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A premature eulogy for the West

by Archives January 15, 2008

“There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.”
– Col. Muamar Gaddafi, quoted in America Alone

Coming from most writers, the above quotation would elicit immediate accusations of religio-cultural bigotry. However, when such claims come from the leader of a large Muslim nation, one does well to listen – and this is the task that author Mark Steyn has set himself.
Focusing on the intersection of religion, culture and family, Steyn’s book, America Alone: the end of the world as we know it sets out to consider the veracity of M. Gaddafi’s claims regarding Europe’s impending cultural shift, beginning with an overview of a few concerning modern realties:
 Almost all western democracies, with the exception of America, are declining in population. With birth rates well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per couple, and still dropping, these countries are increasingly forced to rely on immigration to subsidy their populations.
 The developing world (and especially the Muslim world), by contrast, is experiencing a population boom that is leading to increased emigration.
 Demography is power, Steyn repeatedly points out, and as immigrants from the developing world increasingly replace the kids westerners were too busy to have, conflict is going to increase along cultural fault-points.
At base, America Alone concerns itself with the ongoing conflict between the Western and Islamic traditions – a conflict that has played itself out on the world stage since well before September 11th, 2001. Steyn describes a gaping ideological gulf between the two cultures, a gap made all the wider by the fact that western governments and citizens no longer even believe strongly in their own cultures – preferring the passivity of moral relativism and multicultural tolerance.
Observing the way in which European countries are already accommodating their cultures to reflect the increasing influence of Muslim minorities (a reaction, perhaps, to the fact that as much as 25 per cent of France’s population under thirty is Muslim), Steyn casts his gaze forward fifty years to a time when Europe has de facto become Eurabia, and when the weight of demography and will has reshaped the global political landscape.
It will be obvious to any discerning reader that America Alone suffers from a vast and ranging litany of faults and flaws:
Most notably, Steyn believes that the western demographic malaise results from the coddled and immature natures of its citizenry. This he attributes to over-generous social programs, which have destroyed the “independence” and “will” of its citizens; as if to suggest that what Canadians could do with is the self-reliance and work ethic born of a Dickensian workhouse.
Obsessive focus on the “impotence” of western culture seems to verge on the paranoid, reminding one of Dr. Strangelove’s General Ripper, mumbling about conspiracies to dilute his “precious bodily fluids”.
Steyn’s many years as a journalist have given him a mastery of the punchy one-liner, even a rapier wit can dull with use. By the third chapter, the string of barbs starts to lose its edge.
But for all his seeming paranoia and redundancy, and regardless of the flexibility with which he straddles the line between cultural analysis and religious paranoia, Steyn does make one or two effective points.
Steyn justly criticizes the decadence and immaturity of western politics, which increasingly mistakes ideals for principles, and wishes for actions – ironically, at a time when western countries are richer than ever before, when their military might is unsurpassed, and when they are more than ever concerned by global injustice, only one seems resolved to actually affect the course of world politics.
“Everyone’s for a free Tibet, but no one’s for freeing Tibet. So Tibet will stay unfree – as unfree now as it was when the first Free Tibet campaigner slapped the very first “FREE TIBET” sticker onto the back of his Edsel. Idealism as inertia is the hallmark of [modernity]. If [the Secretary of Defense] were to say, ‘free Tibet? Jiminy, what a swell idea! The third infantry division goes in on Thursday,’ the bumper-sticker crowd would be aghast.”
Likewise, although Steyn may be unnecessarily hostile to Islam as a religion, one can hardly object to his conclusion that whether one looks to the bombings of London, Madrid and Bali, at terrorism within China, Russia and Pakistan, or the increasing urban conflict within Paris or Rotterdam, the extremist branches of Islam appear to be at the heart of much of today’s conflict.
Most telling, however, is the degree to which Steyn’s critics prove his case for him. Bare weeks after America Alone’s publication, Steyn and Maclean’s magazine (which published excerpts) found themselves the victims of numerous human rights suits from Canadian Muslim groups (in particular the Canadian Islamic Council).
In using charges of “Islamophobia” as a hammer with which to strike down Steyn’s constitutional right to free speech, the CIC has proven itself to be more alienated from norms of liberal freedoms than Steyn ever implied.

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