Your America Alone Story of the Day. The Daily Mail had a report the other day on Japan's first robot wedding. From the look of the picture at right, it's a May/September deal - older man, younger model. If I'd been the "parents" of the groom - the robotics company Maywa Denki - I think I'd have opted for something a little more Manga-ish.
For the moment these stories are still being reported on the well-I-never! what-a-funny-old-world page of the news. I wonder when they'll cross over to the creepy section. Maybe never. In that sense, it's also an [Un]documented Mark Steyn Story of the Day. Toward the end of the latter book I write that, as their demographic death spiral advances, young Japanese (by which I mean under 50) are giving up not just procreation, not just marriage, not just sex, but even any kind of light petting or intimate, romantic contact with the opposite sex whatsoever. Indeed, Japan is now doing a small but brisk trade, for spinsters who like the frocks and fripperies, in "solo weddings".
But nine years ago, in America Alone, I wrote about the Land of the Setting Sun and wondered about the likelihood of persuading the citizenry to abandon their solitary sensual existences and restoring what Cole Porter called "the urge to merge with a splurge":
Or will it be simpler to put all that cutting-edge Japanese technology to good use and take a flier on Mister Roboto and the post-human future? After all, what's easier for the governing class? Weaning a pampered population off the good life and re-teaching them the lost biological impulse or giving the Sony Corporation a license to become the Cloney Corporation? If you need to justify it to yourself, you'd grab the graphs and say, well, demographic decline is universal. It's like industrialization a couple of centuries back; everyone will get to it eventually, but the first to do so will have huge advantages: : the relevant comparison is not with England's early 19th century population surge but with England's industrial revolution. In the industrial age, manpower was critical. In the new technological age, manpower will be optional – and indeed, if most of the available manpower's Muslim, it's actually a disadvantage.
It's an M&M&M world: Europe is going Muslim, America is going Mexican, Japan is going Manga. It will be for posterity to determine which is the least un-smart move.
~A poignant headline from Canada's National Post:
Man Says He Might Never Have Been Robbed In Detroit If Canadian Credit Card Had Been Accepted At Pump
He would have had no trouble using that Canadian card in, say, Dublin or Dusseldorf or Darwin or Durban - or, for all I know, Djibouti (although I confess I haven't personally tested that last proposition). Likewise, American credit cards from Michigan banks can function a little erratically when you're gassing up in Windsor, Ontario. I was over the border in Quebec sometime last year, proffered my little North Country Visa card at the store clerk and had it rejected. I called up the bank and yelled at them, and the jobsworth wearily explained, after checking with the card company, that my attempted use had triggered a security alert because "it was outside of your designated zone" - ie, about 40 minutes north of my home.
Americans, do not attempt to leave your designated zone! Shelter in Place, as Constable Glen Godfrey commands!
Like that Canadian at the pump in Detroit, I sometimes wish America would join the world banking system. On the other hand, if you're alarmed by all that capital flight in Europe, where for half-a-decade prudent Greeks and Spaniards and others have been discreetly transferring their nest-eggs to German banks, you can relax: when America goes belly up, the chances of you being able to get what's left up to the Royal Bank of Canada are zero.
~Apropos the forced resignations of American town and county clerks who are practicing Christians, Jason Mayo writes from Bowdoinham, Maine:
And, one must ask, what of the 14th Amendment--equal protection under the law? Is not the brilliance of the Constitution evident in its protection of the individual from the practice of religion in the PUBLIC square? Sometimes you lose me, Sir. I hope all may practice any religion they wish, but, privately; religion has no merit in the workings of a secular state. Your thinking is fucked up on this one.
A couple of thoughts, and a word of advice: Saying "fuck" in public was mildly transgressive half-a-century ago and required indeed a certain personal courage (my Telegraph colleague Sir Peregrine Worsthorne was famously denied the paper's editorship because he was the second or third person to utter the word on British television). But I'm so bored by it now: it's part of the general descent into snarling inarticulacy. Don't you think it's time our age invented some new, genuinely transgressive words? Everything is Caitlyned up? It's all Dolazeled to hell?
Where was I? Oh, yeah. If you think the Constitution is about "protection of the individual from the practice of religion in the public square", you should try reading it once in a while. Until the 1960s Christian prayers were offered in public school - and then some judges decided that the Constitution, which had hitherto meant one thing for nearly two centuries, now meant something else entirely. By separation of church and state, the founders meant no more than that they didn't want President Washington being Supreme Governor of the Church of America and the Archbishop of Virginia sitting in the United States Senate, as today HM The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the Archbishop of York sits in the House of Lords. If you had suggested to them that it means you are not to be exposed to "the practice of religion" in the public square, they'd have thought you were nuts - because, by that definition, there's no point to religion. It's just a hymn-sing and a homily.
The same applies to your phrase "the workings of a secular state". What do you mean by "state"? The government? Or the nation? Or some definition in between - the entire public space of a nation as micro-regulated by government enforcers?
In the end, no constitution is an abstraction - hence the ludicrous pretzel opinions of Kennedy and Roberts. For most of human history, a society has been no more than what it happens to be: Sweden is where Swedes happen to be; Tuvalu is where Tuvaluans happen to be. The state paperwork either reflects that naturally, or has, as in the case of America's constitutional court, to be tortured into alignment with it. But all we're talking about in the end is changes in fashion: Once homosexuals were on the outs, and their lives were lived discreetly, and their stories were untold in mainstream culture; now they're cool and all over the TV. Today observant Christians are on the outs, and they're enjoined to live their lives discreetly, away from "the public square", and, unless they're the designated hypocritical paedo in some TV drama, they'll increasingly be banished from mainstream culture. This is not about principles or constitutions. It's about fashion and it's about power - as it always has been. As we see in this country's increasingly tribal identity politics, even a theoretical commitment to "diversity" and "tolerance" and "equal protection" is unsustainable in practice. Day by day what matters less and less is that you are a citizen equal before the law but what priviliged societal groups you can claim membership of. That's power politics, tribal politics. As we'll surely see one day when a Muslim bakery gets asked to bake a gay cake. Good luck to Anthony Kennedy with that one.
~Thank you very much for your kind words about my C-SPAN Book TV appearance last weekend, talking "climate change" and sticking it to the litigious Mann. If you missed the broadcast, you can see it here.