This is my second post dealing with the documentary “Demographic Winter,” about Western fertility decline. In this post, I want to explore a little deeper into the film’s implications.
First, I’d like to mention that I do not doubt one of the basic facts mentioned in the film: that many Western and industrialized countries are experiencing birth rates below the “replacement level” of 2.1 births per woman. Aside from this basic agreement, the makers of the film and I disagree on just about everything else contained therein.
The film employs an ingenuous arsenal of arguments that just happen to point the viewer to the conclusion that the only way to save the (white) human race is through a massive suppression of women’s rights and a return to an idealized version of 1950s American society. Incidentally, gay rights and immigration must also be suppressed. The narrator and many experts in the film say the conclusions to be drawn from the “science” are not PC (their use of the term, not mine), and that is why these shocking facts about demographic disaster have not gotten more mainstream play. This supposition, of course, depends on your belief that the media is always carefully, perhaps even fascistically, PC. But, to play the devil’s advocate, if the media isn’t unwarrantedly PC, could there be other, more obvious reasons why this film hasn’t seen wide viewership?
Now, what political and social groups present us with similar arguments to justify their goals? Hmmm… social conservatives, Christian fundamentalists, racists, homophobes and male chauvinists. I’m going to hypothesize RIGHT NOW that when I research the Experts and the Funders of this film in my next post in this series, I will find that many are allied with these very groups. Anyone wanna bet me?
Currently, the world fertility rate is 2.61, above replacement rate. That means that while certain countries are below replacement rate, there must be even more above it. About 124 of the 221 countries listed in the CIA World Fact Book are at or above replacement rate, including the US (the chart has 223 entries, but this includes their entries for “world” and “E.U.”). The E.U. fertility rate is at 1.50, but countries such as Japan, Thailand,Turkey and Lebanon are also below replacement.
“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & RACE
Since below-replacement-level fertility (brlf) has been recorded in several areas of the world, why does the film focus on majority-white countries to the almost complete exclusion (with the exception of Japan) of non-white countries? Why does the film include the US in its list of brlf countries, when we are currently at replacement rate? And why are 81% of the experts in the film white, if this is a trend affecting East and West Asia almost as much as Europe?
Race is the elephant in the room throughout this entire film. The US is included as “endangered” for two reasons: 1) historically, our fertility rates are trending downwards, and may dip brlf in the near future; and 2) the main reason our fertility rate is at replacement level is because of recent (Latino) immigrants and their descendants, most of whom are not white, and many of whom have well above replacement level fertility. However, we are told that it is in their best interests that this be considered bad for the US. Why? Because immigrants who come to the US are mostly young males (says the film). This leads to gender imbalance, separated families and brain-drain in their home countries, which is bad.
The Department of Homeland Security publishes an annual Yearbook of Immigration. The 2007 Yearbook, the most recent one available, lists legal immigrants to America as being mostly female, mostly above the age of 30, and mostly married. Huh. While not stating it out loud, the film must have been referring to undocumented immigrants, who are 60-70% male and often young. Some of the “youthfulness” of undocumented immigrants may be attributed to the fact that 1 in 6 is a child.
So when the film is talking about humans going extinct, what they really mean is whites. It just doesn’t say that. There’s a lot of things the film doesn’t say, and what goes unsaid is often more interesting than what is said.
THE “NATURAL FAMILY”
If you aren’t familiar with this political meme, here is a definition from The Howard Center:
The natural family is a man and woman bound in a lifelong covenant of marriage for the purposes of:
*the continuation of the human species,
*the rearing of children,
*the regulation of sexuality,
*the provision of mutual support and protection,
*the creation of an altruistic domestic economy, and
*the maintenance of bonds between the generations.
You can see the relevance to “Demographic Winter.” The combo-deal of continuation of the species, children, sexuality control and economics would be enough, but the fact that the film specifically mentions the decline of the “natural family” as a cause of concern let’s you know what we’re dealing with. This is a phrase used by certain social conservatives of a fundie-Christian bent when they are attacking working women, non-procreative sex, gays, no-fault divorce and birth control. “Demographic Winter” more or less equates the “natural family” with “Patriarchy,” which I find rather accurate, and lists this as the one solution to demographic disaster.
