Friday, 17 August 2007

Is demographic rearmament killing Europe?

Frank Furedi considers the question, in Spiked, is it The end of Europe? He focuses on the work of German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn, whom he considers one of the few "New Malthusians" not to "discuss contemporary problems in a simplistic and politically illiterate manner". A synopsis of this is :
Heinsohn believes that Western nations’ misguided policy of providing aid to overseas countries encourages too many young men in the Third World to survive, and to survive in a state of anger...He concludes that the West’s attempts to tackle unrest in the Third World through aid designed to alleviate hunger and provide employment are likely to have the perverse effect of encouraging violent reactions amongst the world’s poorest people...Heinsohn associates high fertility rates with what he refers to as a process of ‘demographic rearmament’...[similar to in the past] many writers worried about the issue of ‘competitive fertility’: a perceived clash of fertility rates between Western societies and others...[However] his concern is not simply about numbers but also about the failure of European societies to integrate recent arrivals.
This foreign aid argument is compounded by home aid as Heinsohn concludes:
[He] blames the welfare state both for encouraging immigrants to look for an easy life and for discouraging them from integrating into society and adopting a more productive lifestyle. Here, the fatalism of the Malthusian outlook on population growth is reinforced by a similarly fatalistic loss of belief in the ability of European societies to tackle the problems they face.
Now what does Furedi do with this view? Well he is not as fatalistic as Heinson and says:
It is always risky to make bold predictions, but we can be sure of one thing: whatever happens to Europe in the future, it is unlikely to be determined by the laws of demography.
So what else is there? After noting that the drop in fertility in Europeans is unlikely to change he seeks to establish the issue is not about the result of demographic rearmament nor a feared re-Islamisation of Europe.
Yet immigrants who come to Europe for a better life are unlikely actively to resist integrating into society; the real problem lies, not with the separatism of the immigrant, but with the confusion amongst host societies about what it is that people should be integrated in to.

There are many young immigrants ... more than willing to embrace a new way of life. Unfortunately, European societies seem incapable of providing people with a vision that might inspire them... a culture that is clearly so confused about itself; nor should we be shocked to discover that immigrants can even become repulsed by what they perceive as a way of life without meaning.

So he is laying the blame on Europe itself for having lost its way. It no longer has anything like the Enlightenment vision or equivalent. The EU project is a technocratic fix without any accompanying inspiring vision. I agree, I think the enlightenment project has stalled - but, in my view, it was never finished. We have been resting on the laurels of this aborted project for too long and drifting on inertia, which is being redirected, in uncomfortable, naive, and misleading directions, by both this latest force of immigration and our reaction to it. This force could be harnessed to reinvigorate a reawakened an enlightenment vision, and they would welcome it - if we had one that is. However this vision has been corroded and abused by our own post-modernist, cultural relativist, anti-intellectual and anti-scientific 'ideals' espoused by the 'elite'. The problems in Europe are caused by us and we need to take responsibility. If all we can offer is celebrity culture then life is pretty meaningless and, it is no surprise, that other systems of thought, providing, what I think are mistaken, meaningful visions, are at least better than no vision at all.

As Furedi concludes:
the European political elites lack a clear project. They no longer have a mission to perform; they do not possess a clearly defined or distinct outlook that might inform their day-to-day decision-making processes...To put it bluntly, today Europe appears to have very few values to share. ...That is why the French policy of assimilation and the British pursuit of multiculturalism have such similar outcomes: both policies, though seemingly different, are about avoiding the hard task of saying what it means to be British or French, which would raise the question of meaning in an acute form. Neither Britain nor France seems able to inspire young immigrants to embrace their ways of life...The reluctance of some immigrant[s] to integrate exposes this fact: that those who uphold the European ideal (or at least are supposed to uphold it) are often little emperors with no clothes
Well, whilst I am cautious about discussing British identity or values due to the historical abuse of such national and patriotic ideas across Europe, with the danger of ending up with jingoistic xenophobia, if we do not have this discussion, this is the most likely outcome anyway. Only us all, not just our opinion poll driven 'elites', need to wake up and throw away the detritus of post-modernism and its ilk. Only then do we stand a chance of alleviating all the fears that occurring now and that have no sign of going away. It is time to re-embrace and update an enlightenment vision for the 21st century. It is time for the second coming of the Enlightenment!