A ghost of racism in Europe?

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

Rephrasing a late European philosopher, a ghost wonders about Europe, a ghost of racism. How else can those facts be interpreted:

  • Nicolas Sarkozi deports Roma indiscriminately, and his approval rating with the French public shoots up from 30 something to over 60%.
  • Thilo Sarazin publishes an anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim book, and it is a bestseller in Germany before even hitting the bookshelves. (He must be chuckling to himself for all the free advertisement he got, thanks to frantic media coverage.)
  • Geert Wilders recycles a few unimaginative islamophobic slogans of the late Dutch xenophobes, and he comes third in the national election. And his promise to join in Muslim bashing on “ground zero” only seems to push his popularity higher.
  • “Mother Reich” Barbara Rosenkranz, spouse of an effective neo-nazi, came second in Austrian elections on strikingly ultra-right rhetoric.
  • Berlusconi… well, the point is clear.

Something is profoundly wrong with the political climate across Europe. And there is no point in sacking, condemning or silencing the people who just say what the majority of others think and evidently support. They are merely messengers of the public opinion which does not want foreigners, Roma, Muslims, Africans, others (insert as appropriate) in their countries.

In 2000, Jorg Haider´s xenophobic slogans led the rest of Europe to spring up in defence of human rights, Austria even faced EU sanctions. Ten years later, much stronger-worded xenophobia, sometimes coupled with action, of the above politicians does not seem to prompt similar reaction and action. Is it fatigue? Or is it acceptance that xenophobia, far from being a marginal force, is the political mainstream, best expressing what European public support?

Perhaps, concentrating anger on groups regarded as alien provides, albeit illusionary, escape from much more complex and invincible every day issues, such as economic crises, ever increasing climate problems, and so on, and so forth. It is certainly more placable than suggesting that racism, intolerance and persecution of difference may be part of common European psyche, “European common values.”

For the sake of Europe, I would very much like to believe that one day this propensity to look for scapegoats will be overcome, and more rational and pragmatic thinking will prevail among the majority. Let´s hope this happens before the “beware of the enemy” attitude would result in yet another great human  catastrophe.