Thursday, January 19, 2006

Japan with a Beard

"Momus" at Wired News begins his article about population decline in Japan by quoting Chesterton:
G.K. Chesterton opens his breezy 1910 jeremiad What's Wrong With the World with a humorous warning regarding "the gaping absurdity of perpetually talking about 'young nations' and 'dying nations,' as if a nation had a fixed and physical span of life.

"Thus people will say that Spain has entered a final senility; they might as well say that Spain is losing all her teeth," he wrote. "Or people will say that Canada should soon produce a literature; which is like saying that Canada must soon grow a new moustache. Nations consist of people; the first generation may be decrepit, or the 10,000th may be vigorous."

Despite Chesterton's sensible warning, people continue to map nations metaphorically to the lifespan of individuals; Mark Steyn, in a somewhat hysterical essay about Muslim population growth in Europe published in January's New Criterion, says, "As fertility shrivels, societies get older -- and Japan and much of Europe are set to get older than any functioning societies have ever been. And we know what comes after old age."
Then the author goes on to say that Japan is in a mid-life crisis ... or "growing a lovely long white beard."

And jeremiad, in my opinion, is too somber a word to describe anything written by Chesterton.

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