[I]t is difficult to escape the conclusion that all lives contain more bad than good, and that they are deprived of more good than they contain. However, such is the affirmation of life that most people cannot recognise this.
One important explanation for this is that in deliberating about whether their lives were worth starting, many people actually (but typically unwittingly) consider a different question, namely whether their lives are worth continuing. Because they imagine themselves not existing, their reflection on non-existence is with reference to a self that already exists. It is then quite easy to slip into thinking about the loss of that self, which is what death is. Given the life drive, it is not surprising that people come to the conclusion that existence is preferable.
Asking whether it would be better never to have existed is not the same as asking whether it would be better to die. There is no interest in coming into existence. But there is an interest, once one exists, in not ceasing to exist. There are tragic cases in which the interest in continuing to exist is overridden, often to end unbearable suffering. However, if we are to say that somebody’s life is not worth continuing, the bad things in life do need to be sufficiently bad to override the interest in not dying. By contrast, because there is no interest in coming into existence, there is no interest that the bad things need to override in order for us to say that it would be better not to create the life. So the quality of a life must be worse in order for the life to be not worth continuing than it need be in order for it to be not worth starting. (This sort of phenomenon is not unusual: a performance at the theatre, for example, might not be bad enough to leave, but if you knew in advance that it would be as bad as it is, you would not have come in the first place.)
“Let me state here a personal conviction that appears, right now, to be profoundly unfashionable; which is that a planned economy can be more productive – and more morally desirable – than one left to market forces.
The market is a good example of evolution in action; the try-everything-and-see-what- -works approach. This might provide a perfectly morally satisfactory resource-management system so long as there was absolutely no question of any sentient creature ever being treated purely as one of those resources. The market, for all its (profoundly inelegant) complexities, remains a crude and essentially blind system, and is – without the sort of drastic amendments liable to cripple the economic efficacy which is its greatest claimed asset – intrinsically incapable of distinguishing between simple non-use of matter resulting from processal superfluity and the acute, prolonged and wide-spread suffering of conscious beings.
It is, arguably, in the elevation of this profoundly mechanistic (and in that sense perversely innocent) system to a position above all other moral, philosophical and political values and considerations that humankind displays most convincingly both its present intellectual [immaturity and] – through grossly pursued selfishness rather than the applied hatred of others – a kind of synthetic evil.
Intelligence, which is capable of looking farther ahead than the next aggressive mutation, can set up long-term aims and work towards them; the same amount of raw invention that bursts in all directions from the market can be – to some degree – channelled and directed, so that while the market merely shines (and the feudal gutters), the planned lases, reaching out coherently and efficiently towards agreed-on goals. What is vital for such a scheme, however, and what was always missing in the planned economies of our world’s experience, is the continual, intimate and decisive participation of the mass of the citizenry in determining these goals, and designing as well as implementing the plans which should lead towards them.”
“In general, the system of fathers designates as evil what it can tolerate and uses it as a safety valve. When things threaten to get out of hand, those in power can then scapegoat that which they designate as evil [ to explain why that which they designate as good- marriage, business, education, religion, medicine, for example- isn’t working. And this suggests that withdrawal from and change in central values, rather than evil, are the real threat to the traditional framework of ethics and politics.”
“It is heterosexualism which makes us feel that it is possible to dominate another for her own good, that one who resists such domination is abnormal or doesn’t understand what is good for her, and that one who refuses to participate in dominant/subordinate relationships doesn’t exist. And once we accept all this, imperialism, colonialism, and ethnocentrism, for example, while existing all along, become more socially tolerable in liberal thought. They become less a matter of exercising overt force and more a matter of the natural function of (a) social order.”
“[G]iven that a heightened concern with altruism and self-sacrifice indicates a general social perception of an underlying conflict of interests, it would seem that the focus on altruism and self-sacrifice in connection with women indicates that people generally regard the interests of men and children, in particular their alleged need of women, as essentially in conflict with the interests of women.
Further, it is significant that the individual self-seeking of men and children is not in question. That is, self-sacrifice is not a general (nuclear- or extended-) family virtue, even though other members of the family may engage in it. It is a feminine virtue…
In other words, the perceived conflict of interest between men and children, on the one hand, and women, on the other, has been resolved in favor of men and children to such an extent that self-sacrifice and altruism are feminine. The possibility of ethics in this case seems to rest on the willingness of women to devote themselves to men and children by acquiescing to male authority and by bearing and being responsible for children whether or not they choose to.”
“Basic myths behind capitalist motivation include ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘advancement based on merit.’ And we are acknowledged as useful persons by being ‘allowed’ to work. However, in a dominant/subordinate hierarchy, of course, someone decides who is ‘fit,’ someone determines ‘merit,’ and someone is in a position to ‘allow’ us to work. By dangling jobs and ‘merit’ in front of us, those in power suggest that their recognition somehow means we’re a better person- that even if we can’t gain profit by participating in the system, at least we can gain ‘acknowledgement’ and hence meaning through our work and advancement. But that means, of course, that only those who are working have value; if we aren’t working, it is because we are lazy slobs. Yet even in theory, capitalism requires that there be unemployment to depress labor prices. When we aren’t working, it is in fact because the system requires it.
