CHILDREN OF MEN.  The novel: 
I had the pleasure of reading Children of Men by PJ James.  I read a lot when I was young, although not so voraciously as some children.  I found that my favorite stories were British, and in particular I liked those set in England.  They seemed so often to have a love of the countryside and of life.  So the present novel made me nostalgic.  The movie is a modern dystopic vision in which the problem is that people have stopped having children, but the calamity is unrelieved by much else.  The survivors seem more or less interested in making life as unpleasant for each other as they can.  Yes, there are exceptions.

Since falling birth rate is my interest, I was curious what might be offered as a cause.  In the movie, no cause was offered.  I suspected that there had been a major flu epidemic that had make the males sterile.  A mumps in adult males can do that.  Also there were a couple of people who seemed mentally impaired, and a high enough fever might do that, although I have never seen it.  Food seemed to be no problem.  That was odd.  Any disruption of our society would immediately lead to famines, but if the population had decimated then strategic food reserves might have taken any pressure off the food supply.  On the other hand, there was no mention of an epidemic. 

One thing that struck me as most odd was that, I trust I am not spoiling the story, a single woman was found to be pregnant.  Under such circumstances, of course that would be very interesting.  However there seemed to be no interest in discovering the father.  If the cause was fever or almost anything else, then it might be that all the women were just fine.  Fever does not sterilize women.  So a major effort to find the father should have been a top priority.  Although in all fairness events probably prevented that.

The question of who the father was did indeed arise in the book.  Again neither fever nor other cause was offered.  While the movie seemed intent simply on generating as much shock appeal as possible, the book was more interested in the social, psychological and spiritual questions that arose.

Although my taste is, at least to a degree, drawn toward the English style, my first impulse in a crisis is always, “How can we fix this.”  This is rather a typical American attitude, at least if you believe American writers. 

I was curious as to when the book had been written.  It was copyrighted in 1992, years before I dropped everything to work on the questions that led me to realize that the problem in book and movie was indeed upon us; only the timing was different.  But the developed world birth rate dropped below two per woman in about 1972, so the crisis would have been going on for some twenty years before the book was finished.  I do not know whether the author was aware of that at the time.  In the story the drop is abrupt, rather than gradual as is happening.  If I find out, I shall let you know. 

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