Birth rates, immigration and culture
A chara, – As a Europhile and a career-oriented woman, I am delighted that Professor William Reville (“Why is Europe losing the will to breed?”, January 19th) has raised the issues that face me in making my reproductive choices. He is right that we have not yet worked out how to support women in the workplace while facilitating family life, and that we have failed to commit the necessary political and economic resources to resolving this problem.
I am dismayed, however, that he chooses to wrap this important issue in fearmongering of cultural loss and immigration, echoing the scientific racism of Europe’s darker past. I know that I am not alone when I question who he means by “indigenous Europeans” given the genetic diversity of Europe over the last centuries. His nostalgic view of Europe denies the cultural assemblage and appropriation that have constituted European development, and his dismissal of the contributions of immigrants to Europe over many centuries denies the cultural, political, economic and social developments in other continents from which Europe has gained much. This multiculturalism has been part of the success of the European project, and continues to regenerate and reproduce European cultures.
In calling for an end to multiculturalism, political correctness, and attacks on “our values”, Prof Reville speaks to a notion of Europe that is monoracial and monocultural, to an imagined Europe that has not had to face the horrors of political regimes that have effaced the rights of their citizens, sought genetic purity, committed cultural genocide on European minorities over centuries, and a Europe that would never have had seen the need to instil human rights protections to make us more aware of the value of diversity, and more united in our determination to value the contributions of all of our citizens regardless of identity. That Europe does not exist, so he need not fear that it is dying.
Europeans, of all ethnic, racialised and national backgrounds, are reproducing less because of the influence of higher education levels (including student debt), later marriage, two-income economies, precarious employment and poor childcare support across the continent.
Migrants to Europe, both by cultural assimilation and structural constraint, experience the same pressures.
We will be much better served by attending to these issues, considering the fullest contribution of women to the economy and society in our work as well as our reproductive capacity, than by fearmongering about immigration and cultural loss. – Is mise,
Dr LUCY MICHAEL,
School of Sociology
and Applied Social Studies,
Sir, – It was with great disappointment that I read William Reville’s piece. The author argues that we need to stem the tide of immigration and encourage “native” European women to have more children or face the “dilution” of European cultures and expect “troublesome upheaval” and “predictable negative consequences”. Prof Reville compares this apparent threat against European populations to the endangering of “a well-known animal species such as lions”.
Just so we’re clear, Europeans are not a species; neither are Africans. The premise that a culture can be either “native” or pure is historically blind and can only serve to stoke the kind of intolerance that has become all too familiar.
A xenophobic view couched in statistical data is still a xenophobic view. It seems that the kind of pseudo-scientific thinking that has beset political debates in the US and the UK has infiltrated even our most level-headed media outlets. – Yours, etc,