This week's column:
"Now civilizations, I believe, come to birth and proceed to grow by successfully responding to successive challenges. They break down and go to pieces if and when a challenge confronts them which they fail to meet." – Arnold J. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial
Thus speaks the master historian. The challenge which now faces the west is neither political nor economic: it is spiritual. This is not to say that there are no political or economic problems. But these are secondary; they are also inexorably tied to the west’s existential crisis. To put the matter bluntly, the West has lost faith in itself. Like the noble pagans Dante meets in limbo, "without hope we live on in desire."
Historians like Toynbee have read widely, seeking to find, if not laws, at least general principles by which civilization must abide if it wishes to preserve itself. But we need not be historians to realize that the bare minimum a people must do in order to survive is to birth another generation of children and raise them to adulthood. Whether or not these in turn will prove capable of whatever challenges that civilization faces is a matter of speculation. We need only concern ourselves with the fact that another generation is brought into existence. In this most essential mission, the nations of the west are failing spectacularly, as each nation in Europe, as well as Canada and the United States, has a birth rate below replacement level. The west is dying.