"Since 9/11 ... a majority of Europeans have felt, despite our sympathy for the victims, that the Americans got what they deserved. The same reasoning prevailed with respect to the terrorist attacks on Madrid in 2004 and on London in 2005, when many good souls, on both the right and the left, portrayed the attackers as unfortunate people protesting Europe's insolent wealth, its aggression in Iraq or Afghanistan, or its way of life."
In fact, Bruckner argues, while Europe was certainly guilty of racism, colonialism, fascism and the rest of the endlessly recited catalog of culpability, Europe also transcended those sins and provided the intellectual ammunition with which to defeat them. Europe conquered others, but also developed the discipline of anthropology, which "is a way of seeing through others' eyes."
Yes, they sent armies to foreign capitals, but "the colonial adventure died of this fundamental contradiction: the subjection of continents to the laws of the mother country that at the same time taught is subjects the idea of a nation's right to govern itself. In demanding independence, the colonies were applying to their masters the very rules that they had learned from them."
Europe, Bruckner adds, "has vanquished its most horrible monsters. Slavery was abolished, colonialism abandoned, fascism defeated, and communism brought to its knees. What other continent can claim more?"
Europe's collective guilt complex has produced passivity in the face of contemporary challenges. "If the Old World invariably prefers guilt to responsibility, it is because the first is less burdensome; so one puts up with a guilty conscience." And the nub is this: "Our lazy despair leads us not to fight injustice but to coexist with it. ... Repentance makes of us a people who apologize for old crimes in order to ignore present ones."
And that becomes a new crime. Bruckner's indictment is a sharp corrective to the indolence that has come to characterize the birthplace of Western civilization. Let's hope it's not too late.
To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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