinkers who take care never to reside anywhere near the resulting ghettos.

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