The New York Times generated some controversy this week by publishing an article on the previous remarks of a Yale economics professor named Yusuke Narita. Narita has become infamous in his native Japan for suggesting that the best way for the island nation to avoid its looming demographic crisis is to have its older citizens commit mass ritual suicide. The suggestion that a few generations of Japanese natives should commit the grisly samurai disembowelment ritual of seppuku caused an understandable outrage across the country.
Despite the horrific implications, the New York Times is happy to promote this language because it allows the paper to focus on a topic that is a favorite target for liberal outlets: the serious demographic issue that Japan is facing. Young people in Japan are simply not marrying or even having children. The birth rate was 1.34 births per woman in 2020, well below the necessary replacement rate, and has been trending steadily downward.
While the plummeting birth rates in Japan are having a serious impact on its society, the problems are not unique to that country. Most modern affluent countries are watching their birth rates decline steadily, but Japan has been somewhat unique in its opposition to Western solutions.
America and many European nations have attempted to use immigration as a way to bolster their aging populations in hopes of keeping their pension and welfare programs from collapsing. Japan is often selected as a target for liberal publications because it has rejected mass immigration in favor of preserving its culture and way of life. Despite progressive efforts to shame the country into open borders, there seems to be little interest among the citizens who actually live there.
Most modern welfare states were built on the model of continuous growth, the promise that there would always be a larger and younger generation to pay for the benefits of their elders. Cratering birth rates are causing a serious problem with that math equation, and Japan has rejected the idea of transforming its population through immigration in order to make up for the demographic shortfall.
This leads some to suggest that the only way the country can make the math work is the removal of the elderly, a group that social engineers see as nothing but a financial liability for the state.
Canada is now becoming famous for its very aggressive policy of offering “assisted dying” to members of its population that it deems undesirable. The country has killed thousands of its own citizens and has pushed aggressively to expand the program at every opportunity. Canada is now offering euthanasia to the mentally ill and to poor people who are too ashamed to go on living because they are unable to pay rent or feed themselves.
The notoriously polite country is even pushing euthanasia on retired veterans for whom it can no longer bother to provide care. Veteran Christine Gauthier told Canada’s House of Commons that she was offered euthanasia when she complained to a government employee that she was not receiving the care she requested.
In one passage on a Canadian health care site, government officials lament their inability to properly explain to indigenous people why their elders should embrace euthanasia. Apparently, the government faces a linguistic hurdle, as some of the indigenous dialects lack the proper vocabulary to explain that the state must murder the elderly to stay fiscally solvent.
Canada is a country where people read land acknowledgments at the opening of every public event to show that they honor the indigenous people who once owned the land on which the meeting is taking place, but Canada also does a lot of complaining about how it cannot properly articulate to the same indigenous people why the state needs to wipe out a generation of their elders.
Obviously, Japan and Canada are two very different cultures, but for some reason the modern solutions are always the same. Either open your borders to unrestricted mass migration or start wiping out your elderly and others who are deemed a burden to the state. Even this choice seems like a false dichotomy, as social engineers eventually end up demanding both. Mass migration can act as a temporary patch with all kinds of serous side effects, but after a generation or two of living in their new country, most descendants of immigrants see a similar drop in their own birth rates.
This means that the modern welfare state will inevitably return to euthanasia as a solution for its demographic problems. Democrats and the media mocked Sarah Palin for her suggestion that death panels would be the inevitable destination of government health care, but just over a decade later, this seems to be the only solution that progressives can come up with.
In a similar vein of modern dehumanization, just a few weeks ago a Norwegian professor, Anna Smajdor, made waves by suggesting that brain-dead women could be used as surrogates for couples who could not biologically have children in a journal of theoretical and medical bioethics. As a general rule, anyone who describes herself as an “ethicist” is a sociopath whose opinion should be immediately discarded.
Obviously, this suggestion is horrific and deeply dehumanizing. It conjures dystopian science fiction imagery like "The Matrix," the movie in which humans are artificially grown and harvested by uncaring robots, or the later novels in the "Dune" series, where grotesque aliens use the heavily drugged females of their species to artificially grow other living beings.
While it is easy to dismiss these two academics as radial outliers, one should remember that both stand in prestigious positions of influence, holding important professorships where they are published in influential academic journals. When we see how some of these ideas are already being implemented in countries like Canada, it is difficult to pretend that these are just wild theories that will never manifest themselves in the real world.
This is far from the first time in history that human life has been treated as cheap. There have been many times when the government of a nation was willing to sacrifice large numbers of its own people to achieve a goal. The reason that these more recent examples are so shocking is that they exist in the context of a modern promise of infinite progress, and they threaten to ruin that narrative. These cold and dehumanizing schemes stand as the final acknowledgement that massive modern state leviathans cannot continue to innovate their way out of the problems their civilizations face.
Modern civilizations abandoned the divine and mysterious with the promise that reason, quantification, and efficiency would bring an earthly utopia, but now the ugly truth is coming into full view. The loss of an animating metaphysical spirit has robbed modern people of that which drove their ancestors to greatness.
The loss of meaning and identity that accompanies the massification and homogenization demanded by modern bureaucratic leviathans causes societies to decay, not advance. The miracle of efficiency that massive modern organizations promised paid an impressive dividend for a time, but few people understood the true cost of this process or that it would have a brutal and abrupt end.
Now that these modern monoliths of capital and state have reached the limit of their carrying capacity, dehumanization becomes the only way to keep their ships afloat. Critical roles like motherhood lose any aspect of the sacred, and women simply become walking wombs for commodified birthing. They are treated as useful widgets that will furnish groups favored by the regime with the chance to purchase the simulacrum of a family.
A group like the elderly lose their status as a wise council honored for their prior sacrifices on behalf of the civilization. Instead, they are treated as a burden to be jettisoned so the state can balance its ledger for one more cycle, staving off the inevitable decay for just a little longer. The modern state will destroy a little bit of what it means to be human with every turn of the wheel, all in the name of an abstract “humanity."This is why the faceless, soulless forces of modern bureaucracy must lose in the end. They are doomed because they have no ability to turn to the good, the beautiful, and the true. The bureaucratic state only has the ability to crush the final ounce of efficiency out of a civilization that once pursued greatness. The nations that successfully emerge from the other side of this will be the ones that were able to turn their backs on the promise of slow, comfortable decay to look toward something that was truly human.