Sunday, May 30, 2010

What If...?

Sometimes the simple, unqualified truth of my position screams back at me with such clarity, that I'm hard put to understand how people can see things any other way :)--

At work this morning, somebody happened to mention this latest round of famous/near-famous/once-famous celebrity deaths we've been experiencing the last few weeks or so. "Yeah, they've really been dropping off lately" I remarked, to which one of the young ladies replied with a shrug, "Oh, well...that's the way it happens. Everybody dies, one at a time." On impulse, I returned with the question "What if everybody dropped off at the same time? Seems like that would be a better way to do it, yes?" Her reply was a terse "no", accompanied a rigorous, staccato shaking of the head not unlike Seinfeld's refusal to taste Poppy's culinary offering after having just seen him leave the bathroom after wiping his ass without washing his hands.

Now, consider the question's ramifications. On the one hand, we have the following scenario-

SCENARIO #1. Everybody drops dead, either one at a time, or once in a while in relatively small groups. Sometimes sudden and unexpectedly, but usually after some degree of personal suffering ranging from the slightly less than trivial to the extreme. But even for the bright, shiny penny who abruptly joins the choir invisible due to a hitherto undiagnosed heart ailment in front of the bathroom mirror whilst brushing his or her teeth, there's still the suffering of loved ones to consider, not to mention the Paparazzi! (in the long run, of course; although a cost/benefit analysis would probably have to be run on any individual case for anyone keeping book). Parents and spouses left bereaved. Children left orphaned and destitute. Creditors left cheated. This is the course of the existential play as it stands. Each actor walks onstage, performs whatever lines he finds anonymously scribbled on the back of his hand, then exits via the Macbethian formula, more or less.

And what's the justification for this? As Maricella, the roly-poly Mexican lady at work explained it one day to me, "Well, Yimmy, ees like this. Ees peoples' yob to be born, then have cheeldren, and then die." Can't argue with that logic, I guess.

Now, on to scenario #2.

SCENARIO #2. Everybody drops dead, all at once.

What's the problem? Where's the dilemma? And while antinatalism can't offer quite the existential tidiness of scenario #2, it CAN offer sort of an abstract equivalent designed along the lines of the kind of vicarious immortality I rail against so often on this blog, namely- EACH of us would be able to identify him/herself with the LAST generation. But much, much more than that, the generation that chose to end all the suffering of humankind through the simple mechanism of abstention from procreation. Wow! THAT'S what I want on my tombstone!

Now, the world don't succumb to the beat of just one drum.
What might be death for you, may not be death for some.
A man is born thinking he's the man.
Then along comes the Reaper, shittin' all over his plans.

But they got, Diff'rent Strokes (ischemic, hemorrhagic)
It takes, Diff'rent Strokes (embolisms and aneurysms)
It takes, Diff'rent Strokes to kill the world, yes it does (my head hurts!)
It takes Diff'rent Strokes to kill the world! (or sometimes we fall into a woodchipper, or get stung to death by fire-ants, or just rot away from the inside, literally or metaphorically...not sure which one is worse. And as an added bonus, we get to watch it happen to many of those we love before it happens to us. Yay!)


Garrett said...
How’s THAT for screaming clarity! I know the feeling. I often want to go completely Kinison on some mofos ;) Here, have some more.

Yeah, it’s funny. Ever notice how people tend to bring up subjects that they don’t want to talk about? Go figure. Take a page from Poppy’s book. You should’ve said, “Hold that thought, gotta use the jon. BRB, K?” :D Betcha she would have shaken her head clean off of her neck hehe.

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot
Eliot’s views seem to go right along with your first scenario. Not very appealing in my opinion. Then again, none of it is appealing to me. More importantly, there are others that will eventually be born who will feel the same way. I guess that’s why we’re antinatalists. We actually care about individuals other than ourselves.

