On Motherhood - for the individual and for society - Lionel Shriver

Posted On: Saturday - April 23rd 2022 5:55AM MST
In Topics: 
  Feminism  The Future  Female Stupidity

Most likely via a comment on The Unz Review I came upon a 17 year-old article by a Peak Stupidity favorite writer/novelist, Mrs. Lionel Shriver. I don't in general have favorite authors or especially follow the works of one, but I make an exception from Lionel Shriver, since being steered to one of her novels by John Derbyshire. The Female Stupidity topic key is attached here only because this a female issue and I really don't have enough topic keys to cover some posts. Lionel Shriver is a wise, thoughtful, and very truthful lady, IMO.

I refer the reader to our 6 part, yes, 6 part, book review on the prepper novel The Mandibles (the one Mr. Derbyshire originally recommended - Part 1 - - Part 2 - - Part 3 - - Part 4 - - Part 5, and - - Part 6. Then, we reviewed We need to talk about Kevin, and most recently, we reviewed The Motion of the Body Through Space. As if that's not all the good publicity Lionel Shriver has gotten here, there is also a post about her good common sense take on the Kung Flu stupidity and the Totalitarianism that resulted in her home, England** in her article Most Frightened Nation Status.

OK, finally to the topic of this post, that 2005 Guardian article (from which came the above graphic) is No kids please, we're selfish. Lionel Shriver may be selfish, but she admits this. She is nothing if not truthful, above all, to herself. I would like to paste in the entire article, and if you go to only one link off here this week, please read this in it's entirety. (She's not boring either.) The impetus for the article:
Devastated mothers send me confiding letters detailing horror stories of offspring just like the wicked boy in my book. Women who'd declined to have children flock to my readings, raising the novel as proof they were right.
(She means her "Kevin" book, in which the child was almost straight out of a horror movie.)

Because she is truthful to herself, the first step in being an honest person, Mrs. Shriver admitted that, at 48, the decision about the question of motherhood had become "merely philosophical". Not all women want to see the truth about the birds and the bees. Peak Stupidity posted long ago, in Feminism 101 - It's not nice to fool Mother Nature that the sweet spot is 15 to 28 y/o. (It's not that I recommend the very early part of this range though, but I'm talking biology here.) By the late 30's, 3 things, conceiving, bearing to term, and delivering, babies is already a another level of difficulty.

Well, Lionel Shriver is 65 years old*** now, and with that has come a lot of wisdom and curmudgeonry. She tells us her opinion on the demographic decline of the West.**** I'm telling you, she does not balk at the real truth here. That is including Africa, well, well before Steve Sailer's "most important graph" (quotes here just to point out his terminology, not as sarcasm). Let me back up, though:
Childless at 48, I'm now old enough for the question of motherhood to have become merely philosophical. Still, I've had all the time in the world to have babies. I am married. I've been in perfect reproductive health. I could have afforded children, financially. I just didn't want them. They are untidy; they would have messed up my flat. In the main, they are ungrateful. They would have siphoned too much time away from the writing of my precious books.
One's first thought is "selfish, selfish woman!" However, going back 25 years to her youth, well, would you expect a 23 y/o to not be selfish about her life plan? Young women especially are the last people to philosophize about and understand anything about the good of society. It is society that has been screwing up for 50 years, convincing easily-convincible young ladies what their lives should be like and what will make them happy.

Right after that excerpt, Mrs. Shriver writes:
Nevertheless, 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.

Allusion to Europe's "ageing population" in the news is now commonplace. We have more and more old people, and a dwindling number of young people to support them. Not only healthcare and pension systems but the working young will soon be overtaxed, just to keep doddering crusties like me alive. Politicians sensibly cite age structure when justifying higher rates of immigration, and not only because Europeans so fancy themselves that they refuse to clean toilets. Even if the job appealed, there are already too few of the native-born of working age to clean all those toilets.
This was in '05, keep in mind. Next, the writer delves into the reasons for this decline. It's all really interesting and thoughtful, as she debunks (rightly or wrongly, I don't know) the idea that modern contraceptive means are the cause. Then there is that paragraph about African fertility, and though she didn't explicitly write it, I'm pretty sure Mrs. Shriver doesn't think that's a good thing!*****

Here's her take on the whole story:
I propose that we have now experienced a second demographic transition. Rather than economics, the engine driving Europe's "birth dearth" is existential.

