In Greek mythology, Europa was a princess whom Zeus abducted in the form of a bull, and their union produced three sons. Pagan legends are replete with such stories of the violent visitation of the divine: they believed that the gods not only blessed their people with offspring, but would sometimes impose such blessings.
The Continent which lays claim to such legends as its cultural inheritance has been the main impact point of both World Wars and all their famous horrors. But a third disaster befell Europe in the 20th-century, one which is not recorded in the history books, the effects of which are only emerging now. Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” was, indeed, detonated in Europe, but it was not the one he predicted. Instead of a fecund explosion, there was a population implosion; Europe’s birthrate has experienced a complete, contraceptive collapse, which is rivaled only by the barbaric, imposed, atrocity of Red China’s one-child policy. The lights of Europe have gone out again, but muddy trenches and muddled treaties cannot be blamed. The endlessly rocking cradle imagined in Whitman’s America has, on the Continent, been stilled, and no child now wanders the sterile sands and the fields beyond.
It is heartening – indeed, it is inspiring and consoling – to see the pro-life movement in Europe on the rise. Recent pro-life marches in Madrid and Paris have attracted record numbers of participants, and public opposition to the horrific practice of prenatal infanticide has been reiterated by prominent political figures in these countries.
Europe surely needs more pro-life leadership, and more pro-life leaders. But what Europe needs most is more Europeans. And, while pro-life policies are obviously the necessary prelude to higher birthrates, two questions cover the Continent like a shadow: Are these measures too little? Do they come too late?
Even in the ancient myth, Europa was not childless. To escape the demographic destiny which it has created for itself, Europe must overcome its selfish obsession with short term goals and consider, instead, what it will leave behind: will it be “a botched civilization” of “broken statues” and battered books,” as Pound predicted after the First World War, or a vibrant culture which embodies its patrimony in its children? If Europe would rise again, it must recognize that the wellspring of all culture is the womb.