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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Are Europeans really so scared of the future?

This article is about a woman who immigrates to the US from eastern Germany, and who grew up under Communism. It's a basically nice human-interest sort of story, but one quote in the story is quite revealing about the mindset of Europeans who don't have kids:

On the topic of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and her inability to find work as a kindergarten teacher: "The whole society had changed. We turned from socialism to capitalism, and people didn't know what was going to happen in the future, so they stopped having babies."

This is rather profound. Under communism, they "knew what was going to happen in the future"? I guess there's some truth to the notion that in cradle-to-grave socialism, one has a fair degree of "knowledge" about what will and won't happen. In a more dynamic system, there's more uncertainty, but life is uncertain! And the really sad thing is that the assumption is because they didn't "know" what's going to happen in the future, that unknown future must be bad, or at least bad enough to not want to raise kids.

I've always had a sort of wierdly cynical optimism. I'm never sure what the future will bring, but it's always been better than I imagined, although the path to get there is always messy. We didn't nuke the world, which was the big fear when I was kid, and pretty much every gloom and doom prediction about the future has either proved false or been averted.

Message to Europe: buck up! The future will only be bad if you let it be...

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