Thursday, July 03, 2008

Diet Dystopia

I wonder if the west is going to become a diet dystopia: the problems that we face seem to be mildly lousy, but nothing terrible. There are still terrorists who want to kill us, and most likely some will succeed, but they’re overall rather stupid and disorganized; the climate certainly is becoming freaky, but not particularly apocalyptic; the economy is slowed, but not in a recession; and nothing political is particularly critical. We have seen the future and it is boring.

Walking around Nantes, a city that seems too large for its populace, it does look like the west is vanishing quietly, something that demographers have been saying for some time now. In several parts of Europe, the population may well be halved by 2045. People aren’t having enough unsafe sex: we will go not with a bang, but with contented snoring.

Canada’s population is shrinking as well, which is why the government is encouraging immigration. Americans still love deh bebes, which is odd considering that babies sneak into the country, refuse to work, and many of them don’t speak English. But, people who have recently immigrated are having all the kids; white Americans are populating as slowly as Europeans. Assimilation to the culture might mean opting out of the species.

Some worry that western culture will die out, but this seems irrelevant- culture is not transmitted genetically, and besides “western culture” is probably long gone in any meaningful sense. The “racial suicide” argument has never convinced me anyway- in most cities one gets the feeling that humans will fuck until they’re all sort of a warm olive color. Et, alors…?

Westerners have been opting out of most forms of civic engagement for some time, and perhaps opting out of the species is the logical conclusion of this. A sobering thought, but not necessarily a terrible one, is that human civilizations have simply evolved to the point where we realize on an instinctual level that it’s time to close shop: this could be the natural end of the species, and as such, it’s rather pleasant.

Perhaps the species would rather not live in a world without excitement or danger. Living in modern society, it’s hard not to feel superfluous at times- are any of us really needed for things to keep running comfortably? Are any of more than placeholders? Are we just demographic blips? Without us, who’s going to buy all that stuff?

The most logical response to the diet dystopia: that endless mall of tepid boredom: is an equally tepid resistance of non-reproduction. The “existential threat” that the west faces is a total lack of any existential threats: in other words, without anything to push up against, a species that evolved from survival struggles seems rather pointless. Maybe the best answer is quiet species downsizing.


Hiromi said...

I don't think this is a survival of the species issue. It seems to me that people aren't having kids 'cause it's damn hard to have kids considering the way "modern" people conceptualize how things like work and education fit into life, and how they conceptualize what a good life is (buying lots of shit figures largely). Change all that shit, and maybe people will feel that they're able to have kids *and* a good life, and maybe the birth rate'll go up.

The Pagan Temple said...

I must be getting old, because every time I hear or see somebody getting ready to have a baby, or even seriously discussing the prospect, it depresses the hell out of me. I think, do they even realize what the hell they're doing? Do they even stop to think about what kind of world they are bringing this kid into?

Then again, you have the people that seem determined to not have kids (let's call them "the smart ones") and I wonder if it might have something to do with the increase in the life expectancy rate.

There are so many older people out there and it's so much more in your face, people have to wonder where they are going to fit in, and how, when they get that age.

So people keep getting older, they keep getting meaner, they keep getting uglier, more wrinkled, more and more prone to varying stages of dementia, etc. We see all this on more and more of a daily basis, yet this increased longevity doesn't seem to bring with it any other improvements. In fact, you get the trade-offs mentioned above.

That would be enough to sour you on the prospect of bringing more life into the world, just seeing the end of it stuck in your face constantly.

Then there you are worried about the very real probability of having to care for two different sets of children, the ones you gave birth to and the ones that gave birth to you. That just adds to the angst, guilt, and the overall emotional and financial burden.

Holly said...

It strikes me as a stunningly simplistic kind of selfishness, to announce that the women of the world need to get busy making babies because, ferchrissake, SOMEONE needs to go do some goddamn work and bring in some money and pay for my old age/highway maintenance/free public broadband access/immigration control scheme.

"For the economy"?? What kind of shit is this? This article doesn't get around to mentioning the excessive unemployment rates until the end. Weak.

"Your country/culture will die out" This is NOT a problem. Countries and cultures come and go. That's the way of the world. If your country/culture is dying out, it isn't working. I'm so against the fetish for propping up broken shit just because we can't bear to witness its death. Seriously, we need to start witnessing death again, it could only have a positive impact on so many aspects of social living.

My own personal opinion is that populations are self-regulating, and pretty much any attempt to perturb the system artificially will either fail outright, or backfire. If people aren't breeding, it's because the conditions aren't optimal for survival & success of the offspring. Surely it hasn't escaped notice that lots of other species are having this problem, as well?

Rufus said...

Hiromi: Right. The culture is focused on having a career and an individual life, and kids seem to get in the way of that. But, I don't know if it's all rational like that. I suspect that a lot of us, if we had the means and the free time, would still be pretty ambivalent about spawning.

Patrick: Well, with us, I'd say that Claire's parents will live longer than we do, but mine will be the ones who need full-time care. I suspect there will be a point, if we have a kid, that my mother will be sharing booze with them.

Holly: Yeah, that was my feeling- not sure why this really qualifies as a "problem".