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Book: Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe (Review)

Early 2017 ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ was published by British author Douglas Murray. The book’s subtitle “Immigration, Identity, Islam” gives the reader an indication along which lines the author thinks this ‘strange death’ will take place. Europe’s death is literally compared to suicide, not necessarily by the will of its citizens but by the leaders having definitely chosen to go down the path of suicide.

Immigration

Murray gives a chilling recount of developments in Europe after the second World War concerning the immigration process. Although often described from the perspective of his homeland, the United Kingdom, I had little trouble applying very similar developments to the situation in the Netherlands and that probably will be the case for readers from most West European countries.

It is the story of the 1950s that saw the homecoming of repatriates from the former colonies, followed in the 1960s by the immigration of so called ‘guest workers’ because the exploding economy in Western Europe was in dire need for a cheap, unclassified workforce. The 1970s saw the start of the open door policies where the immigrants were allowed to reunite with their families in the Western European countries instead of returning to their countries of origin.

The immigration situation continued in the following decades while the governments developed new policies to justify this immigration stream, ranging from the ideals of a multicultural society where all citizens would profit from the merits of the best of different cultures, to economic arguments. Immigrants were needed to maintain economic prosperity because the population was declining because the indigenous people produced too few children to keep the social welfare state intact. Yet the population of the European countries were exposed to the less favourable aspects that came with immigration like a rise in crime figures, a population that is largely depending on reaping the benefits of the welfare state. Especially in the larger cities there has been an explosion of ghettos that urged the indigenous people to search for alternative and better places to live.

In the second decade of the 21st century it became obvious that immigration became an uncontrollable process judged by an ever increasing numbers of migrants arriving: small boats from Africa flooded the coasts of the Italian island Lampadusa with immigrants from Sub-Saharan countries. In Greece landed extremely large numbers of migration fleeing from war situations in Middle East countries like Syria and Iraq.

One of the most remarkable events from recent years was the 2015 statement of the German chancellor “Wir schaffen das”. As Germany is also the most prominent and influential EU member, her statement signalled the start of an enormous movement and influx of migrants, almost always in search for countries with the best social conditions and benefits. This meant that the migrants went from state to state before reaching their final, most sought after destinations (countries like Germany, UK, Netherlands, Sweden).

Identity

Murray shows in an unmerciful way with an abundant amount of examples that the European governments over the past 60 years have categorically denied, lied about or at least fully underestimated the effects of immigration. They manipulated their citizens about the extent of immigration and even went so far to blatantly suppress people who dared to challenge the benefits of the large influx of migrants. Murray poses questions to which no European politician ever had a answer: “when will we have enough immigrants to fulfil political (multicultural) or economical goals (additions to the workforce)?” and “why should particularly Europe carry this burden (and not for example the countries from the Arabian peninsula)?”.

After these historical and more recent developments Murray in Chapter 13 shifts his focus to find explanations for this behaviour from the European states. He comes up with a number of aspects that are foremost psychological. There is a diminishing self belief among Europeans. They have become obsessed with economic short time goals, instant gratification based on consumerism without any higher ideals. They feel the guilt of past historic events and are too tired, too weak, too disorganised to defend their social, scientific and cultural achievements. This attitude is noticeable in their efforts in the fields of art, literature and music.

Due to the immigration the indigenous people (especially the weaker social classes like elderly and the ones with lower income) feel more and more challenged and outsmarted by immigrant culture with strong family and tribal connections. The middle class finds themselves confronted with an ever increasing work load to finance the welfare state. On top of that they find themselves in a position where they only have access to loose social structures. They do not have time, ambition or resources to reproduce themselves. And in the circumstances where they do organise themselves, they are confronted strong opposition from the political and social establishment which is quick to label them with references to a darker side of Europe’s recent history.

In my opinion Murray is missing an important aspect of how and why the migration could take on to such unexpected dimensions in Europe. Migration has become a very large economical factor with more and more people depending on an income. It is like an industry where the migrant is the commodity being mangled through a chain of people and organisations, ranging from the smugglers in Africa and Turkey, the NGO’s that pick up and transport the migrants, the lawyers that defend the migrants through their procedures, the governmental organisations that accompany the migrants arranging home, study, income. And finally in the chain are the political parties that can be assured of an increasing voters base.

