Bedlam1 Europe

Gerald Vouga2 June 2006 In the 1970s Portugal’s authoritarian regime succumbed to a peaceful coup by discontented army officers. Most of the country rejoiced but enthusiasm did not last long: within a few months the country was like a mental hospital under self-management. Portugal’s long tradition of music hall comedy thrived, and counter-revolutionaries with theatrical flair made the most of the loony political situation, drawing huge audiences. Current developments in Europe look similar. All that’s missing is a suitable continental stage on which to burlesque the hilarious ongoing events—but anyway here are some typical scenes.

The United Kingdom
Like the rest of Europe Britain is a strange place nowadays. Earlier this year a lad of eleven was brought before a UK court charged with committing a hate crime. He had been caught at the age of ten in his school playground insulting a fellow-pupil as a “dirty Paki”. The boy was then tracked by the police for a year, his playground wickedness duly registered, and criminal proceedings initiated. His eventual defence was that his victim had started it all by calling him “white trash”. In an unusual display of common sense, the judge dismissed the case and denounced the Crown Prosecution Service and the police for devoting their attentions to childish misdemeanours instead of attending to car-theft, burglary and assault. In his day, said the judge, the matter would have been dealt with by a timely clout. The judge’s decision was then indignantly condemned by teachers’ unions and has gone to appeal.

The extraordinary attention paid by the authorities to one small boy is in sharp contrast to the carelessness shown by former Home Secretary Clarke, who mislaid over a thousand dangerous foreign criminals that should have been deported after serving their sentences. Instead they were released into the community and some of them went on to commit further violent crimes including rape and murder. Adding to the scandal, a Court has ruled that Afghan hijackers who have been in custody for several years cannot be deported. This is because of EU Human Rights provisions

Bedlam, como era conhecido o Royal Bethlehem Hospital fundado em Londres no século treze, era e continua a ser um asilo para doentes mentais. O nome de Bedlam tornou-se sinónimo de bagunça. 2 Gerald Vouga is a long-time observer of the European scene. 1

governing asylum seekers. No matter that Afghanistan is supposed to have been liberated. No matter that the hijackers would no longer be persecuted in their homeland. No matter that they might even be treated as heroes back in Afghanistan. They cannot be deported from Britain because—so says the law—they cannot be sent anywhere they might be persecuted. Not surprisingly, in consequence of public outcry, and the Home Secretary’s admission that even more foreign criminals are missing, Mr Blair has now declared that Britain’s adoption of EU Human Rights law should be reconsidered. As his reign draws to a close Blair seems to be at sixes and sevens. Contradictions crowd in thick and fast. After a recent cabinet re-shuffle, Ruth Kelly has been named Minister of Equality. (Yes, believe it or not that is what her portfolio is called. Is there perhaps the sign of a guillotine over the ministerial door?). She is a practising Catholic and a member of Opus Dei, well-known for being one of the most orthodox and traditional of the Church’s religious orders. Its social project roundly condemns all the Left’s pet gender options: contraception, abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage. How Ms. Kelly will act or speak on these matters is anyone’s guess. In a recent TV programme a British Moslem leader enunciated Islam’s well-known position on homosexuality by condemning it. He was then investigated by the police but has so far not been prosecuted for a hate crime, though this could happen any day. The British media are naturally agog to find out whether (a) Ms Kelly can be provoked into making her views on these controversial matters known, (b) whether, if she does so, she also will be investigated, and (c) whether, in the latter case, she might end in jail.

Across the channel the prophecy that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s nomination last year would soon bring people out into the street turned out to be over-optimistic. Instead of three months, we had to wait until April this year, when large numbers of ethnic French decided to exercise their time-honoured prerogative. What began as a student protest lasted for over three weeks and at one point there were a million demonstrators all over France. What made these events strikingly different from earlier resort to the barricades was that this time the demands were in support of the status quo. Prime Minister de Villepin had angered the young, their mainly middle-class parents and the unions by proposing mild reforms in France’s notoriously inflexible labour laws. These laws, which make it almost impossible to fire unsatisfactory staff—even youngsters in their first jobs—have long been blamed for France’s high unemployment rate of more than 10 percent, which has persisted for over a decade and accounts in part for the nation’s declining economic growth. The students and their union allies (mainly public-sector workers) wanted no such reform. But no attempt to explain the unsustainability of France’s social security legislation was listened to. Villepin had to climb down, and his dismissal began to be mooted. The French Prime Minister is a bureaucrat who has never stood for office, and was

appointed to his job after his predecessor Raffarin had been forced out following France’s “No” vote in last year’s referendum on the EU constitution. We might note in passing that bureaucratic ossification and blocked job opportunities have been a feature of French society for a very long time. In the revolutionary and Napoleonic period there had been major upheavals, and numerous young men found political and administrative posts. But thirty years later they still held them, preventing the next generation from finding employment. A Genevan author wrote a pamphlet in 1828 with the title On Gerontocracy, or the Abuse of the Wisdom of Old Men in the Government of France. Ancient functionaries, he said, had reduced France’s administration to seven or eight thousand asthmatic, gouty, paralytic, old men who blocked the entry of eligible candidates. Yet today the streets are filled with young people demonstrating in favor of these same rigidities, besotted with lifelong security and jobs from the cradle to the grave.