To be almost ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our private devising. We are less concerned with leading a good life than the good life. We are less likely than our predecessors to ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask if we are happy. We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. 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. As we age - oh, so reluctantly! - we are apt to look back on our pasts and ask not 'Did I serve family, God and country?' but 'Did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat?' We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.
(Hell, I'm about to paste in the whole thing!) Then she writes some philosophy about the purpose of life, but without anything about religion involved, an important omission, IMO. Now, I come to a part with which I really disagree:
The question is whether kids will make us happy.

However rewarding at times, raising children can be also hard, trying and dull, inevitably ensnaring us in those sucker-values of self-sacrifice and duty. The odds of children making you happier are surely no better than 50-50. A few years ago the New York Times published the results of a study that found the self-reported "happiness" index was lower among parents than the childless. Little wonder that so many women have taken a hard look at all those nappies, play groups, nasty plastic toys and said no thanks.
Well, she doesn't really know, as she hasn't tried it. (So long as you don't birth a Kevin, you may be pleasantly surprised!) Instead Lionel Shriver relies on a NY Times****** poll. I've been polled myself, so I know the (lack of) value in those things, but that's not my main problem with her thinking here. "Happiness" is subjective. Because it's subjective, the women parents surveyed could very well feel less happy than the childless ones. However, that's because society, very much including the NY Times, has been telling women what they are supposed to be happy about for the last half a century, and society has been WRONG!

Mrs. Shriver gives some personal opinions from her close childless friends near the end, all of it also very interesting and then finally the sad truth:
Not to disparage old people, but "senescent" is not a pretty word. Large sectors of western population have broken faith with the future. In the Middle East, birth rates are still sky-high, whereas Europeans, Australians and many European-Americans cannot be bothered to scrounge up another generation of even the same size, because children might not always be interesting and fun, because they might not make us happy, because some days they're a pain in the bum. When Islamic fundamentalists accuse the west of being decadent, degenerate and debauched, you have to wonder if maybe they've got a point.
No kidding. What an important and truthful article! My opinion is that you won't go wrong reading anything by Lionel Shriver.

* With a comparison to the movie here.

** The writer was living in both NY City and London at one point. Oh, I should (per Steve Sailer's noticing) say "based in NY City and London", but maybe because of her North Carolina roots, she IS pretty based.

*** That 3rd book I've read, The Motion of the Body through Space has a very well-written theme about aging. She writes of what she knows.

**** Peak Stupidity had a series Western World committing demographic sooeee-cide: Part 1 - - Part 2 - - Part 3 - - a few years back.

***** If you read my review of The Body of the Motion through Space, you will see that Lionel Shriver is not afraid to talk racial realism. A part of the story involves both the husband and wife in the protagonist couple being screwed in their careers by Affirmative Action and wokeness, respectively. Unfortunately, but probably for good writer-reasons, those episodes don't go far into the story.

Then, near the end of this article, when talking about her childless friends' opinions, we read:
When I press her on the implications of a contracting European population, she readily concurs that "many western cities will be largely black/ Hispanic/Asian in 50 years' time. Does that bother me? Well, I vaguely regret the extinction of gene lines that in their various ways played a part in the establishment of western civilisation. But the gene lines coming in from the developing world will have their own strengths, energies and qualities."
That was her friend talking, mind you. I don't know who felt obligated to say or write that last sentence. You don't want the editor to reject the article either....

****** She really, really has that NY mentality that the NY Times is the Word, something I pointed out in at least one of my reviews. (Probably on the latter 2 books I read - in order of my reading, that is.) From a wise and bright lady like this ... I'm stumped ...

Tuesday - April 26th 2022 5:19PM MST
PS I don’t mean to be picking on her in particular. There are without a doubt many more heads deserving of being enpiked than hers. But, to the extent that the world is reduced to Us and Them—and Those Who Rule Us are pushing us ever further in that direction—she’s one of Them. Perhaps she, like many women, are themselves partially innocent. The vision that they were sold did seem so appealing. But when it comes right down to it, they had a choice to make, and they made it, and they should be held accountable.
Tuesday - April 26th 2022 12:57PM MST
PS: Mr. Blanc, I think there is evil behind it. I'm thinking of the Frankfurt School and the Communists who knew what they were doing in the 1960s pushing the feminism. (I include the nominal Communists in this too, the Soviets and China's Mao government, who pushed all of this - women made to get the same rice-bowl haircuts as the guys and wear a Mao jackets - at least you had a choice. They came in 2 colors!)

Then, there are all the useful idiots that just go for all of it and won't do any real thinking for themselves.

