A valuable lesson from my days toiling away in the imperial capital was how little Americans know about what is going on in the rest of the world. Back in the heady days of hegemony, the default American setting was ethnocentric. Wherever we went, there was CNN Headline News, American entertainment, tourist menus, guides and cordial concierges ensuring that our language deficit was not an impediment to spending money. Joe Biden, the guy presently playing president, said America is an “indispensable nation”. Strictly speaking, we haven’t been a nation since the Civil War. We’re not indispensable either, but believing so is indispensable to imperial hubris. I digress. Year of the Family On 22 November, American media ran the usual fare that passes for news: the wars du jour, the JFK murder 60th anniversary, and travellers headed home for Thanksgiving. Across the globe, something momentous was underway. Western media mostly missed it. The event? Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree declaring 2024 the "Year of the Family". In order to promote state policy to protect the family and preserve traditional family values, the President has resolved to declare 2024 the Year of the Family in the Russian Federation. The Year of the Family initiative was kicked off in early November via a motion by Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko. The mission: “promote state policy in the field of family protection and the preservation of traditional family values.” The official organising committee will be in place on 27 December, headed by Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policy, Labour, Health and Pension Provision. Consider: motion made in early November, decree issued 22 November, implementing committee up and running 27 December. By government standards, that’s moving like greased lightnin’. Guess they remember the glacial pace of things under Communism. Now, I’m an America first guy, but when countries with fewer resources get things done faster and better, there’s no shame in following their example. Socially conservative The custom of dedicating each year to a national cause was inaugurated in 2007 to focus attention on Russian priorities. This is part and parcel of President Putin’s nationalistic approach, designed to conflate patriotism with problem-solving. To a surprising degree, it works. However, President Putin deserves only partial credit. US/NATO sanctions have done more to rally Russians behind him than any big bucks PR campaign or “Ukraine liberation” ever could. Much has been happening in Russia of late that would be of keen interest to Americans. By US standards, Russia is “right-wing”, aka woefully unwoke. Western elites regard Russia (per the late Senator John McCain) as “a gas station masquerading as a country”. Not so. But we do have domestic culture wars in common, though the folks ruling the roost in Moscow have quite a different take on things than their Washington counterparts.
The irrational pandemonium of the 20th century was the fear of a population explosion. Estimates from scientists such as Paul Ehrlich projected population growth would lead to mass starvation, death, and environmental degradation. None of that happened. Instead, food became more plentiful, life expectancy increased, and the environment got cleaner. This is because, as economist Julian Simon pointed out, human beings are the ultimate resource for improving the world. Population growth is good. Now it appears, though, that the opposite problem is rising to the surface. Fertility rates are down below the level needed to sustain the size of the population in many countries. Since population growth is a good thing, this seems like bad news. As population plummets, so does the number of creative minds ready to tackle humanity’s challenges. This issue has caught the attention of many, notably Elon Musk, who believes population collapse is humanity’s biggest threat. Yes https://t.co/hmmRqxqKus— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 21, 2023 To be clear, if the population is going to collapse, I agree with Musk’s concern. Growing population is the engine of human creativity, and human creativity is why we live in the wealthiest time in human history. However, where I don’t agree is that I’m not convinced the population numbers will collapse in the long run. To understand why, we need to look at the questionable history of long-term demographic predictions and consider the importance of unplanned order. Malthus' mistake In the 18th century, economist and demographer Thomas Malthus made a familiar gloomy prediction. He claimed that a growing population would trap humanity in poverty. Why? It was based on a simple logic. As people grow wealthier, they will be able to afford to have more kids. When they produce more kids, they then have to feed those kids and their increased wealth goes away. Is this how things go? Not really. Individuals don’t simply have more kids as long as they can afford it. This tendency holds true for insects and animals but not human beings. Malthus wasn’t alone in this fear either. Scientists have long attempted to fit humans into animal demographic models, and the results simply don’t bear out. Malthus, for his part, saw this possibility coming in later editions of his “Essay on the Principle of Population”. He realised this logic was avoidable if individuals could muster the ability to abstain from having more children. This is precisely what happened. As countries grew richer from the time of Malthus to today, a pattern emerged. Increased wealth led to greater rates of children surviving infancy and childhood. As a result, families could count on their children living, and they no longer had to “overshoot” the number of kids they wanted. At the same time, increased wealth made it possible to save resources for retirement rather than depend on children as a form of social security. Similarly, cultural changes toward women being involved in the workforce both increased the opportunity cost of women having children as job opportunities became more attractive and eliminated the infant “male preference”, which often drove families to have more children until they had boys. As a result of these and other factors, the average size of families decreased. Demographers call this change the demographic transition. There were also some extremely negative factors that led to lower population, such as a wave of antinatalist propaganda in the 20th century. But, for the most part, the factors that led to a lower population growth rate were the result of human action, but not human design. Economists call orders that result without central designing spontaneous order.
