A group called the International Civil Liberties Alliance held a conference in Brussels last week featuring speakers from all over Europe. I wasn’t there – I didn’t know about the event beforehand – but one of the highlights appears to have been a talk given by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who, it will be remembered, was found guilty not long ago in an Austrian court of law for articulating uncomfortable truths about Islam.
Sabaditsch-Wolff, who entitled her presentation “The Death Throes of Free Speech in Europe,” did not say anything that will be new in substance to regular readers of this website: but she said them, as is always valuable, in a way that was forceful, memorable, and inspiring. For example, she noted that Europe’s oligarchs, in silencing honest talk about Islam, are employing totalitarian methods, the only difference being that they’ve been more successful than the Nazis, Fascists and Communists, because they’ve accomplished their goals “quietly and peacefully, with no need for concentration camps or gulags or mass graves or the shot in the back of the neck in the middle of the night.”
Like Geert Wilders and others, she called for a European version of America’s First Amendment, adding that Europeans must “take our countries back from those thieves who sneaked them away from us while were lulled into somnolence by our wealth and our pleasant diversions.”
And she recalled a passage from The Lord of the Rings in which Frodo tells Gandalf of their “perilous quest”: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf replies: “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Sabaditsch-Wolff underscored this point: “It is time for us to decide what to do with the time that is given us.”
Or to put it a bit differently: like it or not, those of us in both America and Europe who were assured at one point that the fall of Soviet Communism and the advent of the EU had brought the West to “the end of history” – meaning that we could look forward to a smooth, pleasant future of peace, freedom, prosperity, and stability under democratic capitalism, which was irrevocably spreading throughout the world – were, to borrow a word from Rick in Casablanca, misinformed.
Alas, it turns out that like every generation before us, we have found ourselves living in history. To speak for a moment strictly as an American: just as some of our forebears found themselves living in a period when a revolution against our British cousins was more and more plainly in the offing, or, later, in an era when it was increasingly obvious that we were headed toward a violent rupture between North and South, or, decades afterward, in a time of Depression when, year by year, the inevitability of a colossal confrontation with Nazism became less and less practically deniable, so we are now headed toward a clash on a massive scale that will challenge our determination to stand up for the freedom that our founders bequeathed us and that we owe to those yet to come.
Our forebears faced up successfully to the challenges that confronted them. What makes things different today is that the Sixties generation – the ’68ers, as they say in Europe – and the generations that have followed them are, to a lamentable extent, not made of the same stuff as their precedessors. Multiculturalism has taught them to mock concepts like freedom and to reject as sheer bigotry and ridiculous hyperbole the idea that members of some other culture might regard them and their civilization as an enemy deserving of destruction. An indulgent upbringing, a culture awash in cynicism, and a life defined by creature comforts on a historically unprecedented level have thoroughly alienated them from the idea that there is anything beyond themselves – higher than themselves – that could possibily be worth sacrificing anything for.