As a civilization, the West has probably the lowest sustained childbearing rate of any civilization in history. Even Rome in the Empire had a low fertility rate only among the uppermost crust of society. (And for much the same reason our fertility is so low — well, except for contraceptives. — Rewards, advancement and the ability to ensure a comfortable life accompanied a low number of children, instead, as throughout most of history, the opposite.)
I’m discounting in this case China, where the rate of child bearing was imposed from above and Japan which suffers from “the defeated country’s disease” which tends to lead to adopting the culture of the victor at least as much as possible, and limiting the number of children.
I am speaking of a lot of individual decisions leading to a very low birthrate. I will add only that part of it might be the fact we were propagandized with a fake “population crisis” for about the same time we’ve had the ability to artificially limit our number of offspring. (And perhaps if nothing else, this latest debacle will teach us everything about how crisis are manufactured. Well, either that or we’re not to last long.)
I do not know how long our society can subsist with this low a rate of childbearing, particularly as a large percentage of those born is born to people who have neither the skills nor the mindset to raise them as productive citizens, since they are themselves wards of the state.
While I disagree with a close friend on this bespeaking genetic disaster — mostly because I don’t believe genetics relates that directly to intelligence and behavior. While there is undeniably a linkage between genetics and genius, or genetics and imbecility, I think there’s a lot of room in the muddled middle, and also that geniuses and morons are not those who drive civilization. The middle is. And the middle is mostly shaped and bent by culture. In this case we’re getting more of what we pay for — I agree it’s not optimal for maintaining civilization and that it does speak doom without a change in culture.
But more importantly, our lack of children is twisting the way we do raise the ones we have and — itself — bending the culture in some ways which will, by themselves, kill it.
Look, some of the fact we don’t consider our children disposable creates good changes.
Take my paternal grandfather. He had a series of issues (which he passed on larger or smaller degrees) which I now know from watching my younger son, means he almost certainly had sensory issues. In elementary school, this leads to slowness in writing, an atrocious handwriting, and absent exercises to ameliorate it, issues reading. It makes sense too because grandad was the youngest of a bunch of brothers, so likely born when his parents were in their mid to late thirties. It is my guess that if they had kept going the next child would have been full blow autistic.
Well, my great grandparents who had sons in university looked at their youngest son and said “I guess he’s not smart enough. Let’s apprentice him to a carpenter.”
Now, from talking to grandad I can tell you he was probably as smart as younger son. And as he grew he overcame most of his issues (as did I, only girls overcome them earlier. And also failing at school was not an option, as my parents only had two children.) as most children with those issues do. And he wasn’t unhappy as a carpenter.
However, faced with the same issues in younger son, who almost managed to fail sixth grade (though there was bullying and other issues involved) I looked at it and said, “Oh, H*ll no” or something like, and we pushed and prodded until I found a specialist who diagnosed his issues and who could create an apparatus to allow him to hear normally. As for the writing and reading, I trained him until he could do it with no problems.
All of which are good things because, though we’d have been fine had he chosen to be a carpenter or a mechanic, I wanted him to be able to do what he wanted to. A little awkwardness remains, particularly in group situations, which I know — and he knows — he has to work through, as it’s hard to follow a group conversation when all the sounds come at you at once. (He has discarded the hearing filter, though they do make them for adults, but he would prefer not to wear it now….)
However there is another side to this.
I was reading a book on the regency (Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson) and she was largely sensible and not particularly West-hating (though somewhat, but you have to look for it, which is good in the liberal arts.)
It was only when we reached the talk about how children were brought up that made me want to beat her on the head repeatedly, hoping some fossilized sense would fall into her brain.
Though the book was written in the eighties (or early nineties), it already showed signs of “all too precious child” and “let’s protect them into ninnies.”
Now, I’m not going to defend things like the practice of chimney sweeps of using tiny kids to clean chimneys until the kids ran away or died. I’ll just say not only was it a cruel age, but that the absence of technology to do certain chores means that societies often resort to unpalatable means to accomplish them. I have in the past said there is a correlation between lack of industrialization and slavery, and I stand by it. In the same way a society that has no other means of cleaning the only source of heat they have — and one which can cause great fires if not cleaned — does lead to a lot of what a more comfortable society will call atrocities.
As for small children working in the mills, I will only say that those same children were employed in farms in worse ways.
I’ll also say that we know from diaries of people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and before that very small children were capable of working in ways we can’t imagine even our pre-teens being.
For instance six year olds were often entrusted with pasturing the family’s flocks or looking after livestock.
Even in intellectual attainment children far surpassed our children. And this with worse nutrition and health care.
