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November 19, 2004

Turkey and the EU

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm not sure why, but for the past few days I've been thinking about the European Union and Turkey. So I'm indulging myself, sorting out some of what's been rattling around my noggin.

  • Are you up-to-date? Euro-elites are determined to admit Turkey into the European Union despite the fact that huge numbers of everyday Europeans don't want any such thing to occur. Turkey is populous, and full of relatively poor people ... Most of whom are Muslims ... European countries have already encountered scads of problems with their Muslim populations ... And, if Turkey is admitted to the EU, Turkey's inhabitants will be able to move and work wherever they want to within the EU -- no need for a passport or visa ...

    With a population that's now at roughly 70 million, Turkey -- if admitted -- would instantly become the EU's second-most populous country. Given its high birthrate, Turkey would likely become the EU's most-populous nation within a few decades. Any guesses as to how many millions of these people would do their best to move to more prosperous Euro countries? And any guesses as to how many Muslims from other countries would do their best to make it to Turkey in order to make their own way into Europe?

    Why on earth would any sensible EU-person even consider admitting Turkey into the EU? The elite reasoning appears to be that welcoming Turkey in will civilize Turkey; that this will be a good thing; and that the good-thing-ishness of it will ripple through the rest of the mideast in a beneficial way. It'll be good for European/middle-eastern relations. Here, for example, is a BBC account of how Germany's foreign minister is justifying his support. America's own Thomas Friedman puts the case this way:

    If we want to help moderates win the war of ideas within the Islamic world, we must help strengthen Turkey as a model of democracy, modernism, moderation and Islam all working together. Nothing would do that more than having Turkey be made a member of the European Union.

    Now, I may be nothing but a rube, but this kind of reasoning sounds ... Stupid. It may be brilliant in theory -- what would a slowpoke like me know about it? But it seems idiotic in basic human terms.

    Let me offer a rube's comparison. Let's say that you and your family live in a house. (That would be the EU.) And let's say there's a bunch of families a block away who don't seem to like you. (That would be the Islamic middle-east.) What to do? Well, hey: how about inviting your next-door neighbors (that'd be Turkey) to have free run of your house? Brilliant!

    Questions do arise, don't they? First off: why do anything at all about those problem-people a block over? (Except trade with them and defend yourself against them, of course.) Isn't it basic to human experience that trying to change someone will nearly always backfire? And, hey, does the Friedman passage above remind anyone else of how the Vietnam War was justified? Wait a minute! Know-it-all elites with grand schemes got us into that one too ... Hmm, dim though I am, I do notice a pattern.

    Second: if you're absolutely/positively determined to do something about these problem-people -- and why would you be? -- can't you come up with something more sensible than this roundabout scheme? Exactly how is letting your next-door neighbors move in with you going to result in anything other than losing control of your own situation? It also seems pretty clear to dimbulb me how your average block-away problem-person will react to this gesture. He isn't going to think, "Wow, would you look at that! I think I'll reform myself!" Instead he's going to think, "Hey, I want some of those easy pickings for myself!" And then he's going to rob you blind, all the while thinking that you're an even bigger sap than he originally figured you for.

    I notice that The Economist has come out in favor of admitting Turkey. I also notice, with gratitude, that Steve, Randall, and the GNXP posse are considerably more skeptical, if not amazed and horrified.

    God bless the Turks, of course: no reason not to wish 'em well and deal with 'em positively and honorably. God bless everybody, for that matter. But under what conception does wishing everyone well require us to give our neighbors the run of our house? Oops, I said "we" and "our." Make that "Europe."

  • Jane Kramer has a looooooong piece in the current New Yorker about the headscarves-in-schools controversy in France. (In a word: France has passed a law aimed at preventing Muslim girls from wearing the veil while in French schools.) Kramer is, as always sardonic, amusing, and insightful about the French. She also does an amazing job of explaining why the head-scarf issue became such a flashpoint.

    Before I pass along some facts and passages from Kramer's piece, I'm going to play victorious King Kong for a sec, because Kramer's piece confirms what I've been saying in my "watch out for this immigration issue" postings: the immigration question has nothing to do with traditional left-right points of view. In America, business interests (the right) and multiculturalist suckers (the left) are pro-high-rates; nearly everyone else, left and right, wants more caution. In France, the headscarf ruling led to demontrations by veiled women, to demonstrations by unveiled women, to endless television debates, to rap wars on the Muslim hip-hop circuit, and to windy discussions in all the important papers: "Liberation, on the left, and Le Figaro, on the right, were for the law; Le Monde, always contrarian, was against it," Kramer writes.

    Since Kramer's piece isn't online, I'll type out a few passages from it:

    Muslims today are part of the biggest labor migration in Europe since the great migrations of the Roman Empire; some analysts at the European Union say that in fifteen years they could account for twenty percent of its population ...

    [Back in the '80s, Kramer was in France and observed how extremist Muslim groups were recruiting members.] The Islamist network was fairly simple then. Saudis funded the Brotherhood through its leadership in Egypt; the Brotherhood, in turn, trained Algerian and Moroccan preachers and sent them off to conquer the diaspora in towns like Dreux [in France]. Those preachers were self-styled vigilantes. They stalked the North African schoolboys, demanding recruits for their after-school Koran classes -- threatening and often beating the ones who refused, but always offering free textbooks to the ones who came and "protection" to their parents. Within a few months, those boys were the vigilantes, exhorting their classmates to embrace the kind of Islam they had always mocked as something that, in France, only illiterate peasants from Anatolia preacticed ...

    [Kramer writes that the headscarf wars put the French Left into a strange bind.] The left, whatever its old claims to being the guarantor of a secular state, was adrift in a sea of unforeseen (and almost comically unsettling) new imperatives having to do with multiculturalism and diversity and political correctness, unable to decide the relative merits of freedom of religious expression and freedom from religious expression.

