Aseries of bloody conflicts swept through Western Europe between 1500 and 1650. England was plagued by various civil wars, which led to the tyrannical rule of Oliver Cromwell; France suffered thousands of massacres, the exodus of persecuted Protestants, and a regicide in 1610; the Netherlands became embroiled in the Eighty Years’ War with Spain, while conflicts in Germany culminated in the Thirty Years’ War, during which it is estimated that a third of its population died.
The continued bloodshed was the result of the overlapping, conflicting jurisdictions which had been a characteristic feature of the Middle Ages, and which had become untenable in the modern world. Kings and noblemen lived in a state of continual competition over claims to decision-making powers. Ecclesiastical and worldly rulers constantly disputed who was to have the final say.
The continued bloodshed was the result of the overlapping, conflicting jurisdictions which had been a characteristic feature of the Middle Ages, and which had become untenable in the modern world.
Significant numbers of devout Catholics questioned the authority of secular rulers. Independent cities, emancipated provinces and fiefdoms had also begun to compete with one another. Noblemen were not subject to the same rules as students, farmers or guild members. The political structure was overlapping, and many-layered. No single institution had the last word.
From Jean Bodin in France to Johannes Althusius in Germany, from Hugo de Groot in the Netherlands to Thomas Hobbes in England, thinkers in every European country came to the conclusion that the only way to put a stop to endless war was to establish centralised, territorial jurisdiction. This marked the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world.
One organisation was ultimately to be invested with the authority to maintain order in a clearly defined area. The population would be asked to pledge obedience to that power. Religious, regional or class ties were to become subordinate to the loyalty all of us had to have towards the state.
This is how peace was finally restored in Europe over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The continent flourished and the Enlightenment and democratic revolutions ensued. Wars became more rational and more limited in scope – with the exception of the wars that grew out of renewed ambitions to establish imperial rule on the continent once more, as happened under Napoleon, Wilhelm II, Mussolini and Hitler.
After the Second World War, national sovereignty was reinstated after the disastrous consequences of ambitious plans to unite Europe had, once again, become clear. Strangely enough, however, the idea that the sovereign state was no longer tenable co-existed with this realisation. An attitude that can only be described as oikophobia became a catalyst for the insidious dismantling of the state.
There is more at stake than the divide between those who love their home, their nation, their history, their community – and those who feel uncomfortable about these particularities and instinctively work towards their destruction.
Its agents were supranational institutions such as the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the World Trade Organisation and the International Court of Justice, as well as the systematic dilution of homogeneous populations by means of waves of mass immigration, open borders and multiculturalism. An international “style” of shapeless, modernistic buildings and abstract, meaningless “art” continues to destroy people’s sense of belonging, while the continent’s many old cities have lost their beauty and their ability to offer a sense of home.
My view is that all policy that is the result of the oikophobia of our elites, constitutes, ultimately, a kind of return to the Middle Ages. New overlapping jurisdictions are being created and cultivated. A new class-based society has come into being. A quasi-hereditary aristocracy has returned in the form of the cosmopolitan elites, the “highly-educated” (as they call themselves), who intermarry and operate on an international scale, and who exclude the new serfs – the “deplorables” and the migrant workers – by means of subtle style conventions and hollow pleas for “tolerance”. The imperial power that once ruled all of Europe has returned in the form of the imperial decrees issued by Brussels. Papal authority has returned via the “universal” Human Rights Court and the “universal” Criminal Court. Universal – the literal translation of “Catholic”.
My criticism of these developments extends beyond questions of taste. There is more at stake than the divide between those who love their home, their nation, their history, their community – and those who feel uncomfortable about these particularities and instinctively work towards their destruction. For the medieval order of overlapping jurisdictions and conflicting loyalties – the homeless order we are now returning to – cannot be reconciled with the democratic rule of law.
Democracy requires a sovereign parliament that decides on war and peace, expenditure and immigration. The great capitals of our European countries have lost virtually all of their decision-making powers in those crucial policy areas. Meanwhile, it is impossible for the European Parliament to be democratic, because there is no European demos.
As a result, majority decisions are not experienced as taken in the name of “us” – and are not considered legitimate. There is no European “we”, and no European public debate. No one feels connected to the weighted vote of the Polish, the Bulgarians, the Estonians, the Germans, the French, the Spaniards, etc.
Nor can the rule of law exist at a post-national or European level. The absence of a shared, national identity inescapably leads to endless confusion about how the law should be interpreted. And about which morals apply, and which cultures should take the lead. In addition, for their decisions to be conceived as authoritative, judges have to draw on a shared idea of legitimacy – and for them to be able to do so, they would have to be considered to be part of the same “community”.
The imperial power that once ruled all of Europe has returned in the form of the imperial decrees issued by Brussels.
Who will accept their decisions if that is not the case? That shared legitimacy is lacking on the continental scale. That is why the European Court of Human Rights unleashes such a storm of criticism when it ignores national preferences. It is also why we see an increasing call for sharia law courts with their own Islamic judges in the suburbs of major cities.
We have reached a decisive moment in our history. Are we going to continue along this path to a new Middle Ages? The social unrest in the southern euro countries and the tension between the cosmopolitan elites and ordinary people are set to increase. As the new class-based society takes shape, democratic rule of law will come to an end. As a result of modernism in the arts, people will continue to feel more and more uprooted as they lose their sense of connection with their surroundings. Spiritually uprooted and politically dispossessed: that is our future unless we stop the assault on the nation state.