Monday, March 27, 2006

Culture of Selfishness Must Die

The Culture of Selfishness Must Die

The Culture of Selfishness Must Die By Michael Forrest The following articles by the BBC are amazingly candid. And they are also amazingly blind to the essence of the problem Western Society faces. America can look to Europe to see our potential future. There is no problem with Capitalism that a good dose of traditional Catholic morality cannot solve. Capitalism produces wealth like no other economic system. But it is a mirror of the values of the society that employs it. When we come to see wealth as an end in and of itself, we become idolaters. And this is the inherent problem with Capitalism: the wealth it creates tends to suck human beings into the delusional belief that they are so secure that there is no need of God. And the drive to please oneself becomes paramount. We become obsessed with possessions and money. This in turn leads to another self-defeating result: a devaluation of human life itself. The human person himself is increasingly seen as having subjective dignity and value while material possessions and accomplishments pursued by man are perceived as having the objective value. The order of existence has thus been turned on its head. Ironically, as we are seeing more and more, this disordered, selfish drive will eventually undermine the false security and satisfaction we pursue. Such excess wealth produces satiation, which tends to induce laziness and feelings of purposelessness. This loss of a sense of purpose leads to a whole host of maladies, not least of which are addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, etc.). Purposeless humans tend to pursue whatever will give them a rush to even momentarily escape the quiet desperation of their lives. And not surprisingly, this also stunts and kills our spiritual instinct: it would seem Jesus knew what he was talking about after all when he wrote that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. We're going to overrun the planet with too many humans! The way to family and societal prosperity is to have fewer children! …. Maybe not, after all? Motherhood: the greatest and oldest vocation of women.....still under attack. Family: the greatest and oldest societal unit....still under attack. The Culture of Selfishness, Death marches on and the effects are finally starting to be felt by at least some who are sleepwalking over the cliff. And so, what is the answer? Christ, as always! Mary, as always! If The West does not finally realize that charity begins at home, i.e. with children, we are doomed. And if we do not realize that our great wealth provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to evangelize the rest of the world through greater directed, prudent, charitable giving we will have sinned greatly, indeed. (Matt 25:24-30) We have an opportunity to show the rest of the world that material wealth alone will not satisfy them. We have an opportunity to affirm the value and dignity of the human person by spreading the love of Christ to the rest of the world and hopefully, lead them to do likewise to others. The choice is ours, but the clock is ticking...... BBC articles with my notes interspersed throughout: BBC NEWS: The EU's baby blues EU states are trying to understand why the birth rate is falling - and if anything can be done to stem the decline. All this week, the BBC News website is asking women in various countries how they feel about being asked to have more babies, and how easy or difficult it is to combine motherhood and work. Here, the BBC News website's Clare Murphy asks why governments are so concerned about the size of their populations. William The Conqueror was counting people nearly 1,000 years ago, and his European descendants are still at it. Small, today's politicians contend, isn't beautiful.Europe's working-age population is shrinking as fertility rates decline. In a fit of gloom, one German minister recently warned of the country "turning the light out" if its birth rate did not pick up. Efforts to encourage couples to breed have a chequered history and, for many, recall fascist pasts. Mussolini heavily taxed single men in his Battle for Births, Hitler awarded medals to women with large families in his quest for a superior German race. No-one is yet berating bachelors or mooting medallions for multiple births. But Europe's many governments are scrambling to find a solution. Who cares? Demographic decline causes anxiety because it is thought to go hand-in-hand with economic decline (My note: it is not thought to go hand in hand, it does go hand in hand) With fewer, younger workers to pay the health and pension bills of an elderly population, states face an unprecedented fiscal burden. (My note: we pay the piper one way or the other. If we want to play the "me first, few or no kids" game when we are younger, we will pay later because there won't be enough kids around to support us when we are old. We seem to have forgotten that the stock market, social security etc. still depend upon good, young able-bodied workers. The kids may not be taking over the family farm as in days of old, but the basic