Bitterness, resignation and absence of hope are the dominant emotions among the French population; surveys and statistical data confirm it. The unfortunate situation that pervades the rest of Europe suggests strongly that the French malaise is in tune with a much larger malaise that has infected the whole Continent.
The month-long strikes, demonstrations and riots that engulfed France from early October until a month later are gone, but the ills that erupted so visibly continue to fester beneath the surface, growing stronger as the principle actors of disruption prepare their encore.
There are no political alternatives here: in every European country, political parties fall into one of two camps:Protest Movements that foment and channel discontent and resentment though they have no chance to prevail in national elections; and Incumbent Establishment Parties that offer only statism, political interventionism, redistribution and stagnation. Even if an elected politician actually did try to move in an encouraging new direction, his efforts would be quickly squelched: Europe's key decisions are now made in technocratic and bureaucratic spheres where voters have no sway.
Public and journalistic access to political information is extremely restricted. In most larger European countries, mainstream media are nationalized or owned by companies largely financed by contracts with the State — leading to auto-censorship, news filtering, and editorial policies totally compatible with their owners' and/or State interests.
Available knowledge has been pre-sterilized. Even educational and research institutions are actively controlled by government. With no requirement to demonstrate or even measure their effectiveness, universities and research centers recruit more on the basis of ideological affinities and union affiliations than on the basis of subject-matter knowledge and intellectual skills. This has naturally led to quasi-monolithic conformity and nearly total elimination of ideas essential to understanding today's world. An economist in continental Europe can be a Marxist or a Keynesian, but not a classical free-market liberal unless he wants to be marginalized and ignored.
One might ask how Europe got into this mess. Europe was the cradle of the most remarkable achievements of Western civilization: the concepts of human rights and democracy; freedom to choose and to undertake; science. Europe also spawned plenty of murderous and sterile dogma. At mid-twentieth century, in the wake of two world wars, massive self-destruction and a genocide; as her eastern half fell into the grip of communist totalitarianism and her western half basked in the protection of the United States, her original civilizations seemed destined to vanish.
As some Western European leaders were convinced that Nazism and fascism had resulted from massive social psychoses, when they decided to rebuild, they were determined to avoid any risk of a "repeat performance."
They claimed they would avoid the terrible errors of the recent past, but then went and reproduced them in other guises.
They knew information and education were key strategic sectors, but they placed them under political control.
They spoke of democracy, but chose to entrust political power to a core of people they deemed blessed with the requisite political wisdom.
They believed Nazism and fascism were always based on capitalistic inclinations of greed and cynicism, and wished to curb such inclinations; so they spoke of markets and trade, but decided that economic power should be controlled by those entrusted with political power.
They spoke of free choice and free speech, but they shaped a freedom so closely monitored that it was gradually asphyxiated by the State.
They imagined they could create an ideal society, where happiness would flourish, where benevolent rulers would efficiently manage everything, where the brilliant systems they created would care for people from birth to retirement, then onward to the grave. But they discouraged individual initiative, characterized it as insidious.
They imagined they could alter the fundamental nature of human beings, so they practiced relativistic tolerance and chose multiculturalism as a way to build a robust new culture, a robust new humanity.
They built Europe. It seemed to work for a few decades. There was growth, prosperity, and peace — primarily thanks to the United States, but that was a well kept secret. When the Soviet empire fell, European leaders said it was principally the result of their own wisdom and the generous benevolence of Mikhail Gorbachev. Intellectuals all over the world spoke admiringly of the European dream starting to come true. Those who dared suggest that noxious uncontrollable dimensions lay hidden under the dream were a tiny minority and were viewed as cynics, pessimists and loonies.
We are now at the moment when the dream disintegrates and the noxious dimensions become horrifyingly visible. What the political dreamers built was no more than an artificial construct that is now simply ending — as all artificial constructs do.
What was built was, very precisely, an ideocratic construct: people, certain that they possessed the absolute truth, imposed their values on others and on every aspect of European society with ruthless determination and delusional arrogance, which have now led us all the way to the cusp of visible disaster
Last summer, autos and buildings were torched in Athens. Days ago, London students smashed shop windows and attacked public buildings. Meanwhile, Spain was immobilized by a general strike, including acts of violence in Madrid and Barcelona. Greeks expressed anger at the deflationary spiral buffeting their country. British students were angered by rising tuition fees and public spending cuts. Spaniards demonstrated their distaste at an austerity plan too hastily drawn up and adopted by the government. Ireland, facing the specter of a gigantic default, accepted emergency financial assistance from countries barely more solvent or creditworthy. Portugal and Italy are in precarious financial situations as well. Belgium is on the brink of a schism between the slightly more prosperous northern Flemish area and the wretched French-speaking region to the south.
From one end of the Continent to the other, rapidly growing signs of broader collapse abound. All the perverse technocratic mechanisms engineered during construction of the United Europe appear to be breaking down simultaneously; the ugliness of the effects has become increasingly difficult to hide. The mass of people living exclusively on State welfare keeps spiraling skyward, while public coffers are already deep in deficit. Here and there, totally irrational forms of speculation abruptly emerge in broad daylight. Understanding the basic rules of economics seems to have lost all value and appears to have simply vanished. Millions of people who lived for decades in a perpetual comfy present are suddenly confronted by the agonizing fact that the future has finally arrived after all, and with it, the need to pay a price they cannot afford.
The list continues. European birth rates have been in free fall for decades, and entire countries will soon morph into assisted living accommodations for seniors. The shortage of qualified people for the jobs that need to be filled to ensure survival of post-industrial economies is looming on a close horizon. European entrepreneurial creativity has vanished: where are Europe's Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page? Meanwhile, the number of Muslim immigrants who refuse assimilation grows apace, with the result that many newcomers descend into delinquency, radicalization and hostility to their host countries.
All this might be most aptly described as a multifaceted and proliferative pathology raging out of control. Problems and troubles often mutually accelerate each other in a cumulative process so tightly enmeshed that it becomes impossible to separate any single one from the rest.
Careful examination of this constricted intertwining leads to a narrow and dark prognosis: although the future has yet to be written and sealed, one is struck by its colors, which appear dull and lifeless, somber tints of degeneration and death.
Future historians and political scientists will analyze how, after the tragedies of World War II, Europe could engender a project that would result only in more disaster.
Their analyses will be enlightening, but an explanation now, as a safety measure, might be helpful for people in the United States who still believe in the European dream or fail to understand what went wrong and why some of the decisions made by the current administration might be harmful.
Although, on November 2, 2010, a majority of the American people voted, without ambiguity, to reject the decisions of this administration, the concepts that underpin America's current flawed ideology will not give up their ghost with a snap of the fingers.
It is time for Americans to decide if they wish to avoid the reproduction of Europe's fateful mistakes, or continue to embrace them and suffer their irreversible consequences.
The original article was published on December 13, 2010 on the Hudson New York blog