Monday, November 16, 2009

Tipping the balance

Here's some good news:

Mums are having more babies than ever ... the nation's total fertility rate rose from 1.92 babies a woman in 2007 to 1.97 last year, the highest since 1977.

It's important to get the fertility rate back up to at least replacement level (2.1). To understand why, consider the following graph:





The graph shows the damage done by sub-replacement fertility rates in European countries. If these fertility rates don't improve there will be a drastic decline in the European populations of these countries as early as the year 2050.

The graph comes from an excellent article written by Richard Hoste. He explains the following ramifications of the low fertility rate:

It can be projected that the total number of white people lost from the EU, Canada, Switzerland, the Balkans, Norway and the ex-Soviet states including Russia will be around 279,000,000.

If you don't mind the idea of European people not being around any more, this information might not seem to be of such significance. But for traditionalists it does matter. Getting back up to a replacement fertility rate of 2.1 means a great deal.

Nor is it set in stone that fertility rates have to be so depressed. If you look at historical trends, Western fertility rates began to fall in the 1870s, hit a low point in the mid-1930s and then recovered to hit very healthy levels in the early 1960s. They fell again to reach a low point in the early years of this decade, before once again (in Australia at least) recovering ground.

Here is the fertility rate for Australia showing the mid-1930s low point and the recovery in the mid 1960s:

1900:   3.5
1934:   2.1
1961:   3.6

What happened to restore fertility levels? One academic, Jan van Bevel, thinks a traditionalist backlash against modernity might have been the cause:

The interwar period was an era of strong societal tensions, not just in politics and in the economy, but also in marriage and the family (Coontz 2005).

The tide of modernization had been producing ever more social changes at a pace that was bewildering many common people. Some were enthusiastically embracing the opportunities and freedom promised by modernity, within as well as outside the family. Others were alarmed by new patterns of behavior and saw modernity as threatening the proper, established order, bringing degeneration, decline, and decay instead.

Over time, the latter group formed a powerful, conservative, even reactionary counter-force against modernity. Maybe that was one of the factors responsible for the rise of "the golden age" (or golden cage) of the nuclear family in the 1950s and early '60s (Cheal 1991)

As much as I'd like to believe that a powerful group of conservatives put things right, I doubt that this is true. What's more likely is that first-wave feminism finally burnt out during the course of the 1930s, as the costs of the disruption to family formation became increasingly clear.

Still, Van Bevel has a point. Liberal modernity influences people to prioritise individual autonomy. The modernist mindset is to want to avoid serious commitments that might limit what we can choose to do for ourselves at any moment in time. This runs counter to a culture of family life. Liberal moderns are inclined to prioritise the single lifestyle of personal career aims, travel, casual relationships, consumer choice and recreational pursuits.

Helen Clarke, the former PM of New Zealand, put the liberal mindset as bluntly as it's ever been put, when she explained her decision to remain childless on the grounds that:

You've got better things to do with your life, unimpeded.

But there is a strong foundation for a traditionalist counter-movement. The instinct to marry well and have children runs deeply. Most people haven't given it up as a key life aim; just last week a major survey of Australians aged 18 to 45 found that a "loving relationship" was still the most valued aim in life:

The 1500 men and women ... rated a loving relationship above financial security, independence, career and a social life.

I expect too that many people do want to pass on their own culture and tradition to future generations.  There are even liberals who regret not having contributed in this way. For instance, in my article The no future clause, I quoted the views of Gabriella, a 44-year-old childless English woman. She had been influenced by the liberal modernist mindset in her 20s:

Having children in my 20s would have spelled the end of everything I had spent my life working towards and was about to really enjoy: the ability to spend my money the way I wanted, travel where I wanted, choose my partners, live as I wished.

But in her 40s she was having other thoughts:

If people like me don’t reproduce, civilisation may be the worse for it ... I am a typical product of my family; I can see the thread stretching back through the generations. Do I think it’s a shame that this genetic inheritance won’t continue? Yes I do ...

It's the same with Nora. She is a childless Englishwoman who aims to continue, as a liberal modern,

to have fun, to enjoy my job, to meet interesting people, to go on great holidays, to read interesting books

But even she, as committed to the modernist mindset as she is, still feels the draw of other, more traditional, considerations:

I think my parents came from an excellent gene pool," she says, "and it’s a shame that, to date, that hasn’t been passed on ... at the end of our exchange Nora declares fervently, “You and I should have had children!” – hastily appending that she meant not for our own sakes, but in social terms. “We’re blessed with brains, education and good health.” She admits that the longer our discourse has continued, “the more I think I am a squanderer of my gifts and my heritage. But I live in a decadent age where that doesn’t seem such a problem. Anyway, devoting my whole life to promulgating my ethnicity is a big ask.

A traditionalist movement could provide a counterbalance to the dominant liberalism and encourage the commitments that many people, even liberals, do still consider seriously. Even if we weren't able to dominate, we could help to tip the balance. As the European fertility chart shows, even small changes have large consequences over time. It's worth making the effort.

56 comments:

  1. From my anecdotal observations, the increase may be in part to the type of immigrants coming to Australia.

    Middle Eastern, South Asian, South East Asians and Eastern Africans are having children at a far higher rate than the average.

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  2. Anonymous, possibly but not necessarily. First, the big increase was amongst mothers in the 30 to 39 year age group. I expect many of these would be Australian born women.

    Second, although some ethnic groups have a higher fertility than others in Australia (e.g. Aborigines, Lebanese), some immigrant ethnic groups have a lower average fertility (Chinese, Indians). The fertility rate for the Australian born tends to track pretty closely on average to the overall fertility rate.

    The table here isn't perfect, but it does give some indication of fertility by ethnicity in Australia.

    The figures are from 2007 when the overal fertility rate was 1.93. Those born in Australia had a fertility rate of 1.8. Those in China 1.6. Those in India 1.74.

    The higher fertility rate was mostly from those born in Muslim countries: Lebanon 3.54, North Africa 2.82, Pakistan 3.08, Syria 3.08.

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  3. That should have been "overall" and the figure for Syria is 3.28 not 3.08.

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  4. If you don't care whether or not your country will be swallowed by the permanent darkness of Islam, then by all means don't have kids.

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  5. What does Mr Richardson think of the notion of marriages which are, in one form or another, arranged?

    I think such marriages would be eminently justifiable on traditionalist grounds. (And they happen to have been what 90% of the human race had anyway, until a few decades ago, before Hollywood had corrupted millions of morons into assuming that a love match - or, nine times out of ten, a lust match - was some sort of Basic Human Right.)

    The fertility rate won't be lastingly increased unless the divorce culture is destroyed. There isn't the smallest chance, so far as I can see, of destroying the divorce culture until people start marrying for legitimate reasons. And they won't marry for legitimate reasons while the average unmarried punter still thinks of marriage as simply a new and untried version of Sex and the City type hedonism.

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  6. Interesting that they notice a role of genetics at all. Generally the liberal view is that inherited traits are not meaningful. Since we are self created, whether one received IQ or a liberal modern outlook on life would be immaterial.

    I think the culture is in more danger than the people. Europeans will still be here for a long time. You can have small, vibrant groups practicing an indigenous culture as long as they are free to do it. You cannot have that in an Islamic state. Look at the precarious Kalasha(white, blonde/red hair sometimes, light eyes) of Afghanistan and Pakistan compared to the Sami in Finland.

