Friday, October 01, 2004

Continental Drift

Europe is the First-born son in an old wealthy family, of which America is the later born. Europe stayed home, waiting patiently for Papa to age and eventually die, so as to inherit the family groves and fields and business interests. Biding its time, gritting its teeth, putting up with indignities and whippings and even the contempt of its elders, Europe opted to set aside pride and independence for the guarantee of eventual inheritance of the hoarded treasure of earlier generations. In doing so, Europe learned to shun risk-taking, to avoid the rigors of exploration, adventure, challenge, the examination of exotic options. Europe traded independence for security.

America packed its few bits of belongings in a kerchief and hiked off down the lane to seek its fortune elsewhere. It learned to think for itself, to assess and face difficulties and find its own solutions in the absence of guidance and advice. On its own, working out its own fate gradually made it more able to see the world as it is instead of how it wishes it were. But America's choice of freedom instead of the comfort of staying home also allowed it to dream; to imagine that its dreams could be realized.

Now, Europe has come into its inheritance, but for all its grudging tedious waiting, it has learned rather to sit on its hoard like some arthritic dragon, than to boldly flex and exercise its powerful sinews. With flinty eyes Europe views with alarm the confident stride of its younger sibling, at once jealous of the success gained by adventure, luck and daring, and fearful of an America that having proved its own fiber, cannot be cowed by Europe's bullying or tempted by its wealth.

Worse, Europe is shamed to see what it might have become had it not opted for the safe and comfortable way, instead of the challenge of freedom.

Admittedly, this is only a convenient metaphor.

But I think it captures the essence of the relationship between the European collective mind, and the attitude of America, particularly since 9-11-01. That attack is conceptually a continental divide. On one side of that event, logic and beliefs all were governed by a gravitic force pulling one way: toward insularity. timidity, conformity, passivity. On the other side of that discontinuity, perceptions, logic, and motives are pulled by an opposing force, drawing America toward awareness, purpose, will, sobriety, responsibility.

Stephen Green at Vodkapundit links to an article in the coming Weekly Standard:

"Islamic Europe?"
From the October 4, 2004 issue: When Bernard Lewis speaks . . .
by Christopher Caldwell
10/04/2004, Volume 010, Issue 04

The article is short. Quick, provocative read. It puts me in mind of a number of articles that have come out in the last year indicating that current birth rates among the European "native" populations yeild either zero or negative population growth, while the immigration and the birth rates among immigrants are leading to accelerating population growth among non-natives. Some predictions assert that in many European nations the natives will become minorities within the lifetimes of those living today.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective. But at least it seems worth considering whether cultural dislocations and hostilities might result from a process that is too hurried.

For several centuries, Europe has been losing many of its most productive, vigorous, independent-minded folk to immigration or to its many conflicts. The remainder is then, is— inevitably— LEFT.


Of course, this is an entirely self-serving and smugly self-congratulatory analysis. But I think it has a little truth. At least it explains for me why certain folks in America, having come into wealth and comfortable living by marriage or inheritance rather than by their own industry, have attitudes that coincide so markedly with the worst of the European socialists.


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