Of course, this meme ignores some small matters, like human history and reality. Historically, family has taken many different forms: tribes and clans based on kinship, extended family groups who live in a single dwelling, polygyny, and the occasional matriarchal society. Wikipedia: “The popularity of the nuclear family in the West came about in the early 20th century, prompted in part by business practices of Henry Ford, such as the “8 hour day, $5 week”, and later the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This enabled more and more families to be economically independent, and thus to own their own home.”
Huh, but if the nuclear family (similar to “natural family”, but with a slightly wider definition that could include same-sex partners, or unmarried parents) is a family structure of recent popularity, and demographic decline is a recent phenomena, how can certain experts in the film claim that it is the weakening of this sort of family that is causing the decline? This question is not answered because believers in the “natural family” meme claim without thorough research that their family model is the only successful one that has existed throughout history. The most cursory glance into the history of family structure proves otherwise.
“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & WOMEN
The insistence on the primacy and necessity of this very specific family structure nicely supports an important part of the demographic disaster argument: that women bear an enormous part of the burden for the recent listing of humans as an endangered species. Treating women as equal and as human beings is one of the direct causes of brlf, as listed in Part 1. Allowing (white) women birth control, abortion, control of their own sexuality, equality in marriage and careers is causing them to have fewer children. These are not parts of the “natural family” of Patriarchy and idealized 1950s America, because in that model women are carefully controlled by the men in their lives. Their life choices are restricted to the private sphere of marriage, house-keeping and child-rearing while dependent on a man, who is the dominant head of the family. Interestingly, 3/4 of the experts in the film were male. Coincidence?
Of course, the film doesn’t come out and say that men need to roll back women’s rights. Instead, they give you all the supporting arguments and leave the conclusion to you, the viewer. Do you want whites to become extinct, or don’t you? If you don’t, you know what to do. *wink*
“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & GAYS
Strangely, a few experts in the film mention gay rights, but without further explanation. They are just grouped in with things that are “progressive,” things that weaken the family, things that were all the rage in the 70s.
What are gays doing in a discussion of white fertility rates? We can only guess. Are we to assume that by allowing gays some civil rights, we are glorifying a non-reproductive lifestyle that many impressionable young people will want to join, thereby taking even more people out of the breeding pool? Or that by entertaining the thought of allowing gays to marry, we are weakening the “natural family” and contributing to the extinction of whites? The unexplained inclusion of gays in this conversation seems to unintentionally flag the politics of this allegedly apolitical film. Who else bands the “threat” of women’s rights, secularism and equality for POC together with gay rights quite so frequently as social conservatives and fundie Christians?
“DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER” & RELIGION
Yet another thing left unsaid in this film is the religious beliefs that quite clearly form the bedrock of much of the argument. Though they are ever-present, they are not explicitly stated. Instead, the film plays at being objectively non-religious. An expert just happens, in his objective scientific pursuit of facts, to notice that religious people (in the US) have more children. Based on this fact, he can, without being accused of bias towards a certain set of beliefs, state that non-religious people will go extinct first. It just so happens that 84% of Americans are Christian. So completely coincidentally, objective scientific inquiry has shown us that Christians may yet save whites by going forth and multiplying (in America), while non-religious people can be blamed for declining white fertility.
The obvious duplicity of not mentioning the Christian foundations of much of their argument cripples their pretenses at objectivity. The inclusion of memes like the “natural family” which is often supported by biblical arguments, the tirades against women’s unrestrained sexuality but not men’s, the essentialist gender behavior statements, and the random inclusion of gay rights as bad are some of the bread crumbs that lead to the fundie Christian beliefs hiding behind the “science.”
So there you have it, some of my deeper analysis of what lies behind the science of “Demographic Winter.” My final installment looking at the experts and funders behind this film will appear in the next day or two or three.
In this series:
Part 1 on my initial reactions to the documentary Demographic Winter
Part 2 digs deeper into the meaning of the film
Part 3 looks at who is in and behind the film
Part 4 examines partisan media coverage of DW