In thirty years I won’t be around to care, but I can still wonder—will Paris be French?
I could as well ask if London today is a British city. The ethnic English have been a minority there since at least 2012, and one can find no reason to imagine that the trend of Londonistan will reverse.
In his disturbing book from this summer, The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray suggests moral weariness explains Europe’s quiet surrender to immigration that is changing its face, culture and character. Europe’s anchor of Christianity was slipped in the nineteenth century, its new ideologies brought mass murder and enslavement, and its philosophers have deconstructed the continent’s raison d’etre. The Europe of Locke has forgotten itself, and it resists replacement weakly.
Yet there seems to be a complacent belief that Europe will survive all this. France survived the Nazis. What are a few million unassimilated people from the Middle East and Africa?
Pew Research puts the percentage of foreign-born in France in 2016 at 12.3%, only slightly above the average among European countries. But the immigrant fertility rate is about 2.1, almost a third higher than the European-born population’s. (There may be some question of definition here: is a third-generation unassimilated Muslim in the banlieue “European-born” in any meaningful sense?) In any case, the demographic trend is projected to lift the foreign-born population by several percentage points by 2050.
If the trend persists around Paris, where the metropolitan area population is perhaps 15% Muslim, the question of how long Paris will remain a French city is not rhetorical. Not every African who turned the Avenue de Flandres into an open-air dormitory was Muslim, so the percentage of unassimilating migrants is certainly larger than 15%. (Since the topic is Paris, I note only in passing that Pew Research shows the following percentages of foreign-born populations for 2016: Sweden 18.3%, Austria 18.5%—is it a wonder that Austria sent troops to the Brenner Pass?—and Germany 15.6%. Numbers from six years ago, citing multiple sources, showed Muslim-only populations in Malmo at 20%, the Hague 14.3%, Antwerp 16.9%, Manchester 15.8%, and so on. And this was before the 2015-2016 immigrant wave.)
Douglas Murray, who says the foreign-born population in Malmo now exceeds 50%, notes the utter failure of a generation of tough-talking European politicians to turn back immigration. Even admitting that many immigrants do not want to assimilate (assimilation is a “crime against humanity,” according to Turkey’s President Erdogan), and facing up reluctantly, after decades of lies, to the scandals of FGM, grooming, rape, and terror, the political class remains the enablers of immigration that is transforming their societies. If assimilation has proved a failure across the continent, as it has, what is left? You can wonder as well about voters, who rejected Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France in favor of extending the status quo. People agree it's a problem, until someone invites them to face up to it.
It’s been more than twenty years since I was in Paris. For a while, my wife and I were regulars. It was one of a handful of places I’ve been where I wouldn’t have just as soon, at any moment, been somewhere else. Whether it was sitting on a bench above the Seine reading the IHT, or wandering dark but safe streets in the Marais peeking through fogged café windows, it was the most romantic place I’d been.
Paris celebrated itself, as Juliette Greco does here, singing “Saint-Germaine-des-Pres.”You walk one direction and there’s a violin-maker’s shop. Another and you pass Le Dôme. Here is Marie-Henri Beyle’s neighborhood. Here is where Jacques de Molay was burned alive. Here is where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller, Root, Paul, Liebling, Baldwin, Wright, Himes, Glyn, Joyce, Beckett, Nabokov, Durrell, Koestler and innumerable others great and small paused for important years of their lives. The native French were part of the scenery. They maintained the clean, well-lighted places that offered pastis and plonk. Half-assimilated Russians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles and Jews were by and large Western when they arrived. There is no reason to believe the world must maintain any European city as an adult amusement park for my pleasure. But it’s hard to think that once anything is gone it will come back.
August 29 2017
A follow-up note: BBC reported in late September 2021 that the Paris coppers had banned a performance by Congolese singer Werrason – also known as Noël Ngiama Makanda – because his pro-ruling gang political views might “ignite tensions between different political factions of the Congolese diaspora in France.” Statista says there were 64,181 Congolese living in France this summer. It isn't clear whether this includes second-gen personnes assimilées who teach at Paris Tech. A shame. Werrason looks like a rocker.