The Other is not only the person who speaks a different language and owes allegiance to a different nation. He is any person we cannot bring ourselves to admit is right - especially if he criticizes us.
Europe was the driver of much that happened in the world for five hundred years. Without Europe's kings eternally squabbling among themselves, the New World would have continued to be ruled by Indian tribes, Asia would have come into its own much sooner, the war in the Pacific averted, as imagined by Kim Anderson in The Year of Rice and Wine. As for Africa, who knows where it would be today, had it not been carved up among Europe's competing powers in the last century?
Aside from pre-Enlightenment religious differences, Europe's internal conflicts can be partly ascribed to the fact that more than thirty peoples, with different languages and histories, share the Eurasian Peninsula's ten million square kilometers. (The only other comparable region is West Africa, with eighteen states in an area of six million kilometers - however this region is home to a relatively homogeneous population.) Even if we consider only those language families that correspond to political entities, there are the Romance languages: French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese; the Scandinavian: Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch; the Slavic: Serbian, Slovak, Croat, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech. German and English, and outliers like Romanian (that harks back to Latin), Greek, Albanian and Hungarian, that comes from somewhere in the Ural mountains together with Finnish.
After World War II, France made heroic efforts to ensure that French would remain the language of diplomacy, confirming France's ever-Gaullian rayonnement, however English easily became the undisputed continent's - and world's - 'lingua franca'. Unfortunately, a common language has not significantly improved intra-European relations, its millennial tradition of disunion now characterized by the separation between a more relaxed but poor south, and a North that prides itself on efficiency. The conditions grudgingly accepted by Greek's creditors have enraged the plurality that put the Syriza Party in power to end austerity, raising the spectre of Greece's exit from the Euro. Should this happen, it is likely to be followed by other countries suffering from World Bank imposed hardship, namely Spain, Portugal and Italy, whose left parties actively supported Syriza's campaign, prefiguring a Europe united along class lines facing an American-inspired bureaucracy (in which however the dominant language is French".).
However crucial this issue may seem today, it is dwarfed by the problem of Muslim immigration. Over the last century, Europe transformed traditional African cultures, in which everyone had a roof and could grow food, into suppliers of the superfluous, and now it is powerless to stop large numbers of those living in the poverty of semi-development from migrating to the place where the superfluous beckons. France and Germany each count 10% of their population as Muslims, and even in the Nordic countries, Muslims account for about 5%. America's failure to take into account the histories of other countries is equalled only by its inability to acknowledge challenges that America does not share: with a Muslim population that represents only 1%, although it calls for a global effort to 'defeat terrorism', it cannot accept that it is more important for Europe to deal with its Muslim problem than to wrestle Ukraine out of Russia's orbit.
Since the end of World War II, when 'the Allies' defeated Hitler's Reich, America has literally taken over Europe with a combination of soft power (starting with Coca-Cola), and relentless warnings of an imminent Soviet, then Russian, invasion. Hitler had laid out his plan for world domination in a book he wrote while briefly in prison, Mein Kampf, or My Struggle. (After being banned for seventy years in Germany, a heavily annotated version is now going on sale, while the original version has always been available in the U.S".). The Europeans failed to take Hitler's plan seriously, and the lesson they learned from World War II subsequently made them all the more attentive to American warnings of a Soviet, then Russian invasion of their territory. (The fact that the Soviet Union lost 26.6 million in that war, making it viscerally war-averse, has consistently been swept under the West's carpet).
Today the European welfare state represents the highest level of human civilization, and while energetic individuals may still see America as 'the land of the free', developing world governments seek to emulate the European system, and this does not sit well with a United States determined to impose its competitive model. Most recently, seeing its quest for "full spectrum dominance" threatened by a Russia/China condominium, Washington has not thought twice about throwing its European 'partners' under the bus, fomenting a war in Ukraine that could lead to nuclear war with Russia with Europe in the front lines. During the Cold War, the US was content to maintain Europe in a state of constant alert, and Europe's leaders paid lip service to America's playbook, knowing deep down that Soviet tanks were not about to roll across the European plain. Now however Washington demands that Europe actually join a conflict with its Eastern neighbor, and Europe's leaders are refusing, partly because the presence of Muslims has impacted the daily lives of their citizens.
Germany's population grew by 300,000 during 2014, largely due to immigration, and the leaders of the German Party Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) appear to believe, as does those of the National Front in France, that sheer determination can prevent the Muslim minority from growing. In what is clearly a right-wing response to the European left's successful backing of Greece's Syriza Party in recent elections, yesterday Pegida held a rally beyond the borders of Germany, in Great Britain, in effect bolsering that country's UKIP Party.
Left-wing leaders may realize that the math does not support this platform, but they cannot say so, anymore than American politicans can appear to approve socialism. The math is as follows: Not counting Russia, Europe has a population of half a billion which is declining, while the number of Africans, currently one billion, is expected to reach four billion by 2100. And while Europe is steeped in a two thousand year old Christian tradition, Christians having largely supplanted animists, 60% of Africans are Muslims.
France in particular is experiencing increasing tension not only between its Christian majority and its Muslim minority, but between Muslims and its Jewish community (the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world, while still only accounting for 1% of the country's total population). With both anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic incidents on the rise, the number of French Jews emigrating to Israel doubled over the last year, swayed by Prime Minister Netanyahu's claim that they are safer there (which contradicts his claims of devastating Palestinian attacks). President Francois Hollande tried this week to broker a reconciliation between the leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities at a public event, but was largely unsuccessful.
What element could possibly intervene, over time, to prevent Europe from gradually becoming Muslim, as African populations migrate northward? Islam is the fastest growing religion worldwide, attracting a significant number of lapsed Christians and Jews, not to mention young people in search of meaning, who unfortunately often end up joining ISIS. Mainstream Christianity, Islam and Judaism worship the same God, diverging in the identity of his prophet, rituals, customs, holidays, and especially, different attitudes toward sex, with Islam still following doctrines prevalent in Christianity not that long ago.
Although the math tells us that Europe will gradually cease to be Christian, and co-existence between two religions that have different attitudes toward daily life will take decades to achieve, it does not have to involve a knock-down drag-out continent-wide war, similar to the Thirty Years war that pitted Catholics against Protestants between 1618 and 1648. In fact, it is beginning to dawn on some observers that Islam is going through a process similar to that of the Christian Reformation.
Here are excerpts from a piece I published in June, 2012, on my website 'Otherjones':
With the election of the Muslim's Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi as President of Egypt, the broader meaning of the Arab Spring can now be perceived. It makes Islam a crucial player in the worldwide jockeying for power between religion, liberalism and social democracy.
Tunisia, the country that launched the uprisings that are shaking the Arab world, elected a President who ran on a human rights platform, and rules under a coalition with a left-leaning Islamist party and a social democratic party;
After Muammar Ghaddafi, a maverick who evolved his own version of socialism, was ousted, a National Transition Council was supposed to lead the country to a Western type democracy. It is opposed by both youth and religious groups, the former demanding greater transparency, the latter vying for a greater role for religion.
In Kuwait, divisions between an increasingly Islamist parliament and the Western-allied ruling family have worsened in recent years. In February's parliamentary elections two-thirds of the seats were filled by opposition leaders vowing to expose high level corruption. After two ministers resigned in the face of scrutiny, the constitutional court dissolved parliament.