European Identities Part II
Published on: January 12, 2012
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  • Jim.

    “But I do not think that any form of deepening at this point is a viable project unless someone pays more attention to identity and is able to answer the question in a more substantive sense of what it means to be a European. Not just in a negative sense that we don’t want conflict and old nationalisms and war, but what it means in terms of positive values.”

    Without a return to Christian roots — truly religious roots, where people go to church on Sunday and hear the Word of God that forms the foundation of the culture unites them — “Europe” will founder in a sea of petty nationalisms that will never be integrated.

    Secular Europe is a divided Europe. Europe that refuses to embrace Christianity and its culture of life and family is a dying Europe.

    Secular Europeans will not survive. There will either be a repudiation of secular socialism and a revival of Christianity (like the United States has had every few generations) that restores the birthrate, or Caucasian Europeans will be replaced by Muslims and the European culture that has flourished for 500 years and more will be gone.

    Socialist secularism has done more damage to the European population than WWII. It’s time people realized that, and tried to turn it around.

    • CPC

      @Jim: “Christian roots”?! Plus, that last sentence of yours proves either you’re a buffoon or you’re simply trying to rile folks up (thus, disingenuous). Europe needs a lot, but just as it doesn’t need a rise in Islamism, it sure as hell doesn’t need a return to Vatican power, or Lutheranism, or Calvinism, or any other b.s. where a group of wannabe-virgins enforce a feudal system, encouraging war, ignorance and disease. There’s much I’d comment regarding Mr. Fukuyama’s piece, but I just had to let you know, sans any real facts, that you’re dead wrong, you crypto-fascist.

      • Steve

        Nothing but namecalling. Typical liberal.

    • R.C.


      You are of course correct. Europe’s roots are Christian; the last time Europe was united in any sense the name for it was “Christendom.”

      CPC is ignorant, and his comment shows the kind of denialism common to the more fanatical secularists. I’m sure he’s a nice person in other ways and normally intelligent and competent, but his response is the type of thing one expects from a person whose orthodoxies have gotten in the way of an objective evaluation of facts.

      A person can individually be an atheist and still admit that secular nationalisms produced a far bloodier Europe than united Christendom, wherein an Italian Dominican like Albertus Magnus became most famous for being a “French” professor in a French university, teaching natural philosophy to Germans and Spaniards.

      And of course orthodox religious belief and practice are incidental to most of the history of intra-European wars, once the nationalisms are factored in. Henry VIII was a Catholic “Defender of the Faith” right up to the moment it interfered with his personal life; then we found out exactly how Catholic he was! The threat posed by dissenters to civic rule or political power was always the core issue.

      So: I agree with you: United Europe is Christendom.

      But what of it?

      I fear your comment is ultimately a purely theoretical one. For there are today very few Christians in Europe in the sense of orthodox belief and practice, even if we define “orthodox belief and practice” generously as all the things the oldest and largest communions (Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox, Calvinist) have in common, and don’t bother making denominationally-specific distinctions.

      That in and of itself might not spell the death of European cultural and social union. It would still be possible to have a society in which most individuals were no longer Christian in belief, but in which their worldview and cultural institutions all remained Christian and thus united.

      But this is no longer the case, either, in Europe. The average European is deeply antagonistic to the Christian worldview without even knowing it. He engages in magical thinking rather than discipline; he takes the term “real” to be synonymous with “quantifiable”; he dismisses statements of value as being subjective; he knows of no qualitative difference between happiness achieved by viewing the Sistine Chapel ceiling and happiness achieved using crack cocaine.

      He has induced in himself the kind of dog-like mind that sees a pointing finger and doesn’t realize what it points to; he has become the kind of trousered ape who can’t write poetry about the sea because he can’t conceive of the Atlantic Ocean as anything other than so many billion tons of cold salt water.

      He doesn’t even try to contemplate “meaning of life” questions, but distracts himself from them with sex and technologically-enabled entertainment…so much so that any life not currently capable of being distracted from its pains or its self-knowledge by sex or entertainment is deemed of dubious value, and is subject to cost-cutting extermination. This explains not only abortion and euthanasia, but childlessness: Why have children, when sex can be rendered unfruitful, and allowing it to remain fruitful reduces the economic resources with which one entertains oneself and distracts oneself from life?

      In that state of affairs, union of Europe along Christian lines is pretty hopeless. The Christians, properly understood as believers and not merely persons whose grandparents believed, are but a tenth of the population. Worse, most of that tithe don’t know their faith well enough to hold a worldview substantially differing from their trousered-ape neighbors.

      When Europe has been re-evangelized, probably by Christian missionaries from Asia and Africa, there’s some hope for a united and peaceful Europe.

      Pending that, there isn’t, and trade ties are the only things that’ll keep the mutually-suspicious peoples of Europe from shooting one another. There’s such a thing as wanting a smooth economy more than you want your neighbors shot.

