media did not talk about it, but France was recently shaken by another
polemic about the Islamic veil. A woman was caught driving while
wearing a veil almost completely hiding her face and fined – rightly
so, in my opinion – for dangerous driving. The government, who had just
lost the regional elections by the largest margin ever, escalated,
threatened to revoke the woman's husband's citizenship because because
he had several wives, then, discovering it was not legally possible
announced it would vote a law to make it so, retroactively. The whole
thing degenerated into political bickering out of which, we can be
pretty sure, nothing will come out. This polemic may sound quite
absurd, especially in a time when most governments in Europe are
struggling to avoid bankruptcy. In many way it is. It highlights,
however, an important aspect of the energy descent : migration, culture
shift, and the reaction of locals to both.
authors have predicted the energy descent will result in mass
migrations, leading to large scale population replacement. John Michael
Greer has thus stated he considered an Arab conquest of Europe as a
distinct possibility, and his e-novel Star' Reach describes the Old
World as the place “where the Arabs live now”. There is certainly an
American bias here. America certainly experienced a large scale
population replacement in the last three centuries, with natives being
progressively swamped out by immigrants from the other side of the sea.
This hasn't happened in Europe for five millenniums.
course, there has been a lot of invasions and culture shifts, but the
population has remained the same as it was during the neolithic. In the
area I live, people first spoke some kind of pre-indoeuropean language,
then shifted to Celtic, then to Latin, then to another brand of Celtic,
then to a romance local dialect, then to standard French. They will
probably shift to something else at some point of the future. Most of
them, however, directly descend from the mesolithic hunter-gatherers
who claimed this land after the end of the last ice age.
invasions which marked the end of the Western Roman Empire have had a
surprisingly small impact. Germanic warlords seized political power and
set up often short-lived kingdoms but they and their men were too few
in number to really influence the genetic make up of the population or
do more than introduce a few specialized loanwords in their language.
As a rule, immigrants, even high-status sword wielding immigrants,
quickly assimilate, not because of a moral obligation to do so but
because it is the best way to advance in society. Of course, in the
long run, it means forsaking the web of ethnic solidarity which helped
them to survive when they first arrived, but most of the time it is pa
price worth paying.
are exceptions, however. Transplanted peasant communities, settling en
masse on a relatively virgin land can resist assimilation a very long
time, even if they completely surrounded by natives. This is what
happened to the Arvanites of Greece or to the, now gone, German
speaking populations of Russia or Romania. This has, of course, little
relevance in the energy descent age.
second exception – the English – is, however, far more interesting. Far
right ideologues and anti-immigrations activists don't like to talk
about it, but the English are the one example in reasonably recent
history of an immigrant – not conqueror – group who managed to take
over their host country. Indeed, when the Roman Empire left – or was
expelled from – Britain in 410, the bulk of the population was
Christian and spoke Latin or what would become Welsh, Cornish or
Breton. Two centuries later Latin was gone as a spoken language, Celtic
tongues and Christianity were restricted to the western highlands while
the remainder of the country was held by pagan Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, a
rather unusual fate, one must say, for a former Roman land.
traditional interpretation of this rather troublesome turn of event,
based upon the contemporary but biased account of Gildas, holds that
the soft and decadent Britons were obliged to hire Saxon mercenaries to
defend themselves. Those mercenaries revolted, slaughtered the natives
and took their lands. This is a very compelling story, one which fits
very well the apocalyptic mindset so common in some sections of the
Peak Oil movement. The only problem is that it doesn't fit the facts.
begin with, many early “Anglo-Saxon” rulers wore unmistakably Celtic
names. Most of the battle they fought took place, not on the shores, as
would have been expected from invaders but on the old tribal borders.
It was on these very same tribal borders or around major cities that
their earliest settlement were first located. Moreover both British and
old English borrowed very little from each other which suggests they
had, at least at first, a reasonably equivalent status. Sub-Roman
Britons doesn't not seem to have been weak and decadent either : the
picture modern archeology reveals is one of powerful tribal militias,
fortified hilltops and hundreds of kilometers long defense dikes.
has led a new generation of searchers, such as Stuart Laycock, to
suggest another scenario : after the Romans left, the old British
tribes recovered their sovereignty and fought among themselves.
