Philobiblon: Childless, happy AND altrusitic

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Childless, happy AND altrusitic

I'm a fan of Lionel Shriver as an author, but as a social commentator she's way off-beam. Writing in
this weekend's Guardian, she says:

"After talking myself blue about "maternal ambivalence", I have come full circle, rounding on the advice to do as I say, not as I did. I may not, for my own evil purposes, regret giving motherhood a miss, but I've had it with being the Anti-Mom, and would like to hand the part to someone else."


While I can sympathise with her being fed-up with a one-line media stereotype, she then goes on at great length to talk about her desire for her own life as her own "evil purposes", saying of her (relatively) child-free generation: "We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead."

What tosh. I'm childless myself, entirely and absolutely by choice, and know lots of other people who've also chosen not to have children, but this means we have more time and energy to devote to the present and future of our societies and our world. While parents have chosen, as is their right, to put vast amounts of time and energy into helping usually at most a couple of human beings face the future, we're doing the voluntary community work, conducting the environmental campaigns and generally facing the issues that take entire societies into the future.

To say that this is more "selfish" than putting the same effort into passing on a few of your genes is ridiculous. Indeed there's a case to be made that if anyone is being selfish it is the parents - certainly those who have more than their replacement allocation of two children.

European societies, as Shriver discusses, are getting very exercised by their ageing social structures, but the world's population is still growing at a great rate - probably far beyond its sustainable carrying capacity. All that needs to happen is for it to be more evenly distributed.

And if a reminder of the enormous pressures to which we are subjecting this fragile planet were needed, two stories in the Guardian today certainly provide it.

I was struck by a line in a story about China building a railway to Tibet: "The roof of the world is melting." Then there was the piece about how budget airlines are taking off in India.

The railway is taken as just one symbol of that "those billions are travelling, earning and consuming more than ever before". But the very foundations of the track, and of the future, are put at risk by that very growth, even though the trouble the engineers are having with the permafrost melting is entirely down to Western over-consumption over the past two centuries.

The human race can't afford to have them consuming at Western levels, yet if there is to be any hope of convincing them not to do so, we need to dramatically cut back ourselves. The childless are helping with that problem, through that choice, and many others.

So if you're looking for a new "anti-Mom", here I am.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mapo said...

I never could understand those people who said the child free were selfish. I hope more people come round to your way of thinking.

9/21/2005 01:09:00 pm  
Blogger purpleelephant said...

Despite being a parent myself I agree with you on this one. Actively choosing not to have children, in the grand scheme of things is certainly less selfish than spawning children without really thinking of what you are doing. The way the population is going we need more people to decide to go against what is expected of them by not having kids.

9/21/2005 07:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree. The moder human must avoid being simply a gene container and transmitter, and not having children and concentrating efforts in a better world is without any doubt an excellent and totally humanistic ption

6/11/2006 11:46:00 pm  

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