    It's satisfying, if grimly so, to read Kramer on the role modernist architecture has played in the creation of this awful state of things. Here, she's discussing the neighborhoods ["cites"] where many of the immigrants settled:

    The cites themselves were a failed fantasy of a new life, a misbegotten experiment in social planning that began with Le Corbusier's famous Unite d'Habitation, in Marseilles, and spread through France and into the rest of northern Europe. Nothing that should have happened in the cites happened. Big businesses did not arrive; bourgeois families did not build housing estates next door; the projects themselves deteriorated, victim to construction boondoggles. The children of immigrants who had moved in, expecting a new life, became the prisoners of that life.

    FWIW, a Parisian friend tells me that the French have essentially drawn a line between the heavily-immigrant Parisian suburbs and downtown Paris. Giant ring roads encircle Paris, creating an informal boundary that's hard to cross over; and public transportation between downtown and the suburbs shuts down early in the evening. That way, downtown Parisians are able to sleep soundly, certain that most of the poor and the immigrants aren't nearby.

    The New Yorker may not have put Kramer's essay online, but they have posted a long q&a with her. In it, Kramer says this:

    In France, as in the rest of Europe, you have immigrants, but not in the American sense. Rather, these are post-colonial populations. These European countries have ended up, through the chaos of liberation, with huge populations coming back to the colonial authority, and they have both identified with and tried to separate themselves from the colonial power. These populations—and in this case we’re talking about Muslim populations—arrive with a huge longing and a sense of identity, and also a huge despair at the accidents of history that have uprooted them. You have ambivalence in the arrival, which is tremendously different than coming to America.

    How does that affect the process of assimilation?

    Well, the French reaction, generally, has been to employ a rhetoric of assimilation without providing any reality of it. Some estimate that a tenth of the country is Muslim. Most of them are grandchildren of the original Muslim population to come to France, most of whom were workers, and these younger Muslims have grown up in isolation in these huge housing projects that were built with a false sense of community. This is, of course, exactly against what the French say their policy is. Still, these Muslims identified closely with what Europe was promising them. It’s the European dream, if not the American.

    What happened to that European dream?

    Once you got to a third generation, the dislocation and despair became permanent. The economy froze. The jobs disappeared. These kids realized that they weren’t going to get what they were promised. At the beginning of the first Gulf War, I was living in France, and what struck me then was how very calm the French Muslim population was. They were worried about backlash, about extremism, and they identified themselves very strongly with France. But in the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq you’re dealing with a much different population. Kids were disaffected and very vulnerable. Islamic preachers and recruiters came out to promise these kids what France had promised their parents and grandparents. All the things that had failed were being repromised in terms of an international Islam. So what you saw was a huge surge in the kids who were rededicating themselves to Islam, coming covered to school, and demanding to enter classrooms.

  • Another part of the case that gets made for admitting Turkey to the EU is that Turkey's population is large, dynamic, and growing fast, while Europe's is aging and has leveled off; some people seem to feel that Europe needs the boost that Turkey's demographics would give it. Hard not to notice that the resulting population's makeup would be quite different than its current makeup, isn't it? So remind me: whose interests are the EU-elites looking out for?

  • To be honest, I do in fact know why the Turkey-and-the-EU issue has been gnawing at my mind. It's because I recently watched two French movies back to back that dealt with the "What's become of Europe?" question. And although they're two very different movies, they present remarkably similar pictures. (FWIW, long ago I blogged a bit about what France once meant to Americans.)

  • Gaspar Noe's "Irreversible," which I blogged about at some length here, is a film filmbuffs won't want to miss. FWIW, Noe strikes me as one of those filmmakers -- like David Fincher and Wong Kar-Wai -- who is a harbinger of the future of movie art: super-talented guys making electronic-media stuff that, even though it's meant for the big screen, has little if anything to do with the traditional language of movies.

    But "Irreversible" is amazing too because of how outrageous and upsetting it is. I say this appreciatively, by the way; I like a film that stirs a little something extra up. Noe's work reminds me a bit of Celine's "Journey to the End of the Night," of Michel Houellebecq's novels, and of some of the early, horror-comedy Kubrick too. Noe's an entertaining madman/crank -- an outraged moralist and provocateur, satirical, angry, and (for all his coldness) tragic at the same time.

    Plot spoilers ahead, though it's stretching it to say that "Irreversible" has much of a plot. Vulgarisms ahead too: "Irreversible" is nothing if not Unrated, and impossible to discuss in terms of its content and themes without a hard R.

    In brief, the film presents a picture of contempo Europe, and it ain't pretty. The film's first scenes take place in a seedy gay sex club. The film backtracks through hooker-infested neighborhoods; it visits a party where stylish Frenchies carry on (drugs, dancing) blissfully; it follows the divine Monica Bellucci as she's raped and beaten. It backtracks from this gruesome event to an earlier time when Monica and her boyfriend were playful, in love, and perhaps even innocent.

    This arc itself is a parable about Europe today. To spell it out: the film moves from sybaritic and sterile self-pleasure (represented by the gay sex club, pointedly called "Le Rectum"); wades its way through neighborhoods populated by scavenger-like immigrants; pauses over a wonderful scene of playful heterosexuality; and ends with a rhapsodic image of a very fertile-seeming Monica. From anal play, to anal rape, to hetero play, to a vision of lost fecundity and lost possibilities.

    Since Noe is telling us that Europe has traded its future for the sake of self-pleasure in the Now, it's interesting to learn note that Noe is an immigrant himself. It's as though he's looking at his adopted country and saying, "Why are you throwing all this magnificence away? I cannot believe it!" The film is clearly offering up Bellucci as the flower of Euro civilization; in the course of the movie, we watch this flower be destroyed.

    In Noe's view, Europe is committing suicide. It's caught up in a frenzy of self-gratification; it's letting itself be overrun by people who mean it no good; and, dammit, it was once great. To be hyperexplicit: the film backs out of the anus, explores the vagina, finds hope there, only to watch it die. (I'm surprised more gays didn't notice and protest the symbolic use Noe makes of gays in this movie; they're clearly meant to represent sterile self-centeredness. Hey, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.)

