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The Revolution Eats Its Own in Paris City Hall

A strange phenomenon in postmodern life is the schizophrenic attitude towards differences between men and women. On the one hand, our culture denies that there are any significant psychological differences between men and women which might explain the radically different preferences of the sexes in many sectors.

If virtually all UberEats food delivery bikers are men and virtually all nursery caregivers are women, this is certainly not the product of differing psychology and physiology (indeed, such notions are oppressive stereotypes), but purely because men and women have been socialized differently since infancy. More to the point, any under-representation of women in some prestigious and influential sector – politics, tech, universities – cannot be justified on this basis.

Conversely, feminists will sometimes argue that women bring unique added value because of their differences from men. We have often heard the argument, well-grounded or not, that women-led nations did better during the COVID crisis. This is a socially acceptable argument to make, while naturally any claim that men might be better suited to any prestigious role will lead to immediate professional termination.

Personally, I believe such double standards themselves stem from the differences of male and female psychology in humans. Two studies found that girls are more egalitarian than boys as early as four years old:

In Study 1 we compared the egalitarian behavior and attitudes of American girls versus boys by tabulating the extent to which each gender awarded the same number of stickers to, and liked to the same degree, two puppets. One puppet followed the child’s instructions or actions while the other did not during a drawing task in which the child played the roles of leader and peer. In the peer role, girls exhibited more egalitarian behavior than boys. In Study 2, French‐Canadian children were shown two drawings by unknown peers—one messily and one neatly colored—, then asked to distribute stickers to each peer’s drawing. Again, girls exhibited more egalitarian behavior than boys. Results suggest the origins of gender differences in egalitarian behavior occur early in life and merit further investigation.

This basic egalitarian tendency – to favor equal outcomes regardless of objective performance – seems to me to underpin a tremendous amount of today’s political correctness. Our societies are being simultaneously feminized, demasculinized (witness the declining sperm counts, testosterone, and muscle mass of today’s males), and infantilized. This appears to be the product of the combination of soft living enabled by the postwar Affluent Society and the steady ratcheting up of egalitarian ideology in the media and academia (a significantly self-reinforcing dynamic).

The now firmly-entrenched West-European Nanny State reproduces in many respects the matriarchal psychology and totalitarian ethics of Kindergarten: one must submit completely, one must say or do nothing that would hurt the feelings (let alone harm the interests) of any child, and everyone will be taken care of. In this scenario however, the helpless “children” to be protected come to encompass every real or imagined victim group: people of color, sexual minorities, migrants, and, of course, women. In this context, frankness of speech is completely devalued and indeed subject to extreme social ostracism.

Hence a spectacular self-reinforcing dynamic: the more power women acquire, the more our societies emphatically affirm that women are oppressed. Government and private institutions across the Western world are adopting ever-more systematic “positive discrimination” in favor of women: women-only training programs (especially in STEM) and, especially, quotas for female management. Actually, we no longer live in times virile enough to even recognize the discriminatory nature (“positive” or otherwise) of these programs.

In all this, the objective facts of biology are of no import. It matters not that sex differences in brain structure are well documented, as are massive sex differences in preferences (e.g. David Buss), largely in accord with what we expect for men and women’s vastly different reproductive incentives over our evolutionary history. Men would thrive or die according to their fighting ability in coalitions with other men. A particularly successful man might have dozens of children, while many would have none at all. Reproductively successful women by contrast would spend much of their life pregnant or caring for children, with absolutely no reason for her to have any particular appetite for risk.

Today, this evolutionary history would naturally explain why men are more violent than women by an order of magnitude, why men are far more prone to risky behavior (dangerous driving, stunts, heavy drinking . . . take your pick), but also why men are far more likely to engage in the risky business of becoming entrepreneurs and founders of start-ups. Most men are not particularly successful, but a few have the talent, drive, and luck to break through with a Star Wars, an Apple, or a SpaceX. Once the business is well established, the assorted naggers line up to redistribute the wealth. The dynamic is identical to a wife’s nagging her breadwinning husband to redistribute resources in the form of a family vacation (documented in photos to demonstrate social status to peers) or expensive private education for the children. The only difference is that the latter is comparatively legitimate.

Naturally there will be both cultural and biological components to observed sex differences – and, pointedly, the biological component will inevitably to some extent also produce cultural tendencies towards such differences – but the idea that these differences are purely cultural is absurd.

The City of Paris offers a unique perspective on France’s feminist future. Paris proper represents the urban core of 2.15 million inhabitants. That’s the famously gentrified and exorbitantly overpriced Disney Land familiar to numberless tourists from across the world. If President Emmanuel Macron represents mildly autistic entrepreneurial pure globalism, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo represents the trend of multicultural matriarchal social-democracy.

In a telling manifestation of the schizophrenia at the heart of moneyed globalism, Paris – a city unaffordable to working people, not least because of mass property investment by moneyed interests the world over from Emirati princelings to Russian oligarchs and African dictators – is governed by a Socialist-Green-Communist coalition.

Hidalgo’s deputy, the “ecofeminist” black former journalist Audrey Pulvar, hailed the hundredth anniversary of the French Communist Party saying: “This great party has counted for so much in the history of emancipation and the conquest of workers’ rights… the caricature which it sometimes subjected to does not resist to an examination of the facts.” Thus was celebrated a century of sterile totalitarian tyranny and mass-murder.

This is indicative of the structural left-wing bias of the French democratic system. While Communists co-rule in Paris, any conservative politicians suggesting alliances with nationalists will be marginalized, demonized, and effectively eliminated. And this is despite the fact that the Front/Rassemblement National has no clear relationship, let alone a filiation, with the authoritarian right-wing régimes of the 1930s and 1940s.

 
• Category: Ideology, Science • Tags: Feminism, France, Paris, Political Correctness 

This time, it’s for real!

Earlier this year, the French press released the results of a super-secret survey which found that, if forced to choose between nationalist leader Marine Le Pen and worn-out centrist-globalist President Emmanuel Macron, 48% would vote for Marine to lead their country.

Never has any Le Pen been reported to be within striking range of victory in this way. The pollsters claim that Le Pen’s score is explained by her securing of about one third of the center-right electorate and the mass abstention of left-wing voters who might normally vote for Macron to “bar the way to fascism.”

It’s hard to gauge how accurate the poll is. For one, the detailed results remain unpublished and the margin of error for second-round presidential polling is high. A June 2020 poll found that in a similar scenario 45% would vote for Le Pen and 55% for Macron. That’s still a loser, but far ahead of Le Pen’s actual electoral score from 2017: a disappointing 33.9%.

Perhaps Le Pen’s progress is indeed explicable with what Le Monde calls her permanent normalization”: she is perpetually moderating her discourse and sending signals to make herself more “presidentiable” in the eyes of the mainstream media and skittish center-right voters (think pensioners and bourgeois Catholics disturbed by Afro-Islamization, but also wary of the potential instability and incompetence of a Le Pen presidency, particularly in the economic sphere).

