Antinatalists argue strenuously that it is wrong to have children, that it creates suffering, that there is no point in having children, that there’s no point in perpetuating mankind, that mankind is too fucked up for us to keep it going, that you don’t have the right to delegate risks to someone else, that you can’t force anything on someone without their consent, and so on.
But this does not convince everyone. There are extremely selfish people who don’t give a damn about human decency or factual statements; all they care about is themselves, and fuck everyone else, including their own children. These people are likely to say something like:
“I don’t care if it’s wrong… I have the RIGHT to have children, and you have no RIGHT to stop me!”
To anyone who would say that, first of all, fuck you. You have just given me proof positive that you are a sociopathic asshole who would rather see their own children suffer than do the right thing and not have them. Even when you talk about suffering that happens to other people, you ignore the fact that it might happen to your children as well. You profoundly disgust me.
Many assholes claim the right to inflict suffering on others, from the emotionally scarring to outright death. So this is not a new conceit, by a long shot. But does it make any sense to say that you have the right to inflict suffering on others? And how does it make any sense to say that I can’t stop you from doing it?
Sure, they have the legal right to have children, and I don’t have any legal right to stop them. If that is what is meant by “right,” then obviously I have nothing to reply except “legal obligation does not create moral obligation,” and that therefore I really don’t care at all. I still consider it ethically noble for people to try to stop others from inflicting harm, even if the law says otherwise (e.g. people who fought against monarchies, slavery, sweatshops, or the war on drugs). Since by definition all forms of civil disobedience are illegal or promote illegal things, I am all for people who want to fight the law.
Am I advocating killing potential parents? No, of course not. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it doesn’t solve anything to prevent suffering by inflicting suffering.
Do people actually have an ethical right to have children, in the same respect than we have the right to life or the right to free expression? The United Nations sure think so, but then again they also think we have a right to property, which is logical nonsense.
One thing we do know is that any supposed right which contradicts an established right is not a right at all. Any “right” to shut people up (because they express things we find despicable, for instance) contradicts the right of free expression, and is therefore nonsense. Likewise, the “right” to procreate contradicts the right to the highest standard of health. We know for a fact that any given procreative act may break this right, and that there is no way for any parent to know that the expression of their “right” won’t.
And we know for a fact that starting any new life implies breaking the right to life itself. It may be impossible to say what a future life will go through, but what we do know is that this life will eventually die, whether immediately after birth or after a hundred years. Death is a part of life. Anyone who thinks starting new lives doesn’t involve causing their future death is deluding emself.
In order to actually have children, parents delude themselves into thinking that they somehow can overcome the laws of nature; they seriously believe that if they take the right precautions, if they teach their child the right thing, if they follow the right child-raising fad, somehow their child will escape all possibility of harm. This is delusional thinking, but it is necessary for them to believe this with all their heart in order to forget the fact that they have created a new life which will suffer and die.
Here there is a clear parallel with the structures of thought we erect to tell ourselves that values are meaningful and to forget the fact that we will suffer and die. Humans seem to love to multiply layers of meanings endlessly. Some thinkers have posited, in a position called terror management theory, that most of what we do both individually and socially serves the purpose of hiding the fact of our mortality. Because of their research, numerous studies confirm a link between meaning-building and awareness of one’s mortality.
But we don’t even need any studies to realize how true this is in the case of procreation. People procreate in order to perpetuate the illusion that they will not die, that they will “live on” in their children and their children’s children, that they will “pass on” whatever it is that makes their own lives meaningful.
So again we come back to the critical problem that we see new lives as means to an end, that we use them as tools to comfort ourselves. In doing so, we are perpetuating a cycle of exploitation, as children themselves grow up and need comforting, creating links from generation to generation forged in depression, delusion and pain.
We do not have the right to exploit other people for our own comfort. Much like the cycle of abuse, the cycle of exploitation provides a justification for parents’ evil acts: after all, their own parents did the same thing, and their own parents are or were beneficial figures (unless a person has been psychologically supported in eir development, ey will always see eir parents as beyond reproach).
And now we come back again to the topic of rights. One does not have the right to exploit others for one’s own comfort. I do not have the right to stop you from killing yourself because I need you in my life. My needs are important but it is not set in stone that they must be fulfilled by the person you have chosen, and a person has the right to outright refuse the role you have given them.
The problem is that a child cannot do this. Children cannot decide not to be dependent on their parents any more until a certain age, and they cannot decide not to be their child, as that fact is historical and unchangeable. They cannot “refuse the role” given to them by their parents and by society. They cannot refuse to be their parents’ psychological equivalent of a stress relief ball. To then reply, as many natalists do, that “you can always kill yourself” is to blame the victim, and is to merely reveal once again how evil their belief system is, that they would wish death on people who have come to understand that life is meaningless and feel gypped by the social order which busies itself to make people swallow the belief that life means something.
Suppose there are cows on an incredibly slow conveyor belt on the way to be butchered. The antinatalist is the cow that sees what comes ahead and decides to confront it. It tells its companions that only death is ahead, that nothing they think, say or do matters, that they need to deal with the upcoming carnage instead. And the other cows continue to have calves, to erect towers of fake meaning, and so on, and tell the rebellious cow “geeze, you can always just kill yourself!”
So what good is having children?
No fucking good. Any rational being who thinks about it for five seconds can do better than that. Fuck your “right” to bring more suffering into this world, think for a second about what you’re doing!