At times like this, our first reactions are always shock, sorrow and grief. Saying that these attacks were targeted against all European people is hardly an exaggeration.
However, as a few days have passed since the events, we should ask ourselves the question: what may we have done wrong to allow this to happen?
I don’t believe the often extremist-leaning political excuses which say that we, Europeans are just targets of some completely unjustified attacks from external forces. On the other hand, I think the Fidesz government’s opinion (also voiced by many others) that these terrorists are just another bunch of intruders is false: most of the perpetrators grew up in Europe and went to European schools. As far as the Vienna case is concerned, even the perpetrator’s parents were immigrants from another European country, i.e., Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, the system somehow developed a critical error since these people abandoned all European and even universal human norms when they committed their horrendous acts.
That’s why I also reject the other dogma (typically represented by Liberals) which says that Europe needs to be even more de-ideologized and it is time to replace our values, which are rooted in our millennia-long traditions, Judeo-Christian teachings, Greek philosophy and Roman law, by a few high-sounding slogans about human rights, democracy and tolerance.
These terrorists have likely heard of all these slogans but they couldn’t care less. In fact, they turned against them in the most brutal of ways.
This happens because Europe denies its own identity, traditional values while also failing to implement the ones it is trying to follow. Europe is no longer Christian and traditional but neither is it characterized by equality. As far as human rights are concerned, Europe tends to pay a lot of lip service but doesn’t perform quite so well when it comes to action.
I fully expect to see the usual people suggesting the same high-sounding and apparently simple solutions for Europe’s problems. However, what I would really like to see is a real solution, even though it’s much harder than just trumpeting a few new political slogans.
Europe has no future unless it re-commits to its values and traditions, and stops feeling ashamed to pass them on to the next generations.
These strong values have been able to hold Europe’s large multi-ethnic empires together, and they are the only thing for us to rely on now when we are looking into how Western Europe could cope with the immigrant communities living there for several decades. If we go into self-denial, we mustn’t be surprised if others deny us, too. If we have nothing to offer against violence other than sheer violence, it will only lead to even more tension.
Strong and stable systems can never be created or sustained if they are formed against something, in other words, if they are solely based on denial rather than a strong commitment to certain values.
I do hope it’s not too late for us to realize that we cannot protect Europe without real European values. But if we fully internalize these values and hold our citizens accountable for them, no matter if they are some youngsters in the suburbs of a Western European city or leaders of a Central European government bumbling through one scandal after the other, then I am sure this continent will weather these hard times just as it has survived so many hard and challenging centuries.