      • Enigmatic

        For all its flaws, increasingly secular democratic liberal institutionalist Europe went to war rather less than the imaginary “united Christendom” of past centuries. Evidently the bark of our dog-like minds is worse than our bite.

        Weren’t the levels of Christian worship much higher at the zenith of the “secular” nationalist movements and their dog-collared apologists? Certainly the churches weren’t particularly prominent in stopping Germany from shooting its neighbours back when 95% of Germans identified as orthodox Christian; say what you like about pan-European institutions but they seem to be doing a better job in an era when only a minority of Germans affirm a belief in God.

        Are you seriously trying to argue that there’s more violent nationalism and less opportunity for advancement in other EU countries now than when Albertus Magnus was touring Europe preaching about the divine imperative to join the war in Egypt and Tunisia? I’ll concede that during his lifetime it was probably safer to be an Italian or even a German in France than a French Cathar heretic. It’s wonderful how religious bigotry could transcend mere nationality.

        And then undermine your own point about faith as a pacifying force by pointing out how little Henry VIII’s faith meant; it didn’t mean much to the contemporary Holy Roman Emperor either although he was able to subvert the Pope’s attempts to orchestrate pan-European conflict by the rather more direct method of imprisoning him. Now at least Henry’s daughter Mary – that most hated of English monarchs – was sincere in her attempts to unify through faith, even if it did tend to involve the burning of Protestants.

        I’ll look forward to the missionaries from Africa teaching us how to avoid conflict though. Their fruitfulness in Malthusian multiplication is an example to us all!

        Sorry, the culture wars are over. You lost.

  • Frank Arden

    I recall a few years back we were entertaining friends visiting from Denmark. After lunch I brought the matter of the EU. Denmark had just had its referendum on the matter and I wanted to know how they voted. The husband, a businessman, votes “yes” because he thought it would be good for business.

    His wife voted “no” because she was suspicious of this liberal idea that believed sovereignty could be replaced by a bunch of elite technocrats. She did not believe there was a social glue strong enough to hold it together.

    I agreed with her.

    In an earlier blog you posted about American Exceptionalism, I thought one thing missing from your comments was more about the unique way the colonies were glued together before the Revolution.

    In fact, the American Revolution did little to reorganize society, but instead sought to sustain the status quo that had evolved through the benign neglect of the British.

    Recently, Socialist Harold Meyerson wrote an article (I can’t remember where) blaming gridlock on the Constitution. Typically, he blames the Founders for a construct that was meant to protect the propertied class and limited democracy.

    To him the solution to gridlock is simple: we need more democracy. He comes just short of calling for a parliamentary system and even criticizes bicameral state legislatures as redundancies.

    This politically liberal frustration with the Constitution is not new. It’s the same old and tired theory that the US system was designed by and for rich white men, etc, etc. Meyerson ignores the expansion of the franchise since that time.

    He also ignores the results of unbridled democracy that allowed the French revolution, just two years later, to become the slaughter bench of history.

    In this, the founders were most wise. The US Republic established by the Constitution was intended to limit democracy through the Electoral College, super majorities in the legislature and the amendment process, and the selection of senators by state legislatures.

    The glue that has held it together has been not only Federalism and shared sovereignty, but a union of shared language, shared experience, and shared interest.

    The European problem of assimilation and the various measures of success (or failure) is the result of how different cultures deal with the same thing in different ways.

    American culture, and the government that rose from it, was always built for immigrants and assimilation and is why we’ve been so successful at it. The European nations were not built that way.

    As for gluing the EU together and maintaining the Euro, the idea at present is to bond the Euro nations with a fiscal union. This will only create more friction with a further loss of sovereignty and a massive loss of democracy as the great democratic parliaments of Europe rot in impotency.

    Democratic socialists as Meyerson should quit trying to replace James Madison with more democracy and instead, turn their dread to Europe where democracy is about to be lost.

    • Pennywisdom

      That’s because these people see democracy as a panacea–the Will of the People is always enlightened–without any real reflection on how social consensus is truly created. I would recommend to them spending some time with Tocqueville (or Rousseau, for that matter) and then maybe they would learn a thing or two about glue. But until then, the conversation will continually be redirected away from the real issue–Culture–to the smokescreen of materialist politics.

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  • R.C.


    Albertus Magnus was, of course, a German Dominican, not an Italian Dominican as I mistakenly stated above. At the time of writing I was waffling about whether to use Albertus or his pupil Thomas Aquinas (who was Italian) as my example. I wrote “Italian” intending to use Aquinas; then changed to Albertus, and forgot to change “Italian” to German.

    Sorry for the error. But I suppose it goes further to prove the point for which I employed the example: It wouldn’t have mattered a whit whether Albertus or Aquinas were used; Christendom was such that either a German or an Italian could with equal ease become a famous lecturer and the pride of a French university.