    Robert,
    Arranged marriage was not really a tradition for the West outside of royal families so they would not qualify as preservation of traditional Western values. Freedom to marry whom one chooses is one of the halmarks of Western culture that distinguish it from other cultures.

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  7. Arranged marriage was the tradtition of the West until the 20century.Indeed until recently families vetoed marriages of which they did not approve and choice of marriage partners were limited to those essentially selected by family. It is only in the last few that Western people have been free to marry anyone they liked with disastrous consequences.

    An arranged marriage system is in fact necessary to preserve race, culture and tradition.

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  8. I don't think we need to have formally arranged marriages. The more pressing aim is to overcome the delay in family formation. There are plenty of people who would choose to have several children if only they gave themselves time to do so.

    Does the West have a tradition of arranged marriages? I think the short answer is no.

    However, in a society that is more oriented to family and to marriage, the selection of partner is not as impulsive or individualised as it is now.

    For better or worse, in a family/marriage oriented culture, people are likely to consider issues such as family status, character and reputation when considering whether a suitor is eligible or not.

    Furthermore, the process of courtship is likely to be more formalised, which does give families a little more influence in the outcome.

    For example, historically a middle-class man could not so easily cold approach a woman he was interested in. He would have to find a way to be formally introduced to the family. He might then be invited (or not) to the family home.

    Parents are much more likely to screen for character than their daughters. They have an interest not just in sex appeal, but in whether their daughter will be well-looked after in the long-term, and whether the son-in-law will sustain the reputation of the family.

    So you can make an argument that traditionally in the West there was a more formalised courtship procedure, which gave the family at least a little more influence than today.

    But ultimately, as far as I am aware, it was up to the young man to choose to court a woman and it was up to the young woman to accept or reject his offer of marriage. So I don't think you can speak of "arranged" marriages in the West.

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  9. Good news if true (that Euro-Australians are having more babies), though the uptick is small. Note though that a society can endure a long time with slightly below replacement fertility, but not if swamped by alien immigration. Many European nations are losing vast swathes of territory to Muslim immigration; it would be a shame if Australia lost her cities too.

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  10. Mr Richardson writes:

    "ultimately, as far as I am aware, it was up to the young man to choose to court a woman and it was up to the young woman to accept or reject his offer of marriage. So I don't think you can speak of 'arranged' marriages in the West."

    Yes, but ...

    Even outside those Western groups where arranged marriages in the strict sense were, and are, unapologetically pursued (e.g. ultra-Orthodox Jews), families - both nuclear and extended - had in the West, until very recently, a huge "power of veto" over potential marriage partners. Religious considerations weren't always involved, because non-believing households exercised just as much of a power of veto as believing households did.

    There was, very often, genuine disgrace that attached to (for example) eloping without parents' permission, or to marrying against parents' wish into another religion. This was the sort of behaviour that frequently tore families apart, caused wholesale ostracism, got young people disinherited, and so forth. So even when the marriages weren't "arranged" with the deliberate pertinacity that (say) an Islamic paterfamilias would understand, they might as well have been.

    Without the reimposition of equally drastic marital moeurs, I simply do not see how a modest increase in the fertility rate will be of long-term benefit. Especially when it is combined with demands by ALP and Liberal powerbrokers alike for Third World immigration levels so huge as to bring Australia past the 50 million mark.

    One of my recurring nightmares is of an Australian society where the only clues to what a dignified, enduring marriage looks like have to be derived from observing Muslims. Such a situation would simply give extra emotional ammunition to the "same sex marriage" brigade.

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  11. "The more pressing aim is to overcome the delay in family formation. There are plenty of people who would choose to have several children if only they gave themselves time to do so."

    Without the social pressures of an arranged marriage tradition how do you propose to overcome the delay in family formation? And how do you propose to ensure the preservation of family (and societal)reputation, wealth, culture and tradition? If marriage is simply a romantic adventure, as it is in the West, how can it form the basis of society? And even if people marry earlier how can you stop the inevitable high marital failure rates which arise from the mismatches which occur from the purely romantic view of marriage?


    "But ultimately, as far as I am aware, it was up to the young man to choose to court a woman and it was up to the young woman to accept or reject his offer of marriage. So I don't think you can speak of "arranged" marriages in the West."

    In real life it was not. The young woman's father vetoed any potential suitors whom he thought unsuitable and an unsuitable man would never get to the courtship stage. Thus fathers controlled access to their daughters. Many fathers also selected grooms/brides for their sons and daughters from among the families of their business/professional associates and the young woman was often pressured into accepting the proposal. This is arranged marriage in all but name.

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  12. With civilization on the wane in the West due to the increasing influence of Islam, it would be understandable if a significant number of young people would opt out of parenthood altogether because they deem it morally wrong to bring children into the world whose future prospects will be to live as second-class citizens in Islamic cesspools.

    I think the increase in fertility rate may suggest that people are unrealistically optimistic about the future and oblivious to the terror and misery awaiting them and their children. I'm sure that fertility rates will decline sharply once people realize what their next decades will look like.

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  13. "Many European nations are losing vast swathes of territory to Muslim immigration; it would be a shame if Australia lost her cities too."

    We have already lost our largest cities to non-Western immigrants. One can wander around parts of Sydney, Melbourne or Perth and not see a single white face.

    As for the higher fertility rate, it is due, at least in part, to immigrants. In 2007, for example, 25 per cent of all births were to overseas-born mothers.

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  14. Here's Professor Peter McDonald's explanation of the rise in the Australian birth rate:

    "Improved economic conditions have a lot to do with it ... but there's something else, an increased public discussion of the importance of not waiting too long. Two or three years back there was a lot of discussion about it in magazines and newspapers. Women are bringing births forward, we know that. Having done so they are able to have more births over their lifetimes ..."

    Making women aware of the risks of delayed family formation can make a difference.

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  15. Doesn't the Baby Bonus have something to do with it as well? It could be viewed as a largely symbolic payment.

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  16. Anonymous wrote:

    If marriage is simply a romantic adventure, as it is in the West, how can it form the basis of society?

    I agree with anonymous here. In the West we have shifted from marriage as the prediminant input into the culture of relationships, to romantic love and more recently to sex alone.

    You'll always have an influence of all three inputs, but a successful society will base a relationships culture predominantly on marriage.

    One reason for this is, as anonymous puts it, that a marriage culture will be more oriented to "the preservation of family (and societal) reputation, wealth, culture and tradition".

    To put all this another way, it's an issue of how we select partners.

    If it's about a sexual fling, then we'll select on the basis of crude sexual markers (which for men will mean selecting for "hotness").

    It won't matter at all if the person we select is wildly incompatible. Tradition, family, character and background won't count, as we will only look for short-term sex appeal.

    If it's about romantic love, then we'll select according to impulse or feeling. We won't select quite so crudely, as we'll want to be inspired romantically and to be able to idealise the person we are choosing. We might also be looking for a longer-term relationship (but not necessarily marriage).

    But it's all impulse. We won't be considering the effect our choice has on our family and our tradition, or on future children, or on our long-term compatibility (when similarity of background and values become important).

