Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Steyn, Death, Demographics

I read this earlier in the Standard (I think) and it has since been put up at the WSJ. It's Mark Steyn on the demographics of the West. I touched on this tangentially in my post on the Children of Men and in my exchange with Island Passage about '08 prospects. Mr. Steyn starts out boldly:

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.

The unsettling thing about this article is that Mr. Steyn is not a doomsayer. He rarely makes predictions that come to naught and is very good at looking at the big picture. I read that first paragraph and the snide part of my brain said: "ooooohhhhh, oooooooo, Doom!" in a faux ghost voice straight out of Scooby Doo. And yet and yet, Europe is in upheaval, they can not sustain native numbers, is it really so improbable that such a prediction is correct?

He continues:

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism. Indeed, in its reliance on immigration to ensure its future, the European Union has adopted a 21st-century variation on the strategy of the Shakers, who were forbidden from reproducing and thus could increase their numbers only by conversion. The problem is that secondary-impulse societies mistake their weaknesses for strengths--or, at any rate, virtues--and that's why they're proving so feeble at dealing with a primal force like Islam.

Speaking of which, if we are at war--and half the American people and significantly higher percentages in Britain, Canada and Europe don't accept that proposition--than what exactly is the war about?

We know it's not really a "war on terror." Nor is it, at heart, a war against Islam, or even "radical Islam." The Muslim faith, whatever its merits for the believers, is a problematic business for the rest of us.

What is the enemy? Muliculturalism, or the cult of muliculturalism to the abandonment of our own culture; as seen by the banning of Piglet in offices in England, or a national flag in Scotland, or a newspaper testing to see if they can still run political cartoons featuring Allah. How long will gays or feminism (in any form muchless the strident, leftist womyn) or freedom of press or speech or religion last under Sharia? Such individuality, in the bounds of law, is our culture.

The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism--is collectively the real suicide bomb. Take multiculturalism. The great thing about multiculturalism is that it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures--the capital of Bhutan, the principal exports of Malawi, who cares? All it requires is feeling good about other cultures. It's fundamentally a fraud, and I would argue was subliminally accepted on that basis. Most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched native dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It's a quintessential piece of progressive humbug.

So according to Steyn, Islam and radical Islam is what is filling the void left behind because the West no longer prioritizes the "primary impulses" of national defense, faith, and reproduction. A few more excerpts. He looks at some hard numbers:

"Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans--and mostly red-state Americans.

Of the increase in global population between 1970 and 2000, the developed world accounted for under 9% of it, while the Muslim world accounted for 26%. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30% of the world's population to just over 20%, the Muslim nations increased from about 15% to 20%.

Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20%.

Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world.

Read the whole thing as they say. I think Radical Islam will burn itself out. Such an irrational and self destructing value mode can not hold the globe enthrall as much as it might like to. The questions become, how long will it take? How many people will it kill? What will be left in it's wake? Hugh Hewitt has a round up.

UPDATE: Reading through the other links I found an interesting solution proposed at Heliopause. All I have to say to it is: Huh.

UPDATE 2: Hewitt link fixed. Thanks.

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