“I have a right to have children!”

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!

21 thoughts on ““I have a right to have children!”

  1. vombi August 24, 2012 at 01:08

    All creatures suffer at some point in their lives. According to you, Earth should be a barren wasteland, right? There’s nothing so there’s no pain, right? If you don’t feel any joy in life it doesn’t necessarily mean that others don’t too. I agree that there should be less people on the world for the sake of us all and the planet, but some people are actually happy being alive. And if they’re happy for most of their lives, even though at some point they felt pain, then it’s still a good thing they were born, right?

    • Francois Tremblay August 24, 2012 at 01:15

      “All creatures suffer at some point in their lives. According to you, Earth should be a barren wasteland, right?”
      If we’re talking purely ideally, it should be devoid of sentient creatures, yes. It doesn’t need to be barren (but it doesn’t need to not be barren either- there is no *need* either way).

      “And if they’re happy for most of their lives, even though at some point they felt pain, then it’s still a good thing they were born, right?”
      If they hadn’t been born, they wouldn’t have been deprived of that happiness. So what has been gained by your ideology?

      • mike September 22, 2012 at 07:19

        If nothing exists then nothing has been gained by your ideology either. If someone is mostly happy then something was gained. Basically, you have people who quit easily and people who don’t. One question, hope you don’t take this the wrong way – are you sorry you were born?

        • Francois Tremblay September 22, 2012 at 13:52

          “If nothing exists then nothing has been gained by your ideology either.”
          This makes no sense. “If nothing exists” then there’s nothing to talk about. But obviously we do exist.

          “If someone is mostly happy then something was gained.”
          Gained compared to what state? You can’t gain something in an absolute sense, you gain compared to some previous state.

          “Basically, you have people who quit easily and people who don’t.”
          More team-cheering. I already debunked this nonsense. Go to the second half of this entry:
          https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/the-ice-cream-salesmen-cometh/

          “One question, hope you don’t take this the wrong way – are you sorry you were born?”
          Yes, of course. Why should I be happy about being born? What is gained by being born? Think about it.

          • mike September 27, 2012 at 13:09

            *“If nothing exists then nothing has been gained by your ideology either.”
            This makes no sense. “If nothing exists” then there’s nothing to talk about. But obviously we do exist.

            Yes, we do exist and we’re talking about it, obviously…

            *“If someone is mostly happy then something was gained.”
            Gained compared to what state? You can’t gain something in an absolute sense, you gain compared to some previous state.

            Why should you have to compare anything? If you were happy 345 times in your life and unhappy 68 then you’re basically happy, assuming for the sake of this argument they were the same levels of (un)happiness. If you have to compare, then compared to the state of indifference.

            *“One question, hope you don’t take this the wrong way – are you sorry you were born?”
            Yes, of course. Why should I be happy about being born? What is gained by being born? Think about it.

            I explained above. 345-68 was gained. As for why should you be happy about being born, I can’t really answer that if you can’t yourself. You live in Canada, one of the most developed countries in the world and probably have a good life. I would bet better than most people on this world. Unless you have some kind of deformity or something, you’re probably unhappy because you choose to be. If being unhappy makes you happy then go for it :)

            By the way, do you also write for the Liberator?
            If so, I loved your piece about 9/11.

            • Francois Tremblay September 27, 2012 at 14:56

              “Why should you have to compare anything? If you were happy 345 times in your life and unhappy 68 then you’re basically happy, assuming for the sake of this argument they were the same levels of (un)happiness. If you have to compare, then compared to the state of indifference.”
              You keep putting this in absolute terms, but you’re not quantifying. Because we can’t make inter-subjective comparisons, I really have no way to know if your idea of happiness and unhappiness is anything like mine. What I am trying to tell you here is that your argument is not large enough to encompass the concepts you’re trying to use like a cudgel.

              “I explained above. 345-68 was gained.”
              False. You lost 68, because that unhappiness would not have existed otherwise. No non-existing being was deprived of the 345. (note that I am using your numbers as if you had demonstrated some objective measure, which you have not- but for the sake of discussion I am willing to use your numbers in a vacuum)

              “As for why should you be happy about being born, I can’t really answer that if you can’t yourself. You live in Canada, one of the most developed countries in the world and probably have a good life. I would bet better than most people on this world. Unless you have some kind of deformity or something, you’re probably unhappy because you choose to be. If being unhappy makes you happy then go for it :)”
              You’re missing the point completely. There is no non-existing person in space somewhere deprived of living in Canada or having a good life. These things you list are fine but completely irrelevant to the subject of whether existing is better.
              I know this is not the conclusion you want, but there is no logical way to arrive at the conclusion that existing is better than not existing. No non-existing being can be deprived of pleasure. See:
              https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/the-ice-cream-salesmen-cometh/
              Where I completely destroy, and then mock, people like you who think pleasures prove that existing is better. It’s a ridiculous belief.