Monsieur Villepin has had a difficult year. Last autumn there were smaller but much more violent demonstrations during a long hot month in the ghetto suburbs where largely Moslem youth vented their anger against French society, burning cars and destroying property. Though everybody knew the origins of these demonstrators it was some time before the Press referred openly to the fact that they were Moslems and mostly North African. Heart-searching followed, and it was revealed that more than half these young ghetto-dwellers are unemployed. Now whether or not racism might be a factor, most of these youngsters are school dropouts so they are not easily employed. The labor law reforms were aimed precisely at encouraging employers to take such people on by making dismissal easier. Youth unemployment overall is around 25 per cent, but as so much of it is concentrated among Moslem youth, it is clear that the demonstrating students knew what they were doing. They had the most to lose from reform: neither they nor their parents wanted it to be easier to sack them from their first jobs. But Villepin’s troubles have not ended. At present he is involved in an altogether different kind of scandal, the so-called Clearstream Affair, in which he is accused of conspiring against Interior Minister Sarkozy in a Machiavellian plot to involve the latter in corruption charges. These concern deposits in a Luxembourg bank account resulting from the sale of French frigates. It is alleged that both Villepin and Chirac were keen to smear Sarkozy in an attempt to eliminate him as a candidate in the next presidential election. Who is conspiring against whom, and who is smearing whom, is not entirely clear; but it is plain that what is at stake is who is to be the Right’s candidate in the next presidential election, and therefore who will have the chance of reforming France’s Welfare State, and averting both looming bankruptcy and the collapse of the social security system, not to mention dealing with acute immigration problems.

President Jacques Chirac continues in office and his inborn chauvinism remains impermeable. At a recent EU meeting he walked out in protest against the French chairman’s use of the English language for the proceedings. It was explained that English was the language of business. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the dangers of nationalism in EU affairs.

In Italy Silvio Berlusconi, after three weeks resistance, at last reluctantly conceded. The recent general election was described as one of the roughest episodes in Italy’s turbulent post-war electoral history. Media baron and multi-millionaire Prime Minister Berlusconi made almost daily headlines with colourful testicular epithets hurled at opponents. However his rude speeches and rowdy departure from TV debates failed to win him a clear majority. Romano Prodi, notable for his ineffectual performance as president of the European Union, is now Italy’s new Prime Minister by a very slim margin. But Italy has long departed from tradition: recent studies indicate that 52 per cent of Italian women in the age range 16-24 do not want to have children.

Denmark, normally a quiet and sensible place, is recovering from the Mohammed cartoon affair and the authors are said to be still in hiding. Perhaps never since the time of the Vikings has this small Scandinavian people been so reviled. But now the hatred and boycott of Danish products extends from Moslem enclaves in Britain and the rest of Europe to as far away as Indonesia. One consequence of this excessive reaction to a few rude caricatures of the Prophet is that artists everywhere now think twice before taking up pens or brushes. The other is that people are at long last beginning to challenge the taboo on discussing Moslem intolerance. Most of these events have attracted international headlines. Not so with what has been happening in another Scandinavian country. Hardly anybody has commented on the extremes to which political correctness has been leading the Swedish model of social democracy. As long ago as 1973 family legislation decriminalized incest insofar as half-siblings are concerned, by permitting marriage between half-brothers and half-sisters. In 1987 a husband’s special responsibility to support the family was ended. In 1995 homosexual unions were recognized but this received little attention. More recent changes in family law have similarly passed unnoticed. In 2002 gay and lesbian couples gained the right to adopt children. And now a Swedish court has recognized polygamous marriage among Moslem immigrants, a judgment welcomed by family reform groups who now foresee that polygamy for all will be legalized by 2010. The more hopeful of these declare that they will be lobbying for similar measures to be adopted by the EU for all its members.

In Spain socialist Prime Minister Zapatero had already defied the Catholic Church by legalizing gay marriage and the right of homosexual couples to adopt children. Recently he sponsored what might be the ultimate way of legally eliminating gender difference. Henceforth the words “mother” and “father” will not appear on birth certificates. They will be replaced by “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B”. It is not clear as yet whether the unfortunate child is itself to be described as an “A” or a “B”. Meanwhile the Catholic Church is protesting these measures, while the State is prosecuting those State officers who refuse to comply with the new regulations.

