Is Mark Steyn a defeatist?

Monday, January 02, 2006
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 survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most western European countries.
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What will Europe be like at the end of this process? Who knows? On the one hand, there’s something to be said for the notion that America will find an Islamified Europe more straightforward to deal with than Monsieur Chirac, Herr Schröder, and Co. On the other hand, given Europe’s track record, getting there could be very bloody. But either way this is the real battlefield. The al Qaeda nutters can never find enough suicidal pilots to fly enough planes into enough skyscrapers to topple America. But, unlike us, the Islamists think long-term, and, given their demographic advantage in Europe and the tone of the emerging Muslim lobby groups there, much of what they’re flying planes into buildings for they’re likely to wind up with just by waiting a few more years. The skyscrapers will be theirs; why knock ’em over? - Mark Steyn, writing in The New Criterion


I take my title from the racialist or traditionalist conservative, Lawrence Auster, with whose arguments I disagree on various levels. Auster thinks the west needs to wall itself off from Islam, while I think any such measures, if ever necessary as they might become, cannot be but short-term tactics. In the long run, the proven success of the western combination of free markets, democracy, and all the spiritual or intellectual precursors for western progress over the last five hundered years, must be made available to non-western peoples, allowing them either to assimilate to western culture and the demands of global markets, or to create viable hybrids between western and non-western traditions. Only if such exchange is allowed to flourish can we have any hope of mediating future global conflicts. Many think such ideas the foolhardy product of unrealistic and vain neocons. But I think the alternatives in our nuclear-tipped world are ultimately more unrealistic if survival is our basic goal.

Nonetheless, Auster raises important questions about the propensity of supposedly conservative writers like Steyn seemingly giving up on Europe and all it means to our own North American culture.

Central to the present Steyn article is the recognition that the achilles heel of the heretofore successful western tradition (not that this infirmity is today by any means an exclusively western problem) is the present fertility decline, especially notable in Europe, a decline that does indeed put in question the future reproduction of western culture tout court. At the least, it portends a yet much hotter cultural war over the role of the welfare state and the family in western societies and their ability to maintain themselves in the face of the need for large-scale immigration to work for the child-poor westerners now accustomed to highly consuming lifestyles. And Europe has a very poor track record of assimilating or integrating immigrants, many of whom produce unemployed children who are, presumably, in need of further immigrants to do the work that allows the welfare dole to be paid. Not surprisingly, many immigrants and their children seem to have contempt for the very welfare state multiculturalism that western elites cling to as the solution to their inability to represent themselves as a working community one would want to join and defend.

In this situation, do we have a right to expect more from writers like Steyn, by way of specific ideas about how Europe can save itself from welfarism and economic and demographic decline? Is it good enough to write despairing articles saying it's time to write-off Europe? Do we not owe Europeans, not only recognition of their great problems, but also a spirit of willingness to help them save themselves, if they emerge from present crises willing to throw off the current elites and the insanity of the bureaucratic monoliths they are presently building? Finally, can we North Americans hope to maintain our culture without the trans-Atlantic ties that have always been integral to who we are?

65 comments:

terrye said...

According to the political writer Tony Blakely, Europeans may be slow but they have not lost the ability or desire to defend themselves.

Skookumchuk said...

Truepeers:

Do we not owe Europeans, not only recognition of their great problems, but also a spirit of willingness to help them save themselves, if they emerge from present crises willing to throw off the current elites and the insanity of the bureaucratic monoliths they are presently building?

Yes we do. But so long as America is as strong as it is, doing so is a tricky business. Paradoxically, the situation in Europe may have to get much worse before some there can see us as friends, as did those behind the Berlin Wall, who loved America far more than the intellectuals on the other side.

Finally, can we North Americans hope to maintain our culture without the trans-Atlantic ties that have always been integral to who we are?

Probably. We should remember that Byzantium flourished for about 1,000 years after the fall of the Western Empire. And "flourish" is the correct term. Most scholars today don't see Byzantium the way that Gibbon and others saw it - as an inward looking and ossified culture. So a European collapse in and of itself should not be an existential threat to us. There are two things to keep in mind. First, it depends on how many democracies outside of Europe we will have as strong trading partners and allies - Australia, Japan, maybe the UK, maybe one or two countries in the Middle East - and how strong these alliances will be. Second, while the europhile Canadian and US elites would likely see a European collapse as an insurmountable emotional challenge, the rest of North America - Middle America - probably would not. It would for them be an event of immense sadness and would change us in ways that we can’t imagine, but as far as our cultural and democratic survival are concerned, I think we could manage. The US, created in rebellion against part of the European tradition, could manage. Canada I think may have a tougher time.

terrye said...

That should be Blankley. I saw him on Fox.

Speaking of a Welfare state I hear there is trouble in Iraq with attempts to make people pay for gas.

Saddam subsidized it and conrolled who could own a car. Now the price of oil is up and a lot more people are drving and keeping the gas cheap is too expensive and rasing prices is causing riots.

How do you make a change like that without it hurting average people?

The Europeans have not been able to do it.

flenser said...

