Europe is rightly regarded as the cradle of Western Civilization. From the glory of the ancient Roman empire to the spirit of Renaissance followed by and the birth of Industrial revolution and Capitalism, European continent has stood as the symbol and carrier of “Modernity”. From 16th to mid 20th century, various European powers controlled at various times the Americas, most of Africa, Oceania, and the majority of Asia. Modern concepts like equality, liberty, rights,social justice, fraternity, etc and doctrines such as Liberalism, Marxism and Socialism, etc, all trace their genesis to Europe.
During the age of Imperialism and Colonialism, the ‘Great’ European powers took upon the task of ‘civilizing’ humanity. Rule over the world was justified through the theories of ‘White man’s burden’ or ‘Civilizing mission’. But, all of this is a thing of past now. Europe is no more a prototype of ‘perfect society’. The European society which once represented a perfect model of social cohesion and homogeneity is now grappling with internal fissures and increasing polarization. Events of the recent past point to a drift towards the rise of populist far right wing political parties across the continent. The rise of Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia as manifested through unwelcoming attitude towards immigrants or Muslims often leading to violent clashes point towards this malaise of a tearing social fabric in almost all European countries.
Rise of the New Right
A wave of right wing is blowing over Europe as the whole continent from Poland to Portugal seems immersed in exclusionary ultra-nationalist politics. The floodgates opened when Britons opted for separating from the EU, which was followed by similar demands elsewhere. Germany, which had experienced the horrors of Hitler, after keeping the fascist forces at bay for over 70 years, joined the club in June as the Alternative for Germany (AFD), the right-wing upstart of German politics, entered the national parliament for the first time since 1945. Britain, a country whose traditions have stood the test of time is today going through tumultuous era as the country seems both politically and socially divided. Two recent events – forced resignation of Priti Patel from the Cabinet and the signing of No-Confidence petition by 40 conservative party MPs against their own Prime Minister Theresa May suggest that the latter is losing her grip on both the Conservative Party as well as the country. After May losing the majority in the snap polls of June, Britain amidst innumerable challenges, is leader-less today. Moreover, the Catalonia crisis in Spain has further exposed the weaknesses of the EU, as it has failed to assert itself in pressurizing the Spanish government to control the worsening situation.
Almost all of the European nations that took ‘birth’ in the modern era have based their foundation on a “common language or culture”. England for English speaking, France for French speaking, Germany for Germans, and so on has been the founding stone of nationalism in various European countries. While an element of exclusion is a hallmark of all nationalism, the defining of a nation on such narrow parameters of a singular language or race does carry with it a looming danger of taking an extremist turn. With the arrival of globalization, it was only a matter of time that these fissiparous tendencies resurfaced in Europe societies. Without accommodation or assimilation of diversity, what we are today witnessing in Europe was bound to happen. The superiority complex and carrying of the historical baggage of being the torch bearers of modernity and civility, has only worsened the situation. A classic manifestation of this was visible on 11th November,2017 in Warsaw in Poland where a demonstration organized by the far right groups on the occasion of 123 years of national independence saw some participants carrying slogans expressing sympathy for white supremacist ideas, with one banner reading, “White Europe of Brotherly Nations”.
Thus, it is time that Europe awakens to the reality and is made to see the the mirror, for the malaise is not outside but within. A deep and honest introspection is the call of the hour. Re-writing of history could be the first step to begin with, as the western youth must accept that fact that there was nothing benevolent about colonialism. Until the young generation of Europe, is made aware of the historical wrongs that were committed in the name of civilizing missions or white man’s burden, they cannot fully appreciate the rise of eastern civilizations. Countries of the east like India and China, have a rich cultural and spiritual heritage as the west could not be the source of all knowledge. Until, these realities are not internalized by Europeans they will continue to look down upon and discriminate against the ‘other’. With globalization facilitating easy movement of people across the globe, these tensions will only increase until a course correction in done.
-Contributed by Kunwar Suryansh
Picture Credits: huffingtonpost.com