I have said it before and I will say it again, I do not like children. I don’t hate them, but I sure don’t have much affinity for them. I remembered a candid moment when I remarked to a friend on how ‘cute’ a kid we saw on the street was, to which she immediately gave me a rather curt retort - haven’t I said before that ‘I didn’t like kids?'
Sure I did, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be cute right? Puppies are cute too, and I don’t see the need to have them either. But if I had to choose, puppies might just as well be a more desirable alternative to babies - at least you can always rely on them for unconditional, non-judgemental love!
A lecturer of mine remarked on his website that ‘the only good baby… is a working baby’, which drew quite a vitriol from a classmate of mine, but funnily it was his strong reaction that was more appalling to me than my lecturer’s view.
Him, like most people, perceives that having a child as a ‘god given right’ [^1], for otherwise, nature wouldn’t have given us the ability to procreate in the first place.
Yet, nature had also given us ‘consciousness’ of free will - humans are given the ability to make conscious choices that enables us to override our primitive desires, which if not the case, we will still have mating seasons, bright red bosoms, and and irresistible desire to copulate when it happens. Can’t say I don’t miss those good ol’ days, since it is never less than difficult to read the right signals from women anymore! But since we have evolved to make procreation a function of conscious choice rather than an involuntary reflex action, I don’t see why an individual should not make his choice based on his own personal convictions.
Yet, the more interesting reason I have, is the fact that all life, will ultimately come to an end, where our destruction is a foregone conclusion. The only thing that’s variable in our destruction, is just on which timescale of that it will happen to us. And given that we are living in a world that resource scarcity is increasingly become a more tangible reality, true irresponsibility comes from the fact that we are bringing more life into this world than we can sustainably maintain, rather than not having children.
To frame it in context, it took humans millennias to reach the population of 1 billion people in the 18th century, and only a century later grow this figure by an additional 5 billion. There are plenty of detractors who refutes the Malthusian theory that such permanent exponential growth can be possible, and many citing that throughout the timeline when man has dwelled this Earth, it hasn’t happened. But it is misleading, and misguided to reach the conclusion by measuring it on a timescale - the mistake is that we’ve gotten the timings wrong, not that the eventuality will not happen. Perhaps the recent increases in the prices in oil, gas, wheat, rice, corn, poultry and other food staples is just a testament where this eventuality may be much closer than we’ll like to think.
But finally, from a more ‘selfish’ perspective, why shouldn’t we not have children?
This, improbable as it may seem, somehow links us back to the reason why nature had given us the ability to have children in the first place. Perhaps the more interesting question we haven’t been asking ourselves is ‘why are we able to procreate in the first place?’
‘It just is’, is not good enough, even though many might think it’s an adequate answer. If you are familiar with the works of Richard Dawkins, his book, ‘The Selfish Gene’ suggests that our need for progeny is simply the gene’s mechanism to ensure the continuation of its existence. That double helix structure is the sole reason why we have the ability to bear offsprings, and why the need to make us need, feel and want it.
And to come back to notion of ‘cuteness’ that I’ve alluded to earlier, surprisingly, it is just another example of the ‘Selfish Gene’ in action - a peculiar trait that serves no function other than eliciting a strong emotional response that is steeped deeply within our psyche - the ‘cuteness’ that we perceive, be it in a baby tiger or human, is intentional by design so that we will develop a sense of affection to the baby to take care of it. Yet it is irrational, for the case of a tiger, to grow affectionate to it presents a life threatening risk to oneself should it grow to full maturity - and yet the inherent cuteness is what inhibits our minds from perceiving the actual threat. Cuteness acts in same way in human babies, that when parenting have reached past its point of usefulness, the ‘cuteness’ trait subsides in a child as he grows into an adult, when he has reached self-sufficiency. It is not hard to infer then, that ‘cuteness’ is a form of emotional parasitism that confers the host no benefit in return in its raw, biological state.
But the good news is, since we humans are unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, we are able to choose between succumbing to our ‘Selfish Gene’, or my own ‘Selfish Utilitarian Individualism’(TM), which is why I have chosen the latter. That all shouldn’t be too surprising, given that I am supposed follower of Schopenhauer’s school of thought, which seems just like the perfect, natural thing for me to do! But the next time someone asks me on my view about children again, well, I’ll tell them ‘it’s a looooong story’.
And maybe, they should just read my blog. ;-)
[^1] ‘god’ as an abstract construct, given the idea to the right of childbirth is inherently present in all cultures and not just limited to people who believed in the Christian God!