Listening to one of my favorite Euro metal groups, Sabaton. They like to do heroic songs about World War II. Their style of singing is a bit overblown, but it makes me happy that someone in Europe remembers World War II, and -- more to the point -- remembers that there was a time when Evil menaced the world, and Good stood up to it unflinchingly and fought until the Evil was defeated.
Most of Europe's forgotten this, because entirely too much of Europe was on the wrong side, and because the war itself was a culmination of bad decisions that began before even the summer days of 1914, when the greatest civilization the world had yet produced essentially tore itself to pieces for no very good reason, and then made mistake after mistake after mistake, throwing away all the chances they had in the 1920's and the 1930's to repair the damage and reverse the decline of the West. Mistakes that culimnated in the dark times of 1940-41, where for a while Britain stood Alone against the darkest and most hellish ideology that a race with a long history of producing dark and hellish ideologies had ever produced had yet conceived, taking fearful and crippling blows without complaint to buy the rest of the world the time it needed to arm against its mortal peril.
Those were heroic times, but they were also times in which the last bright flowers of the European West sacrificed themselves to ensure that the world would have any good future. When peace dawned in 1945, Old Europe was dead beyond all resurrection, its cities gutted, its populations decimated and raped, its noble traditions trampled into the dust by its own leaders, its independent future gone for ever. Europe paid for her mistakes from 1914-45 with the loss of world mastery, and in the end with the lost of her independence. Half of Europe was dominated by an ideology almost as dark as that of the Nazis, and the other half was utterly dependent for its continued liberty on the good will and charity of the United States of America.
It must have been terribly humiliating. I wonder what it would have been like to have been born in 1890, spent my young manhood in London or Paris or Berlin, confident that I was part of something great that dominated the world, and then at age 24 seen everything fall to pieces in the Great War, followed by that brief decade of hope from 1920 through 1929, and then watch everything spiral down again into an even worse hell than I'd experienced before, to end with my family and friends humiliated -- many dead or forced to do horrible and degrading things to survive -- all honor lost forever. I'd be 55 years old -- just embarking on what would normally be a distinguished old age, but knowing that everything had been ruined forever.
The best place to be would have been London, and even then I would have had to endure two periods of bombardment and slow reduction to poverty by blockade. In Paris, two episodes of horrid bleeding and four years of humiliating servitude to inferiors, followed by the rise of some of the worst in my society (the Communists) to a political influence they could have only dreamed about before the war. In Berlin, actual starvation under blockade, a decade of uneasy freedom, followed by terror under the Nazis, with another starvation-by-blockade, followed by the Russians coming through in the terrible year of 1945, inflicting horrid suffering on the civilan population.
And that of course leaves out one crucial capital -- Warsaw. Oppression by the Tsarists, the hell of the Eastern Front of the Great War, a decade of freedom, a local tyranny, occupation by the Nazis, the chaotic hell of the Rising, followed by occupation by the Soviets. If I was lucky (unlucky?) enough to be born in 1890 and survive 1945, I might die around 1955, a prematurely-ancient man of 65, despairing in the knowledge that my homeland was doomed to be enslaved forever.
Is it any wonder that Europe has become so pessimistic? That it has retreated from reality, convincing itself that extending bank loans is somehow a substitute for actual military power, so that they may tot up imaginary assets in the form of loans unlikely to ever be repaid or even maintained, and prattle to themselves that they still rule the world? That it is being flooded by smirking, malign foreign hordes who openly speak of the joys of beating and raping the natives, while the native expend all their organized efforts in suppressing -- not the invaders, but any natives who are mean-spirited enough to complain about being beaten and raped?
And yet ...
... in so much of the European music coming out now, I sense a spirit of resistance rising, an awareness of a great past, a great culture and heroic struggles, an unwillingness to go down without a fight. A spirit similar in some ways to that of Charles Martel in the 8th century, at the dawn of Europe's civilization, that now -- even in its twilight -- may make Europe a tougher nut to crack than Vladimir Putin or the near-mindless leaders of the Muslim mobs imagine.
Hitler thought he was the wave of the future, of a post-Enlightenment Europe which would sweep over the world and convert it all into his dark dream, and his dream was broken against an England that was too stubborn to admit that it had been defeated, that fought and fought and fought until the tyrant's horrified generals realized that they were burning up the margin of military superiority they needed to defeat the Soviets, until help could come from abroad and Mordor fell beneath the hammerblows of the RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF, the slow strangulation of the blockade, and the treads and wheels and boots of the avenging armies which closed on it from all sides. So did Lenin and Stalin, and their dream is now dust, living only in the mind of a capering fool temporarily occupying the White House. Even Putin has abandoned it and returned to an older Russian Imperial model.
So too the modern dreams of the tyrants may face stiffer resistance at the last than they expected, and one day the bombs will fall on Tehran and Mecca and Medina, and the screaming mindless multitude be sent back to dust before the cool technical men manning the consoles of the drones, the expert drivers and gunners in the tanks, and the modern mechanical chatter of the machine-guns.
But, first, the West will have to remember that resistance is possible.
And that's where music comes in. For our dreams are expressed in music. And the music of today is far from nihilistic.
There is still hope. Even in Europe.