Saturday, December 17, 2011

Moderation over extremes of idealism

Triumph of extremism over moderation is a danger for social structures which are based on lies or misconceptions, and hence inherently unstable. When the jig is up, as the saying goes, and the contract is revealed to be a fraud, moderation loses to expediency. Compromise about existential matters is not possible, and then disappears altogether under the rule of victorious new order.

One such area has to do with immigration into Europe. The simmering discontent is a pressure cooker, which builds up steam slowly, bur irreversibly. I believe there is a clear majority in most of Western European countries for strongly curtailing immigration, but the leadership prefers to ignore this or to dismiss it as unmitigated bigotry. This is a very dangerous tactic, which is accelerated by the economic crisis.

According to studies, such as those by the social scientist Wilhelm Heitmeyer who has been publishing studies on German attitudes for a decade, where more than 50 percent say that they would have a big problem moving into an area where many Muslims live. About 10 percent of society has thoroughly right-wing views, defined as antipathy to non-natives; immigrants, Muslims and Jews. The resentment for the generous welfare system, including the payments for the long-term unemployed (Hartz IV) to a disproportionate number of immigrates has contributed to the misanthropic mood in Germany under the strains of the economic crisis.

There are some intellectuals, such as Thilo Sarrazin,  who raise concerns about immigrations, particularly Muslims in his controversial book, "Deutschland schafft sich ab" ("Germany Does Itself In"). Sarrazin was recently chased out of a Turkish restaurant in Germany by angry patrons. Even the manager asked him to leave, saying "We Turks are usually very hospitable, but I don't think I can serve you." "A rational discussion was impossible," Sarrazin wrote; he and the television crew left the restaurant "like beaten dogs".

Sarrazin lamented when a "former Berlin senator, guilty of nothing more than writing a book with unwelcome numbers and analysis, is literally mobbed out of a central Berlin district that calls itself the spearhead of German integration. Woe betide us if, as many hope, the conditions in Kreuzberg are the workshop for future Germany".

This is the type of uncomprehending tension can only be addressed by government action, because tensions will not resolve themselves. The current trajectory leads into trouble, and this slide is accelerated by the economic difficulties.

The EU leadership needs to wake up, and fast, but they are fully preoccupied by integration concerns rather than each minding their own business. According to Heitmeyer, it is very late in the game: "Our democracy is a functioning shell, as evidenced by low voter turnout. Our numbers show that many people have already given up. They no longer have any expectations of politics.  Some 64 percent of society believes that striving for justice is pointless. Solidarity and fairness, values that are vital to the cohesion of a society, are being eroded." This is a recipe for xenophobic demagogues to take power in the heart of Europe. Protests, similar to American 'occupy X' movement are not normal expressions in of opinion in a democracy, because the seek for impose themselves. It's an extreme form of speaking out, that destroys foundations for moderation.

Heitmeyer suggests that on the bright side: "I do not recognize a potential for unrest in Germany at the moment. Instead, I suspect that apathy and disorientation are on the rise." Apathy may be preferable to unrest, but it is neither a stable nor comfortable situation.

The situation found in many countries, such as Netherlands, and France are much more grave than those of Germany, discussed above. In another articles, I would like to talk about Geert Wilders, and some others to illustrate the continent-wide nature of these problems. Unfortunately, just as these problems are becoming more acute, the leadership is busy working on closer economic integration, which will make it more difficult to exercise national sovereignty and effect immigration. Echoing that sentiment signs at a recent demonstration in Warsaw read: "Keep the euro, we want our nation back".

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