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The Trouble With Being Civilized

A European fellow, I, and a couple other people were hanging around a coffee lounge.  He offered this opinion, "Canada is a more civilized country than the USA."  "Perhaps," I said, "but they are nice people anyway."  The European fellow thought I was being slightly witty, but actually, I was serious.

This memory came to mind while thinking about the needless partial-suicide of Europe.  I have never lived in or even visited Europe, so this is just speculation, of course.  It has always seemed to me that Europeans have too much trust in their bureaucratic elites -- their experts.  Europeans just need to be told that there is some new rule, and they instinctively and reflexively follow it.

The bureaucratic elites of the modern age are just the replacements of the Catholic clerisy that kept the peasants under their thumbs for over a millennium.

Perhaps they think that the bureaucratic elites are well-educated and smart.  They probably are, in a bookish and office-clerkish sort of way.  But that doesn't mean they think independently or honestly.  They are as susceptible to group-think as anybody else, and perhaps even more so.  They know what their boss thinks.  And they can't further their careers by being gadflies, troublemakers, or skeptics.

At times, it might make a society seem unified and efficient to follow the leaders with blind faith.  That only applies to the times when the elites are doing the right thing.  But what happens when they aren't?

Consider Germany just before World War II.  Did any of the bureaucratic elites ask Hitler, 'How can Germany win this war?  We have no resources.  Iron is in northern Sweden, nickel is in Finland, and oil is in Romania, just a couple hundred miles from the Russian border.  We can't even grow enough food in Germany.'

But no, the glorified office-clerks of the bureaucracy just kept shuffling the paper on their desk, efficiently and knowledgeably.  They kept their mouths shut.

World War II era mindset, and still the current mindset of civilized Europeans.