Four ladies and the fu­ture of the planet

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MARK STEYN

Have you seen a movie called Four Jills In A Jeep? Don’t worry, it’s not at the mul­ti­plex. It came out in 1944. A wartime movie, about the con­tri­bu­tion of the gals to the big ex­is­ten­tial strug­gle. Great ti­tle, and down­hill af­ter that. This col­umn is, metaphor­i­cally speak­ing, four Jills in a jeep: It’s about a quar­tet of ladies who pro­vide use­ful glimpses of where we’re head­ing.

The first is Fa­tima Omar Mah­mud al-Na­jar, a 57-year old grand­mother who had a live­lier Thanks­giv­ing than most gran­mas. She marked the oc­ca­sion by self-det­o­nat­ing in the town of Ja­baliya, and, though all she had to show for splat­ter­ing her body parts over the neigh­bor­hood were three “lightly wounded” Is­raeli sol­diers, she will have an hon­ored place in the pan­theon of Pales­tinian he­roes: She was, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial statis­ti­cian from the Ha­mas Book Of Records, the old­est Pales­tinian sui­cide bomber ever. And, nat­u­rally, her fam­ily’s pleased as punch.

“We are re­ally happy,” her son Zuheir told Agence France-Presse. “She told us last night that she would do a sui­cide op­er­a­tion. She pre­pared her clothes for that op­er­a­tion and we are proud. ‘I don’t want any­thing, only to die a mar­tyr.’ That’s what she said.”

Awww, bless the sweet l’il ol’ biddy. She wouldn’t have wanted to die a long lin­ger­ing death in some old folks’ home. This is the way she wanted to go: quick and pain­less, ex­cept for any Zion­ists in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity.

Fa­tima Omar Mah­mud al-Na­jar gave birth to her first child at age 12. She had eight oth­ers. She had 41 grand­chil­dren. Keep that fam­ily tree in mind. By con­trast, in Spain, a 57-year-old wo­man will have maybe one grand­child. That’s four grand­par­ents, one grand­child: a fam­ily tree with no branches.

That brings me to our sec­ond Jill: the new pre­sid­ing bishop of the Protes­tant Epis­co­pal Church, Katharine Jef­ferts Schori, the first wo­man to run a na­tional di­vi­sion of the Angli­can Com­mu­nion. Bishop Kate gave an in­ter­view to the New York Times re­veal­ing what passes for or­tho­doxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a sim­ple enough ques­tion: “How many mem­bers of the Epis­co­pal Church are there?”

“About 2.2 mil­lion,” replied the pre­sid­ing bishop. “It used to be larger per­cent­age­wise, but Epis­co­palians tend to be bet­ter ed­u­cated and tend to re­pro­duce at lower rates than other de­nom­i­na­tions.”

This was a bit of a jaw-drop­per even for a New York Times hack­ette, so, with vague mem­o­ries of God say­ing some­thing about go­ing forth and mul­ti­ply­ing float­ing around the back of her head, a be­wil­dered Deb­o­rah Solomon asked: “Epis­co­palians aren’t in­ter­ested in re­plen­ish­ing their ranks by hav­ing chil­dren?”

“No,” agreed Bishop Kate. “It’s prob­a­bly the op­po­site. We en­cour­age peo­ple to pay at­ten­tion to the stew­ard­ship of the Earth and not use more than their por­tion.”

Now that may or may not be a great idea but it’s noth­ing to do with Chris­tian­ity, only for eco-cultists like Al Gore. If Bishop Kate were an Episco­go­rian, a mem­ber of the Al­gli­can Com­mu­nion, an elder of the Church of Lat­ter-Day Chads, this would be an un­re­mark­able state­ment. But, even in their vig­or­ous em­brace of ho­mo­sex­ual bishops and all the rest, I don’t re­call the Epis­co­palians for­mally em­brac­ing the strat­egy that worked out so swell for the Shakers and en­shrin­ing dis­ap­proval of re­pro­duc­tion at the heart of their doc­trine.

