Edmund Burke believed in change, knowing that a nation unwilling or unable to change would collapse. However, he believed in prudence, moderation, moral restraint, and gradual implementation with reflective assessment. Had modern Europeans believed in the same things, they would not be in this predicament now…
“All circumstances taken together, the French Revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world.” These words, spoken by the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, reflect his bewilderment of the socio-political events and effects of the French Revolution. He could not fathom anything else in history resembling it. These same words and thoughts come to mind when reflecting on the migrant crisis in Europe right now. Is there any other event in history comparable to the situation in Western Europe now? The liberal left’s desire to help those visibly suffering vs. the conservative right’s desire to maintain continuity and stability; the clash of culture between Islam and Western civilization; natural rights of men vs the duties of citizenry; Nationalism vs globalization; the tenets of these issues present in the migrant crisis were at the forefront of the French Revolution. The repetition of history may be amazing to some of us, but to Burke, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look back-ward to their ancestors.” This is his way of saying Santayana’s famous quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The historical event the current migrant crisis most resembles is the French Revolution. Through quotes from Burke on the Revolution and contemporary news articles, this essay explores the similar situation between revolutionary France and contemporary Europe. Here, the work of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke is used to make the comparison between the two events and ultimately vindicate his positions on human nature and government. Burke is quoted exclusively from Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Burke, the Revolution, & the Migrant Crisis
To Burke, the French Revolution and the Enlightenment philosophy leading up to it were a disaster; to him, it was, “a policy that has very much the complexion of a fraud.” The migrant crisis has a similar feeling because, “Four out of five migrants are NOT from Syria: EU figures expose the ‘lie’ that the majority of refugees are fleeing war zone” (Drury, 2015). These migrants coming from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia are able to enter freely largely due to the leniency of the European Union and specifically due to German hospitality. Angela Merkel is pursuing this open-door policy due to residual guilt of the sins of their fathers from the Holocaust and WWII (Bershidsky, 2015).
Essentially, the Germans and other European nations are using an abstract principle of tolerance, empathy, and an earnest desire to help the suffering of others in opening their countries to the migrants. Burke detested governing people on abstract principles, as he said, “Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.” The open door and sheltering policy works for certain groups of people, but if the character and culture of the guest group clashes with host group, than the abstract principle falls apart. The migrants fit the latter (Greenfield, 2015).
At first, the Europeans were welcoming of the migrants (The Guardian, 2015), like those welcoming the potential of the French Revolution, of which Burke was skeptical. He said, “I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France.” Burke was astutely aware of the ramifications of the removal of external authority and liberation of the individual from moral restraint. Knowing the radical liberal philosophy would spread like wildfire across the populous, he feared that, “It looks to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the affairs of France alone, perhaps of more than Europe.”
Anyone taking Burke’s conservative stance on the mass immigration is immediately labeled an “Islamaphobe” (Cocoli, 2015). Donald Trump employed this strategy in his presidential campaign (Diamond, 2015), sharing Burke’s view that it is, “Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident a security.” In other words, both agree that national security and stability accompanied by external vitriol are much more important that capricious generosity and popularity. The liberals of both our day and Burke’s are quick to employ the straw-man and label anyone who opposes open Muslim immigration a bigot. Burke referred to them as, “Sophisters” who, “substitute a fictitious cause, and feigned personages, in whose favour they suppose you engaged, whenever you defend the inheritable nature of the crown.” Burke is defending the aristocracy, the hereditary nature of community that is not simply given by mere whimsy, and importance of tradition against those who attack his beliefs speciously. These liberals, who defend the Revolution, are the same as those quick to insinuate Islamaphobia to anyone who points to evidence showing problems and dangers of mass Islamic migration.
To the liberals, their pillars of faith rest on equity, autonomy, a devotion to the individual, social rights without their correspondent duties, and liberation from ancient ties. In the name of equity and autonomy, today’s liberals have opened their countries’ doors; the Revolutionary liberals destroyed the old corporate order based on authority, community, and sacred tradition based on equity and liberty. According to German reports, 81 percent of migrants lack job qualifications (Gläser, 2015), have high rates of illiteracy (United Nations Development Program, 2002), import their social and political conflicts from home to Europe (Breitenbach, 2015), are free-riding on government benefits (LaneA, 2016), and have deplorable treatments of women and children, including religiously sanctioned child marriages and pedophilia (Geller, 2016). What is the benefit of bringing in these people to Europe? Burke asked the liberal radicals the same thing: “Compute your gains: see what is got by those extravagant presumptuous speculations…. By following those false lights, France has bought undignified calamities at a higher price than any nation has purchased.”
