Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Decline and fall and then...

Posted By on 05.22.07 at 06:53 AM

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Historian Walter Laqueur has seen the future:

"Given the shrinking of its population, it is possible that Europe, or considerable parts of it, will turn into a cultural theme park, a kind of Disneyland on a level of a certain sophistication for well-to-do visitors from China and India, something like Brugge, Venice, Versailles, Stratford-on-Avon, or Rothenburg ob der Tauber on a larger scale. Some such parks already exist; when the coal mines in the Ruhr were closed down, the Warner Brothers Movie World was opened in Dortmund. This will be a Europe of tourist guides, gondoliers, and translators: 'Ladies and gentlemen, you are visiting the scenes of a highly developed civilization that once led the world. It gave us Shakespeare, Beethoven, the welfare state, and many other fine things...' There will be excursions for every taste; even now there are trips in Berlin to the slums and the areas considered dangerous ('Kreuzberg, the most colorful district: two hours').... [But] even if Europe's decline is now irreversible, there is no reason that it should become a collapse.

"There is, however, a precondition — something that has been postponed. The debate should be about which of Europe's traditions and values can still be saved. The age of delusions is over."

Read the whole thing in the Chronicle Review; it's a foretaste of his book The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent. Which of Europe's traditions and values would you like to keep alive beyond the theme parks? The architecture? Urban design? Liberté/égalité/fraternité? The literature? The university? Religious toleration? Or did you think that was already gone?

 

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