Islam

The third pillar of Murray’s argumentation for Europe’s suicide is based on the fact that many of the immigrants have one thing in common: they worship the Islamic faith. Islamic faith is the very opposite of modern West Europe and this leads to ever increasing social tension as the number of muslims keeps on rising.

Migrants (islamic or otherwise) never received a clear signal from the European governmental hosts what they expected from them in their new situation. And even if there was signalling there was little control and no consequences for not obeying the rules of their host.

The subordinate position of women, the aversion against homosexuality, the possibility of apostasy are some examples of Islamic belief that are profoundly conflicting with the highly secular way of life within West European countries. The line from practicing a peaceful religion to violent exposure often seems to be rather thin and blurred because of the teachings  in massadras and mosques.

Conclusion

In the final two chapters Murray sums up a positive scenario where Europe can turn the tide but even through these possible positive events the reader gets the impression that Murray does not really believe that they will be happening. The darker scenario seems more likely that ultimately will lead to a sharp confrontation among the citizens and between citizens and their politicians.

Murray’s Strange Death is worth reading because it is the ultimate synopsis of the immigration process that has happened over the past decades in Europe and the questionable role that Europe’s leaders played in dealing with this new situation.

After the Dutch 2017 Election

When reading through the international comments on the Dutch parliament elections there is an international and general sense of relief and even happiness. The movement of “extreme right populism” as it recently gained victories in the UK (Brexit referendum) and the USA (President Trump’s election) seems to have be put to a halt in The Netherlands. The main reason for this optimism was the small rise in seats for Geert Wilder’s PVV (Party for Freedom, from 15 to 20) where until recently explosive growth was expected. Wilders’ PVV is now the second party in the Netherlands after Mark Rutte’s VVD (Popular Democratic Party). Rutte’s VVD lost a small number of seats (8) yet remains the biggest party in the Netherlands.

So Wilders gained a few seats but his role in the political arena is over after yesterday’s election results. Rutte already indicated that a collaboration between his VVD and Wilders’ PVV  would not be in question. In the Netherlands political parties have to seek collaborations to hold a majority (minimal 76 of the 150 seats) in the “Tweede Kamer” (the House of Parliament).

Wilders was remarkably absent in the recent campaign: a few TV shows, a few public appearances and not even a joint gathering of his PVV party members to watch the election results come in which is a common procedure for Dutch political parties. It is to guess why Wilders followed this strategy: did he think that social media would do for him what it had done for Trump? Where there issues surrounding his security? Or did he deliberately seek to fight his political arguments from the opposition ranks and was he scared his movement would become too big to handle? Although only Wilders himself could answer these questions, it becomes clear that Wilders will never lead a Dutch government administration. He is unfit to propose proper solutions for his sharp criticism of developments within Dutch society. He failed to bind influential figures of Dutch society to support his party and its policies.

The biggest loser yesterday was PvdA (The Labour Party). The party was decimated (from 38 to 9 seats) although it does not necessarily mean that its strong tentacles within the government, NGO’s and media now suddenly have disappeared. The seats that PvdA lost went to other left-wing and center parties like GroenLinks (Green Party), D66 (Democratic Party) and CDA (Christian Party). This means that PvdA lost its attractiveness to the voters, but it does not mean that their defeat will lead to radical changes in the political landscape.

So the conclusion is that the result of the election will be foremost a continuation of the status quo of Dutch “kartel parties” so called by new comer Forum voor Democratie (from 0 to 2 seats). ‘Kartel parties’  is the conglomerate of institutionalised parties that already reign over the Dutch politics in different combinations for many decades.

The large majority of the Dutch voters still seem to approve the current political situation. There is little interest in controversial subjects like abolishing the Euro or leaving the EU (Nexit). For now they seem to comfortably close their eyes for the big issues that sooner or later will be knocking at their doors: the high amounts of immigrants, the stability of the EU and Euro and last but not least, the internal stability of a segregated society where different populations hold their own ideas about their loyalty to the Netherlands. Last week events in the Netherlands surrounding the visit of Turkey’s ministers and the commotion it caused afterwards are strong indicators  about the current state of things and what is likely to be expected to happen more intensively and more often in the near future.

Other election events in 2017 (Germany, France) will give further indicators if citizens of those EU countries wish to continue the current direction of their political leaders or whether they are already prepared for more dramatic measures.

Den Haag, 16 maart 2017