Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Our childless dystopia"

A magnificent essay by James Bowman, about PD James' novel The Children of Men, a dystopia in which all mankind has lost through disease the ability to have children:

P. D. James’s 1993 novel, The Children of Men, was an insightful if not entirely satisfactory look at the world we know through the lens of futuristic-apocalyptic fiction. Her version of the eschaton is a sudden inability of human beings to reproduce themselves, beginning in 1995. This is the year called Omega, and the last people to be born, now in their twenties as the novel begins in 2021, are known as Omegas. Such near-future fiction is always an iffy thing, and all the more so if the predicted hour of apocalypse is near enough to be noticed when it doesn’t happen. 
And yet, in a way, James’s future has happened. As we now know, 1995 did not bring the demographic doom of the human race. And yet The Children of Men was much more accurate than most eschatological fiction, for it presents an exaggerated version of a problem — namely the gradual depopulation of the developed world through below-replacement fertility rates — that in the years since its publication has begun to seem rather scarily unexaggerated...
The central insight of the novel is that all ideas of social improvement and reform, all justice, hope, and love depend on the existence of future generations for whose sake all the good that we do is ultimately done. “It was reasonable to struggle, to suffer, perhaps even to die, for a more just, a more compassionate society,” writes P. D. James, “but not in a world with no future where, all too soon, the very words ‘justice,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘society,’ ‘struggle,’ ‘evil,’ would be unheard echoes on an empty air.” Thus, it is not just coincidental that the parents of the first child born in twenty-six years are leading the only movement for reform. Without the ability to bear children, James tells us, we also lose the ability to care about anything but our own comfort and safety — which is what the Warden of England promises in return for his absolute and unquestioned power. There is much to be said for this view of things, but I wonder if it may work the other way around. When we start to care only for our own comfort and safety, do we lose if not the ability then the need or desire to reproduce?

Please read the whole thing. The nightmare James envisions fortunately is not upon us, despite the most consequential event in modern times-- the invention of the Pill. Contraception will be the demise of secular Western civilization, in some generations-- a century or two. It's effect on genuine Christian civilization and on Islamic and pagan civilizations remains to be seen. But we have seen in secular Europe a plunge in birth rates-- far below replacement-- that has never been witnessed in history, except for pestilence, famine or war.

The consequences of our pervasive self-gelding will reach to every cranny of life. It will ravage our social systems, our arts and sciences, our philosophy, our religion, and will transform even the banalities of our everyday lives. We do not yet understand what we have done. People like James and Bowman are beginning to explore it. It is a deep darkness.

Mankind's survival literally depends on the survival of worldviews that reject contraception. Those worldviews may be genuinely Christian or Islamic, or they might take a totalitarian form-- a world in which perpetuation of the human race is dictated by commissars and Five-Year Plans. We know only that it will not be secular hedonism. Whether anti-contraceptive worldviews will survive, and what form the triumphant worldviews will take, we cannot yet know.

Perhaps we would rather not know.  


  1. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthJune 4, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    Let me begin by saying that one cannot go wrong reading any of the novels written by P.D. James. She has been one of my favorite British writers for many years. Born poor, her talent has elevated her to an honorary peerage and she is now Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL. She's also Anglican and a lay member of a lay prayer book society devoted to the Book of Common Prayer.

    Having given Baroness P.D. a free ad, it's clear that secular hedonism is an evolutionary dead end living off the fat of prior generations. Given that most of its adherents are devoted members of the Cult of Neodarwinism, it's ironic in the extreme that they reject the Prime Directive. Lack of "fitness", I suppose.

    But it's good for the species in general, as the cultists are already disappearing from historical niches and those niches are being populated by more vigorous groups. Nothing there for a utilitarian not to love. :-)

  2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthJune 4, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Daily Image™:

    MAD magazine imagines President Bimbeaux McLightworker's unfortunate new movie.

  3. There are approximately 358million tons of humans in the world vs. 32 million tons of wild land mammals. Not counting our approximately billion tons of livestock, humanity outweighs all mammals combined by more than a factor of 10, and our population continues to rise. We are a long way from declining birthrates causing an existential problem.

    Egnor’s real problem is not enough white babies.


  4. "... and the last people to be born, now in their twenties as the novel begins in 2021, are known as Omegas."

    As I recall, they were called 'Alphas'

    1. Ilion,

      No - your ignorance is showing again. They were called 'Omegas'.

    2. ^ No, that is a nice example of your supercilious intellectual dishonesty.

    3. I recall thinking more than once as I read the book that calling a certaikn class of people -- as I'm remembering it, the last years-worth of people to be born -- 'Alphas' didn't make sense.

    4. Ilion,

      Well, why don't you go back and find out what the last people born were called, instead of relying on your memory and your 'recall'?

      I downloaded the Kindle sample Amazon provides (I'm still trying to decide whether to buy it - it looks very good, but I've got too many books on my list to read) and they were called 'Omegas'. And the viral plague was called 'Omega'.

    5. Why don't you stop being intellectually dishonest?

      Everyone understands what I wrote in the first post; only *dishonest* persons try to make it other than what it was.

    6. Ilion,

      "As I recall, they were called 'Alphas'".

      No they weren't. They were called 'Omegas'. Stop trying to pretend you wrote anything different. You're just digging yourself into a deeper hole.

      The author used 'Omega(s)' 83 times. And 'Alpha' twice.

  5. At present I live in London. I am a teacher and, as London is a vast reception area for mass immigration; I may have taught children from 30 or 40 countries probably more. Who knows?

    A question that I think about virtually every day is, 'What happened to white English parents?'
    Why are they so lazy, self obsessed and callous in regard of their own children?
    Money & 'class' make no difference. Perhaps the upper middle classes are the worst? It's close anyway.
    No other parents on Earth, as per my experience, are so repellent. So awful. There is NOTHING that the average English parent will not have their child put up with.

    Easter Europeans? Totally different.
    Turks? I've been 'interviewed' at a meeting, by three generations of one Turkish family who wanted to size me up and ensure I was nothing like the 'progressive' Swedish Teachers they wanted to save their children from.
    If only all my interviews were so much fun for all concerned!

    To serve as a cherry on this particular cake I'm actively seeking teaching roles in Russia. Two rejections, one today. I'll keep at it though.

    Do Russian parents buy their 11 year old sons porn ready i-phones does anyone know?
    Do they their vomiting seven year olds off in my classroom because 'mother has tennis today'?
    Do they go to the State Media Complex to whale that their daughter had 'suffered years of internet bullying' before her suicide?

    Dunno but I hope to find out.

    J 'deeply disappointed by your behaviour' R