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2004-03-19

Is Europe dying? 

This article by Mark Steyn from the US argues it is, based mainly on the age demographics. Much fun is being had with the way this will explode the European pay-as-you-go pension systems. Actually, some probably semi-trustworthy poll recently claimed that two thirds of Austrian youths don't expect to receive a pension when they grow old.

Steyn uses Vienna to illustrate the European malaise:
Don’t get me wrong, I love Vienna. I especially like the way you can stroll down their streets and never hear any ghastly rockers and rappers caterwauling. When you go into a record store, the pop category’s a couple of bins at the back and there’s two floors of operetta. All very pleasant, though not if you’re into surfing the cutting edge of the zeitgeist.

Apart from the fact that Steyn seems to have been caught in an inner-city tourist trap on his visit, what about the Zeitgeist (if capitalization is allowed here)? It's funny that many visitors think like that about Vienna, whereas if you've grown up in the town, Vienna can at times almost feel like a model of human existence. Vienna today happens to be a mid-sized town between stagnant western Europe and emerging eastern Europe, with a lot of burdensome history, and with a fair share of intellectual excitement that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, a period more interesting than some. The town seems at times ugly for what it has been and for what it has become, but it also is deep like hell. For locals, it is not one of these cities where it's hard to get below the surface of things, rather, the problem in Vienna is how not to drown. And isn't that the face of human existence? And so, if you live in a place that is like you, it will suck you up. You will think that if you can survive Vienna, you can survive life.

Can Vienna, can Europe survive? Or rather, can it survive itself?


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