I do not believe this book is available in any other language but French, and it is now out of print. Its subtitle is “anti-natalist manifesto.” It was released in 2006, therefore predating Better Never to Have Been, so what we have here seems to be the actual, very first, ur-text on antinatalism, unless I am gravely mistaken! This is quite a find, especially since I appear to have found the very last copy available on the Internet (although some more may turn up later). I contacted de Giraud and he told me an English translation was in the works for 2015.
The quotes below will differ from the English version, since I translated these quotes. All errors of translation are mine.
Chapter 1 presents “the three sufferings”: the suffering of birth, the suffering of living, and the suffering of death, laying down the case for considering all three to be quite negative (his analysis of childbirth is especially poignant). In the second suffering, he presents a case for Asymmetry very similar to that of Benatar (including the fact that the non-existent cannot suffer or be deprived), with “the ten laws of existence” (caps in original):
1. We are born weaved by Needs which, unsatisfied, engender Pain.
2. To satisfy our Needs, there is constant necessity of Effort and Fight.
3. Unhappiness abounds, Happiness absconds.
4. Pain is felt more intensely than Pleasure.
5. The temporality of Happiness is more brief than the temporality of Unhappiness.
6. Pleasure only lasts while the stimulus lasts; Pain lasts much longer than the stimulus that caused it.
7. Health does not in itself procure any positive sensation; Sickness engenders very perceptible unease.
8. The essence of desire is Dissatisfaction and its realization causes Disappointment.
9. Prolonged happiness causes two new sufferings: Boredom and the Anxiety of losing this hardly acquired benefit.
10. Anxiety is the skeleton of all destinies.
CONCLUSION: Suffering is cosubstantial with Existence, and being Anxious of suffering the very texture of our Humanity!
“Answer without flinching: if there existed a solution that could abolish the totality of all evils inflicted on disastrous humanity, if it was possible, by some simple remedy, incredibly cheap, immediately accessible, scrupulously inoffensive, of absolute and definitive efficiency, to stop all distress, all cries, all cries of pain, all pathologies, all protests of ill-being, all despair, all cataclysms, all anxiety, all unhappiness, in short all tortures afflicting the human species, would you have the macabre stupidity to reject such a remedy, to disdain such a miracle cure? No, that goes without saying.
Well this solution does exist, and the mysterious is thereby delivered to us: it consists simply, in its saintly simplicity, to not procreate…”
“To see a recent birth, his body creased, cyanotic, asphyxiated, as the medical literature admits, to contemplate his face labored with cries, his eyes lashed with anxiety, his cheeks raked by tears, who would doubt that he just went through the equivalent of a beatdown by a horde of cavemen? What sadism for parents to inflict, in full knowledge of the cause, such mistreatment, such hardships, on their “dearest”?”
Chapter 2 goes through the laundry list of arguments in favor of procreation. The following are addressed:
a. Love (having children as an expression of love)
b. Adventure (having children is a wonderful adventure)- where he also addresses the “why don’t you kill yourself” objection as well
c. Mankind (perpetuating the species)
d. Leaving something behind (self-perpetuation)
e. Religious obligation to have children
f. Economic reasons
g. Child as religious soldier
h. Natural reasons
i. Envy of other parents
De Giraud draws not only from good sense and logic, but also from a wide variety of literary sources, and nowhere is this more obvious than here. He does not hesitate to draw from a very wide variety of sources, religious and secular, from all eras of history. His intent is to demonstrate that antinatalist sentiments have been widespread throughout history. This is one of the big strengths of the book so far.
Another strength of the book is how exhaustive and persuasive it is. De Giraud hits all the points and leaves nothing behind: it’s obvious that he’s not just well read but also has a profound understanding of the subject.
One thing I dislike about the book is how florid the language is. I think he is doing so to make his argument more persuasive. In this he only partially succeeds, and the failures distract from his flow of reasoning.
“Another argument comes back time and time again from the irresponsibles who breed. They want to “leave something behind.” A curious impulse.
Let us first argue from an ethnological standpoint that this seems to correspond exactly to the attitude of many mammals to mark their territory. The dog urinating on a street lamp leaves something behind: this trace, however, unlike the baby’s, benefits from the privilege of not having to bear the tiresome constraints of existence…”
“The political discourse vaunts procreation for economic aims: we must make more children to guarantee pensions for the next decades, to rejuvenate the aging workforce, to prevent a dangerous reversal of the age distribution, or to sustain industrial growth, etc.
