BIG IDEAS: Decline and Fall the European Idea

The Europeans who invaded Mexico, North America, and India are a spent force.

The fantastical story of how the land that is now Mexico was conquered by the Spanish is the greatest story of domination in the entire period of cultural transplantation from the old world to the new. In 1519, just 27 years after Columbus, Hernan Cortez discovered and destroyed the dominate tribe in the Americas, eradicated their aristocracy, and seized their capital. It is a story of such confidence and daring that it’s hard to believe the aged and dying country of Spain that still occupies the same spot on earth birthed such men.

Cortez and no more than 900 Spaniards along with a host of aggrieved native allies, took possession of millions of square miles of populated territory thousands of miles away from his home and imposed by force his native language, culture, and religion. He did so with such complete success that the results have never been undone; Mexico is a Spanish speaking Catholic country to this day in spite of Spaniards never holding a majority. Successive waves of Mexican revolutions and changes in government have not eradicated Cortez’s original work.

The same story, with a few different plot twists, played out with the ‘settlers’ that arrived in North America from England and other Northern European countries. These were very hardy people galvanized by a 100% secure belief in their religious and cultural mission. The American Pilgrims determined that they would hold fast to their beliefs and seize, hold, and develop the land of North America, or they would die trying.

The United States is the result of their efforts and the US is rooted in the European view of the world. Central to the US view of itself is the mythos of the cowboy, the individual alone, and the inevitable sweep west. “Manifest Destiny” was official government policy; it stated that the US would sweep North America and keep out the European powers at any cost. Naturally, the policy included the defeat of the tribes who got in the way. Manifest Destiny succeeded, and the destruction of native tribal culture was total. Every American citizen lives in the relative safety of North America as the result of this policy.

On the other side of the globe, a few thousand Englishmen transposed their governing patterns and ideas on to the immense and densely populated Indian subcontinent. India was unlike Mexico and North America in so many ways, but the outcome of European export was similar. A cauldron of competing casts and religions, over the centuries of British rule, was transformed in to the world’s largest democracy. In spite of all the violence that precipitated the departure of the Europeans, the British had already transformed India and prepared the way for the country that exists there today. There is no India as we know it without the British experience there.

For five hundred years, Europe exported its ideas and people across the globe. Where Europeans went, their ideas took root and dominated. All cultures and languages were either eradicated or influenced by the Europeans. The English speaking British were by far the most successful, followed by the Spanish, the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and to a lesser degree, the Germans, the Italians, and the Scandinavian countries.

The period of European dominance is now thoroughly and completely at its end. The successor countries, which include the United States, Canada, Australia, and a few of the Spanish speaking nations, are leaders in developing and exporting ideas, but even those places are not dominate in the way that Europe once was.

Europeans once had civilizational self-confidence of the most unshakable type, and if Europe is missing anything critical, leaving aside babies and longer work hours, it’s this inner force regarding one’s place in the world. This faith is the single most important factor in promulgating one’s ideas; you actually have to believe in them yourself.

Europeans don’t believe in the primacy of European ideas, and if the United States is an outgrowth of European culture, then one has to ask if Americans still have faith in their culture as well. I would hold that vast numbers of Americans don’t believe in the supremacy of America ideas and ideals which is why the US does not succeed in warfare anymore. When we leave Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there.

How did this happen?

World history is a swirling mass of competing forces, and so placing responsibility on any particular event for all subsequent events is difficult. However, there is little doubt that World War 1 as we now call it, was a defining event in world history and a cataclysm of the most awful sort for Europe and European ideas of civilization. The sheer scale of the sacrifice and slaughter discredited European ideals, and it did irreparable harm to Christianity. Europe was Christendom, and that war was a massive bloodletting between European Christians that had aspired to world dominance by way of its ideas about religion and race.

World War 2 completed the arc. Germany, in the center of Europe, lay in ruins and was forever spiritually compromised by the Holocaust. The war deepened and steepened the decline of European Christianity, which led to the fall of everything else. To the east lay the communist states where atheism was the official state religion. To the West, the British Empire crumbled and the officially secular United States picked up much of the pieces.

After the war, the justification for European dominance was gone and there were no more excess Europeans for export.  The animating spirit of Europe died about the same time the European Union was born. The European enlightenment idea that animates Europe today is a weak and unconvincing whisper compared to the blaring trumpets of European domination in the past.

After 500 years, Europe as a place persists, but Europe as an idea is over. We can only now speculate about dominate economies and technologies, but it seems that no one is even vying for the position of dominate civilization with the possible exception of Islam. The Islamic populations have within them the fanaticism regarding their superiority, but they fail as an organizing principal. Islamic armies and economies are at odds with the times, and the resistance to their overtures will keep them from dominating the way the European Christians once did. If Saudi Arabia, for example, invaded Mexico, the results would not be domination; the Mexicans would resist and win. If, however, the Saudis invaded Italy, and no one came to their rescue, Italy would submit.

I’m not sure the Chinese see themselves as a civilization; they are more of a system and nation-state without transnational civilizations ambitions. Africa doesn’t now and didn’t in the past, have a unified civilization system, not in the European sense. We have a ‘world civilization’ centered on the remnant of European ideas, but we will no longer have a Europe or United States to drive that civilization.

Because science is the new religion in all parts of the globe, it will be the application of science to populations that will define the next era of human history.

Douglas Murray discusses this critical moment in history at length.

Spain is trying to lure people to its dying small towns: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/spain-startup-act-digital-nomad-visas

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