Visits to predominantly Muslim suburbs, emerging outside nearly all northern European cities, one question keeps recurring: Why have some of the richest, most educated, most secular, most placid, and most homogeneous countries in the world willingly opened their doors to virtually any migrant from the poorest, least modern, most religious, and least stable countries?
Other questions follow. Why have mostly Christian countries decided to take in mostly Muslim immigrants? Why do so many establishment politicians, most notably Germany's Angela Merkel, ignore and revile those who increasing worry that this immigration is permanently changing the face of Europe?
Why does it fall to the weaker Visegrád states of eastern Europe to articulate a patriotic rejection of this phenomenon? Where will the immigration lead to?
There's no single answer that applies to multiple countries. But of the many factors (such as secularization) behind this historically unprecedented acceptance of alien peoples, one stands out as most critical — a west European sense of guilt.
To many educated western Europeans, their civilization is less about scientific advances, unprecedented levels of prosperity, and the achievement of unique human freedoms, and more about colonialism, racism, and fascism.
The brutal French conquest of Algeria, the uniquely evil German genocide against the Jews, and the legacy of extreme nationalism cause many Europeans, in the analysis of Pascal Bruckner, a French intellectual, to see themselves as "the sick man of the planet," responsible for every global problem from poverty to environmental rapacity; "the white man has sown grief and ruin wherever he has gone."
Affluence implies robbery, light skin manifests sinfulness.
Bruckner labels this the "tyranny of guilt" and I encountered some colorful expressions during my recent travels of such self-hatred. A French Catholic priest expressed remorse over the record of the Church.
A conservative German intellectual preferred Syrians and Iraqis to his fellow Germans. A Swedish tour guide put down fellow Swedes and hoped he would not be perceived as one.
Indeed, many Europeans feel their guilt makes them superior; the more they dislike themselves, the more they preen — inspiring a strange mix of self-loathing and moral superiority that, among other consequence, leaves them reluctant to commit the time and money required to bear children. "Europe is losing faith in itself, and birth rates have collapsed," notes Irish scientist William Reville.
The catastrophic dearth of births underway has created an existential demographic crisis.
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