I'm not sure what Auster imagines Styen or anyone else can do about the immigration issue in Europe. From what I can see, we have enough trouble keeping our own house in order in that respect. But reading Auster I get the feeling he envisages the US Army throwing a protective cordon around Europe.




In the long run, the proven success of the western combination of free markets, democracy, and all the spiritual or intellectual precursors for western progress over the last five hundered years, must be made available to non-western peoples, allowing them either to assimilate to western culture and the demands of global markets, or to create viable hybrids between western and non-western traditions.

I feel that you are displaying a certain dissonance here. If Western civilization is superior, then it will win out, by definition. If it is in danger, and I think you are agreeing it is in danger, then perhaps we need to consider what is weakening it to the point that it is willing it's own dissolution at the hands of people whom most Westerners consider little more than barbarians.

It's worth considering that the problems killing the West may be tightly bound up with liberal democratic capitalism. In which case your proposed “cure” of spreading these things around the world amounts to buying time. Some discussion may be in order of what things actually led to the rise of the West, and which factors are pointing to its demise.

Let me toss out the suggestion that liberalism, democracy, and capitalism were late growths on an already flourishing civilization.



western elites cling to {welfare state multiculturalism] as the solution to their inability to represent themselves as a working community one would want to join and defend.


That is the nub of the problem, and it exists almost as much here in the US as it does in Europe. We still have a sizable number of people, raised in “working communities”, who see their way of life as worth defending. But we are close to the tipping point, where those from the non-working communities will be in the majority. These people really are, in Burke's phrase, like “the flies of the summer”, and their idea of thinking for the future is planning three months ahead. Immediate gratification is their goal; the state, they assume, will make sure the future will be golden when it arrives.

Pastorius said...

Truepeers,
I think your question of whether we owe it to Europe to recognize their difficulties and help them along is important. I think we do owe it to them, because they are our brothers. And, they should not be too heavy to have to carry for a while.

The problem of course, the reason behind all the venom being spewed is that Europe is so unwilling to admit they have a problem. In fact they say we are the ones with the problem. And they are very ungrateful for the help we gave them in WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.

But, for us to simply resent them their resentments is to lower ourselves to their level, as they cry and rant hysterically in what could be the last stages of their dementia.

Should we help them. Yes, we owe it to them?

Now, to the question of whether we need them? Once again, yes. I believe Europe provides a ground for America. They represent the beginning of the tradition upon which we are founded. I also believe Europe provides a kind of balance for the rugged individualism that is inherent in the American system.

However, let's not merely wallow in stereotypes. Truth is, Europe does not take care of all it's people in the way commonly claimed. Europe, as you acknowledge, abandons their immigrants to generational exile.

Let them eat cake, and let their doctor register a yearly stethoscope reading, does not suffice for genuine integration, assimilation, toleration, or care.

So, in other words, while America's capitalistic system may exhibit brutal elements sometimes, and while Europe may provide a balance against that, America's system of integration, assimilation, and true joy in differences also provides a balance to Europes very real xenophobia.

I guess you could say, we need each other.

And, by the way, my apologies for speaking only in terms of America. But, far be it from me to try to analyze Canada, and its relationship to Europe.

CF said...

Skook, You forgot India..I think the world will be divided into those who accept Western values of individual rights and rule of law and capitalism and those which don't.Denmark will make it. The UK may if the Labor party gets pitched and along with it all the multicultural nitwits. France will not. Belgium will not. Spain and Italy may despite a population decline. Many emigres from there to South America are returning (or their descendents are, to be more exact).And pride in their identities remains strong despite the demographic decline. Ireland will make it. Germany is over..and that is as much a side affect of the reunification as it is of Turkish and other Moslem emigration.Much of Eastern Europe--certainly Poland will make it through.

Australia will.The Netherlands is a hard case but I think it will. Switzerland will.

Demography is a big part of it, but, as Steyn notes, a sense of national identity is also critical.

Europe as those of us here from WWII knew it is over.

Pastorius said...

Terrye,
I agree with Blankley. The Europeans do still have it in them to defend themselves. However, what I fear is that they will revert to their traditional means of defense, which is usually fascistic in nature.


The price of longterm appeasement is the cost of the eventual war keeps going up and up and up.

Le Pen's increased popularity in France is evidence that this is already coming true.

truepeers said...

The US, created in rebellion against part of the European tradition, could manage. Canada I think may have a tougher time.

-Knuck, yes we are having a tough time right now with multiculti inanities (which are deeply rooted in our imperial origins which were, to some extent, in opposition to the more compact and covenantal forms of nationalism that exemplified both England and the U.S. at the time of our founding). But the amazing thing is, despite our very high levels of immigration, you look at the second generation of immigrant families, and in the large majority these kids are assimilating to Canadian norms. They talk multiculti talk, but all in the same way!

Anyway, since Canada was created in rebellion against the AMerican tradition, i hope and expect we can survive as long as does the US. It's kind of like the Germans and the Jews: the Germans remained strong and creative as long as they had the Jews... There is hope for Canada as long as we remain exposed to AMerican creativity, as we very much are...

