Taranto is generally entertaining and often merely partisan. Tonight he concludes with a fact that radiates. It comes amidst a time that has been compared to Tet by those of different opinions about both Tet & Iraq. Whatever optimism Iraqi elections had brought, the apparent chaos & increasing death toll seem a cold front moving in. But maybe we aren’t reading the clouds well. In his “Births of a Nation”, Taranto notes:
“In the face of relentless violence, political chaos, economic uncertainty and nightly curfews, Iraq’s maternity wards are experiencing an unlikely baby boom,” the Washington Times reports from Baghdad:
Despite the obstacles, the birthrate in Iraq actually has increased since the U.S.-led invasion 43 months ago, according to the country’s Health Ministry. The rate of births in the country has jumped from 29 births per 1,000 people in 2003 to 37 per 1,000 last year, according to government figures.
In neighboring Iran, the birthrate is half that–21 per 1,000 population, while the average birthrate in the Middle East is 25, according to the World Bank.
As the 19th-century Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore observed, “Every time a child is born, it brings with it the hope that God is not yet disappointed with man.” It seems the Man upstairs isn’t yet ready to cut and run from Iraq.
As I think many of us find the failure of Europe to both reproduce and defend itself as deeply & sadly important; perhaps the Iraqis, otoh, are building a desire to defend as well as reproduce themselves.
To begin with, then, we are to assume that the rise of mind, of consciousness, the development of language, the invention of civilization – all these and their implications – are somehow not “natural,” and that their presence on the planet for these hundred thousand years or so has amounted only to “interference.” Holmes writes as though he had in mind a peculiar theory of panspermia, in which seeds of our uniquely predatory species have drifted through interstellar space for eons, infecting first one and then another planet with their deadly spawn. Earth’s bad luck was to have been in the wrong place and the wrong time.
It’s not that we aren’t familiar with this point of view; it is, as he observes in his conclusion, that of the adolescent’s cynicism.
It is not hard to guess what kind of politics lies behind an outlook such as this. It is a little more difficult to imagine the mentality that enables it. At a guess, I would liken it to that familiar adolescent fantasy in which a young person, feeling more than ordinarily put upon or ignored, imagines his own death in order to bask in the imagined sorrow of those left behind. “That’ll show ’em.” Of course it is implicit in this little mental drama that the subject, though “dead,” somehow still be around to enjoy the aftermath. Just so I suspect that Holmes’ evident satisfaction in the scenario he paints is grounded in an assumption that he would nonetheless be vouchsafed to preen in the knowledge that he was right all along and that the rest of us, the infection, the “civilization that once thought itself the pinnacle of achievement,” had been justly punished.