Monday, September 17, 2012

Europeans the next Native Americans? Part Two: Central and Western Europe.


            In the August article on this topic, I concentrated on the results of Romania’s 2011 census and the worrying results that no one seems eager to address.  Romania’s population dropped from about 23.5 million in 1989, to about 19 million by 2011.  Most official international projections indicated that Romania might not fall under this number for at least another twenty five years.  Total yearly births have dropped from about 370,000 per year to about 200,000.  There are now fewer people officially employed in the non-farm sector as there are pensioners.  If things continue on, Romania’s non-Rroma yearly births may drop to as low as 20,000 per year at this rate.  The example of Romania should be a worrying sign for Europeans overall.  It should be an especially worrying sign for the Eastern Europe region, because we may in fact see the incredible happen in just a few decades in the form of not only bankrupt but failed states appearing on the continent.

On the surface, things may be looking better as we look west.  If we dig under the surface however, it is increasingly clear that the European population is in deep trouble.  The troubling fact is that official institutions do not give us a realistic and honest picture of the situation, as I already indicated to be the case with Romania, where they missed the mark by a very wide margin.  In order to help better understand the true situation, I decided to look at three Central and West European countries and their latest stats on their demographic evolution.  The countries I chose are Hungary, Slovakia, and Germany, because each country represents a different situation due to various circumstances.

Slovakia:

            In the past decade, Slovakia managed an impressive economic feat of closing the gap in GDP per capita with its western peers significantly.  The 2011 census also shows that Slovakia actually recorded a slight increase in its population from the last census carried out in 2001.  Its total births tally also registered an impressive bounce back from about 50,000 live births per year, to 60,000.  The increase in births is a reflection of increased optimism on the part of the population as a result of the increase in economic affluence, as well as an evident increase in the inflow of immigrants, which gave the country an influx of youth.  On the surface therefore it appears that Slovakia is on the right path, and there should be little reason to worry.

            Since the last census, this country’s Slovak population dropped from 4.6 million to 4.35 million.  The second largest and traditional population of Slovakia, the Hungarian minority declined from 520,000 to 460,000 during the same period.  On the other hand, those who fall under the “others”, or undeclared category increased from just 74,000 to 408,000 over this ten year period.  The Rroma minority, which officially makes up about 2% of the population, is also on an increasing path[i].  In other words, the traditional Slovak-Hungarian dominated demographic of Slovakia is experiencing replacement.  It is a different situation from that of Romania, which is experiencing outright population shrinkage, but it is in some ways similar, since the population that traditionally inhabited the region for over a thousand years is disappearing at almost a similar pace as Romania’s population.

            The next few decades will see two possible outcomes for Slovakia.  Slovaks will either become a minority by about 2050, if the influx of other populations continues, or if the influx stops, its population will start shrinking dramatically, following a similar path as Romania’s has already been established.  Some may argue that the influx of other populations will mainly serve to reinforce the majority Slovak population, but I disagree with that assumption.  I believe that a declining population cannot assimilate and absorb a large foreign influx.  While the overall demographic data tells us about the decline in the Slovak population overall as a percentage of the total (from 85% to 80% over ten years), if we were to only look at the non senior citizen population, that percentage drop would be even more dramatic.  So, the country’s young population is increasingly foreign, which means that they will likely form ethnic communities, which will not melt into the general population.  As for the ethnic Hungarian minority, which declined from 10% of the population to just 8.5% over this ten year period, it will likely disappear in a few decades.

Hungary:

            In the case of Hungary, we have a country which may end up developing differently than most other states in Europe.  It has a similarly low birth rate to most other countries.  It has an aging population, and it already experienced a significant 5% population decline since the collapse of communism in 1990.  Economically, it developed just enough to prevent the same kind of population outflow that Romania experienced, which is the main factor thus far for its dramatic 18% drop in its population since 1990, but it actually lags behind other countries such as Slovakia, so it is not as attractive to potential foreign migrants as Slovakia or the far more prosperous countries in Western Europe.

            Hungary does have one potential advantage however, stemming ironically from a national tragedy that happened almost a century ago, which might make it one of the few countries with a chance to survive not only as a state but as a nation state for at least a few more decades.  Its potential advantage stems from the massive loss of territory and importantly one third of the ethnic Hungarian population, due to French strategic considerations following the First World War.  Hungarians were seen as potential allies of the Germans in any future confrontation, while the French believed that many neighbors of Hungary such as the Serbs, Romanians, and Slovaks could be convinced to join the French side against the Germans (A calculation that mainly turned out to be wrong in the Second World War).  In the past two decades, there has been a considerable inflow of ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries such as Romania and Slovakia.  That, together with a trickle of foreign immigrants has made the difference between Hungary’s gentle population decline and Romania’s demographic freefall.  It also allowed it to remain one of the most homogenous populations in the region, which was already the case following the redrawing of the regional map almost a century ago.  Hungary is over 90% composed of ethnic Hungarians, even if we were to consider the Rroma phenomena, which gives the suspicion in the entire region that this minority is much larger than official census stats may suggest, because as I already mentioned, many of them do not reveal their true ethnic identity.