Le Pen’s closer advisor and brother-in-law Philippe Olivier says: “There is no more detoxification, now is the time of presidentialization.”

The moves towards normalization include praise for Charles de Gaulle (loathed by Le Pen père for his abandonment of the 1 million Europeans of French Algeria), the commemoration of the victims of the Vel d’Hiv, agreeing with the media that the Great Replacement” is a baseless conspiracy, and providing only qualified support for the persecuted group Generation Identity on grounds of free speech.

A sign of Le Pen’s attempt to break out of the “far-right” ghetto and join forces with the mainstream right: three heads of regional lists on the National Rally (RN) ticket are not RN members (the ecological essayist Hervé Juvin and the conservative politicians Jean-Paul Garaud and Thierry Mariani).

Le Pen no longer calls for the abrogation of the Schengen Area of free movement within the European Union, but only that non-EU nationals would be checked at France’s borders with European neighbors (how that would be done is unclear). Talk of leaving the euro common currency and restoring the franc are long-gone. In a recent op-ed in L’Opinion, apparently ghostwritten by high civil servants supporting the RN, Le Pen argues that studiously repaying national debt is a point of honor and morality.

In a debate with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, the Macronist even sought to attack Le Pen from the right saying: “you’re practically soft now.” Indeed, Le Pen now is very careful to distinguish between Islam and Islamism. Islam is “a religion like any other” with its place in France, she says, reserving her trademark “far-right” rhetorical fury for the government’s failure to eliminate “Islamism.”

All this begs the questions: Is a Le Pen victory plausible? Does it even matter at this point?

From a purely tactical point of view, whatever the complaining of dissident nationalists, I have to say Marine Le Pen is broadly right. Yes, her dutiful submission to “house-training” by the media is disgusting and dishonorable. However, assuming one wants a shot at winning, there is not much alternative given France’s electoral setup.

France does not have proportional representation like in Italy – where it can pay to have a nationalist position appealing to only a part of the electorate – but a winner-take-all-system. You simply cannot afford to alienate 51% of voters, even if 25% love you for it.

But France also does not have a purely bipolar political system like the United States, where a Donald Trump could sweep to victory by first taking over the mainstream conservative party and then crafting a message to appeal to almost-half of voters. Le Pen’s game is not to take over a conservative party but to make her historically oppositional nationalist party into a default party of government.

Are the polls credible? A first point: one should not take anything the media says at face value. They make their living by the sensationalism of cultural street-walkers. The media has for decades had a symbiotic love-hate relationship with the Le Pens: at once giving them a voice and tantalizingly suggesting the possibility of a salutary/horrifying nationalist victory (ratings!), while also viciously defaming and demonizing them, in line with the media’s role as the Guardians of Morality. Call it the forty-year cocktease.

Personally, I am skeptical of a Le Pen victory, but I have been wrong before. French voter preferences really are very stable on the whole and the RN (former FN)/Le Pen brand is nothing if not established and polarizing. I don’t see what has changed in the last five years (as opposed to the last 40) to change a critical percentage of voters’ minds. Then again, I am not a formerly apolitical gilet-jaune prole, nor a bourgeois Catholic pensioner. Perhaps some of these groups are more open to Le Pen now, and some leftists will be so disgusted with the Macron presidency as to not vote for him to block “fascism.” But I find that hard to believe.

More prosaically, Le Pen regularly tops the charts of negative approval ratings, with ~47-51% of French people having a negative opinion of her. Although, admittedly, there has been improval of her net negative rating from -34% in January 2020 to -26% in February 2021.

Who knows! A lot could happen, or not happen, between now and April 2022. French national politics has gone from a stable bipolar system to an incoherent winner-take-all toss-up for whichever personality can win at a particular moment every five years, the whole system readjusting according to that personality’s party, with no coherent opposition. Far-left, Green, Socialist, conservative, nationalist, and centrist-globalist candidates all could plausibly make the second round. And the outcome of the second round cannot be foreseen with great confidence.

Another question: would a Le Pen victory even matter? The 2010s feel like a different era, the heady years of the euro-financial crisis and the migrant crisis, when our governments’ hapless flailing made it seem the whole liberal-globalist order was on the verge of collapse.

 

As our world tumbles forth towards ever-more-previously-inconceivable levels of absurdity, you better learn to laugh or you’ll be crying all day.

The latest example is the move by the French government to ban Generation Identity (GI), a civil society movement opposing immigration and defending native European culture. GI had just executed one of its trademark direct actions in the Pyrenees, with a few dozen activists patrolling the Franco-Spanish with vehicles and drones to identify illegal immigrants and report them to the police.

The government no doubt considers the ban to be part of a balancing act: as legislation is being passed to eliminate “separatism” within the Muslim community, so Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin considers that native French “separatists” embodied by GI must also be eliminated. But what does the use of authoritarian measures against Muslims and Europeans, who each want to live in their own way, say about France’s multicultural future?

While GI is being dissolved for opposing illegal immigration, those enabling this criminal behavior have been fêted by the cultural class (the most prominent being lawbreaker Cédric Herrou’s glamorous reception at the Cannes Film Festival, pictured above). More recently, several Green members of parliament went to the Franco-Italian border to help illegal immigrants dodge the police and find safe houses. Though the police encountered the politicians and were suspicious, the Greens faced no repercussions.

Generation Identity anti-illegal immigration operation at the Pyrenees.
Generation Identity anti-illegal immigration operation at the Pyrenees.

For what it’s worth, there is a significant chance that a court will eventually annul GI’s dissolution. After all, the group was threatened with massive fines and imprisonment for a similar anti-illegal immigration action in the Alps but a court of appeals cleared them of any wrongdoing last December.

At the head of this circus is President Emmanuel Macron, himself a notoriously slippery figure, a “young and dynamic” hardcore globalist who will both make extreme attacks on the very notion on French identity and entertain a subtle but quite real dialogue with forbidden right-wing ideas and media.

Macron’s tic-like use of the expression “en même temps” (at the same time) has become something of a running gag: thus the president thoughtfully enunciates both sides of an issue, studiously avoiding pinning himself to anything. He recently told the Guardian: “I believe in continental [European] sovereignty, I believe in the Nation-States, I do not believe in neo-nationalism.”

Macron wants to be the president of all Frenchmen and colorful neo-Frenchmen. This extends, it must be said, to alienated nationalist voters. He will give interviews to “far-right” magazines like Valeurs Actuelles. He telephoned Éric Zemmour, the Sephardic intellectual who is the most “nationalist” voice on French television, after the latter had been verbally abused on the street by a Muslim.

He’ll even cite Charles Maurras, the archetypal French nationalist intellectual of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (equal parts anti-Judaic and anti-Germanic), to explain citizens’ alienation: there is too great a chasm between le pays légal (the legal country, i.e. the politico-legal apparatus) and le pays réel (the real country). A Macron aide was also criticized for meeting with Marion Maréchal (formerly Le Pen), Marine Le Pen’s popular niece. All this may seem insignificant but causes real consternation and hostility among the self-appointed guardians of morality in the media.

