Nationalist Entitlement

A headline at Breitbart this week says, “Danes Should Not Become The Minority In Denmark.” A resolution just passed in their parliament to that effect. The article contains some predictably anti-immigrant sentiment.

So I looked up the birth rate in Denmark. It’s 1.7. Remember, 2.1 is considered steady, to keep the next generation the same size as the current population. Denmark has been below 2.1 since 1968. That’s nearly half a century.

I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to preserve “their” people–though to make it an issue of “us vs. them” is needlessly odious–since the loss of any ethnicity is tragic, but it bugs me when people say they want to preserve their culture…without ever doing what’s necessary to save that culture.

Nobody has a right to automatic cultural conservation. There’s hard work involved, and history teaches us exactly what that hard work is. It starts with creating a next generation. You can’t transmit your culture to children you didn’t have.

So don’t be surprised when others come in and that culture changes. Nature abhors a vacuum. Neither Denmark nor any society in a similar situation has a right to complain.

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The Tragedy of Jack

I just read a scary social criticism essay that discussed, among many other things, the self-destruction of feminism, and included this great bit:

But when that ends, and reality comes crashing down, it’s sad how quickly they scramble to validate the feminist lives they’ve led by simply telling themselves more lies. 40 is the new 20! Test-tube babies! MILF’s and Cougars! When, frankly, it just means nobody’s visiting you in a nursing home in the end.

And when I read that, I remembered Jack. That’s not his real name; I forgot his real name.

My dad died last July, and in the two months leading up to it, he made the rounds of a few hospital rooms and convalescent homes. In one, his bed was in a room with Jack, their areas separated by a curtain. Whenever I went to visit Dad, Jack would invariably interject himself into the visit, speaking up through the curtain, or even wheeling himself around it if he could get into his wheelchair.

He wasn’t a bad guy, but his desperate loneliness made him aggressive. Sometimes my dad would yell at him for horning in on his time with his family. He openly longed for attention. I tried to talk to him for a bit on each visit, though he clearly wanted more.

Once, when he’d asked if I had kids, he seemed joyously surprised at the total. I asked the same of him, and he scowled.

“No, never wanted them. Never liked them.”

The irony was sickening. Here was an old man who had chosen not to have any descendants, and now he was desperately lonely as he died.

As birth rates continue to drop, as our civilizational death spiral swings on, this scenario will become more common. In fact, it will explode exponentially. Soon, our nursing homes will be a bursting industry filled will dying invalids who never wanted to make a family, and who may bemoan their loneliness and dependence on strangers.

Contrast this with my wife’s grandfather, who had an army of three generations ready to care for him after a stroke.

If you’re a young person looking for a stable career, look into elder care. The 21st century will give you fantastic job security.

Family Matters

From a recent edition of NPR’s Talk of the Nation:

When you have very low fertility rates, it may be OK for a while, but over time your population gets older and older. And as your population gets older and older, as I think Stan was pointing out, what you start to see is, if you will, the ecosystem for families begins to weaken.

You have – the schools begin to close down. The kind of restaurants and facilities you have, the tax system has to change in order to support the older people. So there are a lot of things that happen. But fundamentally, it’s not like we can have the population we have now, and that population will be, in terms of age, like it is. It will be very old. You have to start thinking about societies by 2050, where there’ll be more people over 80 than under 15.

And

PATRICE: Well, in my circle of friends, I’m about 24 hours old, and when I talk to a lot of my friends, we – a lot of them don’t seem to be interested in having kids at all. You know, it’s sort of the concept is odd, or they just think oh, well, it’s – kids are expensive, and they’re going to tie me down, I’m not going to be able to have the lifestyle I want, kind of like the guest is saying.

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Demography Redux

A post at First Thoughts this week links to some recent rumblings over much of the world’s fretting about the global population reaching 7 billion, despite the fact that nobody seems to be worried that most nations now have a falling birth rate.

So which is it? Does the world have too many people, or too few? The most honest answer is probably that the threat of “overpopulation” is alarmist and emotion-based, whereas worries about declining birthrates are underappreciated, even though they are more grounded in hard facts. Indeed, if predictions like Kotkin’s play out, and emerging nations follow the demographic trends of advanced ones, the strange phenomenon of societies breeding themselves out of existence may no longer simply be a first world problem but a global one. It’s entirely conceivable that, 100 years from now, should the ‘birth dearth’ continue to spread, our progeny will look back nostalgically on earlier times when people fretted about “overpopulation.” Indeed, in a growing number of contexts, professional demographers already are.

Quite right.  As a teacher, I often hear people pay lip service to the trope that “children are our future,” but few seem to appreciate just how crucial that human capital is.  In the long run, fewer children must mean less of a future.

