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Europe in Dormition

Dormition of the Virgin, 1540s, Abbey Saint-Pierre, Solesmes

492 words

Translated by Greg Johnson

Translator’s Note:

The term “dormition” refers to the Eastern Christian tradition of the “falling sleep,” i.e., the death, of the Virgin Mary, who then immediately rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. In Venner’s sense, Europe appears dead but is merely sleeping and will soon awake.

Since the end of the two World Wars and their orgy of violence, Europe “entered into dormition.”[1] Europeans do not know it. Everything is done to conceal this fact. But this state of “dormition” continues to weigh us down. Every day, European impotence is clear. The latest proof came during the Euro zone crisis in the spring of 2010, which demonstrated profound divisions and the powerlessness of a unanimous political will. The proof of our “dormition” is equally visible in Afghanistan, in the humiliating role of auxiliary forces assigned to European troops at the disposal of the United States (NATO).

The state of “dormition” is the consequence of the catastrophic excesses of the murderous, fratricidal frenzy perpetrated between 1914 and 1945. It was also the gift of the US and USSR, the two hegemonic powers resulting from the Second World War. These powers imposed their systems, which were foreign to our intellectual, social, and political tradition. Although one has since disappeared, the toxic effects are still felt. We are, moreover, wallowing in a guilt without equivalent. According to the eloquent word of Elie Barnavi, “The Shoah has risen to the rank of civil religion in the West.”[2]

But history is never motionless. Those who reach the summit of power are condemned to go down again.

It bears repeating, moreover, that power is not everything. Power is necessary to exist in the world, to be free for one’s destiny, to escape subjection to political, economic, ideological, or criminal empires. But power is not immune to the maladies of the soul capable of destroying nations and empires.

Although threatened by many quite real dangers and ever sharper conflicts of interests and intentions, Europeans today are first and foremost victims of these diseases of the soul. Unlike other peoples and civilizations, Europeans are deprived of all self-awareness. It is the decisive cause of their weakness. If you believe their leaders, they are without past, roots, destiny. They are nothing. And yet what they share is unique. They are privileged with the memory and the models of a great civilization attested since Homer and his founding poems.

The many heavy trials on the horizon, the weakening of the powers that dominated us for so long, the upheavals of a henceforth unstable world, indicate that the Europe’s  “dormition” will not be eternal.

Notes

[1] I developed this historical interpretation in my essay Le Siècle de 1914 [The Century of 1914] [Paris: Pygmalion, 2006].

[2] Answer of Elie Barnavi to Régis Debray, À un ami israélien [To an Israeli friend] [Paris: Flammarion, 2010].

http://www.dominiquevenner.fr/#/edito-nrh-49-europe-dormition/3581031

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