Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's a boy! Circle the wagons!

Here's a different slant on the argument from demographics that Mark Steyn has made his own. In this one Islam is not the problem; it's lads

.... when 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population, violence tends to happen; when large percentages are under 15, violence is often imminent. The "causes" in the name of which that violence is committed can be immaterial. There are 67 countries in the world with such "youth bulges" now and 60 of them are undergoing some kind of civil war or mass killing.
This is the view of Gunnar Heinsohn, of the University of Bremen, who has written a book, as yet untranslated, which if it were, would be called Sons and World Power. He points to the violence in the Palestinian territories, no longer directed against the Israelis, but against other Palestinians. And to Afghanistan, where
in the decade leading up to 1993, on the eve of the Taliban takeover, the population ... grew from 14m to 22m.
John Weidner adds the British example: the over-supply of loose cannon (sons) in the late 18th Century. The military drank a toast at the time:
Here's to a bloody war. Many to go and few to come!
They had stronger stomachs then, and no chances of promotion if a few officers didn't go down.

So not a clash of civilisations after all? One part of me resists explanations like this merely because they are mechanical, and therefore neither interesting nor open to the influence of intelligence or will. Nonetheless, it is precisely factors such as these that leave the clever analysts looking King Cnut. This is a thesis worth investigating further.

Another reason I resist such ideas is that they can lead to a sort of quietism. The FT journalist wonders
Should the west just wait for this wave to burn itself out? When the world is at peace, will it have been better to have kept our nose out of other people's business? Will it have been better to say we at least tried to steer the developing world through this crisis in a humane way?
What good would such an approach have been towards the British between 1750 and 1900? Zilch. But I do wonder, who is going to do something about it? The Europeans?
Societies with a glut of young men become temperamentally different from "singleton societies" such as Europe's, where the prospect of sending an only child to war is almost unthinkable. Europe's pacifism since 1945, in Mr Heinsohn's view, reflects an inability to wage war, not a disinclination.
On the other hand
Of the 27 biggest youth-bulge nations, 13 are Muslim.

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