That brings me to our third Jill in the jeep: Scar­lett Jo­hann­son. Like ev­ery other sad mid­dle-aged loser guy, I fell in love with Scar­lett’s fetch­ingly pert bot­tom in the open­ing of “Lost In Trans­la­tion,” and it pains me to dis­cover she’s no dif­fer­ent from Bishop Kate’s gen­er­a­tion when it comes to be­ing in thrall to the cob­webbed pieties of the 1960s. In a bit of light Bush­bash­ing the other day, she at­tacked the pres­i­dent for his op­po­si­tion to “sex ed­u­ca­tion.” If he had his way, she said, “ev­ery wo­man would have six chil­dren and we wouldn’t be able to have abor­tions”. Whereas Scar­lett is so “so­cially aware” (as she puts it) she gets tested for HIV twice a year.

Well, yes. If “sex ed­u­ca­tion” is about know­ing which con­crete con­dom is less likely to dis­in­te­grate dur­ing the live­lier forms of pen­e­tra­tive in­ter­course, then get­ting an AIDS test ev­ery few months may well be a sign you’re a Ph.D. (Doc­tor of Phe­nom­e­nal horni­ness). But, if “sex ed­u­ca­tion” means an un­der­stand­ing of sex­u­al­ity as any­thing other than an act of tran­sient self­ex­pres­sion, then Scar­lett is talk­ing through that fa­mously cute butt.

Here’s the ques­tion for Bishop Kate: if Fa­tima Omar has 41 grand­chil­dren and a re­spon­si­ble “bet­ter ed­u­cated” Epis­co­palian has one or two, into whose hands are we de­liv­er­ing “the stew­ard­ship of the Earth”? If your crowd isn’t around in any num­bers, how much in­flu­ence can they have in shap­ing the fu­ture?

Well, the Epis­co­pal head hon­cho and even Scar­lett Jo­hann­son are not the most pow­er­ful fig­ures in the world, so let’s usher on our fourth Jill: Con­doleezza Rice. “The great ma­jor­ity of Pales­tinian peo­ple,” said the sec­re­tary of state to colum­nist Cal Thomas the other day, “they just want a bet­ter life. This is an ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion. I mean, they have a kind of cul­ture of ed­u­ca­tion and a cul­ture of civil so­ci­ety. I just don’t be­lieve moth­ers want their chil­dren to grow up to be sui­cide bombers. I think the moth­ers want their chil­dren to grow up to go to univer­sity. And if you can cre­ate the right con­di­tions, that’s what peo­ple are go­ing to do.” Cal Thomas asked a sharp fol­low-up: “Do you think this or do you know this?”

“Well, I think I know it,” said Miss Rice. “You think you know it?” “I think I know it.” So many of our present woes are due to think­ing we know things. To our four Jills in the jeep, let’s add one Jim, ap­par­ently back at the steer­ing wheel in the cur­rent war: James Baker, renowned for­eign­pol­icy “re­al­ist” and the man Belt­way wags cur­rently re­fer to as “the act­ing sec­re­tary of state.”

The “real­ists” think “con­tain­ment” and “sta­bil­ity” are wise strate­gies. In fact, they’re the ab­sence of strat­egy. The fer­til­ity rate in the Gaza Strip is one of the high­est on Earth. If you mea­sure the births of the Mus­lim world against the dearth of Bishop Kate’s Epis­co­palians, you have the per­fect snap­shot of why there is no “sta­bil­ity”: with ev­ery pass­ing month, there are more Mus­lims and fewer Epis­co­palians, and the Mus­lims ex­port their man­power to Europe and other de­pop­u­lat­ing out­posts of the West. It’s the in­ter­sec­tion of de­mog­ra­phy and Is­lamism that makes time a lux­ury we can’t af­ford.

We can ar­gue about ex­actly what this trend means, but not that it means noth­ing. At the very min­i­mum, I would sug­gest, it means the Epis­co­pal Church is ir­rel­e­vant to “the stew­ard­ship of the Earth” and that Scar­lett Jo­hans­son will end her days on an Earth whose stew­ards re­gard be­ing tested for HIV twice as a sign of many things, but not, on the whole, “so­cial aware­ness.”

Mark Steyn is the se­nior con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor for Hollinger Inc. Publi­ca­tions, se­nior North Amer­i­can colum­nist for Bri­tain’s Tele­graph Group, North Amer­i­can ed­i­tor for the Spec­ta­tor, and a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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