So many emetics that are knocked about regularly in the mass media.
This is then the theme of the child as wealth-giver: it goes without saying that this argument for procreation as prosperity contradicts the minimum requirements of Ethics, since it is founded on the objectification of the Other, that is to say the principle of slavery… We demand the birth of an individual to help solve our economic problems: how sordid! It is to be regretted that so few politicians are publicly slapped.”
“We procreate sometimes because of a need, sometimes for pleasure. The former is nothing more than slavery, the latter sadism, but whatever the reason, we only procreate from absolute selfishness! The child is never conceived as an end but always as a means, which is purely machiavellian!”
Chapter 3 addressed, not the rationalizations or the dogmas, but the real psychological reasons why people procreate. They are:
a. Our natural programming
b. Sadism- knowing the child will suffer and getting joy from it
c. Narcissism- having children to satisfy their desires, transmit their genes
e. Infantilism- having children means to go back to an infantile state
f. Cultural conditioning
g. Jealousy- desire for the status granted by procreation
h. Pride- of having children
i. Exhibitionism- showing off one’s children
j. Despotism- the inherent fascism of the family structure
k. Servitude- of the child to the parents
l. Pedophilia- sexual abuse of children
m. Other perversions
Since the arguments pertain after all to human psychology, it would be easy for de Giraud to go off the rails into psychoanalysis or some other flummery, but he does not do so. I thought his arguments were particularly persuasive here. Again he draws both from facts and logic, and from a deep understanding of human psychology.
“If it was otherwise, if procreation was not the result of the most scandalous narcissism, if our odious parents were really moved by some generosity, prospective adoption candidates would be incredibly more numerous than the millions of children who wait, right now, to be adopted! But talk about adoption and you’ll see a big frown of “yes-but-not-for-me” form on their face, greedy to possess a prey coming entirely from their bodies. Orphans? Someone else’s baby? Come on, get scientists to help vanquish my infertility instead!”
“Observe how, intoxicated with presumptions, the future torturer- pregnant woman, I mean- shows herself off from all angles in the certainty that her baby bump makes her the belle of the ball…
The pride of the father, who can’t himself harbor such a creation and jealous of such a gestational privilege, is essentially testicular, the baby playing the role of witness to the orderly functioning of his sperm and showing to all and sundry that he had the good fortune to insert his miserable penis between the legs of a consenting female at least once in his life…”
“The more a male suffers from frustrations (think of all those paltry procreators, all the professional or affective failures, the innumerable mediocrities who can’t even hide it), the more he will rejoice at the birth of a child that his weakness designates as an ideal scapegoat. All breeders internally rejoice at being able to exert near-unlimited authority over the terrified creature he calls his child…
This is how, in final analysis, the family is revealed as the archetype of all fascist regimes. Note that these regimes never cease lauding prolific families and singing the supposed “virtues” of patriarchy! A song and dance repeated by the mafia, great supporter of traditional family values…”
“After careful review, we conclude that no child exists for its own ends, we are all merely parental appendages. There is no legitimate child: we are born only to become, in the fullest sense, our parents’ scapegoat. According to the law of human selfishness, if we did not expect the child to heal our wounds, we would prefer not to burden ourselves with it!”
Chapter 4 asks the question: given all that’s already been said, why do we love our parents? The answers are not too surprising: children “love” their parents out of self-interest, imprinting, conditioning, and the idealization of these parents who, to the young child, seem like the gods of their universe.
Chapter 5 is even shorter and dedicated to one specific argument, which seeks to demonstrate the incompatibility of ethics and procreation. The argument is the following:
“Making others suffer is incompatible with Ethics.
To live is to suffer.
Therefore to give life is incompatible with Ethics.
This comes at the end of an explanation as to why being against making others suffer against their will is the foundation of all that people have fought for throughout the ages, and the summation of ethical philosophy. Although I think that here, as elsewhere, he can sometimes overstate his case, I don’t need to be convinced.
Chapter 6 is concerned with the right of children to sue their parents for negligence or otherwise not providing for them adequately. He points out the numerous inequities that may befall children and why it makes perfect sense ethically to allow children to have such a right.
