That's a description of Mark Steyn I heard at Wednesday evening's lecture at Temple Emmanuel in Newton Centre, Outsourcing the Future. Spot on! The lecture was sponsored by CAMERA, the Comittee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting. Steyn had everybody laughing over and over again throughout his talk. Without his famous acerbic wit, we might have been depressed at the trends and statistics that Steyn presented. It was classic Steyn material, including the topics he covered so well in America Alone: demographic suicide of Europe; the vacuum of "humanist secularism"; the rise of radical Islam around the Globe; the weakness of American will and self-confidence. Here are some of his talking points that I scribbled down:
- Steyn began by asking whether, back in 1947 when Pakistan was established, could people have anticipated what Pakistan has become today? It's a failing state, its military has allowed the Taliban and other Islamic extremists to flourish and granted them sanctuary, it's being torn apart by radical extremists who are part of a pan-Islamic movement. And it's a nuclear power. Not a good combination. Who would have predicted that in 1947?
- In 1970, the developed nations comprised 30% of the world's population, and Muslims comprised 15%. By 2000, both were about 20% of the world's population. Western nations are levelling off and some are declining in population, most are not replacing themselves. Western nations require immigration for their labor force, which for Europe has been largely from Muslim countries. Muslims, unlike Europeans, have robust fertility rates. What will this mean for the future of the West and of the world? Steyn pointed out, "There is no precedence for continued prosperity without human capital."
- Big picture on the War on Terrorism: "We've got a surging Muslim population coupled with a coordinated and well-funded campaign to radicalize those Muslims."
- Steyn sees a decline in Western will and self-confidence, and the combination of this fatalism and demographic suicide means that we're at a civilizational tipping point. We could well be on the verge of a new Dark Ages.
- Steyn came back several times to Europe's demographic suicide, citing the below-replacement fertility rates of Italy and Russia (1.2 for both), coupled with Russia's astronomical abortion rate, where 70% of pregnancies end in abortion. "Russian men now have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis. If a Russian man had four legs and hung from a tree in a rain forest, he'd be on the endangered species list... If Italian women were clinging to ice floes in the North Pole, like the ever present photos we see of polar bears, they'd be on the endangered species list too."
- On the 9/11 Truthers claims: "OK, assume that 9/11 was an inside job. Was the Madrid bombing an inside job? Was the London bombing? Was the Bail bombing an inside job?"
- Look at Iran, North Korea and Pakistan - they are essentially failed states. They produce nothing but manpower, yet one is a nuclear power and two are on their way there. Could we have imagined this 30-40 years ago? How did this enormous threat to the rest of the world come to be?
- Wealthy countries don't seem to acknowedge that the 60 years of relative peace in the Western world is a rare thing. We've lost the ability to defend ourselves or to recognize an existential threat. Steyn quotes the Dutch (or was it Danish?) person who lamented,"I don't know how to defend my freedoms, I only know how to enjoy it."
- Steyn called for a Manhattan Project to replace oil as our main fuel, "Let's end the Oil Age." Robert Spencer has called for the same thing. The money we spend on gas and oil comes back to us as Saudi Wahabi idelogy.
- He spoke about being at a nanotechnology conference a year and a half ago, where he asked the participants if there were any real applications for nanotechnology. "Why yes, we've created a self-repairing condom." Could there be better metaphor for what ails the West? As Steyn said, "The self-repairing condom - a marvel of nanotechnology to be sure - that can be on the epitaph on the tombstones of the Western world."
- On the Israel/Palestinian conflict: "Palestinians have shown a consistent pattern of behaviour. Given the choice between nation-building and Jew-killing, they choose killing Jews." Palestinians have been offered statehood numerous times in the past 80 years. They continue to reject it, and to show no enthusiasm for nation-building Instead, they raise their children to idolize and become suicide bombers.
- Steyn discussed the absurd education that American and European children receive today, where the West is overwhelmingly portrayed as being unjust, aggressive colonialists, brutal, racist, sexist, etc., etc. "If your country has basically been on the right side on most of big clashes, you should be able to teach your history as an heroic national narrative. Obviously we have our warts, but there’s a difference between doing teaching warts and all, and only teaching about the warts." The spiritual vaccuum of the West leads to a cultural void, which is being filled by a pan-Islamism. Islamists feel no need to acknowledge - let alone feel guilt or regret - over the many brutalities, oppression, slavery, military invasions and genocides in their history. Steyn calls for going back to teaching children what is good and heroic about the West, starting in kindergarten.
There was a lively question-and-answer period afterwards, where the question came up (as always): "But what about the moderate Muslims?" Steyn replied, "There are millions of moderate Muslims, but their insitutions are radicalized." Steyn noted that Saudi Arabia sees itself as a Muslim Vatican. He strongly criticized that Saudi Arabia subsidizes mosques all around the world, yet does not allow the practice of any other religion except Islam in its own country. That does make my blood boil. As I've written before, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should not be able to spend one thin dime constructing mosques in this country until we can build churches over there. "
Great lecture, kudos to CAMERA and Temple Emmanuel for bringing Steyn here. Go see him in person if you ever get the chance. Other reviews here, here and here, which cover the other politico-national issues that Steyn addressed on Wednesday.