• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your supererogatorially genial host John Derbyshire with VDARE.com's weekly survey of the passing charivari.
This week I am going to indulge myself somewhat. In my longest segment, I am going to ride a personal hobby-horse. The name of the hobby-horse is Demography.
With my usual artful dexterity, I shall work my way round to that with some brief introductory matter. Thus …
02 — Consequences of the war. Various commentators have noted that of all the economic disruptions caused by the war, the most important — perhaps even more important than fuel and energy shutoffs — may concern food grains and fertilizer. Both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of both. Their customers include a lot of seriously poor countries like Egypt.
One trigger for the Arab Spring eleven years ago was the sudden increase in prices of these essentials caused by the 2008-2009 financial crisis. We could be looking at something similar in the next year or so — perhaps something far more momentous.
The first person to comment on this, as far as I'm aware, was the Z-man, in a blog post dated March 1st. Edited quote from the Z-man:
Another wildcard in all of this is economics. Ukraine and Russia ship a lot of food and energy to the MENA countries. The reason that region was convulsed by revolts ten years ago was food and fuel prices spiked. In a world already suffering double-digit retail inflation and supply chain problems, another factor driving up prices for essentials could create massive headaches for everyone …
Our own Steve Sailer picked up on this theme March 10th, wondering whether wartime disruptions will start off another flood of mass migration from the poor South to the prosperous North.
Will they? I don't know; but I do know that as natural as it is to be distressed at the human suffering we're seeing in Ukraine, and as justified as we are to be angry at the gross stupidity of U.S. foreign policy this past thirty years, it's important for someone to be talking about these events in the language we here at VDARE most naturally use: the language of demography and migration.
Demography, yes. I've commented elsewhere that calling economics "the dismal science" is an error. The really dismal science is demography. There's even a case to be made, although I'm not going to make it here, that economics is downstream from demography.
Be that as it may, you're not going to understand much about the world we live in without some grasp of basic demography. Here's a segment on that.
03 — The low-TFR war (cont.). Two weeks ago I remarked that the Russia-Ukraine war is the first of any significance to be fought in demographic modernity — that is to say, between modern nations with low fertility, declining workforces, and swelling numbers of geezers.
British commentator Ed West has been having the same thoughts, and enlarges on the idea at his Substack account, March 10th. He notes that in the first week of Vladimir Putin's war Russia lost between two thousand and six thousand men. Then he adds, quote:
Whether those in the Kremlin will weep for them, they must shudder at the thought that in the average week the country loses another 2,000 through population decline, a rate that rose to 20,000 during Covid. But even in normal periods, Russia is now shrinking by more than 100,000 people a year and with no prospect of raising fertility above the 2.1 total fertility rate (children-per-woman) replacement threshold.
Ed's starting point is a short piece by yet another commentator: Aris Roussinos over at Unherd.com, March 10th. And yes, I apologize for referring you to so many different commentators. There are a lot of smart people out there saying smart things. Someone has to swoop over all that, pluck out the most VDARE-ish points, and stitch them together. That's me.
So: Ed West, starting from a piece by Aris Roussinos. The title of Roussinos' piece is Ukraine's bloody spring will gift the world a hungry winter. Subtitle: "An impending wheat crisis could push millions into starvation."
As that tells you, Roussinos is sticking to the matter of food supplies, and disruptions thereto. He doesn't get into demography. Ed West does, though, with a long and illuminating piece.
A couple of things in Ed's piece stopped my eye. First one, the third paragraph, quote:
The incomprehensible thing about this war is that Russia is not a belligerent young nation in need of expansion; it is not filled with frustrated young men hoping to assert themselves in conflict, as with Syria, Afghanistan or the world's other conflict zones; it is already elderly, ageing quickly and in some parts heading for oblivion. Some 20,000 Russian villages have been completely abandoned in recent years, and 36,000 others have fewer than ten inhabitants left and will follow them soon. A third of land once farmed in the former USSR has now been abandoned.
There's demography with a vengeance. The reason it stopped my eye, though, was nostalgic.
