Rod Dreher, "The End of Our Time" (The American Conservative, November 17 2015):
A reader sent that cartoon to me. It’s by Joann Sfar, a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, and it’s a response to people around the world who are offering prayers for Paris. No sir, Parisians like the atheist Sfar have no desire for prayers. Religion, you see, is the problem. If only everyone would be a thoroughly secular person like Sfar, these difficulties would resolve themselves.
The other day, a musician with a peace sign painted on his piano set up outside the devastated Bataclan nightclub, and played John Lennon’s nihilistic ballad “Imagine”
... I credit the sweetness of the anonymous musician’s spirit, but the more I thought about that gesture, the angrier I grew. Why angry? Because this — and the Sfar cartoon — are emblematic of the decadence and despair and emptiness of the post-Christian West. I keep saying, “You can’t fight something with nothing,” and that’s exactly what “Imagine,” and the Sfar cartoon stand for: nothing. Believe me, I celebrate music! kisses! life! Champagne and joy! too — it’s one of the reasons I love Paris madly — but it is not enough, and it will never be enough.
... Russian novelist Evgeny Vodolazkin ... told me that just as World War I wasn’t really about an assassination in Sarajevo, so too is the West’s current crisis not truly about Islamists who shoot up concert halls. He added that the West has never seen a migration like the current one, with so many masses of people moving from East to West, at once. He described it as “a great historical event.” “Nobody knows how this experiment will end,” he said. “The best thing we can do now is to pray. To tell the truth, I don’t see any way out of this tunnel.”
... Houellebecq [in his recent novel, Submission] depicts a France where people do little more than shop, have sex, and talk about eating, drinking, real estate, and getting ahead in their careers. There is no purpose for individuals other than pleasing themselves, no animating vision for society. This, for Houellebecq, is why the West is dying: people have ceased to believe in their civilization, and do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to continue it — not if it is going to cost them the thing they value the most: individual liberty to choose one’s pleasures.
... As Douthat, Houellebecq, Ferguson, and Vodolazkin all aver, in their different ways, these scattered events that trouble us all have their roots in a fundamental breakdown of civilizational order and confidence. This is about the Western mind, but more importantly, it’s about the Western soul. The breakdown, the crack-up, will be painful, violent, unpredictable, and long-lasting. But it’s coming. In fact, it has begun. I believe that the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, in his 1923 book The End of the Modern World, in which he prophesied the rise of a “New Middle Ages,” is telling us what is to emerge out of the chaos of our cultural suicide. [Berdyaev writes]:[Hat tip to J ]
[F]aith in the ultimate political and social salvation of mankind is quenched. We have reached settlement-day after a series of centuries during which movement was from the centre, the spiritual core of life, to the periphery, its surface and social exterior. And the more empty of religious significance social life has become, the more it has tyrannized over the general life of man....]... We have been walking this Enlightenment road for far too long, and it has us now in a dark wood.