Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Roots of Selfishness

Our very own Plague Doctor seems to have somewhat diverted a recent discussion about marriage, here,(a little ways down in the comments section); 'driving a stake', as it were, 'into the heart of the procreation[sic] myth'. His arguments, as usual, are concise and easy to understand. He even offers a link to this blog (check's in the mail). However, needless to say (it IS needless by this time, isn't it?), many of the responses had almost nothing to do with the arguments he actually made. Nothing new, eh? I DID want to highlight one statement in particular-

J says:
November 3, 2010 at 9:58 pm
@Plague Doctor

I looked at your site, and I’m really feeling you. I used to be a tremendous cynic too…before I had children.
Know what? Even if my kids died of cancer like that poor child in the slide show, I’d never regret having them. Not because I’d delude myself that I was stronger and better for having lost them or that it was God’s will that they died, but because the joy of having had them would still exceed the pain of losing them. Yeah, life hurts sometime. So what?

This is an attitude all of us have witnessed time and again in the course of these dialogues; although, I'm not sure I've ever seen it stated quite so unequivocally, which is the reason I've posted it here. The blatant self-interest is really pretty shocking. I suspect the commenter also felt this way upon re-reading what he/she'd written, since a little farther down in the thread there's a bit of an attempt to mitigate the force of the words. Unfortunately for him/her, the weight of the comment is really too comprehensive to minimize through retroactive context pleading. To summarize: What I desire ultimately outweighs ANYTHING that might happen to someone else as a consequence of my desires.

Of course, this attitude absolutely flies in the face of all the noblest of human ideals, as represented by any moral schema handed down through time that one wishes to choose. Self-sacrifice. Honor. Loyalty. Sympathy. Love. Respect. Caring. Indeed, the fundamental basis for morality is always an arrow pointing away from the self towards others. Morality and ethics, in the context of an isolated self, are meaningless terms. Naturally, people will differ as to the details, but such a declaration as the one I'm discussing here falls so far beyond the pale of ANY principled sensibility as to render it absolutely without merit in moral terms. Seemingly.

And yet, this is probably the natural response of almost all people, everywhere, to the antinatalist argument. Of otherwise good people. Charitable people. Caring people. In many cases, far, far better people than you and me. It's a thoroughly unjustified position to take; and by that, I mean unjustified according to most people's own moral sensibilities. The world of humanity is walking around in a fog of cognitive dissonance, clinging to and vociferously upholding principles which are in stark contrast to their own ostensible beliefs. Because, despite the sundry protestations made by folks who'd like to see themselves on the right side of the moral gladiator's pit (don't we all?), procreation is rooted in categorical self-interest, plain and simple. Worse, it is self-interest at the expense of others. Worse yet, those others are the very one's we're supposedly sacrificing part of our lives for- our children. But what most parents won't admit- can't admit, even to themselves- is that their 'sacrifice' is really only an investment in their own happiness, even when the cost of suffering and death is levied on the heads of their own children.

Read the comment again. It's outrageous! It's abhorrent! These are the words of a despicable human being! This is the attitude of a monster!

It's also the attitude of pretty much everybody in the whole world...including myself, once upon a time.

No offense to Nick Bostrom, but the real enemy needing to be slain is complacency; the complacency of those who never question the evil of delivering generation upon generation of people into the jaws of unavoidable* suffering and death, for what amounts to a whim of an evolutionary urge that rationality should have outgrown a long time ago. Perhaps it will, one day.

In the meantime- 'Yeah, life hurts sometimes. So what?'

*Did I say unavoidable? Only in the aftermath of the 'blessed event'. But suffering and death are ALWAYS avoidable, aren't they? Don't procreate. It's that simple. Of course, there'll be no one around to thank you for it, which is pretty much the point, isn't it? You know, altruism in the interest of others, and all that shit. If you really need to hear it, I'll say it for them. Thanks for not reproducing. Happy now?

Long live Negative Bliss!