Thursday, March 22, 2007

A hoplessly child-prone person tries to make the case for childlessness

I admit that I could not make much sense of my own life without reference to bringing up children, and particularly, my children. If I pointed you to the dozen or so posts in this and other blogs wherein I confirm my own opinions with emotion and logic it would only waste your time. I am not even thinking about convincing anyone else that they should feel as I feel about having kids. I do not ascribe this core value of mine to religious training as it can be shown clearly that any and all such training has been a complete failure in my case. Besides, there has been little enough such training, coming late enough in my life that success was unlikely. I can recount events that revealed to me early in life that I simply felt this way or "just knew what I wanted". So what! If one's ultimate recourse in supporting a policy is nothing more than "I feel it is so", then they have no authority beyond sympathy in persuading others to consider their position on the matter.

In fact, I am beginning to see that so deeply held an opinion about children when, in a reasonably egalitarian society, having children is optional, must be mirrored by others who lack that urge and are, as I am in my own way, lucky enough to know children are not their fate or future. Repeat after me: the assignment of this urge is arbitrary. The assignment of this urge is arbitrary. And it is but one of many that may glow within the pilot lights of our midbrain. The fact that only one sex actually bears children is the link between failing to recognize we are dealing with a wish only some people bear in their heart and failing horribly to operate as a just society around procreation roles and issues.

It is sometimes difficult to detect the feelings that give rise to the reasons. One should always be suspicious at their seeming absences and look carefully. Science tries to proceed on that basis but the rest of our pursuits should be engaged in the certainty that we don't necessarily know why we want the things we want. As the best of scientists has put it “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” All I can do then is to speak of rationalizations and not of reasons because I am damn sure feelings are running this show.

I am going to sort out all the rationalizations I am aware of to see if any have a hope of bearing the load a reason could carry.

The rationalizations for biological parenting come armored in the appearance of flawless logic: you would not be here and we humans, by simple induction, would have no future without people having babies. There are gaping chinks in this armor. The confusion of the race communally and its fate with the individual and her obligations is a sufficiently deep flaw to put this away for good. Attempts to couple these two are an affront to individuality and were always a pretext for the dominance of some creed or other. The most common rationalizations for baby making have been inflexibly entombed in religious dogma, to our unending strife: multiply and be fruitful is a dreadful law to all who don't actually happen to enjoy the same feelings I have. The urge to have kids, whether you have positively felt it and see it as a natural gift or you are comfortable with it in spite of considering it a learned appetite, is desperately in need of liberation from dogma.

The rationalizations for biological parenting have non-bioparenting analogs that a person might prefer:
  • Following Carl Sagan's observation : We have evolved enough brain that extra-genetic heritage in our arts and sciences mean a person leaves more to posterity that his or her brats.
  • I personally suspect some pet owners of sublimating or of needing a partner who just never talks back but still, maybe all the more needs you feel can be sopped up from your Dachshund...go for it. [You do realise that some conversations are actually interrupted monologues because you needed to rehearse a line of thought or model a feeling, don't you?]
  • Easily the most morally supportable analog is to actually parent and provide the resources that turn a baby in to a productive and happy human:adoption

I am not so familiar with the rationalizations against. And my reaction to them is generally emotional and negative. Of the rationalizations Amanda Marcotte offered against, most to me seem selfish or flippant. They only say what I expect: "this person does not feel like having babies". No quarrel with that. Its a right but its not a reason. It is certain that fools can have babies but I have to question how many prospective parents** don't know about diaper changing and procreate, in affluent America, with the idea that it will make the wealthier or leave them more time to indulge their hobbies. Few if any, I'd say. Still, Amanda gets the prize. She has the rationalization that stands like a reason: there are too damn many of us on this planet and the decision to have even one child is an enormously vain and selfish calculation. To her rationalization, I could only add the medically obvious: you should not breed if you are likely to produce sick and miserable creatures with diseases that will cost you, your partner and all society money and tears.

So, there you have the table of rationalizations, weighed and one reason found. BUT just remember: None of these,pro or con, are morally binding because the root of the matter arises from emotional wiring you can't do much about and have a perfect right to act upon.

**BTW, I explicitly exclude accidental parents from this line of reasoning...they should have emergency room priority but that's not happening in our fecundamentalist society.

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