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Concerning Stagnancy, Demography and Vitality

By Martin LeFevre

To make demographics the issue when Americans awoke to another mass murder in this disintegrated country land absurd. This time it’s in Los Angeles, with ten dead as of this writing in a Chinese community celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Here’s my candidate for the stupidest sentence of the young year: “Just as China emerges as an almost-superpower, it’s staring into a darkened future where it grows old and stagnant before it finishes growing rich.” You have to have a special hatred for the Earth to hold such a worldview.

It wasn’t a Sinophile but a Sinophobe that uttered the sentiment, a prominent conservative commentator in America who venerates the Catholic Church, espouses nationalism, and minimizes the climate crisis.

So it’s a bit rich, and very disingenuous, for a hack from the front of the pack to bemoan a small downturn in the demographics of China’s billion and half people.

This is the dead end to which the casuistry of Christian conservatism has arrived, with one of its leading spokespeople lamenting the purported “shadow lying over most rich and many middle-income nations now.” What is the “shadow threatening general sclerosis and a loss of dynamism and innovation?” It’s a purported “zero-sum struggle between a swollen retired population and the overburdened young.”

In a world of enormous wealth, unconscionable economic disparity, and innumerable divisions and conflicts, a mindset that views the world in terms of a war between young and old is not in touch with reality.

Our conscience-less columnist offers a number of “guideposts for anyone seeking dynamism in a stagnant world,” helpful hints so that countries don’t “just sink into gerontocracy.” Ironically, for example, this advice from the rabidly anti-distributionist camp begins with a call for “redistribution from old to young in the rich world.”

Underlying, unquestioned assumptions abound — that national identifications will continue to be primary ad infinitum (we will all forever be Americans or Chinese); and that the competition between nations is an immutable law.

Our pundit goes completely off the rails with this chestnut: “Vladimir Putin’s mobilization efforts aren’t what they presumably would be if his empire had more young people.”

No mention is made of the danger, indeed perhaps inevitability of world war involving America, Russia and China if we continue on the present course, much less the trillions of dollars wasted on military spending for present and future wars.

Instead of even considering radically changing the rotten status quo where nationalism and militarism are concerned, we’re told “the technocratic desire to reform old-age entitlements will become ever more essential.”

Another doozy of a sentence that I’m loath to ‘unpack’ is: “If you want growth in an aging world you need technological breakthroughs.” Again, the assumptions of rapacious growth and technological primacy go unquestioned by a Christian more concerned with the fear of a “stagnant world” than the outwardly dead culture and inwardly dead people of his own America.

Another “guidepost” in the madcap’s map for a decaying world is this canard: “In the kingdom of the aged, a little extra youth and vitality will go a long way.”

That sounds like nonsensical Confucianism until he clarifies it with this utterly confused prescription: “Countries that manage to keep or boost their birthrates close to replacement level will have a long-term edge over countries that plunge toward South Korean-style, half-replacement-level fertility.” 

Ah yes, countries in life and death competition again, with the darkest corner of man’s tribalistic nationhood held up as the boogie for rich nations like America, or “almost superpowers” that haven’t “finished growing rich.” The putative follower of Jesus would do well to reflect on how many camels can pass through the eye of a needle.

I doubt that our Catholic commentator will ever understand that “organized religion, with its beliefs, dogmas and rituals, denies the open entry into the vastness of mind.”

His obtuseness has no bottom: “To predict the most dynamic American states and cities, the most influential religious traditions and ideologies, look for places and groups that are friendliest not just to the young but to young people having kids themselves.”

In a country and globalized culture where the pet dog is valued as much or more than a child, having children borders on idiocy. On a planet already beyond its carrying capacity of consumeristic humans, why not let populations naturally fall from eight billion and growing, to a reasonable and sustainable billion people?

Rather than more so-called growth, more people, and more nationalism and sectarianism, isn’t the way ahead, for young and old, to focus on the quality of life and an inner life for everyone alive, rather than worrying about projections of stagnancy?


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.