A large portion of the black population of South Africa is convinced that the reason for government promotion of condom usage is part of a conspiracy to phase out the indigenous people. The tension you feel as a white man walking near a township is palpable - I speak from experience. Many Westerners are certain that the forces of satan in conjunction with a new world order, are working hand in hand to transform the first world into a third world country. They think a plan is in motion to control them by manipulating their ability to engage in commerce and freely reproduce. Why is it that everyone fears what the “others” might do to their populations? Could it be that nearly every single human on this planet is fixated on sex and reproduction, and as a result, their paranoia centers around imagined plots that may foil their vicarious continuity? It certainly seems that way. The aversion that so many people have to raising children that are not their own, speaks clearly to their irrational and self-centered hearts. They are, without a doubt, more beastly than the animals they lock away in metal and plexiglass cages.

When overblown egos start to overwhelm me, I just envision what you call the “comedic tragedy” of life (I love how you combine the two. It seems… appropriate somehow). All of these little specs running about on a little blue dot as it silently twirls through space. Mindlessly going about their daily routine until BAM! Oh, hello asteroid! Obviously, I prefer scenario two :) I don’t know what all of these people think they are working toward, but it sure isn’t utopia. Maybe we’re making fertilizer for the garden of a six-armed, bitch slapping goddess? This sort of makes me wonder what his views on the subject may have been. I don’t know if he ended up having kids, but I suspect he caved to the pressure. One or the other always seems to…

CM said...

But if everyone dropped off all at once (except for the scenario where Jesus comes down from the sky and kills everyone), it would be obvious that the existence of our species has no higher purpose, no ultimate goal, and is, in fact, a total waste of time (even if people refuse to acknowledge that it's actually a harm). Well, technically, it wouldn't be obvious because there'd be no one left to make that observation. But considering it makes people glimpse the scary fact that all their suffering is pointless, and they would much rather experience more suffering than let go of their warm and fuzzy delusion.

Ans why is it that phrases like "everybody dies" and "everybody suffers" are used as a way to cheer people up? Wouldn't a sane person capable of empathy actually become more upset as a result of these "consolations"?

I definitely know how you feel about the screaming clarity. In fact, when I'm reading Benatar or your blog and book, I get this eery feeling that my thoughts are manifesting themselves on paper or my computer screen. But you guys do a way better job at expressing them than I ever could.

metamorphhh said...

Garrett: I'm hesitant to say that pro-natalists only care about themselves, though certainly procreation IS a pretty much exclusively selfish endeavor. But I actually think the 'shields up!' posture in the face of the antinatalist message derives, at least in part, from a misinterpretation of the philosophy as an attack on children, as well as on people in general. Thus the misapplied accusation of genocide from some corners, equating a plea to not procreate with murder. Ridiculous? Yes, but understandable considering the deep emotional investment in painting the best face on this existential tragedy we're stuck with.


"And why is it that phrases like "everybody dies" and "everybody suffers" are used as a way to cheer people up?"

What's that called, justification by tautology? LOL! Reminds me of when Lisa Simpson took note of a poster in Nelson's bedroom...

LISA: "Nuke the Whales?"

Nelson *shrugs* "Gotta nuke somethin'"

As far as identifying with what you've read here and elsewhere, it's a funny thing. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground, does there? The message is either obvious, or obviously wrong. To the people who 'get' it, there's really no mystery here. The cause of suffering and death is life, period.

Here the futurist Nick Bostrom relates a fable about a fierce dragon that terrorizes the entire planet, demanding constant tribute in the form of life to feed the raging, ever-burning fires in its infernal tum-tum. The dragon in Mr. Bostrom's tale represents death, and the moral of the story is that humankind must persevere in its attempts to kill the dreaded beast. Of course, the obviously overlooked solution here is simply to stop growing the crops upon which the dragon feeds. Cut off from the source of its nourishment, the.dragon.dies.

Garrett said...

