My old friends at The Spectator have a meditation on Britain's nightmare capital by Rod Liddle. It has an arresting opening:
London, city of the damned. City of incendiary tower blocks, jihadi mentals trying to slit your throat, yokels from Somerset up for the day to enjoy a spot of ramming Muslims in a white van. City of Thornberry, Abbott and Corbyn. City of Boris. City of anti-Semitic marches to commemorate Al Quds. City of Isis flags and where, in most boroughs, white British people are a largely resentful minority. City of vacuous liberal platitudes — we all stand together, not in my name. Why would you live there? I would rather live in Gaza, just about. If you are not tired of London by now then you are surely tired of life.
That last line is a reference to Samuel Johnson, who said if a man is tired of London he's tired of life. If you're wondering why I'm spelling it out so plonkingly, well, one of the mildly exhausting aspects of contemporary life is the unviability of lightly worn allusion in the age of the Internet. The other day I mentioned en passant that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, which used to be a widely recognized line (if somewhat apocryphal) of the Duke of Wellington's. An hour later, some cocksure keyboard warrior responded that I was a total fake-news f**ktard and such a douchebag that I was apparently unaware that the Battle of Waterloo was in fact won somewhere in Belgium.
So I doubt most contemporary Londoners have heard of Samuel Johnson and, if they have, assume he's Boris Johnson's dad. I feel for the most part as Rod Liddle does about the vibrant, diverse "City of Boris". But it's the same in almost any western capital these days. You get off the train at the gare centrale, assuming you've picked a day when it isn't in lockdown over some Allahu Akbar type of eternally mystifying motive, and you walk past the soldiers with their automatic weapons, and you buy a cappuccino and slice of pizza from someone who might be a slightly corpulent Pushtun or an unusually svelte Tongan. But what's the difference? The more diverse we get, the more everything's the same. I miss the Europe of my childhood, when you could drive an hour in any direction from my mum's home town in Belgium and (in a way that for young 'uns is exciting in both the jolly and unnerving senses) be presented with entirely different cuisine, entirely different bathroom fixtures, entirely different mores. The homogeneity of multiculturalism is a complete crashing bore.
The post-colonial era left a lot of the more ambitious members of the political class at a loose end. In the old days, their grander schemes were confined to imperial outposts - moving large numbers of Indians to Fiji to serve as a middle-class civil service, etc - and the less fortunate consequences only materialized when they'd moved on. Now the imperial metropolis is itself a colony, for the greatest, most transformative experiment of all, and, when the less fortunate consequences show up, there's nowhere to move on to. Liddle makes the point that a lot of this is because modern middle-class progressives require, in essence, a slave-labor class. This is as true for America as for Europe: up-to-the-minute bien-pensant liberals who would feel queasy sauntering past Negro shoeshine boys and Pullman porters and domestic maids every day are nevertheless happy for the equivalent functions to be performed by indentured imports from Latin America and the Middle East. Indeed, if you label it as "diversity" or "multiculturalism", it becomes a virtue.
The mantle of virtue that transforms your preference for cheap Third World labor into proof of your moral superiority also obscures many other things. If you want a gloomier take than Liddle's, try Peter Smith Down Under:
The game is being lost and we don't know it because we occupy only a thin slice of passing events. We can't comprehend the big picture. But we are not akin to beings in a two-dimensional world for which up and down is unseeable. We can surely spot the portents of the evolving future. Here, very broadly, is what we know.
Muslim populations of Christian (Western) countries have grown sharply in recent decades and are continuing to grow disproportionately; both because of immigration and relatively high fertility rates. Christian populations of Muslim countries have declined sharply in recent decades and are continuing to decline sharply because of oppression. (There is a clue in there somewhere.)
Indeed. But instead we point fingers at irrelevances: The incendiary tower block is the fault of Theresa May; the yokel in the white van is due to an insufficient clampdown on free speech on social media; the jihadi mentals are the result of too few bollards on bridges... Why can't a politician of moderate temperament (the aforementioned Boris, for example, who surely knows) say, "You know, when I head to parliament each morning, I like my butterscotch-pepperoni macchiato and hummus-and-marmalade croissant served by a friendly Albanian or Uzbek as much as the next chap. The Ukrainian escorts are absolutely tip-top. Yet I can't help feeling we've lost control of our borders and we're changing everything imprudently fast, and wouldn't it be nice if we could just slow things down a bit until we're a little more on top of the situation? So we could stop having to spend billions to persuade the more excitable lads to turn themselves in to the Self-Radicalised Extremism Awareness Hotline and have more resources to, erm, invest in NHS hormonal transitioning programs and, ah, re-cladding of tower blocks, hmm?"
But that is apparently unsayable. Indeed, so much is now unsayable that most western citizens are not even aware that this is ultimately (and not too far ahead) an existential question. Peter Smith again:
It is one thing to spot the trend towards Islamic dominance; it is quite another to arrest it. In particular, tolerant societies in these politically correct times have no feasible way of countering intolerance when it is practised and preached by a minority religion ready to claim victimhood at the drop of a hat. I entertained the thought that it could, but it can't be done. And it certainly can't be done when Muslim populations become large enough to have political clout; and that isn't too large.
Muslim immigration can't be stopped. Financial support to Islamic institutions can't be withdrawn. The superiority of Western cultural and social conventions can't be actively promoted. A safe, supportive and encouraging environment can't be offered to Muslims who wish to leave behind their intolerant and violence-provoking creed.
But every cloud has a silver lining and, for Mr Smith, it's the possibility of civil war. To an optimist the glass is one-sixteenth full.
For my own part, to go back to Samuel Johnson and the Duke of Wellington, I worry about the loss of historical knowledge, and with it civilizational consciousness. The young - the ones who would fight Mr Smith's civil war - have no memory of when their societies were not like this. And, if you have no sense that things were once other than this, you cannot mourn the loss, and you're certainly unlikely to fight to retrieve it. That's why I'd rather figure out a way back to sanity that stops short of civil war. Rod Liddle's "city of the damned" is an advanced case, but we're all damned if this keeps up.
~Mark will be exploring this topic in more detail with Douglas Murray in a brand new episode of The Mark Steyn Show. The Mark Steyn Show is made possible through the support of members of The Mark Steyn Club, to whom we are very grateful.
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