    Things could have been different, Noe wants us to understand. The film's final shot is a whriling one of the impossibly lush and elegant Bellucci in a park -- in the sunlight, reclining on green grass, surrounded by romping children. Noe is saying to Europe: you've made a deal with the devil, and this is what you're now going to have to sacrifice.

  • Bertrand Blier, in his 1993 film "Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil" (the title is taken from a children's game) addresses the "what's becoming of Europe" question even more directly. Noe's film could be taken simply as the story of a terrible thing that happens to one couple; you could ignore its metaphorical side. Blier's film is explicitly about the larger cultural questions. It's set in a small French city on the Mediterranean; its main character, played by the ultra-delicious gamine Anouk Grinberg, is a poor girl from a dysfunctional family who's trying to grow up and make a life in the crazy patchwork that is the new Europe.

    First off, I have to confess that I just love Blier's movies. I'm as happy watching a bad Blier film as I am watching the best movies by anyone else. It's not that they're so "good" in some objective way. It's just that they click with me. I get his wavelength instantly and intuitively. Blier-land is simply a place I'm delighted to visit; though I feel like I already know my way around, it's still full of surprises. If anyone's interested in giving his movies a try, let me suggest starting with "Going Places," "Get Out Your Handkerchiefs," and "Beau-Pere." They're deadpan-droll yet erotic, chilly yet voluptuous, contemplative yet hilarious, "aesthetic" yet earthy.

    They're also about as amoral and intuitive as feature films have ever been. Without any fuss, let alone any cyber-whoopdedo, Blier situtates you in eroticized psychic dreamscapes. (The films' stories are like strolls through these dreamscapes.) In most of his movies, this dreamscape belongs to the French male, and in nearly all his films, Blier is as straightfaced, deadpan, and full of urbane curiosity about the marvels and kinks of the unconscious male mind as Bunuel was only late in life. Watching Blier's movies, I find myself feeling like I do during those moments when I'm drifting off to sleep -- or maybe not: when your thoughts mingle with the TV soundtrack, and you let go of reality, yet you aren't quite dreaming yet ... and then you stir back to awakeness ... and then drift off again. Watching a Blier film, I'm dreaming and wide-awake at the same time.

    Despite my affinity for Blier's work, I spent the first 20 minutes of "Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil" feeling bewildered. I wondered if Blier would be able to pull this movie together, and I struggled to "get" it. It seemed a little forced, a little hectic. Grinberg plays her character from roughly the age of 8 to the age of 30 without changing makeup, and without special effects. Marcello Mastroianni plays her drunken layabout of a father, a man so out-of-it-that he can never find his way home through the abstract concrete wilderness that is their housing project; two actors follow him around, carrying a giant number in their arms that represents the number on the apartment door Mastroianni can never find. The storyline is chopped-up, twisted, and then re-run. A dead child comes back to life when a voluptuous black woman -- part goddess, part earth-mother -- nurses him at her naked breast.

    Then, ka-ping, I did get the film, and I was able to settle into my usual state of Blier-movie blissfulness. The film has Blier's deadpan dreaminess, as well as his ability to launch -- with no warning and no visible seams -- into fantasy. There's no one as fast as Blier is at establishing what's dramatically at stake in a scene. Perhaps that's because he has to be; the situations he sets up are so unusual that he's got to zero you in on their emotional core instantly, otherwise you'd be lost.

    In fact, "Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil" is one of the most audacious movies I've ever watched. What finally clicked for dim ol' me was that -- where Blier is usually presenting the dreamscape of an individual -- in this film he's giving us the dreamlife of an entire culture. This is what's become of Europe's dreamscape: it's part nightmare, part reverie, part fantasy, and all mixed-up.

    By the end of of the film I was quite moved by what I was watching. Despite the film's initial choppiness, it develops its own weird kind of elegance and poise. As for the picture of Europe Blier presents ... Well, it's very similar to what Noe presents in "Irreversible." For Blier, the immigrants are everything they're made out to be: they're flotsam, they're gangsters, they're scary; but they're also beautiful, they're inspiring, they're the future.

    No other film director shifts gears as quickly as Blier can. In one scene, Grinberg is hoping to lose her virginity and winds up almost being gang-raped. But the dusky men who toy with her aren't just repulsive; they're given respect as people finding their own way too. The character Mastroianni plays represents what's become of Old Europe, and Mastroianni-the-Euro-movie-icon is the perfect actor to play him. What we quickly understand about his character is that he has abdicated; he's given up. Decay, change, the future -- all of it and more -- is simply washing over him. He can't find it in himself to offer any resistance. Europe simply can't stand up for itself any longer.

    Blier's film, like Noe's, ends with a vision of what might have been, and what once was: in this case a ravishing image of the pure Mediterranean, a timeless place of classic repose. What's become of it? And what have we done to it?

  • Gaspar Noe attacks his subject with the new, all-sensations-all-the-time language of the electronic media; Bertrand Blier uses the more orderly language of the traditional cinema, though he plays with it plenty. It's wise to be wary of artists and their politics, of course; artists are anything but trustworthy thinkers. And, come to think of it, I have no idea which political p-o-v Noe and Blier subscribe to. (My guess would be that Noe will wind up a raving rightie, and that Blier is firmly established in the leftish Paris film-world. Could be wrong!) But how interesting that two such different films present such similar pictures of Europe, a culture in the process of abandoning itself.

Hey, when do you think American filmmakers will start taking worried note of what's happening with our own borders and our own culture?

"Irreversible" can be bought (for a very good price) here and Netflixed here; "Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil" is buyable here and Netflixable here.



UPDATE: On related topics, some interesting facts, observations, and links from the gang at GNXP can be found here. Anthony Browne reports in the Times of London that a Dutch MP who has been critical of Islam has been receiving death threats.

posted by Michael at November 19, 2004


The US appears to be better situated re: immigration than France. "Americanness" is more idelogical while "frenchness" is more historical and genetic.

America sees itself as a country of immigrants. Nobody gets any points for their ancestors' coming over on the Mayflower anymore.

Immigration to the US has its challenges, but new immigrants to the US are not resentful victims of the colonial era like in France. Like the italian immigrants of the late 1800's, hispanic immigrants to the US want to work and their kids learn english and become assimilated.

