#15: Breeding Our Way Out
Genghis Khan has 16 million direct descendants: supposedly 8% of the population of the territory he conquered, in a long band from Outer Manchuria to Iran. But his legacy is homeopathic: the Uzbeks looks like Uzbeks, the Kazakhs look Kazakh, and they sell kebab or mine fluorspar or build Daewoos, presumably as they would whether they carried the Khan’s C*(xC3c) Y-chromosomal haplogroup or not.
This process began very quickly: it didn’t take long after his grandson Kublai for his successors to start drawing adjectives like “competent” & “short-lived”. Which is not surprising: no matter how much sex Temujin had, no matter how numerous his great-great-grandchildren were, each one could only receive (at most) 1/16th of whatever magic he carried in his blood. They quickly reverted to the mean.
Of course, if the Khan got every woman in your village pregnant, there would be some cousin-marriages which would slow the process, but it doesn’t matter much. The long-run equilibrium is what you’d expect: millions and millions of people, with a biological connection to Temujin that is detectable only in a laboratory, behaving pretty much like everyone else.
Bennett's Phylactery is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
You can view this as the best case scenario for the “breeding our way out” strategy.
Temujin couldn’t possibly have cared about most of his children, let alone his descendants, except in the vaguest abstraction. Still, he won the male reproductive game about as hard as anyone possibly could — and today it’s his deeds, far more than his genes, that meaningfully survive. Temujin’s presence in the genetic history of the steppe is much more noticeable in the lines he cut than the ones he created.
If you care about the type of descendants you produce, their phenotype will have more to do with your choice of mate — and much more to do with the culture of mate selection that you transmit — than your individual genetic contribution. As parents teach their children what is praiseworthy in a man, or desirable in a woman, and those children search their mates for those characteristics, their ideals are gradually written in their own flesh.
The process compounds and mutates unpredictably as your in-laws bring their own values, which they teach and demonstrate. If you have some hope that your ideal will be carried with fidelity beyond your death, we can say that you share a Culture, or that you are meaningfully a People — and if not, we can’t.
The process can’t rely solely on the force of your personality or persuasion. Temujin appears to have taken significant care in the selection and education of his acknowledged heirs, and for several generations they married well and replicated his own practice: maintaining a single legitimate family with one wife, grooming her sons to inherit the empire, with a handful of secondary wives and concubines being semi-officially recognized and supported, and the children of all other couplings being essentially ignored.
Kublai Khan was the fourth son of a fourth son, hand-chosen from among the Khan’s acknowledged heirs, and his talent was anomalous. His personal influence likely extended the life of the Empire by a century or more — but he did it by becoming Chinese. His descendants loved what the Chinese loved, and married accordingly, and his Yuan Dynasty quickly became as effeminate and bureaucratized as the Song Dynasty it had replaced.
But the Khans’ Sinicized descendants did at least manage to raise children of their own. The culture they adopted, for all its faults, had the will to survive. Our children are up against something worse.
Polite conservative pundits call it “liquid modernity”; Twitter calls it “globohomo”.
Islamists and third-worldists might call it “Western culture” — and indeed it seems to involve hoodies and denim, Coca-Cola, Hollywood movies, English-language message boards — in the same sense that a cancer that begins in the lungs will have characteristics of lung tissue even as it overruns the lymphatic system and coils around the spine. Henrietta Lacks’ lab-cultured cancer cells are unmistakably “hers”, but she has not become an immortal omnipresence — what grows in all those genetic research labs is the thing that killed her.
Our cancer makes us intensely anxious, depressed, and lonely. It makes us simultaneously morally incontinent in our personal lives, and morally hysterical in public life. Its consequences are so far-reaching and mutually reinforcing that they’re hard to quantify, but the most important consequence is straightforward: it drastically reduces human fertility.
Every inhabitant of a Western or “Westernized” country is affected, across class and racial categories; but the most dramatic predictor of infertility in the West appears to be contact with the university system, which is probably just a rough proxy for one’s personal embrace of this memeplex.
The way it cashes out is more complicated than this, but the current generation of college-educated, native-born American women have an expected lifetime fertility of between 1 and 1.3 children per woman. That means that, excluding immigration, their childrens’ cohort will be roughly half the size of their own — with twice as many elderly dependents.
