An interview with Douglas Murray, the author of “The Strange Death of Europe”.
The Polish translation of your book is entitled “Strange Death of Europe”. The original title, however, is about its “suicide”? Death happens naturally, but suicide is something we inflict on ourselves?
Yes, I think it is something that we have brought upon ourselves or at least we have allowed to have it brought on ourselves. The whole thing is being a big mistake because of the weakness and inability of people in charge to do basic things which are needed to sustain a recognizable future for their people. There are no circumstances which would allow us to say that it is simply negligence. Quite contrary, this complete change in the Western Europe is rather a form of a suicide, because it was done by our own hand or be it with the help of a lot of our people. Thus it is more akin to self harm or suicide.
There are lots of books on the so called Islamization, migration, radical Islam. What makes your book different from them?
First, I think it is the most up to date and most comprehensive work on these and related subjects to date. Furthermore, my aim has been not to just explain what has happened since the Second World War and to explain the facts, but to try to explain why it is happening to us. A lot of good work has been done to look at particular aspects of it, but not to peek into the whole totality of it. I think that it has to be done in order to understand it. People are confused about reasons of these massive changes on our continent.
In my opinion it is not about a threat but about weakness, the inability of Europe to defend itself.
Exactly. This is a two-part story. The first part is something that is happening to us. The second is: why we would allow it to happen to us? And this second one is much less discussed. Since my book went public, those who wished to criticize it, they only commented on the first thing, saying you shouldn’t talk about things that are happening to us. But almost nobody refuted my explanation of why we allowed it to happened to us. I think it’s because people recognized it.
According to a medieval Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun, civilizations decay when we are no longer proud of our cultures? Maybe this is the reason?
Yes, that is certainly a part of it, but I’d say its lightly more nuanced. We are simultaneously proud and lacking in pride. We are lacking in pride about our past and many of the things which we should be very proud of and which we might wish to sustain.
Simultaneously, we have this lack of pride for what we currently have – an odd idea that the social situation in the 21st century Europe is the natural and endless status. That history will always tend to end up like this. It doesn’t matter who you bring in knowing what number or from where, the result will inevitably look like 21st century Europe currently does. This is a very strange piece. It is not pride, it is hubris, because there is no evidence to my eyes that the situation in modern Europe is currently, even remotely, the natural order to mankind. It is very unusual historically. The tolerance and freedom that we currently enjoy it is highly unusual. Not just in history but globally today. So it is something like a mixture of self-hatred and arrogance.
That’s very strange. We are living in the best times and are willing to give it all away, to surrender. Such outlook makes the book seem a little bit depressing…
Yes, it is a depressing story.
When you try to provide a solution to the problem, you claim that politicians are unwilling to implement it? So from which point you are writing that story? Are you merely an observer of the dramatic end of the Europe, or rather a concerned citizen and activist?
The main aim of the book is to lay out, as starkly, clearly and comprehensively as it is possible in the moment, the situation we are now in. This takes one single question: “Are you happy about it?”
Now, the very small number of people are happy about it. But it seems to me that most people are not, and the opinion polls suggest that most people are not. Still, they do not necessarily know, first of all, how we got here. Secondly, they haven’t necessarily had a comprehensive and detailed explanation of why we now are where we are.
At the end of the book I give two scenarios where we could go. One moderately optimistic and one very pessimistic. I am only pessimistic as I see no political will in Western Europe to turn this around. They are riding towards the wall, and however many times the passenger shouts stop or slow down or change direction, they keep going towards the same wall. So I hope that this shout of alarm, which it is among other things. It is something that helps, the last chance to tell them to change the direction.
The unwillingness of the main stream politicians to deal with the problem spurs the raise of the so called, even though I do not like the term, “populist parties”. In your book, however, you also warn against this scenario.
