“For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.’ Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us;’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us’ …” – Luke 23:29-30 (KJV)
As an atheist, I seem to find myself quoting judaeo-christian scripture lately far more than I am comfortable acknowledging. This is just one example. For those of you unfamiliar with the reference, the notion of people asking for rocks and mountains to fall upon and hide them is standard gospel-era apocalyptic imagery. It evokes the dire proclamations of the Second Coming, a time of divine judgment and payback rather than mercy, wherein the veils of perception are torn asunder to reveal a reality so blatant and terrible to behold that one would rather be swallowed or crushed by the earth itself than face the wrath of the Saviour he has rejected, ignored, or otherwise spurned.
In our present generation, it might sound rather quaint to some, if not downright archaic, to link an envy and admiration of childlessness to doomsday prognostications. Yet is it? What end to the world could be more certain, more inevitable, more clear than that brought about by an end to human reproduction itself? What swifter path to an end to the world as we know it can any of us conceive than that of the extinction of our species, and by what means could any such thing transpire more quickly than through the collective decision of the majority acting as isolated individuals?
Time was when the barren womb formed a topic of hushed whispers behind closed doors. Children were seen as a blessing from God, the Goddess, or the gods, an indication of bounty, health and strength to the family name, of paternal virility and maternal fertility. To be childless in the best of conditions felt shameful, as if some subtle dim reflection upon the desirability of a woman, or silent judgment by nature herself upon the worthiness of a family line.
That is no longer the case today. Women without children are far from anomalies. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, in 2014, 47.6 percent of women between age 15 and 44 had never had children, up from 46.5 percent in 2012. This represents the highest percentage of childless women since the bureau started tracking that data in 1976. Nearly half (49.6%) of the women between 25 and 29 were childless in 2014, and of those between the ages of 30 and 34, 28.9% remained without children. The general fertility rate in the U.S., as measured by the number of babies women between 15 and 44 have over their lifetimes, had fallen for six straight years as of 2013 and sat at 1.86. A fertility rate of 2.1 would be required to maintain a stable U.S. population and replace the numbers dying off.
While there are often rational and responsible reasons to delay having a family, a disturbing trend has emerged over the past few decades for deferral to give way to outright refusal. Rather than putting off children until such a time as prospective parents feel sufficiently matured and financially prepared to provide, many individuals and couples today opt at the outset for never having children at all. Not now, not later, not ever. Indeed, some feel so strongly about this choice to forego reproduction entirely that they undergo voluntary sterilization at an early age – whether via vasectomy, tubal ligation, or otherwise.
While being without children or having difficulty conceiving would have been considered a lamentable circumstance for most women of childbearing age not long ago, today it has become the default choix du jour to the point where it is now flaunted openly and with defiance. Take for example the self-description offered by the website childfree.org:
We choose to call ourselves “childfree” rather than “childless,” because we feel the term “childless” implies that we’re missing something we want – and we aren’t. We consider ourselves childFREE – free of the loss of personal freedom, money, time and energy that having children requires.1
(“Who We Are”, childfree.org, emphasis added.)
Apparently they are also mercilessly free of sufficient common sense to consider their lives in any larger context beyond the narrow constricts of its own limited scope and expiration date. It is tempting to wonder whether they consider anything in life beyond fleeting whims and temporal expedience as well. The overt short-sightedness of the stubbornly defiant “child-free” utterly fails to so much as suggest a single viable, alternative method for continuing their bloodline. Securing a future for their DNA or contributing to the survival of the human species as a whole does not even enter the picture. Offering little more than snooty sarcasm and a weak attempt to provoke envy, the classic piece “The Childless Couple” opines:
There is nothing sadder than a childless couple. It breaks my heart to see them relaxing around swimming pools in Florida, sitting all suntanned and miserable on the decks of their boats — trotting off to Europe like lonesome fools. It’s an empty life. Nothing but money to spend, more time to enjoy and a whole lot less to worry about …2
This op-ed prattles on for seven more equally snooty paragraphs pretending to lament the loneliness and emptiness of the childless-by-choice while actually flaunting and parading about, instead, the supposed lack of stress, toil and heartache they enjoy. Yet when it comes to the inescapable consideration of what legacy shall be left behind once the lives of our hypothetical partners in hassle-free bliss are fully spent, and only decrepitude and the grave remain, our snarky author falls conspicuously silent.
What they fail to recognize is that their perceived liberty is just that: perceived only, nothing more. Deliberate childlessness no more guarantees happiness in life than childbearing guarantees misery. Neither choice is a “get out of stress and struggle free” card. Furthermore, it is not actually true that this lifelong choice impacts no one but themselves, no matter how “socially unacceptable” it may be to point this out. And make no mistake: there are distinct and definitive reasons why, for the past fifty years or so, we have been systematically and progressively indoctrinated to cautiously sidestep and politely eschew all mention of social obligations that have a basis in family—our family, not someone else’s, not that of strangers or foreigners.
The lure of personal gratification as a quasi-spiritual attainment, in tandem with the “looking out for #1” mentality, was not given decades of play within society through art, entertainment and politics in order to liberate us – as their advertising slogans and soundbytes would suggest – but to unmoor us and cast us adrift; to sever us from the most essential and natural aspects of human existence, thus leaving us vulnerable to insidious ideological predators who did not then, and do not now, have our best interests at heart.