Dutch commentators say Voltaire and Erasmus must be turning in their graves. After the murder of Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic fanatic for directing “Submission”, a film about the treatment of women in a Moslem country, there is today a new victim—Ayaan Hirsi Ali who wrote the screenplay. A woman from Somalia who became a Dutch MP in 2003, she has been stripped of her Dutch citizenship. After Van Gogh’s assassin had declared she should be killed too, she had been living in hiding. Now Netherlands immigration minister Rita Verdonk has entered the fray. Ms Verdonk, a former prison warden known as “Iron Rita”, decided Ayaan should be punished because she gave a slightly altered name on her application for citizenship in 1997. The real reason for this draconian measure against a member of parliament, observers say, is that Ayaan, formerly Moslem herself, has annoyed the Left because of her criticisms of Islamic fanaticism and Dutch multiculturalism. Even if widespread protests against the treatment of Ayaan are successful she is not interested in staying in the Netherlands, and is leaving to join the American Enterprise Institute in the US. It is probably the safest thing to do. A late report says more than 50 percent of the Dutch population agree she should be expelled. Such is the spirit of accommodation with Islamic fanaticism in the Netherlands. Such is Dutch courage today.

In Germany, which takes itself more seriously than other nations and where there is a large Turkish immigrant minority, public attention is taken up with more tragic matters: the frequency of “honour killings” among Germany’s Moslem residents. These have of course been noticed in other European countries, but there are signs that more indignation is being shown in Germany than elsewhere at these violent manifestations of Moslem sexual prejudices. Meanwhile the press prefers to divert attention to the forthcoming World Cup. There is ongoing coverage of the preparations being made to build brothels and stock them with

thousands of women. What feminists or Germany’s woman chancellor have to say about all this is not known. In Poland, however, preparations for the World Cup are roaring ahead and they have little to do with women’s rights. Instead, powerful groups of Polish thugs have announced their intention of forming a league of 500 highly aggressive hooligans. They plan to go to Berlin to fight their German and English counterparts. Polish police say there are at least 2,000 more keen to join in.

A draft report on alcohol consumption has been leaked. It is to be published in June, and the report’s lead author, Dr Peter Anderson of the World Health Organization, is an enthusiastic hunter of tobacco addicts. He described in an interview how a similar strategy to that which has made smoking socially unacceptable ought to be followed with wines and spirits. Reporters were told that a concept resembling that of “passive smoking” should be popularised. Alcohol consumption, he declared, caused enormous costs to society and non-drinkers were adversely affected through no fault of their own by the drinking of others. He did not mention whether any Islamic lobby had influenced the authors of the report. There is no news as yet of reactions from famous toper Jacques Chirac, France’s wine industry or European brewers generally.

In normal times everybody would agree that this catalogue of European aberrations provides a treasure house for humor factories everywhere. TV and radio shows, films, newspapers and books would be inundating us with their products. But in Europe nowadays only a few of these matters can be freely discussed. You can comment on the antics of Prescott and Berlusconi, or the bad manners of the little English boy, but not much else. Instead the situation is increasingly like that in the old Soviet bloc where humour became subversive and confined to samizdat publications and word of mouth. Not quite as bad admittedly. The Mohammed cartoon affair was adequately covered and duly, if nervously, ridiculed in some countries. In Britain however, the cartoons, out of respect for multicultural sensitivities, were not generally reproduced. This at least was the usual excuse that was offered. The more candid admitted their motives to be prudential: media barons said they did not wish to place their employees at risk—but perhaps they were also thinking of themselves and their property. Nevertheless, here and there the new iron curtain is being dented and some hardy souls are daring to speak out. One who has never been silenced is the doughty Italian journalist Oriana Fallacci. Now over seventy and ill with cancer, she lives in New York and cannot return to Europe because she is being prosecuted in France and Italy for “hate crimes” and could end her life in prison. Having risked her professional life in places like Viet Nam and having interviewed some of the world’s most ruthless dictators, she is now a refugee from Europe’s bizarre standards of

human rights. Her crime? Speaking out against what she sees as the grave threats facing Europe: Islamic immigration, the continent’s declining birth-rate, and European self-hatred. Someone far more powerful than this frail woman (and one of her regular readers) is Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. He and Marcello Pera, a philosopher who is an enthusiastic fan of Karl Popper and President of the Italian Senate, have been collaborating for some time on an analysis of the European crisis. It is worth noting that Ratzinger, the head of Christendom and regarded as incurably reactionary by progressive Catholics, is perfectly at ease with self-confessed atheists like Fallacci and Pera. When the late Pope John Paul II was still a Cardinal and facing up to Communist domination of his Polish homeland, he could scarcely have dreamed that his successor would be called upon to play a similar role against the dominion all over the continent, not of communists, who were after all generally sane, but of madmen in the service of false gods bent on destroying European civilization. (Originalmente publicado no Culture Cult.)