Mark Steyn’s America Alone

America AloneEarlier this year, Brandeis University rescinded their offer of an honorary award to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a vocal women’s rights advocate and critic of Islam, on the grounds that her presence might offend some members of their student body and faculty. Not offending people – at least, certain people – is all that universities do well nowadays, and so, perhaps understandably, they take it very seriously. This has been going on for some time, and with little opposition, but the case of Hirsi Ali is particularly noteworthy because it exposes the moral relativism that undergirds their hypocrisy. Even a black woman – one who had suffered terribly and exhibited incredible bravery, no less – is not safe from censorship and shaming when her views cannot be made to conform with party lines. I read many columns and opinions in the wake of this intellectual and moral catastrophe, but it was only Canadian Mark Steyn’s “The Slow Death of Free Speech” in the The Spectator that could equal my outrage (do read it, by the way; it’s an excellent piece). And so I looked into Steyn and – surprise, surprise – he too had run afoul of would-be censors. His book America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It was hauled before the Ontario Human Rights Commission by an Islamic advocacy group seeking to have it banned in Canada. Partially on the strength of his writing and partially to rub it in the face of the people who would tell me what I can and cannot read, I went out and bought his book that same day.

Despite its many digressions, this book puts forward a simple proposition: the world’s demographics are undergoing a profound shift, and the political ramifications of this upheaval will be far-reaching. The replacement birthrate, the number of live births per woman needed to maintain a population, is 2.1. Above that rate and a population will grow over time; below it and it will decline. The countries of the Western world have generous social security programs predicated on population growth. When populations age, when children are not produced to pay taxes for those in retirement, those programs collapse. At present, the only Western country with a replacement birth rate is the United States. Take a minute to allow that to sink in. The only country in the Western world producing enough children to ensure its survival is America, and even they are only just barely managing that meager feat. Governments, aware of their dependency on future tax payers, are attempting to stem the bleeding via immigration, and this is creating a second problem, a cultural clash between the West as we know it – secular, democratic, pluralistic – and the incoming Muslim populations, many of whom have no intention of adapting themselves to their host nations.

This is where liberal tolerance finds itself in a quandary. It turns out, after masochistically upbraiding ourselves for the sins of our forefathers, we’ve lost the will to stick up for values that, in theory, we hold sacred – at least when those trespassing on our values are from a designated “victim” group. And Steyn takes particular pleasure in pointing out our folly. Here, for example, is the response from the University of Amsterdam to an unprecedented wave of “homophobic attacks” within the city:

Half of the crimes were committed by men of Moroccan origin and researchers believe they felt stigmatized by society and responded by attacking people they felt were lower on the social ladder. Another working theory is that the attackers may be struggling with their own sexual identity.

It has managed to elude these academics that Morocco is a Muslim country and that, as with orthodox or fundamentalist Christianity, homosexuality is frowned upon by Islam – indeed, “frowned upon” is putting it lightly – and their evasive response, that it is in fact their sense of social inferiority or even their own latent homosexuality motivating them, smacks of the worst kind of projection. Steyn documents these abuses, as well as the higher incidents of severe birth defects brought about intermarriage (“Some 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to their first cousins, and this places their progeny at increased risk of certain health problems”) and the increasingly frequent honor killings, and at every turn it seems our response is laughably inadequate, even, at times, conciliatory. Steyn’s fear can be summed up by a prediction from the late dictator of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi: “There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.”

So why is it that the Western birth rates have dropped so precipitously, and can they be reversed? America, alone of all the developed nations, has a birth rate of 2.1. “By 2050,” Steyn writes, “there will be 100 million more Americans, 100 million fewer Europeans.” His explanation is that the generous social programs of the European nations, combined with the secular worldview that values maximizing happiness and “quality of life,” have created a culture where children are, if not superfluous, then at least optional. Add to that economic woes, massive youth unemployment and a non-trivial number of 30-year olds still living in their parents’ homes and you hardly have a recipe for nationwide fertility.

Steyn makes his case convincingly, but there is something slightly disturbing about reading such frightening predictions with as much laughter as he provokes. Martin Amis put it this way: “Mark Steyn is an oddity: his thoughts and themes are sane and serious — but he writes like a maniac.” There is indeed something maniacal about his writing. The pacing of his sentences is relentless, and he can hardly go a paragraph without turning whatever point he’s making into a joke. He’s also fond of the kind of dismissive right-wing jargon you’d expect to find on the internet or talk radio: “multiculti” and “Eurabia,” for example. Even the cover photo, mimicking a game of Risk with America the lone non-Muslim country, seems calculated for maximum provocation. Perhaps that was intentional – it did enjoy a long run atop the New York Times bestseller list – but it does seem at odds with the gravity of his message.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. Steyn does a wonderful job exposing the moral bankruptcy of much of the modern left and alerts us, in strong but necessary terms, to a looming threat.