  • Frank Arden


    You are exactly right. More democracy is too much the rage.

    Your prescription for Tocqueville and Rousseau are good ones, but I’ve always had trouble with Rousseau’s “General Will” as the mortar that binds the factions of democratic societies.

    He just made it up, apparently, because he had no other concrete answer. I do not think men will do the “right” thing merely because they feel some supernatural general will to do it.

    Further, the French motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” (Liberty, equality, fraternity) implies that the union of freedom and equality can be perfected from the error of competing factions with fraternity (brotherhood, general will).

    Perhaps it works in France, or perhaps they think it does, but in America (where, as Tocqueville noted, upward mobility is the goal) freedom and equality cannot exist together. They are, in fact, opposites.

    If equality is the goal of society, then society must limit freedom to be unequal,i.e., to rise above the common mass of equals.

    I think a good corrective theory to Rousseau’s unbounded imagination is James Madison who, in the Federalist Papers’ #10, said that faction could not be limited in a free society.

    Madison’s elegant and practical solution was to let factions flourish. He wisely surmised these numerous factions would bond (glue) together from time to form majorities through common interest, not general will and fraternity.

    As far as I can tell, Fukuyama is right about the future of the EU as I doubt the unequal economies of Northern Europe will ever chose to be equal with the southern ones.

    To maintain this imbalance of northern economic superiority, southern nations will have to lose rhier equality.

    On the other hand, to create a balance of equality, the north will have to lose its freedom to be unequal.

    I don’t see enough fraternity over there to accomplish either one.

    A far better corrective answer

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  • Montanareddog

    “there was never a successful attempt to create a European sense of identity and a European sense of citizenship that would define the obligations, responsibilities, duties and rights that Europeans have to one another beyond simply the wording of the different treaties that were signed. The EU in many respects was created as a technocratic exercise done for purposes of economic efficiency. ”

    “…the whole European project has been an elite-driven affair”

    And an attempt to create a Europe-wide identity would not have been an even greater technocratic exercise, or elite-driven affair? You’re adept with your ex post facto criticisms of the approach the EU took but take no account of historical and political constraints and offer no solutions. What do you propose – abolish national flags and anthems?; have one European football team?; impose Esperanto as the official language of every EU member country?

    I tell you what I propose – establish correctly-structured institutions (which clearly the Euro was not) and hope that the organic development follows.

    That is what the Founding Fathers did in the US, though that project almost foundered 80 years later due to the (inevitable) compromises adopted on the Slavery issue.

    It is what Cavour and Bismarck did and it resulted in relatively strong Nation states.

    It is what the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia failed to do.

    And it is what the EU’s technocrats have tried to do – time will tell how successful it will be.

  • Adam Garfinkle

    Implicit in the early part of your argument here is the possibility that the presence of large numbers of culturally distinct immigrants accelerated and deepened the populism that politically threatens the European Union and makes the idea of a more tightly federal Europe extremely improbable. If this is so, then it stands as an example of the cultural contradictions of European liberalism, namely, that an elite-driven values–based attitude toward immigration undermined the elite project over all.

    I am sure that others have made this point–Ivan Krastev makes it in the next issue of The American Interest–because upon reflection it is so obvious. But it never occurred to me in such stark terms until recent weeks, so thank you for stimulating me to see it.

  • Gerd Kortuem

    “So there is no solidarity in that broader European sense.”

    None at all? I would disagree. From the beginning the EU has always had the mission to support economically less succesful regions by using money from more successful regions. And this meant in practice taking money from, let’s say, Britain to build highways in Spain. By and large Europeans always seemed happy with this arrangement (despite occasional rumblings).

    There is solidarity, but it has limits. In the same way Texans’s solidarity would exhibit limits if all of a sudden Texas would be asked to take on all financial obligations of all southern American states, without limits and without being able to reign in spending in these states.

    Helping each other out financially (within reason) and sharing political power (within reason): aren’t these powerful signs of solidarity? By national governments and citizens alike?

  • As a Latvian and a European I see the emergence of a stronger European Union on the horizon as the institutions that make up the EU undergo a process of challenge and response. Gorbachev’s late 1980’s prescient vision of a single economic space from the Atlantic to the Urals is emerging in fits and starts. As problems are solved new ones will emerge, along with new capabilities to resolve them. The institutions comprising the European Union are showing remarkable resilience in the face of problems comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s that witnessed the emergence of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin in the 1930s. The general principles of democratic governance are accepted by the vast majority of Europeans from the Baltic to the Black Sea. While the idea of the European Union was seeded by elites the institutions are actually working and rather than opposing the framework provided by the EU ordinary citizens are seeking redress to specific concerns of various interests that they have. Factions are definitely flourishing as James Madison encouraged. That these factions often reflect cultural and national identities and interests is normal and will continue to flourish for many decades.

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