Hey CM,

Yup, pretty much looks like there isn't going to be anyone out there who can call dibs on "I told you so!" because it's not realistic. Every scenario seems to cancel out the possibility. Such antics (if they were possible) are reserved for the more sophomoric among us. Heck, I'm not above admitting that I feel the fear of pointlessness at times, (OK... often) but like Joe Dirt says "Ya gotta keep on keepin' on!" I like being happy and I love it when others around me are happy as well. I recognize that "happy" in our state of being is the exception rather than the rule. Picture the eye of a hurricane and there you have it! I think human beings are scared to admit that war is the default state of being and peace is but a pause. A chance to reflect and catch your breath, until it's time to go back to hammering your head against the heads of others (or a wall, both are good choices). Wishing that others around me could be happy AND remain realistic is just asking too much. I also admit that if I were to let go of my warm and fuzzy delusions, then the only thing left to do would be to gather up the courage to let go of the only reality I’ve ever known. Who wants to leave the world on a bad note? What if we face something far worse afterward? That’s a terrifying prospect, and a decision I would never expect anyone to have to make. We are feeling our way around this world like blind, albino beings in the darkest cave of the mind. What else can we do besides make the best of a bad situation? Maybe someday we will find ourselves truly alive and more aware of the greater outside than we ever dreamed possible! Maybe Jon Foreman is right on: “We’re just amateur lovers, with amateur friends.“ If love overcomes fear simply because it is true, then no matter how down and out we feel, that reality can’t last for eternity.

The predominant mode of thought is this: The collective adhesion of humanity eases the workload of the individual by distributing varying responsibilities on different individuals. The individual has a greater responsibility to the hive, collective, group, herd etc… than to itself. Therefore, you are required to bear the emotional and/or physical burdens of your “fellow” man, whenever they demand it of you. Know that we are right there and bleeding with you.

The above mentality is a coping mechanism. In my opinion, it’s also a load of crap when applied without consent. It’s getting more prevalent because our current technological age is pushing agrarian societies (and small family groups) into distant memory. It’s the default excuse within any family group (when it comes to breeding) for that matter, regardless of the scale. For the record, yes, hearing “everybody dies” and “everybody suffers” does actually cause me more distress, not less. I’m obviously not the only one since such a feeling is a product of empathy. I’m not so arrogant as to think I’m the only empathetic person out there. I don’t think I’m perfect by any stretch either. All I need to do is take a look at all of the great contributions that everyone makes here, and I know it : ) Now that I think about it, one of the reasons that our answer to the query, “How are you?” is always, “Fine.” (Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional). We either don’t want to admit we are feeling weak and vulnerable, or we don’t want to alarm someone and feel obligated to explain ourselves. Where did I hear that acronym, anyway?

Garrett said...

Morning Jim,

I should have clarified my position. The reason I made such a generalization is because I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea. I want people to be content while not giving them a free pass to breed. Mental roadblocks should remain in place if people suddenly want to look for justification to create more humans (or breed more non-humans) on this twisted assembly line. I actually agree with you. Those who have cultivated the ability to understand and appreciate the dire situations others face in this world, are (in my view) more caring than those who follow through with biological urges.

I don't go out of my way to be an asshole, so I can appreciate it when others point it out to me ;)

Anonymous said...

Ok, sorry if this is the wrong spot for this.... Whereabouts do y'all live? I know what city Jim lives in (because he told us). I'm also in So Calif. What about everyone else? I would love if we could all (or some) get together for beers (or whatever) someday/somewhere. No, really, I mean it! It's starting to really get to me that my only contact with other antinatalists is online. It's really tough to go it alone, you know? (Compoverde was apparently toying with starting a meetup, but I'm not sure that ever happened... I even searched it on the meetup site, and (imagine this) nothing came up!)

Anonymous said...

I'm in the Heart of Darkness, er Dixie. It's like living in a Thomas Ligotti short story.

Garrett said...

I don't think it's inappropriate Anon. I do think that it would be kind of tough to get people to meet up though. Getting independent, freedom oriented, and (understandably) leery individuals together is a little like herding cats I'd imagine ;) I'm not the most sociable person either but I won't rule it out.

I currently reside in Southern Oregon. I have relatives in the Los Angeles area, but I rarely visit.

Jim: Ugh... Nick Bostrom made me throw up in my mouth a little. What is the deal with these Dawkins type docs and scientists? Makes me think books and articles written in the vein of "The God Delusion" are really their way of saying "Yes! God does exist and I am He! Bow down and slap thy lips upon mine ass!" Fuckin' hell... thanks for the link though.

Speaking of links, I've got an interesting one here if anyone is of the "less is more" persuasion with regard to government.

