Translated by Greg Johnson
History does not move like the course of a river, but like the invisible movement of a tide filled with eddies. We see the eddies, not the tide. Such is the present historical moment in which Europeans and the French live. The contradictory eddies of the present hide from them the inexorable tide of a clash of civilizations in their own lands.
Since 1993, Samuel Huntington has distinguished with rather remarkable prescience, one of the most important new phenomena of the post-Cold War era. His thesis of the “clash of civilizations” provoked indignant reactions and sometimes justified criticisms. However, what he predicted is being slowly confirmed by reality. In substance, Huntington predicted that, in the post-Cold War era, the distinctions, conflicts, or solidarity between powers would no longer be ideological, political, or national, but above all civilizational.
Is the “clash of civilizations” really a new phenomenon? One might say that there were always conflicts between civilizations in the past: Median wars, the Christianization of Rome, the Muslim conquests, the Mongol invasions, the European expansion beginning in the 16th century, etc.
The novelty of our time, although ill-discerned by Huntington, is due to the combination of three simultaneous historical phenomena: the collapse of longstanding European supremacy after the two World Wars, decolonization, and the demographic, political, and economic rebirth of old civilizations that one might have believed were defunct. Thus the Moslem countries, China, India, Africa, or South America mounted, against American power (equated with the West), the challenge of their reawakening and sometimes aggressive civilizations.
The other novelty of our time, an absolute novelty, a consequence of the same historical reversals, is the wave of immigration and settlement by Africans, Asians, and Muslims hitting all of Western Europe. Everywhere, its effects are becoming crushing, in spite of attempts to hide it by the political and religious oligarchies, which are its objective accomplices.
Beyond the questions of “security” whipped up during elections, everything indicates that a genuine clash of civilizations is mounting on European soil and within European societies. Nothing proves it better than the absolute antagonism between Muslims and Europeans on the question of sex and femininity. A question that one could describe as eternal, so far as it is already discernible in Antiquity between the East and the West, then throughout the Middle Ages and modern times. The female body, the social presence of women, the respect for femininity are eloquent proofs of identities in conflict, incompatible ways of being and living which span time. One could add many other moral and behavioral oppositions concerning with the good manners, education, food, the respect for nature and the animal world.
A consequence of this fundamental otherness is that Europeans are being compelled to discover their membership in a common identity. This identity rises above old national, political, or religious antagonisms. French, Germans, Spaniards, or Italians discover little by little that they are adrift in the same leaky boat, confronted with the same vital challenge before which the political parties remain dumb, blind, or crippled.
In the face of this conflict of civilizations, the political answers of yesterday suddenly seem outmoded and absurd. What is at stake is not a question of regime or society, right or left, but a vital question: to be or to disappear. But before we find the strength to decide what must be done to save our identity, it would still be necessary it to have a strong awareness of it. For lack of an identitarian religion, Europeans have never had this awareness. The immense ordeal we are going through will have to awaken it.
1. See Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire no. 7, pp. 27 and 57.
2. Denis Bachelot, L’Islam, le sexe et nous [Islam, Sex, and us] (Buchet-Chastel, 2009). See also the article of this author in Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire no. 43, pp. 60–62.
3. I discuss the question of identity in my essay Histoire et tradition des Européens (Le Rocher, nouvelle édition 2004).
Translator’s Note: I omitted the first paragraph of the French original, which makes sense only in the context of the journal in which it was originally published.