Civilizational ennui, part II

June 15, 2006

I enjoyed reading knit_tgz‘s comment to the Mark Steyn article I quoted about Europe’s “civilizational ennui” so much that I wanted to re-post it here for those of you who missed it. She makes some really interesting points that I’ve been thinking about all week.

I should clarify, since I didn’t post the entire Steyn article, that I don’t think he was saying that Europe’s family-friendly policies caused this social decline; rather, I think he was just pointing out that Europeans aren’t taking advantage of their lifestyle because they’ve become an agnostic, self-centered culture. I think he summarizes the situation well when he says, “A present tense culture amuses itself to extinction.”

Anyway, here’s the comment (knit_tgz, hope you don’t mind that I’m re-posting it):

In fact, that’s true, our laws are more family-friendly, as far as I know, than American laws. There is a longer maternity leave, and a paternity leave in some countries as well, there are paid holidays, there’s a lot of social benefits you can receive to help your family.

[Warning: sweeping generalizations ahead. I tried to argue my point without detailing about exceptions, which should be accounted for, of course. We would be already dead were it not for the exceptions].

Still, we Europeans seem to have decided to extinguish ourselves. Why? Because of selfishness, that’s the only reason I can imagine.

I don’t believe this is happening because of the “family-friendly” policies, as the author of the article seems to imply, but in spite of them. I believe this is happening because of our general cosmovision. We are no longer faithfully religious, we are no longer fiercely atheist. We have become the worse we could be: lukewarm. We, Europeans, are lukewarm. We despise the notion of sacrificing ourselves to get a higher result. Our children, our fewer and fewer children, are well-fed, well-dressed and have better schools than I and my friends had (and I’m not THAT old), and they’re worse students, more problematic ones, more violent ones.

What’s the difference? The difference is in the parents. My parents, and all the parents in my generation, whether believers or communists or whatever, they had a common point: people need to make sacrifices to achieve greatness. Children need guidance and authority. Nowadays, parents are called to school to know their kid bit the teacher, and they say “the kid must have had his reasons”. Children are seen as fragile porcelain dolls, instead of human beings in growing. They must not receive any form of punishment, for fear they become traumatized. So, teachers can no longer make children understand that every action has consequences, every choice has consequences.

This has been the result of several things, in my humble opinion. On no particular order, I can think of: 1) the media, who in the recent years started focusing a lot in the whining persons and less on the ones who truly suffer injustice, and who have made taboo the mere mention of sacrifice, honour, bettering ourselves, responsibility and consequences; 2) the general disillusionment of the population, who no longer believes in anything (nor religion, nor atheism, nor ideologies); 3) the specific generation of the parents of our present children (persons 5-10 years my elders, as over here we start having children on our 30s, alas!), who, for some reason I cannot understand, behave as spoiled brats instead of as responsible parents. I am not exaggerating; 4) the education reforms. I know several teachers who have always loved teaching and they all say that when the reforms were made (which, in my country, made very difficult to have a child fail a subject or be suspended for bad behaviour at school), children started behaving worse, and parents started to come complain for their lower grades, even though the kids were obviously not studying nor doing their homework.

A society that makes children believe they are inimputable, that whatever they do, right or wrong, they will not be held responsible, nor will their parents, is a society that raises spoiled brats who demand unreasonable things from everyone. Spoiled brats who make the disillusioned young adults from my generation think twice before having children. Because it is politically incorrect to think about punishing a child (I’m not talking about beating, mind you!), to say that a child who doesn’t study should fail the year, to say that kids need to learn obedience, responsibility, sacrifice.

A close friend of mine once commented, while we were talking about this matter, that nowadays the only context in which we can talk of sacrifice to better oneself, of punishment for the ones who don’t behave well, of responsibility, is the context of football (soccer). Unfortunately, it is mostly true. Maybe that’s why people still care so much for it.

People no longer trust the ideologies to free them. They saw politicians of every kind of ideology go to power and use the power to care for themselves. People no longer fiercely adhere to a religion or to atheism.

The problem is not in our family laws. Our family laws are good. The problem is everywhere else. In our media, in our p.c. language, in the present parent generation who don’t want to be held accountable to their responsibilities, so they don’t hold their children accountable to their responsibilities too.

[End of sweeping generalizations].

Of course there are still lots of good parents. Of course there are still people who believe in effort, in merit, in working hard, and teach these values to their children. Still, while all the “opinion makers” (media commenters, soap operas, serials) keep saying that children are a hindrance to one’s future, something that you should avoid until you are well-settled to “take the blow” of having kids, instead of being an asset, a guarantee of a future generation, and also a motivation to work hard, it’s no use that the governments try to make people want to have more children. A lot of people have been convinced that children are something to be avoided.

This is a hard issue for me. Since my teen years I know I want to be a mother. Of several children. At least four, though I would really want to have six kids. I am still single, and I know time is not on my side. I am almost 30. I have prayed over this a lot of times, and some times got angry with God because we, over here in Europe, are dying without children*, and I would love to have children, and would try to love them and teach them to be noble, upright, hard-working, thinking persons who have a conscience of right and wrong. And I don’t have the chance to try. And I feel sad that no couple I know wants to have more than one or two kids.

* many of the ones who are born, unfortunately, due to the politics of “if the immigrants don’t want to integrate themselves, it’s OK”, will be educated in fundamentalist Muslim views and closed from the rest of society. I know I am not being P.C., but when the 2nd generation cannot speak well the tongue of the country they live in and do not wish to mix with no-one else, and seem to hate the country where they were born, we have a problem.

(This issue makes me sad).


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