chief purveyor of the fable of the morally reprobate European
is Times correspondent Roger Cohen. Week after week
he seems to find some excuse or other to file a story to
illustrating European anti-immigrant sentiment. A couple
of Sundays ago, apropos of nothing in particular, the Times'
"Week in Review" section led with his article
Love-Hate Affair with Foreigners." The "love"
in the title was a misnomer, since there was no reference
to it in his piece. "It is no longer Communism that
haunts Europe," he declares in the very first paragraph,
"it is the outsider." This apocalyptic statement
tells us what we need to know about those terrible Europeans.
Who does not like the "outsider"? Why, narrow-minded
bigots, of course. "Say immigrant and the word 'problem'
not 'potential' tends to flash into people's
minds," Cohen continues, "Immigrants cost money
as they benefit from generous welfare systems; they build
mosques whose minarets are unwelcome beside church spires;
they take but do not give. All these accusations are frequently
made. But something deeper, it seems, is at work. The European
nation, often forged in repetitive bloodletting, was created
against the outsider; it was not forged from the amalgam
of diverse outsiders washing up on its shores as in North
America. At some level, this history inhabits people's minds,
marking one of the fundamental transatlantic cultural divides."
This is standard New York Times hooey. The European
nation is as much an "amalgam of diverse outsiders"
as the United States. It so happens that the process of
absorbing newcomers took centuries, rather than decades
as over here. Moreover, up until recently the United States
also saw itself as a nation, not as an employment agency
for the rest of the world. Immigrants had to become Americans.
That is what public education used to be about. Cohen assumes
that his readers like him have no time for
this talk of "nation." "The nation was a
unifying idea imposed on diffuse history, and the German
imagination like that of many other European states
still longs for homogeneity, whatever the abundant
evidence to the contrary." Cohen does not explain what
he means by "homogeneity," though he knows that
evidence against it is "abundant."
is full of immigrants and needs more if it is not to become
moribund," Cohen continues, "But governments are
also aware of an uncomfortable truth: surrounded by countries
like Turkey and Morocco, with high birth rates and huge
youth populations, Europe is certain to face immigrant pressure
over the coming years that may be uncontrollable."
One lazy assumption follows another. It is self-evident
to Cohen that Europe "needs" immigrants. It is
self-evident that immigrants as "outsiders" are
good for the European soul. But then it doesn't matter whether
Europeans agree with him or not. Immigrants are here to
stay, and more are on the way. Cohen typically never attempts
to make the case that economic growth is contingent on high
levels of immigration. Clearly there are economic benefits
to immigration. On the other hand, there are also costs.
A hardworking dishwasher from Morocco may be good for the
restaurant business and thus for Europe's GDP. But he may
well be a net cost if his family needs medical treatment
and his children go to school. He will help drive wages
down and housing rents up. Moreover, the record shows that
Europe enjoyed high growth rates since 1945 without having
to import labor from the rest of the world. Japan has enjoyed
the most spectacular economic growth rates while maintaining
tight restrictions on immigration.
will…be involved…in the global quest for the best and the
brightest whether Sri Lankan or Nigerian that
characterizes an information economy," Cohen rhapsodizes
in that insufferably smug tone familiar to readers of Thomas
L. Friedman's ravings, "But the readiness to confront,
let alone embrace, these realities appears limited. Indeed
the politics of xenophobic innuendo are enjoying a revival."
Americans have become used to this kind of nonsense. There
is no evidence whatsoever that Europeans or Americans are
unable to meet the supposedly extraordinarily stiff requirements
of the so-called "information economy." Or that
Nigerians and Sri Lankans hold the key to its future development.
What is true is that computer specialists from Nigeria or
Sri Lanka are ready to come to Europe and to the
United States and work for a fraction of the income
that their European (and American) counterparts. Moreover,
faced with the constant dread of deportation they are likely
to be far more docile than the natives. Like all immigration
enthusiasts, Cohen see nothing wrong with affluent Europe
appropriating specialists that countries like Nigeria and
Sri Lanka have devoted precious resources to educating and
need more desperately than Holland, say, or Spain.
villain of the piece, as always, is Germany. Reporters long
ago abandoned all pretense to covering German political
and cultural life in any serious way. Germans apparently
do nothing but beat up immigrants and dream of marching
under Hitler's banner again. "This has been the year
of renascent German pride, or patriotism, or bigotry
the distinction is not always clear." That's nice.