    When the romantic love input is predominant, people are relatively naive and unguided in the way they select.

    So yes I think things need to be drawn back to marriage as the predominant input. But you can do this whilst still leaving some room for romantic love and sex appeal.

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  17. Thanks for linking, Mr Richardson, to the very interesting article by Peter McDonald. I've read that, and the comments boxes regarding your original piece, with great attention.

    Nobody in the comments boxes seems to have pointed out the elephant in the room that McDonald mentions: "A record 34 per cent of last year's births were to unmarried parents."

    This doesn't surprise me. It would be interesting for someone to crunch the numbers (assuming that the numbers exist to be crunched) and work out just who is having the out-of-wedlock babies.

    We can probably assume that Muslims, Jews, Indians, and Chinese are not, on the whole, doing so. My guess is that the hip rich bohemian "creative class" types (described, in their American
    manifestations, by Richard Florida) aren't doing so either. They're probably childless by choice, and if a pregnancy does occur, they would have little or no squeamishness about murdering the baby in the womb. So who is having the out-of-wedlock babies? My guess is, those who are combining the Howard-era baby bonuses with de facto unrestricted welfare. Great.

    If philoprogenitiveness (whether in wedlock or, especially, out of wedlock) is flourishing among those white Australians dependent on unemployment or disability payments, while the white Australian lawyers and doctors and merchant bankers and politicians are still as much in love with
    sterility as they were at the height of feminism, then civilisationally, I think we are back to square one. How we solve this problem without draconian legislation that would mean career death to any politician who favoured it, I simply cannot understand.

    Jilly Cooper, the British novelist, once described an aristocrat as someone who would far rather say the F-word than say "toilet". Australia's powerbrokers appear to be people who would far rather say the F-word than say "social class." Since we're not allowed to talk publicly about race either, this means two crucial topics ruled out for honest mass-media discussion, however obvious their actual impact on the way we live now. Chalk up another triumph for what Vaclav Havel called "the culture of the lie." Chalk up another failure for realist policy-making.

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  18. It is primarily women who bear the burden of producing children. Women undergo the physical burdens and risks of pregnancy and childbirth. And it is women who still serve as the primary caretakers of most children, even when both parents work outside the home.

    In the past, women had little choice. Reliable contraception did not exist. And women's dependency on men made it difficult or impossible for most women to avoid marriage and the resulting multiple pregnancies.

    But today most western women have choice. So what incentive is there for women to have large families given? Sure, there are some earth-mother types who revel in having lots of babies, but most women don't fit that mold.

    The only incentive I am hearing in this discussion is that it is the "right" thing to do for the good of society as a whole. But since when have conservatives ever thought "doing the right thing" is an adequate incentive for supporting the collective. For example, generally conservatives recognize that it is good for society if people contribute to the economy by working -- but conservatives also recognize that people need an incentive to work, namely monetary reward. Why is it that women, in contrast, ARE expected to simply give selflessly to the greater good in an almost communistic way?

    (P.S. I understand Mark's criticism that individual fulfillment and autonomy can be at odds with the greater good. But I wonder -- what is the purpose of a strengthening a collective if the result is the misery of the individuals in it? Why would I support a system in which women are made miserable by an demands of multiple pregnancies and children to care for with no reward or societal support? And don't tell me that the children themselves are an intrinsic reward. Work is intrinsically rewarding too but I still need to be paid.)

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  19. "For example, generally conservatives recognize that it is good for society if people contribute to the economy by working -- but conservatives also recognize that people need an incentive to work, namely monetary reward."

    Lets not get into the habit of mistaking conservatives with economic libertarians. Conservatives do plenty of "boring" work, like working for charity for instance, simply because it is the right thing to do and not because there is hope of reward.

    Why should women have children? Well its one of those things that has to be done. I'm in the army (reserve) and I'm not saying I don't like it but when its raining and miserable I'd rather be anywhere else. I'm in it because I think its important and the right thing to do (both of those reasons make it fulfilling) and if I don't who should?

    I do agree that women should be supported in childraising and not merely "left" with the children.

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  20. Margaret writes, correctly, that in earlier times "[r]eliable contraception did not exist."

    And now it does. So does abortion-on-demand.

    With what "benefits" for Western society at large, Margaret or anyone else may descry at first hand by a quick visit to Sydney's western suburbs, Melbourne's northern suburbs, most of London, most of Bradford, most of Marseilles, a good part of Paris, a good part of Amsterdam, all of Moscow ...

    Have we had enough yet? Are we ready to stop screeching frantic apologies for the Christendom that made us and that alone sustains us? Or are we going to go on pretending - like the Windschuttles and the Bolts and the Hewsons and the Albrechtsens - that economic liberalism and conservatism are the same thing?

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  21. Two possible incentives to encourage middle class women to have more children - tax concessions instead of baby bonuses and family allowances, and coming up with ways to help them get their BAs without getting into debt.

    If online BAs were available at low cost, then women could complete them part time, then spend some time child rearing without worrying about debt, before returning to work when their kids have reached school age.

    This would make a lot more sense than women slaving away in their thirties to pay off their students loans and hedonistic excesses from their twenties, and then stressfully trying to have children in their early 40s.

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  22. Hi Margaret,

    You wrote
    For example, generally conservatives recognize that it is good for society if people contribute to the economy by working -- but conservatives also recognize that people need an incentive to work, namely monetary reward. Why is it that women, in contrast, ARE expected to simply give selflessly to the greater good in an almost communistic way?

    Hmm, good question. Well, when someone pays money, he generally gets something in return, right? If a woman wants money for her child, what else could she exchange but the child itself? That seems wrong.

    No, I just don't see from whom the money would come and why he would pay it. Did you have a buyer in mind and an idea of what he would be buying?

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  23. Margaret and others, on further thought what about this idea?

    Instead of money, what about honor? Don't we honor our war heroes? Don't we give them special parades and places of honor? What if we honored particularly fit, intelligent and beautiful women (and men, for that matter) for having a large number of children? What if we featured pictures of their beautiful families in magazines and television and treated them as the models of society they are? And what if we encouraged the less well endowed to concentrate their scarce resources on a few children, say two, to increase those children's chances in spite of their humble beginnings?

    By emphasizing each child's ultimate worth before God we retain the best of liberalism and avoid the worst of eugenics.

    On the other hand, by encouraging the best genetically endowed to have the most children, we ensure that the population becomes ever better and thus retain the best of eugenics and the worst of liberalism.

    Critique, suggestions?

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  24. that last sentence should read "avoid the worst of liberalism"

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  25. Hi everyone,

    Thank you for the interesting discussion.

    I agree that there are many things that people of all political stripes do because it is "the right thing to do." As Jesse points out, we donate time or money to charity, or we perform military service. But, except for the rare saint, most people don't subordinate their entire lives to these things and certainly not without an expectation of high honors. Even those who risk their lives in the military do so on a temporary basis or part-time basis, with the expectation of high honors and other compensation for doing so, and leaving most of the rest of life free for other pursuits. Career soldiers generally enjoy healthy pensions, early retirement, and other benefits, as well as fancy titles, medals, etc.

