For the past months, there have been regular marches in Dresden, and now in other parts of Germany, associated with the movement called ‘Pegida’ – roughly translated to ‘patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the Occident.’
By Liam Fitzgerald
* This article, along with the image, was originally published by Project for Democratic Union
Those joining the marches legitimize their rallies with the slogan ‘wir sind das Volk’ – ‘we are the people’ – in order to criticize the political elites in Berlin, Brussels, and elsewhere. The reasons behind joining the weekly marches may be diverse, but the main argument is that Germans, and other Europeans, are supposedly under threat of losing their identity and their livelihoods to immigration from Muslim countries and that European culture is being supplanted by that of immigrants. In general, there is a serious feeling that political elites are not addressing the everyday social and economic problems of many a citizen. The mistake made by Pegida, their supporters, and the AfD, the only political party to have backed the marches, is to equate real social inequality and long-time unemployment with immigration. In a very basic way, the people behind Pegida are instrumentalizing the fears of the multitude of their followers for their own ends: that is to attack the established political parties and mainstream political consensus by claiming that their support for an open and diverse Europe is destroying the continent’s culture and disrupting its economy.
Quite on the contrary, Europe, and especially Germany faces a very dire problem. This is an aging population. In the future, jobs will not be done, because skilled workers are rare. The social system will not be sustainable, because too few people of a working age must carry the costs of too many pensioners. Europe faces an irreversible loss of competitiveness, economic well-being, and cultural attraction if it does not manage to reverse the trend of population decreases in the next decades. The key to this is immigration and hands outstretched to those who wish to come, live, and work in Europe. The European Union was, after all, built upon the premise that open societies that welcome diversity and open borders were the only path to prosperity and peace, and this is part of the Union’s attractiveness to aspiring member states and their population. Many in Germany have realized this and across the Republic, marches demonstrating for cultural diversity and for openness and against Pegida’s narrow-mindedness have demonstrated the welcoming side of European citizens. Indeed, outside Dresden, demonstrations modeled on the example of Pegida have utterly, and satisfyingly, failed. The most notable instance of ordinary citizens saying no to Pegida’s xenophobia and inherent racism was in Cologne, where the magnificent Cathedral for once was not lit up. This symbol of Europe’s Christian heritage was not to be instrumentalized by those who, wrongly, see in themselves the saviours of that heritage.
With last week’s attack on Paris based satirical paper Charlie Hebdo in mind, it is high time that Europe wakes up to the fact that it will only survive and prosper if it is open to diversity and welcomes immigrants with open arms.
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