Europe – blessed by US deterrence with the longest period of peace in its history – loves to hector America about how much better Europe does, well, everything.
There is a Roman Empire-like sameness throughout Europe in fashion, popular culture, and government protocol — a welcome change from the deadly fault lines of 1914 and 1939.
Yet, as in the waning days of Rome, there is a growing uncertainly beneath the European calm.
The present generation has inherited the physical architecture and art of a once-great West — cathedrals, theaters, and museums. But it seems to lack the confidence that it could ever create the conditions to match, much less exceed, such achievement.
The sense of depression in Europe reminds one of novelist J. R. R. Tolkien’s description of the mythical land of Gondor in his epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Gondor’s huge walls, vaunted traditions, and rich history were testaments that it once served as bulwark of a humane Middle-earth.
When they were a collection of smallish, ethnically and culturally homogenous statelets, they had something going for them (other than the whole “going to war with each other every generation or more” thing).
But the thing about European cultures is, you can never “become” French, or Norwegian, or Dutch; those societies are defined by language, history and ethnicity (even polyglot Switzerland). Combine that with being in demographic death spirals (at least those countries west of the German/Polish border) and importing millions of people, first “guest workers” and later refugees to fill in the demographic gaps, workers who can never be truly assimilated into their respective societies…
…and all that placid homogeneity that allowed Swedish and Dutch and French society to actually be Swedish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, whatever, is all by the boards.
And then, the best they can hope for is to become occasionally fractious, like we do. The worst?
The same thing that always happens when one culture drowns in another.