Way back in my childhood — I was nine or ten years old — my primary-school class had a history teacher who made a great impression on me, although I have long since forgotten his name. He was an older guy — in his fifties, I'd guess — rather strict and opinionated, did not suffer fools gladly, but with the gift of making his subject interesting, with a lot of colorful anecdotes.
One lesson he gave us was about the Vikings. Great numbers of warlike men came storming out of Scandinavia in the ninth and tenth centuries, wreaking havoc on the rest of Europe, he told us.
That piqued my curiosity. I wondered about the asymmetry. Why did Scandinavia have such a surplus of manpower? Why weren't we storming out of Britain, France, Germany, and Russia to wreak havoc on them?
The teacher summoned up the spirit of Dr Malthus to slap me down. Scandinavia had been producing food in too much abundance, he explained. The population ballooned, the result followed.
It was a short, sharp exchange, but it's stuck in my mind. There you see the signs of a budding demography buff.
The other thing in Ed West's piece that stopped my eye was a reference to Paul Morland's 2019 book The Human Tide, which I read soon after it came out. Morland is an actual demographer; he teaches the subject at a British university.
Now Morland has a new book coming out, title: Tomorrow's People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers. The book actually comes out in Britain this month. I don't know the U.S. publication date, but you can get the British edition from Amazon.com.
Ed West apparently got a pre-publication copy of the book, and he writes about it at length. Sample:
Morland talks of the trilemma facing ageing nations, whereby you can have two of the three: ethnic continuity, a thriving economy or a comfortable lifestyle without the huge stress of mixing child-raising and a modern economy. Israel has sacrificed the latter, Japan has chosen to take the economic hit, while Britain's leaders have given up its ethnic continuity. But that, alas, was a short-term solution, since young immigrants don't magically avoid the fate of Father Time any more than the rest of us do.
That's a great insight. Just to spell it out again: there are three things in play, of which a nation may only choose two. The three things in play are:
Those are your three options; but you can only choose two. Israel has chosen (1) and (2): ethnic continuity and a thriving economy. Far as I know Israelis do have a decently comfortable lifestyle, but it's with, not without the stress of raising kids while working full-time. Israel's the only advanced modern nation with Total Fertility Rate well above replacement level. And no, it's not Israeli Arabs propping up that number, nor is it the ultra-Orthodox. Quote from a study on the subject:
Strong pronatalist norms cut across all educational classes and levels of religiosity.
Japan's chosen (1) and (3): ethnic continuity and that comfortable lifestyle with a minimum of bother from kids, at the cost of a thriving economy. So says Morland. You could pick nits with that. Japan's economy is doing OK, I think. Still, I'll allow it's not the world-bestriding economic colossus that boosters back in the 1970s told us it would be.
Britain's chosen (2) and (3): the thriving economy and the comfortable child-free lifestyle, two parents working full-time, at the sacrifice of ethnic continuity. Morland's nailed that all right; and as Ed says, mass immigration doesn't really solve the trilemma, just postpones the inevitable — puts it off for our children and grandchildren to deal with. That's not a solution, it's a cowardly cop-out.
Ed West doesn't say where Morland puts China. I'd be interested to know. When my copy of Morland's book arrives early next month, I'll report back.
The ChiComs seem to be trying for the trifecta. Yes, they want ethnic continuity; yes, they want a thriving economy; yes, for the sake of their own political legitimacy they want their citizens to have a comfortable lifestyle … but with, not without, the stress of raising kids while pursuing full-time careers.
Ain't gonna happen. Morland's right: it's a genuine trilemma. Pick two out of three.
Mrs Derbyshire, who is plugged in to Chinese social media, reports that a common lament from her old high school and college classmates is that their kids, now in their late twenties and early thirties, have no interest in starting families. "Shall I ever be a grandmother?" the classmates moan.