The effort to style such “inconvenient truths” as socially unacceptable, even “oppressive,” has its roots in a relentless and deliberate agenda to render us all rootless for a reason. Human reproduction and engagement with family are potent biological imperatives, the very cradle and foundation of life itself. Like all biological imperatives, they will haunt us with an irrepressible sense of discontent unless or until fulfilled – and those behind this agenda have an endless stream of diverse ways to profit along their gold-plated-turd-brick road en route to global demographic manipulation.
Confronted with the abrasive truth, that their decision impacts far more than just themselves, the standard response of many such laughing, whirling “Sporoses who refuse to deepen”3, is to stammer haughtily that the choice is theirs to make, and theirs alone, and impacts no one outside themselves. Quite the contrary, refusal to reproduce is not a private decision impacting only the couple making it, any more than the decision to reproduce and bring new members into our future society would be. In some ways it may be even less private.
The impact and strain of introducing new human beings into future society can always be improved by a consistent, deliberate effort to increase their benefit to others, while lessening any inconvenience in their presence, through proactive parental embrace of their increased responsibility and due diligence exercised toward both nurture and discipline in turn. The impact may be further improved with a commitment of the extended family to welcome the new addition and provide as much tangible support to the young family as feasible and reasonable. Acceptance of responsibility and diligent attending to the child by both parents and supporting network (extended family, friends who also are parents, etc.) can offset or ameliorate any burden or negative impact risked by either misbehaviors generated by the child or personal accommodations the child may need.
However, the effect of depriving one’s extended family — as well as one’s community, nation and ultimately, race — of fresh minds and spirits, of the joys of new relationships, fresh perspectives, new ideas, and rekindled hopes they bring, can never be replaced. It is a loss that will be felt permanently, and one that carries an even greater personal slight because in the end, it is a loss inflicted deliberately. This loss could have been avoided altogether by the simple choice to prioritize all that is beyond the scope of self, all that will undoubtedly outlast one individual lifetime, above one’s own self. While there are times it is incontrovertibly appropriate — completely necessary, crucial to one’s health, and undeniably mandatory, in fact — to prioritize self over others?—This is not one of them.
Moreover, given the fact of our own inevitable, inescapable, individual deaths, only our personal and direct reproduction can ensure a form of survival past our limited lifespans. The perpetuation of our bloodline, of our DNA, is literally all we have to provide a material line of continuity. Our genetic heritage is the only legacy we can guarantee passing on which is not subject to the whims of economy or popularity. No special wealth or fame are required.
Yet if we will not do so, our lineage stops with us, coming to a screeching and permanent halt with our passing. It cannot be revived at any time in the future nor with some distant generation. Nor may the DNA of our closest siblings substitute for our own in this matter. We do not merely deprive ourselves of the completion of the life and maturation cycle which can only be discovered through having children of our own, nor the society of the next generation of our unique additions to their life journey. We deprive our race itself, and the entire human species, of our bloodline for all eternity. We cannot simply “take it back” in a generation or two and resume course, for there shall be nothing left of us to do so, not even a handful of chromosomes handed down to another from our loins. It is permanent, irreversible, and affects everyone who has ever lived or ever will live, forever.
How dare any mere individual inflict such a loss upon billions for all time, simply from his or her selfish desire to avoid the very stress, inconvenience, embarrassment, heartache, and personal sacrifice their existence has already gleefully extracted from others. How dare they turn up an unworthy nose at those who willingly suffered the risks, penalties, pains, struggles, and stresses for no other sake but their own! Such an act constitutes no more nor less than shrinking back from the fullness of life—cleverly disguised as a lust to grab more of all it has to offer. It constitutes a last-ditch refusal to mature fully—cleverly disguised as a rational adult decision. It forms an ungrateful slap in the face of one’s own sires and ancestors, to prioritize the fleeting whims and pleasure-seeking dalliances of a single lifespan, a single generation, above the struggle and sacrifice of the hundreds which preceded to produce it. How dare any puny individual presume himself, or herself, worthy to sit upon so eternal a throne of summary and irreversible judgment?
In the end, the feigned defiance of the stubbornly “child-free” amounts to no less than the arrogant will to murder-suicide an entire bloodline with no regard for anyone’s happiness but their own – in service to the immature delusion that happiness is to be measured by a lack of duty, obligation and responsibility. I say “murder-suicide” because murder is as certain an outcome of starvation, denial and deprivation as it is of aggression. Suicide is often described as a “permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and the self-absorbed refusal to open the gate of life to the future brings just as irreversible an end to one’s own substance as it does to that of all potential descendants. Like literal suicide, it is shameful, self-centered cowardice masquerading as some twisted form of “enlightened” autonomy, sometimes even accompanied by a rogue martyr card pretending it to be for the greater good of others. Unlike literal suicide, however, precious few will dare acknowledge that behind such a pretense of “bold, uncompromising self-direction” lies naught but a pathological, despair-driven gesture, a futile and pathetic waste of the priceless gift of life.
It is ludicrous and self-destructive to think that anyone would parade this bankrupt delusion as a badge of autonomy and independence, let alone of honor, and while it would not form so dire a topic if kept to the shadows and transgressive wills of a hidden few, it is utter folly to put it about in public as if it deserved candidacy for the new normative. Would the gods, or fates, or whatever one perceives to govern the process of awareness, that this folly might come to light for its true nature while there is still time to eschew it altogether.
1 Who Are We, homepage, childfree.org.
2 South, Roslyn, “Pity the Childless Couple”. The American Mercury, copyright 1957. Reprinted in an Ann Landers column, quoted as seen on childfree.org at http://childfree.net/potpourri_annlanders.html.