SIGNS OF THE CULTURE OF DEATH:
In "Persistent Drop in Fertility Reshapes Europe's Future," published in Thursday's New York Times, Frank Bruni reports that Sweden, Germany, and Greece all have a fertility rate of 1.4 or lower, meaning that every ten women in those countries will bear fewer than 14 children during their lives, or at least seven children fewer than needed to replace her and one male. (The replacement rate being 2.1.)
The Italian rate is 1.2 - it has been under 1.5 since 1984 - and the Spanish 1.1, the lowest in Western Europe. I would have thought that this rate was therefore the lowest in the world, but Bulgaria, Latvia, and Ukraine each had the same rate. And things are even worse in the wealthier parts of these countries:
Many provinces in Italy's wealthy, well-educated north have rates well below that.
The rate in the province of Ferrara, which includes the city of Ferrara, has been under 0.9 for each of the years since 1986 that Italy's National Institute of Statistics kept track.
The article describes the problems this is and will cause these countries, not least with pension plans and huge numbers of immigrants, and the measures their governments are taking to try to get their people to have more children, tax breaks, for example.
Many governments have expanded tax breaks for parents, child care alternatives or maternity and paternity benefits, acknowledging that a high cost of living and more women in the work force can be obstacles to large families. In some of those countries, like France, the fertility rate has nudged slightly upward.
Spain is considering a variety of ways to address those obstacles: cheaper utility bills for large families; assistance for young couples who are trying to afford homes; the creation of hundreds of thousands of new preschools and nursery schools; and longer hours for existing schools, an accommodation for working parents.
But the measures are not working well enough. "Nudged slightly upward" is still a child or two too few. They are not working because people simply do not want more children. Two stories from the article can stand for the rest:
Ms. Andolfi, 32, [the head of a childcare center] who has a 3-year-old son, said a second child would limit her son and limit the baby.
She conceded that her family's definition of what it needed was expansive. "The cellphones aren't enough and the televisions aren't enough," she said. "It's a little selfish."
Ms. Lenzi, 32, who is also part of a two-career couple, said she liked to read to her 3-year-old son, adding, "It doesn't make sense to have three just to tuck them in at night and say, ĽCiao, stella,' and that's it."
I do wonder what her evenings are like if she can't find time to read to three children. I assume she must have some pleasure - watching television, for example - she thinks a necessary part of life not to be given up. I say this because I have talked with parents who have said they don't have time for their children, and as they described their lives showed that they didn't have time only because they assumed they had to lead a certain sort of life - a certain sort of self-centered life.
And that, of course, is the problem. We see in these birth rates and in the stories the article tells evidence of the power of the Culture of Death in Europe: they do not create new lives because they prefer the things of this world, which is to say, they prefer things that die. This seems to me to suggest that the European countries that have such horrifically low birthrates do not - speaking of their people as a whole - have any real hope in the future and certainly do not understand love. They clearly understand getting and having, and getting and having for their child, but that is something different.
As the Scriptures suggest in many ways, having children is an act of hope in the future, and also a recognition that love is inevitably fruitful, which in a religion of the Incarnation means physically fruitful. Love instinctively incarnates itself in new souls. If in economics we should make "a preferential option for the poor," in marriage we should make a preferential option for children.
If a man and woman love each other, they will marry and they will have children, and (as a rule) the better they understand love the more children they will have. They want to get and to have, but the goods they want to get and to have are not things that will die, but creatures who will live forever. They will want another child, though they must dress him in thrift store clothes, more than a bigger house or a better car or a vacation farther away.
Bad things happen to societies that do not have many children, leaving aside all the economic and social costs. The deputy mayor of Ferrara has noticed this.
"There's a lack of energy," Deputy Mayor Tiziano Tagliani said in a recent interview here. "The society is colder without children."
The Culture of Death is a cold culture. And a quiet one, too, but the quiet is the quiet of the grave. And an orderly one, but its order is the order of the cemetery. A Culture of Life is hot and noisy and lively. It has not those benefits Europeans seem now to demand, indeed to expect. The only reason to prefer it is that life is better than death.
But people who do not know that life is better than death - that children are better than BMWs - cannot be convinced by tax breaks or cheaper utility bills. The first thing the Culture of Death kills in its victims is their ability to see the obvious.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two related comments:
1) Why, one wonders, do the Catholic and Orthodox countries have the lowest rates? Worse than Sweden, for heavens sake? It is worth pondering the question of why countries that once knew the truth now show even less hope for the future and more love for the things of this world than countries that have long been secularized.
2) Do read P. D. James' novel The Children of Men, set in the future some decades after every male suddenly became sterile, when the world has (somewhat) adjusted to live without children. It is one of those books that are in fact more than the sum of their parts, and a bare summary of the plot would not suggest how moving, and in many ways frightenting, it is. (James is an Anglican Christian, by the way, which presumably explains how she could see what she saw about the Culture of Death.)
