Sunday, January 24, 2016

Winterreise: From One Kingdom of Gloom to Another

This blogger lives in Brazil but traditionally spends Xmas and the New Year in France. Brazil, a country renowned for its cheerfulness and easy going atmosphere has fallen into a pit of gloom and doom. The country suffers from a toxic mix of economic recession, high inflation, political gridlock, choking corruption and the spread of the Zica virus. Because most of Brazil’s woes are self-inflicted, the people’s mood is down in the dumps, and the Xmas and New Year’s celebrations were unable to lift their spirits.
France, famously known for the malaise and miserabilism of its denizens, has barely survived 2015, its annus horribilis. Late December, mood and weather were unseasonal. The climate was warm and damp and the Gallic bleak chic had been supplanted by a combination of weariness, mistrust, anger and hopelessness. On November 13, Paris suffered its worse carnage since WWII. Subsequently, the country was thrust into the center of world news as the world stood in solidarity with aggrieved Parisians. The usually self-centered and self-absorbed French further recoiled onto themselves, oblivious of what was happening in the rest of the world[1]. Not even Father Xmas was able to shake out the shrouding gloom.
After November 13, everyday brought news of low intensity terror attempts by the so-called lone wolves, also called Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attacks (MTFA) and of jihadists’ arrests in scores of European countries, seemingly all linked to the November 13 attacks. Whatever the terminology, lone wolves or MTFA, the hapless French people felt that the state was unable to cope with extremist Islamic radicalization spreading out of control. Many blamed the Muslim community for its failure to reign in its youth. Although some of the terrorists had been petty criminals, many others had lived in decent families before quitting their job to move to Syria. Their radicalization was not the result of discrimination or socio/economic marginalization, contrary to the thinking of leftist politicians and journalists (known as bisnounours in French or Care Bears!). On this topic, French people resent being criticized for not making more social and cultural space for a community, whose religion is practiced in an increasingly intolerant way, a community intended to reverse liberal and secular gains.
The amusing footnote of these tragic events was the boost of Fran├žois Hollande’s approval rating. The unpopular French president is used to poll swings, directly linked to terror levels. After each terror attack, he enjoys a poll boost, but soon after his popularity drops again, and is now on a downward curve.
The New Year’s Eve fireworks in Cologne, and on a lesser extent in other German cities shook the French out of their torpor, and unexpectedly an intense public debate across Europe ensued. There are no links between the events in Cologne and those in Paris except that in both instances the perpetrators reject Western values.
In Cologne, thousands of testosterone-charged migrant-cum-thugs, mostly from North Africa with a few from the Middle East, went on a rampage, sexually harassing, groping, and robbing women revelers. So far, more than 600 women have reported abuse to the police. At the outset, one must question the efficiency of the Cologne police who had originally reported a quiet New Year’s Eve, and  then later admitted having been overwhelmed by the concerted actions of the thugs. Conspiracy theories flourished: Had the police done nothing to embarrass Chancellor Angela Merkel for her pro-migrant policy? Or had the police hidden the extent of the rampage for the sake of political correctness?
The sexual attacks in Cologne were an eye opener. Very quickly, many editorialists recommended that political correctness be substituted by political realism aka an honesty culture[2]. To acknowledge that many would-be asylum seekers in Germany were in fact economic migrants who had become delinquents was a fact, not a racist comment. Liberal media outlets like the New York Times[3] and the Economist (January 16_22,  2016) which had initially encouraged mass migration as an economic boon for aging European countries, became worried of the destabilizing effect of male-dominated, out-of-control migration. Migrant statistics were a concern, some 72 per cent of asylum seekers are young men. 
                 German Swimming Pool rules: Women are to respected no matter the size of the  swimsuit!

Western media pointed out the cultural gulf between Europe (i.e. its liberal and secular values and standard of living) and the migrants’ countries. With regard to the role of women in society, the gulf is actually an abyss. Many Arab countries treat their woman folk as second class citizens. On the other hand, European women cherish their freedom and do not want their human rights threatened as the female revelers in Cologne found out the hard way. It is reported that the prominent and controversial German feminist Alice Schwarzer said that “Germany is naively importing male violence, sexism and anti-Semitism”. On the contrary, a few women politicians from the socialist party (SPD) tried to minimize the problem by comparing the sexual assaults to those taking place during the Oktoberfest. The police strongly rebutted the comparison. Oddly, on the subject of migration, these women’s support for women’s rights takes a back seat to their politically correct rhetoric.
Cologne brought two issues to the fore: How to deport trouble-makers and how to assimilate asylum seekers when they settled.
To protect social peace, editorialist Ross Douthat recommends bringing brides and allowing family reunions. On the basis of the French and British examples and the San Bernardino case this blogger disagrees. Uneducated, unassertive and submissive Muslim women, by-products of a patriarchal culture, will not contribute to assimilation but will maintain the cultural rift responsible for the toxic multiculturalism. Coincidentally, on January 18, the British Prime Minister David Cameron indicated that Muslim migrant women should learn English “in the hope that they will turn into more powerful moderating forces” and prevent their sons and daughters from becoming jihadists. English will also help them to better integrate. If they fail to learn English Cameron warned that they may face deportation. Instead of bringing brides from home, and as permitted by the Koran, Muslim men should be encouraged to marry non-Muslim women in their adopted countries. By marrying local girls, they may integrate more easily and enjoyably.
Deportation is a politician’s pipe dream and a spurious promise to taxpayers. In its histrionic tabloid style, Express.co.uk of the United Kingdom (December 26, 2015) indicated that at the current 0.1 percent rate of deportation, it will take 143,000 years to repatriate the one million asylum seekers who have landed on Europe’s shores in 2015! Deportation is probably not a worry for the Cologne thugs; most of them have destroyed their passports anyway, and their home countries may be unwilling to extend the welcome mat. In addition, European countries cannot send back home people fleeing war zones or who may be killed.
Meanwhile in France, which is under a state of emergency, reality check is not on the agenda. The political class is spinning its wheels in a sterile debate on the government’s futile plan to strip dual citizens of their French nationality in terrorism cases. IS’ head hunters do not look at passports and would-be martyrs do not need them to claim their 72 virgins.
This blogger is back in Brazil where the mood is increasingly gloomy. This year’s Carnival will not offer the usual hedonistic escape from every day’s worries. Short of money, parties had to be scaled back; even the sale of Carnival masks is down, a blessing in disguise for despised politicians. Masks of heroes as well as villains are indiscriminately worn by revelers. This year, the most popular hero mask is that of the Japanese-Brazilian policeman who has participated in many arrests in operation Car Wash, Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal. In 2016, politicians are not making the cut, not even in the mask business.
                                                      The good guy is in the middle!  


[1]Oddly, some of the blogger’s acquaintances were unaware of the San Bernardino (California) terror attack where an Islamic radical husband and wife team shot and killed 14 people a few days after the Paris carnage. [2] Jochen Bittner. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/01/16/opinion/can-germany-be-honest-about-its-refugee-problems.html?emc=edit_ee_20160116&nl=todaysheadlines-europe&nlid=34360468&referer=&_r=0 [3] Ross Douthat, January 9, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/opinion/sunday/germany-on-the-brink.html