While Mark continues his convalescence in Trieste, we're reprising a few pieces on the big recurring themes of his writing. In 2006, he published an international bestseller on demography - which, as he always says, is quite a difficult trick to pull off. As he notes below, all the respectable chaps thought his assertions of the west's demographic death spiral were "alarmist". Thus began the familiar trajectory we see on so many public-policy issues:
Stage One: There's no problem;
Stage Two: Okay, there is a problem, but we've got plenty of time to fix it;
Stage Three: Well, maybe we could have done something about it twenty years ago, but it's too late now so we'll just have to make the best of it.
On the demographic transformation of the western world, we seem to have gone straight from Stage One to Stage Three. It has been sobering in recent weeks to hear the Steyn Show's Dutch contributors Eva Vlaardingerbroek and Raise Blommestijn mourn not only the loss of their country but the fact that they never knew it before it was lost. East of the old Iron Curtain, the Muslims are fewer but so are the babies. The most significant fact about the Ukraine conflict is that it's the first European war fought between two nations both mired in deathbed demography.
This column is from May 2014:
One of the gratifying things about our current campaign to prop up my end of the upcoming trial of the century through bookstore sales is that it's resulted in a little uptick for America Alone, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the Steyn store. My bestselling book was dismissed as "alarmist" by The Economist and others when it came out, but in the intervening years the respectable press has spent a lot of time playing catch up. There isn't a day that passes when I don't see a news story anticipated by the book way back when.
For example, from page 24 of America Alone:
Let's start in the most geriatric jurisdiction on the planet. In Japan, the rising sun has already passed into the next phase of its long sunset: net population loss. 2005 was the first year since records began in which the country had more deaths than births. Japan offers the chance to observe the demographic death spiral in its purest form. It's a country with no immigration, no significant minorities and no desire for any: just the Japanese, aging and dwindling.
At first it doesn't sound too bad: compared with the United States, most advanced societies are very crowded. If you're in a cramped apartment in a noisy congested city, losing a couple hundred thousand seems a fine trade-off. The difficulty, in a modern social democratic state, is managing which people to lose... For one thing, the shortage of children has led to a shortage of obstetricians. Why would any talented ambitious med. school student want to go into a field in such precipitous decline? As a result, if you live in certain parts of Japan, childbirth is all in the timing. On Oki Island, try to time the contractions for Monday morning. That's when the maternity ward is open – first day of the week, 10am, when an obstetrician flies in to attend to any pregnant mothers who happen to be around. And at 5.30pm she flies out. So, if you've been careless enough to time your childbirth for Tuesday through Sunday, you'll have to climb into a helicopter and zip off to give birth alone in a strange hospital unsurrounded by tiresome loved ones. Do Lamaze classes on Oki now teach you to time your breathing to the whirring of the chopper blades?
The last local obstetrician left the island in 2006 and the health service isn't expecting any more. Doubtless most of us can recall reading similar stories over the years from remote rural districts in America, Canada, Australia. After all, why would a village of a few hundred people have a great medical system? But Oki has a population of 17,000, and there are still no obstetricians: Birthing is a dying business.
That was me back in 2006. Eight years later, there are even fewer children, and thus even fewer obstetricians. And the fewer children there are, the fewer children there will be. This week The Guardian reports that the number of Japanese children has fallen to the lowest since records began - 16.33 million, or barely one child for every nine adults:
Children accounted for 12.8% of the population, the ministry said. By contrast, the ratio of people aged 65 or older was at a record high, making up 25.6% of the population. Jiji Press said that, of countries with a population of at least 40 million, Japan had the lowest ratio of children to the total population – compared with 19.5% for the United States and 16.4% for China...
The proportion of people aged 65 or over is forecast to reach nearly 40% in 2060, the government has warned.
As I said in my book, the Japanese don't want any immigrants. Indeed, many of them don't seem to want anybody. Period. From a column of mine last year:
A survey by the Japan Family Planning Association reported that over a quarter of men aged 16–24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact." For women, it was 45 percent.
The Observer seems to have approached the subject in the same belief as P. D. James's government porn stores — that it's nothing that a little more sexual adventurism can't cure. So Miss Haworth's lead was devoted to the views of a "sex and relationship counselor" and former dominatrix who specialized in dripping hot wax on her clients' nipples and was once invited to North Korea to squeeze the testicles of one of Kim Jong-il's top generals. In other words, as the Observer puts it, "she doesn't judge." Except, that is, when it comes to "the pressure to conform to Japan's anachronistic family model," which she blames for the young folks checking out of the sex biz altogether.
