Born in 1945, from the wreckage of its decades-long civil war, our mother continent Europe is a boomer, prone as many boomers are to comforting and self-aggrandising myths as it slouches towards death. Unlike the generation which led Europe through the Cold War, which had lived through Europe’s great convulsion and understood power, the generation of politicians which led Europe through the post-Cold War decades — a type of which Angela Merkel, once lauded and now reviled, is the purest distillation — were the first to have fully internalised the continent’s post-1945 value system.

Power politics was a barbarous relic of a rejected past; the world was destined to move towards harmonious free trade, in which Europe’s hard-won moral clarity would guide lesser civilisations, still trapped in history, towards the light. Timid, comfortable, fearful of change and obsessed with petty rules and regulations, once Europe reached middle age with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was happy to observe a changing world tutting from behind its net curtains, the parish council Nimby of continents. Half museum and half retirement home, Europe grew fat and complacent as history was made elsewhere. But from a cave in the depths of Asia something stirred, which would restart history: Covid fatally weakened the boomer continent, and now something new is straining to be born.

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