How about us in the U.S.A.? Am I kidding? We can't even talk about these things. "Ethnic continuity"? [Scream.] Systemic racism: that's what's important — that, and lifting up our lamp beside the golden door for the planet's huddled masses yearning to breathe free …
Demography? Who but a few math geeks cares about that?
04 — Ideologizing the third grade. It's nice that Israelis love their children so much. Reading the news, it sometimes seems that we Americans hate ours.
Perhaps that's too harsh. Whether or not we hate our kids, a lot of us can't wait to conscript them into our weird, sick cultural fads. That's how it's seemed to me, reading about the reaction to this new state law in Florida.
This is the law that prohibits sex ed in all public schools from kindergarten through the third grade.
"Kindergarten through the third grade" means ages three to seven or eight. It seems astonishing to me that anyone would want such little children to be taught about sex, let alone that there are so many people wanting it that a law has to be passed to restrain them.
Do these people not have any kids of their own? Even if they don't — and you have to suspect they mostly don't, while feeling sorry for the kids of those who do — do they not have any memories of their own childhood, of what it was like to be six or seven years old?
And of course this isn't sex ed as we understood it fifty years ago — the birds and the bees. This is the postmodern ideological cult that there is no such thing as sex, that sex is merely a "social construct," a sort of optical illusion. You can be any sex you want to be!
Matters of morality aside, how do you teach ideology to seven-year-olds? What else is on the elementary-school curriculum? The Labor Theory of Value? Dialectical Materialism? The Interpenetration of Opposites?
I actually wouldn't mind that so much. Sure, Marxism-Leninism is philosophically dubious, and has been used to justify the murder of tens of millions of harmless people. It has some intellectual substance, though. You have to work your mind if you want to engage with it. To that degree it's the kind of thing that could be taught in a schoolroom, to young people of sufficient intelligence and maturity — smart high-school seniors, perhaps.
Matters of sex, though, from the first childhood awareness of differences between boys and girls up to the birds and bees stuff, should not be part of any school curriculum. Those things are for parents to impart. Or not impart: I'd prefer that parental rights were total in this sphere. The kids will learn anyway from their peers; that's where I got ninety percent of my sex ed.
In a spirit of tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner, I went digging around in the news reports to try to get some sense of what was driving the bill's opponents.
A major theme was that the bill was "hateful." No surprise there. Anything at odds with CultMarx ideology is "hateful." People hostile to CultMarx ideology are filled with "hate," their faces flushed and their teeth bared with "hate" — we all know that.
Are they? … I mean, we. Are we? Who is it that the bill's supporters "hate"?
Well, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has actually called the bill hateful, so presumably he knows. Here he was on Tuesday, quote: "Leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need." End quote.
In need of what? Secretary Cardona has already told us. A couple of sentences previously he referred to, quote: "the academic and mental health supports they need," end quote.
Well, for sure schools should give the kids academic support. That's kind of what schools are for. However, if a kid has mental health issues, he should be in the care of a properly credentialed psychiatrist. That's not the domain of classroom teachers, any more than is setting broken bones.
To return to my main question, though: Who is it that we hateful people hate?
Quote: "The Florida state legislature is playing a dangerous political game with the health and safety of LGBTQ+ kids." End quote. That's from a person named Cathryn M. Oakley, some kind of functionary at the Human Rights Campaign, which is a homosexualist lobby.
Fiddlesticks. You can dislike having sexual eccentricity promoted and propagandized without hating the eccentrics. You can most certainly dislike having it promoted and propagandized to little children without hating any of the children.
I personally think the idea of teaching third-graders about sexual oddity is unspeakably disgusting; yet I have myself written sympathetically about an adult transsexual. I refer curious listeners to my January 2021 Diary.
What you can't do — at any rate, what I can't do — is dislike having sexual eccentricity promoted and propagandized to little children without hating the promoters and propagandists. In my opinion, there isn't a Hell hot enough for these people.
05 — What does word salad sound like in Polish? The joke in the Obama administration was that having Joe Biden as Vice President was Obama's insurance against removal or assassination. Nobody would want Biden as his replacement.
