The European Means of Life

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Every time anybody speaks of “our lifestyle” in contradistinction to all others, I start to really feel uneasy. What’s it that defines its uniqueness? What’s it that we, whoever we could also be, all share that others don’t? Whereas most of us know what we imply by “our lifestyle,” as quickly as we attempt to outline it, its that means disappears just like the blush of a grape.

If I communicate of the French or German lifestyle, everybody has an thought what I imply: for instance, ingesting wine in cafés or bierfests. However in fact the vast majority of the French don’t drink wine in cafés (French wine consumption per capita has declined by two thirds within the final sixty years), and most Germans don’t go to bierfests. No matter defining characteristic we alight upon, then, somebody will say both that it isn’t distinctive to the nation, or that most people whose lifestyle is supposedly constituted by it don’t in reality share it. Entire methods of life disappear below this sort of mental carping.

We should always not try, nevertheless, to make use of phrases extra exactly than their subject-matter permits. The truth that it’s tough to say the place a cloud begins and ends doesn’t imply that there aren’t any things like clouds or that we have no idea one once we see one.

However there may be one other objection to the usage of the time period “our lifestyle.” There’s something inherently self-congratulatory about it, for individuals very seldom use it to criticise themselves or draw consideration to disagreeable nationwide or civilizational traits. It comprises inside it an implicit hostility to different methods of life which will, when checked out dispassionately, have features superior to our personal. It due to this fact implies a narrow-minded unwillingness to study from others. And we’re hooked up to our lifestyle not solely as a result of we expect it the very best, however as a result of it’s our personal. For some, the latter feeling represents an affront to Man as a rational being, for rationality within the opinion of a lot of the intelligentsia, within the opinion of means deciding each query via infallible deduction from an indubitable Cartesian level.

The brand new head of the European Fee, Ursula von der Leyen, has come below hearth for having titled the European Union’s head official for overseeing migration into the continent the Vice-President for the Safety of Our European Means of Life. The title has an sad ring to it, and I can properly think about members of sure minorities (I say sure minorities as a result of we’re all members of many minorities) feeling uneasy due to it.

An article within the bellwether of enlightened opinion, The Guardian, solely too predictably started as follows:

How would you outline the “European lifestyle”? What distinctive, homogeneous tradition is shared by individuals who reside in Bolton, Palermo or Plovdiv—however not those that reside outdoors Europe? And what threatens it so profoundly that the European Union has this week nominated a minister with accountability for defending it?

What this in impact means is that there’s nothing distinct concerning the European lifestyle by comparability with that, say Central Asia or the Aztecs, and because the time period can’t be outlined, what it allegedly describes can’t exist and due to this fact can’t be defended or preserved or for that matter destroyed. Italy, stated Metternich, is a geographical expression; for the writer, Europe is a geographical expression—and nothing extra.

The corollary of the Guardian’s method is that it does probably not matter how many individuals enter Europe or from the place they enter or what they create with them: there may be nothing for them to destroy. In response to analysis, a 3rd of sub-Saharan Africans wish to transfer to Europe—a quantity equal to all the inhabitants of Europe. Have been they really to take action, who might doubt the “European lifestyle,” nevertheless outlined, would bear a change? The identical goes, in fact, for the lesser numbers who may come to Europe from the Center East had been there no effort to limit them.

There are few individuals who would need to prohibit all migration no matter into Europe (although there are little question some). However what Ursula von der Leyen’s sinister-sounding job title—one made all of the extra suspect as a result of she is German—has completed is to divert consideration from the actual and sensible drawback of how to make sure a managed migration, to a form of ideological battle between those that suppose that cultural identification is essential to protect and those that suppose that cultural identification, not less than within the mouths of the leaders of countries receiving migrants, is however a smokescreen for the worst of passions, for xenophobia, racism and even proto-fascism. The one cultural identities or methods of life that those that suppose like this want to protect are these of the migrants themselves within the completely happy kaleidoscope of a multicultural society. For them, all cultures are sacrosanct however their very own.

There’s in all probability no topic on which verbal circumspection is extra advisable or crucial than that of migration. Many features of it must be dealt with with care, for instance the evident indisputable fact that migrants have each particular person and group traits. In discussions of the issue there may be usually the considerably complacent or boastful assumption that every one that counts is the conduct of the migrants’ receiving nation, and that what concepts, needs, and cultural preconceptions the migrants carry with them are irrelevant. In different phrases, a migrant is not only a unit of migration, particularly the place official coverage is to allow and even encourage cultural ghettoization within the title of multicultural variety.

However as well as, nobody can declare to know what the precise penalties of migration will likely be. Yesterday’s burden can turn out to be at present’s asset. When Idi Amin, the then dictator of Uganda, expelled the Indian merchants who had been granted British passports by the departing colonial regime (anti-South-Asian feeling being the antisemitism of East Africa), the British took them in with reluctance and ill-grace. Nobody predicted that they might quickly turn out to be the richest identifiable group within the nation, or that they could combine into British society with so little problem, although looking back the explanations for this are evident.

By way of a easy however silly and faintly sinister type of phrases, Ursula von der Leyen has helped to inhibit severe dialogue of a really severe, certainly vitally essential, query.

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