Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Everywhere == Nowhere

     I got an ironic though dour chuckle out of this article about “sexless Japan:”

     Japan is well known for many things, and its obsession with sex is one of them. It has one of the most robust pornographic and adult-toy industries in the world and airs TV commercials for items as banal as candy that feature sexually suggestive themes.

     It even has an annual fertility festival that parades two nearly two metre tall penis sculptures down a busy street on a Sunday afternoon.

     And yet nearly half of singles in Japan have no interest in dating - a situation that many experts predict will help lead to a population decline of one-third in the next 45 years.

     According to a survey of never-married people by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 27.6 per cent of single men and 22.6 per cent of single women have no interest in engaging in a relationship with the opposite sex. Researchers cite those statistics to argue that a significant portion of Japanese simply has no interest in sex. They might even have an aversion to it....

     That augurs poorly for Japan's birthrate, computed as the number of children the average Japanese woman is expected to have in her lifetime. At 1.4, it's one of the lowest in the world. In 1985, it was 1.8, the same as the United States' rate then; now the U.S. rate has inched up to 1.9.

     The population decline is no longer considered a passing trend, but rather a looming catastrophe that threatens the future of the nation.

     Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it a key policy goal to tackle the birthrate problem and prevent the nation from slipping further socially and economically. But there's no clear answer for how he'll accomplish this. He recently set up a special committee to come up with proposals. But the impact of those proposals, likely to include items like more child care for working mothers and tax breaks for couples with children, remains unknown.

     [Via Maetenloch @ AoSHQ.]

     I wish you the best of luck, Prime Minister, but I doubt you’ll have any. People aren’t easily convinced to breed, with all the consequent burdens, costs, and responsibilities, for the sake of a future they don’t expect to reach, and anyway, fish don’t think much about water. But really, this is an illustration of a common effect, noticed in Scandinavia some time ago:

That which is everywhere is banal.

     It’s impossible to maintain one’s interest in something that omnipresently beats one over the head, screaming “Look at me!” from every vertical plane. The mind learns to tune it out for reasons of sheer survival, especially in a crowded, hypercompetitive environment. That this is possible even with the sex drive and the associated reproductive imperative is only slightly more surprising than the well-known indifference of candy-factory workers to candy.

     Another factor might be equally responsible: the “hedonic treadmill.” The Japanese are even more toy-crazy than Americans. Their culture is drowned in all sorts of gadgets, all relatively affordable, each of which occupies some space in a young Japanese’s mind and time. One cannot simultaneously multiply the available diversions and pleasures accessible to him and expect that he will continue to give each of them his previous amount of attention and engagement. Apparently this is as true of sex as of any other “diversion.”

     The whole phenomenon becomes even more ironic in light of developments such as this one:

     Japanese scientists claim to have developed a sex doll that is amazingly lifelike. Advertisements for the dolls in Japan say anybody who buys one will never want a real girlfriend again.

     That's probably an exaggeration, but the thing is, just as robot workers are getting better while human workers stay the same, so robot women are getting better all the time, too. And smarter: Siri's inventors are working on a new artificial intelligence program called Viv that will do "anything you ask." Put that together with the fancy sex dolls, and you've got a true fembot.

     We've already been warned about what comes next by Matt Groening's Futurama series, in which an episode warned of humanity's extinction as illustrated by a boy who was more interested in making out with his "Marilyn Monroebot" than in school, work or dating. The moral was don't date robots, lest society lose its reason for existence: "All civilization was just an effort to impress the opposite sex. And sometimes the same sex." And, of course, sex with robots doesn't produce children, eventually causing the entire species to die out.

     Of course, there’s no need to impress a robot. All that messy human interaction, the exploration of tastes, values, and other potential obstacles to compatibility are washed away. Could the crowding characteristic of Japan’s megalopolises, where the great majority of young Japanese live and work, have something to do with this? It strikes me as likely: a “Lenz’s Law” effect as applied to the supposedly innate desire for human interaction and companionship.

     I first noted and commented on that story two years ago. Again, the relationship could hardly be more obvious – and as observed above, sex robots cannot birth human babies.

     (To the above, the C.S.O. adds two observations of her own:

  • Japan’s longstanding cultural hyperpatriarchalism, which young Japanese women, exposed to Western influences and thinking to a far greater degree than their mothers and grandmothers, may have begun to reject;
  • The pedophilic orientation of the sexually-themed material that surrounds Japanese men.

     These might also be contributors, though we would need to explain why indifference / aversion to sex is more prevalent among young Japanese men than it is among women. That having been said, those influences are unlikely to augment or buttress an interest in sex between adults, at the very least.)

     Mark Steyn was appropriately ominous about the plummeting birthrates in First World countries in his book America Alone. When that tome reached the reading public, the U.S. birthrate hovered at 2.07 live births per couple – a fingernail grip on the Zero-Growth population-replacement rate. According to the cited article, it’s slipped to 1.9, which implies that were it not for immigration – legal and illegal – our population would be declining, albeit not as swiftly as Japan’s appears to be.

     Americans are relatively friendly toward immigrants, perhaps even excessively so. Japan is not. Indeed, it’s quite a feat for one not born there to win permanent-resident status in Japan. The nation’s traditional insistence upon ethnic and cultural uniformity does protect them from many of the problems nations with liberal immigration policies experience...but as matters stand, in a few more years, there won’t be any Japanese around to, ah, enjoy the benefits.

     Apropos of the first cited article, isn’t Japan where the whole “genderless” fad began? Weren’t Japanese youth the first to dress, speak, and behave in a fashion deliberately aimed at concealing their sex? The relationship between the phenomena could hardly be more obvious. Pray that that fad doesn’t take hold here in the West.

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