‘The Strange Death of Europe’ by Douglas Murray:
By far the most challenging book I have read so far this year is ‘The Strange Death of Europe, Immigration, Identity, Islam’ by Douglas Murray. I had seen it three of four times in the shop, reading the blurb each time before I finally purchased it, and it took a similar number of false-starts to properly start reading the book too. I feel The Strange Death of Europe is best summed up by the Literary Review when they said “[d]isagree passionately if you will, but you won’t regret reading it”. It’s true I don’t regret reading it one bit, I believe it is right to challenge our own assumptions, beliefs and values; however, I cannot in good conscious say that I completely agree with all of the notions/arguments put forward in Murray’s work.
Overall, Murray has written a well structured, well formulated argument. The tone he uses throughout the book feels very calm and collected; which is nice considering that the topics he covers – immigration, Islam, and identity – can be particularly emotive, and create strong reactions in people. However, throughout the book I struggled with the level of pessimism on display, and feel that Murray was often offering up what he perceived to be problems, without seriously considering solutions. Something that I have scrawled throughout my notes on this book is ‘so what is the solution… what are your alternatives… how do you propose we solve this’. And, to his credit, in one of his final chapters ‘What Might have Been’ Murray does being to offer up some alternatives. Nevertheless, these feel ill-considered, shallow, and short-snippets in comparison to the depth of discussion around Murray’s perceived issues. Ultimately, they felt like political talk – something that Murray passionately decries & accuses European politicians of all stripes of doing far too often.
Throughout The Strange Death of Europe Murray provides a high level of context, and from a readers perspective he opened my eyes to a number of incidents that had taken place throughout Europe that I hadn’t previously heard about. He is clearly exceptionally well read, travelled, and educated on the topic, and provides well argued points. He does however, leave me with a lot of questions that I would love to ask him:
- Firstly, what does he truly see as the alternative? He acknowledges himself that the majority of people migrating and seeking asylum are doing so to better their lives. What else can we do apart from trying to help them?
- What is his ‘optimum’ level? He accuses politicians of not providing this, and yet fails to also do so himself.
- Why do you think we (Europeans) struggle with our identity so much? What makes him so sure that younger Europeans will also feel the same guilt that he claims older Europeans feel?
- How does he square off Brexit – which is about migration from Europe – with the fact that the majority of immigrants he claims people are concerned about, do not originate from Europe? Is there an educational piece missing?
This book hit me particularly hard, and challenged a lot of my personal beliefs and values for a number of reasons. Most notably when Murray is talking about social integration in the chapter ‘Multiculturalism’ he is clear that he does not believe that current policies have worked. I spent some of my career working for one of the UK’s largest social integration charities; I have seen with my own eyes these policies working in practice. I would be lying if I said it was quick or easy – but it can, and is done on a daily basis. I feel Murray may have dismissed this option/solution too quickly, and more can be done to help build the cohesive societies we want.
Additionally, a large focus of the book is the 2015 European migrant crisis, and the policies adopted by Europe, but particularly Angela Merkel during that time. In the summer of 2015 I was visiting Budapest, and I remember witnessing with my own eyes the miles & miles of walking migrants/asylum seekers – many with young children – making the journey towards Germany. It was completely harrowing, heart breaking, and humbling. And, for me reinforces the human need, above all else, to help those in need and trouble. How can it be right to punish the many for the actions of a few?
There are so many questions that this book has left me with, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Europe, immigration, Islam, or identity. It is a whirlwind of emotions, and will take you on a journey. Again I am going to turn to another review, the Evening Standard, when they said “[b]y far the most compelling political book of the year… Don’t hold an opinion about this book if you have not read it”.
The Strange Death of Europe in Facts:
Author: Douglas Murray
First Published: 2017 (England)
Publishing House: Bloomsbury Publishing
Pages: 371 (337 bulk)