Last December, Macron gave a qualified defense of Maurras and the war hero-cum-collaborationist Marshal Philippe Pétain in an interview with the magazine L’Express:

I fight with the greatest strength anti-Semitism and racism, I have fought all of Maurras’ anti-Semitic ideas, but it is absurd to say that Maurras must no longer exist. I built myself on hatred and rejection of the spirit of defeat [of 1940] and the anti-Semitism of Pétain, but I cannot deny that he was the hero of 1918 and a great soldier. One should be able to say it. Because of the society of indignation, which is often a mere posture, we no longer look into to the nuance of history [les plis de l’Histoire] and we simplify everything.

Very sensible words. Macron has also explicitly warned against importing American cancel culture and racial grievance politics.

En même temps, in a breakthrough interview with the hip new globo-homo online media Brut, Macron sought to please this audience with a new plan to rename French streets with “300 to 500 names . . . stemming from our [Afro-Islamic] neighborhoods or immigration.” The “heroes” of “a whole part of our Black, Maghrebi youth” have not been “recognized.” Thus must the demographic Great Replacement of the indigenous French population logically be accompanied by a cultural Great Effacement of the physical symbols of the indigenous people. Macron has also acknowledged the existence of “white privilege.”

We also witnessed the strange spectacle of the President of the French Republic interfering in the U.S. electoral process following the Capitol Hill occupation, with a pious statement in front of . . . an American flag.

One could reasonably conclude Macron is a cipher. On one level, he is unafraid to engage with politically incorrect ideas (witness his repeated calls for dramatic action to be taken to reduce Africa’s birth rates). As a politician, he embodies a longstanding French executive tradition of trying to go beyond the left-right divide. In this instance, however, Macron wishes to fuse the eminently national French republican tradition with . . . today’s ethnomasochist, anti-borders, nation-wrecking left.

Ultimately, the patterns of postwar French history have been remarkably stable, notwithstanding a few great spasms (Algerian War-Gaullism-May ‘68, triumph of the Left in 1981). One may say that Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand made (semi-)serious attempts to inflect French history in certain directions, but overall the head of State, whatever his personal qualities, presiding over these processes seems to scarcely matter at all.

The tendencies will deepen and the absurdities amplify further, much further. We are only scratching the surface. To convince yourself, consider the dreams – self-evident and non-negotiable – of the Green-Pink-Red coalition governing the City of Paris . . . The ride has only just begun!

 

In contrast to the situation in the Anglo-American world – where detailed racial data gives a good sense of most groups’ educational and socio-economic performance, criminality, voting patterns, etc. – there is no systematic collection of such data in France.

This means that we have to estimate the general situation using proxy data, such as first names in birth registries and voter registration rolls, the percentage of children tested for sickle-cell disease, or parallels with comparable countries who do have some data (such as Great Britain and Belgium).

The French pollster Jérôme Fourquet has gathered a considerable set of data on France’s Muslim communities. As he documents in his book L’Archipel français, there is a clear pattern of residential (self-)segregation and socio-economic stratification along ethno-religious lines:

Even if this phenomenon [of immigration] is not new, the geographical concentration of certain communities, associated with the quasi-planetary diversification of migratory flows and the impressive demographic rise of populations from the Arab-Muslim worlds constitute major drivers for the archipelization of French society. (p. 143)

Settlement patterns are strongly influenced by “family and acquaintances networks” (p. 142). As a result, immigrant groups in France tend to not only be concentrated in particular neighborhoods, but also tend to come from particular areas and communities within the home country.

Using data from voter registration rolls, Fourquet could determine that in the municipality of Sarcelles (population 58,000, in the northern suburbs of Paris), 92% of Indians are from Pondicherry (a former French colonial possession) or the surrounding state of Tamil Nadu (p 142). Similarly, Sarcelles hosts a significant community of Christian Chaldeans overwhelmingly hailing from just three Turkish districts. If you give immigrants even a toehold into the country, this greatly facilitates the whole clan being brought over.

These ethnic clustering patterns are long-term if not permanent. For instance, Armenians are still heavily concentrated in certain areas of Marseille (making up 10-40% of some neighborhoods), despite the fact they mostly arrived in France after 1915, around a century ago (p. 142-3).

Seine-Saint-Denis, France’s most Afro-Islamic département, a county outside of Paris in the 1900s and the 2010s.
Seine-Saint-Denis, France’s most Afro-Islamic département, a county outside of Paris in the 1900s and the 2010s.

The tendency of ethnic clustering and self-segregation is being reinforced by the sheer scale of immigration, particularly Islamic. It is becoming easier and easier for Muslims to live among their own and not have to adapt to local French norms:

The greater the immigrant presence, the greater the tendency to reject mixed marriages among Muslims, reaching 35% or even 37% in neighborhoods and municipalities with a very high immigrant presence (15% to 30% immigrants or immigrants’ children in the local population). (p. 153)

One set of polls found conflicting tendencies: between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of Muslims who would be happy if their son married a non-Muslim rose from 41% to 56%, while those who would be happy if their daughter married outside the faith fell from 38% to 35% (p. 152). Interestingly, the more educated a Muslim is, the more likely he/she is to intermarry with a non-Muslim (p. 158). The less educated working class Muslims are more hostile to intermarriage, reproducing the pattern of ethnocentric sentiment inversely correlating with intelligence and socio-economic status.

Hostility to intermarriage is suggestive of the clash of values between native French and Muslims. As a rule, we can expect initially stark differences between liberal post-60s Frenchmen and first-generation Muslims hailing from relatively traditional societies, and then a partial convergence as the immigrants acculturate to the new environment (or, to some extent, as the French are reeducated to “adapt” to the newcomers’ cultures).

Convergence has always been limited. Muslims in France are no more likely to adopt French names for their children they they were in the past (p. 161). Muslim naming follows its own patterns completely independent from the general French population (p. 162). Whereas the French population overwhelmingly supports women’s right to abortion or gays’ right to “be free to live as they wish,” only small majorities of French Muslims also do so (p. 165).

Convergence may have, if anything, peaked as there is evidence of a resurgence in Islamic sentiment:

The studies and polls that we have all converge in indicating a greater frequency and observance of religious signs in the population of Muslim faith or origin. The turning point seems to have been the early 2000s. (p. 163)

In the early 1990s, around 60% of Muslims in France fasted for Ramadan, the figure for the 2000s varied between 67% and 71% (p. 164). In the 1990s, 35% to 39% of Muslims said they drank alcohol, a figure which fell to 32% in 2011 and 22% in 2016. The proportion of Muslim women wearing headscarves has risen from 24% in 2003 to 35% in 2016. Perhaps most surprisingly, a recent poll found that young Muslims are significantly more hostile to sex before marriage than are their elders. Whereas 55% of Muslims over 50 said “A woman should remain a virgin until marriage,” 74% of 18-24 year-olds were of this opinion (p. 167).

