Cultural Disappearance Is Contagious

The following article began as a review of Thilo Sarrazin’s L’Allemagne Disparait (Germany Is Disappearing) for Amazon… but it grew to such proportions that I thought I’d post it here, as well, with slight adjustments.

I read this book in French because I feared that my German might not suffice to guide me through the learned Sarrazin’s highly abstract discussion.  Alas, French was little better—and my native English would scarcely have closed the comprehension gap.  For the real difficulty lies not in vocabulary per se, but in the densely terminological, thoroughly arcane idiom of the social sciences, where trails of nouns often end up forming a single noun-adjective group referenced to some airy statistical reality.  And of statistics, too, there is an abundance.  These are often the more vague as they grow more clear—by which I mean that a patent dependency of one factor on another has a way of shutting down what should be a deeper probe into a complex issue.

Now, all of that said, I’m very sympathetic with regard to the Sarrazin case.  Western nations on both sides of the Atlantic are currently engaged in shouting down critics of uncontrolled immigration with the “Nazi racist” slur.  Sarrazin has been pilloried before for speaking in cold facts.  Those facts are as follows: Germany (and, by extension, other prosperous Western societies) cannot absorb a steady deluge of unskilled Third World laborers who have large families requiring ample public subsidy and who are so comfortable with dependency that they attempt not even the degree of assimilation implied in learning their adoptive home’s language.  Sarrazin has repeatedly and predictably run into trouble by insisting that Islamic culture, especially, nourishes this retrograde attitude.  Of course, he is right, inasmuch as the harmful Muslim tendencies at issue are not religious but cultural: the large families of the Near East and North Africa, the inferior role of women, the “unmanliness” of long study, and so forth.  To claim that Germany’s population must inevitably grow less intelligent as its proportion of weak student-material escalates thanks to open immigration—and that the German way of life itself must disappear as future generations become more inept with advanced technology—is not really racist at all.  It’s certainly not the same thing as saying, “Syrian Muslims are dumb.”  It is a commentary, rather, on the cultural friction between an atavistic society and a progressive high-tech society.  East Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese immigrants do not pose the same problem to the Western educational system, Sarrazin notes.  They are also far less attracted by the advantages of a de facto guaranteed minimum income provided by the German system.

It is painful, as an American, to read Saarazin’s applauding our more sensible handling of the issues in this work, most of whose research belongs to the previous decade.  We have not kept to the wiser path during the intervening years.

The single point that nags me about Thilo Sarrazin’s analysis is its philosophical materialism.  Christianity appears to be lamented in these pages as a body of helpful illusions that once made life happier, just as (one might say) the innocent deceptions practiced on children make Christmas happier.  To me, this is indeed the great flaw behind the book’s reliance on sociology and statistics: not their complexity, but their reduction of the central issue to a very practical one of economic sustainability.  If the West dies, I think it will be because she has terminally misplaced the purpose of individualism, of liberalism: to liberate the soul from bestial servitude in order to pursue things that have no “market value”.  Because of our contemporary spiritual malaise, we have exchanged the degrading drudgery of intense manual labor for the degrading addictions of an anemic will.  Our moral decline, after all, is intricately involved in the plummeting birthrates that cause such alarm to Sarrazin. Our steady, centuries-long desertion of largely self-sustaining agrarianism to have the affluence and convenience of city life has likewise exposed our pastimes to suicidal frivolity and snared our physical surroundings in a vicious cycle of unwholesome artifice.  We are courting depression through hedonism, poisoning ourselves with pollution, and turning chronically neurotic thanks to our mechanized pace of living: all of these factors leave us in no mood to produce a new generation, and sometimes physiologically incapable of doing so. Such issues cannot adequately be diagnosed without a spiritual reference… and the Christian Church in Europe, all across the denominational spectrum, seems incapable nowadays of providing this.

Germany Is Disappearing is a powerful work and a “must read”, in any language, for those who want to project the future of Western civilization with some mature degree of probability.  But it also seems to me to be missing a vital element.