Who knows what the correct level of US immigration should be, but we shouldn't panic about it. America has seen high levels of immigration before.

Part of Europe's problem is that the muslim immigrants are isolated and unassimilated. It is ridiculous that third generation immigrants become less assimilated.

Posted by: joe o on November 19, 2004 8:59 PM

What happened to Europe? Using the broadest brush the answer would be that WW I/WW II happened to Europe. Impossible to overestimate the psychological, or if you prefer, mental effect of the long drawn out 1914 - 1945 near suicide on the internal morale of Europeans, at all levels -- to this day. The effect was masked by the huge frenzied effort recquired to put the continent (or at least Western Europe) back on its feet economically in the fifteen or twenty years after the second war. But what European elites did (and what was communicated very forcefully to the general population) was to put all transcendant dreams away -- forever. After all, transcendant dreams of glory (Deutschland Uber Alles; La Gloire; The Sun Never Sets; even, Nueva Roma) are what had gotten them into the mess they had barely survived. So from now on it was to be bread. Man WOULD live by bread alone. But man CANNOT live by bread alone. And so -- the demoralization. And so -- whole peoples that will not reproduce themselves, even at replacement level.

Posted by: ricpic on November 19, 2004 9:16 PM

Did you know that Breillat's Romance is about the perfidious French and their participation in the Holocaust? Hey, at least America's doing well? Right? Right?

Posted by: greg on November 19, 2004 9:46 PM

I think you have an overdeveloped sense of what "culture" is... to the point where you're sounding a bit like Lou Dobbs, perhaps?

Curiously, you act the part of the 'nativist' in Scorsese's Gangs of New York, a movie that concerns itself with arguments about "what's happening with our own borders and our own culture," and -refreshingly- finds them wanting.

Culture isn't so pure as you make it out to be, and that you are I think says more about your own insecurity in your identity. Edward Said termed that particular malady "orientalism" - projecting your own fears and anxieties on 'the other' as if 'they' are what's wrong with the world.

Afterall, I can twist any dumb metaphor I find arbitrarily satisfying to my weltanschauung, so long as it's uncomplicated enough that I can dimiss wholesale peoples and cultures as inferior without having to accommodate or entertain any adulterating thoughts that just maybe they might bring something to the table and offer some benefit in return. They're unruly neighbors, afterall.

As far as "Know-it-all elites with grand schemes" go, check out this BusinessWeek article - Immigration: Bush's New Push.

Posted by: georgio on November 19, 2004 10:20 PM

I don't think it's going to happen, but I think it would make sense to make an EU-like consortium out of some of the old Austro-Hungarian empire: Poland, Czechoslokia, Hungary, even Austria. And then let it expand to the east.

Posted by: john massengale on November 19, 2004 10:41 PM

I like a film that stirs a little something extra up

I have nothing against films stirring shit; I just don't think Irreversible offered anything beyond shit-stirring or had much to say about anything. I certainly never read it as the Europarable you found in it...

Posted by: James Russell on November 20, 2004 3:52 AM

Living as I do in a nation that fought the Turks in 1915 (at Gallipoli where two of my grand uncles died)and having two Turkish friends and another a Turkish woman who is the god mother of one of my grandchildren, I reckon whoever wrote the above should learn a little more about how Turkey is organized politically, and specially the role of the army. In any case, Europe can hardly claim to be pure, it's population is such a mixture of genes, I'd be surprised if it knew where came from. Adding to the genes doesn't matter anymore. (And in case you think different, France as a secular state, is entitled to insist that in public schools there is no priviledging of the religious habits of any group of people, France ain't Texas).

Posted by: john dickson on November 20, 2004 4:42 AM

Living as I do in a nation that fought the Turks in 1915 (at Gallipoli where two of my grand uncles died)and having two Turkish friends and another a Turkish woman who is the god mother of one of my grandchildren, I reckon whoever wrote the above should learn a little more about how Turkey is organized politically, and specially the role of the army. In any case, Europe can hardly claim to be pure, it's population is such a mixture of genes, I'd be surprised if it knew where came from. Adding to the genes doesn't matter anymore. (And in case you think different, France as a secular state, is entitled to insist that in public schools there is no priviledging of the religious habits of any group of people, France ain't Texas).

Posted by: john dickson on November 20, 2004 4:45 AM

And when I think about it, Down with the Mediterrean, it's so self centred, the whole population should get about for once

Posted by: john dickson on November 20, 2004 4:58 AM

ricpic: This is true. To sum up the Euro skeptic viewpoint: the problem with the Nazis was not the content of their ideas but the fervent certainty with which they were believed, thus the only hope to prevent future Nazi hijinks lies in the abolition of certainty. So they did that to avoid fascism and now they find themselves defenseless against fascism.


Remember the Jack Handley thing: "I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

But, was it all just a tragic error? Remember that left-wing policies were forged when The Revolution was believed to be just around the corner. The policies and the ideas which rationalized them were expressly designed to weaken the host society, foment chaos, and then ride that wave to power. Few really believe in The Revolution anymore, but the coalition - and hence the coalition's policies - remains the same. Social chaos for its own sake, it seems.

The left has been well compared to the guy who can take apart a watch but can't put it together again.

Posted by: Brian on November 20, 2004 11:09 AM

Joe O. -- As you point out, it's interesting to think about the different roles immigration plays in Europe and the U.S. -- I thought Kramer was especially good on that. On the other hand, I've always been mystified by the contention that America is a "proposition nation." It would seem to imply that we don't have our own history and character (but we do); that we didn't have a settler population (but we did); that anyone who wants to can sign up (has never been true) -- that we're somehow not a real country, but a contractual arrangement. I dunno: doesn't jibe with what I've ever seen, experienced, felt, or learned.

Ricpic -- That's a helpful sketch, tks. Interesting the way the transnational Euro project, which seems motivated by a determination never to let "that" (20th century madness) happen again, is being pursued with such fervor, no? I mean, understandable of course. But wasn't it (in part, anyway) the overfervent pursuit of, as you say, transcendent political goals that caused all that 20th century havoc? Maybe the Euro elites can't help themselves -- maybe they just have to have some grand project, even if it's one intended to forestall the bad effects of grand projects. I wonder what it'll come to.

