By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 04, 2006
Since the French riots by Muslim youth last fall, several articles have been published that point to the problem of European demographics--a problem that will not be long in waiting in the United States too. In theory, the issue is uncomplicated: western societies as a group are becoming de-populated, and Muslim immigrants, who have been brought in to close the economic gap created by declining European numbers, have high birthrates.
Joseph Capizzi, at the Culture of Life Foundation, observes:
A 2004 RAND report, "Low Fertility and Population Ageing: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options," commissioned for the European Commission, highlights how unstable are societies with declining populations. Demographic trends notoriously resist prediction; but the RAND report warns of damaging consequences for countries unable to replace themselves by birth. Among such consequences are declining productivity, overburdened social systems, and, diminished social cohesion (sound familiar?).
The cultural momentum points to an ugly scenario not far down the road, and the choices are between bad, and worse, as Mark Steyn has been noting for some time now.
If you can't bear to pull open the curtains, chances are you're going to lose. When it's a bet between reality and delusion, bet on reality. What does the European political class really know of today's challenges? We mock the Islamists for wanting to turn the clock back to the eighth century. But, if it's a choice between eighth-century reality or 21st-century fantasy, it's not such an easy call.
Steyn is on the march again in today's Wall Street Journal:
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.
One obstacle to doing that is that, in the typical election campaign in your advanced industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the West are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society--government health care, government day care (which Canada's thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain's just introduced). We've prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity--"Go forth and multiply," because if you don't you won't be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare.
The distinction between the primary and secondary impulse was laid out in another form by Paul VI nearly 40 years ago, long before the current demographic picture took form. Our current predicament was foreseen by the Church, not in the particular Islamist form, but in the strong cautions against the temptations of the secondary impulse:
For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.
Educating the people in the manner proposed by Paul VI has not been the bishops' strong point of late. They have collectively on many occasions pointed to the evil of abortion, but as a group, they have been struck with elective mutism on the question of fertility and faithfulness to the moral law. The USCCB has been almost entirely taken up with the issues of the secondary impulse, such as cradle-to-grave welfare.
In an era of prosperity, where the secondary impulses easily overwhelm the mundane exercise of the moral law, a public and consistent stand by Catholics against the Pill would have taken real courage, to face down the humiliations by the secular culture. Now that the consequences of sexual vice are becoming demographically evident in Europe, and seem just around the corner in the United States, it's still not clear that an American bishop will face up to the fear of humiliation by his own fellow bishops, and be the first to encourage his brother prelates to pull back the curtain and concede that the most widely prescribed behavior modifying drug of our time, and used by over half of married Catholics, also doubles as a weapon of mass destruction.
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