It is unclear what is driving this re-Islamization. In addition to the Muslim community’s growing confidence as it also grows in size, it may also be an ethno-religious reaction to certain polemics of the early 2000s: the War on Terror, the renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and new measures by conservative French politicians to limit overt Islamization (such as the 2004 ban on headscarves in schools or President Nicolas Sarkozy’s “Le Pen-lite” campaigning). President Emmanuel Macron’s draft “law against separatisms” may have a similar effect, aiming as it does to eliminate Islamism through various measures so as to assuage native French fears, measures which will likely stoke greater ethno-religious sentiment and a feeling of persecution (justified or not) among Muslims.

We can expect to see a continued cycle reinforcing Muslim and native French ethnic/religious sentiment as measures appealing to the French offend Muslims, Muslims adopting behavior offensive to the native French, and so forth. One of the most common vectors of this: cases of alleged police brutality becoming causes célèbres for protest among Muslims (and Africans), in a context of distinctly higher Muslim (and African) violent criminality).

 
• Category: Culture/Society, Foreign Policy • Tags: France, Immigration, Muslims 

A specter is haunting Europe: the specter of basic statistical literacy.

As a law-abiding French citizen, I do not engage in any conspiracy theories or really any thoughts disapproved of by my democratically-elected politicians in the National Assembly and by public-spirited ethno-religious lobbying organizations like the LICRA and the CRIF.

According to Wikipédia, the Great Replacement is an “extreme-right, racist, and xenophobic conspiracy theory according to which there is a deliberate process of replacement of the French and European population by a non-European population, especially from Black Africa and North Africa. . . . The main arguments of this thesis, whether demographic or cultural, are refuted by the great majority of specialists, who reject both the methods from which its rests and its underlying logic.”

Naturally, I then reject the despicable arguments claiming there is a change of the European population citing so-called “facts” such as our current immigration policies, demographic statistics, and quotes of our political leaders celebrating our bright multicultural future.

But now my consciousness is troubled . . . the Belgians, our strange neighbors beyond the village of Quiévrain, are now claiming through their State propaganda outlets that there is a growing change in Belgium’s population.

The francophone State broadcaster RTBF blares with the headline: “Now 20% of the Belgian population is of foreign origin and Moroccans outnumber Italians.” It gets worse in the body text as the article claims that “Diversity in Belgium has increased over the past 10 years. It’s what, in any case, is shown by new statistics on the origin of the Belgian population, published by Statbel.”

RTBF provides striking graphs to illustrate their claims:

Population by origin in Belgium, Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. Blue: non-Belgians, light green: Belgians of foreign origin, teal: “Belgians of Belgian origin.”
Population by origin in Belgium, Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. Blue: non-Belgians, light green: Belgians of foreign origin, teal: “Belgians of Belgian origin.”

In fact, the headline understates matters because RTBF has hatefully excluded resident “non-Belgians” from the Belgian population. As of 1 January 2020, 12.4% of the population is non-Belgian, 19.7% are Belgian citizens of foreign origin, and 67.9% is native Belgian. Already, native Belgians then only make up two thirds of the population!

Foreigners’ and their descendants are very unevenly spread geographically however. Flanders, a region which votes heavily for anti-immigration parties, is still over 75% native Belgian, while French-speaking Wallonia is only two-thirds Belgo-Belgian. In Brussels, astonishingly, native Belgians barely make up a quarter of the population!

It is true that the Belgian middle class has largely fled the capital, sandwiched between relatively dysfunctional Muslim neighborhoods and gentrifying neighborhoods taken over by European expats.

Ethnic (self-)segregation in Brussels: Europeans in blue, Arabs in pink, Turks in yellow.
Ethnic (self-)segregation in Brussels: Europeans in blue, Arabs in pink, Turks in yellow.

In a recent paper, psychologists Emil Kirkegaard and Baptiste Dumoulin examined the the correlation between Muslim settlement and social outcomes in 589 Belgian municipalities:

We find very strong relationships between Muslim% of the population and a variety of social outcomes such as crime rate, educational attainment, and median income. For the 19 communes of Brussels, we find a correlation of -.94 between Muslim% and a general factor of socioeconomic variables (S factor) based on 22 diverse indicators. . . . For the entire country, we have data for 8 measures of social inequality. Analysis of the indicators shows an S factor which is very similar to the one from the Brussels data only based on the full set of indicators (r’s = .98).

Background of foreign-origin people in Belgium: neighboring countries (including Britain) in red; the EU27 in blue; non-EU27 in green.
Background of foreign-origin people in Belgium: neighboring countries (including Britain) in red; the EU27 in blue; non-EU27 in green.

RTBF also provides data on the origin of foreign-origin people in Belgium: 51.3% are from non-EU countries (mostly North Africans, Turks, and Black Africans), 20.5% are from “neighboring countries” (including Britain), and 28.2% are from other European Union countries. We observe that non-EU migrants are concentrated in Brussels (60.7% of foreign-origin people) and markedly underrepresented in Wallonia. Indeed, the latter has a long previous history of Italian immigration.

Top 5

Romanians have also progressed enormously, now the sixth-most important nationality, with a massive wave of immigration since that country’s access to the EU in 2007. This is a heterogeneous group: many Romanians work in EU affairs as yuppies, others work in blue-collar professions such as construction, go to church, and vote for nationalists, and others still are in fact Gypsies who now make up about half of the beggars that hang about so many of this little global city’s street corners. (Many of these Gypsies have adopted migratory patterns of begging a few months in the West and then returning to the home country in stints.)

Most important sources for foreign-origin residents broken down by region: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels.
Most important sources for foreign-origin residents broken down by region: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels.

Over 10 years, the proportion of each category of foreigner (neighboring, other EU, and non-EU) has not varied much.

One important thing not mentioned by RTBF is the age structure of the native vs. foreign-origin populations. As Jérôme Fourquet has emphasized in his study of France, headline statistics often understate the intensity and rapidity of changes because the elderly are included, but as always the future belongs to the young.

Population pyramids for the whole Belgian population, native Belgians, Belgian citizens of foreign origin, and non-citizens. (Source: Statbel)
Population pyramids for the whole Belgian population, native Belgians, Belgian citizens of foreign origin, and non-citizens. (Source: Statbel)

If I were to trust these Belgian statistics, I would add this makes the traditional Wallonian-Flemish bickering over Brussels now look very petty indeed: with native Belgians making up only around 20% of residents, the city is fully lost to both sides. The Belgo-Brusseler is a marginal whose proper place is on the endangered species list.