As for Mrs. Shriver, maybe you got a very bad impression from the excerpts, but I urge you to read that whole article (and SafeNow's link - even better!), if you have not already. Lionel Shriver sees the whole picture, IMO. For herself, well, as she said, the motherhood question was academic already in '05. Sure, she was sucked into this all and didn't have children, but then, she's a bi-Atlantic-based writer who thinks the NY Times is The Word, so, there's no curing that ...
Tuesday - April 26th 2022 9:28AM MST
PS Western women have been sold, and eagerly bought, the idea that having children is demeaning and a terrible waste of their wonderful, brilliant talents. Better to be (like) a man and have a CAREER! A fulfilling, world-shaking career. Which turns out to be sitting in a cubicle* for forty years pushing pixels around for Global International Corp. Which turns out to be a very good deal for Global International Corp. And a very bad deal for Western civilization. The people who have pushed this idea are either evil or delusional. I do not know into which category this dreadful woman belongs. Her head on a pike would be her just deserts.

* I guess that these days all you get is a desk in an open plan office.
Sunday - April 24th 2022 4:00PM MST
PS: Thank you, Alarmist. Great stuff! I don't do this often, but I WILL be texting out that link.
The Alarmist
Sunday - April 24th 2022 1:42PM MST

Evening all. Your Sunday evening moment of Zen.

Captain Kirk meets Joe Biden....

Saturday - April 23rd 2022 7:03PM MST
PS: I just read the article about Lionel Shriver, SafeNow. She's a woman after my own heart. Thanks again.

Oh, and I even "got" the New Yorker cartoon in the middle, I think.
Saturday - April 23rd 2022 6:15PM MST
PS: Yes, you are blessed, Mr. Hindsight. I have never dived, but it's something I want to and maybe will do.

Dieter, I"m glad you liked the 2 posts. If the two scientists end up debating, I'd definitely like to watch. Would that be on Joe Rogan's show too? In the meantime, I can check out episode 1776, a good number!

I'll go read that in a little while, SafeNow. Thanks for the link!

Saturday - April 23rd 2022 5:46PM MST

The New Yorker had a good piece on Shriver recently.


To sum it up: Lionel, who changed her name from Margaret Ann at age 15, is hopelessly contrarian; she is both a pugilist and a novelist, and the former overwhelms the latter.

I find her to be an engaging, observant, truthful, and creative writer. The moderator’s post shows this. But yes, very strongly oppositional; and that comes from a commenter who has the contrarian gene, and regularly fights it, trying to be fair.

Dieter Kief
Saturday - April 23rd 2022 1:52PM MST
Mod. I liked your tax article and I like your praise of Ms. Shriver's basedness (if that is a word already)- and about her writing skills.
Interesting: Joe Rogan debated climate change with Obama's under secretary of state Steven E. Koonin, an actual physicist and climate scientist
of the rather sceptical kind. And he asked him if he would be willing to debate the climate problems with a scientist that is rather alarmistically
oriented and he said: Yes: If the opponent would be willing to write the critique of Konnin's main theses down.

#1776 - Steven E. Koonin – The Joe Rogan Experience | Podcast auf Spotify

Jordan B. Peterson pointed out recently: Especially young men are super desoriented, because they lack writing skills.
So - I think the point you make about Ms. Shriver's writing skills is quite valuable. And that she is from North Carolina might help too.
Btw. - Peterson quotes study after study to point out that motherhood might be way underestimated - especially by women who are economically well off.
Saturday - April 23rd 2022 12:30PM MST
PS I am the same age as the spinster in question, but male. I have two daughters, and now, three grandchildren. I tell my kids that I know God loves me because He gave me 2 wonderful daughters. We have had so much fun together, from family gatherings, to vacations with 3 generations of family, and to our own family vacations exploring the world from Europe to Hawaii. Both girls were certified divers at the youngest age they could be, and got their driver's licenses as soon as they could. I did all the driving hours with them and treasured our time together. Can't wait for our family vacations with grandkids! I am truly blessed.
Saturday - April 23rd 2022 7:36AM MST
PS: Yep.

Did you read the article, Alarmist? She is a great writer. I'd read the passages about her 3 fiends before, but not just now when writing the post. Then, there was some more on multi-culturalism (pure rationalization) and immigration that I did not get to writing about.

I think I will write a few more posts about this article. It's depressing and possibly wrong in some places, but she can really lay out the whole matter.

What I might do is write a a post each in rebuttal to her friends (their names changed for privacy and this was all 17 years ago.

Have a nice weekend, Alarmist.
The Alarmist
Saturday - April 23rd 2022 6:52AM MST

Yep, the only seeds being sown in the degenerate West are those of its own destruction.

The future belongs to those who show up.
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