Greg -- That's hilarious. Breillat would probably be delighted too.

Georgio -- That's amazing. How did you know that my dick is the size of a lima bean, and that everything I've ever thought, felt or done has been nothing but an attempt to disguise that? Very perceptive of you.

John -- Your scheme seems (to me) to have a lot more going for it than the giant EU project does.

James -- Yeah, I can certainly see not liking the film, a lot of which is obviously provocation for the sake of provocation. Has there been a film outrage recently you've gotten a kick out of?

John -- Sorry, I'm not sure what your point is. FWIW, I've certainly read up a bit on Turkey, and I never said anything about anyone's "purity" or lack of it. I do take note of the fact that Turkey's 90% Muslim, that it's poorer and bigger than most European countries, that many Euro countries are already wrestling with a lot of culture clashes, that admission into the EU would give all these relatively poor Turkish Muslims the opportunity to settle where they want in the EU, and that lots of Europeans don't want Turkey folded into the EU. Seems to me like a set of facts that the EU elites might take into account.

Brian -- It's the old liberal conundrum, isn't it? I mean, how can you be liberal about everything? It's simply impossible. And if and when you do draw the line somewhere, do you lose your credentials as a liberal? Me, I'm not sure I see the problem with adopting a kind of hybrid, willing-to-move-around-some point of view, liberal when it seems to make sense and conservative when that seems to make sense. But I'm just a simple sort.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 20, 2004 11:44 AM

The daughters of the Turkish prime-minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan study in the US, because in Turkey they aren't allowed to wear their headscarves at their university. It's not just France.

In fact, it has been a clear trend that moderate Muslim countries are stricter against Islamism or the more extreme forms of belief than Wester-European countries. Mullahs that were forbidden to work in Mosques in Morocco or Tunesia because of their fundamentalist views, have easily found work in the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Posted by: ijsbrand on November 20, 2004 12:07 PM

Michael, excellent timing.
Right now, I'm finishing "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk; one of the layers in this book is how Turks deal with integration question, or rather - their self-identification: are we a Western-oriented country (not necessarily good option) or should we preserve our traditional/national ways.

John Dickson's mentioning of the role army plays in Turkey seems to be right on target - according to Pamuk. The political balance looks like this: there is no prevailing moderate democratic forces. It looks more like sharp-angled triangle: army, representing Republic (using unrestricted violence to stop dissent), political Islamists (Pamuk's term), and communist/left radicals. There are also tribal/nationalistic vectors - Kurds and Azeri, and secret service, sort of KGB turkish style, MIT, spying on everybody for their own agenda.
In the picture author paints, Islamism is the way of dissent for people who don't want to be associated with army or MIT, in absence of civilized political discourse.
Now, I'm not remotely qualified to evaluate this view, but it seems plausible to me - based on my own post-Soviet experience. There was tremendous growth of Muslim nationalism in former Soviet republics of Azerbaidjan, Turkmenia, Tataria, other Central Asian regions.

The whole painful question of How the West should deal with the East - and vice-versa - has too long history and multitude of tried-and-failed solutions to be resolved in discussion like this - or in 20 or 100 discussions.
J.Massengale, your proposition has been tried - remember Warsaw Pact (or Eastern Bloc)?
Ricpic, europeans - like the rest of the world- always had wars on their territory - and war consequences: plagues, hunger, economic disasters, and they managed to survive. Are you saying world has to have attractive ideology to revive itself? If that so, do you think it should be idea of imperial glory, to mobilise the will of the masses? Or something more pedestrian will do - say, religion, socialist ideal, or simply nationalism?

Michael, it is illogical to understand (and live by products of) the pluses of globalization and at the same time to wish we had nothing to do with troublemakers on the other end of the block. Too late for that, we are connected in too many ways.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 20, 2004 2:54 PM

My thoughts on some of this stuff lie somewhere between georgio's and michael's...

Culture isn't pure, and it is, and the only way i can think about it is to put it on some sort of a time derivative equation. Cultures change, right, they have to and they change as they are exposed to different cultures, different technologies, different economies and so on...
People start viewing cultural change as a problem when it happens too quickly, to too great a proportion of a population. (Red America anyone?)
And people respond in reasonable ways and measures to protect the stability of the lives, institutions and history that they were founded on.

It is striking a balance on allowing needed cultural change (and that exists I think) in certain venues, and protecting other parts of it.

aside: (Not an easy task, I presume... it would be interesting to compare the different tacts (sp?) different first world countries have taken, and to measure the population's response to these, Scandinavian countires are very different from old Europe, to canada, to the US...)

One thing you are not emphasizing is the role that economics plays in making some of these changes necessary. (At least Old Orthodox Economics [notice capitalization ]would say necessary). Turkey's high rates of current growth and modernization will eventually bring down their population growth rates, and that presumably EU-elites (same sorts of elites at the economist) view Turkey as necessary for the economic success of the EU, the same way that NAFTA was necessary for the US (same sorts of US-elites who pushed that one through...

Posted by: azad on November 20, 2004 3:13 PM

Oh man, I see I've hit a nerve, ahahaha.

But hey, my dick is the size of a lima bean, too! Because you had the good graces to admit as much, I feel like I can as well. It's so... liberating :D Thanks.

BTW, another film of this sort in the US is A Day Without A Mexican. Also I think it's worth noting that while it looks like the FTAA has fallen through, the EU is still negotiating free trade agreements with S. America (China is too). Meanwhile the US is also facing record sanctions from the WTO, has had to raise its debt limit by $800bn or risk default, and the dollar is tanking...

This isn't to say that the EU is much better, and I'm probably revealing too much making this into an EU-US thing, just that I think you have your blinders on pointing at the alleged hubris of EU elites, whilst ignoring(?) the fiscally liberal, socially conservative elites in power at home with their own sense of "mission" - implying that they're preferrable?