Brussels may as well be an independent city-state and/or EU capital district, something which would no doubt assuage the new residents’ alienation from smalltime Belgian politics (interminable negotiations and gridlock between the Flemish and Francophone parties). This would also give an opportunity for Brussels to become a “Singapore of the North” by shedding the Belgian State’s appalling tax burden on income and social charges. Then again, I suppose the emerging Afro-Islamic majority Brussels citizens overwhelmingly votes socialist.

But why not make English an official language of independent Brussels? We could even make Arabic and Turkish into recognized minority languages. Then different residents could not only live in different neighborhoods, as they happily choose to do now, but could each be educated in the language and culture that most resonates with them.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Belgium, Immigration 
On Your Own Time

In my working life, I regularly encounter people in public affairs with a total lack of interest in history. Even officials with PhDs who swear by democracy and the rule of law, and who claim to promote them, will tell me that a man like Alexis de Tocqueville is too ancient to be of any relevance today.

This sort of thing leaves me stunned but is not particularly surprising in our age when Western “elites” look upon their own civilization’s past with a mixture of total incomprehension and righteous indignation.

It is obviously extremely dangerous when a society’s leadership is ignorant and contemptuous of its past. I’ll go much further back than Tocqueville and cite Cicero as an authority: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” We are governed by the human equivalent of self-loathing goldfish.

I well understand the frustration that people feel in studying history, “one damn thing after another.” Almost every child’s memory is scarred by their high-school history classes presenting an inchoate series of dates, personalities, and events to be memorized. Paul Valéry felt the same way, so if you’ve a distaste for history, you are not in bad company. In fact, there is some sense in drilling a few common references into young people’s heads, but on the whole this misses the point. The fault here is with our systems of secondary education, apparently uniformly odious forms of mental circus training, not with history as such.

The point is: How did we get here? What can we learn from past experience? What have we inherited so we don’t start from scratch? I advise every thoughtful young person to discover the pleasures of browsing a good historical atlas to understand how his society, his moment of time, fits in the big picture of the wider human journey. This can inspire right action. Again Cicero: “For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

Personally, I have always strongly felt the intrinsic kinship between history and politics. I later discovered that ancient historians long before me had felt the same way. But the ancients went further, in always emphasizing that the study of past lives and societies should also improve our personal moral character.

Take Polybius, that Greek historian of a Roman Republic which triumphantly unified the lands of the Mediterranean: “not only is there no more authentic way to prepare and train oneself for political life than by studying history, but also there is no more comprehensible and comprehensive teacher of the ability to endure with courage the vicissitudes of Fortune than a record of others’ catastrophes.”

I would go further and claim that the ancient historians’ approach and interests directly resonate with our experiences today. Peruse the introductions of Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, or Livy. What do they discuss? The great deeds of the Greeks, Romans, and other nations, the rise and fall of republics and empires, the diversity and conflict among tribes and civilizations, and even globalization. Consider Livy, who says he will document “the history of the greatest nation on earth . . . [so] that each reader will pay the closest attention to the following: how men lived, what their moral principles were, under what leaders and by what measures at home and abroad our empire was won and extended.” Who could be uninterested in the roots of the power and glory of Rome?

Nota bene: You don’t need to read the whole damn things. Chronicles may be necessary but often make for dreary reading. Though a good guide helps, e.g. the excellent Oxford Classics and Landmark series. Walls of text should also be complemented with illustrated encyclopedias featuring all the beautiful non-literary evidence and heritage left behind by our predecessors: architecture, statuary, paintings, artifacts, etc. The past was as alive as we are today, if anything, more so.

History itself also shows that its study is not limited to that of humble bookwyrms like myself. The fact is that the most serious and consequential modern leaders were also men of historical culture: the American Founding Fathers, Bonaparte, Hitler, De Gaulle, Gandhi, even that supposed knucklehead Patton . . . all were great and voracious bibliophiles with wide-ranging interests, in particular historical.

And why do great men study history? Because they seek to put their life’s work in the perspective of the ages, of all past human accomplishment. That is the challenge they put before themselves. That is how they incite their manly pride to accomplish something truly worthy and as great as can be.

But I well understand that such a mindset is incomprehensible in our times, where not just mediocrity but outright defectiveness are celebrated as sacred rights. Why would anyone study the great deeds of past men if this would only remind them of the humdrum nature of their own existence?

In truth, I would not recommend studying history at university randomly, like the Anglo-Saxons and increasingly Continental Europeans do, without a view towards a specific career. Do so, if that is your calling, that is, with the specific goal of becoming a history teacher, a professor, a researcher, a museum curator, an independent historian, etc.

You may be put off by such humble careers. I will say, in France, high-school teaching used to be a fairly respected and prestigious profession, one compatible with higher political activities. Hervé Ryssen had a stint as a history-geography teacher (his pedagogic skills indeed transpire in all his work) and, in a very different genre, the charming leader of the French conservatives in the European Parliament is the 30-something philosophy teacher François-Xavier Bellamy.

More generally, I discover every day more and more content creators who are forging their own career path, most commonly through the steady production of YouTube videos. It seems most young boys these days dream of becoming video game streamers, and no doubt there is a large market for that. (Streamers provide viewers with the characteristically male pleasures of competitiveness, creativity, comradeship, humor, and . . . victory, made shameful only by their virtuality.) But I also encounter more and more surprisingly popular history channels such as those of Survive the Jive, Simon Roper, History Debunked, or the weekly reliving of World War Two series.

There are real openings today for bold, young entrepreneurs. Do not hesitate to call and talk to the best people working in your field of interest. Don’t worry about making money right away, as long as you are actually accomplishing something noteworthy. Live in your mom’s basement if you have to free yourself from the tyranny of rent.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Academia, History 

The European Union and China have agreed “in principle” to a deal on investment after seven long years of negotiation, pointedly ignoring the concerns of the incoming Biden administration. The economic consequences of the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) remain unclear, but the political signals are telling: the EU is following an essentially German economic agenda centered on global trade while the United States of America’s attempts to economically contain China are manifestly ineffective.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the agreement with Trumpesque hyperbole, to not say fake news, gushing that China had just sealed a deal with “the largest single market in the world.” In fact, with Brexit the EU economy is now unambiguously the second-largest in the world, with a respectable nominal GDP of $18.3 trillion (as against the United States’ $21.2 trillion and China’s fast-growing $15.2 trillion).

I suppose von der Leyen’s transparently false statement was made based on contrived interpretations of the word “single,” as if the U.S. economy did not form a “single market.” If the EU’s head honcho is willing to be so misleading in the headline, beware of the fine print.

All that being said, there’s no denying the importance of trade between Europe and China. With U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war against China, the EU has now become the East Asian giant’s biggest trading partner. Total EU-China trade amounts to some 560 billion euros ($690.7 billion, as against U.S.-China trade of $634.8 billion).

The deal essentially aims to enable European companies and investors to operate securely in China, while granting Chinese companies similar rights in the EU market. It should become easier for European investors to set up joint ventures in China, get shares in automobile and telecoms companies, operate in financial services, and offshore their production. The Chinese should in principle be able to more easily invest – critics would say take over – the European energy and tech sectors.

