Our occasional feature, the Steyn I-Told-You-So Moment, always trembles on the brink of obnoxiousness, and one must be careful about pushing it too far. However, given that we have a president who selfies while the world burns, I hope you'll forgive a couple of columnar selfies for this Valentine's Day, prompted by items in the mail. First, Matt McWilliams writes from Florida:
Regarding your comments about Kayla Mueller and where her idealism got her, I'm reminded of another story from some years ago. You may recall a fellow named Timothy Treadwell, described on Wikipedia as "American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, eco-warrior, and documentary filmmaker and founder of Grizzly people." He was also known for spending his summers living with Grizzly bears in Alaska. A further entry from Wikipedia; "At the end of his 13th summer in the park in 2003, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard (October 23, 1965 â€“ October 5, 2003) were killed by a 28-year-old brown bear, whose stomach was later found to contain human remains and clothing."
Those brown bears can be pretty random.
Coral Springs, FL
Well, Matt, you have to get up pretty early to beat me to metaphors of civilizational suicide. From page 261 of After America:
In 2003, Disney brought us its latest animated feature, Brother Bear, the usual New Age mumbo-jumbo with a generic Native American gloss. It told the tale of Kenai, a young fellow in a bucolic Pacific Northwest at the end of the Ice Age. To avenge his brother's death, Kenai kills the brown bear responsible. But trouble's a-bruin: his late brother is wise enough to know that killing is not the answer and so gets the Great Spirit to teach Kenai a lesson by transforming him into a bear. He thereby learns that bears are not violent beasts but sensitive beings living in harmony with nature who understand the world they live in far more than man does. I would certainly agree that bears are wiser and more sensitive than man, if only because I've yet to meet a bear who's produced an animated feature as mawkishly deluded as this.
Among the technical advisers on the film, hired to ensure the accurate depiction of our furry friends, was Timothy Treadwell, the self-described eco-warrior from Malibu who became famous for his campaign "to promote getting close to bears to show they were not dangerous". He did this by sidling up to them and singing "I love you" in a high-pitched voice. Brother Bear is certainly true to the Treadwell view of the brown bears, and he would surely have appreciated the picture had he ever gotten to see it. But, just as Kenai found himself trapped inside a bear, so did Mr Treadwell - although in his case he was just passing through. In September, a pilot arrived at the ursine expert's camp near Kaflia Bay in Alaska to fly him out and instead found the bits of him and his girlfriend that hadn't yet been eaten buried in a bear's food cache.
Treadwell had always said he wanted to end up in "bear scat", so his fellow activists were inclined to look on the bright side. "He would say it's the culmination of his life's work," said his colleague Jewel Palovak. "He died doing what he lived for."
I wonder if he was revising his view in the final moments. And if his girlfriend was quite so happy to find she had a bit part in "the culmination of his life's work".
You'd have to have a heart of stone not to weep with laughter at the fate of the eco-warrior, but it does make Brother Bear somewhat harder to swallow than its technical adviser manifestly was. There are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but sadly no Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People. And, just as bugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics, so the big beasts are changing, too. Wild animals are not merely the creatures of their appetites; they're also astute calculators of risk. Not so long ago, your average bear knew that if he happened upon a two-legged type, the chap would pull a rifle on him and he'd be spending eternity as a fireside rug. But these days it's just as likely that any human being he comes across is some pantywaist Bambi Boomer enviro-sentimentalist trying to get in touch with his inner self. And, if the guy wants to get in touch with his inner self so badly, why not just rip it out of his chest for him?
North American wildlife seems to have figured that out. Why be surprised if other predators do..?
In 2008, the Italian performance artist Pippa Bacca set off to hitch-hike from Milan to the Palestinian Territories to promote "world peace". She was dressed as a bride, and the purpose of her trip was to show that if only you put your trust in our common humanity then all will be well. A month later, her naked body was found in the bushes near Gebze in Turkey. She had been gang-raped and then killed. Like Timothy Treadwell's, her illusions met reality.
