Friday, May 6, 2016

Russians, Muslims, and Stolen Europe

After reading an article about the plight of Europe, "Saker rant about a stolen Europe", I sent the link to my friend Bob, who is a retired high-ranking U.S. government official (stationed in Europe for many years), and a Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at a major university. We exchanged two emails about this article, and with his permission most of that exchange is presented below:

   Thanks for sending along the “rant.” I’m not sure where to begin on my comments. I guess first of all I would say that certainly many of his observations are correct. For example, today’s Europe is not the one of yesteryear. On the other hand, today’s US isn’t either. The south increasingly looks like the north and vice versa. Blacks can now ride anywhere in the bus they would like and drink from the same water fountains. Much of the differences that once characterized the north and south are gone. Is that all bad? I think not.
   On the other hand, the author is correct. There have always been at least two Europes – the one of the north and the one of the south. On my first visit to Europe in 1960, among the things that struck me was how much the northern Europeans felt superior to those in the south, yet to say as the author does that the Germans and the the Italians have “nothing” in common is a bit of a stretch. Northern Italians are in many ways very much like many Germans. The Germans have the 4th largest economy in the world. Italy has the 8th (most of that economy is from production in the north). The northern Italians are very productive, industrious, and creative. I might add that the northern Germans see themselves as superior to the Bavarians. As a good north German friend of mind once remarked to me, they don’t even speak the same language, which if you’ve lived in south Germany you will recognize as true when the Bavarian dialect is spoken.

   Now on the subject of immigrants changing European society. Well this is of course true. Just as successive waves of immigrants changed the colonial society of America. Think about the “Micks, Dagos, Wops, Krauts, Jerrys, Huns, Wetbacks, Negroes, etc." They definitely changed America. I would say it enriched our society and continues to do so. So much is in one’s perspective and sometimes it is an issue of timing. Surely Europe is being overwhelmed today with a huge influx of immigrants. They are not easily digested in a few years, perhaps not in decades. But the Germans, Irish, Italians who came to the this country and huddled together in unmixed communities, now have largely integrated into our society. For me this has been a positive.
I should, however, note that the writer is Swiss, not American. In fact Europeans take ethnicity very seriously. Often, though not always, If a person is from France, even though living in and a citizen of Italy, he or she will often consider themselves French, not Italian. Ask a Mexican who is a citizen of the US and he will tell you he is an American. This clinging to ethnicity for identity is perhaps changing a bit with the younger generations, But it will take decades not years.

   Now for Muslims. There has been a very strong anti-Muslim feeling that predominates in Europe. It is not new. It predates current immigration problems. Perhaps it goes back to the Crusades. However, one of my first encounters with this was in the mid-1980s when Turkey was being considered for membership in the EU. Sitting with an ambassador, friend and colleague of mine at a banquet marking the 40th anniversary of the formation of Allied (NATO) Forces Southern Command, the conversation turned to Turkey’s possible inclusion in the EU. After a long list of why, for economic reasons, Turkey should not be admitted to the EU, his bottom line was captured when he said to me “Bob, they just aren’t like us. We are a Christian people, they are Moslems.”
   Well, There is perhaps not enough time for me to deal with all of the issues our “ranter” raises. Let me touch on a few.
"Just remember that Daesh is CIA-controlled.” Rubbish
"The EU is essentially a US project via the Bilderbergers and the Zionist lobby in Europe.” Me thinks he forgets the Robert Schumans, the Paul Reuters, the Jean Monnets, etc.
I find his rants against the so-called AngloZionists outrageous and unsupported by fact. On the other hand, I do agree that Russians, while admiring the industriousness of northern Europe, find themselves more comfortable with the the southerners. Having traveled widely all over Russia, we find many of the Russians to be more like southern than northern European.
"Muslims are here to stay. You can hate it or love it, but that is a fact. Fact 2: Islam, real Islam as opposed to Wahabi Islam, is categorically opposed to AngloZionism.” Probably much on target, though I personally would separate the “Anglo” from the “Zionism."
"Call me crazy, but I am coming the conclusion that Turkey, at least in its present form, is inherently a dangerous and non-reformable entity which must be beat back to a size and quality commensurate with the notion of “normal country”. Erdogan is potentially a problem. But the Turks aren’t stupid. They have already shown their concern over Erdogan’s grab for more power.

