Friday 22 March 2024

He is winning. We are losing


I’ve often wondered why the western corner of Eurasia called Europe was responsible for so much of the world’s development. Europeans conquered everywhere, invented everything and wrote most of the world’s important literature and music. It was not always so.

At various times Indian civilisation was more advanced than Europe. The same can be said for Japanese civilization, Chinese civilization, and the various civilizations of the Middle East.

I don’t think there is anything special about Europeans in terms of genetics. Like everyone else in the world we have a mixture of ancestors who ultimately can be traced to Africa via Central Asia. Human beings the world over are essentially the same genetically though we may differ in terms of development. The Ancient Britons may have been less developed than the Ancient Greeks and Romans, but this was a matter of climate, history and geography rather than the superiority of one group over the other.

So, what can account for the success of Europe from around 1500 to now? I think the western corner of Eurasia benefited from many competing countries with different languages fighting over not enough land. It benefitted from a climate that made it a struggle to provide its population with enough food. It gained from numerous wars that encouraged technological development. But it benefited most from the Enlightenment, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution.

In Europe only did it gradually become possible to question religion and to rebel against cultural norms. While Christianity in the Middle Ages had often been repressive it gradually allowed itself to be criticised. Martin Luther’s rebellion against Catholicism eventually became a rebellion against Christianity itself. By the middle of the nineteenth century the Bible and the Church were attacked both by science and theology completely freely and by the middle of the twentieth century this gave rise to an attack on conventional morality leading to the sexual revolution that overthrew how all human beings had lived up until that point.

Europe’s success was founded on freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of religion and freedom to say and write what you pleased. There were limits, but Europe’s scientific success and ability to create literature and music depended on Europeans feeling free from fear that they would be arrested for saying something that was contrary to the orthodox. This left us free to think and to create.

This is the difference between Europe and everywhere else.

But Europe’s success has proved to be our undoing. It would have been better if we had stayed in our own continent and left everyone else to live in ignorance.

The problem is that Europe conquered the whole world and showed it a standard of living that it could never have achieved on its own and which it came to envy.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a prosperous Europe with a high standard of living, abundant food and a welfare state?

But the problem for Europe was just this. It’s prosperity. It’s success. It’s everything depended on it being full of Europeans. The land itself was of no consequence only the people living in it. The issue has nothing whatsoever to do with race. The issue has to do with history and culture.

It took the British people centuries to develop democracy, free markets and the rule of law. The idea that people have a right to free speech is quite alien to antiquity and most of the modern world.

Russians do not have our culture and our history and so they cannot create a democratic society with a free market and free speech, but nor can those from most of the rest of the world either for which reason genuine democracy is rare.

We have been trying out an interesting experiment in Britain since the 1950s. What happens if we import people with very different values into our society? Well, the answer is this. Many of them reject the values that made Britain what it is.

Britain rejected theocracy gradually, but by the nineteenth century not only could I freely criticise Christianity I could freely criticise Islam too. If you read the great Scottish scholar William Muir’s Life of Mahomet, you will find a more honest appraisal of the prophet than anything that could be written today.

But this is our problem. If I quoted from Muir’s conclusion to his biography, I might well offend Muslims very deeply. Muir in the end after a lifetime of study including learning Arabic condemns both the prophet and Islam. His conclusion is completely devastating because after four volumes of scholarship and reason he shows quite clearly the nature of the subject.

But I fear this will no longer be allowed in Scotland and where Scotland leads the rest of Europe will surely follow. This great scholar would be arrested in Scotland if he repeated his conclusions today. For shame. We have regressed. We smirk at Victorian values when they were far far advanced of where we are today.

We have imported theocrats and there are enough of them now to demand that their theology is protected from attack even if that attack is based on scholarship and reason.

This is what it is about. Some people pretend to go into politics because of Scottish nationalism when their motivation and goal was always something quite different. It can be lucrative in one way or another.

When Salman Rushdie, perhaps rather naively, wrote the Satanic verses, he thought there wouldn’t be a problem. But there was a problem. Muslims in Britain burned his book and complained so that the Ayatollah Khomeini put a death sentence on Rushdie. After that no one dares write another novel critical of Islam. There are a lot more Muslims here now than then. 

But while in 1988 the mood of Britain was on the whole to defend Rushdie and free speech, the mood now is quite different. Now it would be the book burners who complained to the Scottish police about Rushdie’s hate crime and now it would be the Scottish police who condemned Rushdie like the Ayatollah. Numbers have transformed everything.

We have fallen very far, very fast. Worse the very thing that made Europe prosperous our ability to think and write freely, will be still more under attack as still more theocrats arrive in Europe and demand protection for their beliefs.

There is nothing inevitable about Europe being prosperous. It is not because of our genetics. It is not because of our climate. It is not because of our history. It is because of our freedom.

It is only because Scots can think what we please, write what we please and live how we please that we are better off than most of the rest of the world. Take away that and you take away everything including our prosperity. I don’t wish to be overly pessimistic. I will stand and fight. But it is a last stand. We are losing.

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