Saturday, 3 February 2018

Stoking fear

"11 November 2017. Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland. The police estimated that 60,000 people marched in the largely young crowd. Many chanted ‘Fatherland’, their banners read: ‘White Europe’, ‘Europe Will Be White’ and ‘Clean Blood’.  The Wall Street Journal reported that some of the marchers had flown in from Hungary, Slovakia and Spain, and waved flags and symbols that those countries used during their wartime collaboration with Nazi Germany. Polish state television called the procession a ‘great march of patriots’."

A populist neo-nationalism based upon ignorance of history is bubbling-up at many places in Europe. This shows the importance of knowledge about history, understanding the past, and learning from it. Also, the fact that so many immigrants have become Europeanized, showing that culture is independent from ethnicity, nationality, religion even, is not understood enough. It merely takes a couple of generations to completely diffuse any strongly anti-European feelings among immigrant communities, and this has nothing to do with wearing head scarves.

This is where culture and the understanding of what it is, becomes crucial, as well as the understanding of what European civilization is supposed to be. Rightwing extremist parties in Europe lay the groundwork for fascist outbursts and the destruction of the European idea: its civilizational and cultural unity, and its ability to build bridges and to accomodate differences between groups.

"The fear of immigrants threatens to destroy the very social and political fabric, culture, tradition, religion and way of life that Europeans want to protect."

Culture, in the sense of offering a humanist narrative, should counter these tendencies wherever it can.  


Addendum 20/2/18:

An interesting review of 'Europe's Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right' by Liz Fekete throws further light on the issue. The author convincingly asserts that the dismantling of the welfare state has put a strain on all Europeans and, instead of questioning the policies that brought this about, they have joined rightwing politicians in blaming people they see as “scroungers.” (quote)

These strains are felt strongest among the people who did not share in the economic 'boom' before 2008 which benefitted 'the cosmopolitan elites', so: the poor 'whites' and the disenfranchised populations in the countryside who feel their 'normality' being threatened, vote for extremists as a protest and hope for reform.

What we witness here however, is the lowest of the lowest sentiments, crawling like rats from their holes where they have been lounging for decades - when being marginalized by the world above - and now, with the help of the new communication gadgets, demand power in the public arena:

When New Right leaders promise a return to the strong welfare state of the past, they do so under the condition that it be ethnically and racially bounded. With this modification, they enforce a range of patriarchal, racist, and homophobic values that draw on “noble” ideals of purity and national honor, whether they look to the Third Reich, the dream of a Greater Hungary (that would stretch into Romania and Slovakia), the male-led family “uncontaminated” by gender equality or tolerance for gay and queer people, pre-Ottoman Balkan Christianity, or pure-blooded Viking masculinity. Such visions are often, it seems, accompanied by torch wielding men and border militias with attack dogs. (quote)

The barbarians in our midst. The only remedy is a) a much stronger civilizational and cultural instruction and information effort across the board of the educational systems; and b) the strongest possible enforcement of law based upon the modern Enlightenment values of social democracy like equality and civil citizenship, which have been established in the West, with ups and downs, but with the greatest efforts, over the last two hundred years, and which have not been finished and internalized enough in the lower strata of European society.

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