    I do think that asking women to have large broods of children is asking us to be saints. (In the past, women weren't saints. They just didn't have so many other options.) Bartholomew's suggestion of honoring women for this kind of extraordinary devotion is a little bit on the track of what I am getting at. But I am not sure there has been an example of anything like this being carried out successfully. (I believe certain totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the USSR provided state sanctioned honors for prolific mothers.)

    I can't think of any time when motherhood has really meant that a woman has a recognizable legacy, or real honor or glory in society. A cousin of mine recently produced a family history centering on the achievements of our great-grandfather who served as president of a religious seminary. Our great-grandfather is revered by his descendants -- and his thriving seminary is even today a testament to his works, as are his writings which leave behind a clear portrait of the man, his values, and his achievements. Meanwhile, my cousin writes, "It's a sad fact that in this era almost nothing was recorded about married women beyond the fact that they were wives and mothers. I thus know very little of my great-grandmother . . . " Even her name was not passed down to her children. She has no legacy.

    Certainly, it is understood that men have egos that must be satisfied. That is why historically society has satisfied the male ego by rewarding men of achievement with honors, medals, naming buildings after them, publishing articles about them, etc. -- and even for the most humble man, the passing down of the family name to the next generation. But women also have ego, as well as the need for material reward. We are no better than men in this respect, yet we are more likely to face an expectation that we act like saints.

    I am open to Mike's suggestions too, since merely providing salve to the ego is a bit empty without material support as well. Feminists often advocate subsidized daycare and parental leave so that people can balance parenthood with other pursuits -- though this would not necessarily lead women to have large families. (And with my own libertarian streak, I am a bit ambivalent about this.)

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  26. I ought to mention, by the way, that I do not share the premise that women like me (white, educated, middle-class) need to reproduce in large numbers. (Full disclosure -- I am almost 40 and have no kids.)

    Will the barbarian hordes outbreed us? Perhaps. But then I remember that my own forbears on one side of my family (Italian) were considered sub-human when they immigrated to the U.S. 100 years ago. They were thought to be inferior and barbaric in every way, and their religion was thought to be disturbing and weird. Yet, my relatives and I find ourselves within just a couple of generations thoroughly assimilated into mainstream American culture, even upper / upper middle class American culture. The conclusion I draw -- the transmission of common civic and cultural values to new citizens and their descendants is more important than whether future generations are predominantly white or brown.

    I understand that there has been a struggle, especially in Europe, to assimilate certain new immigrants, and that Islamic immigrants have posed a particular concern since their values are so often at odds with western values. I share those concerns. Rather than engaging in a breeding war, however, I think the solution ought to focus on immigration reform and cultural assimilation. I don't know exactly what the solutions should look like, but it seems that that emphasis is more practical (and more fair to women) than trying to get western women to suddenly start having huge families.

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  27. Feminists often advocate subsidized daycare and parental leave so that people can balance parenthood with other pursuits

    Feminists advocate that because they're greedy. They want men's financial resources, without having to get them to marry. If you want "balance", whatever that might mean, arrange it for yourself or arrange for the cooperation of an interested party. Don't you dare steal it from others.

    Don't for one minute think that when feminists use the word "parent" or "parenthood", they mean anything other than "mother" and "motherhood".

    I can't think of any time when motherhood has really meant that a woman has a recognizable legacy, or real honor or glory in society.

    You confuse public with private honor. Men get medals because joining the military or running a seminary is about doing for others, while motherhood is about doing for yourself (and the kids). You do not have children for my benefit.

    As for private honor, you are simply blind if you think mothers aren't honored. When it comes to family, mothers are #1.

    The real distinction is that while women raise the next generation, men create the world. The skyscrapers, the airplanes, the medicines. Women are earth, men are sky. Few women recognize this, because they take the built environment for granted, just like they take the oceans and the stars for granted.

    But women also have ego, as well as the need for material reward.

    Great! If you want material reward, tell me what you're selling that I might want to buy.

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  28. Margaret, I appreciate the openness with which you are putting your views. It's refreshing to have this kind of exchange.

    I understand your point that motherhood doesn't bring the same kind of ego rewards that some careers do.

    Something to remember though is that the overwhelming majority of men will never receive such ego rewards either. They will self-sacrificingly go each day to the office or factory for the benefit of their families.

    Also, I don't think it's wise to pin a life meaning on such ego rewards anyway. In a few hundred year's time, will anyone "revere" those women who have given up on family to become lawyers or accountants or company managers. I don't think so.

    In my own life, I find much more meaning in what I consider to be the spiritual aspects of life. And in some ways women have an advantage here. They aren't forced to work in the more soul-destroying jobs. They don't have to live their lives at a pace demanded by their workplace.

    Finally, a wife at home is likely to be at no disadvantage to her husband when it comes to self-cultivation. Men are often pressed for time and energy and often have to give up serious pursuits outside of paid work.

    It's certainly the case in my own marriage that my wife has more time and opportunity to read, to spend time in nature and to visit friends and family.

    If she had the inclination, she could more easily write or engage in creative work than I can. There do exist opportunities for ego rewards and for self-cultivation for married women if they are interested in these.

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  29. Some evidence and opinion:
    "there is an important distinction between the total fertility rate (TFR) and completed cohort fertility" [CCF being more meaningful, and "Birrell concluded that Australia's low fertility was a consequence of a reduced rate of marriage or partnering, which in turn was caused by the number of males in their prime years not in full time work and therefore unable to marry and form a family." [ref. http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2008mar29_cover.html].

    The most comprehensive examination is contained in the Birrell Rapson Hourigan analysis of 100% of the pertinent data of the '88, '96 and '01 censuses. [ref."http://openlibrary.org/b/OL3374649M/Men_women_apart].

    Incidentally, Australia's post-baby boom birth decline commenced before the general availability of 'the pill'.

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  30. Margaret has made some exceptionally insightful and forthright comments.

    And as a conservative, I am disappointed in the responses to them.

    Margaret's first point was "But today most western women have choice. So what incentive is there for women to have large families given?"

    Firstly, I think we are seeing in feminism the backlash against lack of choice. This has manifested itself in a generation of women who are being sold only one acceptable choice - careers. Over time, the balance will right itself and indeed we are seeing many feminists now speaking out about it

    Secondly, I don't think having 2.1 kids (or 3 kids) is a 'large family'. 4+ kids yes - but less than that no.

    The question of "what's in it for women" is itself flawed as it exposes the mentality of today's generation vs the previous. That is - selfishness vs sacrifice. On a purely individualistic level, it is better for everyone if no one had kids, then we could live in unimpeded utopia and achieve our ambitions unhindered. Unfortunately there goes the human race...

    There is an element of sacrifice in marriage / childbearing for BOTH men and women. Women who bear the kids and men who have to provide for them

    Why do we do this? As conservatives, this is easy to answer - its what we're supposed to do - biologically, socially and emotionally. Children do not 'impede' us, rather, they are part of our existence. Also as conservatives, we have an innate desire to pass on our culture, values and civilization.

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  31. Margaret's second point is about legacy - and it is true that society has recognised the achievements of men more than women. Yet at the same time, the role of mother has been revered in Western culture. Motherhood has been placed on a pedestal in ways other roles haven't been.