I dunno. It also seems daft buying into the notion that Europe's "soul" is somehow in peril and then at the same time belittling their "national character," if there is such a beast. If anything, isn't the idea of Europe cosmopolitanism? That hardly seems pathological. It could be worse, "where there is no vision the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18) as they say.

Besides, even if the EU acceded to Turkey's inclusion in December, it'd be about a decade before they joined anyway, plenty of time to work out differences. Also, Turkish Muslims are different from Persian Muslims are different from Malay Muslims, as ijsbrand sorta notes. Polish Catholics are different from Italian Catholics, too. And Lutherans are different from both Catholics and Muslims! So what? I mean, I agree with your point that it's worth keeping away extreme fundamentalist zealots of any character, and to roll over for them in the élan of universal friendship is naïve and ultimately treacherous, but to equate Turkey, Muslims and uncivilized is irresponsibly alarmist, not to mention defeatist and uncharitable. Angst essen Seele auf as Fassbinder had been wont to saying :D

Posted by: georgio on November 20, 2004 3:43 PM

"More than a third of Turkish women believe they deserve to be beaten if they argue with their husbands, deny them sex, neglect children or burn a meal, according to a survey reported by the Anatolia news agency yesterday.

The survey found that 39 per cent of women said their husbands were right to beat them. In rural areas, the figure rose to 57 per cent."

Even in urban areas 1/3 of women think their husband is right to beat them?!?

63% of Turks think polygamy is acceptable. 63%!!! They should do things to bring Turkey closer to them but should not let them in the EU. Turkey is still in many ways too similar to Islamic culture.

I don't think a decade is going to change these sorts of cultural attitudes. It was sheer stupidity to allow so many immigrants from one religion. Especially one that has had such a negative relationship with Europe over the years. And it is sheer stupidity to admit more thereby digging your hole even deeper.

Posted by: lindenen on November 20, 2004 4:11 PM


"Are you saying world has to have attractive ideology to revive itself?...idea of imperial glory?...or something more pedestrian...religion...socialist ideal...simply nationalism?"

In a word, yes.

The first commandment is: Thou shalt have no other God but God. In other words, thou shalt not be an idol worshipper. Whether you are a believer or not, it is clear that the rabbis understood one thing about their fellow men above all else: Man must worship -- something. But it is terribly dangerous to worship idols. Ergo the invention (if you are a non-believer) of God.

I would not lump monotheism in with the earthly ideologies (which are all forms of idol worship). But make no mistake -- men WILL worship something.

The problem with socialism (the idol of egalitarian-materialism) is that it does not sustain man's inner need. Europe (more properly, the European elites) has chosen to worship in the church of socialism. That's why it's shriveling.

Posted by: ricpic on November 21, 2004 2:14 PM

About what Ricpic said:

I've probably posted a link to this piece here before, but I found it so thought-provoking when I read it, months ago, I've tended to link to it whenever I see an online discussion of this sort:

Posted by: jimbo on November 22, 2004 2:59 PM

Has Noe actually commented in interviews about the "message" of Irreversible, or is the metaphor-for-europe stuff just your own reading? Are you saying you think Noe had this in mind, or are you just talking about what the movie made you think about, regardless of the creator's intent? In this interview Noe suggests a somewhat different thematic inspiration for the movie:

"I wanted the movie to be like a mushroom trip -- it would start with a bad trip and then become a good trip," points out Noe. "In a mushroom trip, everything is fuzzy at the beginning; it's like a nightmare, you have glimpses of things you think you see but you can not remember them. I wanted the whole movie to be like that."

Posted by: Jesse M. on November 22, 2004 10:31 PM

"(I'm surprised more gays didn't notice and protest the symbolic use Noe makes of gays in this movie; they're clearly meant to represent sterile self-centeredness. Hey, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.)"

A number of reviewers actually did comment on this. The movie suggests that the rapist himself is gay. David Edelstein (one of the better film critics IMO) remarked that "Irreversible might be the most homophobic movie ever made.".

Posted by: Jason Malloy on November 23, 2004 3:50 AM

Tatyana -- Sounds like the Pamuk is a good intro to the way Turkey works. I wonder if it's trustworthy. Any hunch about that?

Azad -- We clearly need to adapt to changing realities. What I (and apparently many others) wonder is if this admitting Turkey to the EU is a sensible way to do so. I've seen no arguments for admitting Turkey that seemed to make a lot of sense. "You're gonna admit Turkey in the hopes that that'll help smooth things over with the Islamic Middle East more generally?" (Italics meant to represent a sensible person's disbelief.) That really seems to be the only rationale (apart from zipping up Europe's birthrate) anyone's come up with. And it's a very dubious one -- a longshot at best, where the chances of lots of ethnic trouble seem guaranteed. It ain't a bet I'd take, that's for sure. Yet on the elites proceed with their plans. So I wonder where the determination to admit Turkey comes from. It seems more a matter of Euro-elites getting carried away with a pet scheme than it does anything else.

Georgio -- We should form a club! But I think you've got me a little wrong -- I'm plenty steamed at the way the US elites are carrying on too.

Lindenen -- All the more reason to import millions of 'em!

Ricpic, Jimbo -- I've wondered about the same thing. I mean, politicos and elites seem to need to do something. (I wish they wouldn't, but I'm trying to be mature about it.) Passing bills, carrying on crusades, getting their blood pressures up somehow while pretending to themselves that they're acting heroic, and selling the rest of us on the idea that it's only thanks to them that we're able to go on. Yet it seems that much of what they do is gum things up and get everyone into unwanted trouble. Is there a way to busy them with something they find sufficiently exciting, while guaranteeing that that something is relatively harmless to the rest of us? Sheesh, it's like tending to moody children, isn't it?

Jesse M. -- The Noe movie doesn't really deliver much of any kind of message. It's mainly outrage for the sake of provocation itself. (And I'd be skeptical about what any artist says about his work. Sometimes artists are interesting and helpful about their own work. But often they're more clueless about what's going on in their work than the dumbest spectator is.) But the picture of what's become of Europe that's presented by the film is pretty overwhelming. By comparison, the Blier picture is quite directly concerned (in a narrative sense) with the effects of migration-changes. Now that you raise the question, I wonder what Blier would say the message of his movie is ... But again, the picture (as opposed to whatever message) the movie presents is still very clear.