Burke knew that his contemporaries were there for treacherous reasons, and they were able to influence the naïve into thinking their methods were for the good of the nation. He said, “By leading their easy good-nature, under specious pretenses, to admit combinations of bold and faithless men into a participation of their power.” This is the exactly the way ISIS is infiltrating Europe (Brown, 2015), taking advantage of the good-natured and naïve liberals.
The Europeans should have seen the writing on the wall. The oil-rich gulf nations of Saudi-Arabi, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have taken in a total of zero combined refugees, citing reasons of national security (Tharoor, 2015). Burke knew the dangers of implementing change recklessly without a method for conservation, as he quoted Pope, saying, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread;” Europe rushed in, ignoring the enormous red-flag the Arab nations waived by refusing their own culturally congruent neighbors.
The French Revolution was speciously enacted in the name of equity, and the migrant revolution is done in the equity of our day: political correctness. Burke, like all conservatives, knew that life contains natural and just inequities. Any attempt at equalizing all people and all things is a fool’s errand. He said
Believe me, Sir, those who attempt to level, never equalize…. Some descriptions of citizens must be uppermost. The levelers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of things…. setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.
Due to political correctness, no one can admit that migrants bringing crime, conflict, and free-riders on the European tax dollar is wrong. Anyone who says so is a racist or an Islamaphobe. One terrible example of this is the San Bernardino, CA Jihad attacks. The neighbor of the Jihadists, “didn’t report suspicious activity at their apartment for fear of being accused of racism” (Pavlich, 2015). Political correctness disables anyone’s ability to create hierarchies, prioritize, or criticize anything. We are all equal at all things at all times. This concept, to Burke, is another specious and faulty premise. He said (on equity), “In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.” To the liberals, everything is equal; to the conservatives, this is a denial of reality and human nature. The dire consequences in San Bernardino are a microcosm of the soon to be “Eurabia.”
To reiterate, liberals rest on more than just equity, they rest on giving people social rights. While this is a generous sentiment, the Burkean conservative knows that rights must only be given in fulfillment of a correspondent duty. Burke knew that Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” inspired his contemporaries’ false sense of entitlement by giving everyone a set of abstract rights with no duties. He said, “They have ‘the rights of men.’ Against these there can be prescription; no agreement is binding… and no compromise: any thing withheld from their full demand is so much of fraud and injustice.” The migrants have been given the full rights and privileges of European citizens without any duty, labor, or communal inheritance. And how do they react? They complain about the free food, free shelter, lack of amenities, and size of their free government allowances (LaneB, 2015). This is the “injustice” of which Burke spoke.
While the tone thus far paints Islam and migrants in a negative light, it is mandatory to say that not all the migrants are unlawful pariahs, and that there are legitimate refugees. Burke knew this too. Not all the claims of the radical liberals were false: “In denying their false claims of right, I do not mean to injure those which are real.” Burke further shows a soft spot later echoed by J.S. Mill in On Liberty when he says, “Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself.” To paraphrase, a person should be able to pursue his or her self-interest so long as it does not infringe upon others. However, Burke believed in this freedom only in moderation. When the revolutionaries removed moderation and moral restraint from this pursuit, trespassing on others occurred. This is the case (one of many possibilities to cite) with the Muslim demand for the removal of pork products at all restaurants because it is offensive to Muslims (Sabia, 2016). Judaism forbids the eating of pork products too, but when served pork, offered pork, or around pork, the Jew simply says, “no thank you.” Equity and an appeal to political correctness are now “trespassing upon others.” The few should not have the ability, nay, a fortiori, the right to “trespass” on the many, as Burke says
Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle… chew the cud and are silent… pray… that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.
Burke repeats that he knows not all the pro-revolutionaries are bad, but this time, he must add a caveat that extremists who, “under the name of religion teach little else than wild and dangerous politics,” are a problem. Not all Muslims are bad, and some are heroes, like Lassana Bathily, the Malian Muslim who risked his life to save the Jewish customers of the Kosher restaurant that was the victim of a Jihad attack in France (Froissart, 2016). But the religious “wild and dangerous politics” Burke spoke of is called Sharia law.
