For quite some time Muslims and non-Western immigration into Europe has been a hot topic of discussion. Let us hope Ayaan Hirsi Ali is wrong in predicting heavy violence and civil war in Europe unless we are able to cope with the growing number of immigrant groups and its cultural implications.
But why have Europeans generally been so preoccupied with foreign religions and other cultures while so little is said about Europe’s own cultural values? Most non-Western emigrate from their homelands because they believe that it is considerably better to live in a European country. How is it that we today are not allowed to emphasize the positive elements in European culture without being called intolerant and a racist? The brilliantly civilizing elements of Western Culture actually provided the foundation for the growth of stable democratic states in Europe. The coupling between the protestant ethic’s emphasis on Judaisms Ten Commandments and capitalism’s espousal of hard work and real earnings made Western Culture a leading global force. Independent courts protected the human value and civil rights of the individual. The market capitalistic system has since spread in triumph over the world and released millions of people from lives of poverty.
Sociologist Max Weber’s work has shown that the fundamental values of a state are not irrelevant factors. The success of capitalism is related to a highly specific series of ethical norms grounded in the Calvinistic traditions of honesty, hard work and integrity. Finance crises occur when moral principles that provide the basis for the optimal functioning of capitalism are abandoned. Greed and egoism take the overhand.
All values are therefore not equally good building a state. Many cultures have values that are both destructive to society and disregard humanity. Some values create human communities and set healthy limits so that no one has the right to override others. Other values and ideals open for social chaos where the individual’s egoism is primary. Self satisfaction and realization then occurs at the cost of solidarity and common manners.
Author Seth Kaplan emphasizes in Fixing Fragile States that countries that today succeed in implementing a well-functioning capitalism, continue to exhibit a strict moral emphasis on work, individualism and personal property rights. It is impossible to build a well-functioning society without a solid ethical foundation, for which abominable conditions in many African states provide good examples. Where authorities do not provide real judicial rights and where corruption is pervasive, there is weak economic growth and great social unrest. For what happens in a state where it is legitimate to lie? If it is acceptable to steal from the work place? If trust and loyalty dissolve as societal glue, only irresponsibility and betrayal remain.
A society characterized by modern diversity certainly does not require that pride over national values be choked. In The Study of Religion one of our time’s most important sociologists, Peter Berger, points out that diversity and pluralism do not imply a contradiction between maintaining one’s own cultural anchoring in religious traditions and respecting the beliefs of others.
How have we come to the situation where Europeans are dutifully required to only emphasize the positive in foreign cultures and the negative in the European culture? Why is one labeled a national chauvinist as soon as one mentions constructive aspects of traditions? One of the answers is that the denigration of our own cultural background is enshrined in the present 68s politics that have characterized most of Europe the last 40 years. Spokesmen for value relativism considered it their primary task to fight society’s traditional authorities. A modern multicultural society should be based on a universal science that replaced national culture.
Multiculturalism contains the idea that Western culture and values should not be given the authority as leading values in Europe and the USA, but all cultural values should be equally respected. European roots, the ideals that once made the European sivilization so great, should no longer define European values. The odd idea prevailed that as soon as every remnant of European traditions was removed, a classless socialistic utopia would be realized.
Today everyone knows that the cultural radicals were wrong. Europe has not become a paradise even though the 68s’ worldview permeates all levels of society and defines policies in sector after sector. It has however paved the way for legitimatization of a norm-dissolving egoism in a society that detests words like self discipline, responsibility and duty. As a consequence of the liberalization process, no one dares to speak positively about traditional culture at the risk of appearing chauvinistic or racist.
The current politically-correct Left has failed to understand that also in their own historical value foundation exist such basic Jewish and Christian values as the duty of solidarity and equalizing of class differences. Central Leftist values also have their roots in traditional culture and carry important values that modern society lacks. Today Europe finds itself in a deep cultural crisis. Deconstruction of social authorities such as teachers, clergy and police has gone so far that it is almost not permissible to discuss limit setting. Today everything is cultivated except the cultural backbone of society.
In Nasjonalstaten the Norwegian professor Sigurd Skirbekk calls for a stronger national solidarity towards Norway’s own traditions. He maintains that a society depends on a common platform with moral and cultural qualities. It is a paradox that while one previously referred to historical national military conflicts as events that gave us “freedom as a gift”, modern historians call these same events “an obsolete nationalism.” Without the constructive nationalism that characterized many European countries in that historical phase, freedom would not have been achieved.
The destructive chauvinism that leads to genocide of the kind that Europe experienced with the totalitarian Hitler’s National Socialistic Labor Party in Germany (NAZI) does exist. At the same time a positive form of nationalism exists, offering people a secure cultural identity so that they can find their place in an ever more global society. Today it is time for a renewed focus on our own positive cultural traditions. We need the freedom to again be proud to be a European.