    Margaret's third point:
    "Will the barbarian hordes outbreed us? Perhaps. But then I remember that my own forbears on one side of my family (Italian) were considered sub-human when they immigrated to the U.S. 100 years ago....the transmission of common civic and cultural values to new citizens and their descendants is more important than whether future generations are predominantly white or brown."

    Here we have the classic product of a liberal education - that is, placing ZERO value on the existence of one's own civilisation and culture.

    (If left-liberals are so smart, one wonders why don';t ever question a value system which is so laid back about their own demise)

    Firstly Margaret, the Italian immigrants and others to the US were of Christian heritage, hence they were easily assimilated.

    The predominantly Islamic immigrants today are not seeking to be assimilated, rather, they are seeking to replace Western culture with their own. And they are being aided and abetted in this by Western liberalism.

    Personally, I take nothing but unrestrained joy at the plight of Western secularism.

    You people firstly threw away your religion, your culture, your heritage. You screwed with the fundamental definitions of the family. You celebrated deviant practices like homosexuality and promoted contraception, abortion etc. In conjunction with this you adopted a left liberal philosophy which did everything humanly possible to devalue the family, marriage and children.

    And now, you have a patriarchal, confident and assertive Islamic culture ready to step in and fill the void you have conveniently located.

    This is what happens when you give up your religion. The bill is due people. Time to pay up.

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  32. Margaret

    Thanks for joining the conversation. I am a married mother of 5 so we probably come from very different worldviews.

    In the past, women had little choice. Reliable contraception did not exist

    I disagree. The Romans had animal intestine condoms and wild west prostitutes used coins as diaphragms for example. There were many other methods (barrier and chemical) that could prevent (or end early) pregnancies. What we have now is just safer (and more reliable - but a lot of these methods did usually work.) Women have been preventing pregnancy for a long time.

    You made two related points:

    So what incentive is there for women to have large families given? Sure, there are some earth-mother types who revel in having lots of babies, but most women don't fit that mold.
    and
    Even those who risk their lives in the military do so on a temporary basis or part-time basis, with the expectation of high honors and other compensation for doing so, and leaving most of the rest of life free for other pursuits.

    Have you heard the expression "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"? A big problem with feminism is the reduction materialism. There are soft and subtle forms of power that women had with her husband, community and grown children.

    I also disagree that "earth mothers" as you call them are a minority of women. It is very natural for women to gravitate to desiring and nurturing children. The outliers are the ones who do not feel a strong maternal pull.

    In the past infant mortality was higher so I concede that women who had many children may still have preferred to just take care of one or two but needed insurance.

    Childbirth is analogous to battle for women. Historically both have always been necessary sacrifices to keep society running. Men who refused to serve when called upon were social outcasts like prostitutes or worse.

    I disagree that large numbers of men join the military for status or financial reward. Historically they did because the cost of not doing it was so high(social exclusion, loss of economic opportunity, being hung by you neighbors who did serve.) The financial rewards are attainable in other industries without the risk of being maimed or killed.

    Feminists often advocate subsidized daycare and parental leave so that people can balance parenthood with other pursuits -- though this would not necessarily lead women to have large families

    Subsidized day care would allow the state to intrude even further into private life. It would also drive more families to need two incomes and thus deprive young children of their most important care provider. Families would pay a heavier tax burden to support the single mothers day care instead of just having that money to take care of their own kids.

    Robert

    I agree that some form of marriage culture where the parents of the potential bride and groom have veto power and steer their children in the direction of good mates by teaching them what traits make a good spouse existed before and would help the West again. I just don't see this as the same as arranged marriage. I guess the term refers to different levels of "choice" among the parties. But I absolutely agree that parent should help shape the culture via influence on their kids mate selection. I just see formal arranged marriages as foreign to how most of our ancestors lived so I am hesitant to embrace it as a cure.

    European/Western world peasants without property just didn't get to worked up about who one married unless the choice of mate was so terrible (prostitute, criminal.) Until recently, only a small segment of society had enough property to care about preserving it through marriage ties.

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  33. "I do not share the premise that women like me (white, educated, middle-class) need to reproduce in large numbers. (Full disclosure -- I am almost 40 and have no kids.)"

    Where would you be if your parents were of your mind? If you value middle class educated culture surely you would like to see it perpetuated?

    "I do think that asking women to have large broods of children is asking us to be saints."

    Is even replacement level too much to ask? The issue with immigrant birth rates is not that they're higher but that ours are so low. What's the point of having a highly educated, cultured and economically secure society that dies out? In the past the occasional family that didn't have children was no big deal, but as this increasingly becomes the norm it is important. Your argument seems to be incredibly solipsistic.

    If you're hoping that immigrants will have the kids for us and that we will simply assimilate them, I think that is wishful thinking. Why would they want to join a culture that can't even reproduce itself?

    I also would like to thank Margaret and say that I appreciate this discussion.

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  34. Your assessment of the sudden death of middle class Catholic culture exactly parallels mine.
    During my school years (1970s and early 1980s Sydney ) there was still the expectation among us boys that working hard,”ticking all the boxes”,and “playing the game” led to the sort of life that our fathers and grandfathers were able to live- economic security, home ownership, normal family life.
    Meanwhile our sisters and female contemporaries were getting the full feminist programme ( ironically by progressive nuns ) that their role in life was to fully utilise their fabulousness by undertaking further education and career; and putting off marriage and family formation to some nebulous future date.

    Fast forward another 10 years and we have the situation we have now.


    I do not share your optimism that there is any way out of this downward spiral.
    Among males there is a sizeable minority who have an interest in trying save traditional Western civilization but nowhere near enough to reach a critical mass in order to enforce changes .
    As for like-minded young women - the numbers are so small - to the point that among those in Australia you could probably list them quite easily by name …

    My best case scenario is the preservation of the cultural treasures of Western Christendom in “underground citadels “ (educational and religious institutes for example )for a future time- perhaps for a future conversion of an exhausted Islam .

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  35. The question of "what's in it for women" is itself flawed as it exposes the mentality of today's generation vs the previous. That is - selfishness vs sacrifice. On a purely individualistic level, it is better for everyone if no one had kids, then we could live in unimpeded utopia and achieve our ambitions unhindered. Unfortunately there goes the human race...

    True. But since when do we not honor self-sacrifice? Money is inappropriate recognition of self-sacrifice, but that is hardly true of honor.

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  36. My best case scenario is the preservation of the cultural treasures of Western Christendom in “underground citadels “ (educational and religious institutes for example )for a future time- perhaps for a future conversion of an exhausted Islam .

    This is more or less what Margaret said, Anon, and I fully reject it. I might as well give over my house to squatters and reason that, 'At least it won't be abandoned' as hand over my heritage and culture to barbarians. I'd sooner pull it apart, brick by brick then do that. Enough of this cowardice.

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  38. Yikes! I won't have a chance to respond to all the intelligent points made here (I do, in fact, spend most of my time at my job-- for the purpose of material reward, personal prestige, and the good of the community!)

    RANDIAN: In a sense, you made my point for me when you said that men get public honor because they are "creating the world." Remember, I am not the one arguing that having lots of children is necessary for the good of society as a whole. In fact, I was attracted to feminism when young precisely because I wanted to participate and contribute more directly in the community at large.

