Saturday, December 30, 2006

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

I guess it's been a few days since I've posted. You know how the Christmas holiday can be . . . family time, relatives, and of course, playing with all your new toys. I suppose I've neglected some of the more significant pieces of news, such as Saddam's recent demise, but what is there to say? He earned it.

Let's talk about something much more trivial but still fun.

Aside from family outings, what's been occupying my time recently? Well, Twilight Princess, for the most part, but that wasn't a Christmas gift. I'd bought that with my Wii, but held off since I figured it'd be best saved for after finals. (As an aside, I managed to pull off two A's and an A-, so a certain former research advisor can bite me)

In terms of Christmas gifts, I've been enjoying some time rocking out. I picked up a new bible. The New English Translation is pretty good, and relatively new, but the biggest draw to it (for me, at least, are the translator's notes. All 60k+ of them.

I have other reading to do, though. I received a copy of Robert Spencer's newest book. It seems interesting enough, and I love the premise: Why listen to endless "experts" tell you what Islam is all about when you can go straight to the source? The book is practically a synopsis of the Islamic scriptures and theological and scholarly commentary on Muhammad, especially those that shape the world around us today.

However, the book that's occupied most of my time thus far has been Mark Steyn's America Alone. I'm about 2/3 through the book, but it's been pretty gripping so far. The premise for the book is fairly similar to a column of his I wrote about before. Birth rates in the Western world are dismal; America is the only country with a replacement birthrate (2.1 children/woman), and the rest of the West is sinking past the point of no return. For example, Canada is similar to Europe as a whole (1.8) while the lowest point in Europe is sterile Spain (1.1). The problem is that between muslim immigration and the extraordinarily high birthrates of the incoming immigrants, Europe is going to be facing a demographic crunch in a few decades. What will happen to the culture of France if it becomes majority muslim? He also highlights the problems that the welfare state and politics will bring into this mix, but the end result seems to be that America, alone, will be the bastion of Western civilization in the coming generations.

Whether you agree or disagree, it's an interesting premise and a well-written book. My only gripe is that he hasn't taken a very scholarly approach to his book. While he cites countless statistics, facts, and stories, he uses no footnotes and offers no citations. So unless he says specifically where he found his data, you're left to wonder if it's real. I've no reason to think he'd make such things up; it's not like it would be hard to fact check the birth rate of these countries, but that's the type of criticism you open yourself up to if you're not thorough.

Anyhow, I'm distracted in the meantime, but things should be back to normal after the start of the new year.

7 comments:

meera said...

The problem is that between muslim immigration and the extraordinarily high birthrates of the incoming immigrants, Europe is going to be facing a demographic crunch in a few decades. What will happen to the culture of France if it becomes majority muslim?

am i missing something? why is this a problem? with invasions, exploration, and emigration throughout history, haven't countries' demographics and cultures been constantly changing? why is it such a big deal now?

Hal said...

why is it such a big deal now?

Because the last several decades have seen the radicalization of these populations.

Consider the popularity of sharia law amongst these growing populations. Yes, not every muslim calls for it, but how many at least favor it, or would be at best indifferent? If France becomes majority muslim, do you think Paris will be the same place under sharia law?

That may sound like a worst case scenario, but there's two possibilities for this demographic change: Either the incoming population adopts the philosophical/cultural underpinnings of its host country, or they assert their own on the host country.

And as things seem to be playing out right now, integration isn't winning out.

meera said...

there's two possibilities for this demographic change: Either the incoming population adopts the philosophical/cultural underpinnings of its host country, or they assert their own on the host country.

And as things seem to be playing out right now, integration isn't winning out.


that's exactly my point, though. historically, i don't think there has been much integration. (specific examples can be thrown in as requested, but i was thinking of most large scale conquests: spain, persia, etc.)

Hal said...

Actually meera, historically there WAS integration, for the most part.

Most immigration/emigration in the past, aside from the conqueror/conquered relationship, involved very small populations moving around. Even the early part of the 20th century showed the immigrant groups becoming, more or less, the same as every other American.

Something strange has happened in the latter part of the 20th century that has changed the dynamic. Immigration has become a much larger affair. It's easier, too; for a few thousand dollars, you can be anywhere on the globe, and technology means you can still communicate with anyone anywhere on the planet.

Another mitigating factor is that most other immigration movements have been characterized by nationalities. Islam, on the other hand, is a trans-national identity. It joins people from many parts of the world and supercedes any national identity by a wide margin. Thus, it's not just that England might have a lot of immigrants from Pakistan. It's that they have a lot of immigrants from Saudi Arabia, too, as well as a host of other countries, but all of the immigrants come in with relatively compatible mindsets.

Add to this the "multicultural" mindset which makes it anathema to expect integration, and it should begin to make some sense why this is becoming a problem. America hasn't gone this direction yet, but there are parts of the world where integration isn't expected. Instead, they bend over backwards to make the new arrivals feel as comfortable as possible, the result of which is a veritable denial of one's own culture.

meera said...

aside from the conqueror/conquered relationship

why are you ignoring that? it seems to be a VERY LARGE part of immigration/emigration.


immigrant groups becoming, more or less, the same as every other American.

didn't most immigrant group segregate themselves? isn't american culture regionally different - mostly based on the immigrant group who has influenced it?


also, same as every other american?!? where do you suppose that culture came from? the pilgrims didn't come over to conquer; they were just escaping persecution in their own country - emigrating to america. yet, i don't think they integrated very well with the native culture, did they?

i feel like you're just upset because the examples that you think are problems involve western culture being taken over - unlike the cases which have historically been the other way around.

Hal said...

So, first let's look at integration of immigrants.

Yes, most immigrant groups began by segregating themselves. However, after a few generations stay, they tend to become indistinguishable from their fellow Americans, ignoring regional differences. For example, the St. Louis metro area was mainly settled by German protestants, but that's not readily obvious anymore; most of the region is pretty much identical to any other suburb.

But that tends not to happen in the conqueror/conquered relationship. I ignored that because in a sense, that isn't what's happening here, at least when compared to any other conflict that has ever taken place.

But you're right, I AM upset that western culture is being usurped, particularly because what's moving to replace it is not going to be pretty. Are you indifferent to living under sharia law as compared to western democracy?

meera said...

it's not that i am indifferent, i just don't think it warrants and "oh my god this is so novel everybody panic" response. do you think the native americans wanted to be pushed out of their homes? probably not. the american government did it anyway. and i doubt that many americans thought it was a bad idea. this is the type of thing that has been happening for ages. there's always change. it depends on what side of it you're on whether it's a problem or not.