Numerologist in me gets all uncomfortable if unique post numbers such as this one do not get immediate attention. So there, my tribute to numerology – this number, 1111, is truly unique, it will never come up again, just as 1110 before it and 1112 that will come tomorrow.
This was another reference to silly obsession with “round” dates such as 11.11 AM on 11.11.11 (November 11 of 2011). Now, with that out of the way, back to demographics as a strangling force of Kali yuga, topic I started yesterday.
Western world is literally dying. People live longer, of course, but they don’t procreate and so at first western societies age, then they will die. It doesn’t mean that we are going to see North America and Europe becoming desert wastelands overnight, and probably never, but their societies as we know them will cease to exist.
They will keep the ball rolling for a while by consuming immigrants and leaching off their high birth rates but, as the world becomes increasingly global and there’s less and less interest in emigrating from growing Asia and Africa, immigration will only delay the inevitable.
I have no idea how immigrants, mostly from Muslim and African countries, will react to westernization. The US is a melting pot in this sense, people lose their foreign identities pretty fast, but in Europe immigrants form their own societies and refuse to integrate, which scares the natives a lot and leads to the rise of right wing nationalism across the continent.
Predictions aside, the main problem is the current model of civilization based on liberal democracy. People are given rights to do whatever they want and this leads to gross materialism, selfishness, and outright hedonism. Evolutionists might argue that cooperating for the benefit of the whole society will eventually prove its worth and so societies will naturally adjust themselves but I have serious doubts evolution works that way.
“Liberal” in liberal democracy means freedom to pursue one’s own goals, freedom from social obligations. People are not going to sacrifice their own comforts for the sake of anyone else, they just don’t live long enough to see the returns, and, as they have fewer and fewer children they have less and less connection or interest in society’s future.
Even if this social evolution through natural selection is a real thing it doesn’t mean that liberal democracy must survive. Morel likely it’s one of the species destined for extinction. If one were to pick an evolutionary winner he should go with something else.
Yesterday I said that there’s one country that realized this danger on the most fundamental level and decided to tackle the problem at its root. It’s Russia.
Will they succeed? Maybe, maybe not, but they have a clear shot because liberal democracy has never been a part of their culture, we shouldn’t be calling it a “western country” in this sense. They have been trying it for a quarter of the century and overall they are not impressed, which makes it easier for them to pursue other development models.
Their demographic situation was really really dire. In Soviet Union days it was the third most populous country in the world, ahead of the US, now it barely makes top ten. Of course they lost all these people to politics, they didn’t all just die, but it cut Russian playground in half, making it a lot more difficult to survive on their own with whatever new policies they come up.
In the nineties the remaining population started dying for reals, mostly from drinking and mostly males. Mortality rate was twice as high as in the US and overall Russian population was shrinking like crazy. The UN predicted that by the mid-century it would go down by a third. They were doomed.
Then things changed. Putin decided to make demographics a priority and he spoke to the nation about it. Since then the population decline stopped and it actually started growing, in a space of only five years. Magic, right?
There are other countries who try to deal with their aging societies and low birth rates but without any success. Japan has a list of comprehensive policies designed to make child bearing a convenient life choice, they call it creating a work-life balance, but it isn’t working. Singaporean government is practically ordering people to be romantic, just short of showing panda porn, and it all has been in vain.
Russians, otoh, simply discarded the whole cultural model that comes with “progress”, they rejected western cultural values altogether, something Japan and Singapore haven’t dared to even contemplate.
While the rest of the world is celebrating legalization of gay marriage, for example, Russians look at it as complete nuts. Not just because they are culturally homophobic but because purposefully excluding up to a fifth of the population from procreational duties is nothing short of a demographic suicide.
While the rest of the world continues with feminism and emancipation, teaching their children to use gender neutral pronouns to refer to people and rewriting fairy tales to exclude gender stereotypes, Russians make child bearing and motherhood a role model for all women to follow.
Of course it’s a tough sell but so far it worked. With population only slightly bigger than Japan, Russian women give birth to twice as many children already. Maybe it’s not sustainable but so far it’s better than any other alternatives. What’s interesting is that Russia doesn’t have any big demographic policies. They figured that policy making as it’s practiced in democracies is not a suitable tool, one needs to change nation’s mindset, it’s much more than tweaking taxes and extending maternity benefits.
Policy making assumes that people would make rational choices based on their perceived benefits but Russians thought, rightfully, imo, that demographic problem should be tackled on emotional, not rational level. It’s faster and it’s more powerful, and even if emotional commitments look irrational they still keep people in place.
I don’t know the details and I might be totally wrong but to me it looks as if it should all be credited to Putin. He is the kind of leader who can reach people’s hearts and make them follow. He doesn’t need to argue his point with numbers and profits, he appeals to much deeper motives, like national identity, a sense of shared responsibility and common commitment. The west hasn’t seen such leaders since Kennedy, Obama was presented as one initially but he doesn’t inspire anyone anymore.
Putin, otoh, has got everything going for him – quick success, united population, common goals, and common enemies. Russians might be under the siege now and western media makes it sound like Russian collapse is imminent but this situation is actually good for their fight, good for their re-orientation from liberal democracy to their own model. They can’t have both as the same time and current western criticism makes them see their objectives more clearly – whatever west promotes is bad and whatever they criticize is good.
Okay, but what has any of it got to do with Kṛṣṇa consciousness? Good question but not the one I can answer in full today. In short, their revival and their new model is based on religion, which should immediately draw our attention. What kind of model? What kind of religion? Can it possibly work? How does it fit with varṇāśrama? How does it fit with saṇkīrtana? Do we, as ISKCON, have a place in it? Do we have any proposals? What should they be?
Russia is one of the unfriendliest countries for devotees and ISKCON wouldn’t even be there if not for the push from the west, as a legal organization it owes liberal democratic values everything. Can we support current Russian push or should we distance ourselves from it if not firmly oppose it? There is a lot to discuss here and nothing seems obvious. What is obvious, however, is that it should be done on another occasion.