I was just trying to edit my wild tirade about abortion and read the off-hand reference to Canada’s new euthanasia laws. I think the brief mention of them, and the much larger Western trend I think they are a marker for, has to be mentioned. This touches on a lot of the same topics as the abortion argument because its an argument about living, but my generation seems to have taken a rather unusual position on the whole topic, and one that I think really highlights how bad our society has gotten.
When I was discussing abortion, towards the end I was leaning towards the idea that the Christian values were dying, and that we had nothing comparable to replace them with. The closest that I think we have is utilitarianism, and I think that is actually the origin of a lot of the pro-choice arguments for abortion, though I think few would admit it. An unwanted child being killed is really the greater good. It prevents a lot of the risk and pain for the mother, it alleviates the pressure on the adoption system, struggling already to get every unwanted child homed. If they don’t get homed, the child may grow up in the foster-care system, which tends to mean very bad things for the child’s future. It is probably better, in a certain way, for the environment, just in the fact that there are fewer people on the Earth, it is probably better for the public coffers, as the child is likely to be drain on state resources, maybe for their whole life. On the negative side, there isn’t much; the child won’t even know they’re being killed, they can’t fight back, they can’t even cry. They almost certainly don’t really ‘experience’ their murder, they might not even feel pain. All that is really needed for all the benefits of allowing abortion is to ignore the humanity of the child, or the concept of a human being’s inherent right to life, and that is easily done by labelling the naysayers as religious nutjobs.
Now I fear that sort of Utilitarianism, as I sort of explained in my abortion article; I think it is absolutely a slippery slope. I think allowing us to forget the idea of a human being’s inherent right to life is a dangerous precedent that has been set before to disastrous results. But most of all I just think it is fundamentally wrong. I think to argue that it isn’t opens the door to questions about whether anything can be said to be right or wrong, which is fine for philosophical discussion but dangerous when supported in law. But this discussion isn’t about that specifically; it’s about the strange change of opinion that seems to have particularly grasped my generation, which changes the above equation substantially. Many people of my age would not only list those benefits of an abortion above, but would also say that not having the child, or killing it before it can feel, is a moral good in itself.
It’s hard on the internet sometimes to separate genuine philosophy from the self-congratulatory shit-stirring of edge lords. But what’s really surprised me about anti-natalism is how it slips into the opinions of people whom I know don’t care all that much about moral or political philosophies. They refer to the immorality of giving life as though it is a given. Some of this is probably related to the environment, which it is fashionable to make extraordinary and exaggerated claims about, but there is clearly an element of people genuinely believing that having children is selfish. I’ve seen this with young parents, sort of apologetic to their own children, as if they’ve done them dirty just by bringing them into the world. One tiktok mother claimed she was kind to her children because she had ‘brought them into the world against their will’; she owed them, a complete reversal of the traditional idea that children owe their parents from birth for bringing them into the world. It is strange to me; it’s like the melodramatic teenage cry of ‘I didn’t ask to be born’ has made its way into our adult consciousnesses.
I think it’s a really strange position to hold. It’s a sort of pro-suicide position. If it is better to not exist than to exist, you could arrange that right now. Why don’t they? Is it just fear? I’ve spent a significant amount of time in a state of depression, and the only reason I never did something like that was the belief that there was a life worth living if I ever got out of the cycle. And I did, and there was. Life, even in bad times, is better than neutral; that is, I fundamentally believe life to be superior to non-existence, let alone death, and therefore I regard it as a gift to be given life, not a curse.
This anti-natalist mentally must eventually spread to attitudes towards suicide. If it is better for a child to not exist than to exist, how can you possibly try to tell someone not to kill themselves? This seems to made its first appearance in the new Canadian laws around ‘euthanasia’, offering death to the ‘mentally ill’. Now, if someone is depressed and cannot see the value in being alive, Canada no longer says that there is, and the person should hold out for it. Instead, it vindicates the position by offering them death as a solution.
I even think this has relevance to the Vegetarian/Vegan position. They acknowledge that, if the meat industry is over, there will be not be cows, pigs and sheep in the fields. There might be a couple in some safari parks or similar, but much, much fewer than there are now. That is, if Veganism wins over our culture, many farmyard animals that could have been born, will not be born. That is the aim of the movement. It is the belief of our time that that is better for the animals; it is better they never existed, than for human husbandry to give them life, but also give them death. The many, happy, cud-chewing years are not enough to negate the final short moments of fear and death.
In the case of animals, I don’t know with any certainty that I’m right. But in the case of people, I know that I like my life, and that I am glad I was brought into existence, despite periods of depression and anxiety. As you can tell, I’m sure, from the rather doom-filled, anxious, whining articles on this site, I am hardly a sunny optimist. But at my core I am, at least nowadays, happy. So, the question that raises, is why is my generation so miserable, when it is evidently possible to not be. I am a white man, thought I’d get that in first, so many of the more orthodox out there will undoubtedly say that life is easier for people like me that it is for black people or women (while of course citing no evidence for that). But even if that were the case, could you argue that life has not become easier for people, and minorities in particular, over the last few decades? That should at least have correlated to some improvement in happiness. Yet, it’s hard to imagine anyone being more miserable than someone who thinks life so bad that birthing a child is immoral, at least not someone that hasn’t already killed themselves. This anti-natalist movement is fairly new, and was conceptualised by a white, male philosopher (Belgian though – maybe that’s why).
I don’t know the point I want to summarise here. In part, I wanted to discuss this as it seems, yet again, tied to a sort of utilitarian view of human life, wearing down its fundamental value, which is something dangerous and, I think, inevitable in a post-Christian world. But in part I just wanted to make a simpler point. The most liberal people support anti-natalist principles, or euthanasia for the mentally ill, then justify it with the inherent suffering that is human life. Well, I don’t feel it. You’re not just saying the usually unspoken; not everyone feels this, and you don’t have to. Maybe, for one moment, you should consider whether the increasing liberalisation has led to people like yourself becoming happier, and whether people who live a more conservative life, who deny themselves and devote themselves to institutions and values, are actually happier than you are. If that is the case, then stop thinking what I’m sure you’re thinking – I know because I thought it myself. It might not be that these other people are stupid and ignorant and don’t yet know the truth. You are not miserable because you are enlightened. You are miserable because you aren’t.