EU companies currently invest the most in the Chinese automotive sector, naturally of great interest to Germany. (Source: European Commission)
EU companies currently invest the most in the Chinese automotive sector, naturally of great interest to Germany. (Source: European Commission)

The deal represents a “rebalancing,” the EU says, of a trade relationship which has long been marked by China’s closedness, currency manipulation, and mercantilist trade practices. The deal in principle “prohibits technology transfers and other distortive practices” and demands transparency for certain subsidies. The deal also has a plethora of environmental and labor provisions, but critics (no bleeding hearts at that) lament that these are too general and basically unenforceable.

Money talks

Some have hailed the deal as a triumph of European Realpolitik and even a manifestation of the bloc’s ambitions for “strategic autonomy.” In fact, the EU has long been promiscuous in negotiating trade deals, often with precious little regard for so-called “EU values” (witness the bloc’s agreements and/or negotiations with Israel and the Gulf Arab states).

European trade deals and negotiations as of 2019. (Source: European Council)
European trade deals and negotiations as of 2019. (Source: European Council)

In the Balkans, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus, such economic deals are indeed part of a wider and generally effective strategic agenda of securing these states in the EU’s orbit and away from Russia.

Some have attacked the EU for making a deal at a time when Beijing, which leads the largest dictatorship in the world, is reasserting control over Hong Kong and is said to be committing “cultural genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority, complete with million-man-strong concentration camps. Raphaël Glucksmann,[1] a Jewish-Socialist-globalist-Zionist member of the European Parliament, denounced EU leaders in a dramatic speech, declaiming “J’accuse!

Certainly, the deal makes a mockery of “EU values.” But then, perpetual hypocrisies are merely the wages of Wilsonianism.

(Franco-)German leadership confirmed, U.S. on sidelines

The EU-China deal is indicative of certain tendencies in both global and intra-European politics.

Just days before the EU-China agreement, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had warned that economic engagement with China had failed and that the Chinese Communist Party aims to “dominate the free world,” noting that parts of the world still did not recognize this. The latter was something of an understatement as indeed the EU-China deal came on the heels of China’s own trade agreement with other 14 Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

Even if these agreements are in fact not particularly deep, they show the United States’ inability to corral allies and the general futility of attempts to contain China economically. In a decade or two, China is likely to become too powerful economically to contain, period.

Within the EU, the deal is suggestive of real power dynamics. The deal was rushedly concluded “in principle” at the end of 2020 under pressure from Germany,[2] which then held the EU’s rotating presidency. German Chancellor Angela Merkel no doubt wished to tie a bow on her final months in office. Germany is the only major European economy which is a net exporter of goods to China.

The deal was sealed over the objections of several EU countries – namely Italy, Spain, Poland, and Belgium – particularly regarding labor rights (China is alleged to be using slave labor). The French trade minister had even threatened to scupper the deal but in fact backed down. The triumph of Germany’s position is no surprise: EU head von der Leyen long served as Merkel’s defense minister, continues to keep close contact with the Chancellor, and was no doubt sensitive to her needs.

What’s more, French President Emmanuel Macron was mysteriously allowed to participate in the conference call with Chinese supremo Xi Jinping, which normally should have only included the leaders of EU institutions. Presumably this was to enable the Frenchman to, yet again, play the statesman on the international stage. The Italians by contrast were snubbed, their request to participate being rejected. The desire to limit personalities on the European side is certainly understandable, insofar as foreign leaders like Barack Obama had long complained of being bored at having to meet with so many interchangeable European officials. All this is suggestive of the EU’s real leadership today: (symbolically Franco-)German.

 
Will Hungary and Poland be bribed into submission?

The year 2020 has seen signification changes and further centralization of power in the European Union. There appear to be three major causes for this:

  1. British withdrawal from the EU which occurred on February 1, 2020.
  2. The coronavirus crisis, whose lockdowns have inflicted tremendous damage on the European economy, particularly in southern Europe, annihilating in mere months years worth of effort to put government finances on a sustainable footing.
  3. A more proactive European policy on the part of Germany.

Without Britain and Germany, the camp opposed to more EU spending was reduced to the “Frugal Four” that are Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, a coalition of smaller nations who lack the clout to block the ambitions of the Franco-German directorate. British withdrawal has deprived the EU of its second-biggest net financial contributor (some €10 billion annually) and of one of its biggest and most dynamic economics, but ultimately the Union has gained in cohesion.

Since the Second World War, the pace of European integration has always been set by the Franco-German engine. This remains the case, even as France has become the decidedly weaker partner. French President Emmanuel Macron has consistently pressured for a strengthening of the EU and Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose policies fluctuate according to factors beyond my understanding, presumably a mixture of German domestic politics and “legacy-building” for a politician on the cusp of retirement – has agreed.

The EU’s response to the coronavirus crisis, while uneven, has been decidedly more proactive and ambitious than during the financial-economic crisis that started in 2007. The European Central Bank (ECB), a de facto sovereign federal entity, has under Christine Lagarde launched a lending stimulus program worth a whopping €1,850 billion ($2,270 billion or 15.5% of eurozone GDP). This measure has allowed national governments, particularly in southern Europe, to continue borrowing from financial markets and escape (critics would say postpone) debilitating bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Germany has abandoned its decades-strong “red lines” opposing borrowing by the Union on financial markets. Berlin has agreed to an EU stimulus plan worth €750 billion to support economies devastated by the coronavirus crisis, particularly Italy and Spain. Significantly, €390 billion of this money will be in the form of grants, basically transfers, rather than mere re-lending to national governments. All the Frugal Four achieved in return was a negligible decrease of the regular EU budget (still worth around 1% of GDP).

Admittedly, thanks to the ECB’s action, national governments could already borrow at their leisure on financial markets. What’s more, the €750-billion plan will be spent over three years, amounting to annual stimulus of a mere 1.5% of GDP. This suggests the vast difference in agency between a de facto federal sovereign like the ECB (which can take action when a simple majority of its independent Governing Council agrees) as against the summits of national governments, each with their veto and sensitive electorate. Still, the new EU stimulus plan amounts to an unprecedented and instantaneous 150% increase in the EU budget for three years, no mean feat.

The new EU borrowing-stimulus plan is particularly significant for the following reasons:

  1. The precedent having been set, European heads of state and government will likely be increasingly tempted in the future to find agreeable compromises through yet more apparently painless EU borrowing.
  2. The EU borrowing will have to be repaid, creating pressure to establish new European taxes (referred officially in Eurocratese as “own resources,” a cold term intentionally designed to confuse European citizens, such is the price of consensus). The European Commission notably proposes a carbon tariff on imports, a tax on tech giants, and a financial transactions tax.
  3. Like the United States of America, albeit on a much smaller scale, Europe’s Union conditions states’ access to its funds, thus the EU now will have increased means to bribe national governments to accept its norms.