    MARK points out that life's meaning is not necessarily dependent on material or ego rewards. Spiritual aspects are probably more important. (I believe Jesus said, "Man cannot live on bread alone.") True that! But I don't believe that this important insight is an adequate justification for maintaining an unequal or unjust distribution of opportunities for ego and material reward. I actually love the paradigm-shattering point that Jesus and Paul made in the Bible that earthly hierarchy does not determine one's spiritual worth or value. We are all equally worthy and equally free in Christ Jesus. But I also think Christianity has been mis-used to justify complacency with the status quo. In my own country, slavery was tolerated by many Christian clergy who had a notion that spiritual freedom was what really mattered, rather than one's earthly situation. Feminism does not preclude a concern with the spiritual, nor does a concern with the spiritual preclude feminism.

    ON SELF-SACRIFICE. Sacrifice for the good of others is, I think, an important value. I think most productive citizens engage in some self-sacrifice. But when does the expectation of self-sacrifice cross the line into an unrealistic expectation of sainthood? Having a large number of children can place a woman in a vulnerable and dependent position for the rest of her life.

    THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE: Soft power isn't really power. Soft power is more properly termed as "influence." And influence is easily rejected -- especially influence from someone with little experience in public life. Sons may love their mothers, but they grow up to make their own decisions.

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  39. OK, at risk of going on too long, I wanted to address the most important point raised in the comments.

    PRESERVATION OF WESTERN CULTURE AND CIVILIZATION:

    Anonymous said that I place "zero value the existence of [my] own civilisation and culture."

    Actually, that is not at all true. I very much want to see my western secular humanism and Enlightenment values prevail in the worldwide war of ideas. I was not suggesting that it would be okay if Australia or the United States were to become Islamic theocracies.

    What I am rejecting is the proposed solution of reverting back to an old-time patriarchy by which women are charged with outbreeding the opposition. Essentially your proposed solution would require me to simply give up my culture right out of the gate. You are telling me that my only choices are to accept either a western patriarchy or an Islamic patriarchy. And yeah, IF those are my only choices, THEN, as a woman, I really don't have a stake in this fight. I am not going to voluntarily become a second class citizen so you guys can win.

    So I am open to limits on immigration, efforts to promote assimilation of immigrants from other cultures, supporting a strong military, and supporting the (relatively nascent) efforts of women's groups in the Islamic world (a cause to which I contribute a great deal of money through various western women's organizations that provide grant money and other support to non-western feminists).

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  40. "You are telling me that my only choices are to accept either a western patriarchy or an Islamic patriarchy. And yeah, IF those are my only choices, THEN, as a woman, I really don't have a stake in this fight."

    Conservatism has the advantage if you will of not being the dominate philosophy. Therefore, its your philosophy in the spotlight at the moment not ours. You have to look and say does feminism lead to what we wanted it too, does it satisfy life’s challenges, does it progress society. It isn't good enough to answer every criticism with "well at least feminism isn't conservatism so it can't be all bad".

    Nobodies arguing that every philosophy will be perfect but IF your philosophy leads to the spiralling down of the birthrate to a level that seriously imperils the future existence of the west as a serious entity then your philosophy is a total abject failure.

    Hopefully childrearing can be seen as not too great a sacrifice. Yes some people will be more drawn to it that others. Some will contribute in other ways. Some will have lots of children others one or two (religious conservatives are more likely to have lots of children). However, if one or none is increasingly the norm we're obviously in strife. That is a pretty obvious fact which you'll have to work hard to get around.

    On another point the issue of childrearing raises just how short term (and self centred if I can say) liberalism/feminism is. Its noble to say feminism is about the advancement of women and society. Its not noble, however, to use feminism/liberalism as a legitimating device to do whatever we want without serious regard for others or the future. Surely self obsession and self centeredness leads to vice under any philosophy?

    If liberalism and feminism are about freedom for the individual, they must in practise be more than that if the human (western) race is actually to survive.

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  41. "Essentially your proposed solution would require me to simply give up my culture right out of the gate"

    If your culture is nothing but individual autonomous freedom then yes childrearing would limit that. Your culture, however, is not just you, its something you were born into and has a long history. In that sense childrearing is not a distraction from culture it is the essence of it.

    On the survival of the West it ultimately comes down to the question can the West (as a meaningful people or concept) survive without white people having children? I think its incredibly naive to think that it can.

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  42. Jesse,

    I don't agree that feminism equates to just doing whatever you want with no view to the public good. Valuing equality and autonomy for all is not the same as dispensing with any sense of civic obligation.

    But any society or civilization is only valuable to the extent it meets the needs of the individuals in it. I love my country (and western civilization in general) because they strive to provide equal dignity and opportunity for all, regardless of accidents of birth such as sex, race, class origin, etc.

    But it is unlikely that women in large numbers would be able to have more than one or two kids without losing the fruits of western of civilization. Having many children usually results in a woman being reduced to a position of vulnerability and dependence. If women do this en masse, we will not only become powerless and vulnerable as individuals but our public life will go back to being almost entirely male dominated. If this happens, we will again become second class citizens. We will be despised, as we were for much of history, even within my own memory. Society will no longer meet our needs because we will again become a subjugated class.

    If we become a subjugated class, then what stake have we really in the civilization that has subjugated us? Would you expect a slave to care much about the fate of the Roman Empire or the American South?

    Not embracing subjugation is not the same thing as doing whatever the hell you want. I am a productive member of society -- but I am invested in society because I am considered a full and equal citizen. If I am to give that up, then what's the point?

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  43. I am also not convinced that childrearing is the essence of culture. It can be, but it depends on conditions in the society at large. For example, my conservative, religious great-grandparents utterly failed to transmit their values to their descendents. My parents and I (and perhaps even my grandparents) were far more influenced by economic and political changes, scientific advances, various social movements over the last 100 years, the intellectual life of our culture, and the zeitgeist in general.

    At this point, I think it is hard to predict the long-term results of the various culture wars in the west and in the world at large. I don't think being white matters, or even religious beliefs. (Yes, Islam as it is widely practiced is a terrible enemy to feminism, but a more liberal, egalitarian Islam can and does exist.) The problem as I see it is the existence in the west of insular, isolated, radically conservative communities of fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians who rigorously control their children's access to the larger culture to prevent them from being influenced by modern western values.

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  44. Margaret,
    But any society or civilization is only valuable to the extent it meets the needs of the individuals in it.

    But you've made Mark's and Jesse's point, Margaret. You've made the Individual to be the god before whom the entire civilization must bow. And the irony is that, in the end, the Individual won't survive the honor.

    Why? You write,

    I don't think being white matters, or even religious beliefs.

    But of course Christian Whites are the very people who first left the faith of their ancestors and came up with the cult of the Individual in the first place. And we're dying out as a direct result.

    If any other race is so foolish as to follow our example, there is no reason to suppose they won't suffer the same fate. The Individual is apparently a very murderous god.

    Perhaps it is true that one cannot know which of the monotheistic faiths is the right one. But from the mass extinction of the liberal/individualist nations alone, one can readily see that Liberalism/Individualism is certainly false.

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  45. Margaret, you wrote,

    The problem as I see it is the existence in the west of insular, isolated, radically conservative communities of fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians who rigorously control their children's access to the larger culture to prevent them from being influenced by modern western values.