When my wife and I took a short vacation down to the Gulf Coast in October, we used part of a day to visit the Texas State Aquarium in the North Beach part of Corpus Christi. To get there, we had to take the (old) Harbour Bay Bridge that crosses a large industrial canal through which pass tankers going to the main industry of Corpus Christi, which is oil refining. That bridge was built in 1959, and about twenty years ago, plans began to be made for a new bridge. As we saw from miles away, the new Harbour Bridge is well underway and may be completed as soon as 2025. The new bridge will be cable-stayed: two tall pylons will hold sets of cables that slant out and down to connect to the bridge deck. And I do mean tall. One of the pylons is complete, and the builders are extending the deck out from it in both directions. It is by far the tallest structure for hundreds of miles around, and the cantilevered-out parts extend so far that I got a little giddy just looking at the thing. When it's finished, the bridge will allow much taller ships to pass underneath than the current bridge, and will have a pedestrian walkway and LED lighting. Its planned cost is some $800 million, but that was before some delays occasioned in 2022 when an outside consultant raised safety concerns. That halted construction on a part of the bridge for nine months, but the five safety issues were addressed, and construction resumed last April. Fire Later that month, as the Corpus Christi Hooks were playing a baseball game at nearby Whataburger Field (the eponymous fast-food firm's first restaurant was in Corpus Christi), a fire began near the rear of a construction crane on the bridge. Subsequent videos obtained by news media show a load on the crane falling rapidly to the ground, and flying debris injured one spectator at the ball game. A battalion chief for the Corpus Christi Fire Department said a cable failure caused enough friction to set grease on a cable reel afire. An Internet search has not revealed any other major accidents since the bridge project formally began in 2016, but it is possible that some have escaped the news media's attention. Originally scheduled to be completed in 2020, delays and engineering firm changes have pushed back the anticipated completion date to 2025. That's only two years from now, and while a good bit has been accomplished, there is still much remaining.
The magic word “colonisation” is today being weaponised to beat whole nations into acknowledging how appallingly immoral their entire history is. On the air and in lecture theatres, the youth of the Western world’s future learns that every last one of their forebears was nothing but an irredeemable racist bigot. This perhaps has a sliver of credibility for Americans and British. But for the Irish? How many colonies did they have? None! They were a colony themselves, of the British Empire, arguably their most longstanding and most oppressed one. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s greatest ever poet, W.B. Yeats, winning his much-deserved Nobel Prize for Literature, but many contemporary Irish writers, sharing the same deracinated, globalist mindset of the likes of their current transnationalism-obsessed Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, now appear to dislike the suddenly "problematic" poet’s work immensely, as a point of purest principle. One of the ways the British Empire tried to deracinate the Irish people was by banning and then substituting their native Gaelic tongue with the English language instead. Accordingly, during the lead-up to eventual independence from Britain in 1922, many nationalistically minded Irish writers and artists co-opted the language of the colonisers itself to play its ironic part in fostering a coherent sense of Irish national self-consciousness prior to casting off all imperialist chains. The key figure here was the above-mentioned great Anglo-Irish poet, playwright and mystic W.B. Yeats, who sought to forge an articulate and inspiring national literature for the Irish by patching together their history, myth, folklore and heroes into one great intelligible tapestry. Then, when asked what it meant to be Irish, his countrymen could respond by citing tales of mythological heroes like Cuchulain, real-life revolutionary heroes like Wolf Tone, ancient native goddesses like Brigid, or supernatural entities like the sidhe (Irish fairy-folk), as handy means to define themselves imaginatively against their English colonisers. Considered in a certain sense, Yeats’ works were the poems that helped win Irish independence: that is certainly how they were taught in Irish schools up until very recently. But, in our current woke age, how much longer will this still remain the case? Is the anti-colonial W.B. Yeats now about to be cancelled… in the name of anti-colonialism? She hates Yeats Irish literature is supposedly undergoing a massive renaissance these days, with novels by leftish young Irishwomen winning plaudits, prizes and high sales figures across the English-speaking world. Yet, are these novels really Irish, in any meaningful sense of the term? Solipsistic, agonised, over-analytical tales of generic urban and sexual angst, this brand of millennial Mills & Boon could effectively be set anywhere across the technocratic post-Christian Western world, not necessarily in Dublin or Cork, if only you altered the characters’ surnames. The prime example of this rarified species, of course, is Sally Rooney, a self-confessed Marxist whose book Normal People, about a pair of abnormally self-absorbed teenage lovers, seems to have won her fame for life. I can’t say I have absorbed any of Rooney’s texts myself (I prefer reading books), but they appear paradigms of the whole dismal genre. In 2017, during an interview with the Irish Independent prior to the release of Conversations With Friends, her debut non-novel about people talking to each other about themselves endlessly, as such people often do, miserable-faced Ms Rooney made headlines after detailing her dislike of W.B. Yeats thus: “Sally Rooney is apoplectic. She squirms in her seat, hands flapping in disgust, and doesn’t mince her words. ‘I hate Yeats!’ she shrieks. ‘A lot of his poems are not very good but some are obviously okay. But how has he become this sort of emblem of literary Irishness when he was this horrible man? He was a huge fan of Mussolini, [so was Lenin] he was really into fascism, he believed deeply in the idea of a ‘noble class’ who are superior by birth to the plebs … He wasn’t just this harmless weirdo who wrote poetry. People misinterpret him in this country, and when we’re taught about him in school, it’s just hagiography.’” And there you have it: the authentic voice of modern "literary" Ireland – or of non-literary non-Ireland, I should perhaps say. Doesn’t Sally Rooney herself, rather like liberal ruling-caste politicians such as Leo Varadkar and his ilk, think she belongs to a contemporary, non-aristocratic “noble class” who “are superior by birth to the plebs” too, though? Normal people (must be ignored) In a 2019 New Yorker interview, for instance, Rooney spoke superciliously of how, despite not even having a vote on the issue, when it came to the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum, “I was Remain, like any sensible person.” If moral snobs like Rooney had represented Ireland’s cultural elite back in the years leading up to 1922, I wonder if Ireland would ever have gained her independence from foreign rule at all.
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