Europe has surely engendered monsters. But it has, at the same time, engendered the ideas that made it possible to slay monsters. European history is a succession of paradoxes: arbitrary feudal power gave rise to democracy; ecclesiastical oppression, to freedom of conscience; national rivalries, to the dream of a supranational community; overseas conquests, to anticolonialism; and revolutionary ideologies, to the antitotalitarian movement. Europe sent armies, missionaries, and merchants to distant lands, but also invented anthropology, which is a way of seeing through others’ eyes, of standing at some distance from oneself in order to approach the stranger. The colonial adventure died of this fundamental contradiction: the subjection of continents to the laws of a mother country that at the same time taught its subjects the idea of a nation’s right to govern itself. In demanding independence, the colonies were applying to their masters the very rules that they had learned from them.
Since the time of the conquistadors, Europe has perfected the art of joining progress and cruelty. But a civilization responsible for the worst atrocities as well as the most sublime accomplishments cannot understand itself solely in terms of guilt.
Pascal Bruckner Europe’s Guilty Conscience
Self-hatred is paralyzing the Continent.