Following late Roman practice the imported Germanic mercenaries they
settled in strategic locations, not necessarily because they lacked
trained manpower, but because hired swords, not being embroiled in
local politics are generally more reliable in the short term.
end result was that the culture and language of the newcomers
prevailed, albeit not necessarily their dynasties. After all, the kings
of Wessex, who ultimately unified England had an obvious, even if not
very much publicized, Celtic ancestry.
is particularly interesting for the fate of our own society during the
energy descent is that the immigrants, despite being relatively few in
numbers, assimilated the natives rather than the other way around.
Outright military conquest certainly played a role in this process but
certainly not everywhere and certainly not in the West Country. My own
guess is that mercenaries Germanic war bands were more open than the
British aristocracy. Ambitious but low status youth, such as perhaps
Cerdic of Wessex had therefore every reason to join them, learn their
language and worship their gods – after all, if Paris has been worth a
mass, Venta Belgarum and Old Sarum may very well have been worth a
sacrifice to Woden.
result was that when rubbles stopped bouncing and warlordships
coalesced into reasonably sized kingdoms, the ruling elite from what
had been the core of Roman Britain had become pagan and Anglo-Saxon
speaking, even though a significant part of it was probably of British
such a thing happen in today's Europe ? If present conditions continue
to prevail, certainly not. There is absolutely no way an immigrant
culture, associated with poverty and marginality can win over the elite
or even the middle class. In fact, immigrants have every incentive to
abandon it, with the possible exception of religion, provided it is
practiced the European way, that is privately.
energy makes things more complex, however. As the net energy available
to society decreases, so will its capacity to support complex
hierarchies. We can count on the ruling elites to pressure everyone and
his dog so as to stay at the top, but ultimately they will fall. In the
meantime , however, it will be the lower and middle classes which will
hit the hardest. What that means for immigrants is that they will no
longer be able, except for a few lucky individuals, to advance in
society and will be permanently locked in underclass status. They will
then have no reason to abandon the very real advantages of community
solidarity for a more and more empty promise of integration.
natives may and will then join immigrant culture – or rather what it
will have become since it will quickly grow quite different of what it
was at home – for protection and some form of advancement. This process
is clearly at work in French society, even if it is marginal – racism
and scapegoating is still the most common reaction.
the crisis deepens and the middle class slips into permanent poverty,
we may have a rather interesting “culture war” between whatever emerges
from urban ghettos and a racism which in France may put on the mask of
secularism – those who read French and will have look at this
supposedly left wing blog will
understand what I mean.
some point in the process of decline, this is bound to generate a deep
fracture in European societies, fracture which may take a territorial
form, as it did in Britain, with an immigrant-based cultures prevailing
in some areas and more native ones holding on in some others. Islamic
polities may very well emerge in some French regions and large parts of
Germany may very well become Turkish-speaking after the ultimate
collapse of today's European states and of the elites which draw their
power from them.
is not necessarily a bad outcome. These futures societies and polities
can become as rich and cultured as England did despite its rather
troubled origin. The problem is that this process, probably inevitable
at this point, will meet with a lot of resistance from natives, and
more specifically from those authorities who will draw their legitimacy
from today's polities. Racism and ethnic cleansing are bound to show
their ugly head and make the unraveling of our civilization far messier
and bloodier than it needs to be.
it is the very refusal of the native majority to make place to
immigrants and to integrate a part of their culture into their own
which make this outcome all the more likely. This means, of course that
ethnic regions – the Celtic Fringe for instance, but that is only an
example – may be less vulnerable. Whatever polity emerge from them will
likely draw its legitimacy from a supposed – even if often more
fantasized than real – resistance to the state it is a part today. This
may enable them to integrate large section of immigrant culture, as a
part of a necessary culture change, without endangering themselves. An
emirate of Britanny may exist in the future and, even if I'd prefer a
Wiccan democracy, it would be as Breton as today's French region.
here, however, it is far from a forgone conclusion. In an atmosphere of
nationalist ranting and stigmatization, it seems that the likes of
Gildas will have a field day, paving the way for those of Cerdic and