Sunday, August 03, 2003

Oh My Mama!

For those who never thought that Belmont Club would reprint an article from the BBC, here's a chilling article on Europe's aging population:

Seventy-seven-year-old Marietta Cirolla does not have an easy life. She is desperately lame. Her eyes and ears are beginning to fail her, and worst of all she cannot stop burping. Like a character invented by that master of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marietta has been struck by an inexplicable condition which makes her an object of wonder and concern to her friends and neighbours. All her life she has lived in Cersosimo, a tiny village hidden in a fold of the arid hills of Basilicata in the deep south of Italy.

She only left the village once - that was to see a specialist in digestive ailments in Milan. But her condition proved resistant to the intrusions of modern medicine. She returned home uncured; resigned to her compulsive disorder. Which isn't to say that Marietta keeps herself to herself. Far from it. When I met her last week she was stationed outside her tiny house at the very top of the village, surrounded by elderly friends. They sat in mellow companionship, watching the sun descend to the horizon in a blaze of pink and red. Marietta's burping made conversation difficult, nonetheless she was eager to respond to my questions about life in Cersosimo. "We need an old people's home here," she insisted. "Somewhere to live where we won't end up being neglected and lonely."

I asked about her children. "They're all gone," she said, gesturing to the distant hills. Marietta's story is indeed Cersosimo's story. The outline of this ancient village is slowly fading away. Two-thirds of the inhabitants are over 65. Improved healthcare and changing lifestyles mean people are living longer, but local women are marrying later and seem increasingly reluctant to have children. "We've had four babies this year," the mayor told me morosely, "in the same period we've had 14 funerals." Things are so bad the village school has combined all of its classes to maintain a quorum of pupils. The mayor is planning to fulfil Marietta's wish, and turn the redundant classrooms into an old people's centre - if he can find the money. But with the population of the village down from over 1,000 to just 850, his local tax income is going down too.

Welcome to the cure for the Population Explosion, which from an historical perspective, was 1960s equivalent of Global Warming. How puzzled the Vietnam Era protesters would have been if you would have predicted that the Population Division of the United Nations, no more an organ of American imperialism than the BBC, would conclude that by 2050, 39 countries would lose population "led by Russia, down 41.2 million. Other important losers, in millions: Ukraine (19.6), Japan (17.9), Italy (14.6), Germany (11.2), Spain (8.6), Poland (5.2), Romania (4.3), Bulgaria (3.4), and Hungary (2.5)" Did the Beatles ever think, when they wrote "When I'm Sixty-Four" that the average age of Europe by the middle of the 21st century would be nearly 50, while the unsophisticated, clownish American would still be 41, and the US, according to the UN remain, the sole nation among the major industrial countries that will grow rapidly during the next 50 years.

The quiet turnabout in the heart of the liberal left may be prompted by the belated realization that they will literally have no one to bring their bedpans in their hour of need. So with the word secretly out, the Population Explosion scare will be discreetly buried by the liberal left, to be replaced by yet another one of their historical hoaxes. But it is already too late. The BBC again:

The European Union is to issue a stark warning to Britons that they should be prepared to forget early retirement and work for longer. The most comprehensive look at member states pensions will be presented at a key EU summit this week. Its main conclusion: workers should not be encouraged to take up early retirement.

One analyst asks, "with many EU nations already filling more coffins than cradles, how will they (Europe) manage to cope with the financial burden of an ageing population, as the demand for pensions rises and the ability to fund them falls?" The obvious answer, which is to have more children, and work harder, will run into immediate political opposition from the feminist lobby, the abortion industry and the entrenched union entitlement. But with two of three words of the handwriting on the wall already legible, some leftist professors are already putting the best face on it by painting the coming extinction of Europe in glowing post-modernist terms:

"The numbers are like a thermometer," suggests Professor Lecaillon. "You have to wonder what it means, this rejection of life in our modern civilization." For Professor Chesnais, the ebb "is inevitable: Europe went through a phase of arrogant expansion around the world, now we are in a phase of decline. I think we can limit the extent of the fall, but we cannot stop it."

For in the end, the Left is always right, even when it is wrong. In 1956, during what must have been one of strangest episodes of the Cold War, Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev mounted the UN podium, took out his shoe and pounded it, confidently announcing the superiority of Socialism in no uncertain terms. "We will bury you", he warned the United States. Strange that in all probability those words will be uttered by an American over a European grave.