“It’s not just suicide that casts blame upon the parents’ lost bet: there is anorexia, delinquency, runaways, vandalism, drug use, violence, and all other forms of revolt… So many symbolic methods used by the forcibly-created to hurl their NO at the existence they were burdened with!
For those that public hypocrisy tars with the labels “sick,” “immature,” “dysfunctional,” those who are called “crazy,” all those victims of being born only adopt such rebellious behaviors because they see their existence not as a blessing but as a harm!”
“The first articles of any Charter that aims to protect Children’s interests should look something like this:
1. The first right of any child is not to be born.
2. The second right of any child resides in the power to sue, if they deem it necessary, those who grievously harmed them by botching their first right.
We can hope that such legislation would strongly encourage parents to acquire the maturity and the skills they need to give their child the greatest standard of happiness!”
Chapter 7 concerns overpopulation. Here de Giraud again gathers the quotes and arguments to point out that our level of population is leading us to enrivonmental disaster. This planet may be able to house billions of people, but it cannot sustainably host even a billion people based on the standards of living of the Western world. Not just that, but overpopulation will cause wars, famine and overwhelming misery.
“Finally, let me point out to my environmentalist friends, admirable champions of Ethics, that on a planet with failing health due to the irrational quantity of its inhabitants, an environmentalist who reproduces is a dubious environmentalist…
Let me remind you that the famous commander Cousteau promoted, with the intent of saving the planet, an optimal number of 800 million human beings: seven times fewer than currently! To work, IUDs! Keep cranking the vasectomies!”
Chapter 8 is called “For agathogenism,” a word which seems to have been created by de Giraud to mean “procreation according to the Good.” The chapter concerns ensuring that every child is only born to people who are able to raise it perfectly. He asks the obvious question: why aren’t there breeding permits? He discusses measures which would work towards agathogenism, including: mandatory parenting classes in schools, psychoanalysis of parenting candidates, and the prohibition of breeding prior to 30 years of age.
Chapter 9 concerns another coined term, “Metatocy,” which de Giraud translates as “transcending the beastial,” His basic thesis is that humans must sublimate their desire for children (a beastial desire, which all animals have) into the desire for intellectual and social works.
Chapter 10 which, in my opinion, is one of the strongest, concerns feminism and its connection to antinatalism. It continues the discussion of chapter 9, starting that women can only be emancipated when they reject child-raising and strive for excellence (instead of trying to “have it all,” which is only a handicap). He also looks at woman-hatred throughout the millennia and concludes that it is displaced hatred of the trauma of birth.
“If you ask yourself why femininity has, at all eras, been subject to such virulent and universal denunciations, we find no other answer than this: all born from a woman’s body and all hating- subconsciously at least- having been born, we can only hate those who carry in their insides the matrix of all our suffering!”
“It is of great import to understand that only by dissociating motherhood and femininity can we hope to end Patriarchy, and it is in this enormous work of de-confusion, of semantic de-tangling, that lies the main challenge of future feminism: as long as women invest their identity in motherhood, or claim it as the essence of their destiny, they will only expose themselves to the hatred of the people wounded from being alive, as well as unconscious self-hatred.”
“We must say: women have better things to do during the best years of their lives than to raise children which our polluted humanity has no need. We must say: women have better to do with their formidable personalities than suffocate them under a mountain of diapers. We must say: women are wrong to dissolve their talents in the futility of milk bottles. We must glorify the female poets and scorn the breeders.”
“Knowing that a frustrated woman will seek a remedy in having children, knowing that a woman in possession of intellectual tools who flourishes outside of the home is a woman who breeds little or none, knowing that a woman who can choose the number of her pregnancies will most often opt for a very reduced number of children to whom she can ensure a quality existence, antinatalism can only push the same way as feminists when they fight against all forms of gender domination and fight for the universal right to contraception, abortion, homosexuality, celibacy, sexual liberation, erotic completeness, choosing one’s career, and the refusal to procreate if they feel called to a higher destiny than that of walking incubator from which must come out more and more children!”
Chapter 11 is called a Brief Elegy of Adoption. In this short chapter he notes adoption as another solution and how much harder adoption is than breeding.
Chapter 12 and 13 are also short and more or less a recapitulation of what came before.
Well, that’s my review of the book. I hope you can all read it when it comes out in English, hopefully next year!