"If we consent to set aside for a moment the particular case of France (and really it would be wise to do so), the conclusion becomes crystal clear: the inevitable consequence of what we call progress (at all levels, economic, political, scientific, technological) is self-destruction," writes author Michel Houellebecq in UnHerd on the various issues facing France and Western Civilization, from declining fertility rates, the rise of China, and general social malaise.

“I look on every side and all I see is darkness.”

I use that quote from Pascal (Pensées, 229) because I am not setting out to assert positive truths nor to defend opinions. I see a situation which — as Pascal writes in his next sentence — “offers nothing but cause for doubt and anxiety”.

In asking me to give an opinion on the now celebrated “Letter of the Generals,” UnHerd‘s Will Lloyd rightly notes: “What seems most extraordinary about the furore that followed is that so few people questioned the premise of the letter — that France is on the point of collapse.”

This is indeed surprising. Why France? Why France rather than any other European country when the others seem to be in a more or less similar situation and sometimes worse off?

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