Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Greatest Taboo

Greetings! It seems like I’m always prefacing my blog and YouTube remarks with an apology these days, so once again...sorry for not being around the quad much lately. There’s no one particular reason for my absence, really. Part of it’s a lingering feeling of depression over the recent loss of my dog, but I think a larger part has to do with simple time management. My work schedule is all over the place, which makes my sleepy-time patterns rather erratic, with a consequent diminution of energy, creative or otherwise. I’m attempting to stabilize that situation a bit, so we’ll see how it goes. Now on to business.

It’s been noted on occasion by different commenters that the tagline for this blog, ‘The Greatest Taboo’, is, if not a blatant overstatement, at least a somewhat hyperbolic description of things as they actually stand. Not wishing to belabor a somewhat trivial point, I’ve always tended to let the matter slide. However, over the last few days I’ve found myself reflecting on my original feelings regarding said title, and I must say I’m more convinced than ever that my choice was both appropriate, as well as extremely accurate.

Rather than starting at the bottom and working up through a list of cultural verbotins, let’s jump to the hierarchical peak of (near)universal reprehensibilities and see if we have a true contender for the title ‘greatest taboo’. We’ll start with ‘killing babies for fun and profit’, an oft cited primary example in these sorts of discussions. I suppose if one were to take a vote during any typical public gathering, this one would win by a landslide over the seemingly innocent proposition that people should think twice about procreating for moral reasons. However, it appears we’ve still got that niggling little maxim to deal with, namely that people ‘vote with their feet’, or more appropriately in this regard, with their genitalia. For it is an inarguable fact that we live in a world where babies ARE killed for fun and profit, a nasty situation which is both created and maintained by our procreative urges DESPITE the fact that we KNOW what kinds of inherent risks and inescapably mortal conclusions we’re delivering our children unto.

Murder. Rape. Other forms of physical and mental abuse. Sit down with any group of reasonable, semi-civilized folk and see how far you get in trying to justify such societal no-nos within the boundaries of a normative moral schematic. Well enough, for as far as it goes. But then change tack and start outlining the rationale behind the ONLY ethical position worth its footpounds in preventative punch, and listen to the hems and haws begin. Suddenly ‘perspective’ becomes THE crucial factor in the discussion, as the unacceptable magically becomes all too acceptable within the circle of our ‘necessary’ carnivorous pursuits. Collateral damage for the sake of the greater good is the gist of the argument, decorated around the edges with euphemisms like ‘no pain, no gain’, or ‘you can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs’. The fact that the ‘eggs’ in question represent the broken skulls, bones and spirits of those whose lifeblood fills out the ever expansive red side of the existential ledger goes mostly unnoticed, or at least unannounced by the circle-of-life sermonizers. That is, until one of them is, perhaps, sufficiently chastised out of his myopic optimism by circumstances, generally of a personal sort, and then he usually just drops out of the conversation entirely to go and lick his wounds in some dark cellar of the soul.

Other arguments, other transparent justifications for avoiding the obvious are always on tap, shamelessly offered not because they’re particularly cogent, or even thought provoking in the semi-respectable ‘take THAT’ sort of way that at least makes for some decent verbal sparring even if nobody changes their mind. Antinatalism’s more vociferous opponents are, in the end, playing to the crowd. More to the point, they’re counting on the mob’s ‘intuition’, which is really nothing more than a thousand little pressure points of cultural indoctrination, not merely to win the day, but to prevent people from seriously considering the proposition. And THAT, folks, is what TABOO is all about. So, yeah, carving lampshades out of human back skin is definitely to be frowned on, but certainly NOT to the extent that we stop supplying the lampshade makers with ever-fresh supplies of new skin. After all, everybody’s got to make a living.

And so Oroborus keeps eating his own tail, and isn’t it a shame, and mustn’t we do something about it, but let’s not entertain any crazy talk about closing down the flesh factories. There are bridges to build, after all, and deserts to populate, and let’s not forget that this is all about the Great Vicarious Immortality Project, where nobody really dies until the very last man or woman dies, which we certainly must NOT talk about. No, we really must not talk about that, must we? Abattoir manufacturing is at an all time high, and sluice gate cleaning is a growth industry with no end in sight.

Now say ‘moo’ and step forward, please. There’s an infinity of souls waiting its turn.

20 comments:

Karl said...

Anyone who gives the thumbs-up to human life is essentially giving the thumbs up to carnage and slaughter. Of course, this is all justified in the name of such abstractions as 'progress', 'the human race', 'our future' etc. And the ol' eggs must be broken, and the good with the bad, yes, the life cheerleaders are happy to take the good and let others take the bad, well out of sight, of course. Wouldn't want to upset one's breakfast and consitution by reading about 'unpleasant' things.

