What Happened in France?
How could Marine Le Pen have lost in a landslide?
Why, after the Brits chose Brexit, and Americans chose Trump, did the Dutch fail Wilders, and the French fail Le Pen?
How could a country that has been hit by several major terrorist attacks in recent years, and that has undergone a more profound social transformation owing to Islamic immigration, vote for business as usual?
Wilders, buoyed by the Brexit and Trump victories, said that 2017 would be a “Year of the Populist.” So far, alas, it's not turning out that way.
Yes, there are positive signs. The Sweden Democrats are on the upswing. And Wilders did gain seats in the Dutch Parliament.
But if you've witnessed the reality of Islamization in cities like Rotterdam and Paris and Stockholm, you may well wonder: what, in heaven's name, will it take for these people to save their own societies, their own freedoms, for their own children and grandchildren?
I'm not the only one who's been obsessing for years over this question. I've yet to see a totally convincing answer to it.
One way of trying to answer it is to look at countries one by one. For example, the Brits and French feel guilty about their imperial histories, and hence find it difficult to rein in the descendants of subject peoples. The Germans feel guilty about their Nazi past – and the Swedes feel guilty about cozying up to Nazis – and thus feel compelled to lay out the welcome mat for, well, just about anybody. The Dutch, similarly, are intensely aware that during the Nazi occupation they helped ship off a larger percentage of their Jews to the death camps than any other Western European country, and feel a deep need to atone.
Postmodernism, of course, is a factor. According to postmodern thinking, no culture is better than any other – and it's racist to say otherwise. No, scratch that – other cultures are, in fact, better than Western culture. Whites, by definition, are oppressors, imperialists, and colonialists, while “people of color” are victims.
And Muslims are the biggest victims of all.
Not that that makes any sense. Over the centuries since the religion was founded, Muslim armies have gained control over much of north Africa, the Middle East, and large parts of Europe. Islam itself, by definition, is imperialistic. And whenever Islam has conquered non-Islamic territories, it has proven itself to be profoundly oppressive, offering infidels exactly three options: death, subordination, or conversion. But to say these things has become verboten.
Living in a Muslim neighborhood of Amsterdam in early 1999, I read up on Islam and realized very quickly what Europe was up against. Two and a half years later, when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred, I assumed pretty much everyone else would get it, too.
But it didn't work that way. Yes, some people did get it almost instantaneously, in both America and Europe. They caught up on a lot of reading, did a great deal of soul-searching, and underwent a major philosophical metamorphosis.
But even after other horrific attacks occurred – in Madrid, London, and elsewhere – a lot of people refused to accept the plain truth. The plainer the truth got, in fact, the more fiercely they resisted it. And as skilled propagandists began to represent Muslims as the mother of all victim groups, many Westerners were quick to buy into it all.
How, again, to make sense of this?
Yes, the mainstream media have played a role, routinely whitewashing Islam, soft-pedaling the Islamic roots of jihadist terror, and staying silent about the dire reality of everyday Islamization. But no one who actually lives in western Europe has any excuse for ignorance about these matters. The truth is all around them. Even in the remotest places, however dishonest the mainstream media, the truth can be found on the Internet.
But – and this is a fact that some of us are thoroughly incapable of identifying with, and thus almost thoroughly incapable of grasping – some people don't want to know the truth. And if they do know the truth, they want to un-know it.
Orwell understood. He called it doublethink. You can know something and yet can will yourself not to know it. And thereby give free rein to totalitarianism.
For those of us to whom the truth matters, and who wouldn't be able to live with ourselves if we didn't face the truth, however difficult, and try to act responsibly on it, it can be hard to conceive that not everything thinks about these things in the same way that we do.
And I'm not talking about people who are just plain obviously rotten through and through. I'm taking about people who, in everyday life, come across as thoroughly good and decent – but who, when push comes to shove, just don't want to rock the boat. That's a lot of people. Maybe most. People who are nice so long as it's easy to be nice. The sort of people who – if they'd been, say, Christians living in the pre-war Netherlands – would've been the best of friends to their Jewish neighbors next door; but who, when those neighbors came to them and begged to be hidden from the Gestapo, would've refused.
No, come to think of it, you don't even have to take it to the point where the Gestapo is on your tail. There are kind people who, the minute there's any hint of trouble – which means, way before the death-camp round-up begins – prefer to lie low. Their highest value isn't truth or virtue or beauty or even long-term security for them and their families but the ability to buy another day without major trouble.
You'd think they'd be able to look forward at least some distance into the future and dwell on that grim prospect. Able to see their children, their grandchildren, and so forth, living under sharia law. If, indeed, lucky to be living at all.
But I think it needs to be recognized that for some people, seeing that far into the future is just beyond their intellectual grasp. Or beyond what they dare to envision.
Yes, they see Islam taking over. Bit by bit, here and there. Everything in their lives, everything familiar to them, is being transformed, in some cases at a terrifying pace. Perhaps their own lives haven't been turned upside down – yet. But they know people who have suffered greatly because of these changes.
Yet they're terrified to speak up about it, let alone do anything about it. Viewed through American eyes, it may seem a European thing (although it's not as uncommon in America, alas, as it used to be).
Part of what I'm saying is that these people don't have much of a sense of ownership in their own countries, their own communities. They're used to being ruled over. They're used to the idea that there are people above them in the hierarchy whose job it is to think about, and take care of, the big things while they – the citizens, the mice – take care of their own little lives.
Over and over again, they've been given the message, explicitly or implicitly, that their countries don't belong to them – the whole thing about democracy to the contrary – and that to assert any sense of ownership in any way would be a manifestation of the worst kind of bigotry.
You might think that, once in the voting booth, these people would be able – and not just able but eager, desperate even – to stand up against the powers above them that have turned their countries upside down and assert their power as citizens. But everything around them has conspired all their lives to render them incapable of feeling that power – or, perhaps, has rendered them incapable of feeling that they have the moral right to exercise that power in the way that their gut is begging them to.
That still, quiet voice in their heads, which I would describe as a voice of plain reason and common sense, is up against the resounding voices of all the higher-ups shouting in unison – the leading voices of politics, business, the academia, the media, and so on – that they've been bred from infancy to respect and take seriously. To, indeed, obey.
In America we're taught (or, at least, used to be taught) that our leaders work for us; we learn (or used to) that it's not only our right but our duty as individuals to stand up to those leaders when we think they're wrong – especially when we think they're exceeding their powers and infringing on our rights. But Europeans aren't brought up that way. Not really. Yes, there's lip service to the idea of freedom. But when it comes right down to it, they're raised to bow down to the state – to prioritize not themselves, not the individual, but the society, the commonweal, that abstract ideal known as “solidarity.”
So it is that even in a secret ballot, it takes European voters a remarkable amount of nerve to resist the thunderous chorus of voices from above urging them to vote against their own interests; it feels like nothing less than an act of treason to heed the meek little voices in their own heads begging them to do the opposite – to do what's actually best for themselves and their loved ones. They've been psychologically manipulated to the point where they truly believe, on some level, at least in some Orwellian doublethink kind of way, that acting in clear defense of their own existence, their own culture, their own values, and their own posterity, is an act of ugly prejudice.
These, for what it's worth, are the places my mind has wandered since the vote from France came in. At this point I've lived in Europe for just short of twenty years, and have spent every day of that time observing Europeans and trying to understand what makes them tick when it comes to such matters. It helps to be an outsider, even after you've been an outsider so long that you're not really an outsider any more. Frankly, Le Pen's devastating loss doesn't really surprise me. But I still can't say that I get it.