The riots that have raged throughout France and spilled over into neighboring countries over the past two weeks can be described in simplistic terms, but they are the result of multiple factors. Many have looked at the riots through one lens or another, but have failed to get to the bottom of the issue.
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal included a masterful article by Joel Kotkin of the New America Foundation. Mr. Kotkin demonstrates how the socialist agenda of Western Europe, particularly France, over the past three decades has killed off job growth and opportunity for advancement, leaving youth with a lack of opportunity. The entire EU has generated only 4 million (mostly government) new jobs in the last 25 years, while the U.S. has generated 57 million. While Mr. Kotkin is correct, he fails to drive to the heart of the matter.
Western Europe’s plummeting birthrate has required very relaxed immigration to supply sufficient people to support its infrastructure. Millions of immigrants have moved there, mostly from Islamic countries. But they came as “guest workers” rather than as full citizens. I’m not disregarding the immigration problem we have in the U.S., but there is a difference (more than theirs being legal and ours being illegal). Immigrants to the U.S. have the opportunity to advance, to achieve affluence, and to become equal with long-term citizens. Europe’s guest workers don’t have that. They will always be regarded as less than full Europeans, even generations later.
When I lived in Norway over two decades ago, Norwegians saw the Muslims that came there, ostensibly under some contrived amnesty, as quiet people that worked the lower level jobs and that “knew their place” in society. It was pretty much the same throughout Western Europe. They had their own brand of Jim Crow. Now they have third generation Muslims that are being infused with Wahhabist (and similar) teachings from the Middle East. These factors create a cultural mix that has the makings of being highly volatile. Indeed, the Dutch (as well as most of Europe) were deeply shaken by the murder of pornographer Theo Van Gogh by a Dutch born Muslim in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street.
Ed Morrissey points out here that the French riots didn’t simply happen through spontaneous combustion. They were orchestrated. By whom? By militant Islamists. Although the MSM has gone to great pains not to mention this fact over the past two weeks, it is not exactly a secret. Morrissey notes that the Washington Post wrote last month about a September call to action against France by a well known Islamic terrorist group that outlined how to carry out some of the mayhem that has recently been perpetrated. So nobody wants the riots to look like terrorism, but there is no denying that terrorists at least used them as a terrorist tool. Neither the French government nor MSM wants to say so because it would lend credence to the much despised neo-con policies of George W. Bush.
But the problem goes deeper than Morrissey’s observations. Western Europe wouldn’t be in this predicament at all if it had family friendly policies. If it weren’t so secularized and socialized it would have those kinds of policies. So it’s a cultural issue that strikes at the heart of the personality of the culture.
Pitzer College’s anti-religious Phil Zuckerman has concluded (see here) that religion “seems to be critical to people's decision to raise children. People in these advanced industrial societies see children more and more as a liability.” He continues, that people “don't even need to get married since there is no legal advantage to doing so.” These self absorbed cultural attitudes become reflected in public policy.
Daniel Peterson argues here that the basis for Western Europe’s problems are its lack of faith in Deity. Peterson discusses the atheistic viewpoint and argues that, taken to its logical conclusion, it has no basis for claiming any kind of morality, and that morality requires a belief in God. He says that any morality claimed by atheists must necessarily be weakly borrowed from faith in God.
Critics will certainly ask whether religion isn’t part of the basic problem of the riots in France and of terrorism in general. Peterson, of course, cites the murderous secular regimes of Stalin, Hitler, Pot, etc. to show that atheism does not guarantee peace and freedom from atrocities. Peterson concludes that even in the face of doubt there are plenty of rational reasons for accepting God.
I have a friend that is fond of arguing that moral laws are eternal. Just as physical laws cannot be violated, neither can moral laws. C.S. Lewis notes in his book Mere Christianity that most of us deep down agree on basic moral principles of what is right and fair. In fact, we wouldn’t even argue about the fairness of something unless a basic moral law existed that defined fairness. Atheism simultaneously attempts to deny and embrace this fact.
Western Europe has been actively working to defy eternal moral laws for well over a century. The last three decades are just the latest version of the attempt. Their cultural situation is a product of that effort. But don’t worry, American society is working its way toward that goal as well. Fortunately there are some righteous among us by whose prayers we are largely spared (see here) the most dire consequences. I am grateful for them, and I aspire to be one of them.