The Elephant in the Room
The privileged who are making a choice about whether or not to be a parent through reproduction should ask themselves the following three questions:
- Are you okay with being responsible for giving life to someone who is a violent or immoral person, whose inexistence would have been better for humanity?
- Are you okay with being responsible for giving life to someone who will face excruciating suffering at the hands of a violent or immoral person? And deal with ongoing suffering that interferes with their ability to function well for years after it is over?
- Are you okay with being responsible for giving life to someone who may live a miserable existence a lot of the time as a result of uncontrollable/incurable physical or mental illnesses that horribly affect their quality of life?
If not, then you shouldn’t reproduce. Because numerous under-reported statistics on violence, suffering, and illness show that all three are high probabilities when a human is created. Sometimes a human fits into more than one of those categories. I honestly cannot fathom at all how someone could be okay with this, so I must assume that people who choose to reproduce A. don’t know or understand the prevalence of these issues, B. don’t care, C. believe their desire or need to bring about new life is more important than what that life could be, D. are in denial about such information, E. naively don’t consider that one of these could apply to someone they create, and/or F. believe the undeterminable amount of joys the person may experience will make the reproduction worth it.
While the person in case #1 should definitely not exist, I am NOT saying that #2 and #3 have lives that are unworthy or pointless. As someone who falls into one of those categories, I can say it’s very likely these people will experience some joys and wonderful experiences in life, because that’s part of being human. But as for how much it matters in the grand scheme of their lives? How significant their good is? That can’t be known or guaranteed. And for many of these people, it isn’t enough for them to live a quality life. A lot of these people take their own lives. There’ve been too many times when I’ve almost done so myself, and sometimes I’m still unsure if I will eventually do the same.
This is why I know for a fact that if the 0.1% of me “changes” my mind about becoming a parent, I will adopt. This is why I know I will always be on a contraceptive. While I am strong enough to handle the pain that could accompany a biological child of mine falling into one of the previously listed categories, I care too much about other people living well to even allow a chance for one or more of these three situations to exist.
There are plenty of childfree who don’t think of these categories as their reasons not to have children. Which is fine, and everyone has their own reasons for why they don’t want children. However, there are many childfree who see this reality of life as one of their reasons. I think a lot of us tend to not go there often because of how insulted and personally attacked many people would feel as a result. Overpopulation and distribution of resources are two of the great ethical issues that arise from reproduction among the privileged, and they’re easier to talk about because a lot of parents in the world also want to fix and acknowledge these problems. People are less likely to take such discussions as a huge offensive act. But an equally great ethical question of reproduction is what I have described in this post, and it’s time people were more open to facing this reality.
As I’ve explained to my own mother who felt hurt by this ethical problem, I don’t think she’s a horrible person because she decided to have me. What I care about are someone’s intentions when it comes to many decisions that have already been made and are irreversible. I strongly believe reasons A, E, and F apply to my parents’ decision to have children, in relation to this ethical question. Though these reasons frustrate me, they are also forgivable and understandable to me because they stepped up to the plate and went above and beyond in their parenting. In a sense, they “made up” for their naivety in the reasons they brought me here by doing all the things they should have done as parents with privilege. My parents were wonderful, and are a huge part of the reason so many parents piss me off; because my parents never acted the way I see most parents act, and my sibling and I were mostly well-behaved and tolerable in public as a result. So the behavior I often see from parents baffles me because of my experience. My parents have done the best they could for me to the best of their abilities. I am privileged and fortunate to be able to say that is the case. My parents have been, for the most part, the definition of what a parent should be. I value and respect any parent who thinks and acts the way my parents do.
With that said, let’s not shy away from the unfortunate facts anymore: what a new human chooses to do, or is a victim of, is not directly the fault of parents’ reproductive decisions. But creating a human could mean creating a life of horror.