    This equivalence is grossly false and unjust to fundamentalist Christians. The most radically fundamentalist of Christians drive buggies and make furniture. Do you really want to compare them to even the more moderate Muslims, let alone Al Qaeda?

    This ignorance of basic differences in Christian and Muslim first principles and their resulting practices is unnecessary. You can acquire a free Bible from the Gideons and a free Quran from CAIR (at least, that's where I got mine).

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  46. By the way, I recognize that being an individual has its place in Western culture and is good. What is false is to render the individual a god and reject all other aspects of life (e.g. family, sex, race, nation, faith, community, etc.) as Margaret advocates.

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  47. "I am a productive member of society -- but I am invested in society because I am considered a full and equal citizen. If I am to give that up, then what's the point?"

    As a soldier I'm always bouncing up against authority and frequently asking when individualism and self fulfilment is important and when is fitting in and conforming is important? I don't think there is any one answer and its a continual process of adapting, learning and improving. However, I am aware of the goals I am trying to achieve. All the personal happiness and fulfilment in the world won't mean anything to me if my civilisation falls, because as you say it is this very civilisation that has given me the ability to pursue these things and much more besides. Yes fulfilment is one of the best things and I also like to think it makes me a better person and worker.

    It’s not just me in this though. Conformity isn't merely a controlling mechanism for the convenience of others; there is wisdom in acting in certain ways and following well trodden routes.

    You say that one or two children make civilisational life too hard, however, does attending that next play really matter that much. People knock off work in their 50's and 60's and that leaves them with on average at least 20 years free time. For what? To travel and holiday? In recent times the Europeans have achieved shorter working hours but its not like the added free time has been used very productively nor been responsible for a great cultural renaissance.

    I'm not saying everyone should be a super person and modern life has many demands but the commander of my Reserve Brigade is a Supreme Court Judge. When I see things like that I'm inspired to do better and do the best I can.

    Either way I don't think the benefits of civilisation can be held in higher priority than the things that sustain it. If its not too patronising to say I'd like to see many more people like you in the future.

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  48. I've only just caught up with this discussion, so I'll try to be succinct. The way I read it, the main question here that remains to be answered satisfactorily is why should women sacrifice so much in order to have a large number of children.

    Much of what Margaret has said resonates with me. I am certainly not an "earth mother" type. In fact, I spent all of my twenties maintaining that I would never marry and never have children. Nevertheless, I am now married and (despite the hardship) trying to have as many children as nature and my physical and mental health will allow. Why?

    Duty has been touched upon, and it is relevant. It is something that informs my overall mindset and beliefs, but to be honest it isn't a day-to-day practical consideration.

    One thing that is highly relevant for me is that I see the welcoming of children as a concomitant responsibility that comes with the benefits of being a wife. When I was younger I often said (half-jokingly) that I didn't think I'd ever marry and have children but that I couldn't wait to meet the man who could change my mind. I suppose what I'm saying is that if you're going to have the advantages of a loving husband, then you need to accept the wifely job description that comes with it.

    While I don't think women need to be paid or rewarded overtly for their role as mothers - that's a very male approach - being a mother is a sacrifice that needs to be acknowledged and not taken for granted. Affirmation, particularly from one's husband and extended family, is a big motivation. On a societal basis, the taxation structure definitely needs to make single income families more financially viable, and motherhood needs to be seen culturally as a "success". I know it is worth it, and I know that all the career successes in the world cannot match that of having children and being with them 24 hours a day as they grow up, but that is only because I spent more than a decade being highly successful in a number of fields; not many women can do that without missing out on the chance to be mothers too. What it comes down to (for me) is that I've "been there done that and got the t-shirt", but what is required on a wider basis is for other women to somehow learn these lessons without having to expend years of their lives in the process. The challenge is how we communicate to most (but not all) women - there will always be an important and fulfilling role for single women, but they should be a minority - that their "destiny" is a happy one that revolves around a traditional role as wife and mother.

    Why have children when there are ways and means of avoiding it, many will ask. I suppose my view is that it is a perversion to have sex and avoid the natural consequences, a perversion to "mate" and live a lifestyle that is essentially that of two single people hanging out together, and an utter shame to have the opportunity to procreate in the stability and security offered by our first world society and reject it. Having worked in a war zone and emerged as a survivor, I have seen how what is important is often only revealed as we lose it, and I have seen life stripped bare to reveal what really matters. In such circumstances, everyone, whether single or married, old or young, agree on one thing: save the children.

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  49. Margaret said:"Having many children usually results in a woman being reduced to a position of vulnerability and dependence. If women do this en masse, we will not only become powerless and vulnerable as individuals but our public life will go back to being almost entirely male dominated. If this happens, we will again become second class citizens. We will be despised, as we were for much of history, even within my own memory. Society will no longer meet our needs because we will again become a subjugated class."

    You may be right about the vulnerability and dependence, Margaret, but I have to disagree with the remainder of your point. Women were not despised for their role in society. Those who were despised were the ones who rebelled against the traditional role and became like men. It is only if you believe that women have a need to be like men that having large numbers of children becomes unattractive.

    Ironically, it is now that women in traditional roles are most despised. My choice to raise a family is tolerated at best and viewed as a "waste" of my potential. A hundred years ago, my high level of education and worldly experience would have been hailed as a blessing to my family (though rather unusual), and I would not have been seen as wasting my time on children. Far from it, I would be seen as doing the most natural thing in the world, bringing my family an exceptional array of skills and experiences to benefit the next generation.

    As for our needs being met, that is a matter of perception. I dispute any claim that women (or men) in general are having their needs met in a better fashion in today's liberal society. We are indoctrinated to believe that we will be happier with more freedom, but the people who are at peace on their deathbeds aren't the ones who have pursued their freedom endlessly but the ones who have had families and been surrounded by their loved ones. The regrets are never that they spent too much time raising children; the regrets are about wasting time on ultimately meaningless goals rather than spending more time with spouses and children.

    As for women being left out of public life, that sounds wonderful to me. The women who are truly called to public life will always manage to be heard and make an impact - indeed, they will be lauded all the more - and we will be spared the hordes of mediocre power-hungry women who currently dominate the political scene. Women, when spared feminist indoctrination, tend to desire a husband and children and the comfort of being provided for in a stable and secure environment. That is what it means to have one's needs met!

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  50. Sorry for the slowness of my reply; my day yesterday was crazy.

    I suppose the problem (if it is a problem) is that individualism IS the culture. In the U.S. the foundational premise is the right of the individual "to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."*** That is what we are supposed to be fighting and working for. If you are saying that foundational premise is the problem, you are not saying that we should fight to preserve that culture. Rather, you are saying we should give up our culture now (rather than wait to be overrun) and replace it with something alien just for the purpose of physical survival.

    *** Apologies for the constant American emphasis but that is the prism through which I view these things. I hope it is productive here; surely Americanism is derived from and has much in common with the common European and Christian roots we share with Australia.

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  51. Of course, I must stress that I am accepting the premises here only for the sake of argument. As mentioned above, I think the assumption that we are about lose a breeding war to the Third World is overly simplistic.