I feel that you are displaying a certain dissonance here. If Western civilization is superior, then it will win out, by definition. If it is in danger, and I think you are agreeing it is in danger, then perhaps we need to consider what is weakening it to the point that it is willing it's own dissolution at the hands of people whom most Westerners consider little more than barbarians.

It's worth considering that the problems killing the West may be tightly bound up with liberal democratic capitalism. In which case your proposed “cure” of spreading these things around the world amounts to buying time. Some discussion may be in order of what things actually led to the rise of the West, and which factors are pointing to its demise.


-FLenser, I don't have time to do this justice now. Suffice it to say that I see liberal capitalism as producing many problems, problems that can only be mediated by the further growth of the system. If the system of liberal nations and global exchange can't grow further and overcome the many problems and resentments it daily creates, then war and chaos will follow, since no other system can conceivably feed 6.5 billion people. But I think the system can grow and renew itself. Success is the ability to overcome the downside, or negative reactions to, previous successes. We can and do live through logical contradictions, in the sense that we daily participate in and strengthen the system at the very same time we oppose aspects of it - strengthen by opposing - say by writing here, or going to church, or participating in civil society, etc.

I hope I can get back to this later tonight. Pastorius, thanks for your comment, I'll be writing you soon.

Skookumchuk said...

cf:

Skook, You forgot India..

I did leave out India. That is because India has its own problems.

How India will come to grips with Islamofascism is at least as important to us in North America as is the future of Europe. If they can pull it off, then yes - we will be that much more secure throughout this century.

Buddy Larsen said...

I think Steyn is mainly just adding to his full body of "modest proposals" for the handiwork of the western left. He's almost always comically exaggerated around a deadly serious core--hell, that's why we read him.

The right sure-enough has the pop-writers now, with the likes of Lileks and Steyn regularly producing that most difficult thing, true comedy. the oppo has fallen far, with rubber-chicken clowns like Al Franken utterly losing their laugh-making touch and desperately raising the nasty-level trying to get a reaction.

Talented and funny satirists--when they ARE talented and funny--are historically deadly to their targets--look what Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory, and Lenny Bruce did to Eisenhower Republicans. The image of dull-witted golfers who never heard of a poor person, still lingers to this day. As will this new image that is being applied to the left--with the left's full compliance, the poor dumb bastids.

CF said...

I have very high hopes for India which in the past few years has made enormous economic strides, has a very dynamic population and rapidly growing economy and has forged deeper ties with the US and Israel than ever.

Skookumchuk said...

cf:

Yes, it has. Plus their pilots kick our butts in those dogfighting wargames . . .

If India keeps going as it has, it will be a very great asset indeed.

Buddy Larsen said...

Skook, the Indians fought that wargame superbly, but the rules of engagement had our flyboys' hands tied in several critical areas. Read up on it, you'll see.

Skookumchuk said...

Buddy:

Thanks. Yup, the self-imposed radar and AMRAAM restrictions would make quite a difference.

However - I would still like 'em on our side, all things considered.

Buddy Larsen said...

Oh, you bet--without a doubt. Indian units were some of the most feared in all the allied forces, in both WWI & WWII.

Buddy Larsen said...

Especially those Sikh units. They basically rescued the Italian campaign, by infiltrating the German rear and forcing an end to the Monte Cassino stalemate.

Syl said...

Europe will not go quietly into that night. Doesn't Chirac's approval number at 1! tell us anything?

Lots of Brits are pissed too.

There's rumbling beneath the surface and it will bubble up in the coming years. Here in America we are in the process of overthrowing our elites and are farther along. Hope Europe can catch up.

It's not sharia that concerns me. IE, France has walled off its muslims and so far they don't have much opportunity to get in the halls of power. It's the squelching of the freedom to speak out that concerns me more.

What has happened in the Netherlands is far worse than the car-b-ques in France. People afraid to speak. That is truly the beginning of the end. No. It's much farther towards the end.

The next big front in this war is inside the West itself. The M.E. will be a sideshow.

BTW, another country we forgot is China. Right now this Islamic terrorism business doesnt' concern them much. They are more fearful of disruption in the M.E. that will affect their oil supplies.

But when/if they wake up I wonder what the battle will look like.

Skookumchuk said...

Truepeers:

"Is Mark Steyn a Defeatist?"

That is a tough one. As buddy says, Steyn often is "comically exaggerated around a deadly serious core" but I sense in that piece that he has simply given up on the intellectual and bureaucratic elites of Western Europe at any rate. In that, he may be correct. All they can do is sit on the lid of the cultural pressure-cooker; as Steyn says, "given Europe’s track record, getting there [to an Islamified Europe] could be very bloody". But I think he Steyn finds our civilizational hope as residing in what he sees as the more traditional values of flyover America and the Canadian West. My sense is that he wishes that some of this could rub off on Western Europe, but he can't imagine how.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

flenser has it right.

We don't know what has caused the success of Western society and it may very well be that, at its current state of development, it is ineluctably doomed. Doomed because the secular consumer society is unable to muster the will, the lifeforce, the belief system, to reproduce itself. The market says: "Make lots of money and buy lots of things." Neither of those activities leads to children; both detract from having children.

