Friday, January 18, 2008

Anyone In Key West Want To Offer Me A Job? Anyone?

In the last hour the temperature has dipped below zero with wind chills hitting -21 degrees. If we are lucky we should climb above zero sometime Monday afternoon.

And there are some idiots who are going to go out this weekend to play pond hockey.

If you'll excuse me I have to go put on a sweater now.


Dirt Roads Scholar said...

Being a self-confessed techno-dud, I don't know how else to do this - so off topic or not, here goes:

I just read your article, Babies As Necessary Evils, having read Mark Steyn's previously. You mentioned that you were not married and had no children. Seeing that you agreed with Mr. Steyn, I had a question: Do you believe there may be perspectives generally inherent to parents, in that their self-interest is (or should be) subordinated to their offspring, that in some elemental sense are unavailable to childless people? Not to imply superiority, but perhaps a vantage available only through philosophical imagination, or some other mechanism, to the childless.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh I don't mind talking about my old stuff. (Those who wish to follow along can find the link to the piece in the "Favorite Posts" section.)

You said: Do you believe there may be perspectives generally inherent to parents, in that their self-interest is (or should be) subordinated to their offspring, that in some elemental sense are unavailable to childless people?

You frame this as an issue of individuals, which is where we generally make such ethical distinctions, while I was speaking more of general attitudes. If we as a people are generally viewing children, IN THE ABSTRACT, as a burden rather than a blessing we will be more likely to have fewer (or none.) So it isn't so much a question of individual moral superiority of the fecund over the not-so-fecund. If we, as a society, view children as a drag on our finances or quality of life, etc., it lends a bit of inertia to the whole process. The view that children are a burden that would only be taken on in a fit of altruism represents a very different view of life from what was generally believed before.

Now, I'm not saying everyone views children in this way, but the drift in society has been in this direction (especially in Europe), and the possible repercussions of such a view are daunting.

Since I wrote that piece a couple of years ago I have since married and who knows what the future will bring. (At this point I sure dont.) But I'd like to think that the desire to have children wouldn't be dependent upon some act of moral imagination and self denial alone. I'd like to believe children should be wanted because they make living more worthwhile in and of themselves.

Dirt Roads Scholar said...

As is frustratingly normal for me, I've managed to make myself less than clear. I think I understand the demographics of the issue, and following it out to the logical (to me) end, there are two considerations. Generally, apart from the minimum 2.2 births per couple, whatever group that produces less is eventually doomed to extinction. At the same time, apart from a primary family unit, consisting of a man, a woman, and their children, the civilization that rejects that foundation is doomed.

I'm not really speaking of an ethical consideration, or any compulsion to have children. On an individual basis, I only wondered if from a childless perspective, it looks at all like it does from a parental perspective; that children have a unique, profound, and significant impact on maturity, worldview, etc., that the childless may lack, to one degree or another. I'm thinking along the lines of selflessness - a step away from self-interest, to the realm of being responsible for a completely helpless human being, utterly and totally dependant on you for life itself, for many years to come. Or do you suppose that it's just my personal experience, with anecdotal support?

Likely less than clear yet again, but the cultural ramifications of moving from a child-friendly to a child/family-adverse society got me to wondering about the perspectives and life styles of a diminishing remnant of narcissistic people in a years long slide into oblivion (the Aged of Aquarius?).

Also, have you ever met a 'child development' major, or practitioner that has children of their own. I ask because I haven't yet, but I've only met two.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Certainly, having children seems to be a life altering event that changes people in ways they didn't necessarily expect beforehand. (I don't have personal experience of this, but I've gathered much from my siblings experiences as well as many friends with families.)

But I think my concern is a little different. How do we, as a society, view children BEFORE WE START HAVING THEM. Are they viewed as something desirable on their own, or do we view them as "necessary evils." If we have to wait for people to transform only after the experience of having children we will essentialy be doomed. It is too easy, in this technological age, to defer children indefinitiely if we so choose. If we dont view children as one of the good things in life where we will be? Steyn suggest no place good, and I'm afraid he may be right.

How many 19 or 20 year old do you think would say "having a family of my own is very important to me, and the goal I am most committed to at some point in the future"? I'd have to think it would be under 5%.

Dirt roads Scholar said...

It wasn't too long ago that children were pretty universally considered a blessing, at least in Western Judeo-Christian civilization. The appeal of perpetual childhood didn't really take off until the sixties, which were not so much the dawning of the 'Age of Aquarius' as a mass movement to actualize Peter Pan's lost boys (and girls) in a subsidized 'Neverland'. We had a president in the nineties who was the poster child for this cultural growth stunt. Women's lib, and the advent of the 'pill', and abortion are part of that legacy. If, as a general rule, men are pigs, and women are now 'free' to act like men (there being no difference), then women are....? And children are no more than 'unviable tissue masses' at best, and biological assaults on women's bodies at worst.

The phenomenon is in part an almost inevitable byproduct of prosperity. It follows the five step cycle of the Biblical Israelites:

From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency;
From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage."
Alexander Fraser Tyler, Scottish economist, 1776

I can't claim an abundance of optimism. A massive system wide appeal to the prurient interests of deliberately cultivated dumb masses is a sure winner. Even a lotus eating, navel gazing, middle aged adolescent can see that children would put a severe crimp in plans to save up for the full set of "Jackass" DVD's out of his government allowance. Apart from some miraculous spiritual awakening, I don't see how we're going to avoid neo-Soviet communism, or following the Brits into sharia law. Can you cheer me up?

If we somehow lumber along avoiding catastrophic self-destruction, what do you see as some general effects of the reproductive demographics? Racial, political, religious, etc.

"Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing
a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all. No infant, defective or not,
has a strong claim to life as a person." Peter Singer
Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University

I wonder. Is Mr. Singer glad his mother didn't have his peculiar view
on 'quality of life' issues? I was sorry to hear his mother had
Alzheimer's, but glad that he hasn't had her put to sleep yet. I was
also glad she wouldn't have to be aware of the soulless cretin her son
has grown into.