"Europe has always been a grand idea. But it is more flexible than we realize. We must deliberately invest it with the meaning we wish for it to have. If we don't, others will."
A new book about the history of nazism, now focussing upon its art policies, offers a warning that seems to be quite apt in these days.
The nazis rejected both democratic cosmopolitism and modernism, and wanted a European culture rooted in the 'Volk', and purified from 'decadent elements' among which the 'Jewish element' was, of course, the most conspicuous. They believed in 'purity' along ethnic lines and authoritarian directives, as a solution for the mess Western societies had got into after WW I, with their economic crashes and general confusion, also and especially, in the arts. (The resemblance with the rise of rightwing parties in Europe today is obvious.) The traditionalism that the nazis advocated was, of course, a perversion, and from their rejection of modernism should not be concluded that traditionalism is inherently fascist; if this were so, eating meat and heavy smoking and drinking would be necessary proof that one does not cultivate fascist sympathies - Hitler was vegetarian and did not smoke or drink. The entire project of a fascist European cultural reform was a sickening pipe dream of amateurs and diabolical nitwits.