A profound malaise haunts Europe. On the one hand, everyone is aware that the continent is no longer in the forefront of anything, that it daily loses ground to other regions of the world, in economic growth, scientific research, influence and power; its population does not even reproduce itself; on the other it is seized with immobility, largely because those who are currently comfortably well-off fear to lose their advantages and privileges.
The European Union is both the cause and response to this profound existential unease. It answers France’s need to be a great power, Germany’s desire to be other than German, and the desire of the defeated or retired politicians of all countries to remain powerful and influential ad infinitum. It is in effect a giant pension fund for superannuated politicians, as well as a trough at which a large bureaucracy can feed. Everyone knows it is corrupt and holds the continent back, but no one sees any mechanism of changing it.
In The New Vichy Syndrome, Theodore Dalrymple traces the malaise back to the two great conflicts of the last century, with their disastrous though understandable effects upon self-confidence. As a result of the recent past, Europeans no longer believe in anything other than personal economic security, an increased standard of living, shorter working hours and long vacations in exotic locations. As a result, they are not in a frame of mind to face the challenges before them, whether of increased Islamic penetration or economic competition from the rest of the world.