Existential Blackmail

No one was ever in a position to exert any influence on the events and actions which led to his presence in the world. In principle, however, any one of us is in a position to bring it about that the world goes on existing without us in it. Against the background of these facts the cynical suggestion is often made to people who are not in agreement with their own existence having been brought about heteronomously that, instead of complaining, they would do better simply to make use of the possibility of taking their own life, with the giving of which to them they are plainly not in concurral. Where this option is not taken up, it is hereby implied, the repudiation of existence surely cannot have been so very seriously meant by the repudiator.

Besides this form of “existential blackmail” Pascal Bruckner also draws our attention to the following form: “There is a new blackmail parents exercise on their children: I made you so you must be happy.“ (New Scientist, 16 April 2011, p. 51) Spelled out explicitly, this form of existential blackmail takes the following shape: parents expect from their children, as thanks for the Gift of Life, not just the usual gratitude for existence but a gaiety and joy which cannot possibly, in fact, be summoned up on demand.

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