Theater of Cruelty

Condemned Europe

Europe's suicidal tendency is summed up both in Islamism, populism and anti-Semitism.


Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine. The lost thought. Grasset, 2015

The French political landscape is shaking. In two years' time, at the next presidential election, the climax many are waiting for and everyone fears will come: Navy blue's victory in the first round of the election with the far-right party candidate Marine Le Pen in the lead will in all likelihood get the greatest support. In order to avoid moral and political ruin in the decisive election two weeks later, both the left and the traditional centre-right must rally around one candidate. The last time, in 2002, when papa Le Pen beat out the Socialists' Lionel Jospin, left-wing voters held their noses as they put their ballots in the polls to support the conservative Jacques Chirac. The use of gloves is not permitted. A new choice between plague and cholera at the next presidential election in two years is the elephant in the room of the French social debate. It has caused the ink to flow among many intellectuals, who are almost frantically trying to pour cold water into the heads of the left-wing elite. The book The lost thought (The Forgotten Thought) by Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine is one such example. It is the left's attempt to take extremist waves in society seriously: No one must pretend Eurabia does not exist, thunders Laignel-Lavastine – with reference to our own domestic mass murderer. The point is that Breivik must not stand in the way of a civilized opposition to the phenomenon she calls fascislamism. She wants to deal with Islam, globalization and nationalism without diabolize the opponents.

Xenophobia. Time until 2017 is short. "2015 has been the year of the slaughterhouse," writes the philosopher Laignel-Lavastine – an example of an often brutal use of words. The year began with January 11 – the designation of a trend, not just a date. The expression runs through the entire book. The day when the extreme Islam advocates took action on the jewel of French society – freedom of expression – by brutally slaughtering the editorial staff of the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The challenge will be to write as catchy as the right side.

The challenge for Laignel-Lavastine and the French left is that their traditional, but not necessarily future, political opponents have gotten ahead of them. First up was Eric Zemmour's bestseller about The French suicide. The Figaro journalist and talk show hero whitewashes the French anxiety about a society they no longer recognize or control. Zemmour simply wants to turn back time to before the student uprising in 1968, American-dominated materialism and the start of the European integration process. Laignel-Lavastine is comfortably devoid of such populist, conservative upheaval. Nor does she go as far as the other best-selling author Michel Houllebecq, who on 11 January published the book about a France ruled by a Muslim president according to Sharia law in the book Submission (Submission). Both Zemmour and Houellebecq help clean up Marine Le Pen's political program; stop immigration and put down the liberalist mantra of EU cooperation. France and the French first. Globalization is an evil led by technocrats and a multilateral cooperation that is slowly but surely breaking down and weakening the French economy, society, culture and position in the world. With 20 percent unemployment – ​​30 percent among young people – the defenders of the status quo have a major problem of explanation. Laignel-Lavastine will not leave that battlefield to the right. Her challenge is that Zemmour and Houellebecq, intellectual as they are, write fascinatingly alive and well. They have won awards for language more than content. The combination of a burning theme and a catchy populist language produces sales results Laignel-Lavastine can only dream of.

Powerless. The lost thought chooses not only to criticize Europe's lack of action to solve its own problems. It goes deep into asking the question whether Europe has not wasted the past 80 years of experience, as she believes the German philosopher Edmund Husselr would have asserted. One of the reasons the author highlights is the political correctness that dominates French and European politics. By making choices based on information and experience, society is stripped of romance and morality, without being able to face reality. With today's global currents, this lays fertile ground for right-wing populism and the dangerous rise of Islamism and anti-Semitism. Can democracy, as we know it, actually survive the combination of the threat from nationalism and Islam? Has the bottom been reached? A historical review of European intellectuals' assessments of the many tragic milestones is summarized in the thesis on Europe's unarmed soul. Europe has had neither the ability, courage nor tools to cope with the conflicts, wars and massacres under Hitler, Stalin and Milosevic, and today Brussels appears powerless in the fight against globalisation, mass immigration and the spread of Islam. The price of indifference is always betrayal, she quotes Václav Havel – and this cannot be interpreted differently than that Europeans themselves must open their eyes and equip Europe with tools that can deal with today's problems. This is exactly where Laignel-Lavastine differs from the other leading critics of today's Europe. While Breivik, Zemmour and Houellebecq will in their own way contribute to turning back time, Laignel-Lavastine looks ahead and asks if January 11 would not in retrospect prove to be the turning point of our time, when people will stop sitting still and watching indifferent to the difference between Europe's ideals and inability to act.
President de Gaulle said that Europe was only a good idea as long as it benefited France – a statement more popular today than when it was said 50 years ago. Our own Per Kleppe said something of the same during our domestic European debate: "Much of what was hammered into us over the years to strengthen the unity of the people, was now used as arguments against binding cooperation with other nations."
If we are to find a solution to our time's increasingly brutal social conflicts based on globalisation, immigration and the spread of Islam in closer European cooperation, France must put de Gaulle on the scrap heap of history. The challenge will be to write as catchy as the right side. Then other books are needed It forgot the thought – in France as well as in Norway.

Frisvold is the author of the book Towards Europe – the story of a hesitant Norway.

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.

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