              “By the way, do you also write for the Liberator?”
              Yes, I did. But that was a long time ago.

    • June September 13, 2012 at 20:56

      Whether certain people experience joy or not doesn’t matter. There is no rational reason to force a living being to suffer and die. It’s not “a good thing” to make the decision of life and all that comes with it for another person.

      • Francois Tremblay September 14, 2012 at 00:01

        Is this June from Jim’s chat room??

        • mike September 22, 2012 at 07:15

          I see a romance on the way :)

        • June October 1, 2012 at 00:00

          No, sorry. What is Jim’s chat room if you don’t mind me asking?

          • Francois Tremblay October 1, 2012 at 00:05

            A chat room where antinatalists used to go… but it’s dead nowadays.

  2. ACPhilosopher August 24, 2012 at 21:42

    Most people don’t seem to even get what the human condition is. The self is embedded in a perishable human body, over which it has only limited control. The body is put together in such a way that it contracts all kinds of diseases. The self is constantly trying to avoid things that cause disease, constantly running away from the horror of death, basically awash in terror at the thought of its own annihilation.

    We don’t get to choose the body we inhabit, even thought its attractiveness (or lack of it) has a major impact on how our life goes and how much love we will receive in life. But even if our body is very attractive, time is ticking, and the body inevitably starts to wither and lose its beauty, causing us to lose whatever status we may have attained in life.

    Our minds deteriorate. Our eyesight and hearing lose clarity. Through no fault of our own, we decay and die a little more each day, until we end up not being able to take care of ourselves at all, reduced to the status of children again, dependent on others.

    How is this a good thing? It amazes me that people are able to focus solely on the beginning of life and completely ignore the rest.

    • mike September 22, 2012 at 07:26

      And some people are amazed that some people can only focus on the negative. Like I wrote above, two types of people.

      • Francois Tremblay September 22, 2012 at 14:31

        You haven’t really demonstrated anything but a propensity for team-cheering. Who cares if you’re a cheerleader for life? Either you are able to look at the evidence or you’re not. If you’re not, then stop discussing the issue.

        • mike September 28, 2012 at 03:38

          I’m replying here because there isn’t an option in your post above. You make some really good points in your ice cream article. I guess what it all comes down to is the perception of an individual. Some people feel sorrow more intensely than others or should I say, some people are tougher than others. I guess tougher people could have a harder time imagining the bigger sorrows of the less tough ones, thus they would see no harm in reproducing.

          I think this is kind of misleading: ” If potential persons are being deprived, being harmed, by not being brought into existence, then we have a duty of bringing into existence as many potential persons as we possibly can.” It’s not viewed as a duty by many people, they just have children because they want to and because they don’t consider life such a dreadful thing. If they want one child, then that’s how many they’ll have.

          “Because we can’t make inter-subjective comparisons, I really have no way to know if your idea of happiness and unhappiness is anything like mine.”
          A question that pops in my mind is, what is your idea of happiness? What do you enjoy doing?

          What I can’t understand is the fact that people who live in harsher conditions make more babies. Take Chinese or Africans, for instance. Horrible conditions, high birth rates. They should read this blog and benefit from your philosophy but I guess we could explain this with individual perception as well. Their habit of suffering just makes them immune to it, thus it isn’t perceived as suffering.

          And btw, I wasn’t cheering for life, just trying to elaborate on the post above. I stand a middle ground where I think life is something that should exist in moderate quantities and better quality. I don’t think people should breed for the sake of breeding, and there’s definitely too many of us on this planet.

          P.S. Loved the flesh eating bacteria argument, made me laugh :)

          • Francois Tremblay September 28, 2012 at 03:49

            “I guess tougher people could have a harder time imagining the bigger sorrows of the less tough ones, thus they would see no harm in reproducing.”
            Creating new lives entails the creation of harm. This is a matter of fact and has nothing to do with your emotional reactions to it. Anyone who denies it is simply being facetious.