The latter was the sticking point which led Hungary and Poland to threaten to veto both the regular EU budget for 2021-2027 and the creation of the new stimulus fund. Indeed, the European Parliament has demanded a “rule of law” mechanism to punish Hungary and Poland for their national-populist governments. The mood is suggested by Brussels’ recent decision to deprive several Polish cities of funds because of their creation of “anti-LGBT-ideology zones” (essentially declarations in favor of traditional marriage and pledges to not fund NGOs promoting homosexuality or transgenderism).

The Hungarian and Polish governments strike a balance between appealing to their national electorates’ conservative instincts, whether out of political opportunism or sincere belief, and attracting the ire of Brussels. Up to now, depriving a whole nation of EU funds could only occur with the unanimous support of all 26 other national governments. Naturally, Budapest and Warsaw could count on each other to veto any such proposal (occasionally joined by other central-eastern European allies, most recently Ljubljana).

Unlike their predecessors Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s – whose countries were net contributors to the European budget – Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki were in no position to gridlock the Union as EU net financial transfers to their countries amount to between 2.5 and 4.5% of GDP (mostly going to farmers and local governments). Now, a supermajority of national governments representing 65% of the population and 55% of states may move to deprive a country of EU funding.

Orbán and Morawiecki did secure a significant concession however. Legally, cutting funding may only occur for instances of misuse of EU funds and not for general enforcement of “EU values.” In principle, the EU Parliament will not be able to economically blackmail Hungary and Poland simply because their governments do not promote homosexuality or accept migrants to the desired extent.

What’s more, the deprivation can only occur with a concurrent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Admittedly, the ECJ, like other Western courts, has been known for plenty of legal creativity over the years. Nonetheless, given that the ECJ is made up of 27 equal independent judges, one from each member state including 11 central-eastern Europeans, this makes it less likely national-populist governments will be punished for ideological reasons as against legitimate accounting ones. (There appears to be significant corruption in Hungary, though this is difficult to gauge because the issue is systematically exaggerated by Orbán’s liberal opponents for political reasons.)

All these developments give some indication of the character of the emerging European Superstate, which creeps along imperceptibly year after year, though ultimately forms something substantial: as of today, a sovereign and influential market regulator and an effective trade bloc (as the British have learned), able to bring into its orbit much of its near abroad (notably in central-eastern Europe).

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, EU, Germany, Hungary, Poland 

Over a century after Marx, a specter is indeed haunting Europe: the specter of nationalism.

For the latest proof, we turn to Romania where a new nationalist party has burst into parliament with 9% of the vote. Romanian liberals, who very much form a minority sensibility in the country, are in shock at the nationalists’ surprise breakthrough. Indeed, it seems few people saw it coming: prior to the elections, AUR was barely noticed even by the popular nationalist website Incorect Politic. Much as France is an important indicator of trends in Western Europe, so Romania with its almost 20 million inhabitants is significant for Eastern Europe and in particular the Balkans.

This party is called the Alliance for Romanian Unity, whose acronym AUR means GOLD in Romanian. The organization, led by the 34-year-old street activist George Simion and the traditionalist journalist Claudiu Târziu, has managed to strike a balance between uniting a diverse of coalition of right-wing supporters and presenting a reassuring image to the general public. This coalition includes nationalists, Orthodox Christians, philosophical Rightists, and opponents of the anti-COVID lockdowns in Romania.

AUR’s logo is indicative: a map of Romania, the eastern border suggestively superimposed by the stars of the European Union. The message? We are a responsible, pro-European party – important given how many Romanians work in the EU or have benefited from EU funds – and we wish the neighboring country of Moldova to rejoin Romania. Indeed, the recent centennial of Romanian unity, the nation was fully unified in 1919 in the wake of the First World War, was widely celebrated throughout the country. Reunification with Moldova, a poor country of 2 million souls, then seems natural to Romanians, even if the goal is rarely actively pursued.

Why did AUR break through?

It is not completely clear why AUR was able to break through while remaining under the radar for much of the media. George Simion, who has been active in public causes for many years, had crisscrossed the country visiting localities since July in the “Golden Caravan,” a sleek bus. Attention was also brought by party member Diana Șoșoacă’s street protests against lockdown measures. The party also evidently did well on social media. Simion’s Facebook page now has 428,500 likes and 617,500 followers. AUR voters are young (45% between 18 and 35) and less educated (8% university graduates).

The “Golden Caravan.”
The “Golden Caravan.”

The previous parliamentary elections had seen the breakthrough of the liberal-globalist Union to Save Romania (USR, analogous to the Macronist tendency in France), who had done particularly well with educated Romanians abroad, on an anti-corruption platform. In 2016, USR received 8.9% of the vote and they have more than consolidated their position by winning 15.4% in 2020. This time however, many have been surprised to learn that AUR also did well in the diaspora, seemingly from the hundreds of thousands of Romanians abroad working in farming, construction, and other blue-collar work. Indeed, the “AUR in Germany” Facebook group has over 17,500 members and AUR was competitive with, or even received more votes than, USR in many cities in Belgium.

Search interest for “AUR” in Romania.
Search interest for “AUR” in Romania.

Romanians abroad are generally politically rather inert. Many rise through the ranks of their new homes however (e.g., among countless cases, the current French minister of sports, Roxana Mărăcineanu) and diaspora networks, liberal or conservative, are eager to use their considerable resources to influence and do good in the home country. Empty Catholic churches in the West are sometimes converted into Orthodox ones. One such well-frequented church I visited in a Western country proudly displayed pictures of Ion Moța and Vasile Marin on the walls, two celebrated members of the Iron Guard, a fascist group, who died fighting atheistic socialism in the Spanish Civil War.

Many AUR organizers seem to have been part of the Coalition for the Family (CPF), a group which had managed to initiate a civic referendum to make gay marriage unconstitutional. The referendum was held in 2018 with 93.4% of votes in favor of the reform. However, the result was void because turnout was a measly 21.1%, partly because progressives called for a boycott and because of Romanians’ evident disinterest.

The failed referendum however evidently served as a milestone in the successful reorganization of the Romanian Right.

Personally, I’ve long thought that there was a considerable electoral niche for nationalism in Romania, unfulfilled since the decline of Vadim Tudor’s Great Romania Party in the 2000s. Tudor had managed to reach the second round of the presidential elections in 2000, receiving 33.2% of the vote.[1] AUR was able to be the one to capitalize upon this latent demand.

Christians and Traditionalists

Traditionalist journalist and AUR co-leader Claudiu Târziu.
Traditionalist journalist and AUR co-leader Claudiu Târziu.

As mentioned, the party combines diverse elements. Alongside Simion is Claudiu Târziu, 47, a journalist who runs the Christian news site ROST. The site has sympathetic coverage of Romania’s historic Christian fascist movement, the Iron Guard, and documents the activism of Romanian Jewish groups, such as the Élie Wiesel Institute and the Federation of the Jewish Community.

