Saturday, July 11, 2020

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 02-09-2017 08:23

Normality is not what it used to be

Countries that back then were assumed to represent “normality” are looking less attractive by the day.

ike most recent presidents, including Néstor Kirchner and – before she got down to work – Cristina Fernández de Kirchner,  Mauricio Macri says he wants Argentina to become a “normal country. By this he presumably means one that is capable of  getting richer, as did others with broadly similar folkways or plenty of square kilometres and natural resources at their disposal. Until about 10 years ago, that seemed a reasonable aspiration, but this is no longer the case. Countries that back then were assumed to represent “normality” are looking less attractive by the day.

Scare-mongering North Americans who say they fear a  remake of the horrendous Civil War that raged between 1861 and 1865 may be exaggerating, but the widespread feeling that something ugly is coming their way – what with the abyss that separates the self-righteous coastal elites from the resentful inhabitants of flyover country getting wider and people becoming increasingly angry – does not bode well. Donald Trump’s troubled ascendancy, and the furious opposition it is provoking, are  symptoms of a deep malaise that could spell the end of the “American century” and its replacement not by an authoritarian Chinese one but by an anarchic free-for-all.

Even so, the prospects facing the US remain less gloomy than those confronting European countries. Much of the “Old World” has already plunged over a demographic cliff. Unless the number crunchers have  got it all wrong, and there is no reason to think they have, soon after mid-century the natives of Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece  nd Spain will be members of quaint ethnic minorities surrounded by a hostile, mainly Muslim, majority that will have little  nterest in doing what the optimists who let them in said they would by paying into the pension funds so their hosts could  retire in comfort.

What we are witnessing in Europe is the failure of the “progressive project,” a largelyhedonistic enterprise  whose current leaders pay little heed to what their counterparts a couple of generations ago assumed was perfectly obvious. At  least they understood that, unpleasant as the thoughtmay be, societies that refuse to reproduce themselves are doomed to die out. They were also aware that their death throes could be extremely painful.

For feminists, this simple truth raises a question that most would prefer to leave unanswered: is the full-blown gender equality  they seek compatible with a birth rate of 2.1 children or more per woman? Perhaps it is; if it is not, any society that chooses to  downgrade motherhood and encourage women to put their careers first is committing suicide. But militant feminism, and its  ready acceptance by all rightminded  people, is only part of a much bigger story. About half a century ago, most Western  societies turned their back on the traditions that had kept them relatively cohesive to set off on a journey many believed would  take them to a better future, in which almost everyone would be free to do whatever he or she pleased.

The idea that those now living should respect their forebears and take into account the interests of their descendants has fallen into disrepute. It is surely no accident that many European countries, among them Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Holland and Sweden,have childless prime ministers or presidents.Had they any offspring of their own, they would worry more about what is likely to happen 20 or 30 years from now, but they apparently feel that the fateof generations to come is none of  theirbusiness.

Unfortunately, things have not worked out as well as the individuals still running Europe predicted. To the dismay of manywell-meaning people, “multiculturalism,”the notion that cultural differences, amongthem those derived from religious  cults, could easily be bridged with a spot of goodwill on all sides, has led to social divisions that previous generations would  have found hard to imagine. One reason, perhaps the main one, why Europe’s political leaders and their friends in the media are in such bad odour nowadays is their continued reluctance to face up to the results of decisions that were taken decades ago, on the pretext that what their evidently sterile continent needed was a huge dose of new blood.

As we are constantly being reminded,Argentina has more that her fair share of difficult problems, but on the whole the outlook here is brighter than it is for Europe.The birthrate still holds up – just – andzealots demanding the immediate implementation of Sharia law or else, are thankfully thin on the ground. However, the local culture is predominantly European and there is no guarantee that the country’s elites will resist the temptation to follow the course that was taken by people who, in their happy- go-lucky way, told themselves they had nothing to learn from the experience of others and undertook a series of experiments in  social engineering that are already having dire consequences. And that, unless a miracle happens very soon, seems bound to  prove catastrophic.

* Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald. (1979-1986).

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James Neilson

James Neilson

Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).

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