"This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper," wrote T.S. Eliot in the closing couplet of "The Hollow Men."
Eliot's poem was written after the Great War of 1914-1918 had carried off 9 million soldiers, wounded twice as many more, brought down the Romanov, Hohenzollern and Habsburg empires, and ushered onto the world stage Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and, soon, Adolf Hitler.
Readers have ascribed various meanings to Eliot's words. One college professor of English suggested Eliot was looking back to the "whimper" in the cradle in Bethlehem that signaled the end of the old world, the Pax Romana, and the coming of the new Christian age.
Some saw it as the whimper of a man facing the executioner's axe. Others say Eliot was referring to the middle-aged protagonist of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," who had "measured out my life with coffee spoons" and soon would "wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."
Recent reports suggest God has another end in store for us.
An Augusta, Ga., group, The National Policy Institute, has meshed the figures on fertility rates with the continents and races on Planet Earth -- to visualize what the world will look like in 2060.
In 1950, whites were 28 percent of world population and Africans 9 percent, a ratio of three-to-one. In 2060, the ratio will remain the same. But the colors will be reversed. People of African ancestry will be 25 percent of the world's population. People of European descent will have fallen to 9.8 percent.
More arresting is that the white population is shrinking not only in relative but in real terms. Two hundred million white people, one in every six on earth -- a number equal to the entire population of France, Britain, Holland and Germany -- will vanish by 2060.
The Caucasian race is going the way of the Mohicans.
Arabic peoples, 94 million at the birth of Israel in 1948, outnumbered seven to one by Europeans, will rise to 743 million in 2060, a tenfold increase, and will be 75 percent of the white population.
Fleshing out the NPI picture is the U.N. population survey of mid-2007 that points to the 21st century disappearance of Western Man.
By 2050, a fourth of all the people of Eastern Europe will have vanished. Ukraine will lose one-third of its population. Russia, 150 million at the breakup of the Soviet Union, 142 million today, will be down to 108 million. Such losses dwarf what Hitler and Stalin together did to these countries.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said this week that Russia will have to import workers from the Caucasus, Central Asia and China, exacerbating already serious racial and religious tensions in a nation with thousands of nuclear weapons.
With Russians east of the Urals outnumbered 100 to one by the Chinese, there is little doubt who will control the oil, gas, gold and timber of Siberia and be staring hungrily across the Bering Strait at Alaska.
By 2050, Iran's population will have risen from today's 71 million to 100 million. Pakistan will add 84 million to reach almost 300 million, the U.S. population today. Afghanistan's population will triple from 27 million to 79 million. Iraq's will go from 29 million to 62 million. The destinies of these nations will be beyond the capacity of an aging, dwindling, dying West to dictate.
The U.N. statistics, however, show the populations of Northern, Western and Southern Europe stabilizing or falling only slightly.
How can this be when only Iceland and Albania have fertility rates -- 2.1 children per woman -- that can stop population declines, and all the rest have birthrates that would put bears, birds and wolves on the endangered species list?
Answer: Western Europe's populations are being sustained by immigrants from the Maghreb and Middle East, Asia and Africa -- and the baby boom among these black and brown peoples is lifting and changing the face of the Old Continent forever. Islam is returning to Iberia, Italy and the Balkans. The Third World is coming to colonize the mother countries.
And America? According to the Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population of the United States will triple to 127 million by 2050, as Mexico's population grows to 130 million. An erasure of the U.S. border, or merger of the two countries, or the linguistic, cultural and social annexation of the American Southwest by Mexico appears fated.
Yet, last October, in another Pew poll of 45,000 people in 47 countries, a majority in 46 expressed fear of a loss of their traditional culture.
Sixty-two percent of Americans told Pew we should do more to protect our way of life. Three-fourths of Americans wanted more restrictions on immigration. Yet all three presidential candidates voted amnesty for the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens.
Hopefully, the peoples of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, who are about to inherit the earth as we pass away, will treat us better than our ancestors treated them in the five centuries that Western Man ruled the world.
Otherwise, we all go out with a bang.