I have been asked to comment on Phillip Longman's idea that social conservatives are going to gain ascendance because liberals are not having enough babies. Unfortunately, Longman's article, "The Return of Patriarchy," in Foreign Policy magazine does not seem to be readily available on line, but you can get the gist of his basic thesis here. He is saying that folks like me who subscribe to Enlightenment ideas are going to become vastly outnumbered by the children of families with patriarchal and other traditionalist values-- because these families breed at a much higher rate than families like mine.
Longman's thesis has caused widespread gloating among the most conservative segments of the blogosphere. And I'll admit that after first learning of Longman's idea, I have tossed and turned through more than a few nightmares involving The Handmaid's Tale.
So does this mean I had better get cracking and start reproducing? Well, I think taking on the obligation to pop out as many children as possible just to keep up with the natalist crowd would defeat the very feminist values for which I stand. It woud be essentially giving in to defeat.
The fact of the matter is:
-- There are a lot of factors and variables and unknowns that could affect the development of cultural values over time, as others have argued.
-- Even if the patriarchs take over due to sheer Darwinian strength, that doesn't mean their values are right or good. Might does not make right.
-- I have studied enough history to accept that humanity is liable to suffer through cycles of enlightenment and regression. It is not impossible that we may be in for another Dark Ages in the coming centuries. While this is a terrible thought, I hold out hope that humanity will eventually come to its senses, and that eventually, even should the worst occur, we will again get back on the track of progress towards an ideal of equality and fairness for all. If there is a Dark Ages, perhaps one day there will also be a Renaissance in which feminist, humanist, and Enlightenment ideas are re-discovered. (I have a fanciful, and really utterly ridiculous, idea that perhaps our humble little feminist blogs might live on somehow to inspire future generations of restricted girls with the idea of what could be.) The ideas are out there in the world, and that's the important thing.
-- Even in the worst eras of history, there have almost always been pockets of people somewhere in the world straining towards enlightenment. My father, perhaps inspired by the history of his Jewish forbears, always says, "Don't assume a good thing is forever. Keep a Swiss bank account and get ready to bail for a more enlightened place if the freedoms we cherish ever go kaplooie."