Friday, November 06, 2009

"the moral equivalent of climate change"

As so often, it takes a minority spokesman (or woman) to say the unsayable in this country :

Europe is "dying" because its citizens are too selfish to have children, the chief rabbi has said, blaming a dwindling birthrate on a culture of "consumerism and instant gratification". Sir Jonathan Sacks accused people of caring more about shopping than spirituality and tied the secularisation of Europe to population decline.

"Europe today is the most secular region in the world. Europe is the only region in the world experiencing population decline. Wherever you turn today the more religious the community, the larger on average are their families. Parenthood involves massive sacrifice: money, attention, time and emotional energy. Where today, in European culture with its consumerism and its instant gratification because you're worth it."

There was no room for sacrifice for "the sake of generations not yet born" in such a culture.
In Lionel Shriver's words : "We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead."

"Europe is dying," he concluded and compared the situation in the continent today to ancient Greece with its "sceptics, epicureans and cynics". He said: "That is one of the unsayable truths of our time. We are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it." Religion was the safeguard of morality and the decline of religion would lead to fragile families and communities in atrophy.
Not much to argue with there, I'd say. My secular Jewish friends are just as poor at sprogging as any post-Christian. Not so for the faithful :

The UK's Jewish population is growing for the first time since World War II, research suggests. The rise appears to be due to a growth in the size of ultra-orthodox Jewish families, according to researchers at the University of Manchester. The population fell to a historic low of 275,000 in 2005, but that figure has since increased to 280,000 in 2008... Dr Wise calculates the proportion of Jews in the UK now is only about a quarter of its peak. Dr Wise - who says his research is based on regular monitoring of Jewish births - attributes the decline in the Jewish population to the fact that about half of more secular Jews marry outside the community, and many of them do not bring their children up as Jewish.

He says secular Jewish women - coming from a relatively well-educated and prosperous section of society - have had on average only 1.65 children. The UK average is 1.8. However, the very high birth-rate of the minority of strictly orthodox - also referred to as ultra-orthodox - Jewish families is having an increasing impact on the population as a whole. They marry young - often in their early twenties or even late teens - and have an average of almost seven children.

It means that elderly people in the community can have hundreds of descendents. Although other researchers have made more conservative estimates of growth among strictly orthodox Jews, Dr Wise says almost three of every four Jewish babies are now being born to them. He calculates that at current trends strictly orthodox Jews will outnumber their more secular counterparts by the middle of the century.

The Guardian's report is not quite kosher, in that Dr Sacks didn't exactly say 'Europe is dying'. His words were (a/c/t the Telegraph) :

“Europe, at least the indigenous population of Europe, is dying. That is one of the unsayable truths of our time"

Which raises the ire of the Daily Telegraph's resident mass immigration enthusiast, George Pitcher :

Lord Sacks was ostensibly attacking our secular, consumerist culture. But a regular canard of European racists is that the Muslim immigrant population is “out-breeding” other ethnicities. They usually add that the name Mohammed is now the most popular boy’s name in some cities. The truth is that immigrant birth-rates settle down to mirror local trends. And the much greater pluralism of non-Muslim names is bound to make the Mohammeds stand out statistically.

But I worry about the Chief Rabbi’s remark that “the indigenous population of Europe is dying”. That “indigenous” is a dangerous word, as Lord Sacks must know. Clarification please.

I haven't a clue what if anything Dr Sacks was implying, nor will I until the Theos thinktank post a full transcript of his speech (update - it's here). But the indigenous population IS dying out - or emigrating - and you wouldn't necessarily blame him for saying so. It's not English neo-Nazis who carry out anti-semitic attacks every time something happens in Judea and Samaria. Mind you, if Dr Wise is right about the Orthodox birth-rate, maybe it's those carrying out the attacks who should be nervous !

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