In a purely secular, market-driven society, is there any reason whatsoever not to take drugs without restraint? After all, isn't personal pleasure the ultimate goal and isn't taking drugs the ultimate in personal pleasure?

I maintain that one refrains from such behavior because one has what are essentially religious beliefs which prohibit it. A personal religious sense that it is not right. A personal religious sense that is increasingly being eroded on every side by both markets and socialist governments, both of which are hostile to religion of any sort except their own secular variant.

And the decision whether to have children is likewise intimately tied up with one's own personal religio-ethical belief system.

Buddy Larsen said...

Well, Europe has this love/hate fascination with cowboys--or should I say "The Cowboy"--and Bush has fit right into that, love him or hate him, he stands where he stands, and Europeans can find him there.

So, what does HighlyWeird do but send them "Brokeback Mountain"?

At least they all stay away from the sheep.

truepeers said...

After all, isn't personal pleasure the ultimate goal and isn't taking drugs the ultimate in personal pleasure?

Hah! Well I think the culture of pornography and/or sleeping around beats drugs in many peoples' view.

But Meaningless, you are right that the free market, in promoting consuming desires can be a very destructive thing. But, presumably, in a free world we can eventually learn this lesson and develop means of disciplining ourselves and our children. The key, I think, is to let the hard lessons of reality fall to some considerable extent and force people to discipline themselves against them. That means accepting some losses, which will be less than trying to shelter everyone in a big momma state that can never be benign as it would like to think.

It is no accident that Mormons have the highest fertility rate among Americans (or so I've read): they have a system of disciplining their members against self-consuming excesses. But I don't think we all have to become Mormons to learn the same lesson. Yet more sophisticated spirtual systems can be developed, and are in fact being developed as we speak...

Why do we spend so much time in the blogosphere? Perhaps it is a way of disciplining our passions, even as it may also be a way of indulging them in a relatively benign fashion. In any case, we are learning that reason and faith need not be in contradiction.

We need a welfare state to provide a minimal safety net to those who fail in the marketplace. But keeping it minimal is the key. We need to find ways to get people who can to work, to become more independent, to take pride in whatever jobs they can do, even if this means state involvement in creating markets for those who fail in the freer, less regulated markets. We need to avoid long-term dependencies and limit people's sense of entitlement.

And I think we are doing all these things. WE are slowly moving away from the over-blown welfare states of the sixties and seventies. We have been successful in North AMerica in getting a certain number of people off welfare, often by threatening to kick them off (even when the threat has not been entirely carried through, it can have a positive effect.) So let the hard knocks of reality fall to some extent, without killing people, and we will slowly learn to discipline ourselves in ways that are conducive to this still rather new problem of living in free market society, a problem that is really only about two hundred years old in the most advanced countries.

Anyway, I think I know what has caused the success of western society, and it is the same thing that threatens it: maximizing the freedom in our social systems. And there is no backing out of this imperative to maximize freedom if we want to survive the resentments that the free market now creates. State regulation is a recipe for disaster as "communism" proved. Centralization is only a recipe for war and economic decay.

It is an old story that successful, disciplined fathers can produce dissolute sons. But the more we embrace the contradictions of freedom, the better off future generations will be. Some of them will always get burned, as have I. But I think there need be relatively fewer and less severe casualties than were suffered in the twentieth century as we become more familiar with the lies and heresies common to people struggling with the resentments and consuming freedoms that market society forever produces.

Some people are presumably physiologically inclined to things like drug addiction. But dependence also has a significant spiritual component. ANd we are becoming more sophisticated in our understanding of this. For example, there was a time before the relatively successful formula of AA was discovered. ALcoholism is less prevalent today, than a hundred years ago, for a number of reasons, and when it does happen we have more tools to fight it. We can get smarter in service to our freedom. THere is hope.

truepeers said...

But, for us to simply resent them their resentments is to lower ourselves to their level, as they cry and rant hysterically in what could be the last stages of their dementia.

Should we help them. Yes, we owe it to them


-the words of a spiritually disciplined man, THank-you, P.

So, in other words, while America's capitalistic system may exhibit brutal elements sometimes, and while Europe may provide a balance against that, America's system of integration, assimilation, and true joy in differences also provides a balance to Europes very real xenophobia.

I guess you could say, we need each other.


-i think this is exactly right.

truepeers said...

Demography is a big part of it, but, as Steyn notes, a sense of national identity is also critical.

-yes, this is a key insight. And I think history would suggest that a sense of national identity can be (re)constructed relatively quickly, when the need and desire is present. This means i think even the French can survive, if they decide they want to.

truepeers said...

It's not sharia that concerns me. IE, France has walled off its muslims and so far they don't have much opportunity to get in the halls of power. It's the squelching of the freedom to speak out that concerns me more.

-Yes, I agree with you Syl, that all Europe won't go quietly, but as you suggest the restrictions on free speech there are frightening and portend civil war. It is utter idiocy to think that restricting free speech helps limit violence, quite the opposite in the long run. The security of Muslims in Europe requires an active and critical engagement with Islam, even as we may resent having to take the time and effort to do so.