            I should emphasize however that this is just a potential advantage, by no means a sure thing.  To take advantage of this opportunity, Hungarians would have to show a level of cultural maturity which I personally doubt they can muster.  They would have to get their economic house in order, which will not be easy given the overall economic situation in Europe.  They would also have to give up on increasingly elusive dreams of recuperating not only people but also territorial losses they suffered.  If they fail to grab on to this opportunity, the most likely outcome will be a loss of both the Hungarian national state as well as the loss of the ethnic Hungarian populations and communities currently living in significant numbers in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine.  They have to realize and understand the demographic changes that took place since 1918 in the territories lost to neighboring countries.  In Transylvania for instance, ethnic Hungarians went from being about one third of the population, to about 19% currently.  The Romanian majority, which was slim at just over 50% in 1918, now makes up over 70% of the population.  The German minority, which made up 12% of Transylvania’s population, has already disappeared, and has largely been replaced by the Rroma minority.  Hungarians will be next, regardless whether they decide to hang on, or whether they allow their young people to pursue a career and move elsewhere, preferably Hungary from a demographic perspective.  This is not easy however, because there are 1,000 years of history and cultural development that they would be leaving behind.  It is better to secure a future than to hold on to the past in my view, but I believe most Hungarians living in Hungary, or in the neighboring countries, cannot find the objectivity to identify the true nature of their situation.  How can they, when almost no one is talking about the true demographic realities on the continent?

Germany:

            Moving westward, the most important country economically and politically speaking on the continent is Germany.  Here again we have what on the surface seems to be a stable demographic situation, masked by a continued inflow of immigrants.  In reality, the real situation is one of immigration policy covering up the gradual disappearance of one of Europe’s most important ethnic entities.  Live births in Germany have declined from the 900,000 level in 1990, to under 700,000 in 2011[ii].  As bad as that may seem, if we dig deeper, it gets worse for the German people.  Only about three quarters of its population of 82 million is ethnically German.  From the less than 700,000 births, far less than three quarters are ethnically German, because some of the Immigrant communities bring a culture more inclined towards having children, and additionally the non German population is a full decade younger.  If we take these facts into consideration, there are perhaps only about 400,000 ethnic German births in Germany per year.  Looking forward, Germany will no longer be the country of Germans in about two to three decades.  At a birth rate of 1.2 per woman, the ethnic German births will shrink similarly to what I discussed in Romania’s case. By the turn of the next century, German births will likely only amount to about 50,000 per year, unless other factors will work to improve or worsen the situation.

Note:

            The claim of only 50,000 ethnic Germans being born by 2100 is based on a simple mathematic calculation based on current trends.  It assumes each reproductive generation is twenty five years, and the 1.2 children per woman trend, which is the case now, will hold.  I should also note that while official statistics show that Germany’s birth rate is somewhat higher at around 1.38 children per woman, we have to remember to adjust for the foreign element within German society, which has a higher birth rate.

Generation one: 2011-2036.

Currently 400,000 births, by 2036, 300,000 (generous estimate).  Twenty five year average therefore will be 350,000.
350,000 x 25 years = 8,750,000 ethnic Germans born, half of which females.

Generation two: 2036-2061.

8,750,000/2 = 4,375,000 women of child bearing age, each will have 1.2 children.
4,375,000 x 1.2 = 5,250,000 births, half of which will be females.

Generation three: 2061-2086.

5,250,000/2 = 2,625,000 women of childbearing age, each will have 1.2 children
2,625,000 x 1.2 = 3,150,000 births, half of which will be female.

Generation four:  2086-2111.

3,150,000/2 = 1,575,000 women of childbearing age, each will have 1.2 children
1,575,000 x 1.2 = 1,890,000 German children born during the generation/25 years = 75,600 German children born per year, without considering the effect of ethnic intermixing, which should become more and more common as the German population shrinks, while the foreign population increases.  It is reasonable therefore to assume that the number of German children being born in Germany by 2100 will be 50,000 per year at best.  To put that into perspective, Romania’s Rroma minority is thought to have about the same number of births per year.  So, the great German nation, which just seven decades ago was thought of as a threat to the entire world, and even now is the fourth largest global economy, will be reduced at least demographically to a minority living in a far less significant European country in less than a century.

            It is hard to contemplate what effect such a dramatic shrinkage in its ethnic German population will have for Germany, and for the entire continent, which is facing a more or less similar situation.  One thing that is for certain is that unless something will change urgently, we are looking at a similar population replacement scenario as was the case with the natives of North America.  The case of Germany as well as that of the Eastern and central European states we looked at, more or less represents the situation of the entire continent.  Some countries such as France, Britain, Sweden and a handful of others still have a relatively healthy demographic situation.  Their birth rates may not necessarily amount to full replacement rate, but the decline is gentle enough to possibly see them through the century, without experiencing complete population collapse or replacement.