   After receiving this email, I sent the following note to my friend:
   Thanks for your observations - I was surprised to receive such a thorough analysis! Agreed about how good immigration has been especially for the USA. Only problem is that a certain element of the Muslim community does not want to integrate in our society, but actually wants to destroy. That is why we do need some kind of filtering, profiling or whatever you want to call it, over the immigrants coming in.
   What interested me greatly was your comment that Russians are more comfortable with southern Europeans. I wonder if this is because the southerners are more religious. From what I have read, the Russians have a deep religious spirit (except for those who became communist). I think they even refer to Russia as "Holy Mother Russia."

   Bob then replied with these additional observations:
   On the Russians, most of those I’ve met that are not senior officials in the government (who often feel they have to be serious since they represent their government), seem to have a fun loving, easy, Latin spirit to them. They love to sing songs and get together. Even when they get pretty smashed on vodka, they can be a lot of fun. This perhaps stands in contrast to some, perhaps many, northern Europeans, particularly north Germans, who to me seem to be much more serious.
My experiences don’t link this fun loving attitude on the part of Russians to religion. Though as you suggest, Russians, indeed almost anyone on earth may be more religious than most northern Europeans, except the Poles and a few others. When we lived in England I think the figure was 15% of the English were church goers. And that might have been a number on the high side. On the other hand, don’t jump too quickly to the conclusion that southern Europeans are serious about their religion. When we lived in Italy, many Italians went to church. However, that might have meant ducking in for a few minutes, maybe to hear the Gospel, maybe not. Now if you want to live where people seemingly are serious about religion, come to the Bible Belt. On the other hand, I often feel that many here in the South don’t really have a clue about what Christianity is really about.
   As for the Muslims, surely you are correct in asserting that some Muslims are here to destroy our society. I don’t find that particularly surprising. Just like the non-Muslims who have sought to destroy our society and what it represents (think Black Panthers, the Oklahoma bombing of Federal building, the bombing of Synagogues, etc.), these people need to be sorted out, rooted out if already entrenched, and removed. However, one must be careful in the process to not stigmatize and in turn alienate the entire community of Muslims, the great majority of whom are decent, law abiding, and just plan good American citizens. To do so would be very un-American.
   I have traveled widely in Muslim countries – e.g. Egypt, Libya, Morocco , Turkey, Azerbaijan, all of central Asia. I have Muslim friends from Pakistan and elsewhere around the globe. I have found Muslims to be a very friendly, open, and hospitable people.

Best Regards,


  1. Your friend Bob provides a wonderfully balanced analysis! I am reminded that it "took decades" before my own Irish immigrant forebears were fully assimilated into America's "melting pot." In fact, if we consider Know-Nothing, Nativism's hatred of Catholics --- a significant socio-political "force" as late as John Kennedy's presidential campaign, and now again in Trump's renascent contempt for latino immigrants --- it took a full century for my "shanty Irish" family to be assimilated. I will also mention that it was America's "Good Christians" (properly taxonomized as neo-Pharisees) who struggled to prevent the assimilation of Catholics. Please consider the following, infrequently-cited verse spoken by Yeshua himself: "In your patience you shall possess your souls." In the context of this counsel, I am struck by the hysterical clamor of most Christian "conservatives" and see their hysteria as demonstration of their singular lack of faith, no matter what their "sola fide" professions may be. The decibelage with which people proclaim their faith often bears inverse relationship to their actual faith. It is not so much that "the sola fide set" wants to be transformed by a faith that calls them to "love their enemies" as they want to be comforted with "the salvation assurance" that their noisy proclamations vouchsafe a place among "The Saved." I will conclude by saying that -- like Bob -- I had recent opportunity to travel in a Muslim country (Morocco) and was struck by its "very friendly, open and hospitable people."" Paradoxically, a stronger case can be made that American Christians are in need of metanoia than American Muslims. But then, as Lao Tzu pointed out 2500 years ago, "The profoundest truths are paradoxical."

    1. Alan thanks for pointing this out: "The decibelage with which people proclaim their faith often bears inverse relationship to their actual faith."