I wrote this piece, presciently, it turns out, 1,368 days, or 3.7479 years ago.
Eerily, it was in 2005, which is important in what is to come* …
[ *NOTE: use above link in Firefox, etc. The link below only works in Internet Explorer. Go figure. And, due to Blogger.com’s odd proclivities, you’ll have to scroll down past the Valerie Plame ‘outing’ posts, etc. to …]
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
or, I’D RATHER SWITCH THAN FIGHT
“I’m not a real cowboy, but I’m one hell of a stud!”
— Joe Buck (John Voight), MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
Sometime during the night, it stuck in the forebrain that if we keep on down the oily path to petro-wars, we’re headed for an inevitable confrontation with China.
Think about it: a generation ago, the Chinese were forced to adopt mandatory abortion as the only way to survive the population bomb. While we fight over whether to allow legal abortion, the Chinese had to make the tough decision to make it mandatory: one child per family. One might add that “God” had nothing to do with it, it was sheer survival that forced them to adopt laws that are in direct conflict with the stated “morality” of the Catholic Church, and who can argue it? Overpopulation would doom them to starvation and worse.
And so, functional reality trumped theoretical morality. Here, we have the luxury of pretending that overpopulation isn’t a problem, and can blither and dither our way through endless abortion ‘wars’ with a large claque arguing that the inherent ‘cuteness’ of babies demands infinite fecundity: fertility as destiny, one might say.
So, the Chinese were forced into the draconian measure of adopting the dictum of only one child per couple. And then, technology screwed them. Since they could only have one child per family, and they preferred boy children to girl children, pregnant Chinese women would have ultrasounds done. If the fetus was a boy, fine. But if it was a girl, a large percentage of families would opt for abortion, and try again until, hopefully, they could have a boy.
As a result, we have an entire generation of Chinese boys, and very few girls. This might seem, at first blush, to be an amusing conundrum for them, but I’d suggest that you better be a little afraid….
And, a mere 3.75 years later, the Mighty New York Times catches up, sort of:
The ever-vigilant and indispensable MSM
By SHARON LaFRANIERE
The New York Times
Published: April 10, 2009
BEIJING — A bias in favor of male offspring has left China with 32 million more boys under the age of 20 than girls, creating “an imminent generation of excess men,” a study released Friday said.
In 2005, a new study found, births of boys in China exceeded births of girls by more than 1.1 million. There were 120 boys born for every 100 girls.
For the next 20 years, China will have increasingly more men than women of reproductive age, according to the paper, which was published online by the British Medical Journal. “Nothing can be done now to prevent this,” the researchers said.
The Chinese government is openly concerned “about the consequences of large numbers of excess men for social stability and security,” the researchers said.
But “although some imaginative and extreme solutions have been suggested,” they wrote, China will have too many men for a generation to come….
Yes, the year that they studied was 2005, the precise year that I wrote the blog posting above. And, since I seemed to be correct about the situation, let me go further, and speculate on what it means.
Er, oops. Let me tell you what I speculated that it might mean when I wrote it in 2005. Here’s the rest of the post:
… The Chinese are rapidly moving into a modern technological society, and they want the perks. They want the cars, the computers, the electronic gizmos and all the trappings of a consumer society, and that takes oil. Lots and lots of oil.
And the world, if we are to believe the conclusion of a growing body of scientists, either has, or will soon approach peak oil production. In other words, oil is going away. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of our lives.
On the other hand, we have a generation now beginning to come of age in China that is going to be HIGHLY competitive, and more than a little belligerent, given that a large number of males are not going to have mates.
Put on a pure hormonal level, we will soon see an excess of testosterone in Chinese society, with a minimal amount of estrogen to mellow out the documented aggressive tendencies of the former.
Now, I’ve maintained for a long time that testosterone may well be the single most dangerous drug on Earth. Males under its influence (say, teenagers) have a disquieting tendency to be VERY belligerent, bellicose, and love to engage in “extreme” forms of male dominance and confrontational behavior.
Which is, if you think about it, why we have adopted football as our national religion. (It has the tremendous social value of channeling all that excess testosterone into the sales of beer and tortilla chips.) Originally, as the need for Junior to help out on the farm or in the family store dwindled, we turned to after school sports as a way of channeling all that excess testosterone.
Now, consider an entire nation of over a billion persons, hopped up, wired to the gills on an excess of testosterone, and consider that we’re now going to be competing with that nation for the Earth’s dwindling oil supply.
Hmm. I’d say that, on a sheer biological level, we’re headed for an inevitable confrontation (probably nuclear, eventually) with an increasingly belligerent China.
Two mega-civilizations squaring off over one limited resource? Think of the apes at the waterhole in 2001. And then give them not bones but nukes.
This is par for the course, and I’m sure that the pussies of the Bush Administration would LOVE to swagger out like the phony cowboys that they fancy themselves to be, and have a fine old shoot-out at the I’m-NOT-OK Corral.
But I think there is a necessary paradigm shift here.
Do we really want to head down this path? Is a global confrontation really what has to happen? Do we really have to fight it out with a nation that we’re separated from by over 7,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean?
I would offer an alternative.
When I was a young pup, green in the gills, and wet behind the ears, I was thrown into a roiling competition with all the other young writers of Los Angeles. We all competed madly for every rare writing job available. Most, being much more social and/or connected than myself, had a leg up on me in the competition, and I was forced to rely on wits and cleverness to make up for the difference in our relative competitiveness within the field.
Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Los Angeles TIMES Book Review section.
I managed to get a review in the “short shorts” section: one column inch to the side of the page, for which I had to wait six months, and only after persistently querying for months to get a place in line.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know how long it would have taken to graduate to somewhat longer reviews. Why? Because I realized that my position was untenable. I was competing with every other would-be and wanna-be in LA, and six months’ hard work for barely three sentences in the mighty TIMES seemed utterly futile.
So, I went to the HERALD-EXAMINER.
I had the luck of timing, but I managed to get to the new arts editor, who had books as part of his baliwick, and he told me an amazing thing: “No one else has ever asked.”
That sentence has always stuck with me: all those writers, all that desire, all that mad competition, and no one ever ASKED? I felt like Parsifal at the Grail Castle.
After running it by the editorial board, I became the first HERALD-EXAMINER freelance book critic in recent institutional memory. They probably had them in the 40s, 50s and/or 60s, but no one could remember if they did.
In a city filled with would-be writers, no one had asked.
All right. This isn’t a brag. It’s just a fact. And the point is this: I had — to avoid the inevitable mammal-on-mammal competition for “turf” — decided to adopt the evolutionary approach, rather than the confrontational approach.
And, by happy accident, I had moved into the unoccupied evolutionary niche, which opened a whole new vista not just to me, but also, accidentally, to countless OTHER frustrated freelancers. Within four years, they’d swarmed over the HERALD-EXAMINER.
And, like those wacky miners in Paint Your Wagon, I was, once more, forced to move on to greener, ungrazed pastures. (Ironically, their book pages had proven so successful that they hired the book editor away from the TIMES, and he promptly gave me six month wait times for niggling little spaces again. Plus ça change.)
But the point is that, in choosing the path of evolution and not confrontation, intrigue and competition, I’d served both myself and society. Everyone benefited by having more than one paper in town that reviewed books. More books were reviewed, more writers could write them, and I usually got half a page on Sundays.
Now, I would humbly suggest that this country adopt the same approach to the inevitable confrontation over oil: let’s make it evitable.
Let us take the evolutionary approach. Let’s find the evolutionary niche that’s unoccupied and move away from oil. We will benefit all humanity in so doing.
If we remain on our current track, we may well manage to destroy that same humanity. Certainly we will destroy a great part of it, and a nation drowning in human flesh probably won’t mind sacrificing a large part of it to obtain their ends and gas up their SUVs.
No: really. Think about the horror that inevitable awaits us if we choose to proceed down the road we’re on, and think about the potential Golden Age that awaits us if we choose, as a society to evolve.
There used to be an old commercial for Tareyton cigarettes (before we outlawed them). There was someone with a phony black eye, holding their Tareyton cigarettes. Underneath it, emblazoned, or, for those old enough to remember the heady days of TV cigarette commercials, a chorus would sing the jingle: “Tareyton: I’d rather fight than switch.”
Well, frankly, that was just plain dumb. What imbecile would get in a fight over something so absurdly trivial. But it was surely a reflection of all those macho would-be alpha male types who engaged in confrontation games at the drop of a hat, hyped to the gills, like junkies, on an excess of testosterone.
Yeah. Sure: let’s FIGHT over cigarette brands fer chrissakes. (Geez.) But, when you think about it, it isn’t much more idiotic than skipping blithely and dim-wittedly down the road to an oil war. (Us Oil Guzzlers would rather FIGHT than switch! Yowzzah! Woof!)
Evolution (for those of you who aren’t so stoooooopid as to literally believe in childish creation myths) means that you seek the unoccupied niche. When you do, you open that niche up for everyone. And that happy accident doesn’t just save your own hide. It benefits, ultimately, everyone.
Your “monopoly” won’t last — as mine didn’t at the old HeX: a writer I’d sent them stabbed me in the back by claiming that HE knew more about such and such than I, and eventually, he and the various other specialists had stripped me of huge chunks of literature and history — but that’s not the point:
The point is to evolve.
I moved on and kept on moving (and founding book sections in newspapers).
Evolution means constant movement. If you stop swimming, like a shark, you drown. We need to evolve by moving beyond old petro-technology, lest we, too, become like the dinosaurs we keep pumping out of holes in the ground.
[Here’s an idea I’ll toss at you parenthetically: The Universe is NOT a thing. It is a process. It is a process that endlessly and uniquely changes, moment by moment. The “world” is an abstraction. We need to move beyond the materialistic concept that our ‘behavior’ is perfect behavior in a timeless, abstract landscape, and recognize that it’s inevitably our best response to a unique moment in that process of creation and destruction that the “universe” process represents. We remain mired in a mechanistic way of thinking that we need to move beyond. Think about it … later. For now, let’s stick with evolution …]
Even explaining where oil comes from sounds absurd and primitive. We’re receiving more than enough solar energy to cover all our needs every day. And there is a wide array of technologies that AREN’T deadly radioactive for millions of years (please, NO NUKES, we don’t need to travel down that evolutionary dead end).
But we need to choose now: confrontation or evolution.
You know how to evolve, right?
Because if you don’t, somebody’s going to punch you right in the nose, and I’m not sure that even swaggering drug store cowboys would like that.
Posted by: hart williams 7/13/2005 07:29:00 AM
You know how to evolve, right?
You just put your DNA together and flow.