The Luckiest Generation - With apologies to my childrenThis has to be the most pessimistic essay I've read to date. I'm not sure whether this is the end of European civilization, but it is definitely the end of an era. And yes, we will face some very troubling times for several decades until a new era can begin:
The Luckiest Generation - With apologies to my children
Born between VE Day and VJ Day, I missed all the greatest horrors of the 20th century. If granted a normal lifespan**, I shall miss the horrors of the 21st, too. If my parents' generation was the greatest, mine has been the luckiest. For that, in this Thanksgiving season, I give sincere and heartfelt thanks. Government is hopelessly broken. Though far larger now than in 1957, it does less, and it does that less very badly. Its most elementary functions — defending our borders, keeping a thrifty eye on the national wealth, apprising us of what our enemies are up to — are no longer performed to any effect. These failures themselves are only symptoms of some more profound civilizational sickness. Western — let us be blunt about it: white-European — civilization is on its way out. If you make a study of any aspect of cultural history — I have just finished a book on one such topic — you are struck by the towering achievements of Europeans and their offspring cultures during the 19th century (which lasted from 1815 to 1914). What went before was mere prologue; what came after were futile, frustrated attempts to re-heat the soufflé. There is of course a sense in which the horrors of 1914-1945 were themselves a product of19th-century overconfidence. Once we had got all that out of our system, though, and found the point of balance, the later 20th century was set to be a garden of delights for those of us in free nations. So much was this so, we did not notice that we were romping through that garden in a deepening twilight.
If I compare my own life to the lives of my parents, and to the prospects for my children, I am struck by my immense good fortune in having been born when and where I was. I was actually born early on a Sunday morning, in a nursing home behind St. Matthew's church in Northampton, England, three weeks after VE Day. I was fit and ready. Lucky! Lucky! Lucky! I can't believe my kids will have that kind of luck. The welfare state, which provided my education, no longer works — not for them, not for anybody. (I sometimes marvel at how well it did work to lift up the deserving poor in the years after WWII. Don't laugh; it really did.) I shall have to beggar myself to put the little Derbs through college, and they will likely still end up with huge debts. There will be no 9-to-5 jobs for them to go to after graduation, quite possibly no jobs at all other than in government work. To my kids I should like to say: I am sorry to have brought you into this mess. There were no bells ringing, no bands playing, at either of your births, and it would have been a travesty if there had been. Even the wisest of us — people like your Dad, I mean — live in part by instinct, and there is no instinct stronger than the one that prompts us to continue the species; so here you are. I am sorry, sorry. There was the Greatest Generation. Then there was ours, the Luckiest. Yours will be the Saddest. Quite possibly — so far as this civilization is concerned, at any rate — it will be the Last. I shall continue to do my best for you as long as I can, but... après moi le Deluge.