Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What Is Becoming of Our Civilization?

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.” –Jean-François Revel

“Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.” –Arnold Toynbee

“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,” says Mark Steyn in a hard-hitting article about the decline of Western civilization. (See his website) The article is long, but is worth reading. It is witty, politically incorrect, fact filled, and very blunt.

Steyn discusses the largely ignored decline of the culture of Western civilization, focusing strongly, but not solely on Europe. He says, “[O]ne of the clearest signs of our decline is the way we expend so much energy worrying about the wrong things.” Steyn notes that after achieving so much affluence, our society has “developed a great cult of worrying.” We spend horrific amounts of time and resources worrying about future events that never materialize.

Steyn particularly notes the dire prognostications and ensuing worry about depletion of resources and environmental decline that were supposed to bring widespread famine, rioting, disease, and death. Some would aptly argue that by worrying about these things we have been able to prevent them, but I’m sure Steyn would counter that the amount of worry has been disproportionate to the actual threat and that most of the worriers proposed solutions were so deplorable that they thankfully never materialized either.

So what should society worry about? Steyn says, “We're pretty much awash in resources, but we're running out of people--the one truly indispensable resource, without which none of the others matter.” He notes that there never really was a population explosion and that we are, in fact, in the midst of population decline. While that may seem like good news to the zero population and negative population growth advocates, Steyn finds it quite alarming. He says, “We've prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity--"Go forth and multiply," because if you don't you won't be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare.” Steyn says that predictions of ecological devastation by 2032 are ridiculous, but he offers his own prediction. “If you're a tree or a rock, you'll be living in clover. It's the Italians and the Swedes who'll be facing extinction and the loss of their natural habitat.”

Steyn notes the horrendous decline in native birthrates throughout Western societies. The U.S. is currently faring somewhat better than most, barely cresting the rate of replacement. While the anti-human crowd cheers, the general population hangs tenaciously onto their socialist perks, eagerly firing politicians that threaten to bring some fiscal reality to the table. Obviously, these two trends are on a collision course. Both cannot be sustained. So Western countries increasingly rely on immigration to provide the necessary infrastructure.

Steyn discusses the reality of what will occur, but in doing so he draws a distinct line between Muslim societies and Western societies. He knows that this will be decried as racism, but he forges ahead noting that while race is unimportant, culture is. The societies with real population growth are ostensibly Muslim. While the U.S. can rely on immigrants from Latin America, and Japan can rely on immigrants from the Philippines and Korea, Europe largely relies on immigrants from Muslim countries.

Why is this a problem? Steyn again offers great offense by suggesting that Muslim culture and/or religion carries the seeds of anti-market, anti-modernist fundamentalism. He implies that the U.S. and Japan can assimilate their immigrants, while Europe cannot. He says that the biggest story in globalism over the past 80 years is not the export of Western business, but how the Saudis have taken “a severe but obscure and unimportant strain of Islam practiced by Bedouins of no fixed abode and successfully exported it to the heart of Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Manchester, Buffalo . . ..”

I have liberal friends that will point out that we are incredibly arrogant to believe that Western culture is superior to Muslim culture. Steyn tries to put this into perspective by noting that few of them would want to live in anything but a modern Western culture. He illustrates the cultural divide by hearkening back to France’s recent riots, suggesting that it is quite possible “that by 2010 we'll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations [in Western Europe] on American network news every night.” He predicts, “Best-case scenario? The Continent winds up as Vienna with Swedish tax rates. Worst-case scenario: Sharia, circa 2040; semi-Sharia, a lot sooner--and we're already seeing a drift in that direction.”

Steyn points out that nearly every agenda championed by liberals is at odds with fundamental Islam, and will likely be quashed once Muslim majorities are achieved. Steyn asks, “Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?”

Steyn says, “There will only be very few and very old ethnic Germans and French and Italians by the midpoint of this century.” He asks the following piercing questions. “What will they leave behind? Territories that happen to bear their names and keep up some of the old buildings? Or will the dying European races understand that the only legacy that matters is whether the peoples who will live in those lands after them are reconciled to pluralist, liberal democracy?”

Steyn’s article is filled with many other juicy tidbits and thoughts: what the war is really about, how America helped foster Europe’s decline, the emptiness of multiculturalism, how radical Islam assays to win in the long run, why terror groups exist at all, the inability of many Westerners to value Western culture, how deeply ingrained general government dependency has become, etc. You don’t have to agree with Steyn to appreciate at least some of what he writes and to understand that there is at least some basis for his alarm.

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