    One assumption that may be very wrong is the notion that the Third World population will grow at an enormous, unabated rate. Imagine my delight to discover in my old stack of magazines, the October 31 issue of The Economist with a cover story entitled "Falling Fertility: How the Population Problem is Solving Itself." The article points out that the Third World fertility rate is falling dramatically. In many countries, the drop in the fertility rate in just the last 20 years has equalled the drop in westernized fertility over the course of 130 years. IRAN, of all places, had the most dramatic drop.

    The drop in fertility seems to correlate to increased wealth and increased education of women. It seems to be both caused by those factors and contribute to those factors. It also seems that, the world over, when families have options, they choose to have about 2 kids. It seems to me that policies that help to encourage prosperity and education in non-western countries could go a long way towards mitigating the dangerous situation of a teeming, impoverished and radicalized Third World.

    The article also notes that it is pretty much impossible to maintain an ideal population balance. When fertility drops, you at some point hit an economic sweet spot where most of your population are productive adults with few elderly or child dependents. The western world hit this sweet spot (which the Economist calls "the Goldilocks Moment" in the mid-20th century). Now the balance is shifting towards a greying population of elderly dependents, because this perfect economic balance is impossible to maintain over the long term. Most societies have a higher dependency ratio -- with either lots of dependent youth, or lots of dependent elderly. Much of what we are idealizing from the prosperous past was an idiosyncratic moment in our history.

    Old hat, thanks for your comments! I should note in response to you and Jesse that, though I myself am childless, I don't really see the issue as one between childlessness and having kids. The vast majority of women, including the most hard-core feminist women I know, have children. While deliberate childlessness is more common than in the past, it is hardly the norm. The issue is family size.

    We will have to disagree on the position of mothers before feminism. I saw it with my own eyes on a daily basis living in communities of traditional nuclear families, largely untouched by feminism, in both America and Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s. I talked to my older female relatives who experienced the same casual daily contempt in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. There was a lot of lip service to motherhood -- but if a mother tried to, say, give a political opinion, she would be treated to a patronizing pat on the head.

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  52. Margaret, you wrote:

    I suppose the problem (if it is a problem) is that individualism IS the culture. In the U.S. the foundational premise is the right of the individual "to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."*** That is what we are supposed to be fighting and working for. If you are saying that foundational premise is the problem, you are not saying that we should fight to preserve that culture.

    I and most others on this Comments board have already addressed this. No, individualism is not the culture. It is one very important aspect of that culture.

    The people which makes individualism the sole, defining characteristic of its culture debases and destroys itself, of which free-falling birth rates is but one manifestation.

    To the extent that other nations are embracing liberalism, their birth rates are also falling.

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  53. I talked to my older female relatives who experienced the same casual daily contempt in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. There was a lot of lip service to motherhood -- but if a mother tried to, say, give a political opinion, she would be treated to a patronizing pat on the head.

    That's not how I remember things at all. There was a degree of underestimation of women's abilities in some fields, I agree. But the general attitude was one of deep respect.

    Young men were brought up to treat women if anything with a kind of deference - and this worked out alright when women themselves acted according to an ideal of their own and didn't exploit this deference for destructive purposes.

    Margaret, compare the popular music of even the 1970s with that of today. Which demonstrates a higher regard for women? Which demonstrates contempt?

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  54. Margaret said: "I talked to my older female relatives who experienced the same casual daily contempt in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. There was a lot of lip service to motherhood -- but if a mother tried to, say, give a political opinion, she would be treated to a patronizing pat on the head."

    I think I know the sort of behaviour to which you are referring, Margaret, but I'm not sure I'd call it "daily contempt". It is true that in general a woman was expected to largely keep her political views to herself and/or follow her husband's example, but I think this was more to do with separate spheres than considering one superior to another. A woman's opinion on anything to do with her area of expertise (such as housekeeping, childrearing, first aid) was highly valued and sought after, whereas it was merely assumed that being in the private sphere she would have little knowledge of the public sphere of politics. And whether we like it or not, these women often were pretty ignorant of affairs outside of the home. I'm not saying this was necessarily a good thing, but I know plenty of women who simply don't want to know anything about politics. Some women in the past may have felt there was contempt for their views, but others would have felt awfully stressed if they had been expected to know about such affairs in addition to the many things that already occupied their daily lives. Women of higher classes who had more help around the home tended to have a wider knowledge and concurrent higher expectations of their knowledge of the public sphere; some women would have buckled under the pressure if there had been an expectation to have well-formed political views. I have no doubt that some women would feel confined in such an environment, myself included, but such women were a minority and tended to move to more cosmopolitan big cities and so forth where their wider interests would be nurtured. Men suffered the same problem when there was a discrepancy between their class expectations and their personal aspirations - this was not a problem isolated to women - and a man might have to leave his home community if, for example, he wanted to be involved in politics but had grown up on a farm with expectations that he continue in his father's footsteps.

    Furthermore, there were plenty of women who were politically active. There has always been a place for young women prior to marriage and spinsters to 'break' the rules. The exception proves the rule, as they say. While I abhor "women's history", one good thing that has come out of it is bucketloads of proof that women were not poor helpless victims but active and vibrant members of society. Some were rebels, but most achieved this not only within their traditional roles but also thanks to their traditional roles.

    I'll give you just one example of a woman whose primary purpose was to beget children: Catherine of Aragon. I can think of little worse than being married to Henry VIII, but even she in her highly traditional role was given complete control of the kingdom when her husband was overseas. Her political opinions were very highly regarded, even by her husband (who is renowned for his mistreatment of women).

    Having a large number of children and being a wife and mother primarily has never evoked contempt, as far as I can see, not until the sexual revolution.

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  55. . It seems to me that policies that help to encourage prosperity and education in non-western countries could go a long way towards mitigating the dangerous situation of a teeming, impoverished and radicalized Third World.

    True to some degree but culture seems to be a huge motivation. The 9/11 hijackers were form middle class, educated backgrounds yet they intensely hated Western Civilization. They could have made decent lives for themselves in America or back home easily.

    The birth rate is indeed falling in much of the the third world with two exceptions. Most of the Islamic world (The Persians in Iran are an outlier and their culture and history so different from that of their neighbors that I am always confused that they are lumped together) and sub-Saharan(mostly Christian) Africa. Two groups with strong historic animosity toward the West.

    Anyhow I do not think it is your responsibility to have children for society or European culture or anything like that. An unique feature of the West has always been a role for unmarried or childless adults. It may not always have been a cherished role but it was an option none the less. Compare the lives of unmarried and childless Islamic women to see startling differences.

    I talked to my older female relatives who experienced the same casual daily contempt in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. There was a lot of lip service to motherhood -- but if a mother tried to, say, give a political opinion, she would be treated to a patronizing pat on the head.

    A lot of men would have been treated this way as well. However why does a woman need to have her political opinions sanctioned by her male relatives int he first place?

    what does this have to do with the position of motherhood in society? I don't think this disproves the social role that mothers enjoyed for motherhood.

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  56. The 9/11 hijackers were form middle class, educated backgrounds yet they intensely hated Western Civilization.
    There's a fair amount of evidence to suggest that well-educated Muslims are more, not less, likely to obey Islam's "conquer everything" imperative. For example, a well-educated Muslim is more likely to have received substantive and detailed instruction on the Quran, Hadith, and Sura.

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