Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Is procreative policy feasible?, and other thoughts

The political implications of antinatalism have interested me for a long while now. What would a society look like that adopted antinatalism as a matter of legal policy?

Many (or even most) people who see issues with birth don't have any particular practical political strategy to reinforce their beliefs, or never go beyond the purely theoretical.

In fact, the vast majority of pessimistic thinkers wrote about the harm of birth and the violence of life but never acted upon these beliefs in a public way. They were/are content with seeking refuge (salvation) in an isolated asceticism, removing them from society in general (abandoning the problem). Some of them even make YouTube videos every other day (Inmendham, for example), complaining about life and pretending that these vlogs are a positive force to be reckoned with when in reality it's nothing more than a depressive circlejerk, accomplishing nothing of substantial worth other than distracting themselves from their own miserable lives. I won't pretend that my own blog doesn't fall into this category, though, as if I'm not utilizing this blog for my own benefit.

Without a practical strategy to put into motion, though, antinatalism becomes yet another idealistic philosophy that never gets put into practice, similar to the European Left and their utopian yet entirely impractical immigration policies, or your run-of-the-mill anarchist who senses (with good reason) the threat of government yet fails to recognize the impotence of a crowd, or the religious Christian who never does anything outside of holding a belief.

If holding a belief was all that mattered, life would be a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, belief is merely a requirement for non-coercive action.

But is an antinatalist political policy even feasible? Is any procreative-related policy feasible?

The woman's right to abortion has been gaining ground, yet is still stagnated in states like Texas and Alabama. Contraceptives continue to be shunned by the religious with annoying efficacy. Birthday parties are held every single day around the globe. And any sort of procreative policy oftentimes immediately conjures up images of Nazi eugenics or Chinese communist birth policies. Hell, Peter Singer still gets death threats related to his views on infanticide.

If these views can't even be adopted consistently by the leading superpowers, how the hell is an extreme view such as antinatalism ever going to be adopted?

Some people might not like me calling antinatalism "extreme", but I think it's wrongheaded to pretend it's just as convenient of a position as any other. Given the current state of affairs, antinatalism leads to conditional extinctionism. Taken up front, it leads to a radical switch of perspective on the cosmic level. It's not exactly a topic for a family dinner. This is why I get uncomfortable when other antinatalist claim antinatalism is "no big deal" - it's a big deal.

Before I even get into potential policy here, it's worth noting the potential repercussions of even publicly advocating antinatalism:

  1. There is a very real chance that some religious nutjob will murder you
  2. It is a guarantee that you will personally suffer social discrimination
  3. There is a chance that a religious group will decide to spite you and have more children then they would have had had you never spoken up
  4. There is a chance that presenting antinatalism to the public as a legitimate option will backfire and cause a regress in social progress, i.e. the banning of abortion and/or contraceptives
  5. There is a very likely chance that you will be laughed at, ridiculed, and eventually ignored
  6. etc
Given these preliminary difficulties, someone who was considering bringing antinatalism to the political sphere would need to be reasonably certain that they have a reasonable amount of political efficacy, so that the benefits obtained from introducing the idea of the general public outweigh the potential and inevitable fallout.

In addition to all this, there also exists the possibility of martyrdom (assuming we have little political efficacy, which I think we unfortunately do). In fact, being a consequentialist when first discovering antinatalism caused me to actually consider a rather unsettling possibility: that I might have an obligation to drop-kick a pregnant woman in the stomach, or press the red button to destroy the world. In both cases there is an initial trauma/harm that would, under a strict consequentialist framework, be mitigated by the harm that would be avoided. For let's say the pregnant woman gives birth. There now exists a person who in all likelihood will grow up and have children of their own, and onward the dominoes fall. Getting involved in such a situation would indeed cause some harm but overall would prevent an entire stream of genetic material from ever having to suffer, viz. one generation of organisms suffer for the perceived benefit of the rest of the lineage of organisms. To an antinatalist, it would be akin to stepping in to prevent a rape, or calling the police when you see a burglar.

Such thinking genuinely disturbed me, and still does. Usually I try to appeal to alternatives, such as getting involved in political policy and spreading the word (things that I so conveniently am not doing). However, this doesn't seem to quite cut it either:

For imagine how many generations of suffering you would have prevented if you had gotten involved and drop-kicked a pregnant lady. Sure, you might get locked up in prison for your entire life, or maybe even get executed, but this would be a martyrdom for the cause, so to speak. The ends would perfectly justify the means. Even focusing on helping others in the here-and-now-and-proximate-future might not outweigh the amount of suffering avoided by an aborted family chain.

I can't be the only one who thinks this is fucked up.  Maybe there might be an underlying reason as to why literally anyone would find this to be appalling.

Life is generally more mediocre than it is a nightmare. Drop-kicking a pregnant lady who lives in a first-world country with a profitable husband and a reliable income would be kind of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and the consequences to yourself would likely far outweigh the consequences of having a child.

Still, though, life has the potential to be very bad. Parents are thus responsible for creating the possibility for very bad things to happen - by proxy, parents cause rapes, murders, thefts, and other violations. And since the doing vs allowing distinction does not seem to even exist, it would seem to be the case that anyone who consciously allows parents to create this habitat are part of the problem as well. For a state of affairs to obtain, there needs to be necessary and sufficient conditions - and one of these conditions is the lack of any frustrating variables (such as a violent antinatalist). Is a life sentence in prison comparable to the potential of utterly horrific pain?

So we are at a dilemma here: do we accept our lack of political efficacy and thus seriously consider the possibility of martyrdom, or we reject one or more of the premises. Maybe we have more political efficacy after all. Maybe there is a doing vs allowing distinction after all, although I can't see how there could be. Maybe consequentialism is insufficient, though I'll take my chances. Maybe we actually have more of an obligation to ourselves than others, although this puts the entire antinatalist position into jeopardy. Maybe there's some other reason. I don't know, and it bothers me.

But let's assume we have a sufficient amount of political efficacy. What then? Could a full-on antinatalist policy ever have a chance of being enacted?

To be quite blunt, I think it highly unlikely that we're ever going to get anywhere close to policy of non-birth. At the very best, we'll get incentives to not have children for poorer folks. So to answer the initial question (what would an antinatalist society look like?), I would answer that the question is somewhat ill-founded in that an antinatalist society is, for all intensive purposes, impossible or utterly impractical - i.e. a pipe dream, not even worth considering. Continuing to believe that antinatalism has a legitimate chance of getting off the ground just wastes time and energy, time and energy that could be put elsewhere. Adopt antinatalism as a personal philosophy, advocate it to close friends, but more importantly move on - it's never gonna happen.

Which is why I think we ought to look at alternative, less extreme choices. Support the right to abortion, support contraceptives, support stem cell research, get involved in the community. The thought experiment of drop-kicking a pregnant lady continues to haunt me, but I know I'd never actually do something like that, just like how I doubt I'd have the guts to push that shiny red button. Sheer lack of will, or some other reason, I'm not sure. But certainly I'm not going to sacrifice the potential to do much good just because I'm too proud to align myself with any organization that isn't explicitly antinatalist.

I suppose it's of some consolation that the thrashing will eventually end thanks to entropy, thus erasing all memory of our existence. Maybe it all doesn't matter anyway. idfk.


  1. The head of the mother of darthbarracuda is not connected to the mother of darthbarracuda.

    1. So now you're threatening my mother's life? Get a life.