I was trying to think of a way to talk about anti-vaxxers and childism, but couldn’t really figure out how to do it. Frequent reader Kendall has pointed out some facts to me which shed light on this issue. It has to do with paranoia (irrational conspiracy fears, not clinical paranoia, which is an entirely different thing).
It seems that superiors (or wannabe superiors) in a hierarchy often have paranoid beliefs. MRAs and other masculinists routinely talk about non-existent female conspiracies of all kinds. Fascists and other authoritarians are constantly obsessed about government conspiracies and leftist conspiracies. White racists develop all kinds of conspiracy theories about whatever races they vilify. Christians have a keen sense of victimhood, painting every attempt by secular societies to build more just societies as an attack against their religion. I think part of that is the desire to be the victim instead of the oppressor. Another part of it is the common belief that inferiors are really the ones in control. Some people actually do believe that women, bureaucrats, leftists, and other races have the real power, and what else would they be doing with that power but destroy the people in charge?
Parents seem to participate to the same dynamics. Generations of child-rearing “experts” have advised parents that their children are plotting against them and waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of any slip-up. This can certainly develop, not only hatred for one’s children, but also a paranoid state of mind.
This paranoia is directed solely at one’s children. However, recent advancements in the rights of children have also made another kind of paranoia rise in parents’ minds: paranoia against the rest of the world, especially the government and the medical establishment. This is basically a backlash, on the same level as the backlash against feminism: the only reason why it hasn’t been identified this way before (and why it took an anti-childism movement for us to notice) is because we label parents’ decisions as “private” and we assume that children, being part of the same family unit as their parents, cannot possibly be under attack.
Anti-vaccination campaigns have always accompanied compulsory vaccination, but there has been an upswing in the fight against vaccination, accompanied by an upswing in the number of sick children. Measles, mumps, whopping cough, and other childhood illnesses are making a comeback. According to their conspiracy theories, this is a better alternative than the government’s plan, which is to inflict autism, or worse, on all our children (why an autistic child is worse than a dead child remains unanswered, although given the fact that anti-vaxxer nuts tend to be right-wing and therefore to abhor difference, this is perhaps explainable).
One rationalization used against compulsory vaccination is that they have the right to “choose.” Pro-choice rhetoric, no matter the domain, is always nonsensical because our actions never exist in a vacuum. What you do with your body affects other people. Nowhere is this more clear than in the case of vaccination, where the failure to vaccinate children means illness and death for some of them. Besides, the parent is making a “choice” for the child, which is entirely different from a person making a decision for themselves! Of what right does a parent have the “right to choose” for someone else?
The right that parents are most concerned with is their “right” to privacy, which really means: the “right” to maintain the omerta around their family, the “right” to mistreat and abuse without consequences. What makes them paranoid is the fear that their power over children will be taken away. In one sense, this is a simple “don’t take away my privilege” situation. Parents are in control and don’t want to relinquish control.
This, however, does not explain the absolutely (and literally) insane level of paranoia that some parents attain. I think that paranoia becomes heightened when the superiors are keenly aware of having committed atrocities, either in the past or present. Parents must be aware, at some level, that the history of parenting is a history of torture and genocide, which makes victimhood that much harder to attain. Like neo-nazis or Christians, they have to kick up the victimhood to high levels in order to justify their loyalty, which means going to high levels of insanity. Because there is no way that a person could reasonably justify being a parent, given the past of the institution. And yet people feel like they have to be parents, that they have no other choice. This is a formula for raving lunacy.
Of course there are parents who think of themselves as superior to the rest and not tied to the past (just like there are Christians who think of themselves as enlightened and not tied to the past). They see no reason to defend the institution, because they think they can parent “responsibly” and better than everyone else. Those people are less likely to go insane, but unfortunately they also are more likely to adopt insane anti-scientific beliefs (like anti-vaxxers) in their desire to distance themselves from the mainstream. Still, many of them do not, for which we should be grateful. And extreme paranoia doesn’t have to lead to anti-vaccination beliefs specifically. I think a lot of right-wing beliefs are a result of parental paranoia. Still, anti-vaxxers are the most egregiously childist of them all, if only because they rejoice in the deaths of children.