‘Europe is braced for a bumper crop of elections this weekend which will decide the politics for the increasingly contested campaign to save the single currency and to drag the EU out of the economic doldrums.’ (Guardian) There are also local elections today across England, Scotland and Wales, a week after an announcement that the UK was back in recession.
France’s presidential decider on Sunday is the biggest election in Europe this year. The first round saw the far right Marine Le Pen win the support of one French voter in five. ‘She has been fortunate in her timing, with two big contemporary issues – the euro crisis and Muslim immigration – fuelling the rise of illiberal populism everywhere in Europe except for Germany and the Iberian peninsula. Islamophobia has become the new antisemitism for a generation of anti-establishment rebels in France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Scandinavia.’ (Guardian) The “democratic backlash” against “the economic prescriptions of the governing class” has already resulted in the fall of seven European Governments (Guardian) and has seen the rise in popularity of extremist groups.
The New Statesman is not the only one to draw parallels with the fascism of the 1920s and 1930s. This ‘succeeded because it played on wider fears, winning the support of those who would never have thought of themselves as “extremists”. The Nazis used anti-Semitism because it already existed in German society. Their successors today use Islamophobia because it already exists in our societies. From a tiny grain of truth – the existence of Islamist terror – has been spun a whole mythology about the imminent collapse of western civilisation.’
What is the reality of our situation? It depends, as so often, on whom you talk to. Some, like the New Statesman, portray things in left- vs right-wing terms as though we were still living through the Cold War. Others would describe events in terms of the clash of monotheisms: ‘For 1,400 years, the Islamic and the Christian worlds have opposed one another, violently at times. We are living through one of those times.‘ (Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West)
Where are we in all of this? What is your view of the times we are living through? There is a sense, for me, of history taking place, of tectonic plates shifting. How are we responding, if such a seismic shift is taking place? Do we find ourselves closing down, withdrawing through fear, in the face of dramatic societal and economic changes? Will we, as individuals, be ashamed, when we look back at this time, about the choices we made? Will we regret our passivity, our cynicism, our resignation, our hatred, when we arrive in the new world that is currently emerging? What will we say to the next generation, in retrospect? How strong is our faith in karma – that our actions and non-actions have consequences for ourselves, for others, for the society around us?