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This frequently witty but deadly serious account of Europe today is a type of travelogue in which the author writes from different countries, commenting upon the continental malaise from various perspectives. The compelling narrative blends personal experience and interviews with impressive historical knowledge, psychological insight and political analysis. She reports the opinions of a wide spectrum of individuals, both indigenous Europeans and Muslim immigrants, while interpreting the ominous signs visible everywhere.

With reference to the French philosopher Chantal Delsol, Berlinski explains the root of Europe's political and spiritual crisis as the collapse of faith that has led Post-Christian Europe into destructive nihilism. The delusions of postmodernism, relativism and multiculturalism are paving the continent's path towards collapse. The mindset expresses itself in the self-loathing of European elites, the strange passivity of the people and Europe's willingness to bargain with depravity which she calls a "self-extinguishing tolerance." I highly recommend Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks to understand the mental dynamic at work.

The high European suicide rate reflects its cultural, spiritual and ideological emptiness. Anti-Americanism, coupled with antisemitism & antimodernism, is just another pseudo-religious substitute serving as the glue holding the sorry mess together in the absence of anything meaningful. She has noticed its messianic & orgiastic aspects, as did Christopher Hitchens and Julie Burchill. The idea of the European Union has undermined national identity but lacks emotional appeal and is thus no match for the expansionist force of Jihad that has led to riots, the Danish cartoon uproar and the murders of artists and politicians.

Berlinski reveals the hidden room in the house of Europe: Bleak lawless ghettos where decidedly non-Western practices like female circumcision are tolerated because of Multiculturalism; Radical preachers inciting their followers against the society that gave them refuge; Alienation amongst even 3d generation immigrants whose grandparents arrived in the 1950s; Violence and the murder of Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn in Holland. This confirms the observations of Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept.

In chapter three where Berlinski discusses the popular novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, she remarks upon the petty, ignorant and uncritical anti-Americanism of people like Harold Pinter and Margaret Drabble. The projection of the rage and self-hatred of the elites on Israel and the United States will not solve the continent's problems.

An exception is the city of Marseille where she finds hope. The local approach directly contradicts the French ideal of republicanism but it works. Ethnicity and religion are recognized and community leaders hold regular meetings where community leaders get to know & respect one another. The city has shown strong resistance to antisemitism and the vandalism rampant in the rest of France.

Her verdict on the Spanish election that followed the Madrid bombings confirms Chantal Delsol's diagnosis: for Europeans no cause is worth a fight. In Italy she thinks of Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride, expresses regret about the ugly housing projects & shopping malls of cement on the outskirts of the cities and reflects on a young woman's lack of interest in having a family. A fascinating fact emerges: the birthrate in the former Axis powers, including their ally Spain, is dropping faster than anywhere else. People who have lost a vision of eternity and immortality would of course avoid breeding.

She provides a side-splittingly funny analysis of the antiglobalist José Bové & his ideological predecessors, identifying him as a perennial European personality predisposed to vandalism & violence, amongst which earlier incarnations were Tanchelm of Antwerp, Joachim of Flora, Hans Böheim and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They were all false messiahs whose millennial utopianism included the demonization of Jews. In this regard, I found William Nicholls's Christian Antisemitism of great value for understanding the bigger picture.

The chapter on the German band Rammstein is my favorite by far. She shows how their act is a particularly grotesque example of what Delsol terms "black market nationalism" - a result of the repression of profound instincts. This brilliant analysis, simultaneously hilarious and horrifying, encompasses translations of their lyrics, their use of Leni Riefenstahl footage in promotional clips, the imagery on their album covers, the videos of their songs Mein Teil & Links and the nature of their live performances.

Her account of the first interview with the band made me laugh: Her penetrating questions & their clumsy responses that reveal at best unclear thinking but more likely stupidity. Prototypically German, they have the bombast of Wagner and employ the now familiar eerie hypnotism of the German language, martial music, crass vulgarity & images of extreme violence in their shows.

There is also a follow-up interview. It becomes quite clear that the band's phony pacifism masks a resentment of American power. Gnawing guilt leads to peevish disgruntlement, she observes in describing the opinions of band members. Intelligent they are not and they've certainly not learnt from history. On one page she prints quotes and asks the reader to guess whether they are by Goebbels or Rammstein, proving that the only difference is that Goebbels was more articulate.

The Rammstein phenomenon shows up the farce of Europe - their music is emphatically German. It is also preoccupied with the smell of burning flesh, blood, fear, sadism, doomsday & destruction. The manner of their delivery in concert reveals much bt they do not realize they are the living embodiment of the vocabulary, dramaturgy, occultism, ferocity & nihilism of the Third Reich. When confronted, they react with surprised hurt.

Christianity may be senescent in Europe - for now - but nationalism lives. Berlinski's brilliant read concludes with bibliographic notes and an index. Other informative books that deal with the crisis in Europe and the forces behind it include The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century by Chantal Delsol, Sinisterism by Bruce Walker, The Last Days of Europe by Walter Laqueur, The Dragons Of Expectation by Robert Conquest, Decline and Fall by Bruce Thornton and Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
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on October 15, 2009
Berlinski doesn't mince words about the state of the European cultures, and how moral relativism and political correctness is opening the door to our downfall. Unless we start standing up for our culture instead of being apathetic towards it, we will have nothing left.
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