We are all familiar with the opening lines of Hamlet, the Shakespearean tragedy, telling us of something rotten in the state of Denmark.
Since September 2001, we have become familiar with something rotten in Europe, and this rottenness threatens to wreak havoc on the civilization that Europe nurtured and whose values in terms of science and democracy were once sought by the rest of the world.
In Shakespeare’s most famous drama the Danish prince tragically perishes at the end in his effort to purge the kingdom of the evil of regicide with which the court compromised when the queen, Hamlet’s mother, wed the murderer of the slain king.
In Hamlet’s story, Shakespeare unravelled a microcosm of consequences that follow when an individual or people, knowingly or unknowingly, compromise with evil.
This is an abiding theme of the world’s great literature, particularly European literature reaching back to the Greek classic of Sophocles in the story of Oedipus, the tragic king.
The rottenness alluded to in Hamlet and Oedipus, now found amply in Europe, is the tendency to compromise with evil. It is based on the ultimate utilitarian argument of weighing costs and benefits to conclude there is nothing worth fighting for.
Hence, in this view prevalent in Europe, it is absurd to defend freedom or believe that occasionally life might require preparedness to fight and sacrifice for freedom to prosper.
The causes for this rotten view spreading are many.
But the dominant explanation lies in the blood-letting Europe precipitated in two world wars.
In response to the deadliest wars of modern history, Europeans swore “never” to allow their peace, however unsettled or fragile, to be undermined by fighting for any cause irrespective of how worthy it might be.
The “never” would have been praiseworthy if it meant “never” to compromise with the enemies of freedom.
Through the decades of the Cold War against Soviet Communism, Europe was defended by the United States—even though dishonest revisionists would have us believe otherwise.
Meanwhile, a great many European intellectuals, such as Jean-Paul Sartre or Gunter Grass, engaged themselves in support of Soviet Communism, made apologies for Stalinism or remained quietly as fellow-travellers of a mass-murdering global ideology, presented even today to new generations of dupes as a progressive movement.
The rottenness in the heart of contemporary Europe is the view that radical Islamism can be tamed, and diplomacy can bridge the difference between the West (and its values of freedom and democracy) and the hate-filled ideology of Islamism, espoused, for example, by the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
For the past few years EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) have engaged themselves with Iran over the nuclear issue, believing ayatollahs in Tehran and Qom, with their hand-picked politicians, can be appeased with carrots of peaceful nuclear technology if they renounce their ambition of acquiring nuclear weapons.
Iran instead has only raised the price for European surrender. Now Ahmadinejad threatens Europe with untold consequences if Iran’s nuclear ambitions are thwarted.
The brazenness of Ahmadinejad’s thuggish regime and that of the wide phalanx of radical Islamists comes from their belief that Europe has become unsettled by letting in the Trojan Horse of Islamism. The abject apology by many Europeans over Danish cartoons to those who rage and murder in the name of a religion was indicative of how greatly Europe is unsettled, and ready to appease those who send suicide-bombers for half a loaf of a contemptible peace.