Europe is not “dying.” Western Civilization as we have known it for two millenniums is dying, but Europe as a grouping of over 700 million people with technology and economies that match America and China is far from dying.
Germany, a little over 70 years after the utter destruction of the Third Reich and Hitler’s dream of ruling Europe, is now the dominant European power. The Wehrmacht may not be blitzkrieging its way through France and Poland anymore, but Germany does rule Europe. We call Europe weak, old and dying. Maybe someday, but Germany, at this point in time, is none of those things. Possessing the fourth largest economy in the world, with its exports and manufacturing, its education system and workforce, Germany’s financial might is anyone’s envy. Berlin is the de facto European capital.
But despite the past decades of progress and the build-up of technology, Western Europe is racked with guilt; a bloody century that left tens of millions of dead will do that to a continent and a civilization. WWI itself seemed to pull the cord out of what remained of Christian Europe. By the time of the Armistice, Christendom had collapsed. With the breakup of the Royal Empires came the guilt of colonialism, imperialism, and the shadow cast by the “white man’s burden” loomed large over European culture. And that is just Western Europe. What specifically of Germany?
The culture and the nation that gave the world so much wonder and beauty had been betrayed by its own hubris. The culture of Bach, Goethe, Beethoven and Schiller became the nation of Hitler and the SS and the death of over 11 million in the camps, 6 million of them Jews. The horror of Auschwitz, the vision of the camps, the death pallor will hang over Germany, and Germans, forever.
Christianity, which died on the fields of Flanders in the First War, utterly failed Germany. Yes, there were the Bonhoeffers and thousands more Christian martyrs that died in the camps at the hands of the Nazis, but on the whole, the churches, Lutheran and Catholic alike, share in the nation’s guilt. The Lutheran Church of old Prussia, in particular, acquiesced and was silent, its head bowed in forever shame.
Germany is a robust manufacturing and economic powerhouse with superb infrastructure. There is much to envy. But a people, a nation and a culture have to believe in something more than good cars. Belief in the “Fatherland” is verboten, to say the least. Nationalism is a dirty word. When one travels to Berlin, one is struck by the multitude of building cranes across the city and in the old East Berlin there is a rampant race to resurrect and refurbish buildings from Germany’s Imperial past. The Nazi era has rightly been shunned, so what else is there? Germany, as a united country, is only 147 years old. This reach to restore the grandeur of the Imperial Germany of the Kaisers will result in magnificent buildings and palaces, but the Hohenzollerns are long gone.
The Churches of Germany are empty; Christianity, for many, is a religion of the past, a bygone era, one that has left beautiful music and stunning architecture, but the message of Luther has died. There are holdouts, particularly in parts of Catholic Bavaria and parts of the Rhineland, but they are a small minority.
Germans are not without pride; there is a feeling of German exceptionalism. They may lord over Europe in different ways then they did 75 years ago, but lord over it they do. And how can a German not feel “superior” in their accomplishments when just one trip to Greece or Portugal, or even France, leaves one in awe of German technology and progress. But with the demise of Christianity and nationalism considered verboten, what outlet remains in which to channel that pride?
One can say that the Germans have lost their will to fight, that it was beaten out of them in the two great wars. Perhaps. But can a nation of people and a culture that did almost nothing but fight for over 2,500 years, instilling fear from the Urals to the Pyrenees, from Ancient Rome to modern France, lose all of that in one generation? Or will it be forced to find another outlet?
Germans are arrogant and I don’t mean that as a pure pejorative. Americans are arrogant as well; the English were over 100 years ago. Americans, it can be said, have a right to be. How could we not be arrogant with what we have achieved in the course of human history? Our arrogance is usually restrained by enough touches of humility to keep us from being too dangerous. But what of the Germans?
And what of Islam? It is a martial religion, a warrior religion and faith that is all consuming. Hitler admired Islam; he was not the only one, Napoleon did as well. It is not a religion for the weak; it does not turn the other cheek. It gives a purpose to a people and a nation; it is in many ways the antithesis to Christianity. We see Islam as ISIS and Osama Bin Laden living in a cave. But there is a grander tradition of Islam, a seductive tradition of Islam that has lured, and forced by conquest, a billion people into its fold in the past 1,500 years.
I do wonder if Germany thinks it can meld Islam into its culture, into its traditions and make an accommodation. A special brand of Germanic Islam. The Ottoman Turks embraced Islam and created a vast empire that ruled for over 500 years. In embracing Islam, Germany could find its purpose, its clean break from the past, one that it feels no guilt over. After all, Islam is the epitome of a politically correct religion in these times. The Germans may actually think they can bend Islam to their will. And the truly frightening thing is, maybe they can. A Germany with a new purpose and new faith, ruling over Europe as they do already, but all with an Islamic flavor. Some will say it is fantasy. I say it is time to be worried.