Srikant said...

That is a beautiful post, Jim. Have you seen Shadow and Karl's new posts on their problems with religion?

"So, yeah, carving lampshades out of human back skin is definitely to be frowned on, but certainly NOT to the extent that we stop supplying the lampshade makers with ever-fresh supplies of new skin. After all, everybody’s got to make a living."
This is a lovely quote.

What we see among many "moral", "religious" people, is that they're all willing to make 'compromises'. You can eat camels if cacti are the only plants around. And it goes on and on and on. They're all just so LOOSE in their principles!

Indeed, in the end, most people will usually swallow what they generally consider evil, when it's justified with "life must go on". This maxim reminds me of Sister Y's post Judge Nature.
"Watching the nature special, we hope the impala can evade the lion, but we hope the lion cubs get fed somehow. But watch what your mind does when considering these two contradictory hopes. Does it come to a coherent resolution of the problem? Or does it just shrug its shoulders and spackle the problem over with some bullshit about the circle of life? Life must go on . . . end of thought."

Chip said...

One reason philanthropic antinatalism doesn't immediately register as a taboo heavyweight is that most people, at least on first blush, think it is preposterous or plain silly. It is only when folks realize that we're not jacking around and take a longer glance at the meat of the argument that the dust begins to stir. I happen to think Benatar's asymmetry is snare-tight, but your emphasis on the birth-death continuum is at least as important because it demands a response by those -- i.e., almost everyone -- who say that lethal violence is wrong or indecent in other contexts. There is something inescapably accusatory in the challenge this poses, and when a philosophical problem becomes -- or feels -- deeply personal, yet doesn't yield to tidy refutation, the problematic view becomes taboo. People who think this is chest-thumping need only engage the subject on an interpersonal level to see how it plays out.

Shadow said...

Awesome.

Nice to see you back! Hope you stick around, though I know that we also have to blog whenever we feel more like it - that way inspiration feels natural.

Anyway - awesome take on the subject. We can still be amazed to how this is still taboo. When we are used to talk about it with people that got it, we kinda get surprised sometimes, in trying to discuss it with other people, because of their lack of capabilities to even support the thought correctly in their heads.

It´s like Chip said up there.

Best to all (Karl, Srikant, Chip).

Sharkbabe said...

Wow.

You can stay away as long as you like, as long as you come back with tours de force like this post.

"Collateral damage for the sake of the greater good is the gist of the argument, decorated around the edges with euphemisms .. "

Yep.

While I've gotten AN philosophically since I was like four years old, a huge part of it for me now is the hell-for-leather destruction of our planet that I've witnessed in my lifetime. How can anyone with a shred of compassion bring a child into a world where there will be no clean water to drink or untainted food to eat? The sight of a baby anymore fills me with sadness, then anger. The goddamn vanity.

My own brother (age 60) just had a second kid (proving that condomless schmuckitude knows no age.) Of course he's "over the moon" and all that bullshit. And guess what he does for a living? Uranium mining. Maybe he'll take the little one for a tour of Fukushima Daiichi when she's old enough.

GAH.

Btw Jim I've finally come around to loving the perfect cover of your book after ignorantly bitching about it a while back.

metamorphhh said...

Nice to see y'all!

I'm changing my writing habits, trying to slow things down instead of writing furiously whenever I 'feel the muse', whatever the hell that means. To that end, I'm packing the notebook with me to work, and writing during my lunchbreaks. Just a half hour, so I don't get much done at once, which allows me to-hopefully- iron things out as I go along. I also don't have internet access at work, which means I'll be far less tempted to interject links and work off other people's efforts. Naturally there are pros and cons to this approach, but my goal is to maybe flesh things out a bit more in my writing, as well as to make it more my own.

For a wannabe poet, this isn't so easy for me; I tend to orgasm out my fingertips onto the keyboard, if you know what I mean. So on the side, I've been poison-penning an old adversary in the religious apologetics blogworld, and I must confess that the juices seem less coagulated than of late.

To all of you, keep up the faith, keep up the work, and let's shut this fucking sweatshop DOWN! Fight the power!

LOL! Seriously, though, thanks for all your efforts and kind words.

Anonymous said...

The Great Antinatalist Thinkers by Stein-Christian Fagerbakken:

http://www.knunst.com/planetzapffe/?p=387

Anonymous said...

Wrong, Jim, the greatest taboo is omnicide, whereabout even antinatalists pee their pants.

Anonymous said...

