global agenda 88.
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Against the background of the impending French presidential election, Time magazine devoted a cover story to the swelling exodus from France of talented, ambitious young people.
The twin forces pushing them out of their native country and to greener pastures in the UK, US or the Far East are - to hear Time tell it - economic and ethnic. The French economy is rigged against young people of all sorts; it has - among other problems - the highest rate of youth unemployment and the highest rate of graduate unemployment in Europe. The inevitable result is that those not wanted at home go elsewhere and are surprised to find themselves welcomed with open arms in many places. The second issue is discrimination, with second-generation immigrants the primary victims - so that young, educated, French-born ethnic North Africans have the cards most heavily stacked against them.
All this, the magazine notes, is a serious national problem that has become a significant issue in the campaign itself. The bottom line is that the next president has the huge task of re-energizing France, its economy and society to provide opportunities for its young people, to open up its society - and hence its labor force - and to retain its competitive viability in the context of a global economy.
All this is, without doubt, entirely correct. But it is actually a small part of the overall problem facing France and, indeed, the whole of Western Europe.
Time's purview was narrow and its analysis of the ongoing exodus very shallow because the phenomenon is by no means limited to youngsters, or to French people and, more importantly, because its causes are not just economic and ethnic.
In France, as in Britain, there is a major and growing phenomenon of retired people leaving the country - mainly for "quality of life" reasons. This catch-all can include high taxes and lousy weather, but it also covers a growing feeling on the part of many people over the age of 50 that their homeland - be it France, Britain or wherever - is no longer "their" country. Increasingly, they feel physically unsafe and culturally disoriented - in plain language, they no longer feel at home. In Bordeaux and Bradford, as in many cities in the south of France, the north of England and the plains of Flanders, the ethnic factor at work is one of white Christians being squeezed, demographically, culturally and, increasingly, politically.
This is not the kind of stuff you will find in politically correct, liberal, mainstream media such as Time magazine. You will, however, find it in the blogosphere, although when you go there you often have to peel off the right-wing ravings of the bloggers in the same way as you have to disregard the left-wing dogma of most of the "MSM" (mainstream media). However, beneath the hype and the mantras there can be found a layer of hard data which, when it relates to socioeconomic trends, is often extremely interesting. But when it relates to demography, it is riveting and often horrifying.
An excellent example is a piece by British author Paul Weldon on the impending European civil war, which can be found at http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2007/03/is-european-civil-war-inevitable-by.html - and is a must-read. Weldon has collated some key Europe-wide demographic data, including immigration, emigration and birth-rates, and come to the conclusion that the ethnic-religious threat posed by the rapid growth of the Muslim - and rapidly "Islamizing" - minority to the "Christian" majority is not an issue for the second half of this century, but will actually reach a critical level over then next 10-20 years.
Of course, all demographic extrapolations are suspect, but when they relate to a period of a decade rather than a century they are fairly robust. However, Weldon's key assumption is not demographic, but cultural. He believes - as I do - that Christian Europe will not fade quietly into cultural and historic oblivion. Rather, it will fight back against the growing Islamification. Hence his "European civil war" scenario, which he posits must occur soon if it is to be more than a token effort on behalf of a lost cause.
Even if Weldon's sociopolitical analysis is wrong, the data he presents are valid and they are the real, if unacknowledged, issue in the current French election - as they have been for some years now - in every election in Continental Europe. What is at stake in France is not merely whether the French economy can become less rigid and dirigiste, but whether France "as we know it" - ie as a pillar of European, Christian and enlightenment civilization - has a future.