In "Happy Kwanzaa," published Monday in the website Front Page, Paul Mulshine describes the invented holiday Kwanzaa, as the invention of a race-baiter and criminal named Ron Karenga.
"People think it's African, but it's not," he said about his holiday. "I came up with Kwanzaa because black people in this country wouldn't celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that's when a lot of bloods would be partying."
I'm not sure, myself, how one can invent a holiday - at least one without any obvious point, like Thanksgiving, that sets apart (makes holy) something, like gratitude, that is close to the center of what man ought to be and do. What does such an invented holiday set apart? There's something delusory about the enterprise, and so there is nothing surprising in the story Mr. Mulshine tells, though it's still really interesting.
The site also offers a column by Ann Coulter titled Kwanzaa: A Holiday From the FBI, which begins by reporting that President Bush
issued a formal White House proclamation celebrating Kwanzaa.
Sounding like a "Saturday Night Live" send-up, Bush praised the "seven principles" of Kwanzaa, "known as Nguzo Saba," and discussed the "early harvest gatherings called 'matunda ya kwanza,' or first fruits." He included the usual claptrap about how Kwanzaa celebrates "traditional African values" and "uniting people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs."
It is a fact that Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by a black radical FBI stooge, Ron Karenga, aka Dr. Maulana Karenga. Karenga was a founder of United Slaves, a violent nationalist rival to the Black Panthers and a dupe of the FBI.
She goes on to explain this in lurid if fascinating detail. She also exposes the "philosophy" President Bush has approved. (I know White House Proclamations are issued to make interest groups happy, and that almost no one else in the world pays attention to them, but lying is still lying.)
Kwanzaa itself is a lunatic blend of schmaltzy '60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism. Indeed, the seven "principles" of Kwanzaa praise collectivism in every possible arena of life └ economics, work, personality, even litter removal. ("Kuumba: Everyone should strive to improve the community and make it more beautiful.") It takes a village to raise a police snitch.
When Karenga was asked to distinguish Kawaida, the philosophy underlying Kwanzaa, from "classical Marxism," he essentially explained that under Kawaida, we also hate whites. While taking the "best of" └ I'm not making this up └ "early Chinese and Cuban socialism," Kawaida practitioners believe one's racial identity "determines life conditions, life chances and self-understanding." There's an inclusive philosophy for you.
My thanks to The Washington Times' culture section for the link to Mr. Mulshine's article.
A PROPHET WITH GREAT HONOR AT PBS
Associate Editor Kevin Offner sent us a link to a disturbing article about the use of taxpayers' money to fund a PBS program promoting Islam. It can be found here in the New York Post.
The author, Daniel Pipes, on December 17 wrote:
In a documentary The Washington Post calls "absorbing, . . . enjoyable and informative," exotic images of the desert and medieval miniatures mix with scenes of New York City and the American flag. Born- and convert-American Muslims speak affectingly about their personal bond to their prophet.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will premiere this two-hour documentary across the nation tomorrow night, then repeat it in most areas. The film's largest tranche of funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The heart of the film consists of nine talking heads competing with each other to praise Muhammad the most extravagantly. Not one of them criticizes him.
The film treats religious beliefs - such as Muhammad's "Night Journey," when the Quran says he went to heaven and entered the divine presence - as historical fact. It presents Muslim wars as only defensive and reluctant, which is simply false. All this smacks of a film shown by missionaries.
Move to the present and the political correctness is stifling. Hostility is said to be "hurled" at American Muslims since 9/11 - but there's no mention about the prior and vastly greater (foreign) Muslim hostility "hurled" at Americans, killing several thousand.
There is undoubtedly no mention of the fact, attested by various human rights organizations, that in most of the places in the world today where Islam comes into contact with Christianity, Christians are being killed. While American Muslims enjoy freedom of religion (and have taxpayers pay for missionary films about their faith), in Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and many other places Christians have been killed by mobs and militia in the name of Islam. Where in the world today are Muslims being killed in the name of Jesus? But PBS despicably broadcasts a lie about Mohammed, which I suppose is in keeping with their earlier broadcast of lies about Jesus:
─ PBS ignores an ongoing scholarly reassessment of Muhammad's life that disputes every detail--down to the century and region Muhammad lived in--of its film. This is especially odd when contrasted with the 1998 PBS documentary, "From Jesus to Christ," which focuses almost exclusively on the work of cutting-edge scholars and presents the latest in critical thinking on Jesus.
These cutting-edge scholars, of course carved Jesus into someone else, more to the liking of the secular liberal tastes of the folks that run PBS. Apparently they are doing the same to Mohammed. If only we all thought like them, we would realize that Jesus and Mohammed really taught the same things, which happen to be the "values" of liberal scholars.
That PBS did this is nothing short of outrageous.
I was going to recommend the latest column by Roberto Rivera, a fellow of the Wilberforce Forum and one of our contributing editors, but I find that it is not yet posted on the Breakpoint website. (It exposes and examines the United Nations' support for forced sterilization in Peru.) Unable at this moment to give you a link to this article, I would recommend his columns in general , and indeed the entire Breakpoint site.
