Europe Rediscovers Hobbes

John_Gray_2014English writer and philosopher John Gray has been among the most insightful liberal commentators to take seriously the threat of Islamic terrorism and he lays out the uncomfortable conclusion he has reached in his latest New Statesman column:

What we are witnessing is the rediscovery of an essential truth: our freedoms are not free-standing absolutes but fragile constructions that remain intact only under the shelter of state power. The ideal liberal order that was supposedly emerging in Europe is history. The task of defending public safety has devolved to national governments – the only institutions with the ability to protect their citizens.

In the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino Islamic terror attacks, Gray tells Statesman readers that the existence of so many failed states close to Europe means that the old assumptions guiding European immigration policy are dead.

A fatal blow has been dealt to the Schengen dream in which people are free to roam across a borderless European continent . . . To many liberals – not least Barack Obama, who has condemned any such reaction as hysterical – European leaders seem to be succumbing to xenophobia when they should be defending openness and common humanity. But it is worth considering the situation from a Hobbesian point of view.

As new, or revived, nationalist parties gain electoral success in Europe the odds of the EU dream of borderless travel are likely to unravel. Gray points out that by doing away with internal border controls, the interior nations of Europe such as France and Germany have essentially put their immigration policy under Greek control, as many of the migrants headed to those countries transited Greece and then could immediately travel further into the EU.

Gray ends with a reminder that adopting a Hobbesian view doesn’t mean guarantee success. Instead, he says:

What Hobbes can do is dispel the lazy certainties and idle hopes of the prevailing liberalism. The lesson of the Paris attacks is that peaceful coexistence is not the default condition of modern humankind. We are going to have to get used to the reality that “commodious living” does not come cheap.

avatar About Karl Filippini

Karl joined FAIR in 1998. He maintains and evaluates FAIR's website and manages E-Mail traffic. Karl offers a mixture of technical and issue related knowledge. As technology changes Karl helps FAIR remain ahead of the curve.


  1. avatar Concerned Citizen says:

    Great piece by Karl Filippini. The West has developed an anti-intellectual, dogmatic bias to its great detriment. John Gray is doing important work because yes, Western notions of liberty and democracy only take root and grow if the conditions are made right. The donor class and corporate elite clearly don’t get this fundamental truth when they take the citizens who protect their interests for granted. Government has a central role in preserving our way of life and if government won’t do the job, it’s the responsibility of citizens to change the government.

    • Hi Concerned Citizen

      I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season!

      Yes, I retired from my 33 year engineering profession. Call me paranoid, but its gotten so bad because of hatred of my profession [we don't make hardly any engineered products anymore in America]….a fixed income got me out of the political correctness game and the engineering shortage lies about the current massive domestic technical personnel GLUT.

      Now I can really go on a blog attack against the NWO like Trump….LOL….

      My net pay went up too….LOL

      • avatar Concerned Citizen says:

        Hi Softwarenginner,

        Congratulations on your deserved retirement! Happy holiday season to you, too!

        Sounds like you made the right decision. You might as well take the fixed income vs. cooling your heels in a broken system. Now you have plenty of free time for activism. I also found the corporate life a waste of my time and talents. With three of my own businesses to run and many productive projects in the works, I’ve never been happier or busier. At this rate, I may work another 50 years.

  2. avatar No Change says:

    This has nothing to do with cordless EU countries but the fanatics…..BS…the root cause is the fanatics and their beliefs and ow this is affecting unstable people to commit these horrific attacks……with.without borders it has happened….example 9/12, Oklahoma, etc…..

    • avatar No Change says:

      cordless = bordless….no differently from having guns……who pulls the trigger?…if not guns then knives……..etc

    • avatar Leland says:

      So you say the “root cause is the fanatics”. Exactly. And what faith do the fanatics follow? And was that faith traditionally a part of European culture? Or was it brought there?

  3. avatar Leland says:

    It’s not like there haven’t been plenty of warningw of this, but anyone who brought up the subject was reflexively cast as a bigot and nativist. Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam in 2004 because he had the temerity to make a film about the undeniable fact that women are second class citizens in Muslim societies. Britain now has sharia courts. Belgium is a country now in perpetual fear because of militant Islam.

    In this country, we have had this incident this week, the Fort Hood shooter in 2009, and the Boston bombers. And those were all by people who were fully integrated [supposedly] in American society. And that does not count the numerous plots stopped in the last decade. Somali cab drivers in Minnesota demanded the right to refuse service to those carrying liquor.

    Then we have the media falling all over itself to glorify “clock boy”, in spite of the fact that he invented nothing, merely taking a digital clock apart and putting in a small metal case, producing something that could easily be taken for an explosive. Never mind the fact that the father is a professional Muslim activist with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, never mind that the older sister was suspended from middle school previously for making a bomb threat, or that the father said the kid took several days to build his clock but the kid said he did it in 30 minutes the night before. But hey, “cool clock” says the White House, and everyone better fall in line and pretend he’s a victim.