Jason -- That's interesting, tks. And thanks for the links. Still, I wonder why we haven't heard from many gays (as opposed to film critics) about "Irreversible." (They certainly weren't quiet about, say, "Basic Instinc.") By the way, I don't take the movie to be homophobic. It's outrageous, and it certainly uses gayness in a symbolic way that some gays (not all) might find offensive. But I can't imagine why that would make the film homophobic. American movies often use "the black person" symbolically (as a symbol for "the oppressed," or "the good-hearted," or "the soulful"), and is that racist? Hmm, now that you raise the question ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 23, 2004 12:03 PM

re: jimbo's link to 'christ & nothing'

isn't that what's called a "false dichotomy?" i guess not the title itself (in the sense of both christ and nothing) but in the way he presents it as either christ or nothing. i guess it depends on how broadly you define christ? ...or nothing for that matter :D

oh and snoopin' 'round first things a bit more, it strikes me as an advocacy group of the sort like the discovery institute.

like it does for philosophy what the discovery institute does for science - proselytize to those who have lost their way - jack chick for the intellectual set. my neo-leo-straussian spidey-sense is all a'tingle!

Posted by: glory on November 25, 2004 9:24 AM

fwiw, here's a FT oped from yesterday..:D

A bit too late to go cold on Turkey Published: November 26 2004 02:00 | Last updated: November 26 2004 02:00
In three weeks' time, European Union leaders must make up their minds whether Turkey can be admitted to accession negotiations that in 10 to 15 years should make it a member of their club. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president who headed the recent convention to devise a new constitution for the EU, explained in these pages yesterday why they should say No. We beg to differ.
There is a perfectly legitimate argument to be had here - and Turkey had better get used to it because this is going to be a long and rough ride. The debate should be out in the open, and it is pointless to pretend - as Mr Giscard tries to do - that the religion question is not part of it. It plainly is.
The nub of his argument, however, is that Europe has been "drawn into a simplistic choice between agreeing to negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU and closing the door in its face". A third option of "privileged partnership" would meet Turkey's expectations without jeopardising Europe's future, he maintains. Well, not really. The time for that sort of argument was many years ago. To deploy it now would be to slam the gates of Brussels in Turkey's face - after first having invited it in.
The pro-European national project shared by Turkey's people and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's army, to modernise the country while remaining faithful to its rich history, would be shattered. Turkey would be cast out into the geopolitical twilight, pushed towards regions such as the Middle East and the Caucaus that are sinking in despotism and failure. Turkey's ties with the present EU stretch back four decades to the time of De Gaulle, and decisions on its future need to be realistic.
Mr Giscard's fear that countries such as Morocco would follow Turkey's example is misleading. The EU already has a separate architecture to cement in the countries of the south and east shores of the Mediterranean. His argument that the new EU constitution cannot accommodate Turkey is disingenuous. We will know whether that constitution flies - not least in France - long before there is any question of Turkey taking its seat at the table.
It may well be that the EU and Turkey will in the end require a fall-back position. No one can predict the political climate a dozen years hence. But stating this now, near the end of a decisive chapter in a 41-year process, is not policy even if it might be prophecy.
Mr Giscard's concerns about European identity are not easily dismissed, but nor is it clear that enlargement, the EU's most successful policy, is the problem. What would be a big problem is if Europe tried to build what he calls "patriotism" in opposition to Turkey and Islam. His assertion, moreover, that Turkey shares none of Europe's heritage is strange. Unless there was no Byzantium, no eastern Roman empire. And no classics of Greek philosophy and science that, transmitted through the world of Islam, dragged Europe out of the dark ages.


Posted by: glory on November 27, 2004 2:19 PM

and here's what morgan stanely has to say :D

The ‘EU anchor’ can help to eliminate institutional inertia. The experiences of the developed countries demonstrate that institutions are products of lengthy processes involving political struggles, ideological battles, and legal reforms. Such a transformation may take a long time, and, given the nature of the evolutionary process, there is no assurance that what you get will be the best possible institutions. Indeed, Turkey’s own experience proves that individuals and organisations with bargaining power, arising from the existing institutional setting, have benefited from perpetuating the status quo and hindered institutional adjustments. Consequently, the country’s institutional framework remained illiberal and disharmonious with modern realities and requirements. For this reason, we argue that an exogenous dynamic such as the European Union could eliminate institutional inertia and promote institutional modernisation across a broad spectrum of policy domains.
The EU has revolutionised the diffusion of modern, democratic institutions. The EU provides a reasonable institutional configuration for a well-functioning market economy and represents a revolutionary approach to fostering the required structural changes and capabilities. Moreover, the adaptation to EU norms, by implementing various provisions of the acquis communautaire, reduces the otherwise high costs of learning-by-doing and reaching political compromises on path-breaking legislative reforms and policies. This is why the ‘EU anchor’ is much more effective than all other arrangements (including IMF programmes) in facilitating rapid institutional transformation. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s transition indicator confirms this ‘hothouse effect’ that is essential to cultivate democratic and market-friendly institutions. The accession candidates have had faster structural progress towards creating higher-quality institutions than transition countries without the ‘EU anchor’ and, as a result, enjoyed a substantial growth bonus over the course of the last decade.
Turkey’s institutional reconstruction is reversing decades of omnipotent state domination. Following decades of erratic and disappointing progress, we have lately witnessed an impressive pace of convergence in Turkey towards European standards. The key to the institutional paradigm shift in progress, in our view, is political consolidation after the 2002 elections that has permitted the introduction of far-reaching reforms abolishing ideological and bureaucratic dogmas. These changes, ranging from expanding civil liberties and human rights to demilitarising the political landscape, reflect a growing consensus in favour of liberal democracy and herald the end of the state-centred governing philosophy that had obstructed the country’s economic and institutional development. Although there are still shortcomings in democratic and judicial institutions, and some time has to pass in order to form a solid opinion about whether the new legislation is applied in fact as well as in statue, the process of integration with the EU has unambiguously accelerated Turkey’s evolution from a feudal, agrarian system to a democratic, liberal society.
The rise of liberal democracy is lessening the traditional Turkish dirigisme. Turkey’s economy and financial markets will benefit a great deal from comprehensive legal reforms filling an apparent gap in the institutional space and from economic measures dealing with the underlying problems. In fact, real GDP has already increased by a cumulative rate of over 25% in the last three years, while the inflation rate, measured by consumer prices, declined from 73.2% at the beginning of 2002 to less than 10% this year. In our view, the productivity revival driven by structural adjustments is behind this outstanding macroeconomic performance. Labour productivity in the manufacturing sector, for example, increased by an average of 9.5% in the last ten quarters. According to our computations, the trend growth rate of labour productivity in the business sector accelerated from an average of 2.4% in the 1990s to 6.3% in the last three years. Furthermore, thanks to economic and political stability for the first time in over a decade, the country’s total factor productivity — the best measurement of the joint effectiveness of all inputs combined in the production process — rose from 0.5% in the 1990s to 4.8% in the last three years, which has, of course, raised the ceiling of the potential growth rate (see The New Economy, August 17, 2004).