Most of us as individuals retain enough of a survival instinct that, if we find ourselves on a rough city block in a foreign land late at night, we mothball the PC pieties until we get back to the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. But what happens when Pippa Bacca's illusions become the dominant political discourse of a free society? And how many Timothy Treadwells crooning to their killers does a society have to have before it loses even the very idea of a survival instinct?
We are very near that point, as Kayla Mueller's death and the reaction to it demonstrates. After America stands up pretty well, I think. Personally autographed copies are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore, and profits therefrom help to prop up my end of the interminable lawsuit from Michael E Mann, PhD (Doctor of Phraudology).
~Speaking of civilizational suicide, Maria Limpiador Tweets:
Hey @MarkSteynOnline what do you think of this --- http://news.sky.com/story/1426937/fewer-young-drinkers-may-be-due-to-ethnic-changes â€¦ ?
Here's the story she refers to, from Sky News:
The number of teetotal young adults has almost doubled, according to new statistics that show a significant drop in alcohol consumption amongst 16 to 24-year-olds.
The rise is so steep that it has caused an overall increase in the number of adults who do not drink at all, which is now over one fifth...
London had the highest rates of teetotalism, with one third of adults in the capital saying they did not drink at all.
Hmm. Oddly enough, London also has over one million Muslims. I wonder if the increasing number of Muslims and the decreasing number of boozers might be connected...
One expert told Sky News that the rise in numbers of teetotal young people was related to the UK's changing demographics.
"It's probably mainly driven by the changing ethnic mix in this country. There are increasing numbers of people who don't drink at all because of religious reasons," said Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of Alcohol Health Alliance.
And who might those people be, eh? I said a few years back that, if some A-list ayatollah in Qom were to issue a special dispensation permitting converts the consumption of alcohol for a transitional period, the United Kingdom would already be half-Muslim. But the ancient British tradition of being face down in the pavement pizza after 17 pints on a Friday night is a tough one to abandon. Tough, but not impossible... As I wrote in America Alone:
Can the developed world get more Muslim in its demographic character without becoming more Muslim in its political character? And what consequences does that have for art and culture, science and medicine, innovation and energy â€¦and basic liberties?
Perhaps the differences will be minimal. In France, the Catholic churches will become mosques; in England, the village pubs will cease serving alcohol; in the Netherlands, the gay nightclubs will close up shop and relocate to San Francisco.
Since I wrote those words in 2006, all those things have happened. America Alone stands up pretty well, I think. Personally autographed copies are exclusively avai ...oh, come on, Steyn, knock it off; you can't keep doing this for every prescient book you've written.
Okay then. Britain is not the only country whose demographic trends are turning its brewers into the liquid equivalent of buggy-whip makers. Six years ago, for my "Happy Warrior" column, I wrote about the intersection of brewing and breeding:
Eventually demography tells. A German beer garden is not as beguiling as an Italian park but it has a certain claim on the cultural landscape. According to the Federal Statistics Office, this year German beer sales have fallen to an all-time low. Putting a brave face on the evaporating head of his lager, Peter Hahn, head honcho of the German Brewery Association, attributed the slump to inclement weather. But as he also noted: "We have a changing population. Older people drink less and there are not enough young people to make up for it."
True. Herr Hahn is a victim of demographic temperance. This month, EuroStat released figures showing that Germany has the lowest birth rate in the EU. That would be a non-alcoholic headache for the German Brewery Association in the best of circumstances. But Herr Hahn was too discreet to add that what few young people Germany now has increasingly belong to a demographic not known for its beer intake. A few months back, when the Merkez mosque opened in the old industrial working-class town of Duisburg boasting splendid minarets and public subsidies totaling three million euros, Deutsche Welle reported as follows: "New mosque seen as a symbol of integration." Maybe. But it's also a symbol of transformation: There will not be many foaming steins (if you'll forgive the expression) in Duisburg's future.
Demography changes everything. You lose not only your future but your past, too - particularly if your past is an English village whose high streets boast a handful of pubs bearing names like "The Saracen's Head" and "The George And Dragon"...