One especially problematic and salient aspect of Sharia law is the treatment and view of non-Muslim women. Essentially, non-Muslim women are seen as infidels, captives, and/or slaves in times of Jihad, and their rape is condoned not only by male Muslim authorities but also by Muslimas too (Spencer, 2016a). A shocking number of European countries are now dealing with a rape epidemic, and on New Year’s Eve 2016, the western world was introduced to something called, “Taharrush.” This is the Muslim cultural practice of gang-rape (Breitbart London, 2016). Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and other European countries are actually dealing with a rape epidemic like it is a contagious disease. Liberalism and political correctness are guiding European authorities into staging mass cover-ups of migrant rape and other crime (Zeronian, 2016; there are MANY other sources of this sad enabling behavior). And, “Where are the men of Germany?” (Brown, 2016) you may ask? Burke will tell you: “But the age of chivalry is gone.—That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is now extinguished forever.” Burke speaks of the lack of loyalty and chivalry to the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and the new ethos that has taken over from the radical revolutionaries and liberals. To Burke, it has made the men of France soft. This is the exact parallel that is going on in Europe. Liberal progressivism has henpecked Western men, making them appear weak and soft to the traditional gender-role Muslims.
The mountain of evidence and the lessons to be learned should appear abundantly clear for America, yet, “Obama still plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees despite Paris terrorist attacks” (Dinan & Richardson, 2015), and “Hillary Clinton vows to let 65,000 Syrian refugees… if elected” (Dodril, 2015). These desired quotas came immediately after the Jihadi slaughter of 130 people at a Jewish owned concert hall. Have we learned nothing? Burke made the same observation, as he said, “Let me add, that we are as unwilling to learn these lessons from France.” Burke feared the spread of liberalism and the unbridled ability to follow ones passion without any external authority or need for moral restraint. Burke knew that allowing the Jacobins and radical liberals to take the reins of societal norms would lead to failure. He said, “I dare venture to prophesy, will be, that, with some trouble to their country, they will soon accomplish their own destruction;” “Sweden close to collapse” (Carlqvist, 2015), a headline soon likely to be followed by other fellow progressivist, liberal, politically correct nations imploding from their very own dogma.
Burke knew that should the rest of Europe
Uncover our nakedness by throwing off our Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and among many other nations… that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition, might take the place of it.
It is amazing how astute Burke was in his own time, and how eerily prophetic he is in ours. As Brigitte Gabriel said, “Europe will no longer be Europe by 2050. Europe has already become Eurabia. Europe is Eurabia right now” (Gabriel, as quoted by Wilde, 2015).
The liberals of Burke’s era and the social justice warriors of the present overstepped their bounds and confiscated the property of their citizens. Burke said, “Before the inconveniences are incurred which must attend all violent revolutions in property through extensive confiscation.” This is mirrored by the German government evicting their own citizens and confiscating private property to make room for migrants (Kern, 2015). To the French Revolutionaries, private property was a symbol of inequality, and it therefore necessitated abolition; for the German government of today, the same aberrant notions persist.
The ideas of liberal individualism, equity, and rights were now permeating the minds of the young and old during Burke’s time, as he said, “The scheme of this education has been long known. Of late they distinguish it (as they have got an entire new nomenclature of technical terms) by the name of Civic Education.” Today, this new scheme of education is called either “diversity” or “multiculturalism.” This is why, “German Students Should Take Compulsory Arabic Lessons Says Leading Professor” (Lane & Tomlinson, 2016); “Rochester, NY school organizes ‘Hijab Day’ for non-Muslim students” (Spencerb, 2016); and “Outrage as school asks pupils to pretend to convert to Islam for homework assignment” (Fenton, 2016); the list can go on. Can you imagine the outrage for bringing religion into our schools if it was Christianity? Imagine the anger over being forced to say the Lord’s Prayer; wear rosary beads day?; Yarmulke day?
Forcing Islam on our pupils is acceptable because of the myth of Islamaphobia (O’Neill, 2015), the misguided trellis of multiculturalism, and as Burke commented on his “Civic Education” in his time, our youth today is being indoctrinated by “the most dangerous shock that the state ever received through a misunderstood arrangement of religion.” The real misunderstanding that people seem to have about Islam is two-fold: that Islam is persecuted and under attack—this should be clear by now that Islam is the aggressor—and that Islam is the “religion of peace.” People like President Barack Obama, who explicitly said that, “For more than 1,000 years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace. And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam, peace” (Obama, as quoted by Munro, 2016). This is not true. What Islam means is, “Arabic: Islām submission (to the will of God)” (Merriam-Webster.com, 2016). This is the goal of many hundreds of millions of Muslims: to make the world submit to Sharia law (The Clarion Project, 2015).
Burke knew the goal was the same for the radical’s revolutionary machinations. He said,
These pretended citizens treat France exactly like a country of conquest. Acting as conquerors, they have imitated the policy of the harshest of that harsh race. The policy of such barbarous victors, who contemn a subdued people, and insult their feelings, as ever been, as much as in them lay, to destroy all vestiges of the ancient country, in religion, in polity, in laws, and in manners.
Burke spoke of the destruction of the old order based on kinship, community, duty, moral restraint, and religion; this so strongly resembles Sharia and the Jihad agenda in Europe as well as the rest of the world.