This reminded me of an exchange about demography on NPR about a month ago.  Even they’ve had a few stories in recent years about the dangers of falling birth rates, but a comment by the snob interviewer in this one irked me a little.  Continue reading

A Homily on Helaman: Choosing Faithfulness in a Changing Church Culture

In a 1990 address to Regional Representatives, Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we were losing the ability to correct the course of the Church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman.

Both Alma and Helaman told of the church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the Church drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the Church today.

Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur “in the space of not many years.” In one instance it took only six years. (See Helaman 6:32, 7:6, 11:26)

It’s especially interesting that he mentions the book of Helaman as being a prophetic parallel for our day, in addition to Alma.  The superscription to Helaman–the introductory summary between the title and chapter one of the text–is part of the scriptural record, not an editorial study aid by modern church printers, like the individual chapter headings are.  One of the items in that ancient superscription is this:

An account of the righteousness of the Lamanites, and the wickedness and abominations of the Nephites.

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Japan and Disaster, Forever

They’re twins joined at the hip.  As the staggering magnitude of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami sink in, I’m reminded of just how deeply interwoven natural disasters are in Japanese history, even in the Japanese psyche. 

One of my favorite authors is James Clavell, whose Asian Saga begins with Shogun, a novel about a European sailor colliding with the samurai culture in 1600.  One of the book’s primary themes is that, even in a land of ultimate beauty, violent destruction crouches ready to surprise anyone at any time.  This produces the Zen philosophy that the Japanese lived by, and is evident in both the stoicism, nihilism, and lust for life on every page of the book. 

That mindset is seen in many scenes of brutal, random violence, but perhaps is nowhere better shown than at the end of chapter 38, where a sudden earthquake ravages the island.  Rather than try to produce a short quote, here are two pages of characters reacting right after the disaster:

 

I can’t find a good enough passage right now, but Clavell mentions a few times that the chaos of major catastrophe is a mainstay of Japanese life. 

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On America’s Future

As we scrutinize political trends, demographics, and cultural indicators, two prophecies from the Book of Mormon should give us all something to seriously mull over as we ponder America’s future.  Consider:

3 Nephi 16: 7–“in the latter days shall the truth come unto the Gentiles.”  Indeed, the gospel was restored in America in the early 19th century, primarily among Caucasian people (Gentiles).

verse 8–“they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel…”  That same population that received the gospel also oppressed some of God’s chosen people.

verse 9–“after all this…”

verse 10–“At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel…I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”  (emphasis added)  This single verse should scare the heck out of every Anglo American, especially among the Latter-day Saints.  The prediction there is pretty clear: when our society becomes pervasively unrighteous, rejecting our Christian heritage, God will take that gift of gospel truth away from us. 

It’s not giving away any big secret to share that convert baptisms into the LDS church in the United States have been fairly stagnant over the last decade.  The explosive rate of growth in the second half of the 20th century has largely leveled off. 

So, if the gospel is going to be taken away from us white Gentiles, to whom will it go?

verses 11-12–“And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.  And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.”  (emphasis added)  Here, Jesus Christ plainly foretells that after the initial phase of the Restoration has been accomplished by the Gentiles, they will reject it, and the gospel will then be embraced by the descendants of the native people of the Western Hemisphere to whom Christ was speaking. 

Just as conversions are dying out among white Americans, the LDS church is growing explosively abroad–there are now more Mormons outside the United States than within.  Christianity in general is experiencing a staggering injection of growth among the poor, “global south.” 

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Politics and Demography

On Thursday I got to work with some of the Boy Scouts in my area on their Citizenship in the World merit badge.  To prepare for the presentation, I Iooked up some information relevant to current world affairs. 

I was intrigued to find a chart from the United Nations about world demographic trends.  I trimmed it down to the essentials and presented it to the Scouts, who were likewise fascinated.  Consider: in any size population, every male and every female must pair off and have how many children for the population to remain stable?  The answer, of course, is 2: the children replace the parents.  If the average birth rate is more than 2, the population grows; if it is less than 2, it shrinks.  It’s that simple. 

According to the numbers, Africa and the Middle East are booming.  The U.S. is precarious but steady.  Europe is in a death spiral from which it is already mathematically improbable to recover. 

One friend of mine responded to this subject by warning of the tendency to prognosticate, and how often it fails.  But demography isn’t fortune telling.  It’s mere accountancy.  If Country X has 1000 children born in the year 2008, then in the year 2018, it will have no more than 1000 ten-year-olds.  You see? 

