DAVID GOLDMAN ON DECLINING BIRTH RATES: SOME THOUGHTSNovember 28, 2012
There's an article at The Daily Bell recently that I found very interesting, or rather, a few paragraphs in it that I found very interesting, and it provoked a lot of thoughts that I want to share. First, the article itself is here:
The paragraphs that provoked my reflections are these:
"Daily Bell: You wrote How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too). Can you give us a synopsis?
"David P. Goldman: The explanation of the death of civilizations in many cases is that they no longer want to live. Most of the industrial world faces depopulation. As a matter of arithmetic, we know that the social life of most developed countries will break down within two generations. Two out of three Italians and three of four Japanese will be elderly dependents by 2050. If present fertility rates hold, the number of Germans will fall by 98% over the next two centuries. Fertility is falling at even faster rates − indeed, at rates never before registered anywhere − in the Muslim world. These are observations that raise two questions: Why is this happening and how will this reshape the world? To the extent that demographers can find an explanation, the decline of religious faith appears to be the decisive factor. I drew on academic work and some of my own investigation to support this view. And then I sought to explain why some forms of religion survive in the modern world and others come to grief. Islam among all the world's religions is the least likely to succeed in modernity, I concluded.
"The consequences for political science and strategy are tremendous. Conventional geopolitical theory, which is dominated by material factors such as territory, natural resources, and command of technology, does not address how peoples will behave under existential threat. Geopolitical models fail to resemble the real world in which we live, where the crucial issue is the willingness or unwillingness of a people inhabiting a given territory to bring a new generation into the world.
"I concluded: 'Population decline, the decisive issue of the 21st century, will cause violent upheavals in the world order. Countries facing fertility dearth, such as Iran, are responding with aggression. Nations confronting their own mortality may choose to go down in a blaze of glory. Conflicts may be prolonged beyond the point at which there is any rational hope of achieving strategic aims - until all who wish to fight to the death have taken the opportunity to do so. Analysis of national interests cannot explain why some nations go to war without hope of winning, or why other nations will not fight even to defend their vital interests. It cannot explain the historical fact that peoples fight harder, accepting a higher level of sacrifice in blood and treasure, when all hope of victory is past.'"
To my mind, Goldman has put his finger on something significant, and something I have felt or intuited is deeply related to this "cycle of civilization" we appear to be traversing. I have often stated that I believe this to be one of those 500 year cycles, although with the technological changes of the post-World War Two decades, this particular cycle is unlike any previous in recorded human history: it is deeply, qualitatively, different.
At the center of this transition - and I believe Goldman has put his finger on something profound - is the fact that the traditional monotheisms, or as I prefer to call them, the traditional Yahwisms, are simply inadequate to the task, though an unreformed, unreconstructed mediaeval version of it, such as Islam, is the most inadequate of them all. One can sense a despair in those nations where the fundamentalist versions of it are in ascendancy, for it is hard to divine how, for example, in Egypt the wish to destroy the pyramids and other monuments of an ancient human culture, one so important to human history and civilization, could advance the cause of Islam in the eyes of the rest of humanity. It is merely the act of stupid, insane people. One can intuit the sense of despair of being in a culture or nation where the rulers are insane, and express such open discontent with the value of their own population, and a contempt for human life in general, or contempt for women.When I lived in the United Kingdom, one of the most interesting things to me were the many people I came to know from the Islamic world, and many of them, in moments of candor during conversations, would acknowledge the need for a thorough reform of the culture, sensing the impending moves, I suspect, into Islamicist reaction. They would, I recall, often make their remarks in an almost low-voiced, hesitant way, as if afraid someone was listening.
But Islam's difficulties are a symptom of something much larger and not unique to it: Goldman mentions declining birth rates in solidly western countries such as Germany as well. I suspect that the Angst that Goldman refers to obliquely in the above paragraphs is, in a subtler though no less real sense, at work there as well: the old paradigms are simply not working, though for a slightly different reason having to do with a much deeper questioning of the sanity and agenda of its ruling elites, and of the long history and agenda in which they have been engaged. What really seems to be suggested by Goldman's piece is the growing absence of hope, growing discontent with the direction the future appears to be going, and a growing awakening to the fact that the people currently in charge not only in the West but in the West's "cousin culture," Islam, are increasingly acting only in the interest or preserving institutions and their own power in the face of changes that will, eventually, overwhelm them.
Here, Goldman is correct: this needs to be factored into geopolitical thinking, and it thus far is not
See you on the flip side.