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Mark Steyn

Ten Years Ago

It's Still the Demography, Stupid

Ten years ago this month - January 2006 - The Wall Street Journal and The New Criterion published my first draft of what would become the thesis of my bestselling book, America Alone. The Journal headline sums it up: "It's the Demography, Stupid." Opening paragraph:

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.

The argument was straightforward. The western world is going out of business because it's given up having babies. The 20th century welfare state, with its hitherto unknown concepts such as spending a third of your adult lifetime in "retirement", is premised on the basis that there will be enough new citizens to support the old. But there won't be. Lazy critics of my thesis thought that I was making a "prediction", and that my predictions were no more reliable than Al Gore's or Michael Mann's on the looming eco-apocalypse. I tried to explain that it's not really a prediction at all:

When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is. "Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%.

Enter Islam, which sportingly volunteered to be the children we couldn't be bothered having ourselves, and which kind offer was somewhat carelessly taken up by the post-Christian west. As I wrote a decade ago:

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism. Indeed, in its reliance on immigration to ensure its future, the European Union has adopted a 21st-century variation on the strategy of the Shakers, who were forbidden from reproducing and thus could increase their numbers only by conversion.

That didn't work out too great for the Shakers, but the Europeans figured it would be a piece of cake for them: "westernization" is so seductive, so appealing that, notwithstanding the occasional frothing imam and burka-bagged crone, their young Muslims would fall for the siren song of secular progressivism just like they themselves had. So, as long as you kept the immigrants coming, there would be no problem - as long as you oomphed up the scale of the solution. As I put it:

To avoid collapse, European nations will need to take in immigrants at a rate no stable society has ever attempted.

Last year, Angela Merkel decided to attempt it. The German Chancellor cut to the chase and imported in twelve months 1.1 million Muslim "refugees". That doesn't sound an awful lot out of 80 million Germans, but, in fact, the 1.1 million Muslim are overwhelmingly (80 per cent plus) fit, virile, young men. Germany has fewer than ten million people in the same population cohort, among whom Muslims are already over-represented: the median age of Germans as a whole is 46, the median age of German Muslims is 34. But let's keep the numbers simple, and assume that of those ten million young Germans half of them are ethnic German males. Frau Merkel is still planning to bring in another million "refugees" this year. So by the end of 2016 she will have imported a population equivalent to 40 per cent of Germany's existing young male cohort. The future is here now: It's not about "predictions".

On standard patterns of "family reunification", these two million "refugees" will eventually bring another four or five persons each from their native lands - or another eight-to-ten million. In the meantime, they have the needs of all young lads, and no one around to gratify them except the local womenfolk. Hence, New Year's Eve in Cologne, and across the southern border the Vienna police chief warning women not to go out unaccompanied, and across the northern border:

Danish nightclubs demand guests have to speak Danish, English or German to be allowed in after 'foreign men in groups' attack female revellers

But don't worry, it won't be a problem for long: On the German and Swedish "migrant" numbers, there won't be a lot of "female revelry" in Europe's future. The formerly firebreathing feminists at The Guardian and the BBC are already falling as mute as battered wives - saying nothing, looking away, making excuses, clutching at rationalizations... Ten years ago, I wrote:

The problem is that secondary-impulse societies mistake their weaknesses for strengths--or, at any rate, virtues--and that's why they're proving so feeble at dealing with a primal force like Islam.

"Multiculturalism" was less an immigration policy than an advertisement of our moral virtue. So the really bad thing about New Year's Eve is not that Continental women got groped and raped by coarse backward "migrants", but that all these gropes and rapes might provoke the even more coarse and backward natives. I did all the gags a decade ago:

The old definition of a nanosecond was the gap between the traffic light changing in New York and the first honk from a car behind. The new definition is the gap between a terrorist bombing and the press release from an Islamic lobby group warning of a backlash against Muslims.

And so it goes ten years on. We're beyond parody now. A decade back, I noted:

Then September 11 happened. And bizarrely the reaction of just about every prominent Western leader was to visit a mosque: President Bush did, the prince of Wales did, the prime minister of the United Kingdom did, the prime minister of Canada did . . . The premier of Ontario didn't, and so 20 Muslim community leaders had a big summit to denounce him for failing to visit a mosque... But for whatever reason he couldn't fit it into his hectic schedule. Ontario's citizenship minister did show up at a mosque, but the imams took that as a great insult, like the Queen sending Fergie to open the Commonwealth Games.

Nobody makes that mistake these days. Six Canadians working for a Quebec Catholic humanitarian organization repairing schoolrooms in Burkina Faso get slaughtered by Muslim terrorists, and the Prince Minister skedaddles to a mosque run by a woman-hating loon to hold the moment of silence.

Like I said, I did all the jokes way back when, and it's not so funny after ten years. My thesis was straightforward: a semi-Muslim France will not be France; it will be something other, and - if you happen to value things like freedom of speech and women's rights - it will be something worse:

Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?

This ought to be the left's issue. I'm a conservative--I'm not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I'm with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant? Who, after all, are going to be the first victims of the West's collapsed birthrates?

And so it goes, on the streets of the most "liberal" "progressive" cities on the planet.

A few weeks before The Wall Street Journal published my piece, I discussed its themes at an event in New York whose speakers included Douglas Murray. Douglas was more optimistic: He suggested that Muslim populations in Europe were still small, and immigration policy could be changed: Easier said than done. My essay and book were so influential that in the decade since, the rate of Islamization in the west has increased - via all three principal methods: Muslim immigration, Muslim birthrates of those already here, Muslim conversion of the infidels. David Goldman thinks aging, childless Germany has embraced civilizational suicide as redemption for their blood-soaked sins. Maybe. But it is less clear why the Continent's less tainted polities - impeccably "neutral" Sweden, for example - are so eager to join them. As I wrote:

Permanence is the illusion of every age. In 1913, no one thought the Russian, Austrian, German and Turkish empires would be gone within half a decade. Seventy years on, all those fellows who dismissed Reagan as an "amiable dunce" (in Clark Clifford's phrase) assured us the Soviet Union was likewise here to stay. The CIA analysts' position was that East Germany was the ninth biggest economic power in the world. In 1987 there was no rash of experts predicting the imminent fall of the Berlin Wall, the Warsaw Pact and the USSR itself.

Somewhere, deep down, the European political class understands that the Great Migrations have accelerated the future I outlined way back when:

Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world.

It's the biggest story of our time, and, ten years on, Europe's leaders still can't talk about it, not to their own peoples, not honestly. For all the "human rights" complaints, and death threats from halfwits, and subtler rejections from old friends who feel I'm no longer quite respectable, I'm glad I brought it up. And it's well past time for others to speak out.

from Ten Years On, January 19, 2016

 

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