At any given moment most people don’t want to die. While many people fear the process of dying most people do probably fear to lose THEIR lives .
It looks like the fear of LOSING one’s life doesn’t make too much sense. This is so, because I or you will not continue to exist as a person who has lost her life.
In pretty much the same manner – and according to the same illogic – in which many people don’t want to lose THEIR lives most people do welcome that THEY once ‘won’ their lives. A common expression for this is: People are glad that THEY were given the ‘gift’ of life. However, when I began to exist there was no ME who gained the additional feature of life. For this very reason it doesn’t make sense when people try to refute antinatalism on the ground that THEY and others would have missed out ont he feature of life had their parents not procreated.
Whenever the term ANTINATALISM is mentioned or explained at least one of the following three defence systems will be activated:
A personal defence system: MY PERSONAL EXISTENCE/CHOICE IS BEING QUESTIONED / UNDER THREAT.
A familial defence system: THE EXISTENCE OF MY CHILDREN IS BEING QUESTIONED / UNDER THREAT
A societal defence system: OUR SOCIETY’S EXISTENCE/FUTURE IS BEING QUESTIONED / UNDER THREAT
The personal defence system is due to a kind of DEPRIVATIONAL FALLACY: “The antinatalist is questioning my very existence: Had my parents followed the antinatalist’s ethical advice I would still be NOTHING which is somehow equivalent to murder.”
Wherever I explained the antinatalist moral theory pointing to less suffering in the world as compared with pronatal actions, people (even otherwise humane people) were prepared to accept any amount of suffering if only mankind will persist. Only recently did I speak to members of a humanistic league who were prepared to accept a second Auschwitz if only mankind were allowed to continue.
While it looks like there is an updraught for antinatalism at least in English-speaking countries (we don’t know much about such contries China, India…) this moral theory has a problematic special status in Germany. I elaborated on this German thing in a blog post By the way, probably it was Théophile de Giraud who first used the term ANTINATALISM for the moral theory favoured by us.
In the face of these reactions the future of antinatalism may look rather bleak. But there is reason for optimism within this frame: As a consequence of the ever more visible antinatalist world league of which we form part, there will be an increasing number of individuals ready to confess their hitherto clandestine antinatalism – it’s a chain reaction.
One would expect Buddhists to be more outspoken antinatalists than Hindus. While many Hindu sects do believe in a persisting soul which may achieve higher incarnations with every rebirth, there doesn’t appear to be such a thing as a persisting soul in Buddhism. Against this background Aldous Huxley’s elaboration on Buddhist antinatalim seems reasonable at first sight:
“They were good Buddhists, and every good Buddhist knows that begetting is merely postponed assassination. Do your best to get off the Wheel of Birth and Death, and for heaven’s sake don’t go about putting superfluous victims on the Wheel. For a good Buddhist, birth control makes metaphysical sense.” (Aldous Huxley, Island)
On closer examination, however, we find that many a Buddhist will not defend antinatalism. Why? Mahayana Buddhism might develop the following subterfuge: Mankind has to continue to help with other beings that otherwise would be lost in samsara. But what about simpler forms of Buddhism, why aren’t they more outspoken on antinatalism?
…but you may bring in any number of animals to be slaughtered: It’ll be all right for the vast majority of people. One million, one hundred million or a billion animals. It’s all right. As long as the corpses of all those animals will be eaten up by humans it’s no problem.
Now reveal yourself as an antinatalist suggesting it would be ethical to sterilise a billion sentient animals in order to reduce suffering. People will be flabbergasted calling you immoral.
In a similar manner people are prepared to sacrifice own children to life’s imponderabilities and to lingering illness at the end of their lifes, while they are not prepared to consider abstention from procreation.
The other day I offered a short introduction into Karlheinz Deschner’s antinatalism when I was accosted by somebody who said:
‘For the sake of stringency you’d have to endorse mass sterilisation of animals, too, since they are pain causing agents.’
Explaining the point of view of an all-encompassing antinatalism I said that he was definitely right. Some of the people who were disgusted to hear this were just having dinner for the preparation of which body parts of massacred animals had been used.
In his short story AFTER THE PLAGUE T.C. Boyle deals with the literary topic of ‘The last of the race’. As a rule stories on the last of the race will end with a man and a woman meeting thus making sure mankind will continue. Boyle’s plot is rather spicy since his couple among the last of the race won’t match at all. Nonetheless he’s uttering:
‘…and I think you know what I’m talking about… Procreation I mean. If you look at it in a certain way, it’s – well, it’s our duty.”
Will she, who doesn’t like him – and vice versa – give in on behalf of the duty? Not at all:
‘I had my tubes tied fifteen years ago.’
Soon afterwards the male hero is to meet another woman with Boyle keeping us in the dark on the future of humankind.
In A CONVERSATION WITH T.C. BOYLE the author is being asked the following question:
“What is your actual view of the Earth twenty years in the future? How about one hundred years in the future? Do you think that our efforts to “Save the Planet” are actually steps taken in the right direction to reverse the damage we’ve done, or is it truly too late for us?”
“With A Friend of the Earth, I went around the world on my book tours, depressing the hell out of people, while at the same time making them laugh, of course. The only hope I could come up with, and this after a long evening of reading excerpts and taking questions, is a program I’d like to initiate. It’s very simple: if we can all of us on the earth, and no cheating, please, agree to refrain from sex for one hundred years, the problem will be solved.”
No matter how serious Boyle really is about his declaration we should welcome it. Still it is problematic for two reasons: First, the problem is not sex but procreation. The Cathari famously were against procreation but had no problem with sex. Second, once the last man on earth has ceased to exist, the planet won’t be ‘saved’ but continue to be a place in which countless sentient animals suffer unspeakably.
Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) in his essay THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT:
“I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment now reveals to him, were never going to exist. Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy.” (The world’s last night and other essays)
What may be upon us at any given moment, according to Lewis, is not only an End but a Judgement after which some souls may enjoy infinite bliss. This, Lewis says, does not hold for the atheistic revolutionary for whom all agonies of the past must be vain without a better future in this world or in another world.
Lewis’s argumentation obviously comes with strings attached: How dare he, along with the ‘conscientious revolutionary’, compensate for the reality and the intensity of bygone agonies by pointing to mankind’s prolonged future? Does the reality or the intensity of the pain experienced long ago by person P depend on whether or not mankind has a future or on the quality of future lives?
Against the background of Lewis’s rumination the following question becomes ever more pressing: By means of which ressources do today’s this-worldly parents justify procreation in the face of an obstructed future?