Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Commenter Modern Man Said:

I made the mistake of staring at a pregnant woman today; the resulting existential dread was unbearable.

During my approximately three mile commute to work, rarely a day goes by when I don't see at least a small handful of very young women pushing baby strollers. Ofttimes, these are double and triple deckers, with more in tow! My general reaction is one of nausea. In fact, I'm feeling a bit of that now just writing about it. I suppose this is the existential dread Modern Man is referring to. It's not only the knowing, but the understanding that these parents are utterly oblivious to the horrible futures some of these children will face.

I was out walking the dog late last night. Somewhere nearby a window was open, and I could hear the lyrics of a rap 'song' repeated ad nauseam-

I wanna make love to you.
I wanna make love to you.
I wanna make love to you...

Chanting along was the voice of what I imagined to be a girl somewhere in her mid-teens-

I wanna make love to you.
I wanna make love to you.
I wanna make love to you...

Over and over again, in an abstracted monotone reminiscent of a chantey sung by zombies during their evening repast of human fricassee (dem bones, dem bones, dem huuuuman bones). It gave me the shivers, because I knew she would indeed be making love, again and again and with different partners, most likely popping out babies like watermelon seeds. Naturally I'm generalizing, but in my neighborhood the odds are on my side. Procreation is commonly a mindless endeavor around these parts; outwardly discouraged at times, but tacitly supported in ten thousand ways by society at large. I have no hopes for directly reaching any of these people. My ideas are foreign and hostile, and will find no purchase in a lower working-class culture where almost all energies are invested in scraping out a living, with a little left over for cheap recreation ala baby making. It's discouraging.

I suppose antinatalism could rightly be termed 'elitist' in the derogatory sense of the word. Who am I to tell people what to do with their own bodies? In the final analysis, is this philosophy simply the other side of the authoritarian coin already occupied by the anti-abortion movement? I don't believe it is, but I can certainly appreciate the defensive posturing of those who are afraid I want to 'violate' their rights as citizens. And to be perfectly honest, I would violate those rights if I had a realistic opportunity of doing so. In my eyes, I'm saving lives, pure and simple. I guess that makes me an ideologue. Hopefully, not a blind one.

Of course, some cogent arguments from the other side might someday prove me wrong. I've yet to see any of those, though I'm still waiting.


Karl said...

Great post, Jim. Yup, those double and triple deckers definitely make the stomach turn over. Speaking of which, I caught a part of an interview this morning with a woman called Barbara Harris. She runs an organisation that pays drug-addicted women to be sterilised so as not to bring children into the world that have an even better chance than usual of leading horrible lives. If only she'd stop favouring drug addicts and broaden her target group! Here's a link to a clip. (I'm in the UK zone, so am not sure if it'll work in the US, but I daresay she's on Youtube.) Looking forward to what people think of the whole concept.

Karl said...

Not sure if all that link address came through, but if not, put 'BBC Hardtalk' into Google, follow the link and Harris is first up.

metamorphhh said...

Thanks, Karl. I was able to find a longer interview on YouTube that's embeddable. I'm posting it on the main page.

Sister Y said...

I was talking to my lover last night (the one who's an emergency children's social worker in the worst part of my city), and his thought was that what we need to do is to change basic moral thinking on early-term abortion. That is, early-term abortion must be seen as the responsible thing to do in case of unintended pregnancy, the default option, and carrying the pregnancy to term must come to be seen for the morally questionable choice that it is.

I think this is already what most non-religious people believe, deep down. But many people still attach negative moral connotations to abortion - it's still taboo, I think, to encourage someone to have an abortion.

metamorphhh said...

Curator: I wholeheartedly agree, although that'll be a tough sell as long as the Church in all its more draconian guises reigns supreme.

Anonymous said...

Hey all! I'm new to the whole idea of antinatalism and found out about it when I was exploring different childfree sites. I really like this site and can really connect with what people say on here in a way that i can't on most other sites.

The first thing I think of when I see a pregnant woman or a woman with young children is dread for the mother. I think about all mothers go through mentally, physically, and emotionally to bring children into the world and rear them and I think: WHY would anyone want to go through that to bring another human being into the world?