Not everyone will see it like I do however. What I think may well happen is that a lot of resentful westerners may start converting to Islam, as the decline of the Marxoid legacy becomes ever more apparent. And then the question of Sharia law may become more central.

Syl said...

Good grief. I think you are really getting carried away here with the binary thinking.

Religious people = good = make babies.

Secular people = bad = only think of sex and drugs and partying.

Most of my secular friends have at least two kids. They don't do group sex. They don't do drugs. They work just like everybody else.

Oh, it's satisfying to wax rhetorical about the ills of the world but methinks the painting brush is a bit too wide.

Why don't you blame it all on the Jooooos. It would make about as much sense.

I think a lot of the demographic problem is due to the fact so many women work. Now go and wax eloquent on why woman's place should be in the home, why don't you.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

What I think may well happen is that a lot of resentful westerners may start converting to Islam, as the decline of the Marxoid legacy becomes ever more apparent.

I've been thinking this for some time. Nature abhors a religious vacuum, and as Marx and Russell and the other utopians fail to deliver the spiritual hole must be filled. What better to fill the gap than a vibrant and demanding submission?

terrye said...

Where do we think Europe is going to go? The way of Atlantis?

They suruvived two world wars in one century, I don't think they are just going to roll over now.

In fact I would say that once they get their back up they can still be dangerous poeple.

Think of ancient Greece, it is gone but Greece remains. Things change..but that does not have to mean THE END.

As to having children faith does seem to matter. Some people seem to think the only people having children are on welfare or something, not so. I know middle class women having babies...they are Christians. They have faith in the word of God and so they have faith in the future.

That might seem silly to the rest of us but these people are not stupid or illiterate, in fact many of them are educated..but somehow they have not lost faith.

But I know other young women who see children as an expense and a hindrance to them financially and so they have little desire to have families.

I take care of old people, trust me they will regret that decision someday.

terrye said...

Syl:

One of the few real regrets of this old lady's life is that I did not have children.

I think good people who are secular have kids and love them.

But I also think that religious people have more faith in the future and so they tend to feel more comfortable having large families.

Once upon a time people had children because they worked and helped on the farm and they needed as many hands as they could get. Now they require day care if their mothers work and most of the time they do.

I read that even in the thrid world women stopped having as many children once they saw TV. Because on TV they saw women in the West living well with only one or two children and so they began to try to control their own birth control.

But there is a problem in Europe with the demographics. Secular women with careers are not as interested in having children as they once were.

Japan is also seeing a decline in birth rate.

flenser said...

Returning to the questions of demography and immigration, it seems clear, at least to me, that these are tied together.

Up until very recently the questions of marriage and children were largely economic ones. The family unit was the principle bulwark against poverty. People had large families with the understanding that their children would take care of them in their old age.

People still have that expectation, in a sense, but its premises have been damaged by the growth of Social Security and old age pensions in general. That is, rather than expect their own children to provide for them in their old age, people now assume that the current crop of children as a group will take on that responsibility.

It’s a variation on what is known as the commons problem in economics, where everyone expects to be able to use a certain resource as a right, while contribution into that resource is voluntary. In this case, why should the typical young couple bother with children? If you take the long term economic issues out of the picture then there will always be large numbers of people who will make the rational calculation that having children is more trouble than it is worth. Why not spend that money on trips to Aspen or Hawaii instead? Sure, children are necessary, but let other people produce them. They get to support you whether they are your children or not.

This attitude, when it becomes widespread and is in place for a generation or two, produces the demographic problems afflicting the West. The common solution, in the US and in Europe, is to import people to make up the shortfall. There are severe drawbacks to this of course, but only from certain perspectives. If you are willing to view life solely from an economic perspective then the whole setup makes a certain twisted sense. But it’s not sustainable in the long run. Truepeers solution of exporting Western ways around the world cannot work, because once the whole world has lowered demographics the system must crash, mathematically and economically speaking.

And that ignores the all the non-economic problems with the current immigration/demographic mess. I think that these other problems are many and severe.

Buddy Larsen said...

Depopulation has strange effects--look at Europe's Great Plague--a third died, and suddenly labor was much more valuable, and real-estate much less. New talents were able to emerge, common folk rose into the arts and sciences, and gave us the Renaissance.

David Thomson said...

“It is utter idiocy to think that restricting free speech helps limit violence, quite the opposite in the long run.”

I have long championed America’s First Amendment rights. Still, it is unlawful to advocate violence, or deceitfully yelling fire in a crowded theater.

truepeers said...

Syl, I hope i don't have a tendency to think religious people are good, secular bad. I'm a very secular person, not that being so is anyway incompatible with the spiritual (or with much about Judeo-Christian religion which is itself a secularizing force in the ways it assimilates man and god) though I certainly question some religious practices and secular ideologies.

If my essential point is hidden in my usual sea of words, it comes down to this: reason and faith should not be thought at odds; the more we have of reason and freedom, the more we need a renewed and strengthened faith. And we must each find this in our own ways.