premise still stands, it's just a little less direct than it used to be.) The dependency ratio of those aged 65 and over to those of working age looks set to double from one-to-four to one-to-two in 2050. BIRTH RATES In Europe 2.1 children per woman is considered to be the population replacement level. These are national averages: Ireland: 1.99 France: 1.90 Norway: 1.81 Sweden 1.75UK: 1.74 Netherlands: 1.73 Germany: 1.37Italy: 1.33 Spain: 1.32 Greece: 1.29 Source: Eurostat - 2004 figures How can Europe, which increasingly sees itself as a counterweight to US hegemony, claim equal status when it is being outpaced by American population growth?If current forecasts prove correct, then the US - which currently has 160m fewer people than the EU - will have equalled it by 2050. Increasing immigration is, in theory, one option for Europe, but most agree it is politically unfeasible in the current climate.Others stress that it would not in any event solve the problem in the longer term - the migrants would themselves grow old and their own fertility patterns would start to match those of the country which received them. Another option is to increase the productivity of the working population, drawing more people into the workforce - and more controversially - making them stay there longer. But moves to raise the retirement age tend not to play well with electorates.That leaves boosting birth rates. Some analysts believe the fears are exaggerated. It seems richly ironic, they argue, to be worrying about falling numbers of people and, at the same time, to be fretting about the drain on natural resources, and the jostle for living space. (My note: and richly silly. There is no lack of space....even in France, where I visited last year, there are VAST areas with virtually NO ONE living there. It's just that too many people insist on living in the cities and THIS is where it is too crowded). In addition, women's ability to control the number of children they have is a positive development, freeing them from a life of ongoing pregnancies. (My note: yes, the obligatory bow at the altar of contraceptives and spite of the obvious damage this is doing to society. It is hard to give up addictions!) Those who want to boost the birth rate do not necessarily disagree on this last point.But, they wonder, are women restricting the size of families through free choice - or because financial concerns and worries about their position at work prevent them from having as many children as they might like. (My note: Or could it be, perhaps, that women and men have become more and more materialistic and selfish as they have become richer, believing that they simply MUST live at a certain level, with certain possessions, a certain number of vacations, etc...or their children MUST have certain things, go to certain schools, to keep up with the neighbors....teaching children that their lives are only meaningful if they HAVE these things....better not to have kids if they can't keep up with everyone else, an implicit lesson on the value of human life?) Mixed messages Many European countries already have policies in place - some more explicitly pro-natal than others.Sweden, stressing gender equality rather than stating directly that it wants to boost birth rates, provides a mixed package of higher pay for women, flexible working for both parents and high quality childcare. (My note: Surprise! The answer of liberals is for THE STATE to raise children. Okay, not so much of a surprise after all......) France, meanwhile, is positively proud of its avowed pro-natalism, providing a series of tax and cash incentives for those having babies.Other countries have also started toying with the idea of straight payments. Poland, where the population has fallen by half a million in the last six years, has recently passed legislation that will see women paid for each child they bear. In Italy, where the population could shrink by as much as one third by 2050, one town has started offering couples 10,000 euros for each newborn baby.How successful cash is as an incentive is still unclear. One study suggests that, even when cash allowances are boosted by 25%, the fertility rate climbs just marginally - perhaps by as little as 0.6%. (My note: could it be because lack of money is not the underlying problem? Could it be that the persistent pursuit of material possessions and temporal accomplishments as ends in and of themselves has ultimately led to a relative devaluation of human life itself?) And the impact of generous maternity leave schemes and state-subsidised child care has also yet to be fully established. Swedish and French birth rates may be higher than in much of Europe, but despite their respective systems, both countries still lag behind the holy grail of 2.1 children per woman needed to keep a population stable. Europe is still feeling its way in this area, and may, some say, have to come to terms with the fact that there are women remaining childless or having small families by choice.Recent evidence from Germany suggests that women may actually want fewer children than the two so often seen as the desirable norm - indeed some are happy