A sickness unto dearth

Grieving families find similar points of solace and sorrow. On the one hand, the memory of the departed becomes, to those who remain behind, an invaluable treasure. Indeed, a loss will often reveal the wide network of connections in which the deceased was enmeshed. Such bittersweet discoveries – of all the lives that were touched by the life which is ended – can, of course, be the source of keen pain, too. For even in the happiest circumstance, death casts a strange shadow, making everything unfamiliar and disfigured by indifference. Thus does Shakespeare’s sorrowing king wonder, over the dead body of his child: “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life/And thou no breath at all?” Death subtracts something so uniquely meaningful from the world that the bereaved rightly feel that their world has ended – because, in a certain sense, it has. The quantum of meaning that each person adds to the world also vanishes with them and whatever remains behind seems substantially diminished.

What if the world was mutilated by millions of such subtractions but never knew it? What if our society suffered from the absence of countless essential individuals yet never had an inkling of that loss? Imagine a world in which significance is everywhere diminished in a thousand invisible ways, a world in which something is subtly but universally wrong. After nearly a half-century of abortion and widespread contraception, we must recognize the sicknesses of this conjured world unmistakably as our own.

We live with the effects of a population implosion. We suffer for doctors who were never born, nurses who were never trained, priests who were never ordained, and geniuses who never shared their rare and irreplaceable gifts. Into garbage bags, we have scraped the broken, mangled bodies of those who would have written the brightest pages of our histories; we die of the diseases that they would have cured and suffer the social fractures that they, with their talents, could have healed.

In 1953, Hannah Arendt observed that, from “the totalitarian point of view, the fact that men are born and die can be only regarded as an annoying interference.” In the years that followed her pronouncement, the point of view she attributed to madmen became the mentality of the West’s middle class. While the shadow of Soviet rule fell over the East, an autocracy of ease took root elsewhere. The U.S.S.R. may have crumbled because of a protracted conflict with free nations, but those same nations are now imploding under the pressure of a low-population vacuum that their unsustainable birthrates have produced. Instead of feeling the centrifugal pressure of healthy procreation rates – that forward-moving impetus which has impelled our civilization for millennia – the post-war West shrugged off the duties of survival; the Greatest Generation reared one which declined to generate.

Only against this larger backdrop of civilizational malaise do the contentious issues that we now face begin to make sense. Recently, for instance, Canada’s growth rate was revealed to be due entirely to immigration, without which our country’s population would be in obvious and steep decline. Instead of having children of our own, we have simply supplied ourselves with people as if they were foreign goods. And, because of our own low birth rates, we need the people whom we welcome, a fact that unmasks our country’s paeans to immigrants as the patronizing hymns of childless dowagers desperate to adopt. When celebrities expand their families by swooping into third-world orphanages, their cartoonish colonialism makes us feel queasy; but when this same attitude is elevated to the level of social policy, we feel no such nausea. But we should – for rather than being the expression of selfless, disinterested good will, our current zeal for immigrants is really born of our craven need for the children. Our culture, crippled by sterility, is unable to recognize the very exigency which urges its apparent altruism.

Those foolish enough to suggest that we should ameliorate the sad causes of this policy – that we should have children of our own and mitigate our need for migrants to leave their families and homes – are libeled as racists and xenophobes. Yet the very quickness and fervor with which such smears are used indicates a guilty conscience: after all, high rates of immigration are themselves a form of racism, a kind of colonialism in reverse which imports people to prolong Canada’s way of life.

The human person has the right to be born and to live in the land of his birth. Canada’s forced enthusiasm for migrants only masks the compromised motivation of its dubious charity – we encourage the ambitious and the marginalized to uproot themselves for the sake of our own comfort and not because of our vaunted values or supposed kindness.

Immigration, however, is only one of the issues that must be reframed within the context of the West’s collapsing reproduction rate. So many problems beset our world, and we have allowed their solutions to be murdered in the cradles of their mother’s bodies. Until we accept the children who come to us from our Creator, we will be unable to authentically welcome those who come to us from beyond our borders. And until we repent of our own injustice, we will be unable to assist those, here and aboard, who suffer in desperate need.

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