And if a country goes for two or three generations with low birth rates, then the burden on each successive generation to repopulate the nation becomes more difficult.  If Country X starts with an adult breeding population of a million people and their couples only have one child per couple, the next wave of adults will only consist of 500,000.  If that generation then only has one child per couple, on average, the next generation will be a piddling 250,000.  And if they then only have one child for, say, every four people (a 0.5 birth rate), that leaves us with a mere 62,500. 

Why would that last generation breed so much less?  After two generations of small families, with all the wealth, attention, leisure, and complacency that implies, how could they not preserve that indolence into their adult years?  Of course, this is exactly what we’re seeing in the Western world today.  Let’s call it the Sex and the City Effect. 

And the children of that last generation (the fourth total in our example), after three generations of increasingly entrenched self-centeredness, can hardly be expected to pair off and have the 32 children each that it would take to undo all the damage done and return their people to the million-strong that their great-grandparents knew. 

For many Asian and Western countries, such as Russia, Japan, and the Czech Republic, such is already their fate, which is why I said before that they are past the point of no return.  This is why you see so many news stories, like this one, about toys that replace the companionship of families for lonely adults in Japan. 

Of course, this has huge ramifications for foreign relations (nations that are newly strong will smell the blood of those who have grown too weak to recover and will act accordingly), welfare (not only will generation four above have to breed like rabbits, they’ll each be financially responsible for the care of several members of the sick, retired older generations), and immigration (those young people, frankly, will get tired of such abuse and leave for greener pastures…which is also already happening in much of the world). 

Here’s my short version of the UN chart:

 


















   

















   

















   

















   
United Nations – Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Population Division
World Fertility Patterns 2007
(United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.08.XIII.4).
Wall chart data in excel format
http://www.unpopulation.org

                     




   
Updated version for the weba
March 2008
All rights reserved.
                                     
                                     
                                     
Trends in total fertility, age patterns of fertility and timing of childbearing
Country or area Total fertility per woman



(12)
WORLD 2.6
More developed regions 1.6
Less developed regions (excluding least developed countries) 2.6
Least developed countries 5.0
AFRICA 5.0
Eastern Africa 5.6
Middle Africa 6.2
Northern Africa 3.2
Southern Africa 2.9
Western Africa 5.8
ASIA 2.5
Eastern Asia 1.7
China 1.4
China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region 1.0
China, Macao Special Administrative Region 0.8
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2.2
Japan 1.3
Mongolia 2.3
Republic of Korea 1.2
South-Central Asia 3.2
Afghanistan 6.8
India 2.8
Iran (Islamic Republic of) 2.2
Pakistan 4.0
South-Eastern Asia 2.5
Western Asia 3.2
Armenia 1.4
Azerbaijan 1.8
Bahrain 3.1
Cyprus 1.5
Georgia 1.6
Iraq 2.8
Israel 2.9
Jordan 3.7
Kuwait 2.1
Lebanon 1.9
Occupied Palestinian Territory 4.7
Oman 3.6
Qatar 2.8
Saudi Arabia 3.1
Syrian Arab Republic 3.8
Turkey 2.4
United Arab Emirates 4.1
Yemen 6.2
EUROPE 1.4
Eastern Europe 1.3
Czech Republic 1.2
Russian Federation 1.3
Northern Europe 1.7
Ireland 2.0
United Kingdom 1.6
Southern Europe 1.4
Greece 1.3
Italy 1.3
Spain 1.3
Western Europe 1.6
France 1.9
Germany 1.4
Switzerland 1.4
LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN 2.5
Caribbean 2.6
Central America 2.7
Mexico 3.3
South America 2.5
Brazil 2.1
NORTHERN AMERICA 2.0
Canada 1.5
United States of America 2.0
OCEANIA 2.4
Australia/New Zealand 1.8
Australia 1.8
New Zealand 2.1

 

This also has a major application on the domestic front: voting.  This excellent article explains a truth that the 2004 election made dramamtically apparent: liberals don’t breed.  Largely confined to older, coastal, metropolitan areas, America’s liberals consistently do not have many children.  On the other hand, America’s heartland conservatives have far more children (bringing the national average up to 2.0).  This chart is excerpted from the research:

(Incidentally, Republicans also give more to charity.)

Such, then, may be the resolution of red state/blue state tension: the blue states will voluntarily extinguish themselves.  (Even the mainstream media has picked up on this obvious sign of doom.)  But don’t worry, New England hippies: before you go quietly into that night, your elite suburbs will fill up with refugees from the Old World, who are running from the burden of caring for a dozen pensioners each and the conflicts brought on by massive immigration from hostile countries which are filled to the brim with new babies.  And if those hordes of “developing world” babies grow up and decide to try out the opportunities of Vermont for themselves, the new dark ages may really begin.