The protestant work ethic holds that if we work hard, we will ‘make it.’ But this implies that if we didn’t ‘make it,’ we didn’t work hard or hard enough. This is not true. What is true is that if we do ‘make it,’ we will have worked hard. But it is also true that in a system requiring a pyramid structure very few can ‘make it’- and only by beating out and exploiting others.”
“Men use violence when women don’t pay attention to them. Then, when women ask for protection, men can find meaning by turning on the predators- particularly ones of a different race or class.
In other words, the logic of protection is essentially the same as the logic of predation. Through predation, men do things to women and against women all of which violate women and undermine women’s integrity. Yet protection objectifies just as much as predation. To protect women, men do things to women and against women; acting “for a woman’s own good,” they violate her integrity and undermine her agency.
Protection and predation emerge from the same ideology of male dominance, and it is a matter of indifference to the successful maintenance of male domination which of the two conditions women accept.”
“It is no accident that just as the feminist demand for rights again achieved public recognition, those in power diverted ethical attention to biology- this time, sociobiology. Here, amid allegedly objective descriptions of animal behavior, E. O. Wilson claims that it is a ‘near-universal phenomenon that makes are dominant over females among animals.’ Nowhere does Wilson defend this claim; rather, it appears to be substantiated as he merely describes the facts. For example, he uses the word ‘harem’ to describe a hamadryas baboon society in which females are terrorized into submission and loyalty by a threatening male. However, he also uses it describe female-centered societies such as the mountain sheep. The mountain sheep herd is female-centered, females ‘inherit’ home ranges from other females, and the females allow only a few males to ‘associate’ with them- and then only during the mating season. Yet by Wilson’s use of the word ‘harem,’ the reader is left with the impression that males dominate females in that society…
Perhaps Wilson’s most revealing judgment emerges as he interchanges the phrase ‘female receptive posture’ with the phrase ‘female submissive posture.’ Through this equation, he implies that by merely engaging in heterosex, females are dominated by males. Wilson describes females who do not engage in heterosex as ‘maiden aunts,’ or as ‘anti-social’ if they try to escape (as did the anubis female baboons which, in an experiment, scientists put in a hamadryas society). Since females having sex with males is ‘natural,’ it logically follows that male domination is ‘natural.'”
“‘Femininity’ functions as a standard of heterosexualism. Standards or measures determine fact and are used to create (and later discover) fact; they themselves, however, are not discovered. An inch, for example, was not discovered. It was created and is used to determine boundaries. No amount of investigation into surfaces will ever confirm or disprove that inches exist or that inches accurately reflect the world. A standard is a way of measuring the world, of categorizing it, of determining its boundaries so men can act upon it. ‘Femininity’ is such a standard: it is a way of categorizing the world so that men can act upon it, and women can respond.
‘Femininity’ is a label whereby one group of people are defined in relation to another in such a way that the values of dominance and subordination are embedded in perceptual judgment of reality as if they were the essence of those involved. Under the feminine characterization, women appear naively content with being controlled to such an extent that resistance to domination ceases to exist- that is, goes undetected. Female resistance is rendered imperceptible or perceived as abnormal, mad, or of no significance by both women and men.”
“Notice that, if the situation is fully her responsibility, then she is not helpless, even though she may have felt helpless at the time. There is something she could have done differently to determine the outcome. If she is wrong in such a situation, then she can go on in the world without fear of random violence; she can be sure of sense and meaning in events. Taking the blame herself makes her an agent; it implies that she has power and that she could have avoided what happened. For the same reasons, in many rape cases the woman blames herself- she should have been somewhere else, wearing different clothes, and so on. One who blames only herself is, among other things, denying that her actions were irrelevant.”
“[A]s [Simone de Beauvoir]’s argument goes, nazism is not a choice of value but a fleeing of choice. That is, to be a nazi is to be a ‘subman’, as she terms it. The subman is one who loses himself in a label- ‘white supremacist,’ ‘antisemite’- for he seeks to have meaning determined for him. He is terrified of taking the responsibility to act in this world. Instead, he finds a scapegoat to blame for all the world’s ills and thus needs do nothing himself about changing them. He is one who is afraid of choice and so pretends he has none by becoming a fanatic and submitting to a higher order, one he pretends is outside himself.”
“When concepts such as ‘justice’ and ‘duty’ and ‘obligation’ are focal points of ethical theory, their primary function is to make us believe we have a way to ensure ethical behavior in ourselves and others. They are attempts at guaranteeing humane, “cooperative.” behavior among individuals who are considered egoistic, solitary, and aggressive, when otherwise there has been no basis established through personal interaction. In other words, these “cooperative” values presuppose antagonism among individuals. And it is my contention that in presupposing antagonism, these values thereby encourage it.”
“Recall the structure of acting from duty. It involves severing reasoning and emotions, regarding reason as controlling emotions (self-control), and attempting to rise above the boundaries of nature (rather than working within them). Focusing on duty severs reasoning from emotions, and totally discounts dreaming, imagination, humor, psychic faculty, playfulness, and intuition in the development of an ethical being. In other words, acting from duty undermines our ability to care by discounting the majority of our faculties.”
“Now in challenging the concept of ‘duty,’ I do not mean to suggest that care can’t be used as a means of control. For example, most of us have heard or exclaimed, ‘If you really cared, you would…’ And many of us have been told we must care about others when we really have no feelings for them at all. Notice, however, such ideas don’t really address the judgments of our caring but instead operate in a context of duty and obligation- only now it is caring itself which has become our duty.”