One would have thought Germany had much to be proud of,
not least for absorbing relatively painlessly 17 million
people mired in Communism. But for the New York Times
any German who is not abjectly apologizing for events that
took place long before he was born is already demonstrating
dangerous "bigotry." "The opposition Christian
Democrats…speak of Leitkultur, or guiding culture
a potpourri of Christian and Enlightenment values to which
immigrants are being asked to conform," Cohen writes,
"The message is clear enough: a complicit wink to that
broad swath of Germans who do not like living with more
than two million Islamic Turks, believe such 'guest workers'
should go home one day and still think the German Volk is
defined by blood." Note the sneering reference to "potpourri
of Christian and Enlightenment values." Which Christian
or Enlightenment values does Cohen find objectionable? Or
does he find objectionable the idea of asking anything of
immigrants other than to work cheaply? And is there something
wrong about expecting "guest workers" to go home?
A guest, presumably, is someone who comes to visit and then
leaves. One wonders how Cohen would respond if his dinner
guest decided he liked his host's home so much that he would
make it his own.
then there is the horror of the "German Volk defined
by blood." (Note the capitalized "v"!) This
should sets our hearts fluttering about Hitler, Goebbels,
Albert Speer, Alfred Rosenberg and the rest of the gang.
It is of course total nonsense. Most countries define national
identity according to blood. If your parents are American
then you are an American. There are other ways of qualifying
for citizenship: Marriage, lengthy legal residence, and
so on. What differentiates Germany from the United States
is not the issue of "blood" but the high standard
potential German citizens have to meet. Up to very recently
foreign-born immigrants and their German-born children could
apply for German citizenship provided they had legally resided
in the country for 15 years and were prepared to renounce
their original citizenship. In 1999 Chancellor Schroder's
government changed the law. Foreigners now have the right
to apply for German citizenship after eight years of legal
residence. Children born in Germany to foreign parents will
acquire German citizenship at birth, provided at least one
parent has lived legally in Germany for a minimum of eight
years. Children acquiring German citizenship at birth will
have to decide before their 23rd birthday whether they want
to retain their German citizenship or their parents' citizenship
except in special circumstances. There is still no dual
citizenship. Even under the dispensation it is harder to
become a German than an American. But why should it be easy?
It is surely the mark of a proud nation that it expects
a lot of its potential recruits.
complacently contrasts the European economy unfavorably
with that of the United States: "Comprehensive welfare
lifts wage bills, so unemployment has remained high, even
as the European economy has picked up over the past year.
About 15 million people, or 9.2 percent of the population,
remain out of work. In this context, the foreigner often
appears as a threat. Contrast this with an America of full
employment where employers clamor for more foreign-born
workers." This is standard guff the US media constantly
parrot. It is always assumed that high unemployment is the
worst economic condition imaginable. But is it better to
live in a country where people receive generous welfare
benefits or in a country that boasts of "full employment"
but where workers are paid $2 a hour? "Full employment"
is actually more than a little misleading. The Bureau of
Labor Statistics excludes from the "unemployed"
anyone who is out of work but not exactly breaking doors
down looking for work. It excludes the two million behind
bars. It excludes anyone who is classified as "disabled."
It excludes anyone who has been laid off and forced to take
early retirement. It excludes anyone who only works "part-time."
Small wonder then that the US Government is able to come
up with these near-miraculous unemployment figures. However,
even if Cohen's claims about the United States were true,
they would be irrelevant. It is up to Europeans to decide
how they want to live. If they want to live under "cradle-to-grave"
welfare regime there is very little point in lecturing them
about the supposed wonders of the American economic model.
Americans are just as uninterested in listening to tales
about the alleged greatness of the British National Health
Service. Moreover, there has to remain a question as to
what Americans really want when only 50 percent of them
bother to show up at the polling booth.
concludes by wondering "how a nascent United States
of Europe hopes to further the peace and prosperity that
the European Union has brought without overcoming the enduring
prejudice that divides Christianity and Islam and without
burying, once and for all, the ethnic bigotry that has little
basis in a multinational history and has so repeatedly plunged
the continent into war." Note the assumption that it
is Europe that has to overcome "prejudice" and
"ethnic bigotry." In Indonesia today, as in many
other parts of the world, Moslems massacre Christians. Contemporary
Islam has become a byword for intolerance, religious zeal
and persecution. Perhaps Europe's reluctance to sanction
large-scale immigration has something to do with wariness
about importing fanaticism. Cohen seems completely oblivious
to this as he rushes around secular, liberal, social-democratic
Europe hunting down "bigots."
New York Times' campaign against the supposedly racist,
xenophobic, nationalist, bigoted Europe is part and parcel
of the US imperial agenda, but it is made to order for liberals.
Xenophobic Europe obviously has to be let out of its intolerant
wilderness by the "tolerant" example of the United
States. Over the past decade the US took over one Balkans
statelet after another justified this by making up tales
of the dastardly Slobodan Milosevic. Today, America will
justify its increasingly desperate attempts to cling to
NATO, and thereby ensure its continued domination over Europe,
by absurd stories about Europe's supposed perpetual flirtation
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