If you want a picture of the future, imagine South Korea. South Korea is the sort of society you get, when Western meritocratic neoliberalism genuinely achieves what it hopes to achieve: Life becomes an endless zero sum competition for social status.
In the West this is not really achievable. To start with, there isn’t really the same degree of competition for prestigious jobs, because there’s a substantial low IQ demographic: People who are unemployable and need to be taken care of, or can only do unskilled manual labor.
In South Korea, everyone hovers around an IQ of 110. In Detroit 47% of people are functionally illiterate, but you’re not going to find some place like that in South Korea. Everyone is smart enough to read. The result is that in a society like South Korea, when you fail, you feel as if you really failed.
There is extreme pressure on children to succeed academically. After school finishes, children go to homework classes. It’s not uncommon for high school students to spend 12 to 15 hours a day, engaged in education.
A country only needs about two doctors per thousand citizens. In America, if little Billy is inheriting his dad’s construction company, if Susie is cutting her wrists while her mom thinks she’s doing homework, if Jennifer is laying high on Benadryl in bed and if Bob is still struggling to read, you have a decent chance to get into medical school.
Not so in South Korea. There is a very small elite that owns the big companies like Samsung, but there is no real middle class with inherited status. If you’re not part of the elite, you get to join the rat race, just like everyone else.
I can’t really emphasize this enough. If Western liberals had their way, if their failed attempt at building utopia would actually work, their utopia would just be South Korea. If they finally eradicated the sort of systemic racism that makes 47% of Detroit functionally illiterate, if they ended the student loan crisis, if they managed to address the root causes of crime, if they succeeded at rehabilitating drug addicts, the result would be a multicultural South Korea, that is, a Singapore without the draconian laws. South Korea is what you would get, if Elizabeth Warren got what she wanted.
I should note that all the usual ways of escaping the rat race don’t really work in South Korean society either. Consider becoming a musician. In the United States, you can spend every day smoking weed, upload songs to Soundcloud about smoking weed and if you’re in tune with your generation, you can then turn singing about smoking weed into your raison d’être.
Not in South Korea. To enter the music industry in South Korea means subjecting yourself to the same sort of hypercompetitive rat race as you run into in the rest of society. To become a K-Pop idol, that is, a puppet on strings molded and shaped by a ruthless industry into whatever Asian teenage girls (and introverted conscientious Caucasian teenage girls) want a boy to be like, you have to be subjected to a rigorous training program. You audition at age 10, then spend your teenage years training. If you make it (you probably won’t), you’ll then enter a boy band.
Never say this to someone from the Orient, but this is where you notice the difference between a collectivist and an individualist culture. In the West, boybands have always been a marginal phenomenon. We had N-Sync and the Backstreet boys, that’s about it. We like rappers and rock stars, rugged individuals who pursue a drug-fueled path of self-destruction. In Japan, if you’re a member of a boyband caught doing drugs, your career is over. In the West, if you’re a rapper or a rock star caught not doing drugs, your career is over. We look towards musicians to clash with the societal ideal. The Korean boy band singers, exemplify the societal ideal.
The result of all of this, is that South Koreans are not a happy people. Most of the South Korean movies I’ve seen are confusing. South Koreans seem to like a story that feels like a confusing puzzle that only begins making sense near the end of it. But the most successful export product South Korean cinema has produced must be Squid Game. It is too bleak, even for me, I watched about half of the first series. It is a cry for help, from a hypercompetitive society.
The female suicide rate in South Korea is the highest of the OECD. The male suicide rate is the third highest. But this does not tell the whole story, as South Korea lacks that one factor that makes suicide so easy in countries like the United States: Legal firearms. People in South Korea depend on pesticides, hanging, carbon monoxide poisoning and jumping off tall buildings, to release themselves from their misery.
South Korea also represents the liberal solution to overpopulation. Most liberals will agree that overpopulation is a problem if pressed, but it can be solved through education. What sub-Saharan Africa is lacking, in the liberal mindset, is education, particularly of women. This is then supposed to allow them to pursue their dreams, which won’t involve the maternal instinct.
You can see that liberals are right, by looking at South Korea. Education works to reduce the birth rate. But they’re not telling you the whole story. The liberal solution to overpopulation is to make life so miserable for 90+% of the population that most people are desperate to avoid having children. In South Korea the woman behind the counter at the grocery store has a bachelor’s degree and no children, she hopes nobody walks into the store who recognizes her from high school. In America the woman behind the counter dropped out of high school and has three children with two different men.
In the most recent quarter, the South Korean fertility rate dropped to 0.7. This is a society that has just collectively chosen to abolish itself. It remains to be seen if it is even possible to sustain a post-industrial society with such a low fertility rate. In the absence of massive immigration, the demographic pyramid will invert to a degree we have never before observed.
People often seem to think that low Western birth rates are due to progressive social norms. But indigenous Dutch women have a fertility rate of 1.5, more than double the South Korean rate. South Korea is relatively conservative, in its attitudes towards marriage, divorce, women’s rights, LGBTQI+ stuff andsoforth.
I think what happens is that at an early age, South Korean parents program a message into their children’s brains from which they never recover. They teach the children that nothing they do is ever good enough, that they’re not allowed to just be carefree children, that they always have to strife to get higher grades than the other children. The only result this can have is that the children will never feel adequate, even as adults. That’s why they have no grandchildren.