I also do not like that term, but what I warn about is what happens when the mainstream stops representing the people. It seems to me the general job of politicians is not simply to correct the views and opinions of the general public, but to represent and act upon them. There is probably nothing in the society that could change it more than the mass immigration. I show in my book, that if the public consistently, country after country, express a very deep worry about that, I do not think that the job of the mainstream politicians is to ignore them and berate them, until the general public gives in. It means that when they pursue that technique, and such technique was pursued in every government of Western Europe, then I think it obviously cedes a decent crowd of majority opinion to people who at some point may be very well indecent. This is also a reason to worry, of course.
Compared to Western Europe we seem to be quite lucky in Poland. Still, we are also under attack for expressing similar views on immigration. How to cope with the problem when any act of criticism is dismissed as Islamophobia, racism and hate speech?
The attempt to shoot down the criticism – which is very much the case in Germany – is a very long term concern, but it may not last forever. Even now, politicians of the mainstream think that there are only benefits to be had for being seen to be generous and open, and being lax with your border security.
I think it is highly likely that there is also another trajectory or track going on, in which the public will in some point – forcibly at the polls or in some other way as events keep happening – say to them that there is actually a price to be paid for it. You see a glimmer of this happening at various points. There were moments after terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015, when it was clear that Merkel and Juncker were slightly worried before the news who the attackers were. Before the news was released to us that the attackers were from France and Belgium and they used migrant routes to slip in and out of Europe. Before that the two mentioned politicians were nervous because they knew that the public could still completely turn on them and say “You did it to us! You weren’t generous and kind, you were unbelievably foolhardy with our future.”
So that scenario I think is at least highly possible and I think politicians should bear that in mind.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen so far. On the contrary, there is a refutation to discuss the problem and even persecutions. For example Tommy Robinson, former EDL leader and Islam critic, he has been imprisoned for almost nothing. He is not an angel, but his case reminds me what was happening in Poland or other communist countries when the system could use any reason to arrest you. What is happening to the Great Britain which for us has been the iconic island of freedom of speech?
This is one of the most concerning things. Even countries like Britain, which are thought to have had a good past with its freedom and tolerance to dissenting opinions, have failed in this area. We fall into the same trick, the one sadly Germany has fallen into, which is to attack people who point out what is happening more than they attack – or even think of attacking – people who cause the actual problems. That is what I describe as secondary and primary problems being switched around – so the problem isn’t what Tommy Robinson is talking about, the problem is the “hidden talk”. I am analysing his case in the book, and giving other examples. This is very, very dangerous path for government to take. It should not be that the people who point out at the facts are the ones being prosecuted. It should be the people who cause the terrible facts to happen.
You have visited the refugee camps in Greece, you have a lot of sympathy for them, but still you are for limiting migration. Why?
It is very important for the writer, journalist, reporter always to stare at the problems in their faces as completely as possible. Not to merely in terms of abstract ideas, or philosophy, or analysis – all of which I do as well – but to stare at the problem right in its human face. I have been to many of the countries which people have being fleeing from in the recent years and I have been to many places where they arrived in Europe. I think it is important to do it in order to understand the full scale of the problem. But it all comes down to one question in particular, which is: “Can Europe be the home to anyone in the world who moves in and wants to call it home?” And my answer is “obviously not”. So, who can it be home for?
We are currently in a situation when almost no public figure, in Western Europe particularly, is willing to say the first bit: that Europe cannot be the home for anyone who comes to Europe or would like to make it to Europe. So we have to work out what the limits are. I think that the people who say: “Well, you know, its mean not to allow people to come” or “Don’t be closed-hearted” and all that sort of things are very, very foolish with the future of their own nation or they own continent. There is no reason on Earth that the movement of many, many millions of people into Europe, should make Europe more free. It may make Europe exactly much more like the rest of the world the people are fleeing from. And this is something all Europeans should have in mind. We should all be thinking what are the limits of this because we cannot have everyone who wants to come.
In a few months, the EU will have again a summit on the mandatory relocation scheme. What do you think Poland should do? Negotiated to minimize the numbers of migration quotas or put everything on a stake – there are opinion polls that we should even quit the EU should the migration be imposed on us?