Conclusions:

            There is one great difference between what happened to the Native Americans in North America and what is happening in Europe now.  It is hard to see what if anything the Native Americans could have done to prevent their people from nearing extinction.  The growing power of the Europeans at the time, catapulted them to becoming masters of the world by the 19’Th century.  The Native American tribes on the other hand were far behind much of the rest of the world in terms of economic and military capabilities.  The Europeans of today, of whom we can already talk of as a doomed society given the evidence, are far from a powerless entity.  Militarily speaking, Europe is still a force to be reckoned with.  Economically speaking, the EU is the world’s largest economy.  It is strange therefore to consider Europeans on the endangered peoples list.  Traditionally, especially when it comes to the world view as seen through the eyes of the political and intellectual left, this list is reserved for remote tribes in the Amazon or other hard to reach places.  As I pointed out however, the evidence shows that some of those remote tribes may actually outlast many European cultures.

            Aside from the seemingly unbelievable future trend line I presented, there is also the political correctness aspect of this issue.  Western society has in recent decades adopted an attitude of intolerance towards itself.  It is generally frowned upon to consider the potential disappearance of Europeans and the dozens of cultures represented on the continent as a problem.  It has been agreed to in terms of cultural values that anyone voicing concern about this issue should be ostracized and deemed to be unworthy of belonging to the mainstream.  Truth is that if I would have been born in Western Europe, or North America, I would not even dare to touch this subject.  My childhood experienced as a citizen of the brutal Socialist Republic of Romania thought me a very important lesson however.  One ought to resist intimidation directed towards achieving censorship, regardless whether the pressure to do so comes from the threat of brutal force, or whether it comes from social pressures, backed by the power to relegate people to the fringe of society socially and even professionally.  Perhaps my inheritance of cultural stubbornness as an ethnic Hungarian may also have something to do with my own rebellious nature.  While I believe that there ought to be some limits to free speech, such as the limits meant to curb people’s ability to incite to hatred, I also believe that a society can only be healthy if free flow of information and ideas is allowed and even encouraged.  We ought to be able to discuss most subjects in a civilized, factual, honest and objective manner.  I hardly think that labeling someone as prejudiced or racist despite making a point based on solid evidence and facts is constructive and healthy, as has been the case on numerous occasions lately[iii].  If we are culturally unable to address this issue within public discourse, is it any surprise that we Europeans are deserving of occupying the endangered species list?

            The point of no return for the Native Americans was perhaps somewhere towards the end of the 18’th century.  If before then, they would have banded together, formed a broad coalition and would have adopted some of the right cultural traits of the European invaders, perhaps at the very least they could have succeeded in carving out a territory for themselves in which they would have continued to survive, and would perhaps be a prominent society today.  We cannot fault them for not doing so however, because we have to remember that they had no way of understanding what was happening to them.  They were not able to think of themselves as inhabitants of a continent under the threat of colonization, even though that was the case.  They only saw themselves through the mentality of individual tribes or regional confederations acting in response to a new encroaching entity in the form of European colonists.

For Europeans there is no excuse.  We live in the era of information, we therefore should all be aware of what is happening, yet few people actually are, and even fewer people believe it should matter.  In other words Europeans doomed themselves the moment consensus was formed that their ethnic and cultural identities are not as worthy of salvation as that of a small tribe living in the Amazon.  Furthermore, anyone advocating to the contrary, is an enemy of society, so the current consensus is being defended with ruthless ferocity. 

The point of no return for Europeans is perhaps about a generation from now.  In the absence of swift cultural change meant to erase the current values of self loathing that can only lead to one possible outcome, as well as smart action meant to redress the situation, the point of no return will be crossed.  To most people the event will seem like a non-event, since most changes are happening gradually enough to escape our short attention span.  The ability to make a decision to the contrary of the current trend towards extinction will become ineffective and impossible after that point, so if our children and grandchildren will not like the consequences, it will be too late to change course.  It seems like something we should be discussing with great concern and urgency, yet we are not.  I believe many years from now, when future generations of humans will look back at this, they will find that from all the stories of extinct societies, the one of the Europeans will be by far the strangest one.  The main factor being a social taboo prohibiting talk of this cultural extinction long before the point of no return has been breached, will for certain present future anthropologists with the most puzzling society  they will ever have the opportunity to study.

           

               

           

  




Slovakia 2011 census results.  Also used some completing info from Wikipedia.

Germany births evolution.  Also used some figures from Wikipedia

[iii] The most recent example I can think of was the labeling of Mitt Romney as prejudiced and even racist when he made a remark in terms of culture and economic development during a visit to Israel.  He may have applied the theory to an unsuitable situation, but the basic theory that culture affects economic development is fair game in public discourse, given that it can be backed by solid evidence.  I myself provided evidence of this in my book, citing the case of post communist Eastern and Central Europe, and the role culture played in economic development gaps between these countries.

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