    • avatar JB says:

      You forgot to mention that a 15 million dollar lawsuit was filed on behalf of clock kid. Not only should the suit be dismissed ,but clock kid and his family should be arrested for extortion and returned to the US to stand trial. I just read an article today that clock kid wants to return to the US, he liked it better here. What would you expect from a fellow Muslim (Obama) to say other than “cool clock” to clock kid? Shows what an idiot and traitor that we have for a President. Instead of POTUS it should be POS.

      • avatar Leland says:

        Hopefully the school district will not offer a settlement. They should put the whole family under oath and see if they want to commit perjury because the whole thing was obviously a set up.

    • avatar No Change says:

      don;t forget the oklahoma bombing…other homegrown terrorrists too……or you think because they r from here those were not terrorist attacks?

      • avatar No Change says:

        all of them are not justified and killed innocent people……………so far the difference is black and white…………….our way of life against theirs …..for the latest … Germany appears as everything unfolds to be eventually in trouble…………

        Leland watch this……Ia m sure you will get a kick out of this response …..

        It basically proves your point…….

        • avatar Leland says:

          You make assumptions based on nothing. I don’t excuse any attacks. But why do we allow people into the country when a certain percentage, small or not, have a propensity to attack us. Maybe you think it’s a good idea, most of us don’t. Muslims are about 1% of our population. They certainly have produced more than their fair share of attacks and plots.

          We have a lot of Canadians, Irish and Brits here. Anyone worried about terrorist attacks from them? That would be….no. Wonder why Islam is so popular in prisons? Or were you unaware of that?

          • avatar No Change says:

            like I said…It basically proves your point…………watch the video I am not denying what you said!!..BUT you contradict yourself………… say:

            “e have a lot of Canadians, Irish and Brits here. Anyone worried about terrorist attacks from them? That would be….no. Wonder why Islam is so popular in prisons? Or were you unaware of that?”

            So again you forgot the home grown terrorrists…..there is no difference the same result…..terrorism

            The means is the same and so is the end…………..hurt innocent people……….yes we have a problem with the fanatics threatening our way of life….but do not play it stupid and naive when our own do the same thing…..I have not seen you accept the fact our own have also gone bad either against our Federal gov ( Oklahoma)…the african american sisters in the 60s…lately a few…and so on…..

            I realize the danger we have and I agree what you say but do not make the mistake on saying that just muslims are the bad people when that is not true, not all are bad also peaceful people…..again the fanatics and our fanatics………that is all……chill out.

          • avatar Leland says:

            Can’t read? Where did I “contradict” myself? I said we have loads of Canadians, Irish and Brits here and they are not attacking anyone. Do you contend they are? I also said “I don’t excuse any attacks”. That would include homegrown attacks, for those who understand the English language. But there is nothing we can do about the homegrown people. They are here.

            But why do people like you insist that we, and Europe, are obliged to take in a religious group where many members of it have a propensity for violence. Just this morning there was a stabbing in London connected to Islamic terrorism. But you think we have no justification to not accept people who refuse in large numbers to fit into modern society. What’s your solution? Keep admitting more and make the problem worse?

          • avatar No Change says:

            Again you Leland are making assumptions and are in the defense, that tends to make your reasoning muddy and makes you be extremely non-logical on how you understand English……I never said we should accept all these people…..I said there is also innocent people and not all muslims are terrorists.

            Also, you said there is nothing we can do about these homegrown terrorists……really?…how about trying to stop them somehow if possible?

            I see the islamic threat and way of life….basically it has shown it will never be integrated in the Western World since it is all based on Religion………….I don’t have to explain here……

            In your comments you are unable to envision chaos in the future…… one way shape or form this has happened throughout history……….France is taking a stand…they closed 3 Mosques….about time….they found weapons and literature ……England is a time bomb and so is Germany…..SOOOOOOOOO

            I agree with you that not accepting them here, is the only way to stop future attacks that would come from them as they grow up BUT in the way innocent people get impacted….that is all I said.

            Steve Jobs, his real father an Arab, a Lebanese……………………so far thanks to him we still lead the phone cellular business….I am not saying every Arab will be Steve Jobs………………I am saying what a screwed up situation ………….and want to see your reaction.

            I also think if a muslim comes to live in a country, then they should assimilate; otherwise, they should be truthful to their beliefs and pack up and go back to where their way of life is 100%. No reason or excuse to go to countries to ruin them and change them that equates to conquering them in a passive manner through time……the reason the polish german……… history defeated the muslims for freedom…… appears they are coming back with their tentacles……….

          • avatar Leland says:

            So you thought because I said there is nothing we can do about homegrown terrorists because they are already here, you made the assumption I was saying we shouldn’t try to “stop them somehow if possible”? Please quote me saying anything remotely suggesting that. You’re hallucinating again.

          • avatar No Change says:

            so may be we are both hallucinating!!…:)

        • avatar Neerg says:

          steve jobs biological father is muslim syrian, was born in San Francisco gave up for adoption to Christian couple by his Christian mother. he was raised as Christian, identified his biological father as a mere sperm donor, did not categorized self as muslim.