Thursday, November 3, 2016

Antinatalism has a serious PR problem

I can't be the only one who thinks this. Antinatalism, regardless of its validity, has a serious public relations problem.

Those select few professional philosophers who advocate antinatalism (or similar positions) are not (to my knowledge) actively involved in spreading the view to the wider public. What is argued for in professional philosophy is not always easily digestible by the public; indeed it is true that common-sense morality is often in conflict with the more exclusive and refined morality of professional philosophers. What makes sense to the average person may be utterly baseless philosophically. (And so professional philosophers, for the most part, tend to constrain their base of operations to the philosophical community. This is a criticism of philosophy as a whole, not just ethics.)

But there's a relatively small "community" (if you could even call it that) on the internet that advocates antinatalism (myself being a part, albeit a lesser known one). And while the points being made by those advocating antinatalism may be valid and important, the manner in which it is presented to the audience is usually less than appropriate.

By "less than appropriate", I mean to say that generally internet antinatalism is expressed more than it is communicated. This cannot, I think, be reasonably denied if one spends enough time perusing the community. A vast majority of antinatalists are focused on expressing their personal distaste with life, or how much they hate their parents, or how much they wish they could die or blow up the planet or kill all the "breeders". In other words, it is a depressive circlejerk.

Then there are those who focus too much on comparing dick sizes than doing actual philosophy. I have run into a few of them myself, unfortunately. It's always sad to realize that am associated with some of these people simply because we hold similar ethical views.

Previously I had said how I wished to become part of the YouTube antinatalist community. I'm not entirely sure if I want to. There is no unity there, no common ground, no rules for basic conduct. It's an every-man-for-himself, an "you're either with me or you're against me" gish gallop. I am not simply complaining about the atmosphere not being to my own personal tastes. I am concerned that this sort of toxicity is fundamentally getting in the way of progress, and that those on the fence about antinatalism may be put off (more like scared off) by this toxicity.

It is fine to express one's emotions. I do it myself on this blog. But the point I wish to argue here is that antinatalism, if it is ever going to catch on, must move beyond the aesthetic nature of suffering and into the ethical nature of suffering. Emotionally-charged outbursts and cliche narratives are not the basis of a sound ethical argument.

Perhaps one could argue that the time for respect is over. That parents don't deserve to be respected. Or that it is perfectly justifiable to call the opposition a bunch of selfish cunts, scum of the earth, and that it is perfectly okay to act like a child over the internet. Or that it's not our jobs to cater to the stupidity of the masses.

But this is exactly what expressing antinatalism is. Those who call parents selfish cunts, or make thousands of videos on the horrible, terrible reality of life, etc are fundamentally not concerned with actually spreading antinatalism. All that matters to them is that they get their daily release. YouTube in particular is a cathartic echo chamber. Those who practice this are primarily concerned with the aesthetic nature of suffering, not the ethical nature of suffering. It's "enough" to just rant about suffering.

If merely holding a belief was all that mattered, then the world probably would be a lot better than it actually is. Unfortunately, this is not how the world works. Belief is not all that is needed for change, and if you never put your belief into practice then it won't be surprising when you realize that you have so much to rant about. Ranting and raving about the same stuff becomes a habit.

To reiterate, if you believe that the presentation of antinatalism doesn't matter, then you are fundamentally not concerned with actually communicating (and implementing) antinatalism, but rather are focused on expressing antinatalism. This disconnect is precisely what I claim to be the biggest challenge facing the future of antinatalism. Antinatalism will never take off if we all keep acting so goddamn immature.

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