Obviously, it is the matter of Polish public to decide. My own view is that I see no reason why Poland should pay for Germany’s mistakes. If chancellor Merkel wants to do something unilaterally, then she must pay for it unilaterally. I am very conscious that there is a lot of politics going on behind this. But at some stage there is a counterpoint. I have that conversation with people and officials across Central and Eastern Europe. When public opinion, as in your country which is strongly against paying for Merkel’s mistakes but is also in favour of the EU, I think that it is something that should happen at the EU level and German chancellery. They should recognize that it is something that they did, not with the support of the other nations and member states but against the given implication of other members states. And that, therefore, it was absolutely anti-democratic and indeed anti-European to be acting in this bulling way. It is extraordinarily audacious thing for Brussels and Berlin to be demanding this of countries who said and warned against precisely what is coming about.
We know the dynamic demographic growth in Africa and Middle East, and I can understand that Italy and Greece don’t want to be left alone – Poland also would like to be able to count on member states in case of problems with Russia. On other hand, we also do not want to be a hostage to the way Italy and Greece run their migration policy.
A fundamental point, which I think I’ve mentioned and I really hope people bear in mind, is that the justification which retrospectively has been come up with for why Merkel and co. allow 2015 to happen, was that Germany population is ageing and it needs people to do the work Germans won’t do, and therefore they opened the labour market – it is absolutely a lie. An excuse to cover a very, very grave mistake. If there was such a thing as real European cooperation in these matters, that if there were job surplus in Germany, why bring in people who do not speak any European language and who are utterly unskilled in most cases and expect them to be work force? Why not go to for instance Italy where there are 35% of young Italians who are unemployed (and that’s a modest figure)? If Germany was so determined for a real European integration, why did Germany not encourage unemployed Greeks or Italians? It’s because Germany’s making up lies after it’s done.
Was it a mistake only? Do you believe in a theory of Grand Replacement according to which it was all actually planned?
My own view is that there is not great conspiracy behind it. Of course there are some people who want to fundamentally change our societies. I’ve mentioned in the book some politicians who think that the only good society is the one which has got an international identity. There are such a people and they have done a lot of a damage. But most of the cause in my analysis is not caused just by that, but by a type of laziness, tiredness, lack of will, putting off the problems to their successors, thinking it is too hard to deal with it today, focusing on the short term, getting through rather than stopping long term problems from emerging. As I show in my book, I think there is a much more central explanation.
So, what do you think the future will bring? Submission? Civil war?
I wouldn’t say which, there is a very large number of scenarios that we can think of ahead. We are trying an experiment in Europe that has not been done before. We are bringing in massive numbers of people to a society that seems lost faith in itself. That is a very unusual experiment. Maybe everyone will become nice Europeans and we’ll all get on well fine, but maybe they won’t. In my opinion since these are the only societies we have, we only have one Europe, it is an amazingly stupid thing to do, to take such a gamble. Even it is was just a one percent gamble, or five percent gamble, and it is much higher than that. Why would we take such gamble with our collective future?
One of the lesson that we have learned is that if you are bringing in the world’s people, you are also bringing in the world’s problems. The problems for the world are now the problems for Europe.
Since you are pessimistic about what is currently happening to Europe, what would be the optimistic scenario? What kind of Europe would you like to see?
The most basic thing is I would like Europe to be recognizable in the future. Not to be a totally different place for the next generation and to the one after that. A place recent generations have had a chance to enjoy. I would like Europe to be Europe, to be able to be European. I do not want Europe to be a mini Mogadishu or big Mogadishu. I do not think that we should be simply a convening point for the world. We have an accountability to our people which is to pass on to future generations a society that is recognizable. And not to leave them to be prey to every and any international, foreign event that will end up having repercussions in our continent. The worst possible thing is to be frivolous with your own societal future. All I want is for Europe to be able to continue to be Europe. That is not a perfect state – we all know, Poland knows, the problems we have had in the European past, but the answer to them cannot be the complete replacement of our culture, by a whole range of possible alternatives, because none of these alternative seem to me a better option.
Interviewed by Jan Wójcik.
The Polish version was publioshed on one of the biggest Polish online portals WP