America Alone: The end of the world as we know it.
Thirty-eight years after the publication of Pope Paul VI encyclical Humane vitae, Mark Steyn confirms its timeless truth, however indirectly.
In America Alone, the Canadian-born columnist makes a compelling case for his central theme: because all Western countries have contracepted themselves into near-oblivion (my words), the world as we know it will soon fall to the fecund, that is to the Islamists whose world view is largely opposed to that of Western societies.
"The single most important fact about the twenty-first century is the rapid aging of almost every developed nation other than the United States," Steyn writes. "Canada, Europe and Japan are getting old fast, older than any functioning society has ever been and faster than any has ever aged."
This means that Canada, with an all-time low birth rate of 1.48, Europe with 1.38, Japan with 1.32, and Russia with 1.14 are going out of business. All have massive governments which depend on population growth to sustain them, yet all sponsor population control.
"There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital--and that's before anyone invented unsustainable welfare systems," observes Steyn.
To date, Western nations such as Canada have been using Third World countries as their nurseries to supply the babies they're not bothering to have, but that can't last much longer, Steyn warns. Why? While fertility rates in those countries are still well above replacement levels, they are dropping nonetheless. Which is bad news for Western countries with deathbed statistics.
"If their Fertility rate goes the same way as yours has, that will be a problem For you long before it's a problem for them," writes Steyn. "Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: the grand buildings will still be standing but the people who built them will be gone. And long before the Maldive Islands are submerged by "rising sea levels" every Spaniard and Italian will be six Feet under. But sure, go ahead and worry about 'climate change.'"
Of course, you can ignore this grim prognosis. Which is what most Canadian media outlets have done. Still, while the few who did review it predictably raged against it, Steyn's book continued to top the New York Times and Amazon bestsellers' lists.
"Possibly the most crass and vulgar book about the West's relationship with the Islamic world I have ever encountered," spluttered Canadian political science professor William Christian in a review in the Globe and Mail.
Whether Steyn is correct, Christian doesn't say. Perhaps this is because the depressing facts of Western demographical patterns confirm how wrong the dissenters of Humanae vitae have been and how accurate the encyclical's predictions have been about the effects of contraception on society.
In the encyclical, delivered by Pope Paul VI in July 1968, the Church re-affirmed her traditional teaching on artificial contraception and abortion, holding that the sexual act must retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life, and that the "direct interruption of the generative process already begun" is unlawful.
Thus abortion and sterilisation are absolutely forbidden, as is every action specifically intended to prevent procreation, all of which are held to directly contradict the moral order established by God. The encyclical warns that acceptance of artificial methods of contraception will invariably result in negative consequences, among them a general lowering of moral standards resulting from sex without consequences.
Nearly forty years after its publication, its abiding truth, based on its affirmation of natural moral law, resounds in page after page of Steyn's book. Though he doesn't directly address the intrinsic immorality of the contraceptive mentality, he confirms again and again its economic folly. Not temperamentally inclined to stern-faced apocalyptic forecasting, no one would be happier to be proved wrong than Steyn himself. Yet his assessment of the real danger the West is now facing--from within and without--is as clear-eyed, articulate and witty as his columns. And sobering.
"There is one difference between me and the other doom-mongers," Steyn observes. "For Al Gore and Paul Ehrlich and Co, whatever the population, the solution is always the same. Whether it's global cooling, global warming or overpopulation, we need bigger government, more regulation, more taxes, and a massive transfer of power from the citizen to some unelected self-perpetuating crisis lobby. Not only does this not solve the problem, it is, in fact, a symptom of the real problem: the torpor of the West derives in part from the annexation by government of most of the core functions of adulthood."
The result is a population of aging, self-indulgent, petulant and contracepting children whose main purpose in life is the perpetual pursuit of pleasure which may or may not result in the birth of one child at age 39.
"I wonder how many pontificators of the 'Middle East peace process' ever run this number: the median age in the Gaza Strip is 15.8 years," Steyn notes. "Once you know that, all the rest is details."
Steyn further argues that the Western failure to observe God's injunction to be fruitful and multiply has altered its very character and priorities.
"In 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy had the third-largest surface fleet in the world; the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of the most effective air forces in the world; Canadian troops got the toughest beach on D-Day. But in the space of two generations, a bunch of tough hombres were transformed into a thoroughly feminized culture that prioritizes the secondary impulses of society--rights and entitlements from cradle to grave--over primary ones."
Today, in most democratic elections, secondary priorities such as universal health care, government day care and state pensions trump primary ones--national defense, self-reliance and the family. But such priorities are unsustainable, says Steyn.
"If you don't go forth and multiply, you can't afford all those secondary impulse programs, like lifelong welfare, whose costs are multiplying a lot faster than you are."
Evidence of this appeared in a recent news item warning that Canadian baby boomers may have to retire much later than planned to help the nation cope with increasing labour shortages.
As for claims that the secondary priorities that drive Western governments are signs of national virtue, forget it, says Steyn. "As recent European election results demonstrate, nothing makes a citizen more selfish than socially equitable communitarianism: once a fellow's enjoying the fruits of government health care and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the general societal interest; he's got his, and if it's going to bankrupt the state a generation hence, well, as long as they can keep the checks coming till he's dead, it's fine by him. 'Social democracy' as it turns out is explicitly anti-social ... it's avarice dressed up with pretentiousness and it leads in Europe and elsewhere to societal 'indolence.'"
Which, in the end, are the same vices that fuelled the dissent against Humanae vitae and contributed to the Culture of Death which is now well advanced.
But Steyn still holds out hope for the United States which, with the Bush-voting states 12-times more fecund than the Kerry states, still has a relatively healthy birth rate and still has the economic and military power to protect her friends and to keep her enemies outside the gates.
"Whether we like the New Order in Europe and the world depends on whether America can summon the will to shape at least part of the emerging global picture," Steyn concludes. "If not, then it will mean the end of the American moment and the beginning of the new Dark Ages: the return of much the planet to a primitive state."
This is an important book which will be eagerly absorbed by traditionalists who don't need to read it--and ignored by those who should. As an astute assessment of where the West is headed, America Alone is the most important book since 9/11. It also explains why Steyn's legion of fans is growing exponentially as the EU and Canada are not.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2007|
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