Pascal Bruckner, in a must-read essay in Quillette, describes how Europe is allowing its own virtue to destroy it.
Western Europeans dislike themselves. They are unable to overcome their self-disgust and feel the pride in their heritage and the self-respect that is so strikingly evident in the United States. Modern Europe is instead mired in shame shrouded in moralizing discourse. It has convinced itself that, since all the evils of the twentieth century arose from its feverish bellicosity, itâ€™s about time it redeemed itself and sought something like a reawakened sense of the sacred in its guilty conscience.
What better example of this proclivity exists than Angela Merkelâ€™s embrace of about a million refugees fleeing war-torn Syria in 2015? Even though this gesture that would help replenish a shrinking labor force was not strictly disinterested, for this pastorâ€™s daughter it was also a spectacular way to repudiate Nazism and escape its shadow. After the catastrophe of the Second World War, the Federal Republic would now offer itself as an ostentatious example to the world. Germany would practice open-heartedness in a single country, just as Stalin in the USSR had once practiced socialism in a single country. Already pre-eminent in Europe, Berlin would call the shots, whether exercising toughness or kindness. Merciless with the Greeks in July, when the Chancellery wanted to eject them from the eurozone, but beneficent with the Syrians in September, it could demonstrate severity or an ever so imperial charity. …
Many people are wondering why it is only Europe that feels guilty, not only for its own past crimes, but also for the faults of others? The answer is simple: we dominated the world for four centuries. The empires have collapsed but their memory remains, and this has given rise to an ever-expanding discipline: post-colonial studies. We have become the continent of the uneasy conscience and we wish to show the rest of the world the face of moral law in all its purity. Europe sees itself as a sacrificial offering, through which the entire world can expiate its sins. It offers to assume the shame for every misfortune that befalls the planet: famine in Africa, drowning in the Mediterranean, terrorism, natural disasters, they are all directly or indirectly our handiwork. And when we are attackedâ€”by terrorists, for exampleâ€”itâ€™s still our fault; we had it coming and are undeserving of compassion. Since we are overcome by such a torrent of sins, all we can do is bear up and attempt to correct and atone for them all, one by one. An unctuous discourse intended to edify is replacing what was once political and historical analysis; an ideal society must replace the existing one of ordinary men, and be cleansed of its impurities. Two areas in particular reveal this delusion of sanctityâ€”immigration and ecology.