Not least of the intentions behind the raising of “human dignity” to the status of highest principle of the current German constitution was surely a certain desperate aspiration to take actions leading to new human beings’ beginning to exist and make them appear, even after the terrible mass murders of the 20th century, ethically defensible. After the human species had once again degraded itself – and perhaps this time more deeply than ever before – in the course of the Second World War (àFall, neganthropic) the taking up of a supposed guarantee of human dignity into the German constitution represented an attempt to circumvent what was really the only appropriate and adequate reaction: a voluntary renunciation of all procreation as the only measure that could really prevent something so terrible from ever occurring again.
This general political-juridical commitment to “human dignity”; the fact that the demand for this dignity’s preservation has found its way, in the 20th century, into so many state constitutions and international declarations – these are, far from being expressions of mankind’s having risen to some new and higher level of moral awareness, rather to be ascribed to the fact that this century represented a culmination point in terms of infringement of just this human dignity (See F. J. Wetz, Die Würde des Menschen ist antastbar) F. J. Wetz argues as much in his book Human Dignity is Violable: “Today, at the end of the 20th century, which has seen two world wars, liberation struggles, tribal conflicts and revolutions on all continents, with millions of men, women and children of all ages dead, crippled, raped or otherwise robbed of their dignity, history continues to offer a spectacle of misery, a comfortless drama of suffering…” (Wetz, Die Würde)
While the constitutions and declarations, then, continue to describe “human dignity as inviolable” this dignity is in fact gambled with, irresponsibly, with each new birth. Because no institution or person in the world was or is in a position really to guarantee any new-born human being an existence with dignity. And every birth means the condemnation of a human being to a freedom which he can often only acquire by taking his own life.
The appeal to human dignity is part of that cultural immune system which is intended to preserve us from insight into the fact that, since Auschwitz at the very latest, the only morally defensible way to preserve this dignity is to remain without progeny. The author of the just-cited book appears also to intuit this truth; but he omits to make the antinatalist consequences explicit – something which also goes to show how deeply-lying and effective this cultural immune system continues to be:
“Humanity’s fate was always a difficult one and it is an illusion to believe that it was only in the 20th century that the world went ‘out of joint’ and that all was well and good before. Many places on the earth have always been sites of suffering and destruction, so that one cannot help but anxiously confront the question of whether life is not perhaps something which, rather than being lived with dignity, must, at best, be suffered through and put up with till the end (c.f. Wetz, p. 65) It seems impossible to fathom how, on the basis of this insight, there has failed to arise a general demand that distance be taken, in future, from the bringing of any more human beings into the world.