2006 will go down in European history as the year when Muslims as a group became a dominant factor in elections. The demographics indicated this long ago, but it still came as a surprise to many multiculturalists that Muslims tend to vote primarily along ethnic lines: Muslims vote for Muslim candidates, even if the political parties give the latter almost unelectable places on the list of candidates. As a consequence the Muslim candidates got elected to the detriment of indigenous politicians. Party leaders, who used to be able to get those candidates elected which the leadership favoured, have been taken by surprise by Turks voting only for Turks and Moroccans voting exclusively for Moroccans. The parties that put Muslim candidates forward are being “cannibalized” from the inside. They risk being taken over by radical Muslims. This is what is happening to the Socialist parties in Belgium and the Netherlands.
In some ways, this casts Europe back to the days of tribal demographics. Over many centuries Western-Europe has replaced the tribe or clan by the nation state as the main unit for people to identify with beyond family and local friends. This process was promoted by the emerging strong, centralised states, which could take over the task of protecting citizens from their respective clans, but even more so by the Church. Western Europe in the Middle Ages was unique in having a religious authority which – contrary to Islam – strongly opposed consanguineous marriage (marriage of blood relatives) and supported marriage based solely on the consent of the partners. The Church, over the centuries, progressively forbade intermarriage between relatively distant blood relatives, i.e. much further than medical grounds would dictate. It is believed by some that the main target of the Church during the Middle Ages were the aristocratic and royal elites which tended to intermarry frequently, As part of the power struggle between the Church and secular rulers, the Church wanted to weaken the elites as a clan. Furthermore, the Church’s doctrine of consensual marriage further reduced extended family ties and boosted the idea of individualism. In the Middle Ages it was rare, for instance, for French aristocrats to intermarry with cousins closer than the 4th or 5th degree of kinship. (in contrast with Iraq or Saudi Arabia, where even today more than half of all marriages are between cousins). For centuries the Church was the main, if not exclusive, arbiter of morals in Europe, so these rules had enormous impact on the organisation of Western society.
The result has not only been the disappearance of clans and tribes, but the emergence of a trust profile whereby European citizens tend to have equal trust in all other citizens of the same nation state outside their immediate family and circle of friends. This was a necessary condition not only for the emergence of a meritocracy and the success of a capitalist society in Europe, but also for democracy. Such a society would typically be called a “high-trust society” (although this only refers to the level of trust in the outside world, since the trust in the inner circle is actually relatively lower).
Why does trust matter? The Western societies we know would grind to a halt if we did not trust authorities, such as courts, the police, tax inspectors, to uphold the rule of law rather than take a decision based on kinship. We would not invest in or work for companies which decide about the promotion of employees or product prices on the basis of kinship rather than merit or price. We would not send our children to school if we did not believe children would be treated equally, with no favored treatment for relatives of the teachers. We (grudgingly) pay our taxes in the expectation that social security benefits will be paid on a non-discriminatory basis. We stop after being involved in a car accident to draw up the necessary paperwork with the other party in a dispassionate manner. We try to be as objective as we can in our pronouncements, because we expect the same from others. In short, we accept to treat others as we expect them to treat us. Because there is trust in reciprocity, things on the whole are fairly civilized, fair and orderly.
All this is quite different in the Muslim world or in Africa, where traditionally no nation states have existed to protect individual citizens. In such societies individuals inevitably have to fall back on their clan for protection. In the case of Islam there is another trust layer apart from the clan: the Umma, which is the community of all Muslims. Islam teaches extreme (by current Western standards) allegiance of believers to the Umma, and hence the trust profile of Muslims is unique : the individual is relatively unimportant compared to the clan or the community of believers, there is very high trust in the family and clan, very low trust in fellow citizens of the same nation and relatively high trust in fellow Muslims, wherever they are in the world. The latter helps explain why Jihad, conquests by Islam, has been so successful throughout history, and why it is so difficult for democracy and the rule of law to take root in Muslim countries. Such fundamental cultural traits have taken centuries to shape and do not change easily.
It may be difficult to objectively state whether so-called “low trust” cultures are in some way inferior to so-called “high trust” cultures – indeed, both have their own attractions or advantages and left to their own devices they constitute a relatively stable equilibrium. However, it is easy to see that it is problematic to mix them together. We all go through a Prisoner’s Dilemma many times a day, deciding on a course of action in function of the trust we have in the other party. This is usually a straightforward thing within a culture with homogenous trust expectations, but breaks down in a multicultural society which is the equivalent of putting a German driver in rush hour traffic in Naples (or vice versa): what to do when the light turns red? The best defense in such circumstances often is to take the low-trust approach, i.e. assume the worst. When communities do not fully integrate in a host community, they largely preserve their own low-trust patterns. If this were to happen in Western Europe in the coming decades, following a large scale importation in public life of Middle Eastern trust patterns or governance, it would probably mean that trust levels in European society would fall to a level somewhere between present day Europe and present day Turkey or North Africa.
To get an indication of the gap in trust between the Western world and the Muslim world, a good proxy is the corruption index of Transparency International. Corruption is putting your own or your clan’s interests before those of the state or your employer. The 20 least corrupt countries are all European or Anglo Saxon, with the exception of Singapore and Hong Kong, two former British colonies. Turkey ranks 65th, just behind Jamaica and just ahead of Burkina Faso, while Morocco ranks 78th and Algeria 97th.
As Prospect Magazine has argued in the long run a multicultural society is probably incompatible with one with generous social welfare, because tax payers will be far more reluctant to pay a share for welfare recipients they feel no bond with.
This week Robert Putnam, Harvard professor and author of Bowling Alone, a book on the disintegrating social fabric in the US, told The Financial Times (“Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity”) that “the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.” The FT adds that “when the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust.” Of course there is research which attempts to demonstrate – not very convincingly, though – the opposite. An example is the recent study by the Belgian professor Marc Hooghe, “Ethnic Diversity, Trust and Ethnocentrism and Europe,” [pdf] who claims to have found no correlation between trust levels and immigration in various countries in Europe, and states that other studies, which establish a negative correlation are premature (without claiming the opposite though). There are several criticisms one could level against this study, one of which is that it seems to compare a largely dynamic set of variables, i.e. changes in immigration, with the static one of existing trust levels, instead of far more relevant changes in trust levels over time.
There is little doubt that we live in the dying days of the multicultural fantasy. It will end in misery and may lead to the loss of Europe as a part of Western civilisation. Our children and grandchildren will look back to our days and wonder why so many so easily accepted what patently contradicted history and common sense. Then, however, the current thinking elites, just like Lenin’s useful idiots in the past, will have conveniently forgotten their part in the dismantling of 2000 years of European culture within a mere generation.