As for binary thinking, we can never escape from it and shouldn’t try. The postmoderns say they can, in a false gesture of liberation, but in fact they just deny their reliance on the biggest and most delusive, most demonizing, binary of all, that which purportedly distinguishes the oppressive or hegemonic patriarchs from all their victims whom. The postmoderns are supposedly helping the oppressed overcome binaries, while really making them more blindly dependent on them. In contrast, the idea behind “truepeers” is that we have to represent ourselves against another. We shouldn’t deny this, but should try to do it responsibly, as both the friends and rivals we may become with every word.

My idea is to strive to respect the other as my other, and not to try to make her into a problem, an objective, to be overcome in some hopeless attempt at going beyond binaries. This is just a way of saying i don't pretend to have all the solutions to our problems, but we should not shy away from talking about them. Yes the demographic problem is related to women's work; and I don't think the only place for women is in the home, but it is a place I value nonetheless. I tend to believe those women who say that feminism has misguided in various ways, and that fulfillment and freedom is maximized by recognizing certain limits to freedom.

I don't believe that those who are most vociferous in defending women's freedoms are generally women's best defenders or liberators. While my core faith is the need to maximize freedoms, including freedom for women, I think there is much in the so-called patriarchal religious traditions of the west that is conducive to this liberation (partly because I see patriarchy as being more about the control of young men, than of women). When I hear many a feminist decry the patriarchy I often think she is denying the basis of her own freedom, and of the freedom of western culture in general. That's why I rant against the secular left.

Anyway, the very last thing I want to do is point the finger at some scapegoat, like the sexual revolution. Everything I do is a struggle to get beyond that way of thinking, scapegoating. Instead, paradox is my thing: the very freedom I champion - including sexual freedoms - can be both a historically necessary liberating force and a route to self-destruction, and both at the very same time. That's why we can talk about existential matters until we're blue in the face. They're inherently and inescapably paradoxical. Every freedom risks creating a new imbalance, between our desires to consume and need to remain productive. I have suffered my fair share from such an imbalance and don't pretend to be any kind of paragon. You can be sure that my words and my life are often not in sync, but that's not hypocrisy, it's just honest struggle.

As for religious groups like the Mormons... If I tend to laud them it is because I look at their success both in the marketplace and the baby front, and acknowledge, with human interest, that certain "irrational" disciplines help maintain productivity in face of the market's temptations. I respect that, but I don't want to become a Mormon. I need certain freedoms. So, I think everyone has to find their own way to balance consumption and productivity. There are many freedoms that people with a certain education, wealth, or position, can enjoy relatively safely and with various social benefits resulting from that enjoyment, freedoms that are at the same time likely more destructive for people in less privileged circumstances. Sexual freedoms, for example. Drugs, for another. SO to see problems with certain freedoms is not to champion or decry them outright.

truepeers said...

Truepeers solution of exporting Western ways around the world cannot work, because once the whole world has lowered demographics the system must crash, mathematically and economically speaking.

- well I'm not talking about championing everything about the west. How do you know I'm not just saying, let's export the Mormons, and such like, around the world?

But seriously, what i'm talking about is the need to maximize people's freedoms in ways that are not self-destructive. That's a problem with no certain solution, but it's not hopeless. I don't think that freedom must necessarily go in hand with decline in fertility and productivity. If it must, then the situation is hopeless. And what alternative can you offer to feed the world?

With worldwide (not just western) low fertility today, with women's desires for certain freedoms and the need to spend long years in developing the human capital necessary to getting a decent job, it seems clear to me that there is going to have to develop some new kind of compact between the state and the family. What shape that will take I have yet little idea. Maybe families will again become more specialized in certain areas of production, doing their part to train their children for future work. Maybe the state will do more to provide economic resources to families with children.

In any case, it is wrong to think that the system must continue to grow as it has to date. The essential point in defense of freedom is that the systems that promote freedom can be self-correcting, open to feedback, open to reality.

terrye said...

flenser:

Not everybody has children. And I have never been to NYC or LA much less Hawaii.

And people are living a lot longer than they did before there was social security.

We can not even reform the system without a public outcry, so just try getting rid of it.

And if we are going to get rid of social security how about public education too?

After all if your kids should take care of you then you can educate your own kids. Sounds fair.

flenser said...

Truepeers

From what I know of the Mormons, they’ll be happy to take you up on that! It would be interesting to be able to peek a thousand years into the future and see which which religions have waxed and which have waned.

I don’t dispute that people have certain desires for certain “freedoms”. I’m not one who sees economic efficiency as the guiding light for all human activity; in fact the opposite is true. But I also realize that at the end of the day, the numbers have to add up and the books have to balance. And the current assumptions underlying the Western world’s retirement plans are simply garbage. It’s not a matter of when the piper must be paid, but of when. We can already see GM, the world’s largest car maker, on the verge of bankruptcy due to its pension liabilities. Countries are not immune to basic arithmetic, whatever the left may think.

The articles you linked to spoke specifically to demographic issues, but these can be expressed equally well in dollars and cents. The countries of Western Europe have bills coming due in the next forty years which they have no way of paying. The US is in only slightly better shape. Regardless of what terrye thinks, fairness has nothing to do with it.