But, if the pressure to conform were that great, wouldn't there be a lot more conforming? Instead, 49 percent of women under 34 are not in any kind of romantic relationship, and nor are 61 percent of single men. A third of Japanese adults under 30 have never dated. Anyone. Ever. It's not that they've stopped "having sex" — or are disinclined to have hot wax poured on their nipples. It's bigger than that: It's a flight from human intimacy.
You want it in one stark statistic?
By 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun, adult diapers will outsell baby diapers: The sun also sets. In The Children of Men, the barrenness is a medical condition; in real life, in some of the oldest nations on earth, from Madrid to Tokyo, it's a voluntary societal self-extinction. In Europe, the demographic death spiral is obscured by high Muslim immigration; in Japan, which retains a cultural aversion to immigration of any kind, there are no foreigners to be the children you couldn't be bothered having yourself. In welfare states, the future is premised on social solidarity: The young will pay for the costs of the old. But, as the West ages, social solidarity frays...
That's a question Europe will face, very soon. How likely is it that young Mohammed and Ahmed will want to pay higher taxes to keep Pierre and Hans in their retirement homes?
But, well before that, you get to a more basic question about these countries: will there always be an England if there are hardly any Englishmen left in it? In the prologue to America Alone I write:
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 ...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. But otherwise life will go on much as before. The new Europeans will be observant Muslims instead of post-Christian secularists but they will still be recognizably European: It will be like Cats after a cast change: same long-running show, new actors. Or maybe the all-black Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! is a better comparison: Pearl Bailey instead of Carol Channing, but the plot, the music, the sets are all the same. The animating principles of advanced societies are so strong that they will thrive whoever's at the switch.
But what if it doesn't work out like that?
Eight years on, because population transformations are (for the moment) concentrated in the less fashionable arrondissements, many people remain complacent. For example, this New Scientist essay, "Losing Our Religion: Your Guide To A Godless Future", rhapsodizes on the joys of post-Christian Britain, without understanding that it's only an interim phase. As to what comes next, Robert Spencer has five signs of where the United Kingdom is headed, drawn from a handful of last week's foot-of-the-page news stories. Some of them fall into that alcohol-free pub category I mentioned above: two hundred Subway restaurants throughout Britain and Ireland are going halal, so no more bacon or ham. Well, giving up your bacon butty or the full Oirish breakfast isn't too much to ask in the interests of a multiculti utopia, is it? And you'll get used to it soon enough...
But Mr Spencer's other stories - fines for tearing up a Koran, a politician arrested for quoting Churchill - suggest that accommodating Islam will require constraining everything else, not least core western liberties. Add in the appalling evidence of the remorseless subversion of the public education system and a picture emerges of a state whose strange determination to insulate Islam from the rough'n'tumble of a free society already accepts its central premise - that the strictures of Islamic law apply not only to Muslims, but to all. That doesn't sound like much of a "godless future".
Another thought from America Alone, page 204:
Given the growing Muslim populations in Europe and the remarkable success hitherto obscure Muslim lobby groups have had in constraining certain aspects of the war on terror, it seems almost certain that Islamist political parties will arise on the Continent within the next decade.
"We are elected Islamists but above all we are Muslims," Ahrouch said. "Islam is compatible with the laws of the Belgian people. As elected Muslims, we embrace the Koran and the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed. We believe Islam is a universal religion. Our presence on the town council will give us the opportunity to express ourselves," said Ahrouch, who refuses to shake hands or make eye contact with females in public.
I wish America Alone were as wrong as The Economist and its other detractors said it was. But that's not the way to bet, and in Japan as in Europe the central point of my book is more relevant every day: The future belongs to those who show up for it.
A slightly subtler argument against it is that no serious person would write a tract on demography peppered with reference to Cats and Carol Channing. I'm rather proud of writing the only apocalyptic bestseller with Dean Martin gags, but each to his own. What ought to be more dispiriting is how irredeemably shallow the so-called serious analysts are. Take that New Scientist headline up above: "Losing Our Religion." That's a reference to a pop song from twentysomething years ago. The title comes from an expression used in the American South, but it was unknown in Britain until REM had their big hit record in 1991. The New Scientist uses it as a headline because it's a commonly understood cultural reference. Any society needs a certain amount of those.
But I doubt even the oldies stations in Britain will be playing anything called "Losing My Religion" in 20 years' time. It will have joined the ham sandwich and children's piggy banks on the ash heap of the haram. If you want to hear REM circa 2035, your best bet will be the last karaoke bar in Tokyo.
~from SteynOnline, May 6th 2014
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