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America’s Ship of Theseus Paradox and the Third Demographic Transition


Suppose you replaced each and every plank of a wooden ship as they grew worn or became damaged, with the ultimate result being a ship refitted with entirely new timber and the original materials nowhere to be found. Is it the same ship, or more specifically, is the totally refitted ship the same ship as the original? The Greco-Roman philosopher Plutarch notably posed the Ship of Theseus paradox in the first century and it has been an integral question to understanding identity, continuity, and change-over-time ever since.

By the time you finish reading this post, an untold number of your cells will have died and been replaced. But few would argue you are no longer yourself as a result of this process. You have an identity and a form that can be traced over time and recognized—even as it changes—not just by yourself but by others as well. Similar to a named river whose water constantly flows, we continue to identify you as either the same entity or its undisputed successor. Surely there is no pretender to your identity. You as a child and an adult are both you, right?

Boats, persons, and rivers all have a kind of fixedness. They are unitary things. If you split a boat in half, it is half a boat, and a single half is useless as a boat. If we split you in half you die, and your body is useless for keeping you alive. If we split or divert a river, eventually we have two rivers and the original loses some of its current.

But what about an institution, the collective product of many persons and processes? What about a newspaper, college, or government which changes many or all of its personnel? A town, city, or country which changes many or all of its inhabitants?

If the United States undergoes the third demographic transition, will it still be the United States? That is to say, if because of immigration and falling fertility the United States becomes majority non-White, will it still be the same country? If we were to replace all the White births that didn’t happen from natural population increase by importing non-Whites, does that change the national identity of the United States? Ditto for Evropa. Who will lay claim to being American, British, French, etc., should they want to lay claim at all? What will happen to our political and social values? Here, history is instructive in answering our inquiry, and the answer to whether or not X will still be X is ‘kinda sorta, not really.’

First, it is appropriate to familiarize ourselves with the term “third demographic transition,” which I hope will become a useful term to those on the alt-right who want to argue from the respectability-signaling angle, as it both sounds and is academic. This is white genocide for signalling goys. The third demographic transition—which will impact all developed Anglo and European countries that receive immigrants—was first proposed by Oxford professor David Coleman in a 2006 article in Population and Development Review. It was proposed a decade before the Syrian civil war triggered an Afro-Islamic Völkerwanderung into Europe, and before the rise of mainstream nativism in the United States under Trump. But of course, the deliberately neglected warning of a rising tide of color is much older.

To start, Coleman outlines his two basic claims:

(i) In some industrial countries a rapid change is already apparent in the composition of the population according to national or ethnic origin, arising from the direct and indirect effects of immigration in the last few decades, and (ii) projections based on plausible assumptions imply, within the conventional time scale of projections, a substantial alteration of the composition of that population which if continued in the longer term would lead to the displacement of the original population into a minority position.

On the subject of government or public responses to this top-down enforced change, Coleman’s observations should sound familiar to us even a decade later. Our governments have a third-worldist approach to demographic shifts. The management of the drydock where our boat is being refitted has a cavalier attitude towards criticism:

Governments may be unaware of their implications, or, in the case of Britain, may refuse to take a view on them. In France the preparation of projections such as those described above would be impossible [France refuses to officially collect ethnographic data]… In Britain, for example, the government will not comment on the longer-term consequences of high immigration, instead merely condemning as irresponsible those who raise any less than favorable reflection on it… minority activists and race relations workers—in the Commission for Racial Equality, in London local government, and in the media—welcomed the prospect of ethnic transformation variously as marking the final response to white racism, as an appropriate rejoinder to colonial exploitation, or at the very least as a matter of no consequence.

Another interesting observation of Coleman’s is how East and West differ on this issue. Both Eastern elites and their governed populations would be opposed to these levels of migration while here it is just a timid majority of natives and few elites. Japan for example, infamously would rather not repair their ship at all than import timber from overseas:

In non-Western societies the importance and undesirability of any such change [demographic replacement by foreigners] would be so axiomatic as not to warrant discussion. In majority popular opinion in the West, the response would probably be similar (one can only speculate in the absence of specific opinion polls). But elite opinion is more nuanced, some finding it difficult to articulate acceptable reasons for objecting, others actively welcoming a more diverse society on various ideological grounds.

As Coleman points out, the ethnic and religious distance between modern migrants and their Western hosts is larger than it has been in the past. Most prewar immigration was European; most postwar isn’t. The planks being used for repairs do not match the old ones, and nobody is bothering to fit them to the originals:

Diverse postwar immigrant cultures, with robust identities and religious faith, encounter in the receiving countries secularized liberal societies with weakened feelings of self-esteem and national identity. The changing interpretation of human rights that facilitated recent immigration also tended to erode the assumption that immigrants should adapt to national norms, instead favoring more multicultural responses.

Coleman notes that negative responses to the transition are pathologized as morally evil, and the counter-argument is purported economic benefits. If you have a problem with the repairs, you are a bigot. It is time for you to evolve into Homo oeconomicus. Your ship is seaworthy again isn’t it—what more could you want? And of course, leave it to the (((Boasian))) school of anthropology to not accord Whites indigenous status in Europe:

In Europe, local nativist protests tend to be denounced as racist, xenophobic, and deluded, including by anthropologists who do not accept the “native” parallel (Kuper 2003). Instead the usual response is that such dissenters need simply to be more thoroughly re-educated on the actual benefits of immigration to themselves and to global GDP.

Most ominously, Coleman says these kinds of population shifts have never before happened during peacetime. In the future, aspiring historians will be left wondering when Pakistan conquered Britain or Algeria conquered France for there to be so many of them living overseas in their cities. Is the ship truly repaired if the repairs are so obvious?

[T]he composition of the population of the developed world will come to resemble more that of the developing world, but not conversely. Transformations of population composition on the scale projected have not hitherto been experienced under peaceful circumstances. Major changes would be apparent within the time scale of a century.

I doubt Coleman is a fellow traveler, though regardless he has given us an interesting concept to meme. One of the major paradigms we hold as nationalists is that a population determines a society and its government. There are reasons why given the option, you would prefer Denmark to Bolivia or Burundi. The third demographic transition means population change. Can you have a United States without Anglo-Americans or a Europe without Europeans? Can you change the racial and/or ethnic stock of a country and still have nice things? How many mestizos does it take to Make California Mexico Again? How many Germans have to invade Gaul for it to become France? Is it still the Ship of Theseus without the original parts?

Again: kinda sorta, not really. The way I see it, trace amounts of the old entity will be found in its replacement rather than it being the original continuing with new parts. Europe and the United States would become little more than geographic expressions. The population would become miscegenated and White-ish people a novelty. Perhaps we’d keep the place names out of convenience, assuming no racially motivated iconoclasm takes place (it already does). On both sides of the Atlantic, non-Whites by a majority vote for leftist parties whereas Whites are either split or lean conservative (most pronounced in the US, UK, and France)—so certainly the governments will be as unrecognizable in the long-run as their constituents. It can be hard to pick the day and the hour when our Ship stops being the Ship of Theseus and becomes the Ship of Some Other Guy. But at some point we will have a stark before-and-after, one that will make it clear that a change has taken place, one that is dramatic and irreversible. The 2040s will be one such turning point.