A Danish View: What’s Wrong With Europe and Right With America
In a recent column, he explains his decision to publish the cartoons, and goes further to explain how his ideological outlook has changed over the years.
The worldwide furor unleashed by the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that I published last September in Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper where I work, was both a surprise and a tragedy, especially for those directly affected by it. Lives were lost, buildings were torched, and people were driven into hiding.Rose then briefly outlines his personal ideological journey.
And yet the unbalanced reactions to the not-so-provocative caricatures — loud denunciations and even death threats toward us, but very little outrage toward the people who attacked two Danish Embassies — unmasked unpleasant realities about Europe’s failed experiment with multiculturalism. It’s time for the Old Continent to face facts and make some profound changes in its outlook on immigration, integration, and the coming Muslim demographic surge. After decades of appeasement and political correctness, combined with growing fear of a radical minority prepared to commit serious violence, Europe’s moment of truth is here.
Europe today finds itself trapped in a posture of moral relativism that is undermining its liberal values. An unholy three-cornered alliance between Middle East dictators, radical imams who live in Europe, and Europe’s traditional left wing is enabling a politics of victimology. This politics drives a culture that resists integration and adaptation, perpetuates national and religious differences, and aggravates such debilitating social ills as high immigrant crime rates and entrenched unemployment.
As one who once championed the utopian state of multicultural bliss, I think I know what I’m talking about. I was raised on the ideals of the 1960s, in the midst of the Cold War. I saw life through the lens of the countercultural turmoil, adopting both the hippie pose and the political superiority complex of my generation. I and my high school peers believed that the West was imperialistic and racist. We analyzed decaying Western civilization through the texts of Marx and Engels and lionized John Lennon’s beautiful but stupid tune about an ideal world without private property: “Imagine no possessions/ I wonder if you can/ No need for greed or hunger/ A brotherhood of man/ Imagine all the people/ Sharing all the world.”Returning to the subject of immigration, Rose contrasts Europe and America.
It took me only 10 months as a young student in the Soviet Union in 1980-81 to realize what a world without private property looks like, although many years had to pass until the full implications of the central Marxist dogma became clear to me.
What’s wrong with Europe? For one thing, Europe’s approach to immigration and integration is rooted in its historic experience with relatively homogeneous cultures. In the United States one’s definition of nationality is essentially political; in Europe it is historically cultural. I am a Dane because I look European, speak Danish, descend from centuries of other Scandinavians. But what about the dark, bearded new Danes who speak Arabic at home and poor Danish in the streets? We Europeans must make a profound cultural adjustment to understand that they, too, can be Danes.Rose understands that liberal (in the classic sense) societies are under attack from two directions. On the one hand, there are the radical Islamicists. On the other, the secular leftists.
Another great impediment to integration is the European welfare state. Because Europe’s highly developed, but increasingly unaffordable, safety nets provide such strong unemployment insurance and not enough incentive to work, many new immigrants go straight onto the dole.
While it can be argued that the fast-growing community of about 20 million Muslim immigrants in Europe is the equivalent of America’s new Hispanic immigrants, the difference in their productivity and prosperity is staggering. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study in 1999 showed that while immigrants in the United States are almost equal to native-born workers as taxpayers and contributors to American prosperity, in Denmark there is a glaring gap of 41 percent between the contributions of the native-born and of the immigrants. In the United States, a laid-off worker gets an average of 32 percent compensation for his former wages in welfare services; in Denmark the figure is 81 percent. A culture of welfare dependency is rife among immigrants, and taken for granted.
Europe must shed the straitjacket of political correctness, which makes it impossible to criticize minorities for anything — including violations of laws, traditional mores, and values that are central to the European experience. Two experiences tell the tale for me.
Shortly after the horrific 2002 Moscow musical theater siege by Chechen terrorists that left 130 dead, I met with one of my old dissident friends, Sergei Kovalev. A hero of the human rights movement in the old Soviet Union, Kovalev had long been a defender of the Chechens and a critic of the Russian attacks on Chechnya. But after the theater massacre he refused, as always, to indulge in politically correct drivel about the Chechens’ just fight for secession and decolonization. He unhesitatingly denounced the terrorists, and insisted that a nation’s right to self-determination did not imply a free ticket to kill and violate basic individual rights. For me, it was a clarifying moment on the dishonesty of identity politics and the sometime tyranny of elevating group rights above those of individuals — of justifying the killing of innocents in the name of some higher cause.
The other experience was a trip I made in the 1990s, when I was a correspondent based in the United States, to the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. There I wrote a story about the burgeoning, bustling, altogether vibrant Russian immigrant community that had arisen there — a perfect example of people retaining some of their old cultural identity (drinking samovars of tea, playing hours of chess, and attending church) while quickly taking advantage of America’s free and open capitalism to establish an economic foothold. I marveled at America’s ability to absorb newcomers. It was another clarifying moment.
The two groups are, at the moment, allies — although if the Islamicists should gain powers they would show as little mercy to the secular leftists as to Christians.
Both the secular leftists and the radical Islamicists are weaker in the U.S. than in Europe, so there is much more hope here.
But the same conflict does play itself out on this side of the Atlantic.