Globohomo’s own solution to this problem is mass immigration — but even if you regard our populations as interchangeable, the children of those immigrants adopt Western sterility norms almost immediately. Most of the source populations have now fallen below replacement fertility even in their own countries. Africa still has positive growth, but they’re just twenty years behind Latin America on a precipitous downward trajectory. There is no reason to believe that non-Western societies have any special resistance to these memes; they are just late to the party.
It’s difficult to find a historical comparison for the sheer destruction of human genetic lines that will unfold over the next century.
The Black Death killed one-third of Europe, but by the time this memetic contagion has run its course, we’ll be lucky if a third of the population is left standing. Depending what you believe about the pre-contact population of the Americas, the initial ravages of European disease in the 1500s probably comes close — but both of those mass death events left the healthy, young, and strong to exploit the abandoned resources of the dead with a minimal dependent population.
The children left over from this disease won’t inherit an empty frontier — instead, they’ll be sandwiched between a much larger and more dependent lumpenproletariat, a truly colossal burden of wealthy, elderly, childless people, and the corporate egregores that stand to swallow up all that dual-income wealth as the childless pour it into heroic end-of-life care and/or die with no human beneficiaries.
Tax debates in our lifetime have mostly been about the moral rectitude of redistribution — what’s “fair” or what people “deserve” — but for our grandchildren, it will be a question of who lives and who dies. The young will not be able to support their own families alongside dozens of unrelated dependents, even as far as the basics of food and shelter.
Paradoxically, this will unfold in a world with abundant land and capital lying unused, because there will be so few competent, able bodies to operate it. Survival will be a straightforward matter of saying “no” to all of these demands — building for your own people, and protecting what you build.
But all of this assumes that we have grandchildren in the first place.
The problem goes well beyond “finding the right woman”, or even building a wilderness redoubt and trying to keep your kids from learning how to use the internet. The cultures that have so far survived contact with globohomo through isolation are already collapsing.
Famously conservative and cohesive Utah has experienced a flood of Bay Area tech money, and is now going through the 1960s for the first time. Among Joseph Smith’s lesser-known prophecies was a declaration that “the time would come that none but the women of the Latter-day Saints would be willing to bear children”, but if that bears out, it looks like it will be on the far side of an extreme culling.
Even in Amish country, there are signs that the ramparts are crumbling:
Accept that you and your friends are not going to build a more insular psychic fortification than the Plain Folk. Whatever fire you are carrying in your blood, whatever qualities or memories or practices you think are worth preserving, they will have to defeat globohomo on its own terms, or be defeated — at least in the minds of your descendants. The only way out is through.
So what makes a person susceptible to this contagion?
I’m in my mid-thirties. The women in my high school graduating class have had pretty much all the kids they’re going to have. So I took a little straw poll of the Facebook group from my high school reunion: an unremarkable slice of middle-class red-state suburbia. That cohort’s current TFR (total fertility rate) is right where you’d expect for that demographic: around 1.1 children per woman.
If all these women were having 1.1 children apiece, the composition of the population would stay roughly the same as it collapsed — but the children are not at all evenly distributed:
472 people in my graduating class (Cohort 1) have produced a total of 265 children (Cohort 2). But half of the people I went to school with won’t show up at all in the next generation — and the most fertile 13% did nearly half of the baby-making.
This suggests that if there’s anything that makes the fertile group consistently different from the childless group, we’re going to see some intense selection pressure. So what is being selected? (What follows is just vibes, I didn’t build a regression model. Sue me.)
As far as I can tell, my class is being emptied of concrete thinkers.
This includes both the artistic, aesthetic, and sensual types (your art hoe gf), and the unimaginative, conformist strivers (the girlboss). So much of the appeal of the feminist life-script is concrete, sensory, and immediate: hypergamy, beautiful clothes, foreign travel, nights out with the besties, all the comforts and aesthetic experiences and “me time” that can be bought with two incomes.
The sort of person who values such experiences very highly, and is not much prone to abstract reflection on What It All Means, will have a harder time finding the path of motherhood, which sacrifices most of those enjoyments in exchange for an intense and usually automatic infusion of Purpose.