Now Joe Biden is president, with Kamala Harris as his insurance. As awful as Biden is, everyone knows Harris would be awfuller.
Back in the 1980s there was a meme going round you might call the ASD meme, "ASD" standing for "Authoritarian Successor Decline." I remember hearing it from quite eminent names in late-1980s London journalism.
The ASD meme went like this. In a system of authoritarian power the Paramount Leader surrounds himself with yes-men, taking care that they are all less smart than himself. When he dies or is dethroned, his successor will come from among those yes-men, so he'll be less smart than the guy who just departed. Lather, rinse, repeat.
All this was of course in reference to the U.S.S.R. Looking back across the eighties, seventies, sixties, and fifties, it really did seem as though that's what happened.
Leaving out ciphers like Malenkov and Bulganin, the Soviets had, in little more than thirty years, gone from Stalin, who was a very smart man, via Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Andropov, to Chernenko, a senile nonentity with no functioning brain tissue at all.
You can make a case for Andropov having had some kind of inner life — he wrote love poems to his wife, according to her — but the rest of them you wouldn't put in charge of a dog pound.
I sometimes find myself wondering whether the American presidency is entering some similar decline. Trump wasn't bad, although on balance I've rated his presidency a failure. Biden is awful: stupid and incoherent. It's hard to believe anyone could be worse, but look … or rather, listen.
If Joe Biden falls off his perch and we get President Harris, what will follow her? Pee-wee Herman?
Well, at least now our Vice President has been to Europe. This week she graced the nation of Poland with her presence. Thursday she participated in a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Embarrassing? Oh yeah. "Embarrassment" is this lady's middle name.
Well-nigh every commentary on the Vice President's spoken remarks at the event — not counting fawning commentary from our regime media, of course — included the phrase "word salad." It's not hard to see why. Sample:
But we all watched the television coverage of just yesterday on top of everything else that we know and don't know yet based on what we've just able to see, and because we've seen it or not doesn't mean it hasn't happen, but just limited to what we have seen — pregnant women going for health care? Being injured by — I don't know — a missile, a bomb? In an unprovoked, unjustified war? Where a powerful country is trying to take over another country — violate its sovereignty, its territorial integrity for the sake of what? Nothing that is justified or provoked. Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching, and I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war, and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities. I have no doubt.
End word salad.
As Mr Arbuthnot would say: Our thoughts and prayers go out to the poor unlucky person who got picked to act as interpreter for the Veep. What does word salad sound like in Polish? No, don't tell me, I don't really want to know.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Chatting with my coeval Peter Brimelow recently — and no, "coeval" does not mean people who are evil together — chatting with Peter about those Soviet leaders in the last segment, we reflected on how so much of the outrageous and deplorable stuff that turns up in the news media every day was prefigured by events in the old U.S.S.R.
Younger Americans don't get this. They don't know anything about the U.S.S.R. The only foreign history they get in their schools is Hitler Hitler Hitler. The rest is all darkness.
Well, here's a story with a Soviet precursor.
Guy Reffitt, a 49-year-old oilfield worker from Texas, was convicted Tuesday on five felony charges arising from his participation in the January 6th 2021 protests at the U.S. Capitol. The actual charges were two counts of obstruction and entering and remaining in a restricted building or its grounds with a firearm, two charges of civil disorder, and obstruction of an official proceeding. Reffitt could face sixty years in jail.
The Soviet angle here was that among those who testified against Reffitt was his 19-year-old son Jackson, who had turned him in to the authorities. To us old Cold Warriors, Pavel Morozov immediately comes to mind.
Back in 1932, 13-year-old Pavel Morozov reported his Dad to Stalin's secret police as a counter-revolutionary. The Dad was arrested and shot. However, his relatives weren't happy about this, so they murdered little Pavel. When this became known, they themselves were all rounded up and shot.
Regime loyalists made a cult of Pavel Morozov. Says Wikipedia, quote:
His story was a subject of reading, songs, plays, a symphonic poem, a full-length opera, and six biographies. The apotheotic cult had a huge impact on the moral norms of generations of children, who were encouraged to inform on their parents.
