My local branch of the library just got a gorgeous (and allegedly cheap) remodel. It looks a whole lot like a big book store now, with tons of books facing out so you can see them, shorter shelves, comfy armchairs, and a view out the back windows over the sort of woodlands garden of the library (I don’t know that I was previously aware of either the trees or the windows). I’m not sure, however, if they got rid of a bunch of books to do it. They may have sacrificed function for form, which is never good.
Anyways, it’s a lot more inviting to browse, which is why, of course, I’ve been to the library four or five times this week.
As mentioned in my previous post, I was engrossed in Mark Steyn’s America Alone. It’s one of those books I’m glad I read. It didn’t make me feel happier about what’s probably coming, but at least I feel forewarned. Sort of like watching Glenn Beck; you might find out that things are, in fact, even worse than you thought, but at least you have a clearer picture of what’s going on.
I highly recommend America Alone. I’m going to tell you why and give you the highlights, but Steyn is really much funnier and more thorough than I am, so consider reading the book.
The thing I really keyed on was the discussion of demographics. If you’re a pro-lifer who reads much pro-life news, you already know that the world’s demographics are in serious trouble, and not in a “population bomb”/massive overpopulation kind of way, either. In short, the Western world has lost the desire to reproduce. Steyn ties this to the nanny state in the Western world and Japan, but more on that in a second.
In order to have a stable population, the fertility rate per woman has to be 2.1 children over the course of her lifetime. Sure, some people will only have one child, but, as long as they’re counterbalanced by enough people having three or more, it’s not a problem. Even in the U.S., however, our fertility rate among native born Americans is only 1.85. With the immigrant birth rate, we’re barely over 2.1.
The rest of the “first world” is not doing nearly so well. European birth rates are at historic lows. Japan and Spain are both hovering just above one child per woman. In other words, their population is almost halving every generation. Pro-life news sources have been discussing for some time that Japan looks to be on course to effectively disappear by the end of the century; at some point, you’ve just lost too many people to be a living culture anymore.
Europe, although its birth rates are slightly higher than Japan’s (so the painful decline will linger for decades longer), has a much more pressing problem: the countries of Europe have encouraged massive immigration to make up for all the workers they couldn’t be bothered to give birth to. Now, don’t get me wrong: nobody in my side of the family was even in the U.S. for the Civil War; they all came through Ellis Island towards the end of the 1800’s. I have nothing against immigrants, as long as they are immigrating to throw their lot in with their new country. Europe’s current immigrants aren’t interested in their newly adopted countries; they are more allied to Islam.
As a Catholic, yes, I have some sympathy with being suspected of treasonous intent by reason of religion. Catholics, however, have never conducted a terrorist act against the U.S. because of their religion. Even in Britain, the Gunpowder Plot was because of the attempted elimination of Catholics as a group by Elizabeth I and her successors; given the evils carried out by the Crown and Parliament, I have to feel some sympathy for Guy Fawkes. Fawkes and his conconspirators, however, were not imposing a new religion on Britain; until the Gunpowder Plot, in spite of heavy fines, arrests, and even execution for being Catholic, most British were still Catholic. The Crown betrayed them, not the other way around.
A significant portion of Europe’s new immigrants, on the other hand, are not interested in respecting the religious tradition of their newly adopted countries (a religious tradition the EU has repeatedly tried to deny even exists). Not all Muslims want to violently overthrow their infidel governments, but a large enough portion do. As Steyn points out, it only took about two dozen men to bring down the World Trade Center towers, a chunk of the Pentagon, and, if not for the passengers who ignored protocol and rushed the cockpit of Flight 93, the White House, too. It doesn’t really matter if most Muslims just want a peaceful exsistence, if enough of them want to detonate themselves on the local subway system. Especially if the alleged “moderates” won’t turn in the radicals in their midst before they kill someone.
A Dutch member of Parliament has to live under armed guard since she denounced the violence against women in Islam, and the Dutch government decided, of course, to deport her for saying something mean about Islam and upsetting the status quo. As if the Netherlands needed to protect the status quo and have a few more honor killings in the street or another dead filmmaker who had dared say that Islamic culture has major problems.
Around 60% of the Muslims in Britain wish to live under Sharia law, and, no, they aren’t going to move back to Pakistan or wherever they came from to get it; they want it in Britain, local laws to the contrary be damned. Sure, the suicide bomber who detonated himself in the London subway system loved cricket and several other British idiosyncracies… but he still murdered a bunch of people to make the statement that “infidels” aren’t worth squat.
France has long had a seething issue in the suburbs of Paris, where large populations of Algerians have never really assimilated to French culture. My French teacher in high school predicted this was going to be a growing problem for France (and that was almost two decades ago), but he said the problem was that the French didn’t try to assimilate the Muslim immigrants. I’m not so sure that was an accurate reading of the problem; if you immigrate to a country, the burden is on you to assimilate. You beat any bigoted nativist prejudice you encounter by persevering and proving yourself, not by torching cars in the Paris suburbs.
And all those unassimilated immigrants are having many more children than the native populations. Some day, if everything continues as is, we’re going to see Notre Dame in Paris and Canterbury Cathedral looking like Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a former church with minarets slapped on and all its images of saints defaced. (This is already starting in some areas of France, at least it was under the former administration. The government decreed that the Muslim squatters who had taken over a number of church buildings could go ahead and have them, since the Catholics weren’t really using them much, anyways.) It doesn’t matter that Muslims are a relatively small minority of France’s population; what matters is that a third of the children under eighteen in France are Muslim.
The root of much of this problem, Steyn argues, is the European nanny state. When the government treats you like a child, you tend to start to act like one. As Steyn puts it, the government makes all the adult decisions for you (taking most of your income to do so), leaving you, like a teenager, free to spend your tiny allowance on your CD collection. Not very conducive to adult behavior, including child-bearing and child-rearing.
Steyn goes into the self-hating multiculturalism predominant in the Western world, where any and every culture is held up for uncritical adoration, while our own culture is demonized. (Yes, the U.S. has made mistakes, but the Native Americans weren’t exactly saints, either. Teach the good and the bad for everyone, and move forward with truth.) This multiculturalism excuses Islam’s peculiar institutions (wait… we excused slavery under that excuse…) while refusing to defend the good in democracy, reason, law, and other Western traditions.
I think Steyn hit upon the solution in an anecdote from colonial India. Faced with the practice of suttee, the burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyre, the British were appalled. They practiced multiculturalism, in a sense; they acknowledged that it was the Indian tradition to burn the widow when her husband was cremated.
However, and this is where our own version of multiculturalism fails, the British officials also pointed out that it was British tradition to hang anyone who killed a woman. So, feel free to practice your traditions, and we will remain free to practice ours.
Predictably, suttee fell out of accepted usage.
Sort of like the voodoo followers locally who were conducting animal sacrifice and divining on the beach. As long as you’re within the law, go ahead, we don’t really care, said the police. As soon as you infringe on public property or laws about farm animals in city limits, however, expect to get slapped with a fine, multiculturalism or not.
Steyn concludes that we can either submit, defeat, or reform Islam. He asserts that we really don’t want to do the first two, and we can’t do the third. Reform has to come from within Islam (except, of course, that the radical imams claim that any call for reform is un-Islamic), but the Western world can encourage the right environment for reform and moderation to happen.
Given the demographics and the radicalization that Steyn documented throughout the book, I’m not sure that that is going to work in time. Not without a gigantic change of course, away from appeasement of Islam and towards a more self-confident culture that acknowledges that there are problems in the world, they aren’t all our fault, and we have not just a right but a duty to hold immigrants to our national standards of law.