Now the important point of this little vignette is to recognise that the increasing frequency and severity of previously trivial problems is to the astute eye a sign of a more significant systemic malaise. Focusing solely on the opportunistic disease without asking why it's cropping up with increasing frequency is a sure way to miss the underlying systemic pathogen. It's unfortunate, for society, that the best and brightest usually end up in Medicine and do not major in History. Therefore the West gets good medicine and bad History.
Which leads me to Niall Ferguson. I like him. I like him a lot. I would quite recommend his book--with caveats--The Great Degeneration. However unlike Correlli Barnett, who is a superb historian, he just doesn't make the grade.
Ferguson penned this article, in response to the Paris Attacks, which seems to be have been syndicated to various papers. These two paragraphs caught my eye:
But they cannot stream northwards and westwards without some of that political malaise coming with them. As Gibbon saw, convinced monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire[ED]
It is doubtless true to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent. But it is also true the majority hold views not easily reconciled with the principles of our liberal democracies, including our novel notions about sexual equality and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities. And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilisation within these avowedly peace-loving communities.
Here's a few interesting speculations.. How many terrorist attacks occurred in monotheistic France in 1850? Why is it easy for a violent minority to attack "avowedly peaceloving communities". Why is monotheism a problem for secular societies? It's not like the Anglicans are blowing things up and killing people.
Ferguson paints his response in the the context of Peter Heather's book, The Fall of the Roman Empire, which argues that foreign immigration and overextension presaged Rome's downfall, however this argument misses the point. Why didn't Rome choose to shrink into easily manageable borders and expel the immigrants. It's not like the Romans couldn't be ruthless.
Gibbons analysis is still the best, it was the moral corruption of Rome which rendered it impotent to new challenges. And just as in modern France, the rot was the inside. Foreign hordes only become an issue when either they invade by force or you let them in.
France's fundamental problem is a moral one. It's anti-islamophobic ideal fails to take into account, that Islam is hostile to secularism by its very nature. Good Muslims, who eschew violence, are still going to vote in a way that reflects Muslim ideals, and will try to achieve in the long run, peacefully, what Isis is trying to do by violent overthrow. What differentiates the two groups is the sense of urgency, not aim. (Though there is a wide variety of opinion in Islam as to what constitutes its true Nature. Not every Muslim is a ISIL fanatic.) A culture that that values non-judgementalism, even towards cultures that are hostile to THAT notion is one that will be soon eaten by the latter. Despite all the military hardware in the world.