Not that one spends much of one’s daily routine sympathising with Oscar Wilde, but his quip on Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop comes to mind. “One must have a heart of stone,” he said, “to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”
He hadn’t read the book or he’d have known that Nell died off-camera, so to speak, and laughing at the death of an abused child takes some doing. Nevertheless Oscar has a point, particularly as one watches this week’s hijinks in Europe.
To spoil the ending, girls and boys, what we’re watching is the crack-up of ideology; how one can pursue make-believe up to (and beyond) the point where it even makes sense as self-deception.
To put it in an (Exceptionalist) American perspective, a few years back some Texan good-ol’ boys bought a government-surplus rocket, mounted it on the back of the pick-up, drove to some vast salt flats, strapped Billy-Bob into the driver’s seat and his brother lit the fuse. Really. Police estimated it was going more than 900 miles an hour when it went airborne and struck the cliff. It earned the driver a Darwin Award, given for creative methods of purifying the human gene-pool. It’s an apt analogy for Europe’s ideologues of several varieties.
Recently the BBC was forced to admit that there has been no global warming since 1998. Indeed, warmist ideologues have changed their rhetoric of late, talking about ‘climate change’ instead. The problem is that all their doctored and dubious data was meant to show that evil human materialism produces greenhouse gases that will warm and eventually kill the planet. Now, even the alarmists can find no plausible link between mankind and oddball weather changes that do indeed seem to pick up speed.
But that matters not, because (reverting to our American simile) Billy-Bob’s brother already lit the fuse: warmist-inspired government policy is the rocket, billions in cash grants comprise the rocket fuel, a fully-bribed pseudo-scientific consensus is the thrust and the cliff, well, it’s still a cliff.
So Britain (now broke) just told continental Europe (even broker) to up the ante and halve carbon emissions by 2030. Already electrical shortages may put off the lights in this decade; in Germany because they stopped their nuclear generators, Britain because they postponed building any kind of generators. If they do halve carbon emissions, it won’t do any good because even the BBC admits the world has stopped warming, and nobody knows why weather patterns are shifting (Sunspots? Electromagnetic shift? Sh-t happens? Your guess!).
But the ideological lunacy has taken on a life of its own. Lightning flashes, the van de Graf generators spark and crackle, the mad scientist shouts “My monster! He lives!” When it becomes very cold and dark, the Progressive Orthodoxy will fumble to light candles and stumble on undiminished and undeterred.
Meanwhile riots sweep stolid Sweden, a country that has placed first in every Bore-Off since they helped to defeat Napoleon. Think of how boring Sweden must have been, to flee it in order to live in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
But back to their riots. What we see here is, in slow motion, the point where Billy-Bob and the pick-up reach terminal velocity. Next shot: cut to the cliff just waiting because that is what cliffs usually do.
Sweden is not, as Americans think, particularly socialist. The last 25 years have seen them replace state control with state vouchers for education and much else, permitting choices and competition to a degree that is unheralded elsewhere. Their government is still big, too big, but choice and competition reduce the most irksome elements of state control. Moreover the Swedes like it and they remain prosperous. They also remain ethnically and culturally homogenous and pretty damn dull; they like to speak Swedish and they often live in the woods. Now it seems that their young immigrants are rioting and burning cars, and this upsets the log-cabin crowd and the know-it-all Progressives in the cities. They feel betrayed and rightly so.
The leading explanation, so far, is that the generous and welcoming Swedes failed to integrate their many immigrants. They have a point. Swedes are tolerant and without bigotry, but they like to speak Swedish and talk about Swedish things such as meatball recipes and how to winterize your log cabin. They had a long and hysterically popular television series recently, where Swedes argued over how best to store firewood; I am not making this up. Immigrants aren’t good on these topics and so the Swedes tend to socialise with one another.
Then, goes conventional wisdom, the Swedish welfare state keeps the immigrants comfy whether or not they work, and immigrant unemployment is 16% while ten percent less for people named Inga and Sven. There is no doubt some truth in this, all discouraging assimilation.
When Britain started her great wave of non-European immigration in the 1950s, officials actually herded the South Asian and Caribbean incomers into exclusively immigrant neighbourhoods; thinking the newcomers would feel chummier among “their own kind,” they wouldn’t upset so many white people and they would be easier to police. The result was ghettoes where inmates still don’t speak English; and now weird versions of Islam (and foreign cultures apart from religion) compete with the supposedly gentler versions that still include forced marriages, etc. Same with France and its banlieus full of unemployed North Africans. Had the British moved two immigrant families into each town, by now they’d be as English as everyone else.
Yet something smells funny. A Somali girl, raised in Sweden, recently asked reporters why unemployment should matter when most of the rioters are mere kids who are too young to work. She had no idea. In another newspaper, a Turkish-Swede did.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Turks or visit Turkey as often as I do. They are welcoming and tolerant, so long as you don’t push them too far because they are also proud. They are often stolid, rather like the Swedes in fact, and they warm slowly to strangers; however once you make friends with a Turk, then he or she is friend for life. They are romantics and prone to mild melancholia, yet as earnest and diligent as any old-fashioned New England Yankee. I like them a lot.
The Turk, in a Swedish ghetto (so probably a clean and well-appointed ghetto), noted that the immigrant families were large and hierarchical and usually respectful; a good point, for they are often the same wherever they come from. He thought that that these violent immigrant youth had been corrupted by Swedish permissiveness in law, popular culture and education. Parents can be arrested there for even mildly spanking their child, and kids know it. The inculcated obedience and diligence of the usual Turkish family had been shattered, he feared. The rioters had been turned into selfish violent riffraff who scandalised their own parents.
I see reactions to this among poor immigrants to London. For example; a Ghanaian taxi driver saving enough to move back home while remitting any spare money to his relatives there. He and his wife have their kids educated in Ghana, he told me, living with a grandmother because there is less trouble from disrespect, drugs and crime in Ghanaian schools. Jobs are more plentiful in relatively deregulated Britain than in continental Europe, and so maybe London’s West Africans can afford to go home one day while Swedish immigrants cannot.
But the Somali and the Turk are definitely onto something, and it is an ideological crack-up that differs from the usual socio-economic argument against unfettered immigration into a welfare state. Both contribute to the rioting youth, but I bet first on the immigrants’ opinion. The kids learned so-called rights and appetite without responsibilities that are harder to teach. Progressivism destroyed strong immigrant families, first by erasing old values. There may be success in overcoming immigrant traditions of, say, forced marriage, but at the cost of a total loss of respect and the triumph of selfishness and violence. “Gosh, glad to be rid of that bath-water, now where did I put the baby?”
Happily, “Exceptional” America is largely free from these particular ideological crack-ups. So it can go on politicising and dumbing-down its education, borrowing and printing money like maniacs, bullying the world into what a radical minority feel is justifiable retaliatory terrorism, and establishing a police-state at home. So maybe it doesn’t matter if Billy-Bob or Sven is strapped into the pick-up truck, because the cliff just waits as cliffs usually do. Yee-haw!
As Oscar implied, maybe there’s nothing to do but laugh, make popcorn, and watch Nemesis descend on Hubris.
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