For further proof of the similarities and prophetic accuracy of Burke, he said, “The great object in these politics is to metamorphose France, from a great kingdom into one great play-table.” Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, is not taking in any refugees that speak the same language; they have the same religion and culture, yet, “Saudi Arabia offers Germany 200 mosques—one for every 100 refugees who arrived last weekend” (Withnall, 2015). The Arab states, which are well equipped for military conflict, are also doing little to fight ISIS: “War on ISIS: Why Arab states aren’t doing more” (Thompson, 2015).
As Burke’s Reflections draws to a close, he quotes M. de la Tour du Pin, who describes the consequences of a military state, saying it, “is a species of political monster, which has always ended by devouring those who have produced it.” Seeing constant headlines about the world on the brink of WWIII is one thing, but learning that the, “German Army to train ‘refugees’ before sending them back to Syria” (Lane, 2016) is another. This should be particularly alarming to people given the German people’s long history of allying with the Arab world, as they sided with Turkey in the Thirty Years War, the Ottoman Empire in WWI, and the Nazi’s bond with the Muslims in WWII over anti-Semitism. Germany has risen to power again, this time through monetary authority and sanctioning capabilities of the smaller countries in the European Union they subsidize (Jeffries, 2013). This power has created their ability to impose, “legal action against EU countries ignoring quota,” (France-Presse, 2015) for migrants.
As the rise of “no-go zones” continues: “Swedish police being ATTACKED as they struggle in ‘NO GO ZONES’ as migrant crime rockets” (O’Brien & Stromm, 2016), the allure of the military society grows stronger. Nisbet said that the rise of the military society is precipitated by two things: military socialism and the growing threat of terrorism. While Europe is largely capitalist, it contains many facets of democratic socialism, and the terrorism connection is axiomatic.
While not a military state in the traditional sense, the liberal social justice warriors have taken to media censorship in Orwellian ways, mirroring a militarized society. Some particularly troubling stories include, “Man Arrested in Scotland for Facebook Posts About Refugees” (Bokhari, 2016), and, “Dutch… Man Arrested for Pig Hat” (TNO Staff, 2016).
Burke observed this similar phenomenon during his day, noting those, “who are more angry with those who differ from them in their particular plans and systems, than displeased with those who attack our common hope.” A sad photo of a young woman in Germany holding a sign that says, “Racists for rapists,” has made its way around the internet as well as a typical radical-leftist Facebook page that said, “Diversity is more important than your security” (Girdusky, 2016). Radical liberals like the feminists of today and the revolutionaries of Burke’s day share identical misguided beliefs. They both adhere to abstract dogma of tolerance that in reality is brutalizing their common hope. Burke said, “We hear these new teachers continually boasting of their spirit of toleration. That those persons should tolerate all opinions…. The species of benevolence, which arises from contempt, is no true charity.” The connection between today and the past is almost inconceivable to realize just how closely history is repeating itself.
While the media and the radicals censoring anti-migrant sentiment is one thing, when your own government and police participate in it, you are only headed for one place: chaos. Two headlines that really articulate this are, “Swedish cops had a special “CODE 291” to cover up migrant crimes” (Greenfield, 2016), and, “German authorities accused of migrant attack cover up” (Millward, 2016). To Burke, this is the idea radicals that, “have industriously destroyed all the opinions, prejudices, and, as far as you lay, all the instincts which support government.” When the police, media, and government are censoring and covering up violence against their own people, they have destroyed all the inherited customs, tradition, and trust between themselves and their people. Burke knew that, “Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as feeble government.”
What redress are the people of Sweden, Germany, and Europe left with? Vigilantism. This headline, “German vigilante group vows to protect women from migrant attackers as 34 suspects are arrested—including three for gang-raping two teenagers,” (Akbar & Wyke, 2016) is the only possible destination for the future of Europe under these circumstances. As Burke said of the radicals, “They cannot raise supplies; but they can raise mobs.” This applies to the Europeans required to defend themselves, as well as the migrants who routinely produce headlines like, “Migrants arrested for BRAWL inside refugee centre after ‘woman refuses to wear headscarf’” (Burman, 2016).
Burke asked, “But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restrain.” Burke knew that, “To make a government requires no great prudence,” however a working government that is a, “free government; that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.” Burke believed in change, knowing that a nation unwilling or unable to change would collapse. However, he also believed in prudence, moderation, moral restraint, and gradual implementation with reflective assessment. Had modern Europeans believed in the same things, they would not be in this predicament now.
A similar version of this essay will appear in European Conservative and was first published there.
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Editor’s note: The featured image is from the U.S. Department of State and is in the public domain.