This may offer a partial explanation for the “dog mommy” phenomenon, wherein women are able to act out many of the immediate sensory joys of doting on a child (birthday parties, special meals, cute little outfits), with a fig leaf of pretend-play to justify it. It’s obvious from the outside that this is just the masturbation of a complex instinct – and it may be that our world is just so polluted with convincing simulacra that the only survivors will be those who can tell the difference.
Back to the university system: the standard conservative explanation of “liberal indoctrination” at universities presupposes that college kids’ minds are infinitely plastic, and the university administration has simply discovered how to suck out all the values you were raised with and pump in new ones – meaning that if you could have simply prevented Ana Kasparian from attending Cal State Northridge, she might have grown up to be a good Armenian Orthodox housewife. Does this ring true?
Consider the “women’s studies graduate student” types in your own circles. Are there any whose trajectory was shocking to people who knew them in high school? College may have narrowed and intensified their ideological affiliations — maybe gave them some new vocabulary to articulate them — but whatever process led them there began decades earlier.
I don’t think it’s the case that college ruined all these girls — what it may have done is expose a particular susceptibility to simulacra.
This seems to be the common thread running throughout all the various subtypes of barren women (and men). They get graduate degrees because they love to be graded and offered credentials — a simulacrum of intelligence, competence, earned authority. They get involved in the curated (& administration-approved) experience of campus activism because they want the rush of rebellion without the calories. They genuinely go for shit like this:
The same thread connects Backpacking through Europe (simulated adventure), putting a dog in a sweater (simulated motherhood), going on an ayahuasca retreat (simulated God), and those TikTok “tech jobs” where girls look out big windows and send emails and eat fancy snacks (simulated achievement). This is the type of girl who loudly proclaims that she “loves the smell of books” — expressing an aesthetic she would like to project, rather than an activity she enjoys.
In men, this manifests as “beer and boobies masculinity” — watching sports you never play (a simulacrum of physicality/aggression), video games (a riskless pretense of accomplishment), pornography (obvious), simping for e-girls (pretend relationships, pretend heroism, pretend breadwinning), “fandom” (something between politics and religion, a masturbation of the teleological organs), etc.
There is a species of Australian jewel beetle whose reproductive pattern is disrupted by a particular design of beer bottle, because it is irresistibly sexy:
The bottle isn’t just “good enough”. To the beetle, it looks like a particularly desirable female — to the point that actual females are ignored in preference to the bottle. There probably aren’t enough discarded bottles to damage the population in the aggregate, but even so, the brewery decided to redesign their bottles to be less appealing, and the beetles’ reproductive habits returned to normal.
When we refer to the present regime as “fake and gay”, this is roughly what we mean.
Unlike the beetles, our natural instincts are being deliberately warped and misdirected. Our world is full of artificial stimuli, painstakingly designed to elicit instinctive responses, so that the resulting psychic energy (attention, effort, will) can be harvested for profit.
For the beer bottle manufacturer, the jewel beetles who failed to mate were incidental; but for the powers we wrestle against, sterility is the point. Women with children have a tendency to choose their children over the workplace. They buy fewer consumer goods, and perform more voluntary labor (i.e. labor that cannot be quantified, sold, or taxed by a corporation or the state.) They vote incorrectly.
A society of atomized individuals, meanwhile, seeks out everything that it needs legibly and transactionally — providing a nourishing flow to tax authorities, data aggregators, payment processors, global supply chains, financiers, distributors, etc.
No conspiracy is necessary; every major institution of Western society is hungry for life-force, and lonely, childless people make better cattle.
Who can resist these forces?
At my school, the “normie” cohort (1-2 children per woman) appears by and large to be living out the script of responsible modern Western young women in their twenties and thirties. They went to college, married well but late, and curated a manageable parenting experience for themselves, alongside a respectable career trajectory.
While globo culture obviously favors childlessness, these parents won’t face any serious social resistance. They will hand over their children for acculturation in the daycares, then the schools, then the universities, and maybe one of their children will follow in their footsteps and have one child of her own.
