Iceland is famous for its weirdness, which it embraces not just as a marketing campaign for tourism but as a way of living. Unlike the other countries of Europe, it has a well-defined beginning. A Norwegian chieftain named Ingólfur Arnarson and his wife, Hallveig Fróðadóttir settled on the island in the ninth century. Others followed and slowly the population built over time. Like early America, it is a deliberate society created by a founding population.
No other country can tell an origin story like that. This had another benefit in the weirdness department. This isolated population on a volcanic island in the North Atlantic has been a treasure for geneticists. The entire population has been tested and their DNA is in the national database. We know more about the population of Iceland than any population on the planet. This has allowed researchers to confirm much of the origin story, except for the outlandish bits.
Speak with Icelanders and you find out that they are very familiar with their story, but they do not spend a lot of time thinking about it. They know the rest of the world finds this tiny island to be a great curiosity. The tourism rackets now bring millions of people to Iceland every year to gaze upon the weirdness. On the other hand, Iceland has avoided the modern bug. They do not hate themselves. Instead, they have a strong sense of identity but they do not think too much about it.
Contrast this with the Germans. Unlike tiny Iceland, the Germans have a long history, but their origin story is not so clear. Like the rest of the continent, the German people are a blend of many tribes that pushed onto Europe. There is no Ingólfur Arnarson in the story of modern Germany. In fact, Germany is the result of the transition from medieval to modern, as what we think of as the modern state is a collection of states that were at times independent and other times part of an empire.
Of course, a big part of the German identity is the events of the last century, but everyone would just as soon forget about them. Modern Germany is, in part, a giant outdoor museum populated by amnesiacs. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the pre-20th century past. Castles, amazing old villages, cathedrals, and reminders of the cultural achievements of the German people. On the other hand, it is hard to find any reminders of the 20th century.
One result of this is the German people have a strong identity, but they have a difficult relationship with that identity. The laws against mentioning you know who are not so much about you know who coming back in vogue but as a way to anathematize any discussion of that period. This is not a top-down thing. The average German would just as soon forget about the past and embrace the present. In this regard, the Germans are the most modern people in all of Europe.
This is not a terrible thing. Germany is in many ways the model European country in that it strives to have a strong economy and a peaceful society. Even after the waves of migrants were brought in by Merkel, it remains a high trust society. It is not Japan, but it is not France or Italy. Walk around a German city and you feel safe. You know where to go and where not to go, but even where not to go is nothing like you see in France or especially the United States.
In a way, Iceland and Germany are great examples of the modern. One has become a fully modern society without going to war with itself, while the other remains at war with itself as it embraces the modern. Both societies are fully modern, materially, and spiritually, but they got there by different routes. As a result, they both face the same problems that now define the modern age. Those are collapsing TFR and an unwillingness to honestly face up to the problem.
Whenever national leaders talk about fertility, they lay the blame on their favorite bogeyman, rather than the real causes. This post from Iceland University is a great example of blame shifting. They blame the socialist bogeymen of the past, materialism, and individualism, then throw in a new one, climate change. These are people who have lived on a volcano since they were a people. If climate change were a big fear, they would have died off long ago.
Germans just lie about the topic. They have one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe, but they pretend it is getting better. This post from the pandemic years is a good example of the self-delusion. This was a popular narrative in Europe. They were sure lockdowns would result in a baby boom, but when that did not happen, they went about pretending that it happened anyway. Of course, none of these countries report TFR by ethnicity as that would give the game away.
What all this suggests is that it is not the past that haunts the modern West, but the present that is the source of the crisis. Iceland embraces its past and has a collapsing TFR just like Germany, which tries to ignore its past. It should be noted that both societies are extremely feminized. They reek of estrogen. Where that fits on the causal chain is hard to say. What is not hard to figure is that in societies where girls pretend to be boys, the girls do not grow up to be mothers.
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