            “I think this is kind of misleading: ” If potential persons are being deprived, being harmed, by not being brought into existence, then we have a duty of bringing into existence as many potential persons as we possibly can.” It’s not viewed as a duty by many people, they just have children because they want to and because they don’t consider life such a dreadful thing. If they want one child, then that’s how many they’ll have.”
            So what? I never claimed most people believe the view that potential people are being deprived. So you’re addressing nobody right now.

            “A question that pops in my mind is, what is your idea of happiness? What do you enjoy doing?”
            Plenty of things. Writing these entries, for one. What I do not enjoy doing is having to deal with trolls (which I do not believe you are, just misguided).

            “What I can’t understand is the fact that people who live in harsher conditions make more babies. Take Chinese or Africans, for instance. Horrible conditions, high birth rates.”
            Well a lot would have to do with the levels of sexual freedom in those places. A while ago I posted a link to a study where they went to a region in Africa, I don’t remember where, and made a campaign against wife-beating. The number of children per wife dropped by a whole unit.

            “And btw, I wasn’t cheering for life, just trying to elaborate on the post above. I stand a middle ground where I think life is something that should exist in moderate quantities and better quality. I don’t think people should breed for the sake of breeding, and there’s definitely too many of us on this planet.”
            There is no middle ground. Either you believe reproduction is justified, and the only possible justification I can see for that is the “potential people suffer,” in which case you must have as many children as possible, or you believe reproduction is not justified, and there’s no reason to have any children at all.
            And yes, I know you’re going to say most people don’t agree with either side (actually there are plenty of Quiverfull, so there are some people who agree with the breed-at-all-costs side), but my position is that they’re simply wrong.

      • Armchair Philosopher (@ACPhilosopher) October 20, 2012 at 13:07

        Right, having a positive attitude about life is really all that counts.

        I can give you a good example. Let’s say you and I are both standing on the beach when we spot a big, hungry shark cruising along the shore in search of food.

        Being a pessimist, I decide to focus on the specter of the circling fin and what those sharp teeth can do to my flesh. Being the eternal optimist, you decide to focus on the beauty of the day and how much you enjoy swimming, noting the shark fin but not being overly concerned about it because you choose to focus on the positive at all times.

        You wade into the surf. I don’t. Who will get their leg torn off?

        My point is, having a positive attitude does not protect anyone from the realities of nature. The natural world is what it is, red in tooth and claw, and ruthless in its goal of destroying every living organism it creates. People like to shift the focus to me and my perceived personal defects any time I point out an uncomfortable truth, as if shutting one person up can change the objective realities of life on Planet Earth.

  3. mike September 28, 2012 at 15:37

    I agree that he breed-at-all-costs side philosophy is wrong. I honestly don’t see the point of it nor do I understand how they can view it as something that’s ok. We agree on that.

  4. Heretic July 8, 2014 at 04:44

    Okay, so I am convinced on antinatalism. My line of thinking was, since people believe they can impose suffering on children, that sets up the dynamic for imposition in general: indoctrination of children with religious and other beliefs, education as obedience, etc. ad nauseum. I cannot tell which imposition exactly came first, it’s like the chicken or egg question; irrelevant. I’d rather look at the unforeseen suffering in our currently unsustainable world, including abuse, mental illness (stigma, lack of treatment), parents insisting on giving birth to children who are severely disabled (and regretting it later), growing up poor. But there is also something I read recently that is pretty important to the whole argument, I think: the racist aspects of natalism. Like, straight white people are expected to have children, not minorities. So they obfuscate this realization and say antinatalism = eugenics or some other crap. That accusation is so annoying! Can we say that no fucking eugenics was ever antinatalist?

  5. Heretic July 8, 2014 at 04:59

    “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.” Oh, there are LOTS of selfish reasons why people have children! I have yet to find a reason that is not selfish: child labor; “i don’t want to be alone” “i want someone to love me” “i want someone to take care of me when i’m old” “i want a mini-me” “i want to collect welfare” “i want to be respected as a MOTHER” “i want to keep my partner in a relationship with me” “just because i CAN” (i.e. biology as destiny) “we have the potential to be better/have a better future!” (let’s just forget the existing adults!)

  6. Heretic July 8, 2014 at 05:07

    Last comment here, I promise: “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.” OMG! This is what I tried to do, though. When I was little, my mom used to leave my younger brother and I at my grandma’s house to be babysat while she worked. I took my little brother by the hand to cross the street to a neighbor’s house, where I tried to convince them to adopt us. No joke, that’s how much I couldn’t stand being with grandma.

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