In recent years, such groups have put pressure to remove the name of anti-communist dissident Petre Țuțea from city streets (because of ultimately quite mild and balanced comments of his on the Jews) and to censor the writings of leading Romanian intellectuals Mircea Eliade and Emil Cioran (who early in their careers had supported the Iron Guard). This year, Romanian MP and Jewish Federation leader Silviu Vexler successfully passed a law to deprive anti-communist dissidents (and their relatives!) from receiving special state pensions if they had been members of the Iron Guard.

Romanian philosopher Sorin Lavric.
Romanian philosopher Sorin Lavric.

Several university professors openly support AUR, notably the philosopher Sorin Lavric, who now serves as the party’s president in the Romanian Senate. The mild-mannered Lavric is widely known as a genteel and wry moralist. In a recent video, Lavric explains that he “entered politics out of disgust and despair” and because of “a suffocating ideology due to which one can no longer breathe intellectually in this country.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: European Right, Nationalism, Romania 
Lessons from the Collapse of Catholicism in France

Jérôme Fourquet’s The French Archipelago provides a kind of dynamic radioscopy of the French nation as she has developed in recent decades. The picture, as detailed in my review of the book, is one of the fading away of the old sociological left and right, leaving behind a fragmented subcultural and political landscape, divided in multiple ways along educational/economic, ethnic, and religious lines.

As part of this, Fourquet meticulously documents the decline of Catholicism and the triumph socially liberal values in postwar France. The pollster identifies a number of patterns which are instructive both for France and other Western nations, which are virtually all experiencing similar changes.

The decline of Catholicism in France is overwhelming and apparent in innumerable areas:

  • Baptism: once overwhelming, down to around 30% of newborns in 2015 (p. 25)
  • Regular mass-going: from 35% in 1961 to 6% today.
  • Divorce: taboo until the 1960s, then steadily rising.
  • Marriage: once a “hegemonic social norm,” declining since the 1973 Oil Shock (p. 37). Out-of-wedlock births have steadily risen from 5.9% in 1965 to 59.9% in 2017. A caveat: this figure is not synonymous with broken homes and single mothers, as many unwed couples live together, typically within a civil union (PACS, p. 42).
  • Abortion: 48% of French supported in 1974 (moreso among the young), with hegemonic 75% support across generations in 2014 (p. 44).
  • Gay marriage: steady support of over 60%, though only around half of French support adoption by gay couples, with some fluctuation (p. 48). Older people’s opinion on the matter is rapidly converging with the young, with little class divide.
  • Gay children: There is a marked male-female divide on the acceptance of homosexuality among one’s children. In 2000-03, two thirds of women said they would be perfectly happy with their child being gay, but only half of men said the same (p. 52).
  • Medically-assisted procreation: half of French support allowing lesbians and single mothers to conceive children through in vitro fertilization, with the mention that “fatherless children” would be born. Two thirds of young people support the measure (p. 55).

Catholicism’s decline to marginality and even oblivion in France is evident from the number of Catholic priests. In 1950, there were about as many priests and monks in France as during the French Revolution in 1789 (around 170,000, bearing in mind the general population had more than doubled). Today, they number only 51,500 and the authors predict that Catholic parish priests will be a virtually extinct breed within 30 years (p. 28).

Number of Catholic diocesan priests in France
Number of Catholic diocesan priests in France

At the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries, France provided three quarters of the Catholic missionaries proselytizing in Africa and Asia. Today, in a dramatic reversal, the bulk of new Catholic priests comes from the Third World. Some African prelates, such as Cardinal Robert Sarah, have themselves expressed grave alarm at Europe’s godlessness, infertility and invasion by Muslim immigration.

Catholicism has gone from forming the core of one of France’s two primary subcultures to merely one subculture for the 6-12% of French who remain practicing Catholics (6% being the ones who go to mass, 12% those who claim to be practicing). Even these have embraced many aspects of social liberalism (e.g. acceptance of sex before marriage). Practicing Catholics tend to be older than the general population.

Fourquet also documents other social changes. Only Muslims and practicing Catholics still prefer the traditional funerary practice of burial, with a majority of French now wishing to be incinerated after death (p. 57). Fourquet links this to the fact that most people no longer live in their old villages near to their ancestors’ graves and thus no longer feel the importance of lineage.

Tattooing used to be a very marginal practice (sailors, soldiers . . .) but has steadily risen and now stabilized, with a quarter of young people having tattoos (p. 59). Tattoos and the adoption of rare names represent “a major phenomenon of today’s societies: mass narcissism” (60). There has also been a steady growth in the number of young people who have engaged in oral sex.

The attitude of the French towards animals is also changing. In the mold of the Old Testament, the French used to consider animals as essentially humans’ slaves, to be used however they saw fit. Today, two thirds of French oppose the use of circus animals or the stuffing of geese to make famous French delicacy of foie gras. “Anti-specism” is a new fashion among academics and talking heads.

The evolutionary meaning of traditional culture

Many see in the decline of Catholic practice and customs a triumph over the irrational superstitions inherited from the ignorant past. Even a secularist should ask however: How did these values come to predominate and what do they represent?

In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin himself had stressed that traditional cultures tend in a crude and primitive way to be guided by what is good for the community: “The judgment of the community will generally be guided by some rude experience of what is best in the long run for all the members; but this judgment will not rarely err from ignorance and weak powers of reasonings.”

Many traditional cultures, including those of the West, emphasize patriarchy, the specialization of gender norms, child-rearing, and familial responsibilities. It’s easy to conceive how nations and families adhering to such norms would naturally outcompete those who did not.[1] This is especially so if we recall the conditions of premodern life: a fairly high fatality risk for pregnant mothers, high infant mortality, and constant struggle – undertaken especially by men – in the physical and social world to secure the one’s security and livelihood.

After the Second World War, the emergence of an affluent society meant that the egalitarian and individualist tendencies of liberalism, which had always been present since at least the eighteenth century, would dramatically radicalize and upturn the social order.

Human beings have always chafed against the apparently, and often actually, arbitrary rigors and constraints of their particular culture. As the sophist Hippias is supposed to have said some 2400 years ago: “I regard you all as relatives and family and fellow citizens – by nature, not by custom. For by nature like is akin to like, but convention is a tyrant over mankind and often constrains people to act contrary to nature” (Plato, Protagoras, 337c-d).

Put simply, young people increasingly could no longer accept the traditional familial and religious constraints of the past and no other coherent value system could rise to replace them – besides, precisely, an ethos of individual entitlement. What’s more rising prosperity and the welfare state actually meant that people could, more and more, get by materially with looser family ties. The father and husband’s economic responsibilities to the household were increasingly substituted by the corporation and the State.

Patterns of cultural change: deep generational shifts, not events

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Catholic Church, France, Religion 
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