with none at all. ARTICLE #2: Isn't having so many women working outside the home good for the economy and society? BBC NEWS: Italian women shun 'mamma' role EU states are trying to understand why the birth rate is falling - and if anything can be done to stem the decline. All this week, the BBC News website is asking women in various countries about how they feel about being asked to have more babies, and how easy or difficult they find combining motherhood and work. Here, the BBC's Rome correspondent Christian Fraser asks why Italy - a predominantly Roman Catholic country that has always loved children - has stopped having them.The Italian population is getting smaller and it is also getting older. The fertility rate - at 1.33 children per woman - is one of the lowest in the Western world. And more than one in five of the population in Italy is now over 65. On current estimates there will be 14 million fewer Italians by the year 2050.The question is why? The answer is that many single women now work hard to avoid the responsibilities of childcare. An increasing proportion of educated women no longer want to be just mothers and wives. (My note: this is amazingly candid for the BBC. But notice the slap at mothers/wives: "no longer want to be just mothers and wives". Could part of the reason be that society has so devalued being a mother and wife that they almost feel ashamed of "just" being a mother and wife?) Ten years ago women represented only 22% of the work force here - now they are 47%. But there is another reason most young families decide against having children - they can't afford it. (My note: how is it that after women entered the work force en masse that families seem to have less money? Wasn't this heralded as a great economic boon?) The country spends just 3.8% of its GDP on child-related social spending compared with an EU average of around 8%. (My note: yes, let the state raise the children. We need more taxes to turn around and do the job of parents! That's the answer! Then we can educate the children to perpetuate this insane cycle!) Older mothers Laura Callura, 38, who lives in Rome says she is typical of many Italian women."I became a mother at 36 and that's not unusual here," she says. "A lot of my friends had their first child between the ages of 33 and 38. BIRTH RATES n Europe 2.1 children per woman is considered to be the population replacement level. These are national averages Ireland: 1.99 France: 1.90 Norway: 1.81 Sweden 1.75UK: 1.74 Netherlands: 1.73 Germany: 1.37 Italy: 1.33 Spain: 1.32 Greece: 1.29 Source: Eurostat - 2004 figures "Here in Italy we start life much later than people in northern Europe. University courses take longer to finish and it's harder for young people to get into the job market."I started my first job when I was 25 - but that is quite unusual. Most Italians don't start their career until their late 20s." Statistics show that an increasing number of 30-year-old Italians still live with their parents, unable to afford first-time housing (My note: or for perhaps other reasons..... )"I lived with my parents until I was 29," says Laura. Most of my friends stayed with their parents until they were married. "It is expensive to rent property particularly in the cities and most young people can't afford it. If you can't afford to live, you are not even thinking about children." Italy still trails behind most of Europe in providing affordable child care and family benefits. Maternity pay isn't bad - Laura had five months on full pay with her first child and six months on reduced pay. Baby bonus Compared with the US, where her husband comes from, she thinks that is fairly generous."We get tax break as well," she says "but there is no family allowance to speak of. Then, there are few nurseries. I wouldn't know how you get one of the few places in a public nursery - it is impossible. I would think you would have to pull some strings." I have a friend who is married to someone who didn't help enough around the house - she didn't cave in to having a second child until he promised to do more Laura CalluraAs for the private nurseries, they are far too expensive. "I am lucky because I have my parents, but without them it would be much, much harder to manage." Laura, who is now expecting her second child has a full-time contract. She says most people would not consider having two children unless they were in a stable "lifetime contract".And therein lies one of the other major problems. There is very little flexibility in the labour market here in Italy. Contracts are "for life", which explains why there is very little part-time work for those outside the system. (My note: Well, that rather challenges the liberal, anti-capitalists out there… lifetime work contracts a bad thing?)" I had considered asking my employer for more flexible hours," she says, "but I wasn't hopeful. I have considered stopping but financially that is a risk. You never know what sort of pressures you are going to face with a second child."Last year, the government introduced a "baby bonus" to try to encourage families to have more children. Since then, more than 600,000 mothers have each received 