Victor Hugo is perhaps the most eminent writer who wrote that elegant and extensive ode to the grand Notre Dame Cathedral which went up in flames day before yesterday. His justly celebrated and poignant classic, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is actually a great motif in which the Cathedral is both the witness and the plot itself. This is one my favourite descriptions of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the book.
The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer…On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. Tempus edax, homo edacior; which I should be glad to translate thus: time is blind, man is stupid.
As Hugo says, the Notre-Dame Cathedral like several grand buildings and artwork across the world has undergone vandalism and mutilations over time and has regained its splendour. But what is markedly new in day before yesterday’s fire incident is this: the burning itself and the (continuing) reactions in its aftermath are the latest evidence of a continental civilization taking its gasping, final, helpless breaths. A fate shared by almost the entire Western Europe. Akin to the spire that crumbled under the onslaught of the fire, Western Europe is tottering on the edge awaiting the final push first into uncontrollable chaos followed by the inevitable extinction.
The pitiable cries of the French people that Notre-Dame, the “soul of France” had been dealt such a massive blow only resonate a deeper corrosion: from within.
A quick flashback reveals that although the so-called Allied Powers in Europe won the second world war, they lost the civilizational war. Which reveals another fundamental historical fact that for the most part has been overlooked: until the Renaissance, Europe was a poor and a third world continent in the true sense and the fact that its sudden explosion in wealth was the direct result of its worldwide plunder and genocide whose sanitized word is “colonization.” The fall quite obviously, was swift: less than 70 years later, it is not an accident that the true poverty of Europe is manifesting itself in various forms because it no longer has any colonies to plunder from. From a bankrupt Greece to Spain, Portugal, and Italy lurching irreversibly towards economic ruin…it’s not hard to summon to our minds the memory of the Roman Empire on its last legs.
This is the direct consequence of nearly two centuries of living an extravagant—at any rate, highly comfortable—life off the labour, blood and plunder of others. It has created a body politic and society that, like a pampered brat, refuses to grow up and demands more and more of the same pampering to which it is addicted. Today, almost all of Europe resembles a colossal welfare state to feed which it is simply impossible. Unless all sorts of fatal compromises are made. Which it has made to its own terminal peril.
Among the horrors that the aftermath of the second world war produced, none was so devastating as the decision to avoid war—any war—at any cost. Quite naturally, the leadership that was produced thereafter has aided and hastened the near-total emasculation of what I National Courage. If it is some solace, the last leaders of any consequence and courage that Europe produced were Charles De Gaulle, and Margaret Thatcher, whose clairvoyant words have come chillingly true today in Europe.
More than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everything—security, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians’ dire fate whenever we confront demands for increased state paternalism. [Margaret Thatcher: The Moral Foundations of Society, Imprimis: March 1995]
As a tangential note, it appears that a reasonable case can be made for the correlation between the near-complete death of Classical learning and civilizational decline. The destruction of the Church stranglehold in Europe was a much-needed and welcome development and progress in the actual sense. However, what replaced it was something far worse: a vacuous, soulless intellectualism and vampirish materialism which directly led to two catastrophic wars that unnecessarily involved much of the globe. There is a multi-volume work waiting to be written about the scores of countries the colonial powers dragged into their own horrific wars and had them killed for no fault of their own. For example, the loot that the British plundered from the Marathas directly financed their wars in Africa and elsewhere. And all of this to what end?
From this perspective, it is no coincidence that it is France that has produced perhaps the most perverted class of so-called intellectuals and thinkers: all manner of frauds beginning roughly with Rousseau, Sartre, Camus, and Derrida and their depraved inheritors of the present day.
We today have a Europe whose population is in that effervescent stupor, barely seconds before it is knifed to a gory death. And this is the direct consequence of adopting the perversions of these frauds as political, social, educational and economic policy. This ghastly civilizational outcome in Europe should ideally serve as a warning and a wake-up call to the so-called “atheist,” “agnostic,” “rational,” “humanist” – whatever other fancy label one wants to use—Hindus who seek to ape them albeit with good intentions. And if such people are honest, they need to ask themselves a basic question: before setting out to destroy or abandon something, think about what better you will replace it with?
Just one fire to a historic building and all of France and the West in general is weeping helplessly. This isn’t to deride their justified misery and sadness but to make a larger point. The fire in Notre-Dame has a parallel in the Twin Towers terror attack in 2001. The US for all its might and showmanship took ten years to snuff out Bin Laden. Second, the sheer fright that it induced in the country exposed it to be a nation of cowards who have since outsourced their freedoms one after the other to the all-knowing state bartering it for their personal security.
The larger point or rather themes: civilizational sturdiness. Patience. Courage. Resilience. Resurgence.
On the one side is Europe which pummeled civilisations and wrecked economies and liquidated people on an industrial scale for about two hundred years and now finds itself helpless in the face of a bunch of Islamic hooligans. Helpless to the extent that all it takes is a riot to paralyze entire governments. Even twenty-five years ago, Marseilles was a global honeymooners’ paradise. Today it is rated as Europe’s most dangerous city.
On the other side is Bharatavarsha with a millennia-long story of repeated plunder, genocide and economic devastation, and stunning and repeated revival including the present century. The story of exactly what gives this ancient and proud civilisation this unmatched strength of resilience will be told in the next part.
To be continued