by Douglas Murray
This review refers to the paperback version published in the United States of America, 2018.
There may be other books as timely, well-written, well-researched, and maddening as The Strange Death of Europe, but I don’t know of them. In 354 pages, including sixteen pages of endnotes, Mr. Murray presents and analyzes one of the most serious social problems facing not only Western Europe in particular, but of the entirety of Western Civilization. His thesis that Western Europe has placed itself on a virtually irreversible path to cultural destruction is irrefutable by the time the reader finishes the book. The author presents the history of uncontrolled immigration into Europe and how and why its political leaders have abrogated their responsibility to their constituents. Sadly, it seems European Union politicians are much more committed to the protection and preservation of foreign cultures and peoples than that of their own citizens. Page after page of evidence provides more than adequate documentation of the gulf between what the citizens of the countries of Europe desire and the policies obliquely pursued by political functionaries at the local, national, and continental level.
Mr. Murray clearly identifies the extent of existential, neurotic, collective guilt that pervades modern, European, liberal culture—guilt that blinds it to the destructive onslaught of emotional manipulation by the peoples of other countries caught in the horrors of their own political and economic failures.
How and why do we find ourselves in this situation? Mr. Murray examines how we got hooked on immigration, our worship of multiculturalism, and the tyranny of guilt, a level of which seems to be completely restricted to western society even though any objective observer would see Western Civilization bears no more responsibility for the world’s history of slavery, subjugation, and current problems than any other. (Focusing solely on Western culpability is an indicator of lack of knowledge of the rest of the world.) An entire chapter is devoted to the idea of geschichttsmüde, which means in German, weary of history, “[t]he reminder of how old our continent is and how many layers of history there are. Then close behind, the thing that causes the tiredness: the fear that one of this can ever be escaped and that these histories are always there, capable of not only breaking out but of dragging us under.” (p. 207). He refers here specifically to Germany, but demonstrates that this feeling, to some extent, is present in all of Europe. He quotes Nietzsche: “We are no longer accumulating. We are squandering the capital of our forebears even in our way of knowing.” In other words, this “tiredness” was not caused by any physical deficiency, but was “caused by a loss of meaning, an awareness that the civilization was no longer accumulating but living off a dwindling cultural capital.”
The book is not one sided; Mr. Murray presents the human perspective of the flood of immigrants over the last few decades and admits to the necessity of their presence in the early stages of the rebuilding process in Europe after two world wars where the populations of Europe were decimated, driving the requirement for a massive influx of able-bodied individuals in the work force. He also points out the short-sightedness of political leaders who took no thought of the future—surely someone should have realized that the guest workers and eventually their extended families would become permanent residents. The combination of extreme political correctness, self-denigration of European society, and thoughtless liberalism combined with immigrant cultures of a quite opposite nature created a situation illustrated, in the words of Mr. Murray, by a game of strip poker in which you arrive to the table already fully unclothed.
As the leadership of uncontrolled immigration stems from politicians in Germany in general and Angela Merkel in specific, it is easy to understand her statements of “not wanting to make the same mistakes again,” but this can be compared to a person who was once obese due to overeating, and so makes the decision to never eat again. Lines of immigrants crossing the Alps into Germany are readily compared to lines of Jews almost eighty years ago walking the opposite direction. In fact, Mr. Murray makes painfully clear that overwhelming and unending feelings of guilt for past errors is completely blocking Germany's ability to approach the issues of mass immigration and multiculturalism with anything resembling a realistic perspective.
The author makes the case with a long list of examples spanning over twenty years that the most serious problems, those that most endanger the survival of the cultures of European countries, are the result of unchecked immigration of Muslims. That is going to rub a lot of readers the wrong way; our political leaders and news media never miss an opportunity to tell us that the steady onslaught of violence and terrorism by Muslim jihad is only the result of individual choices void of any influence by the religion and politics of those who follow the prophet Mohammed. He notes how polls of citizens of countries with a large number of Muslims show the citizens do not want more Muslims in their countries, and in fact, would like to see fewer. Politicians then see that as indicative of the need to further re-educate the citizens, for surely, in their view, there is no rational reason to desire fewer Muslims. Politicians also state that the perception problem is the result of too little “multiculturalism,” as if citizens just haven’t interacted with enough Muslims. This is belied by the fact that poll after poll indicates that the larger the Muslim population, the greater is the desire to have fewer of them in the country. Mr. Murray gives example after example with evidence piled on top of evidence indicating the incompatibility of Western and Muslim civilizations. Further, much evidence such as this quote from a British Imam shows that the Muslims coming into Europe are not desirous of assimilation, at least not their assimilation into Western culture: “By means of your democracy we shall invade you. By means of our religion we shall dominate you.”
Far from being a laundry list of problems, the book also includes several solutions to the problem of uncontrolled mass immigration that could be implemented now and at a much lower cost to the countries of Europe than now being spent, if only the political leaders had the moral courage to implement them. Sadly, example after example of weak-willed, sycophantic policies leads the reader to despair that any of these measures will ever be implemented.
Mr. Murray painfully points out the hypocrisy of Europe’s liberal, politically-correct leadership. He asks questions no one is allowed to ask. Indeed, he documents numerous occasions when those in the public eye or in the press dared to ask unaskable questions and were driven from their jobs or from political office, or even tried in court and sentenced to prison terms.
The author traveled Europe extensively and included interviews with politicians, religious authorities, and supporters and detractors of immigration, both limited and unlimited (a world without borders). An entire chapter is dedicated to the real plight of immigrants, giving the human side of the story, allowing that many immigrants are truly escaping intolerable, even inhuman conditions. Still, the conclusion is drawn by the end of the book that Europe cannot save the world and cannot continue on its current trajectory without destroying its own culture.
I would like to be able to shed light on a flaw or two or point out something that could be improved in this book, but I cannot. The writing is elegant. The information presented is sufficient to make the author’s very important points but does not continue past what is necessary and sufficient for the author's purpose. The writing is cogent, well-paced, and naturally leads from one major section to another seamlessly and flawlessly.
Mr. Murray is decidedly pessimistic about the future of European culture, but with the publication of this book, one might hope that if one person can see the issues and problems so clearly and put his thoughts so cogently into print, possibly others will be educated and persuaded and the seeming inexorable demise of a once great culture can be halted before it’s too late.