I guess what I'm trying to ask in a long-winded way is: where do childfreedom and antinatalism intersect? Even before I found antinatalism I've always thought that, looked at pretty objectively, the world is such a horrible place and I barely want to be here. Why would I bring another being into this world?

And that's one of the main reasons I am childfree, besides not liking the way children would change my life and body, I can't think of ONE good reason to bring another human being into this world. Not one. Especially a western being that whose way of life will be dependent on guzzling resources from third world countries.

Anyway, it's so great to have found such a niche on the internet. :)

metamorphhh said...


"I can't think of ONE good reason to bring another human being into this world. Not one."

Here's that intersection you're looking for. Welcome.

S. Hall said...

Generally, a Childfree person's dread of having children is directly related to the perception that parenthood would be antithetical to his/her desired lifestyle. If that person could raise a child without making the necessary sacrifices, then that person would probably be more liable to procreate. After all, the Childfree folk have no problem with other people's informed decision to reproduce.

An anti-natalist, on the other hand, considers the nature of existence and concludes that it's better never to have been born. The anti-natalist experiences existential dread at the sight of a pregnant woman not because they imagine how difficult it is to raise children, but because they understand what's in store for the developing fetus once it's disconnected from the womb.

Cioran might have put it best: "I was alone in that cemetery overlooking the village when a pregnant woman came in. I left at once, in order not to look at this corpse-bearer at close range, nor to ruminate upon the contrast between an aggressive womb and the time-worn tombs - between a false promise and the end of all promises."


metamorphhh said...

Modern Man: Great Cioran quotation. Pregnant woman as corpse bearer; that sums up my feeling rather well. Another Cioran quote I like- the other side of the coin, as it were- is this...

"The advantages of a state of eternal potentiality seem to me so considerable that when I begin listing them, I can't get over the fact that the transition to Being could ever have occurred."

On another note, I just learned Christopher Hitchens has what is probably terminal cancer. He's written about it here. I'll be interested to see if he chronicles his cancer's progression. He's an interesting, if ofttimes polarizing, writer, and I'm very curious about what he might have to say as he nears the abyss.

S. Hall said...


That's a great Cioran quote, as well. I'll be saving that one.

That Hitchens article is absolutely horrifying. I tend to focus so much on the meta-physical aspect of death, that I forget how terribly painful the physical part will probably be. A part of me hopes he doesn't chronicle his death because I know I'll be reading it if he does.


metamorphhh said...

Modern Man: I'm hoping he gives us a blow-by-blow accounting. I think most of us are far too removed from the horrors of the dying process. In response to my antinatalism arguments, a woman at work once told me "We're meant to be born, have children, and die." That was her complete thought on the matter, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. The terrible agony that death often brings just isn't taken seriously by most people. If it were more real and up-close, perhaps a few would hesitate, and maybe even be 'scared straight' on the matter.

Unknown said...

Modern Man:

Your quote from Cioran about the pregnant woman in the cemetary reminded me of something from Samuel Beckett about birth being given astride a grave.

The Plague Doctor said...

Apparently even death is insufficient to shake people's convictions. Please read the suicide note of a girl (Lynn Gilderdale) who got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when she was 14. She writes:

"Imagine never having been able to fulfil one thing above all else — that thing that should be a right for all young women, the right to have a young child. I know some women are unable to, but it doesn’t stop my heart from aching and the need to hold my own baby. [emphasis added]"

This is completely incomprehensible to me. CFS turned her life into a living hell, yet the thing she wants the most is to drag another soul into hell with her.

This is relevant to me, as I also became basically house-bound and in pain from CFS after a bout of mono in 2008, and my life has been a nightmare ever since, and I have had to struggle against suicide on a daily basis (though now, the fatigue has replaced itself with equally serious digestive problems).

When I asked her about it, my mother still said it would be nice to have grandchildren!

Though to be honest, I still was not an antinatalist after becoming depressed after seeing my father suffer and die in my teens. I just decided to postpone the whole children question until I got out of depression, as I thought I would not be able to be a good parent in a depressed state. The antinatalist view, that even if I were able to be a good parent, it could never 100% guarantee happiness for my children, and that I would be the cause of their death, had then never occurred to me.

Anonymous said...

There is almost nothing redeeming about existence. I believe procreation to be the greatest of all sins; to drag into being without consent.

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