1,000 euros from the government towards the cost of their new-born babies.It's too early to say whether this new bonus is likely to have any dramatic effect on the birth rate here but there are many who think the money would be better targeted through the benefits system. Men's role Letizia Mencarini, a professor of demography at the University of Florence interviewed more than 3,000 mothers from five different cities across Italy to find out what would persuade them to have more children.She found the more involved the father became in household chores, the more likely his wife was to want a second baby. (My note: so she can work outside of the home herself?)" A lot of Italian men do nothing around the house," she says. "I would say career women in Italy work harder than any other in Europe when you factor in childcare and household duties."There is sufficient evidence to show that many women here are frightened of taking on the added work and responsibility that comes with a second child."Laura agrees: "I have a friend who is married to someone who didn't help enough around the house. She didn't cave in to having a second child until he promised - on his mother's head - that he would do more." Professor Mencarini says children are still at the centre of family life in Italy but many mothers said they had postponed the decision - sometimes until it was too late - because they were frightened of the financial implications." It's a complex problem as you have seen," she says. "There is almost a sense of pessimism that has grown in this country when it comes to having children." (My note: Pessimism. Sure, when you are focused so entirely on material well-being, you become obsessed with money, and fear you will lose it. No one is more obsessed with money than those who have a lot of it. Do we see rich families having so many more children? No. In these voluntarily small families, behind the fear, we are likely to find selfishness and lack of faith in God. And the objective value and dignity of the human person is subordinated to a disfugured, ephemeral goal of “happiness”.) "If the government really wants to encourage a positive environment for bringing up children then they have to put the provisions in place. That means far more flexible work, nurseries, children's services, and the sort of things that help young families to cope. (My note: Or perhaps trying to reverse the sick societal norm that has also devalued being a mother or a father?) ARTICLE #3: Has all the emphasis on economic/material prosperity made us too selfish to have children? BBC NEWS: The rise of the 'childfree' All this week, the BBC News website has been asking women in various EU countries about how they feel being asked to have more babies, and how easy or difficult they find combining motherhood and work.Here, the BBC News website's Kathryn Westcott talks to those among a growing group who have chosen not to have children, and are fed up with the emphasis given to family life. Childless or childfree? Not so long ago, all women without children were known as childless, with its implication of a state of loss. Nowadays, a growing number of women are insisting on the term childfree - with its emphasis on liberation. (My note: just like the war over terminology on abortion: "choice". Find euphemisms to change the implications! Child-FREE....doesn't that sound wonderful? Yet how degrading to all human persons. This view of life is brazenly utilitarian: it only has value and dignity if it is of use to me personally.) An increasing number of women in their 30s are rejecting the job description that they believe comes with parenting - loss of freedom, reduced career prospects and financial burdens. (My note: And there you have it.....) Numbers are difficult to come by, but London School of Economics sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim has carried out some extensive research in this area.She has no doubt rising numbers of people are actively choosing not to have children."In many European countries around 10% of women reach the age of 45 with no kids," she says."Of that figure, there are those who have chosen to remain childfree, those who have delayed having a child and are experiencing problems, and those who are infertile. A UN fertility study says 2-3% will fall into that category."She believes the number without children will double in many countries to around 20% - except Germany, where the figure is already closer to 30%, partly because it is seen as having some of the most family unfriendly policies in Europe. (My note: Yes, like abortion on demand, contraception as a religion, looking down on motherhood?) 