What went wrong with wealth?


In any human society, there is a widespread assumption that goes something like this; if there is plenty to go around with, then number of things are possible.When the basics are further guaranteed by the modern state, one would think the natural processes of life, which were laid down by Mother Nature eons ago, would be encouraged, facilitated and amplified even more! The natural process of procreation is one such obvious activity one lazily assumes to fall under this category.

However, data from industrialized countries (OECD) show, almost without exception, people in these rich countries, both in the West and the East, have literally decided not to produce sufficient number of children to replace their currently dwindling populations. Even those countries predisposed to immigration, like the USA, Canada, etc, will not be spared from the coming population contraction. See the article on page 50. What is wrong with the rich they adamantly refuse to procreate even to the extent of replacing themselves?
Obviously there are a number of reasons why such things are happening at this point in time. But we will not start with those facts, instead we will try to look at this disturbing disinclination of the rich, from a more humane and rather subjective perspective. Everything aside, why do more and more people in the rich countries believe raising children is more of a nuisance than a blessing? Why do many people in rich countries think their regimented day-to-day worldly activities must take precedence over the all too important business of creating life? Can these people honestly enumerate more rewarding vocations than this natural activity, especially when the basics are more or less guaranteed by the welfare state? Or is it because of other non-material things collective society failed to deliver, but are deemed very important by the procreators than the mere supply of goods and services generously extended by the states? In other words, does this material richness come with a very dear price of active voluntary departure from Eros? Reflecting on these issues, besides dry gurgitation of numbers, we believe, will import more revealing insight to the prevailing disturbing phenomenon. To those of us living in poor countries and not completely obsessed with the ‘self’ yet, (narcissism) the whole thing is quite puzzling.
The convenience of making/doing sex without the associated responsibility of pregnancy has significantly affected our orientation towards humanity’s age-old institutions. Our orientation towards the institution of marriage, which itself was predicated on procreation, has changed drastically. These days young women and for that matter young men also have their own frightening ideas about sex, marriage and children. Here are numbers/observations from Japan, as reported by a westerner. ‘Several surveys show that young Japanese simply aren’t interested in sex. You can attribute that to emancipated women, the cost of raising children, work pressures or other economics if you like, but that really doesn’t tell the entire story nor get at the root of the problem – a lack of desire.’ The resident observer continued,
‘One survey from O-Net, one of Japan’s largest online dating services, interviewed 800 young Japanese men and found that 83.7% didn’t have a girlfriend. The survey also showed that 49.3% had never had a girlfriend. Another survey from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed that 36.3% of young men had no interest in finding one.The Wall Street Journal reported that 59% of Japanese females between the ages of 16-19 stated that they are totally uninterested in or completely averse to sex. Married couples don’t appear to be any different. Other data suggest that 40.8% of all couples are not only childless, but sexless as defined by not having had sexual intercourse for more than a month. So called “kamen-fu,” or loveless marriages, are far more common than you would think. It’s no wonder the birth rate has dropped precipitously according to the National Institute of Population. Nor is it difficult to understand that “silvers,” which is what the Japanese euphemistically call their senior citizens, will make up 40% of the population by 2060 despite the fact that the total Japanese population is expected to shrink by 1/3rd over the same time frame.’
In light of such de-capacitating conveniences, we believe, modernity and its (mostly) greed driven values must be thoroughly re-examined, if we want to extricate humanity from such a depressing attitude towards LIFE. See Schwalbe’s article next column. On the other hand, those of us in the poor countries must also reflect on our situation, going forward. In our case, it is the perverted version of the above population conundrum that will affect us, i.e. we will be overpopulated before we become rich! Therefore, we need to take urgent and appropriate measures to arrest the unsustainable situation. We must also learn from China, the only country that tackled the problem head on (‘one child’ per family)! China is now facing its second-generation problems associated with its population management policy. Because of unwise decision by the previous generation of parents, there is now a clear mis-match between the sexes. Currently China has a lot of men and not enough women. As a result, the dowry business has come back with vengeance. The going rate is now around $30,000 for a young lady’s hand. Moreover, it also seems China, unlike Japan, will become old before it becomes rich (at least in the western sense) ushering, yet again third-generation problems.
The ‘good life’ is not only material wellbeing. Material wellbeing might be a necessary condition for the ‘good life’, but it certainly is not sufficient. Almost one out of every four patient in the US is sick/disturbed in the head, in the land of plenty! Popping pills has become the mainstay of a significant portion of the population and the burgeoning profession of psychiatry testifies to the prevailing grave situation. The possession of all sorts of worldly things has failed to enrich the souls of people in the countries of the rich, particularly in places like the USA, where material accumulation is considered the ultimate nirvana! As John Kenneth Galbraith used to say, American society is, ‘privately rich but publicly poor.’ Here is also our two cents worth: “Beware, when core-values vacate humanity, there will be unintended consequences of life defying proportions!” Good Day!