The Return of the Madman
Roger Cohen has a long article on immigration and assimilation in the Netherlands at the International Herald Tribune. Some telegraphic excerpts.
Immigration, particularly of Muslims, has long been an issue in Europe ... Islam is now of Europe, a European religion. But ... after terrorist killings ... more threat than promise ... from its Muslim fringes.
That Europe needs immigrants ... from adjacent ... poor Muslim areas ... to offset a rapid aging of its societies. ... Fortuyn was first ... in denouncing ... what he called the bigotry of Islam-in-the-Netherlands ...
Dual identity ... "The country has changed so much in a short time." So has much of Europe. Loss of empire, loss of influence, loss to the European Union of national sovereignty ... "It's funny," said Folkert Jensma, the editor in chief of the respected Handelsblad daily. "We now want to teach immigrants more about our identity, and we discover that we're not sure what's left of it!"
... Islam, for Aboutaleb, is less the problem than European culture. ... because Europe shuns Islam. "Why," he asked, "is Cohen never questioned on being a Jew?" ... The passing of a so-called Inburgering test, a kind of good citizenship exam ... something along American lines. ... A deep rethinking of European immigration is under way, driven by post 9/11 danger, uncertain identity and the economics of indebted welfare systems. Where it will lead, in the Netherlands and elsewhere, is not yet clear.
In 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche's Parable of the Madman predicted that European civilization was on the threshold of absolute freedom and power, unshackled by any notion of God, who was not only dead, but moldering. And if any worshippers yet remained it was because they had not yet heard the great news.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.
At the age of 45, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown from undetermined causes, embracing a horse among other things and asking it to sing. Yet even so, he would have been surprised to learn that in barely a century, the European civilization he believed to be on the brink of "a higher history than all history hitherto" -- would have collapsed upon itself, eviscerated by two world wars and terminal demographics; that churches, now called mosques, would be filled with worshippers from Indonesia, North Africa and the Middle East.
If the Madman came to 21st century Paris, he might announce the death of other gods, alike without success. He would have come too early, the harbinger of an event that had not yet reached the ears of men. The tidings he would bring would be unfamiliar, "and yet they have done it themselves".