. . . today it must be done. So let's perform our usual Saturday ablutions -- giving to charity, contributing to Romney -- then hear a long-overdue disquisition by Unca D, his own self, on one of America's most-important cultural treasures: . . .
OUR THINKING regarding patriotism has fallen behind our practice. Compared with the cultural attitudes surrounding World War II, and especially since the 1960s, patriotism has come under suspicion, most regrettable among those who teach the young. Our national heroes . . .
As his presidential campaign disintegrated, Perry released an ad condemning President Obama's "war on religion." Although the war metaphor has become unsettlingly popular lately, if there is in fact a war on religion, it's not coming from President Obama . . . . (Joseph Locke, "The risk of religious politics," Houston Chronicle, June 4, 2012)
With the Chronicle's continuing reduction of staff, even in the plush offices of the editorial board, the newspaper must now outsource much of its nasty work. And where better to find a nasty basher . . .
A generation ago Spain was just coming out of the Francoist era, a strongly Catholic country with among the highest birth rates in Europe, with the average woman producing almost four children in 1960 and nearly three as late as 1975-1976. There was, [notes Alejandro Macarron Larumbe, a Madrid-based management consult and author], "no divorce, no contraception allowed." By the 1980s many things changed much for the better, as young Spaniards became educated, economic opportunities opened for women expanded and political liberty became entrenched.
Yet modernization exacted its social cost. The institution of the family, once dominant in Spain, lost its primacy. "Priorities for most your and middle-aged women (and men) are career, building wealth, buying a house, having fun, traveling, not incurring the burden of many children" observes Macarron. Many, like their northern European counterparts, dismissed marriage altogether; although the population is higher than it was in 1975, the number of marriages has declined from 270,000 to 170,000 annually.
Now Spain, like much of the EU, faces the demographic consequences. The results have been transformative. In a half century Spain's fertility rate has fallen more than 50% to 1.4 children per female, one of the lowest not only in Europe, but also the world and well below the 2.1 rate necessary simply to replace the current population. . . .
Essentially, Spain and other Mediterranean countries bought into northern Europe's liberal values and low birthrates, but did so without the economic wherewithal to pay for it. You can afford a Nordic welfare state, albeit increasingly precariously, if your companies and labor force are highly skilled or productive. But Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal lack that kind of productive industry; much of the growth stemmed from real estate and tourism. Infrastructure development was underwritten by the EU, and the country has become increasingly dependent on foreign investors. . . .
. . . .
The decline in population and mounting out-migration of young people means Spain will experience ever-higher proportions of retired people relative to those working. This "dependency rate" . . . will grow by 57% by 2021: there will be six people either retired or in school for every person working.
. . . .
Without a major shift in policies that favor families in housing or tax policies, and an unexpected resurgence of interest in marriage and children, Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean face prospects of an immediate decline every bit as profound as that experienced in the 17th and 18th century when these great nations lost their status as global powers and instead devolved into quaint locales for vacationers, romantic poets and history buffs.
Long before that happens, today's Mediterranean folly could drive the rest of Europe, and maybe even the world, into yet another catastrophic recession.
(Joel Kotkin, "What's Really Behind Europe's Decline? It's The Birth Rates, Stupid," forbes. com, May 30, 2012)
. . . start a conversation about Western Civilization that is neither ironic ("nice idea; we should try it") nor critical ("source of the world's misery") nor nonjudgmental ("China: just as good as us").
Such conversations rarely occur, of course, because those who disdain the civilization that forms the basis of their prosperity and security are obnoxiously loud, while those who recognize the superiority -- not the perfection; the superiority -- of Western Civilization have been taught to keep quiet about their eccentric, politically incorrect belief.
Well. This very conversation starts in earnest at 7:00 p.m. tonight . . .