How many near-simultaneous jihadist acts does it take to awaken the West?
One night back in the summer of 1990, I traveled by train from Munich to Berlin. The Wall had come down, in the sense that the borders between East and West could now be crossed at will, even though the two Germanys had yet to become one and the actual physical Wall itself was still largely intact. (In Berlin, I would find natives and tourists alike busily chopping away at it.) When, in the dead of night, the train stopped at a dilapidated, seemingly deserted station somewhere in the East, there appeared on the platform an aging, grim-faced woman, dressed in an extremely shabby military (or military-style) uniform and holding a clipboard, who, making her way along the length of the train, meticulously copied down the numbers on the sides of the carriages, performing a task that, I suspected, she had been carrying out for years, most likely decades, as a compliant tool of the totalitarian state. Her efforts were now utterly pointless, but she had plainly not been issued new orders, and so here she was, at the dawn of a new era, still robotically going through her Soviet-era motions.
I was reminded of that woman the other day when I saw the photograph (which by now, I gather, has been pretty widely distributed) of another woman, this one calmly writing up parking tickets for the skeletal remains of cars destroyed by the jihadist arsonists in Stockholm. Although this woman, unlike that German frau all those years ago, appeared to be young and slim, and wore a well-fitting, immaculate uniform, she, too, looked every bit the relic of a dying order – a functionary confronted with a new reality, but unprepared to do anything other than mindlessly copy down numbers, just as she had been trained to do. The image seemed to me instantly iconic – succinctly capturing the utter inability of official Europe to confront, and act upon, the horrific reality right before its eyes.
Then, the other day, I read the closest thing I've yet seen to a textual counterpart to that picture. Mind you, I thought I'd already read the most foolish, self-deluding possible responses to the chaos in Stockholm. But then the website of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) ran a long article by respected (as they say) social psychologist Arnulf Kolstad. “If one wishes to understand a riot,” Kolstad began, “one should listen to the rioters.” And if we'd only listened to the Stockholm rioters, he continued, we'd perhaps have grasped “that the riots in Stockholm have a cause. And that they were perhaps even necessary.”
Kolstad went on to echo the official line that the rioters are “marginalized,” that “nobody listens to them or takes them seriously,” and so on. Even if you accept (as I most certainly do not) the proposition that the disturbances in Stockholm have been a cry of desperation by marginalized and ignored youth, this argument makes no sense. What teenager or twenty-something (except maybe Justin Bieber or that whizkid who just had a billion-dollar-plus payday selling Tumblr) doesn't feel marginalized and ignored? What happened to the idea that one should earn one's right to be noticed? Besides, isn't it infinitely better to feel marginalized and ignored in Stockholm, enjoying endless supplies of free welfare goodies, than in some Pakistani hellhole?
These are my questions, naturally, not Kolstad's. He was too busy wondering aloud why many Scandinavians who, after all, “have viewed the rebellion against dictatorial regimes in North Africa and in the Middle East as legitimate and necessary, and defended the throwing of stones at police and the setting of cars on fire,” are now unsettled because Muslims who “aren't being heard and are without hope” are throwing stones and burning cars in Stockholm. Far from feeling uneasy about the riots, Kolstad suggested, we should “welcome an insurgency against injustice, differential treatment, and the lack of influence many experience in our parliamentary democracies.” In short: “it's high tide” for this insurgency.
If I've quoted Kolstad at length, it's because he, like that parking warden in Stockholm, seems an emblematic figure of our time – the very model of the respected, credentialed dhimmi who, not unlike his ethical and ideological counterparts in the days of Robespierre and Stalin, will be cheering on his country's conquerors right up to the moment they drag his clueless, quivering carcass to the guillotine or firing squad or, in this case, stone him to death in a public square.
I would submit that a people who respond as Kolstad does to a massive show of force by a savage immigrant cohort (which, far from feeling powerless, has become increasingly aware of its own brutal power relative to that of its morally enervated hosts and benefactors) fully deserve to lose their country. But I don't believe – I can't believe – that Kolstad speaks for the people of Western Europe. Both Stockholm and London, after all, have now experienced well-nigh unprecedented public displays of enraged reaction against jihadist barbarity. In Stockholm, after days of Muslim tumult, no small number of Swedes – a people, note well, who (unlike the French, say, who will start a revolution over a stale baguette) are disinclined to take dramatic, decisive action of any kind (see: World War I, World War II, the Cold War, etc.) – angrily took to the streets, determined to take back the streets. In London, similarly, ordinary citizens publicly demonstrated their fury over the slaughter of Lee Rigby.
Yes, all this activity was relatively limited in scale. Still, it felt like a watershed moment. Could it be that – even as the likes of Kolstad persist in modeling the art of denial, and even as the picture of that parking warden so unforgettably captures the official refusal to face up to reality – there's reason to hope that a significant number of Europeans have, as a result of the recent international confluence of major jihadist atrocities – Boston, Stockholm, London, plus a failed murder attempt in Paris – moved significantly closer to the moment when they'll decisively throw over dhimmitude, hand the elite, pusillanimous Kolstads their hats, and set about undoing the ruinous work of multiculturalism before it's too late?
Or, alternatively, has Europe simply taken a small but fateful step closer to the grim future that Lars Hedegaard, the Danish writer and free-speech champion, predicted many years ago, when, in answer to a question of mine over dinner about where he thought the Islamization of Europe was leading, he dourly described a continent ever more neatly divided into mutually hostile Muslim and non-Muslim areas – kind of like medieval Germany, with its patchwork of duchies, principalities, and so forth? At the time, intensely aware though I was of the inroads Islam had already made in Europe, Lars's dystopic vision strained my imagination. It doesn't now.
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