Underground Europe

As these Essays are short, I like to indulge in oversimplification. Gentle reader should understand the plan. In the absence of omniscience, we look at the world from successive angles. The truth is sculptural, not a flat picture. Gradually one assembles the more comprehensive view, by tracking around, at various elevations, and moving closer then farther, in different conditions of light. Too, there are the phenomena of texture, and others corresponding to our senses five (really twenty-seven). It should also be allowed that this sculpture moves, in some ways that do and others that do not respond to human interaction. And that it is alive; and that it will outlive us; and that like every other, my analogy falls apart.

So back to oversimplification. An article ping’d me this morning by my Chief Texas Correspondent, from behind the paywall of the Wall Street Journal, touches on political developments in France.

François Fillon, the presidential contender, will find himself in the middle between the “far right” (meaningless leftish shorthand) Marine Le Pen, and whoever becomes the socialist standard-bearer in a primary later this month. Fillon surprised all the experts (as usual) by winning the soft-right primary, by a landslide in the run-off. It was thought he couldn’t win because he is an overtly practising, believing Catholic in the land of laïcité (the principle of ungodliness established in the French Revolution). He goes to Mass, quite publicly, and quite memorably went to the Benedictine abbey of Solesmes for the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, telling media afterwards not only to smell the coffee but also, hear the bells.

My European readers will be already familiar from their mass media with what the WSJ is now reporting in the USA. In short, the public profession of Christianity, in a political context, has not been heard in Europe for some time. It is shocking to millennials, especially. Among the old there is the distant but still audible tinkle of l’après-guerre.

It should be recalled that Continental Europe rose from the ashes under the political direction of overtly Christian, predominantly Catholic parties. The “Christian Democrat” movement was the means by which, in country after country, western Europe embraced anti-communism and NATO, free markets and deregulation, the baby boom and general reconstruction after World War II. The “economic miracle” that began in the late ’forties did not descend from the clouds; it was propelled by bold decisions made by consciously Christian statesmen — among the few politicians untainted by the immediate Nazi/Fascist/Collaborationist past. (Britain, which missed Occupation, instead followed her Labour Party in the alternative direction, delaying the start of her post-War recovery until 1979.)

Only after this Christian tutelage had achieved great prosperity and societal peace, did the “Social Democrat” movements prevail at the polls, pouring the molasses back into what became fully-fledged Nanny States in the ’sixties. (This had been on the agenda of all Left parties since the beginning of the century.) At the same time, Christianity was itself receding as a social and moral force, partly in consequence of monied decadence, partly due to the hideous self-destruction of the Catholic Church in “the spirit of Vatican II.” And what began as a coal and steel free trade agreement, and was expanded into a Common Market, was itself transformed into the dirigiste pseudo-religion in the black heart of the European Union.

More detail might be supplied to expand this into a book, but my ambition for this morning is limited to sketching the broad outline of a post-War history which, I think, is widely ignored. Take Christianity out of the mix of factors — as the ascendant “secular humanists” have succeeded in doing — and not only antique but contemporary European history becomes incomprehensible.

In the spirit of the economist, Schumpeter, one might play with the idea that prosperity is itself the killer. Once people are economically secure, and the necessary minimum of civilized institutions are quietly ticking over, they are free to entertain bullshit again, and start undoing what they have accomplished. Schumpeter held that “liberalism” in the European sense — free markets and free inquiry — contains the seed of its own demise. One might even argue that, next time we have a chance, we should find a way to sabotage prosperity, without government help. Perhaps people need to stay a little hungry, to retain their common sense, and their appreciation of individual liberty. Or perhaps they need religion if only for the pragmatic purpose of keeping their minds off politics.

On some other day I might try to explain why I am not so cynical.

Let it be observed, nevertheless, by those whose minds are not disordered, that Europe once again finds herself passing through the stages of collapse — as in the “post-Christian” 1910s, and 1930s. The Islamic invasion, by way of open immigration to replace a contracepted and aborted generation of pension-funding workers, is only one dimension of this process. At every public level, throughout the West, bureaucratic micromanagement on “progressive” principles has lured us into converging blind alleys. For instance, our ideological “environmentalism” isn’t sustainable, either. Nor is the rampant consumerism it only pretends to challenge.

The experts, as I say, are defeated by any prospect of a trend reversing. (“All trends are reversible” was my old pundit mantra.) The apparent success of a François Fillon, as of a Donald Trump, is a nightmare to them; more because they cannot understand it than because they are mortally opposed. (Neither of those gentlemen has yet proposed to do anything truly radical or unprecedented; both propose to “fix” rather than to dismantle universal welfarism.)

Le Sens Commun (roughly, “common sense”) is the name of the grassroots organization that put millions in the streets to protest the French gay marriage legislation, and in defence of other life issues. They and Fillon have discovered in each other the means to a formidable campaign, to reverse the national political direction. Parallel events in other European countries are contributing to the revival of an explicitly Christian sense of ancestral identity — something a little more subtle than nationalism. I do not like to make predictions; we will see where it leads.