'Taboo subject" "The whole idea of the childfree lifestyle is beginning to be recognised by the media," says Dr Hakim. "Private feelings are being legitimised and people are beginning to feel that they are not being deviant in some way." Very consciously people are more confident in saying they have a different lifestyle."Despite that, in some countries where there are very strong pro-natal policies, such as France, the idea of women actively choosing not to have children is, to many, an anathema.Until recently, it was extremely difficult for men and women to undergo sterilisation in France."In France, it is difficult being a woman without any children," says 33-year-old Alexandra, who lives in Nantes." The subject is just taboo. There is no open debate. People refuse to believe you could not want to have children - they always think it's because you simply haven't met the right person." (My note: and France has one of the highest birth rates in Europe: perhaps at least France still has a chance to reverse the tide before it implodes....) Alexandra, who has a long-term partner, says that up until her mid-20s, she always thought she would have children. But, after changing her mind, she says she is confident that nothing will make her change it back again. Lifestyle choice She says that the assumption that it is only the work-mad who shun parenthood is far from accurate."I didn't make the choice for career reasons - it was a lifestyle choice. I only work part-time and I like to enjoy life," she says. (My note: but doesn't this undermine the claim that they are not having children because they don't have enough money? It would seem so.....that it is a choice to do what is selfish in the short term, rather than looking long term....) BIRTH RATES In Europe 2.1 children per woman is considered to be the population replacement level. These are national averages Ireland: 1.99 France: 1.90 Norway: 1.81 Sweden 1.75UK: 1.74 Netherlands: 1.73 Germany: 1.37Italy: 1.33 Spain: 1.32 Greece: 1.29 Source: Eurostat - 2004 figures Dr Hakim says that governments with "vague pro-natal attitudes" such as France, Sweden and Norway, claim that there is no such thing as voluntary childlessness in their countries.But Mariah who lives in the city of Linkoping, Sweden, says that over the past few years, she has met more and more Swedes who are opting for a childfree lifestyle.The 30-year-old says she has known that she never wanted to have children since she was a child herself. "I was sterilised at the age of 25. It's a choice I have never regretted," she says. "Once I had made the decision, I felt stronger as a woman. I have a long-term partner and he is happy with my decision." She says that in Sweden there is a lot of pressure from family and friends to have children. "It's the norm and Swedes really don't want to stand out in a crowd. But, in the past few years, I feel there have been more and more people questioning whether of not they having children is really for them. Waste "Some people simply have no maternal feelings - some are worried about how the world is going, some like to travel, some like to pursue their careers - we're not selfish people." (My note: me thinks thou dost protest too much.....who accused you of being selfish? But look at that list: "like to travel, pursue their careers...BUT WE'RE NOT SELFISH!" ) "Selfish and irresponsible," are words that 43-year-old Jane, who lives in London, is used to hearing. I've been called irresponsible for not having children but there are many couples who have had children without thinking seriously about the impact such a decision will have Jane, 43In the UK, the most commonly cited statistic is that by 2010, one in four will be either childfree or childless." I made the choice early on not to have children. I don't dislike them - I simply decided that I could not devote 100% of my time to someone else," she says."I have also been called selfish but I think that people who have three children are encroaching on the planet's resources - I can't believe the amount of waste that children produce."The world's population is still growing - it's only people in the West who are perceived to be not having enough children. People will always have children and the world will continue," she says. (My note: how convenient that this ideology fits so nicely with your selfish desires to spoil yourself!) 'Better deal' Jane, who works in the media, says there is an increasing tension in the workplace because many employees without children feel that parents get a better deal when it comes to time off.This is partly why Europe is now following the US with the establishment of active groups of the childfree, some of whom are demanding a better deal for their members. Jonathan McCalmont is the founder of Kidding Aside (The British Childfree Association), which was first set up on the internet to lobby for equality for people without children.He is fed up with the way the government is wooing parents with longer maternity pay, paternity leave flexible hours and family tax breaks. He describes the latter as "simply a middle-class tax break masquerading as social policy." He is angry at what he says is a redistribution of money from people without children to those with. He contends that childfree people who have other responsibilities - such as looking after an elderly parent - should get the same benefits."We believe it is up to the individual to decide what constitutes a family," he says. "It's not up to the state." (My note: yes, this is one of the things that inevitably happens when people stop having children, or at least many of them. The definition of "family" is undermined.)