One pro-immigration assumption is that the various non-Western immigrants will be willing to contribute taxes to pay for the retirement of the Westerners. This strikes me as an exceedingly naive assumption. It is possible that a “majority-minority” Congress in 2050 will cheerfully spend 80% of the Federal budget on Medicare and Social Security for a bunch of dumb white people, but I would not bet on it.


Freedoms have risks associated with them. If abused in certain ways they can bring an entire civilization to ruin. Let me throw your challenge back to you; what do you propose be done to arrest the demographic suicide of the West? Are you against abolishing the system of government “guaranteed” retirement which is at the heart of the matter? If not what is your solution?

Note that this is a separate question from the equally important one, of how we start creating Westerners who value their own civilization. But one thing at a time, lets worry about creating them first.

truepeers said...

Let me throw your challenge back to you; what do you propose be done to arrest the demographic suicide of the West? Are you against abolishing the system of government “guaranteed” retirement which is at the heart of the matter? If not what is your solution?

Note that this is a separate question from the equally important one, of how we start creating Westerners who value their own civilization. But one thing at a time, lets worry about creating them first.


-well I'm not so sure the retirement system is at the heart of the demographic decline. Yes many of us no longer think we need kids to take care of us in old age, but aren't there other issues having to do with what we think is a quality life that are involved here? Like certain romantic ideas about freedom whose lies we only learn about around the time we're getting a little too old for childrearing?

Anyway, I don't think governments can impose any single solution re social security and retirement financing. If the systems can no longer be financed, they will have to be tightened at both ends, postponing retirement age and decreasing benefits, forcing people to become more prudent in their long-term planning if they want to retire early with lots of money. But this just reminds us that some people are too busy making money to have children, another source of hte problem. I also think making people more responsible for their own social insurance plans/investments would be a good thing, though I don't know what's the best way to get there from the present system.

Finally, being spiritually prepared to die when we are called, and not demand every expensive drug, every possible therapy, every comfort, probably will help one prepare for old age. BUt who am I yet to talk about that?

Syl said...

Well, to get from here to there, and the consensus seeming to be it's the ones who decide to make money instead of have children who are to blame, I think means testing would do it.

And oh what a can of worms that opens! But what the hey. I don't see any other way to effect a transition from the current system to a 'be responsible for yourself' one.

As for the demographic issue as a whole projected into the future, it seems to be one of those complex systems. So many factors. And, in all truthfulness, it wouldn't be so much of a problem now if the immigrants to some countries weren't majority muslim and difficult to assimilate.

No matter what the alarmists in America are saying, the immigrants, illegal and not, are majorly majorly majorly benign.

(And, quite frankly, after the revelation of the NSA stuff, I can see why Bush hasn't seemed all that concerned about the borders. Hasn't anyone else realized that and wondered why?)

I think, in the long run, self-correction of the demographics would kick in around the globe. The transition period will be hard but it won't affect everyone everywhere at the same time with the same vehement effect.

And, who knows, perhaps even the concept of family and child-rearing will change over millenia. From tribal to family to individual and perhaps child rearing itself would become the responsibility of the community, back to tribal. We have no way of knowing.

Buddy Larsen said...

It takes a kid to raze a village.

Syl said...

truepeers

Finally, being spiritually prepared to die when we are called, and not demand every expensive drug, every possible therapy, every comfort, probably will help one prepare for old age. BUt who am I yet to talk about that?

Ah. I see you're not a member of the culture of life group. This all sounds rather Leftish. On one side, someone is spiritually 'ready' thus can die a slow agonizing death without aid of painkillers. On the other side one is depressed or in pain and should be allowed assisted suicide.

The only difference between the two positions is that one dies alone and the other has a friend help.

Some difference.

On the other hand, the more people avail themselves of drugs, therapy, and intensive measures, the cheaper they will become.

Yesterday's hospitalization for dialysis is today's two-hours twice a month as an outpatient.

One can still be 'spiritually ready to die' and still have painkillers you know.

Buddy Larsen said...

Painkiller use is getting more enlightened but not long ago was often purely tragic--so many terminal patients given not enough, on the grounds they were addictive. I've seen it happen, back in the 70s, with an old relative. I was too young to assert myself then; now I'd have that doc up against the wall with his feet off the floor.

truepeers said...

Come on Syl, that's not what I meant. The question was can we afford the present system of retirement. I certainly don't mean to deny people basic care and certainly not painkillers. And I am outraged by anyone who thinks there is ever any basis to actively terminate a life. But this is not to advocate doing everything that is technologically possible to prolong one's life. At some point we have to decide if we want or are going to be able to pay for every new therapy that comes on line.

I doubt I'll be able to afford all that is on offer when I'm old and I don't expect the taxpayers to pick up every tab for me. If choices have to be made by the medical providers when it comes to expensive therapies, and they do, i favor helping the young. And instead of living in anxiety about that, I'd rather accept some limits in my expectations. The doctors can't save our souls and it's up to us to what extent they are allowed to separate body and soul. You can lose your soul to the idea that your body's a machine and there's a technological fix for every ailment. There's a culture of life in this way of thinking too. Embracing life means being spiritually prepared to face its limits. I'm not well prepared yet, but maybe we can help each other a bit?

Eric Blair said...