And this is where the book made me want to beat the author, who thought it was cruel and horrible that upperclass children were taught intellectual attainments “beyond their years” by being taught Greek, Latin and made to memorize a lot of things so they had the equivalent of a college education by the time of ten or twelve.
Look, while I did not get taught Greek and Latin, I grew up in a traditional society where I was made to memorize very long poems and learn pretty much everything they thought an adult should know by 10 (This because most people didn’t go past fourth grade.) And I can tell you not only didn’t it destroy me, but there is now reason to believe that memorizing things in childhood trains your memory, the same as running around trains your muscles. While the poetry memorized in childhood might be pointless, it trains you to learn the records and craft of your occupation later on.
And this, I think, is the worst part of our almost-childless society.
You see, if you learn enough history, you eventually learn about some set of royals that had only one, late conceived child. That child, both as a child and as an adult is largely useless. Often it all comes to a bad end because of him.
And that’s the issue. We’ve got so few children that each of them is “the all too precious child.” I.e. the only one on whom all hopes and dreams of the adults around him/her rest.
This leads us to mollycoddle the poor child and at the same time drive him/her insane by expecting only great things. Look no further, either for the watering down of our education the A for existing, or the helicopter parents. Or for that matter for the proliferation of useless degrees, so that the all too precious child can earn one, no matter how unsuited he or she is to academic learning.
Also look no further for the origin of the stories we hear about twenty somethings who constantly need “mental health days” and can’t be criticized.
We’re raising a generation of “end of royal line” kids. And while some escape (my own, I think) it takes great effort both on the part of the parents, and the part of the kid, who needs to be a stubborn cuss (thank heavens) to break away from such a pattern.
Worse yet, the fact that each of us has one of two children on whom the hopes of all generations still living (and we have very long lives these days) rest, has made us a civilization of wusses.
I’ve said before that the reason that Europe hasn’t gone jackboots (an arguably good thing, perhaps) yet is that they are too old. But it’s not just that. It’s that they don’t want to risk the dwindling number of children and grandchildren each family has.
When you have seven children, you can contemplate losing one or two to war, or some sort of difficult service with equanimity. You’ll still hurt, of course — as who doesn’t — but it is not a killing blow to the parent who has lost his only chance at progeny outliving him.
To risk losing your only child, or one of your two children is something quite different.
Every time I see a tiny kid in a mask (which not only isn’t needed as healthy people under 20 don’t die of Winnie the Flu, but also will have the deleterious effect of cutting airflow) I’m reminded of to what extent our current panic was instigated by the media highlighting the very few deaths of under-20s of this illness — all of which are either of very ill under-20s OR even outright lies, as in children who died of abuse but who tested positive being said to die of Chinese lung rot — and how that drove people to kill the economy, and keeps them terrified.
They are holding us hostage over the fear of losing our children and young people. A very powerful fear because we have so few of them.
It is the same fear that has halted — more or less — manned space exploration, as no one is willing to risk human life, even in a very needed endeavor. Safety First might be a great motto for kindergarten. It is not a great motto for a space program.
In the same way, young humans are born with the need to risk themselves, to try new things, to make an effort at going beyond the safe confines. It is part of who we are and what drives us as a species.
I think it is that drive being continually thwarted that creates a lot of the oikophobia amid our young. If the most dangerous thing they can do is “activism” and glorifying cultures they know nothing about, as well as a lot of sexual and psychological nonsense, well, that’s what they’ll do.
It is easy to say “Have three children. Have four” and that is indeed the cure for what hails us as a society. I bet if we did that, it would in fact cure a lot of our porblems, including, maybe, some we’re not aware of having.
But pulling up out of the nose dive is more than “just pull back on the controls and the plane will right itself.”
In fact, because we have so few children and protect them so much, it takes longer to attain maturity, which means they marry later, which in turn, in the inescapable logic of biology, means they’ll have fewer children.
Sure, our reproductive technology gets better every year, and maybe we’ll get lucky.
But the solution is not going to be instant or easy.
Teach your children well. And teach them we need more children. Not only is the earth not overpopulated, but we’ll never get to space this way.
Sure. If this goes on some other culture will populate the Earth and take over, but it might be one that will never reach for space, or minimize human misery as much as we have.
Be not afraid. And try to teach your children as if they weren’t the only and all too precious child.
And if anyone tries to tell you that they can’t learn that much before ten or that teaching them is cruel, beat the person with an umbrella.
What the children of the past could learn is not a measure of cruelty. It’s a measure of how much we’ve infantilized our own offspring.
Evolution doesn’t work that fast. What the nineteenth century was capable of, we are also.
We just need to stop babying ourselves, and our babies.