It's a good 90 minutes long, but I listened to it live yesterday, and I loved it! It's great to hear more people talking about breaking the stranglehold of the federal reserve and the issues with personal sovereignty, true property ownership, and ownership of oneself. I feel the subject goes hand in hand with the overall flavor of our discussions, so I thought I'd offer it up!


Anonymous said...

Dear Garrett,
I don't share your politics. I don't come here to share politics.
Politics, at most, is a two dimensional concept, while antinatalism is at least a 3 dimensional concept. That's why it is so hard for most people to see beyond their own instinctual drives and understand the concept.
I think you should seriously question what you're doing in this group.

Garrett said...

Yes, I do indeed SERIOUSLY question what I am doing as a part of ANY group. Namely, the human race. I am an antinatalist because I respect the individual above all else. I would like others to do the same, starting with the very simple non-act of refraining from breeding. My ideologies such as veganism, self-ownership, charity, and philanthropy, as well as love for non-human animals are what make me who I am as an individual. I sometimes like to break up the monotony of life in order to keep it fresh, (despite the fact that I think it never should have been)by sharing my thoughts, but never imposing nor pounding the pulpit while claiming I am right. I also like offering mind candy, so that the people I care about don't focus solely on the pain of life, but have the opportunity to break away and think about something else. I can't help that you don't understand that but it's OK. All that matters to me is that you don't want to breed more humans; I don't want to breed more humans... I think that's more than enough common ground ;)

Thanks so much for reminding me why we relegate the antinatalist philosophy to internet forums and journal comments. I don't think I have the intestinal fortitude to meet anyone face to face at this time. Thank you! Jim, no hard feelings if you feel the need to delete anything I've said. It's your journal and I respect that.

P.S. Irony is funny :P

Anonymous said...

Holy fuck. There are 5 Dixies in Arkansas alone.

Oskari666 said...

How about some misanthropic antinatalism for a change? I'm all for mitigating suffering for myself and those I care about, but the rest of the human race and indeed this planet can fuck off.

I'm certainly not a humanist. Any cause that seeks to eradicate people definitely gets my vote, so it's all good.

metamorphhh said...


I think that if I shared your feelings, my main concern- outside of myself and my loved ones not breeding, of course- would be to isolate myself from the rest of humanity as much as possible. Reduce exposure. Simplify my lifestyle to become less dependent on a people oriented mode of existence. Maybe move out into the woods, away from civilization. I'm not sure that antinatalism outside the bounds of the strictly personal would hold much interest for me if I truly didn't give a damn about the majority of my cohabitants on this planet.

On the other hand, if we're talking about the kind of ill will here that would move one to take positive steps toward eradicating already living people, I think we've left the realm of antinatalism, and are talking flat-out omnicide. As part of a thought experiment, I've stated elsewhere on this blog that if I had a magic button that would make us all silently go 'poof', I'd push it, since my personal moral foundations are deeply embedded in the quality of experience rather than in some form of absolute moral code. But my motivation would be the same i.e. compassion. However, since such a magic button isn't available to me, and furthermore since antinatalism is simply a call for voluntary action rather than a call to violence- thus better serving the empathy that fuels my interests in the first place- talk of omnicide really doesn't interest me much. No place to go with it, if you know what I mean.

I'd be interested in some expansion on your feelings here concerning why antinatalism would interest you. Why would you care one way or the other what people do after you're gone if you're not concerned with their experiential states-of-being in the first place? It seems to me your logical course of action would be to find that balance of isolation/civilization-based-comfort which best suits you, and not worry about the rest. After all, from a purely egocentric position the world and all its inhabitants will disappear when you do, yes? After that, no problems!

Hope to hear back from you. Maybe you can explain where I'm missing something here. Thanks for the comment.

Makarov said...

I'm with Oskari in that if there was a weapon that instantly kills everyone:i'm game. Or if the suffering is prolonged by say 5 years : also ok. It's better to suffer for some years than live billions and raping the rest of the galaxy with our shit.

The Plague Doctor said...

I'm with Makarov. Looks like someone needs to start a blog "Panthanasia -- the Greatestest Taboo"!