Monday, October 02, 2006
Europe's Fleeting Moments of Clarity
In alcoholism, drug addiction, in a destructive relationship or a cult, people change and adapt to worsened circumstances accepting them as normal.
They lose their friends, their possessions, their freedom, the entirety of their life as they had lived it until now often without realizing that they've lost anything. While people from outside can see quite well how badly off they are, they cannot. Except for touchstone moments, moments of clarity when they see how low they've fallen.
Europe is dying. Its birth rate is below replacement, its economies are weak and its societies bureaucrat-ridden. Its shores are overwhelmed with a tidal wave of hostile Moslem immigrants remaking the nations of Europe in their own image through multiculturalism and force, city by city. But lately Europe has been having moments of clarity and it is odd what these moments are.
When a German opera house pulled an opera that featured Mohammed's severed head after being warned that it would pose an incalculable security risk, Germany finally had a moment of clarity.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “I think the cancellation was a mistake. I think self-censorship does not help us against people who want to practice violence in the name of Islam,” she told reporters. “It makes no sense to retreat.”
Deputy parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Thierse said, "Has it come so far that we must limit artistic expression? What will be next?"
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also criticized the decision. "We tend to become crazy if we start to forbid Mozart operas being played. We will not accept it," he told a news conference during a visit to Washington stating that the conference participants were united in their call for the opera to restart performances of "Idomeneo...To send a signal, we could all go to the performance together."
This sudden German Opera Rising seems a little absurd. After all Europe has been living since under an unspoken ban on offending Muslims for a while now. In 1988 when Salman Rushdie's T'he Satanic Verses' came out, Muslims responded with death threats and murder and plenty in the European cultural establishment defended them.
It's nearly two decades later and it's a given that anything that offends Muslims will result in violence and possibly death. The Danish cartoons represented a showdown between Freedom of Speech and Islam and for the most part Islam won and Europe's highest law has become, 'Don't Provoke the Muslims.'
Whence the German Rising then? The key can be found in Merkel's wording when she along with other critics branded it 'self-censorship.' After all it was not threats of Muslim violence that shuttered the production. The Muslims never had the chance. Instead the directress of the Opera received a phone call from Berlin's top police official, Ehrhart Koerting, who informed her that there would be horrific consequences if the show went forward.
Had it been a show critical of the government there would have been a good deal of outrage at such a phone call, but such phone calls are made regularly these days. Yet this one provoked an uprising precisely because it served as a moment of clarity.
If Germans pride themselves on one thing, it's culture. Militarism is off limits in the public sphere but the belief in the greatness of their musical and literary past outweighs the legendary Teutonic knights. Culture, though it may be fossilized relics of the past, is Germany's claim to greatness among the nations. High in that pantheon is Mozart, whose opera Idomeneo is after all. And opera is an art form Germany likes to lay claim to as much as it can.
To foreigners it may seem odd to see top German politicians so worked up over canceling an opera, but within Germany it represents an attack at the heart of German identity. As the Interior Minister said, the very idea is maddening. Take away Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and the Opera Houses and what does Germany have left to distinguish it from Poland except its automobile industry.
Yet had the cancellation truly come about through Muslim threats it is not likely that it would have resulted in this moment of clarity. Instead it was something far more pernicious, self-censorship.
Self-censorship occurs in dictatorships, in abusive relationships, in smothering workplaces. It happens not when you are beaten into silence but when you internalize the beater's code of conduct so that you have learned to silence yourself. Germany woke to the silence of a Mozart opera and realized they were the ones who had silenced it.
The resulting moment of clarity is something like that storybook gambler pawning his dead wife's ring or the boozing writer selling off his typewriter. It's a shocking moment when you realize how low you have fallen and look around in dazed disbelief.
Germany has 3.2 million Muslims. France has 5 million. They did not come overnight but month by month and year by year. They did not declare overnight that the countries they had emigrated to would now have to live by their rule. It all took decades of a slowly growing minority and a slowly growing pressure exploding in bursts of violence.
The relationship between Europe and Islam slowly turned abusive. Now Europe is climbing out of bed with two black eyes and a broken arm and looking in the mirror trying to understand what's going on. In Sweden the right has won election for the first time ever. In Belgium, the capital of the EU, the right may duplicate that feat. Holland has already done it. France, of all places, is headed for a 'Tough on Islam' President. Germany has a conservative pro-US Prime Minister.
America had its moment of clarity on September 11th. It passed for some. It endured for others. Much of the War on Terror blogsphere is the product of men and women, many of them liberals, who experienced their own moments of clarity.
Now Europe is beginning to wake.