At the same time that I’ve been reading various essays by Wendell Berry, I’ve been devouring Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe. The two read together very well. Both are about citizens and communities and culture. And both were written in the context of community and culture being lost or radically changed.¹ From the introduction of The Strange Death of Europe:
. . . by the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home.
Over the course of the book, Murray parses the realities of mass movements of people, Europe’s loss of historical identity, and the sense that the continent is “deeply weighed down with guilt for its past.” In the introduction, Murray goes on to say:
The world is coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is. And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot.
Agree or disagree, there is no denying that the world is changing. Many see what happens in Europe as a precursor to similar changes in the United States (as has often been the case historically). And so the oft-asked question comes to mind: how then, shall we live? And from Murray’s experience in the United Kingdom, how shall we live when we cannot acknowledge that anything has changed? How can we live when asking necessary questions can be tantamount to a crime?
¹ For sake of comparison: Berry, writing in 1995, begins the collection noting that the 32 million farmers of the 1910-1920s was down to 4.6 million by the early 1990s.
(image from amazon.com, where you can also purchase the book)