Posted by: glory on November 29, 2004 4:42 PM

While we are on the topic of EU expansion and Turkey, whom better to post a comment then someone who is already an EU citizen and has been living next to Turkey?

I'm going to be as short as possible and I am hoping that I can provide some insight on the Greek perspectives about Turkey joining the EU.

Hmmm, where to start? Well, first I would like to say that I too am in favour of Turkey joining the EU. Don't believe it you say? A Greek supporting Turkish cause? Yes, that's right. But let me explain!

The Greeks kind of view it like this. For years we have had problems with the Turks dating back to the Ottoman Empire of course and dating back as recently as the mid 1970's (please note illegal occupation of Cyprus by Turkey). Oh and yes, there is the issue of human rights violations, such as torture, intolerance of other cultures and religions (note Kurds, Christians, etc.), not to mention the fact that the Turkish government is backed and run by the very powerful Turkish military. And the list goes on and on. And yes there is great mistrust on both sides, both Greek and Turkey alike are very distrustful of each other. And it has been my experience that while Greeks and Turks can get along, we will never agree on political issues. Never. And to conclude, while Turkey may have been making improvements and are tyring to implement reform, they have to be absolutely crazy to think that all these years of corruption, etc., can be undone in just 2 yrs of implenting reforms. The Reform process is very slow and takes time. Maybe they should realize this before boasting how well they are doing. And maybe my European counterparts should site this as a concern as well.

So why does Greece back Turkey in its bid to join the EU you say? It is very simple. We believe that a more European, more civilized Turkey will benefit both Greece and Cyprus in the long run. That's it. That is why we support Turkey. We need our neighbours to join the EU, it is kind of like a safe guard for us. And that is why we support Turkey right now.

And on a last note, even though we do support Turkey for EU membership, we only support it provided that they meet all criterea (and that includes recognizing Cyprus).

Thanks for reading,

Posted by: Helen on December 7, 2004 4:16 AM


First of all, The ONLY reason the G8 are admitting immigrants is WAGE SUPRESSION! Have you ever asked yourself WHY Europe, Japan, and North America are not having children? The reason is that the cost of living and working (time) demands are so high that people can't! I live in Canada and the average family income is only $25'000 US$ Tell me, how do you afford children, let alone school debt, a car and an apartment??? Now if you had zero immigration, your population would fall, thus the supply of workers, thus the demand for workers relative demand increases, and Voila, WAGE INCREASE, and wow it's the fifty's "I can afford children" IF YOU BELEIVE IN CAPITALISM (Law's of supply and demand) you do not beleive in immigration! BUT HEY IF YOU ARE A GREEDY ELETIST, THEN FLOOD THE MARKET, INCREASE THE WAGE SUPPRESSION SO WAGE INCREASES CONTINUE TO BE ECLIPSED BY INFLATION! THE ELETE MAKE MORE MONEY b/ you make less (its basic economics supply vs. demand).

NOTE: Our GDP is being inflated by immigration, so the "our economy is strong" line doesn't work for that reason, further even if your GDP is increasing, the beeneifts of that economic growth are going straight to the elite (i.e. the wage suppression thing again)


P.P.S. So long Sashimi, so long Akido, so long hockey, so long American football, so long German language, so long Italian language, so long Japanese language, so long Scots, Irish, French, you had your day in the sun, but like the Roman Empire, your birth rates are too low and your not conquering anyone anymore! Bye bye capitalism (of course I guess you left in 89')



Posted by: Economist / Cultural Fan on December 17, 2004 11:26 AM


For those of you whom don't beleive culture should be an issue. look around and ask WHY? Why do we preserve heritiage sights, why do we have national sports, why do we have an anthem, why do we cheer for our country at the olypics, why do we have a flag, why do we have boarders, why do we have sub-cultures??? b/ WE ARE HOMOSAPIANS NOT GLOBALSAPIANS!

with all this cross cultural merging, we are losing our senses of belonging and home. Why do Italian American's first choose to visit Italy when deciding to travel to Europe, Why do many Canadian's and Australian's learn British history??? Why do Chinese polarize all over the world by creating little china towns in every country.. b/ they feel more comfortable with there own "kind" i.e. language and history.

For those of you whom think this is irrelevent b/ society changes, ask yourself why you visit Japan, London, Paris, NewYork, Calcuta??? B/ OF THE CULTURE ! diversity is an amazing thing! why is everyone in such a rush to moosh it all together... what a boring world it will be when there is a Coke in every fridge, a Macdonalds on every corner, and a Camry in every driveway and everyone speaks english.

Ironically the more we merge, the more I see macrocultures fragment and subculutralize (i.e. China Town's; Quebec City vs. Montreal Quebec Canada; Little Italy's and so on)

Posted by: Economist / Cultural Fan on December 17, 2004 4:43 PM

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