“Demographic Winter: The Closing Of The Muslim Womb”

Demographics is destiny, and this century will be defined by the great demographic death spiral that is swirling across Europe, Asia, and the Muslim world.

David Goldman’s book, How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), highlights the grim future. This is a must read.

If demographic winter is encroaching slowly on the West, a snap frost has overtaken the Muslim world. Europe has had two hundred years to make the transition from the high fertility rates of rural life to the low fertility rates of the industrial world. Iran, Turkey, Tunisia, and Algeria are attempting it in twenty. The graying of the Muslim world in lapsed time, as it were, can have only tragic consequences.

The Muslim world is on the brink of the fastest population decline in recorded history. Academic demographers are stunned. “In most of the Islamic world it’s amazing, the decline in fertility that has happened,” Hania Zlotnik, head of the United Nations’ population research branch, told a 2009 conference.

Think of a train wreck: the front car hits an obstacle, and the rear cars collapse accordion-style with the momentum. Driving the demographics of Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, and other Muslim countries is a “locomotive made up of people in their teens and twenties. They were born into families of six or seven children. But this “locomotive” has hit a demographic wall: these young people are having only one or two children. Today’s “bulge generation of young Muslims, whose political humiliation and frustration over economic stagnation stoked the Arab rebellions of 2011, will be followed by a generation dramatically smaller than their own.

Today there are more Iranians in their mid-twenties than in any other age bracket. But they are not reproducing. An educated twenty-five-year-old Iranian women today probably grew up in a family of six or seven children, but will bear only one child. The consequences will be catastrophic…

Aging populations present a danger even to rich countries with well-funded public pension systems. For poor countries with a primitive social safety net or none at all, a graying society will be a disaster…

This is the great underreported story of our time. Population collapse across almost the entire industrial world is threatening to disrupt the world’s economy and endangering political stability. Eastern Europe and especially Russia are already facing a demographic death spiral. As the working-age populations shrinks in most of the industrial world, elderly dependents will make up most of Europe and East Asia’s population. (But only two-fifths of America’s.)…

For all the concern about the future cost of pensions and health care as America’s population ages, America will still have the people to shoulder the burden. In the rest of the world, there simply will not be enough workers to support the elderly. Demographic winter means fiscal ruin and social upheaval.

The great demographic winter has already hit Japan.

Bloomberg today reports: Elderly at Record…

“sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies for the first time last year.”

Source: http://johnsville.blogspot.com/2012/05/demographic-winter-closing-of-muslim.html

Missa Luba 1965: Credo (B3)

A musical interlude

What Is Karma and Why Should it Matter to Us?

In Buddhist psychology, karma is the key to forming our character.

Karma has become a controversial subject. Because I’ve written a book on chronic pain and illness, I hear from a lot of people who want to know why they’re struggling with their health when others are not. Many of them think their poor health is karmic retribution for some past bad action, and that they’ve become sick because they have to work off this “bad karma.” They see karma as a kind of external justice system where they’re doomed to suffer based on some bad act they can’t even remember.

With sincere respect for other people’s views, I don’t believe this is consistent with what the Buddha taught. Plain and simple, in Buddhist psychology, karma is about the nature of our intentions—our intentions at this very moment. The literal translation of karma from Sanskrit is “action,” but the Buddha often said that karma means “intention”:

Intention, I tell you, is karma. Intending, one does karma by way of body, speech, and intellect. (AN 6.63)

To understand what the Buddha meant, think of our actions as having two components: (1) our “bare behavior” and (2) our intention behind that behavior. (The word “action” would include physical action, speech, and thoughts—the equivalent of “body, speech, and intellect” in the above quotation from the Buddha.) What matters to forming our character is not the “bare behavior” that makes up our action but our intention in engaging in that action. And, as the Buddha said: intention is karma.

Consider the physical action of wielding a knife. The bare behavior = wielding a knife. But the intention behind that action could be to perform life-saving surgery or it could be to stab someone in anger or to steal from him. The Buddha identified six intentions that drive our actions:

  • good-will (or kindness)
  • compassion
  • generosity
  • ill-will (or anger)
  • cruelty
  • greed

Notice how the first three intentions mirror the last three: good-will/ill-will; compassion/cruelty; generosity/greed.

Actions that are based on the first three intentions are non-harmful to ourselves and others and result in relieving suffering. The intention of the surgeon who wields a knife in order to save a life is one of good-will, and perhaps even compassion and generosity.

In contrast, actions that are based on the last three intentions are harmful. The intention of the person who wields a knife in anger or in order to steal from another is one of ill-will or greed and intensifies suffering in this world.

The same analysis that applies to the physical act of wielding a knife applies to speech. If a man yells at someone, “Don’t move!” that’s his “bare behavior.” But his intention could be based on good-will (trying to stop the person from stepping in front of a moving car) or it could be based on ill-will (the words “don’t move” being spoken with a gun pressed against the other person’s back).

The same analysis applies to thoughts. If we’re thinking about the homeless, that’s the bare content of our thoughts. But our intention behind that thought could be compassionate (hoping they find a place to stay warm in the winter) or it could be cruel (hoping they get frostbite in the cold).

Planting behavioral seeds that form our character

Karma is crucial to our development as wise, caring, and loving human beings because, if we act out of a non-harmful intention, we predispose ourselves to act that way again. In other words, we plant a behavioral seed. We begin to form a habit. Conversely, if we act out of a harmful intention, we predispose ourselves to act that way again, making it more likely that the next time our behavior will be harmful.

Here’s what the Buddha said on this subject:

Whatever a person frequently thinks and ponders upon, that becomes the inclination of his mind…If a person’s thinking is frequently imbued with ill-will… his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with ill-will… (MN19)

The key word in that quotation is “inclination.” Each time our intention is one of ill-will, our inclination to respond with ill-will is strengthened. In other words, we’re more likely to act out of ill-will in the future. Conversely, each time our intention is to be kind, our inclination to respond with kindness is strengthened. We’re, in effect, learning how to be kind and so we’re more likely to be kind in the future. The same analysis applies to the other four intentions.

And so, by responding with kindness, compassion, and generosity, we are turning ourselves into a person who is kind, compassionate, and generous. We are forming our character. This, in turn, has a positive effect on the world around us. (And of course, the converse is true, should we respond to the world with ill-will, cruelty, and greed.)

The key to learning to incline ourselves toward non-harmful intentions is to reflect on whether our proposed speech or action will intensify suffering for ourselves and others or will ease it. Practicing mindfulness helps because it makes us more aware of our reactive tendencies. Then, instead of acting impulsively out of habit, we’re better able to examine our intentions before we act.

The implications of this can be life-changing. It means that we have the ability to change ourselves no matter how ingrained our habits are. As the Buddha said, “Intending, one does karma…” Thus, with the intention not to harm, we “do” karma, meaning that the person we become is kind, compassionate, and generous.

Karma is a profound teaching, one worthy of our careful attention.

Postscript: Speaking personally, I believe I’m sick because I’m in a body and bodies get sick and injured and old. That’s the essence of the Buddha’s first noble truth.

© 2012 Toni Bernhard

I’m the author of How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers, winner of the 2011 Gold Nautilus Book Award in Self-Help/Psychology and named one of the best books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice.

I can be found online at www.howtobesick.com

Homeless Boy Steals The Talent Show