This group is declining rapidly in absolute terms, but actually represents a growing fraction of the next generation (from 41% to 57%). Whether they become politically and economically dominant depends in large part on whether the natalist cohort can convince their children to be natalists too.
As you’d expect, the natalist cohort (3+ children) was religious.
Every woman with more than three children posted about her faith. Religiosity provides a layer of protection against hyper-stimulus, because it prevents you from choosing “optimally” when your optimal mate is a beer bottle.
The problem is that our environment is so full of hyper-stimulus that you have to sell your kids on suboptimality in almost every category of choice they make — so your overall story for why they need to do that had better be really, really strong.
Lots of big-brain types have noticed that religion is “useful” in this sense, but they also recognize that it doesn’t actually work unless you mean it — and in my experience, the people with the gift of uncomplicated faith are rarely also gifted at articulating and transmitting it.
But if you could successfully transmit the fertility norms of each of these groups to their children for just one generation, you could reverse the decline in a single iteration. One or two more rounds of that, and the population would have recovered completely — or, rather, the population would have been largely replaced by a very different type of person, with 80% being descendants of the most fertile group and the vast majority of the initial group having been genetically eradicated.
Transmitting those norms turns out to be a hell of a trick: the children of abundantly fertile Christian parents are getting memed into barrenness as hard as everyone else. No doubt many (most?) of my rich Christian classmates will raise all these children, only to see them sucked back into sterile secular DINKdom. But in the long run, by definition, these memes are self-terminating; they ruthlessly purge the population of whatever makes a person buy into them.
I leave it to the scientists to search for the Girlboss Gene, or the Brunch Gene, or the Granddogs Gene — but selection can also be cultural. You don’t have to look very far into the past to find a time when practically all of these childless people’s ancestors had seven kids apiece. If there is anything physically wrong with them, it’s only in the sense that something within them is maladaptive to the present circumstances. The circumstances can change — they will have to change.
That’s the good news.
There is no version of the future where antinatalist liberal modernity persists in equilibrium— a Thousand-Year Bugman Reich. Either these memes will eradicate themselves, or they eradicate humanity.
And contrary to doomer memes about “dysgenic fertility”, the hardiest strains of human fecundity are not to be found among the borderline retarded. To the extent that right-wingers are concerned about a future “Idiocracy”, they’re parroting the anxieties of childless prog elites about flyover Americans who are obviously just too stupid to get a vasectomy and an email job and embrace the void.
Consider the people you know personally: does it really seem like they’re too brilliant, or too world-wise, or too heroic in their aspirations to have children? Now that they’re pushing 40 with no kids to chain them down, are they writing the Great American Novel and curing cancer and colonizing Mars — or are they middling, ordinary people who got here because they bought what they saw on TV? Why would that process select against intelligence and impulse control?
It’s true that technologically isolated populations are receiving globohomo sterility memes a generation late, just as they receive other imported cultural products — but no less enthusiastically. “Family planning” is in fact very cheap and increasingly available all over the world — and in every place where it is cheap and readily available, people with high time preference already make liberal use of it.
In fact, that seems to be precisely what globohomo is selecting against: the inability to delay gratification, to see through simulacra, to live for something higher than your appetites.
If any part of your culture and likeness survive into the next century, it will be because you found a way of life that doesn’t just work for you, but that works in the general case, in the face of all these technological and cultural headwinds. It will mean that your children, and their spouses, and their extended clan, found your way of life so compelling that they chose to replicate it in spite of abundant hyper-stimulus and extreme hardship. Whatever survives that process will deserve it.
Bennett's Phylactery is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Your writing, whether here or on Twitter, is consistently some of the best found anywhere on what could be considered "our team" broadly.
I'm not Mormon, and never have been--grew up in the evangelical world and nowadays I'm fairly secular, but it has seemed to me for a pretty long time now that the Mormon church has enormous potential to carry on much of the future in the event of considerable broader decline or collapse. I hope it succeeds in maintaining its institutional resilience.
Your point about sub-optimality especially resonates. There is no way that I can create a family culture that can compete calorie for calorie, dopamine for dopamine, dollar for dollar with globohomo. My kids and grandkids will have to stare it all in the face and still choose the right. Something about not being able to survive without a spiritual witness...