In the latest column posted, for example, Roberto describes an article in the Buddhist review Tricylcle by Prof. Donald S. Lopez of the University of Michigan, in which Prof. Lopez argues that the Buddhism we think we know is a modern invention created to fit modern thoughts and tastes. Roberto writes:
Lopez says that "rather than defending the Buddhism they knew, many of the leading figures of Modern Buddhism accepted the claim that the religion had suffered an inevitable decline since the master passed into nirvana. The time was ripe to remove the encrustations of the past centuries and return to the essence."
This meant renouncing the veneration of images of the Buddha, which they regarded as superstition. Meditation replaced "rituals of consecration, purification, expiation and exorcism." Suffering, which was traditionally understood in terms of "birth, aging, sickness, and death," became a matter of poverty and social injustice. To make the Dharma more compatible with western science, the reformers argued "that the Buddha himself denied the existence of a creator deity, rejected a universe controlled by the sacraments of priests, and set forth a rational approach by which the world operates according to the law of cause and effect."
The article goes on with Roberto's quite helpful description of the difference between Christianity and this modernized sort of Buddhism. I am sometimes astounded, by the way, at Christians who think that because Christianity and Buddhism talk a lot about meditation and asceticism and conquering the passions, they are very close to each other. As our priest pointed out at the midnight mass on Christmas, the God of love and the Boddhisatva of Compassion are not the same thing at all. Roberto does show this in a nice, short article.
Denkt euch, ich habe das Christkind gesehen!
Es kam aus dem Walde,
Das M˘tzchen voll Schnee,
mit rotgefroren N?schen.
Die kleine H?ndchen taten ihm weh,
des es trug einen Sack,
der war gar schwer,
schleppte and polterte hinter ihm her.
Was drin war, m?chtet ihr wissen?
Ihr Schelmenpack -
Denkt ihr, er ware offen der Sack?
Zugubenden bis oben hin!
Doch war gewiss etwas Sch?enes drin!
Es roch so n?ch ?pfeln und N˘ssen!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht Lieb aus deinem g?ttlichen Mund!
Think, I have seen the Christ Child,
He came from the forest..
His little cap full of snow, with red-frozen nose.
His little hands hurt him.,
Because he carried a sack
That was very heavy,
dragged and bumped behind him.
Would you like to know what was inside?
You l'il one,
Your rucksack └
Do you think, the sack is open?
Tightly bound top and bottom.
Nonetheless something sweet is inside!
It smells of apples and nuts!
O God's Son, how love laughs from your divine mouth!
Goodbye Christmas, Hello The Holidays:
The New York Times, for all its liberalism, winces when the English language is assaulted by the politically correct. . Clyde Haberman in Wishing You a Merry Mishmash laments:
Heaven forbid that anyone mention specifically that what is being celebrated tomorrow is called Christmas. And, for sure, let us not acknowledge explicitly that this is also the season of Hanukkah, Id al-Fitr, Kwanzaa and, lest Wiccans feel slighted, the winter solstice. (Atheists will have to fend for themselves on this one.)
Out of fear that someone, somewhere, might somehow be offended, we have abandoned all hope of giving each religious and cultural festival its due. We now lump them all together in a bland generic blob called "the holidays."
No doubt next year we shall go to church on the December 25th holiday. A Canadian Catholic hospital has already named its outdoor decorated tree the Mercy Tree for fear of offending a synagogue within sight of the hospital.
Jews find this reluctance of Christians to name their own holidays ridiculous:
Professor Helmreich, who teaches sociology and Judaic studies at the City University's Graduate Center and at City College of New York. "We are taking the idea of separation of church and state to ridiculous ends. At this rate, nobody will be able to say `God bless you' anymore when someone sneezes."
Haberman is unhappy with gender-neutral language. I guess he has the good fortune not to be Catholic, and hear St Paul say, "When I was a child etc, ..when I became a man or woman─" (lectors really say this).
That's the problem with jumping through linguistic hoops to avoid giving offense, whether real or imagined. You tend to wind up with goo, or worse. Sometimes, you leave the English language begging for mercy.
This brings to mind a new local law that the mayor signed last week, requiring "gender-neutral language" in all city laws and documents. In theory, this is admirable. But in practice, will the law become one more dagger plunged through the heart of the language?
The situation is already dire enough. People endlessly mangle English with sentences like, "Everyone should wear their coat." They fear that by being grammatically correct - "Everyone should wear his coat" or "Everyone should wear her coat" - they might invite charges of sexism. Anything but that! (They could use a phrase like "his or her coat." It is neutral. But it is also hopelessly clumsy.)
So, many find it safer to torture English grammar than to run any risk of offending anyone.
So to all those out there in Holiday Land, I join with Mr. Haberman and say:
Guess there isn't much else to do except to wish a Merry Holiday to all. May every soul be granted their wish.