Believing in Nothing

Europe at the edge of the abyss?

In an impassioned piece in that fine and feisty on-line newspaper The Commentator, Robin Shepherd sets out the stark case that Europe may now be staring at the end of democracy. Elections cancelled under EU pressure, referendums blithely ignored by the EU nomenklatura, the imposition of the euro over the protests of German voters – and most fundamental of all, the steady erosion of the ability of sovereign governments to decide their own policy over just about every area of national life. As Shepherd says:

‘And, in the absence of a European demos – a shared sense of destiny buttressed by common media, a common language to read and watch the media in, pan-European political parties, identical national interests etc – what that will spell is nothing less than the end of the democratic era in modern Europe.

….Actually, I think it’s the EU that is now staring into the abyss. The question is – what follows?

What can help a society that no longer holds any beliefs in common that can bind it together?  There was a time when believing in human rights or dignity had a quasi-religious/philosophical power over the souls of Americans and in a different way, Europeans.  But belief in human nobility or perfectability died a century ago.  And nearly everything exalted has been so thoroughly deconstructed.  Modern architecture and art looks like garbage and debris purposefully thrown together to look like things that are decaying.  But nobody looks at it anyway, because Westerners are almost too culturally exhausted to be bothered to think or read anymore.

Democracies and republics, to repeat what everyone already knew before we tried again in this country, can’t last long.  It takes great moral effort on the part of a significant number of people.  When virtue is no longer comprehensible to people, and the average person’s means of acquiring virtue is disestablished–i.e., religion–democracy is already dead.

The question isn’t really “what follows” in terms of what political system will replace democracy.  At least I don’t think so.  The answer is almost certainly “a new dark age”–violence, lawlessness, and chaos–certainly in Europe, probably in the United States, followed, probably, by the establishment of the rule of whatever power is able to maintain some semblance of order and some level of peace and protection.  The question to me really is–what will people believe in when God’s rod humbles us and makes us able to believe in something again?  It seems unlikely that people will return to deifying human beings again.  Will it be some kind of new regional/ethnic pride that arises after migrations create new ethnicities?  Will it be an embrace of Islam in Europe?  Will it be a resurrected Catholicism?  I could see that, particularly as Protestantism dies and what is left of orthodoxy within it looks for refuge from the feminist neo-paganism of the mainline churches–and no one except some theologians remembers what the Reformation was about in Europe and the US.

That to me is the real question.  In Europe, Christianity replaced the worship of old gods.  Now Christianity is dead, and humanism is a dead end incapable of sustaining a culture.  So the question is what will people believe in when faith in democracy is completely dead?

When all of him had passed but his head, he turned and regarded her with a look that no longer had any admiration in it.  “I’ve gotten a lot of interesting things,” he said.  “One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way.  And you needn’t to think you’ll catch me because Pointer ain’t really my name.  I use a different name at every house I call at and don’t stay nowhere long.  And I’ll tell you another thing, Hulga,” he said, using the name as if he didn’t think much of it, “you ain’t so smart.  I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!” and then the toast-colored hat disappeared down the hole and the girl was left, sitting on the straw in the dusty sunlight. Flannery O’ Connor


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