Relentless Trends – 4 (some more brief thoughts)

What would the observer of demographic trends I cited in a previous post have to say about this? In spite of Gunnar Heinsohn’s statement that the birth rate in North Africa has decreased dramatically, UN Population Fund statistics cited in Jeune Afrique this week (the paper edition) say that in the Maghreb about one-third of the people are under 18. Median age of the population: between 26 and 29. So: what do they do?

They leave. They say “there is nothing for us here”. (I remember reading a report about young men hanging around the streets of Algiers, capital of Algeria, whose catch-all phrase was: “Rien à signaler”. Nothing to see. And worse: nothing to do.)

They revolt in Algeria – again.

AND! They throw out a deeply corrupt and deeply unpopular government in Tunisia. One can always hope they get something better.

These events seem to confirm the idea that demographics tell an important part of the story – but not all of it. But yes, demographics play a role and these events in the Maghreb do not take anything away from the main premise, which is this: a society with a surplus of idle young men is a society heading for trouble.

The folks who run these societies have the same options their European colleagues had between the 16th and 19th century. Create work for them. Get rid of them (which basically means: send them abroad or send them to war – and here is one late but particularly egregious example from Europe. Or prepare to be hung drawn and quartered…

One thing is certain: studiously ignoring them is most decidedly not an option. That is very much a post-war Western response, witness for instance the total absence of this demographic from the groups “targeted” by the aid industry (and I will have more to say about that in a future post…). Nor is sticking one’s head in the sand, which this regime appears to be doing

Is history really that repetitive? Seems so. Or as Vonnegut wrote in his epic “Slaughterhouse Five”: so it goes.

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