Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How the West was Broke

      I have posted before about the societal implications of couples willingly choosing not to have children.  A lot of the feedback I received can be summarized succinctly: "You're an idiot."  That may well be true, but it won't be because I am wrong about this issue.  Pointing out the the cultural erosion that happens when one generation does not create another generation is not a matter of opinion.  It's just a fact of life.  
    I understand that couples can have legitimate reasons for not having kids, sometimes through choice and sometimes because biology has not been favorable.  I have friends who desperately want to have children but can't, and others who have foregone parenthood not because they don't want to be parents, but because they believe they have a higher calling on their life that precludes them from having children. You are not the subject of this post.  
     I am posting about this because, if statistics are correct,  more and more people have decided that they want the pleasure and privileges of sex (and ideally marriage) without the responsibility that naturally follows.  It makes sense, really.  Western culture increasingly presents freedom and choice as the Holy Grail of life, and what could possible keep us from these two demanding masters more than children? (Or so the thinking goes).     
     Unfortunately, this unfettered self-interest is not without consequence.  From Mark Steyn, in National Review Online: 
     "The developed world... is barren. Collectively barren, I hasten to add. Individually, it’s made up of millions of fertile women, who voluntarily opt for no children at all or one designer kid at 39. In Italy, the home of the Church, the birthrate’s somewhere around 1.2, 1.3 children per couple — or about half “replacement rate.” Japan, Germany, and Russia are already in net population decline. Fifty percent of Japanese women born in the Seventies are childless. Between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of Spanish women childless at the age of 30 almost doubled, from just over 30 percent to just shy of 60 percent. In Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, 20 percent of 40-year-old women are childless. In a recent poll, invited to state the “ideal” number of children, 16.6 percent of Germans answered “None.”      The notion of life as a self-growth experience is more radical than it sounds. For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run: It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant trees, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and if necessary die for your country . . . A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present, and future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words at the dawn of the “Me Decade,” “conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream.”     Much of the developed world climbed out of the stream. You don’t need to make material sacrifices: The state takes care of all that. You don’t need to have children. And you certainly don’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for: It’s no longer a stream, but a stagnant pool."
    Politicians talk a lot about all the sacrifices we have to make for "the future generations of our children."   That's if we have them, I suppose.  One way to avoid living a life that considers the long term is to simply not contribute to the long term.  If nothing will matter then, I suppose nothing matters too much now. 
    This is street-level nihilism.  Neitzsche thought we were killing God; he did not realize we were dying too.

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