“She’s training to wear a burqa,” says my husband looking tenderly at our six-month-old daughter, who has pulled her security blanket up to her eyes. We like to joke about a future Europe, and the absurd details of a world inhabited by a generation of children born in 2010. What will life be like when the Internet has become a symbol of a bygone age, like telegrams and faxes are today, when current notions of the future will be as comical as science fiction scenarios from the era of silent film? And once you start, you cannot stop.
Try it and see how it feels! You might even say it’s an obligation. Isn’t every responsible European supposed to prepare for the future? Responsible Europeans are not primitive, nor are they fatalists who live from day to day. They have Internet access, bicycles and toilets that flush, but that is not to say that if you don’t have these things you are some kind of inferior being. Some Europeans even wear burqas, and that does not make them backward or fatalistic, but if it seems that way, perhaps that is just because we live on a continent that is not always supportive of Muslims. But if you look at the Internet, you can see that Muslims are fully integrated in the virtual world, and often more at home tthere han they are in their native countries, especially if their native country happens to be France or Germany.
Does the future of Europe belong to women?
Today, you can’t open a newspaper without coming on yet another contribution to the “debate on Muslims:” even in my native Czech Republic where the disciples of Islam are so thin on the ground you would be hard pressed to bump into one on the streets of a major city. “And what of it?” say our homegrown right-wing windbags: “All these Muslims can go to the devil!” In fact, in my country we have such a shortage of Muslims, the demagogues have been forced to project their ire into attacks on the Roma, the Vietnamese and occasionally on women.
Even the most conformist magazines, the ones with the pretty pictures and the homes and gardens features, will tell you that the future of Europe belongs to women. Read it and weep. There is nothing outlandish in this assertion and anyone who gets hot under the collar about it either has a problem with women, or they imagine that female politicians in the future Europe will all be wearing burqas — a dress code that that will present major obstacle to effective government. But all of this presupposes that there will be something left to govern. Perhaps the question of clothing will turn out to be a side issue.
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The European subspecies is slowly dying out, according to some, the blame should be laid firmly on the shoulders of emancipated women. As soon as they get educated and as soon as you give them decent financial conditions, what do these bitches do? They decide they don’t need to have so many children. Some feminists claim that men are to blame, because they invented the pill, so they could separate the pleasures of the flesh from any risk of procreation. But would a collective return to condoms reverse this trend? Not likely.
In the Czech Republic, we have a particular allergy to instructions
When I look at our daughter, with her baby’s bald head and her little blue eyes peeping out from under her security blanket, I imagine what kind of Europeans we will be in 30 or 40 years. By then, I will have joined the ranks of a vast army of exasperating pensioners — a huge mob of embittered codgers eager, like old people always are, to tell you how much better everything was when they were young. A cynical and slightly senile reader, my pockets will be filled with fourth generation electronic books that fold up like like love notes, my twelfth generation phone will be permanently on, ready to receive calls from my grandchildren. On her way to a meeting, my daughter will be one of a great mass of almost identical women coasting along a virtual motorway at 500 kilometres an hour, with her windows rolled down and her burqa floating in the breeze.
The European women of the 2040s will once again be fighting (as they have done so many times before) for their rights. Of course, all of this presupposes that Europe will in fact survive. I don’t get spooked about Europe breaking up into regions or the loss of the single currency, when I worry, I let rip with devastated cities, environmental catastrophes, nightmare epidemics, the collapse of the Internet… Once your mind has become adjusted to these type of disaster movie scenarios, the prospect of the slow extinction of the European subspecies or the emergence of a Muslim majority in Europe is not very frightening. Even the vision of a world where women are all stuck at home doesn’t really scare me that much. And the fact is, just a few small changes would be enough to banish all these grim imaginings. We only need to have a few more children, and to live a little more modestly without being wasteful.
I look at my daughter lying beside me, and it occurs to me that in a few years, she’ll be glaring at me while I tell her to do this and that. Like most of us, I find it exasperating when people order me about. And in the Czech Republic, we have a particular allergy to instructions, which comes from our experience of 40 years of communist rule. So I am not going to attempt to present myself as an engineer of the future, though I might succumb to the lure of an Internet forum or a polite seminar where we make presentations and indulge in a little innocent discussion. But that is as far as it goes. And anyway, doesn’t history show that the future is always marked by an unexpected turn of events? Perhaps we should content ourselves with that thought, if only we could truly believe it.