Chip,

"One reason philanthropic antinatalism doesn't immediately register as a taboo heavyweight is that most people, at least on first blush, think it is preposterous or plain silly."

For me, it's not so much that it's preposterous or silly, it's just that it's... I don't know, completely subjective? Not everybody shares your negative perceptions of things. For you, the negatives of life outweigh the positives. Okay, fine, that's your opinion. For me, the positives outweigh the negatives. It's the age-old question: is the glass half-empty or half-full? You say half-empty. I say half-full. Yet, I don't go around telling others they *SHOULD* procreate. I prefer to live and let live.

Anonymous said...

"... I don't go around telling others they *SHOULD* ... "

Good. Keep not telling other what they should. Preferably elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Aw.... sorry you got so upset!

Anonymous said...

Anon, when you will be severely injured in a car crash you will not think about a glass of water.

Think of a little child beeing tortured, raped and killed.

There are fucking HORRIBLE things happening on this planet - in this very moment.

Antinatalism is about avoiding the worst thing there can be. And that is not a half empty glass.

Stephen R. Diamond said...

Failure to reproduce won't be a painless "transition." It would surely foreshadow economic catastrophe. So why is that the preferred route? (Having willfully avoided reproducing, I'm not engaged in special pleading.) Everything has its costs, but I find the idea of making suicide assistance freely available on demand more appealing. Then, you have a direct referendum on life and death (but one, I admit, not without its own biases).

I discuss euthanasia at http://tinyurl.com/yzfpnmw

Anonymous said...

> It would surely foreshadow economic catastrophe.

Who cares about economy? Every single one of us is going to dissolve; the earth will be sucked into the sun.
Who cares about what happened on this completely useless grain of sand floating through the void?
Living here and that way is a complete exception; everything will be undone. Why going on with that shit?



> making suicide assistance freely available on demand more appealing.

Suicide isn't painless. And worse: it's a long and hard path to that point.
My suicidality started with 20; maybe in 7 years when i'm 50 i will reach that point.
This are 30 years of suffering (not talking about the 'problems' i will have when i try to kill myself)

Chip said...

Anon writes:

"For me, it's not so much that it's preposterous or silly, it's just that it's... I don't know, completely subjective? Not everybody shares your negative perceptions of things. For you, the negatives of life outweigh the positives. Okay, fine, that's your opinion. For me, the positives outweigh the negatives. It's the age-old question: is the glass half-empty or half-full? You say half-empty. I say half-full. Yet, I don't go around telling others they *SHOULD* procreate. I prefer to live and let live."

There's a difference between "Live and let live" and "live and let create life."

It doesn't matter what value I assign to life because procreation isn't about me; it's about the person whose creation is either contemplated or actuated, and it is crucial to acknowledge that person has no say in the matter of their fate.

You may be trivially correct that antinatalism is "subjective" in its normative posture (just like being against murder is a "subjective" ethical position), but the question of whether being brought into existence is more harmful than never being brought into existence may be answered objectively. The answer, by the way, is 'yes.'

Anonymous said...

It is the greatest taboo to imply in any way that existence itself is not good, but evil. If you merely say people shouldn't have children for the purpose of reducing population size, so that people in the future will be happier, then no one will object (except for religious nuts). If you however say or imply that it would be better if life became extinct, then you are implying that our existence is bad in itself, that it can't be made better in any way. Then you are attacking , which Freud called the "Urvertrauen" (basic trust) in the basic goodness of existence itself and that's where you will encounter the strongest emotional resistance.

Todd said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGl4VdHVG_8

And here I thought The Onion was supposed to be satirical.

Anonymous said...

My name is Deb,
I am a woman, and most of these terrible acts are committed by men. You want to resolve the problem then firstly see where the problem is coming from and the route of the problem is men and what they are taught and what they think. You have to change what people think and the way they think. Superiority and Supremacy is ingrained in the minds of men .. great expectations are taught .. they believe they are supreme and will be supreme by any means, violence corruption, anything .. If you stopped teaching children one is superior to another and they are all deserving of the same treatment and opportunities then you have a chance, Until then there is no chance.

Anonymous said...

My name is Deb,
I am a woman, and most of these terrible acts are committed by men. You want to resolve the problem then firstly see where the problem is coming from and the route of the problem is men and what they are taught and what they think. You have to change what people think and the way they think. Superiority and Supremacy is ingrained in the minds of men .. great expectations are taught .. they believe they are supreme and will be supreme by any means, violence corruption, anything .. If you stopped teaching children one is superior to another and they are all deserving of the same treatment and opportunities then you have a chance, Until then there is no chance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,

Jezebel is over thataway. You must have made a wrong turn somewhere.