Belmont Club

No Country For Young Men

The author of the Twilight of Abundance, David Archibald, sent an email a few days ago, saying “there is a whole new world coming.” Archibald, who’s an Australian, warns in his book that the world is running out of food, energy and security. Where he differs from Malthus, however, is in arguing that the shortages are the consequence of policy, rather than the inherent limitations of the universe. The world is doing everything it can to run in the opposite direction of abundance because we think we have too much. The West dreads warmer weather, even though warmer weather might allow more crops to grow; it discourages energy production. And its leaders are working feverishly to throw away the residual security of the post Cold War world.

A friend said to me in response that the young have made their choice. “The world always changes because the young have new ideas. The younger generation is in power now. They make the decisions and the cultural choices.” Reflecting for a moment, I retorted, “but where are the young? They are not in the West. The youth in statistical terms is in the Third World. We don’t even know what they think. What we take as ‘youth culture’ and the voice of to-morrow are the attitudes of a shrinking cohort cohabiting with the geriatric majority. In that case, it’s the Western old choosing for the global young.”

My friend answered, “you know, you are right. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation did a survey of its audience and found the majority of those who watch its programs are old.  For a long time they made the mistake of pitching to the young, only to learn that it’s really the old codgers who watch TV.”

The Western Left’s biggest lie is that it represents a movement of the young, but it really represents the very old. Their very concerns are geriatric: Marxism, trash recycling, health and safety, public transportation and gossip.

The big giveaway is we as a civilization don’t want to go to the planets any more, because the old don’t want to go anywhere. Imagine clambering into spaceships! The very idea gives us the shivers. Only the young and immortal travel to places where they may never be able to get Ibuprofen.

The only place the Western young are found in abundance is movies where they are paid to play the average man. The movies are the fake mirror of the elderly West. In that mirror we remain young though in reality — like the Belgian Army — we are really more worried about lumbago than fighting off the depredations of Loki.

Collectively the old codgers have put their hope in the hands of that nice young man, Barack Obama, who tells us what we want to hear. Although he calls himself president, his real position is as the director of the Shady Rest Retirement Home. He keeps the geezers happy and even pretends to know how to work an Iphone during balloon play-catch sessions. But though the West likes to affect the idealism of youth, deep in its ancient hearts its know the truth: the guys running the retirement home are probably raiding the till. A recent poll reports that Americans believe 75% of politicians are corrupted and 70% use political power to hurt enemies.

“They’re all crooked I tell ya'”.

“Be quiet Milton and vote Democratic.”

The reason the Democrats will stay in power is we’re too tired to fight them. Too worn out from driving 50 miles each day to work as a greeter at Wal-Mart.

Like corrupted and cynical old men we live in a faithless age. No longer do we light candles at the altars of our fathers. But neither do we have any new gods to follow. We are like dying men whose sins have come back to us in our dreams and we no longer hope that anyone loves us or could love; that even Christ, who we once believed in and danced to in our youth could accept us now.

And in consequence the future, rather than beckoning to us, envelops us like a shroud. America which was famous for optimism, has sold its birthright for a mess of Obamacare and Obamaphones, like an old couple that have given up sweeping and tending a house that grew too big now that the kids have left. And the general consensus it seems is that the Mexicans can inherit what’s left if only would they promise to bury us when we’re done.

“Si Senor. I will bury you good.”

David Archibald noted that in the time between the American involvement in Afghanistan in 2001 to the time of its departure the population in that country increased by nine million. Over the same period perhaps 15,000 have died in combat, most at the hands of the Taliban. “the ratio of creation of new Afghans by birth to deaths of Afghans in the ongoing conflict is over 600 to 1.” They are fighting a young man’s war and we are fighting an old person’s losing game.

What is the carrying capacity of the country? Under ideal conditions, aided by the warmest climate for 800 years, it is perhaps 13 million people. What keeps the excess above that figure alive is imported grain which for the last few years has settled down to a rate of about two million tonnes per annum.

Afghanistan’s population growth rate is now 2.4% per annum. At that rate it is doubling every 29 years. By 2030 there will be 46.6 million Afghans. To keep body and soul together, the increased population from the 2014 level will require a further 5 million tonnes per annum of imported wheat. Can anyone think of where the money might come from to pay for that wheat, if the wheat can be found at that time in the first place? I believe that the American public will soon tire of paying for the ungrateful and irredeemable wretches, no matter what is agreed to in the disengagement process.

There he goes again: food, energy and security. He thinks they matter. Probably they do. But maybe the Western public is past caring about anything, except if  “you might hand me that cupcake over there. The one without nuts because I left my dentures by the counter.”

The world may be falling to pieces but someone else will take care of it. Lee Smith writes that Egypt is heading for a collapse and may soon not even be able to hang on to the Suez Canal. The bad news is that Obama won’t care. The good news is that maybe China will build something to replace it.

The paradox is that Egypt, with a rapidly growing population of 83 million, is actually shrinking in some vital ways. Its influence and significance on the world stage have dwindled to such an extent that not just the Israelis next door but even some European states fear that in the years to come Egypt’s most relevant export will simply be terrorism. What was thousands of years ago one of the cradles of civilization and in modern times the most influential of Arab states is significant now for only two reasons: the Suez Canal and the peace treaty with Israel.

The former remains important to the United States and other world powers, but it’s no longer vital. Maritime routes allowing ships to circumvent the Suez are costly and time-consuming, but the newly proposed Israeli land rail line connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea offers a very real challenge to the Suez—especially since rampant terrorist operations against ships crossing the canal are threatening to make the Egyptian waterway un-navigable and to render Egypt’s role in world commerce redundant. In February, Cairo sentenced 26 men to death for plotting attacks on the Suez; it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be the last.

The Chinese, despite their one child policy, have not yet grown old in their minds. They’re still interested in whether there’ll be enough food, energy and security for their descendants to live in. They haven’t given up on the world. As Lee points out Chinese and the Israelis are planning a land bridge from the Red Sea to the Med, just as the Chinese and Koreans are contemplating the Nicaraguan Canal to replace the Panama. For them the world and its horizons are still expanding. For us, well has the applesauce arrived yet?

If any nation might be considered “old” in years, it is Israel and China. Both go back almost to the dawn of civilization.  Untold generations of Chinese and Jews have died. But their culture remains young in that it looks forward to posterity; at least they have not yet turned everything over to some nice young man with the big smile and the natty creases.  Maybe the secret of ancient cultures which survive is that they can continue to care about the future.

And so the Chinese and the Jews still do canals. They do space exploration. The West does Facebook because you don’t have to get up from the chair to work it.  Maybe what we call “youth culture” is just the culture of people who need a remote.  The West lives in the memory of abundance, because that is the reality its old people remember. They can’t see things from the real viewpoint of those who have to pay the National Debt and the ‘Young Invincibles’ who must fund the subsidies for Obamacare.  If we there were really a youth culture it would look like the Wild Hunt rather than one in which people in kaftans recycled garbage in eco-communities.  You’re no longer young when you’ve forgotten how to dream and how to be angry.

It would be almost impossible to convince the West that only a few years ago their ancestors conceived and built the Suez, the Panama or the Moonship though it’s the truth. The West was truly young once.

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