Post-Soviet researchers have cast doubt on the details of the Pavel Morozov story. Still, young Jackson Reffitt might want to read up on it and draw his own conclusions. At least then he won't be surprised if someone writes an opera about him.
Item: Just in case you thought that things in New York City couldn't get any worse than the last outrage you heard about, meet Frank Abrokwa, the Subway Poop Perp.
Here's what 37-year-old Mr Abrokwa did to a 43-year-old lady on February 21st at a city subway station.
First he approached the lady, who was seated on a bench, and said, quote: "Hey, Mammy, how come you don't want to talk to me?" Failing to obtain a response that satisfied him, Mr Abrokwa retired to an idling subway car and pooped in a bag.
He then returned to the seated lady and assaulted her repeatedly with the poop, smearing it all over her face, hair, neck, shoulders and back.
Mr Abrokwa was arrested February 28th at the homeless shelter he lives in, and arraigned the following day in Bronx Criminal Court. The court freed him without bail. Mr Abrokwa is black — "Abrokwa" is in fact a Ghanaian name — so I guess not to release him would have been hateful.
This guy has, according to The New York Post, 22 prior unsealed arrests dating back to 1999, when he would have been 14 years old, and dozens of sealed arrests.
I'm not clear what the difference is between sealed and unsealed arrests; but the fact of a guy as antisocial as that walking around free prompts the question: What are our jails for?
Oh right, now I remember: They are for cops who are restraining a perp twice their size when the perp dies of a drug overdose. They are for normal citizens looking out for the safety of their neighborhood when a lunatic tries to wrestle away a loaded gun from one of them. Those are the people jails are for — dangerous people, bad people.
Item: On Monday this week the U.S. Senate passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022. The bill makes lynching a federal hate crime. This is presumably intended to curb the dreadful outbreak of lynching we have seen recently in the U.S.A. and to ensure that there will, from this week on, no longer be any state in which lynching is legal.
Is there really so little of the nation's business needing attention that our federal lawmakers can give their time to such a wanton, gratuitous act of empty virtue-signalling? Yes, apparently there is.
The Senate vote was unanimous. When the bill came up before the House of Representatives last week, however, three members of the House voted nay. They were: Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas.
Having recovered from the astonishment of learning that there are three people of sense in the U.S. Congress, I hereby stand and salute — yes, I am actually standing at my desk and saluting — Representatives Clyde, Massie, and Roy. Should any of those gentlemen find himself in Long Island with a couple of hours to spare, it will be my honor and pleasure to stand him a restaurant meal. Thank you, Sirs!
I apologize for not having kept listeners up-to-date on Turkmen affairs. Here is some background.
In an address to his country's parliament last month, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, a dear friend and generous supporter of Radio Derb, announced he will step down from the presidency following this election, in order to give younger men a chance.
There you see the modest humility of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov — one of those admirable personal qualities that so endear him to us and to his people.
So President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov will not be a candidate in tomorrow's election. However, his son Serdar Berdymukhammedov will be standing, as candidate for the ruling Democratic Party.
Turkmenistan's two other registered political parties will presumably also be fielding candidates, although as of Wednesday this week, neither of their websites has given us their candidate's name. Just an oversight on their part, I am sure.
Radio Derb offers hearty best wishes to the people of Turkmenistan, secure in the knowledge that they will act with their usual good sense and patriotism in choosing a new president.
Long live the great nation of Turkmenistan! Long live President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov!
07 — Signoff. That's all I have, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and special thanks to listeners and readers who send in useful and informative emails, like the two with video clips that I mentioned in a March 7th blog post here at VDARE.com.
That story about the Subway Poop Perp has a certain clinging fascination for me, I confess. In the hope of getting it out of my hair … Sorry! Sorry! I mean, out of my mind … In the hope of getting it out of my mind, here is a very silly song from back in the seventies, although it was written considerably earlier.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Benny Bell, "Shaving Cream."]