Pronatal Immune Systems

The question is almost never posed of whether it is morally defensible to beget other human beings. Within the context of an as it were “pronatal immune system” procreation passes for something normal, natural and even necessary. It counts as normal because all cultures, in all periods, have been “human-begetting” cultures. It counts as natural inasmuch as all non-human species too beget their own kind. And it counts as necessary because without procreation humanity would die out. – But this in its turn must count as something catastrophic. This recourse to the notions of the normality, naturality and necessity of procreation serves to obscure the existence of blatant contradictions between, on the one hand, certain widely-shared values and, on the other, the inhumane consequences of progenerative actions for the millions of human beings affected by them. As long as the pronatalistic immune system remains unnamed, its victims too remain invisible: billions of begotten human beings who must undergo existential and corporeal crises such as lingering illnesses and mortality in their own selves and be witnesses to them in their family and loved ones and who may also become victims of wars or other catastrophes – things which are in fact neither normal, nor natural, nor necessary.

 

Perinatal Immune System

Also part of that cultural “immune system” without which those antinatalistic seeds which are sown around everywhere in our culture would surely begin to sprout is that silence, never explicitly agreed upon but everywhere observed, regarding what has been designated, in the title of a book, as “the violence of childbirth”. In this book, authored by Isabelle Azoulay, we read that “…our expectations regarding childbirth have been so thoroughly tinted by fine-sounding promises for the future that the notion that birth could be the source of many ambivalent feelings hardly ever any longer arises. Our culture really has driven a wedge, so to speak, between our consciousnesses and these unacceptable realities.”  (Azoulay, Die Gewalt) “We can look upon women’s typical repression of the memory of the pain of childbirth, as well as the more general amnesia of society in this regard, as bolts slid across our lived experience to spare our bodies and minds all contact with these unacceptable but fundamental realities.” (Ibid.)

The philosophy of Man has propagated the insight that Man is by his very nature a cultural being. This truth could well be made to apply also to human childbirth, inasmuch as the unimaginable pains involved in this latter could be reduced to a minimum, or made to disappear entirely, by anaesthetics. Nevertheless, it is still the case that no more than around ten per cent of women experience largely pain-free childbirth. It would almost appear as if even our modern civilization still lies under the curse of its sadistic God who decreed to Eve and her descendants “in sorrow shall you bring forth children”. Childbirth, which is frequently accompanied by an actual fear of death, represents, we may say, a violent intrusion of our most basic biology – the “acultural” par excellence – into the sphere of culture: “In view of the fact that even physicians consider the pains of childbirth to count among the most extreme states of pain experienced by human beings, the silence that generally reigns regarding these pains seems like a secret conspiracy, as if everyone had implicitly commonly resolved to close their collective eyes to the reality of this limit-experience: birth.” Instead of recommending to women about to give birth that they request peridural anaesthesia the currently predominant practice among midwives and doctors is to do the very opposite and urge them to undergo the almost intolerable pains of childbirth as if this were a positive experience. This despite the fact that trauma of the pelvic area ensuing from childbirth is not something we see only in human beings of recent generations but rather something that has been occurring for four million years. These traumas are to be traced back to the fact that the diameter of the birth canal and that of the head of the neonate are as a rule almost identical so that, if there is even a slight variation in either of these factors, it can easily come about that the pelvic diameter proves too small (see New Scientist, 7. January 2012, p. 11) Regarding the unacceptability of procreation and birth, we may say, there predominates a collective silence, accompanied by an unspoken collective awareness of what is actually the case.

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