Well I suspect that Mark isn't in the jolliest of modes these days. His latest piece isn't the least bit funny:
America and Europe both face security threats. But the difference is America's are external, and require hard choices in tough neighbourhoods around the world, while the EU's are internal and, as they see it, unlikely to be lessened by the sight of European soldiers joining the Great Satan in liberating, say, Syria. That's not exactly going to help keep the lid on the noisier Continental mosques.If anyone else had written that last sentence I wouldn't have dwelled on it so much. Regardless, it kind of struck me... well I just kept repeating it over and over.
So what would you do in Bush's shoes? Slap 'em around a bit? What for? Where would it get you? Or would you do exactly what he's doing? Climb into the old soup-and-fish, make small talk with Mme Chirac and raise a glass of champagne to the enduring friendship of our peoples: what else is left? This week we're toasting the end of an idea: the death of "the West".
The death of 'the West'. What exactly does that mean? The death of us? Or is it simply the death of an idea, easily replaced with another?
Did those present during the fall of the Greek states lament the death of 'the West'? Did the citizens of Rome feel the barbarian invasions meant the death of 'the West'? Did the Spaniards fleeing from the Moors predict the death of 'the West'?
I'm certainly not qualified to answer any of these questions but if I had to hazard a guess I would suspect in all cases that they didn't. History is local. It always has been. The idea of 'the West' is simply too much for people to grasp. Sure you have historians who can string the narrative together but the narrative only fits if history allows it to.
Would we still consider Europe and America as part of the same 'West' if the Nazi's had won World War II? Would we have considered Europe and America part of the same 'West' if Communism had overtaken Europe after World War II? I suspect in both cases that we wouldn't and I suspect that most people reading this would agree with me.
So what does this all mean? Honesty I have no idea. Heck I don't even know where I'm going with this. I could read a thousand books about 'the West' and yet I doubt that even then I would feel like I understood it.
The situation in Europe does depress me because I honestly do feel that we are seeing the end of an era of history. I'm still not ready to proclaim the death of 'the West' like Mark is but I do feel that the world is rapidly changing underneath me.
I guess that the only positive way I can look at all this is to consider that history unwinds in the most unexpected ways. The concept of a 'free man' with rights originated over 2000 years ago in Greece. And today? All over the world we find that the most brutal of dictators must speak the language of freedom and democracy. The idea of a 'free man', isolated to Europe 500 years ago, now infects the entire globe. Could this have all been an accident?
Could an idea that spans 2000 years now be at it's end? Or alternatively... does the idea need Europe?
crossposted to The Shotgun