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Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Mark Steyn has a great piece in the Western Standard regarding the infantilization of the Western world.
About a decade ago, Bill Clinton developed a favourite statistic--that every day in America 12 children died from gun violence. When one delved a little deeper into this, it turned out that 11.569 persons under the age of 20 died each day from gun violence, and five-sixths of those 11.569 alleged kindergartners turned out to be aged between 15 and 19. Many of them had the misfortune to become involved in gangs, convenience-store holdups, drive-by shootings, and drug deals, which, alas, don't always go as smoothly as one had planned. If more crack deals passed off peacefully, that "child" death rate could be reduced by three-quarters.

But, ever since President Clinton's sly insinuation of daily grade-school massacres, I've become wary of political invocations of "the children." In Iraq, for example, everyone in U.S. uniform is a "child." "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute," as Maureen Dowd of The New York Times wrote about Cindy Sheehan. Miss Dowd had rather less to say about the moral authority of Linda Ryan, whose son, Marine Cpl. Marc Ryan, was killed by "insurgents" in Ramadi. But that's because Mrs. Ryan honours her dead child as a thinking adult who "made a decision to join the Armed Forces and defend our country."

The left is reluctant to accept that. Ever since America's all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." The infantilization of the military promoted by the media is deeply insulting but it suits the anti-war crowd's purposes. It enables them to drone ceaselessly that "of course" they "support our troops," because they want to stop these poor confused moppets from being exploited by the Bush war machine.

Which brings me to Canada's most famous warrior: Omar Ahmed Khadr... [who] is alleged to have killed Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer... in the battle at Khost--or rather in the aftermath, when he was lying on the ground playing dead and hurled a grenade. And perhaps I should say not "Mr." Khadr but young Master Khadr, for he was 15 at the time. "The fact that his age is not going to be considered is a travesty of justice," Kristine Huskey of the International Human Rights Law Clinic in Washington told the Western Standard's Terry O'Neill. That's the pro-Khadr argument: he's a child. He didn't know what he was doing.
Omar Khadr is not just a terrorist legal matter. He represents one of the critical questions at the heart of the West's twilight struggle: what is a child?
As you'll know if you've got a kid in elementary school almost anywhere in the western world, we accept today that children's bodies enter adolescence much sooner: the guidance counsellor is practically slavering to get 'em hep to sex from the third grade. If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that's her decision and her parents shouldn't get a look-in. But at the same time we presume that our minds take longer and longer to form and that the end of adolescence must thus be deferred until pretty much the age Mozart was when he died.
In the old three-score-and-ten, we were born, had a decade and a half or so of childhood, and were conscripted into adulthood more or less around the [age of 15]. In the new four-score-and-ten of the 21st century, we've extended life a couple of decades, but not our adult life, our productive life, our working life. Instead, we've created a whole new category of glacial-paced adolescence stretching from those middle-school sex-ed classes through a torpid high school and ever more indulgent and leisurely college courses to what previous generations would have regarded as early middle age. If anything, we've reduced the "adult" phase, entering the workforce later and departing it earlier, leaving government health systems to figure out how to support a population of state-funded retirees for two or three decades, for the last of which they'll require round-the-clock Alzheimer's care.

The chief characteristic of the fin de civilisation West is "deferred adulthood." Look at the sepia photographs of any old 19th century weatherbeaten 13-year-old farmboy and compare it to your average listless teen today: who would you rather leave in charge of the house for the weekend? We take it as read that our bodies mature much earlier than our great-grandparents but that our minds don't. So we start adolescence much sooner and try to avoid having to leave it at all--to the point that the marketing chappies have taken to identifying the 20- to 35-year-old segment as "adultescents." In Japan, 70 per cent of working women aged 30-35 live with their parents. In Italy, some 80 per cent of men live with mum and dad until into their thirties.
Omar Khadr is not a child. He knew what he was doing when he killed Sgt. Speer... And I suspect, if he had to do it all over again, Mr. Khadr surely would: he is as adult as he will ever be. And, if the International Human Rights Law Clinic gets its way and has him ruled a "child," then the jihad will only recruit more such "children," of which it has an endless supply: the median age in Gaza, for example, is 15.8. We, on the other hand, will send our children to do a six-year Bachelor's Degree in Anger Management Studies.

So, on the one hand, we have single European women having fertility treatment in hopes of an only child in their fifties and even sixties, and, on the other, we have Mirpuri cousin-marriage traditions that in 30 years have firmly established themselves among Muslim teens in Pakistani communities in northern England. Which side of the equation has the demographic energy? To put it more bluntly, which side has a future? We are decaying into a society of geriatric teenagers and, agreeable though that is, it's unsustainable. We need, very literally, to grow up.


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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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