Saturday, September 23, 2006

Passing it on

Gerard Baker begins his article on an airfield in Afghanistan waiting for a German aircraft that will not come. The sun is going down, and the German government has fobidden its airmen to fly at night. He is back in Europe then to watch European governments wriggle out of any real commitment in Afghanistan before hopping over to New York to see Jacques Chirac break the European front against Iran's nuclear ambitions.

He concludes:

Opposing the war in Iraq was one thing, defensible in the light of events. But opting out of a serious fight against the Taleban, sabotaging efforts to get Iran off its path towards nuclear status, pre-emptively cringing to Muslim intolerance of free speech and criticism, all suggest something quite different.

They imply a slow but insistent collapse of the European will, the steady attrition of the self-preservation instinct. Its effects can be seen not only in the political field, but in other ways — the startling decline of birth rates across the continent that represent a sort of self-inflicted genocide; the refusal to confront the harsh realities of a global economy.
Norm finds this step from practical political questions to issues of civilisational life and death 'bizarre' and 'excessive'.
Declining birth rates are nothing whatsoever like genocide of any sort, and in my book not even a matter for mild concern; the world isn't short of people.
The use of the word 'genocide' does seem a little over the top, but I think I can guess why Baker used it. It was not that he was imagining that Germany would have no Germans, or Italy no Italians, though the projected decline in those populations is verging on catastrophic. I'd say he had in mind the enfeeblement of a culture so that it is no longer capable of sustaining itself, or even grafting itself onto new stock.

There are several ways in which this can happen. Firstly, the group (be it a social class, or ethnic group, country or alliance) that is the originator of that culture no longer believes in it, has little knowledge of it or confidence in it or themselves. A vibrant culture is one that is transmitted to others, especially the succeeding generations. Though it is mainly children for whom and by whom this transmission is made, it is by no means the only way. Other groups and classes can join or be 'converted'. A huge example of this is the technology created in these islands in the 18th and 19th Centuries and the philosophy that went with it, adopted to some degree all round the world. Or Italian music of the 17th and 18th Centuries. There are many examples, going under various names, such a cultural influence, imperialism or progress.

But what if on the part of the 'transmitter', there is a lack of belief, knowledge and confidence (potency), while on the part of the potential 'receiver' reception is blocked? Is this not the danger that Baker is referring to? Not to mince words, the presence in the most important European countries of a sizeable group, Muslims, that rejects the fundamental tenets of those societies?

A group that is, moreover, gaining rapidly in demographic terms on the host group. This is the importance of population decline in the current context. A twentieth of the country's people that reject its laws and customs is a social problem. A third or a half that do so is a completely different country. Quantity becomes quality.

It is about survival, one of those basic questions that progressives always assume to have been resolved and conservatives always end up sounding silly about. The question is not just, what do you leave behind? It's also, who do you leave it with? Those who will/can develop and pass it on in their turn (firstly to their children, then to others), or those who will only abuse it or are incapable of using it. It's like not being able to defend yourself - others may do it, but only for as long as it suits them. What suits you has become irrelevant. You can't be counted (on) any more. You don't count any more.

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