Look people, you can't predict the future. 20 years ago, did any of you think the world would look even remotely like it does today?

No. You didn't.

The current 'baby boomer' issue with be overwith one way or another by 2040 anyway. (maybe by 2030).

I don't really see the current Europeans going down the tubes just yet. Remember, Europe thought up the Western Way of War. Barely blinked at Genocide in WWII, and even look at Bosnia.

Do you really think a bunch of North African immigrants are going to overthrow the place? Not hardly.

It is entirely possible that Europe will be come a bit of a backwater, but probably not, because those countries are going to continue to be technologically advanced, educated and wealthy, as we understand those terms now.

So there's less people. Big deal. 30 years ago, Soylent Green was going to be the world's fate.

Steyn is close to jumping the shark.

Buddy Larsen said...

Eric, I thought we were just discussing which way the tides are running--not a tsunami roaring down on us--
\;-)

Buddy Larsen said...

many issues will be moot by 2040, but--well, would you feel better about holding your hand over a fire if you know it's only for a few minutes or so?

Eric Blair said...

Ok, but it always seems to me that people are couching this subject in apocalyptic terms/tone/language, etc...

And one has a choice generally about hold one's hands over a fire. I don't think we have much of a choice about getting old. (At least not yet).

Buddy Larsen said...

Yeh--the only choice we've got is how we want to feel about it--but, that's a pretty important choice.

Buddy Larsen said...

http://www.nationalreview.com/books/hanson200505200837.asp

VDH comments on cultural suicide--

Buddy Larsen said...

LINK

Jamie Irons said...

Syl,

You wrote: Most of my secular friends have at least two kids. They don't do group sex. They don't do drugs. They work just like everybody else....

which prompts me to implore you to "teach me the ways of the secular flesh!"

;-)

(A gold star if you know the origin of that remark.)

Jamie Irons

truepeers said...

Eric Gans has just put out a Chronicle on secularism, demography, and Mark Steyn

Alexandra said...

All Things Beautiful TrackBack The Constitution Is Not A Suicide Pact

Jamie Irons said...

Alexandra,

I just read your blog, for the first time, and with great interest.

Jamie Irons

Buddy Larsen said...

sychronicity--Arik Sharon is at death's door, I just saw @ Roger Simon's (and am hearing on tv now), where I posted Alexandra's gorgeous picture of death, in regards to the timing of old Ajax being struck down. Ajax being a name hung on Mr. Sharon by one VDHanson, whose name had come up just earler.

Benyamin Netanyahu is the next Ajax--Israel has her supply of these men.

truepeers said...

BTW, that Gans article refers, but does not link to to this one by Steyn, another classic:

And you can’t help noticing that since abandoning their faith in the unseen world Europe seems also to have lost faith in the seen one. Consider this poll taken for the first anniversary of 9/11: 61 per cent of Americans said they were optimistic about the future, as opposed to 43 per cent of Canadians, 42 per cent of Britons, 29 per cent of the French, 23 per cent of Russians and 15 per cent of Germans. Three years on, I’ll bet those European numbers have sunk even lower. The Krauts are so slumped in despond that they’re running some Teutonic feelgood marketing campaign in which old people are posed against pastoral vistas, fetching gays mooch around the Holocaust memorial, Katarina Witt stands in front of some photogenic moppets, etc., and they all point their fingers at the camera and shout ‘Du bist Deutschland!’ — ‘You are Germany!’ — which is meant somehow to pep up glum Hun couch potatoes.

Still, the question remains, is there anything we can do to help save them and make Munich respectable again?

truepeers said...

Wow, that is quite the picture at Alexandra's. All things Beautiful indeed...

Buddy, the thing about a Jewish state is that it is perhaps the last place to fall for the myth that any man is irreplaceable. But I just heard the news; how bad a shape is he in?

Buddy Larsen said...

'peers, last word is, he may not regain consciousness, ever.

Buddy Larsen said...

"Still, the question remains, is there anything we can do to help save them and make Munich respectable again?"

Well, we could remind them of all their great accomplishments in the creation of western culture--except that most of those accomplishments were the work of their Jews, which creates a cognitive problem for a public relations campaign.

Buddy Larsen said...

That was cruel and unproductive. forget the second half of that post.

Peter UK said...

Shakespeare was Jewish? Then why didn't he make the movie?

Buddy Larsen said...

Shakespeare was German? Then why didn't he write from Paris?

truepeers said...

Well not all Jews. But sometimes you get to thinking of old glory and you just get more depressed that you Kant get Bach in the swing.

But someone can do better dan dat.

Peter UK said...

Easy Buddy,
English language stuff plays better in London.

Buddy Larsen said...

Did you know, wrt the Bard's April 23 birthdate, that then, the birthdate was the official registration date--the third day after birth (because that was the day the newborn escaped the huge mortality rate and could be 'presented')? Meaning that Will and Adolf H. were both April 20 (along with, er, *me*, which is why I know this arcana).

Buddy Larsen said...

And Perry Como. Now, *there's* proof of astrology--Perry Como and Adolf Hitler.

Buddy Larsen said...

geez, my boys won the game...national champs...un-bee-leevable-----