Comment Of The Day
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Friday, July 10, 1998

Fertility Rates & The Baby Bust

"With The Lowly Is Wisdom." Proverbs11:2

This old testament text has the eternal ring of truth, generally, to all who hear it. Yes? Do you wonder why? Because when all is lost, deep, true values kick in. Death row, ICU, combat, disasters... it's always the same: in the face of death and destruction we always see the rediscovery of wisdom: faith and hope. The hidden message in all of that is also clear: every day in every way, strive to be better and better. Taking the easy way out: anger, addiction, violence, surrender, only create more problems. Ignoring those in need, those who have failed, those who are sick and lost, whether it's a child crossing the road, or a homeless man on a sewer grate, is taking the easy way out. Do the right thing, not the easy thing, and remember, "there but for the grace of God...."

Italy has just achieved the dubious distinction of being the first country in the history of the world to have more people over the age of 60 than people under the age of 20. That sounds simple enough, but it is a disaster in the making. It's like that dream we all have of trying to run and being unable to move, except this is happening in super, super slo-mo. The demographics of a society are like a glacier moving along: its slow, intractible progress can be comprehended but only in a geologic sense of time. No one even notices it moving in their lifetime. No one ever notices it changing. But it's doing both. Italy just woke up to the fact that they will not be able to sustain their society in another 15 years: not enough young people. The New York Times is referring to this phenomenon as The Baby Bust. If you think you are immune to Italy's troubles, think again. In the USA the decline of families is 10.6 (+ or -) over the past 20 years. "Children are our future", is the hackneyed, cliched, shug-your-shoulders, apple-pie, fresh-air, sunshine and baseball-on-Saturday saying that every politician uses.But, now, with not enough children being produced, it is becoming very bad news. "Children are our future" is taking on a whole new meaning. Like the glacier we assumed, suddenly, the future looms darkly and inevitably.

It Reminds Me (a joke about) The Three Astronauts

A two-year shuttle mission with three astronauts is carefully planned. Since it's going to be two years up there, each may take any form of entertainment weighing 150 pounds or less. The first astronaut approaches NASA and asks to take his 125 lb wife. They approve. The second one says, "I've always wanted to learn Greek. I want 150 lbs of books to learn Greek with." The NASA approves. The third astronaut thinks it over for a second and says, "It's gonna be two years up there. I want 150 pounds of the best Cuban cigars ever made." Again, NASA okays it.

Two years later, the shuttle lands and everyone is gathered outside the shuttle to see what each astronaut got out of his personal entertainment. Well, it's obvious what the first astronaut has been up to, he and his wife are each holding an infant. The crowd cheers. The second astronaut steps out and makes a 10 minute speech in absolutely perfect Greek. The crowd doesn't understand a word of it, but they're impressed and they cheer again. The third astronaut stomps out, clenches the podium until his knuckles turn white, glares at the first row waving a chewed up cigar at them and says:

"Anybody got a match? In our march for material happiness and wealth, one or two children has seemed to be enough. How wrong can we be?

Plan it all out, think of everything and what happens? The simpliest thing always gets you. It's the children, stupid. It always been and it always will be.

See you next time.

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