My excuse for participating in demographic collapse - 1: Gabriella

Posted On: Monday - May 2nd 2022 7:04PM MST
In Topics: 
  Feminism  Female Stupidity

This is something of a continuation from the Peak Stupidity post On Motherhood - for the individual and for society - Lionel Shriver of a week ago past Saturday. We will feature the 3 close women friends that Mrs. Shriver provided the opinions of near the end of her Guardian article on Motherhood, or the non-participation in same. I'm pretty sure they are all living in London. These names were changed by Mrs. Shriver, and now it's been 17 MORE years, so, I don't think anyone's worried who they are, and it's all academic to all involved.

We hear from purposefully childless woman #1, Gabriella::
At 44, Gabriella is an accomplished journalist who has written two acclaimed non-fiction books on Africa. She is bright, widely travelled, well educated and physically fetching, with a distinctive acerbity and a candour unusual for her British upbringing. She is half Italian on her mother's side.

Gabriella was negative about childbearing from the get-go: "I was someone who loathed the onset of sexual maturity. Menstruation, pregnancy - all these biological processes that you couldn't control, which caught you unawares and seemed designed to embarrass you in public - felt like a baffling, humiliating negation of my existence as a thinking, reasoning adult." By her 20s, her hostility had hardened. "As a young woman I remember being astonished to meet contemporaries who had decided to have children within years of leaving university. It seemed nonsensical. Here we were, just emerged from the tedious constraints of a seemingly endless education, financially independent for the first time, tasting our liberties at last, and the first thing they decided to do was to enter the prison of childrearing, with all its boring routines and dreadful responsibilities. Having children in my 20s would have spelled the end of everything I had spent my life working towards and was about to really enjoy: the ability to spend my money the way I wanted, travel where I wanted, choose my partners, live as I wished."

By her late 30s, however, Gabriella had misgivings. Friends were having children, and she felt left out. Encountering other people's children, she realised "there were great joys to be had from the process" and that "watching something [to non-parents, children are often mistaken for objects] growing and changing each day was also an intellectually intriguing process". Ergo, kids just might be interesting and fun. Yet Gabriella's then-partner was an older man averse to parenthood partially on (sound) medical grounds. At no point did her pining for children become a make-or-break matter in her relationship, from which we can construe that the pining was either mild or theoretical. For the most part, "the issue was ignored, avoided, allowed to slide or used as a bargaining chip when things got difficult." Indeed, when that relationship hit crisis point and her partner did a U-turn on fatherhood, his offer of a family was insufficient to salvage it for Gabriella. Happiness, in this case the romantic variety, trumped motherhood, full stop.

Gabriella is now resigned to the fact that she will not have children. "Could I now cope with the sheer exhaustion of the early sleepless years? Could I accept, as my friends have, that for the first five years I would stop having interesting conversations with adults my own age and settle for the glaze-eyed exchanges I've witnessed as an outsider?"

When I ask what she believes redeems her life in the absence of children, her answers are unhesitating. "Firstly, my work. Not in the sense of ambition and earning power (ha ha), but in the sense that the only imprint I can leave on this earth is my work. My motto, as the years go by, has become that of Voltaire's Candide: 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin.' We need to tend the garden. Do it as well as you can. Writing is my only skill; I apply it to the best of my abilities." Secondly, "I live for friendships and family. I have friendships that have gone on for so long and have been so close that I suppose they constitute a form of marriage."

On her own account, she has no regrets. "Had I had children, I would have written no books, nor would I have been a particularly successful journalist. I certainly wouldn't have gone off to Africa. I'd rather pine for children than die saying to myself, 'I could have been a contender.' I was a contender."

Nevertheless, in the larger social picture, Gabriella concedes, "If people like me don't reproduce, civilisation may be the worse for it. On both my mother's and my father's sides, I come from generations of academics, historians, diplomats - thinkers and doers - and as the years go by I begin to see that, far from being an exception or maverick, I am, in fact, the very obvious carrier of a certain genetic inheritance. I am a typical product of my family; I can see the thread stretching back through the generations. Do I think it's a shame that this genetic inheritance won't continue? Yes, I do. I'm arrogant enough to think that the world will be a poorer place without my genes in it. But the fact is that I don't care enough to do anything about it. There wasn't time to do that and the other things on my list."

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."

Last, and this is the sort of statement that many a childless woman - or man, for that matter - of my generation might honestly make, but that you will rarely read: "I'm an atheist. I'm a solipsist. As far as I'm concerned, while I know intellectually that the world and its inhabitants will continue after my death, it has no real meaning for me. I am terrified of and obsessed with my own extinction, and what happens next is of little interest. I certainly don't feel I owe the future anything, and that includes my genes and my offspring. I feel absolutely no sense of responsibility for the propagation of the human race. There are far too many human beings in the world as it is. I am happy to leave that task to someone else."
I was going to argue about this mindset piece by piece, but I think I'll just write a couple of things and then discuss the whole problem in a post after woman #3's story.

Gabriella does have at least one big contradiction here. She tells us that, without having children, "... the only imprint I can leave on this earth is my work." Then, at the end here she says "I certainly don't feel I owe the future anything, ..." There's a whole lot of rationalization Gabrielle made here to make herself feel better about her stupidity in her best childbearing years. She does understand what her own genes mean for a better world, if she'd have used them, but, well since she didn't, she just shrugs her shoulders, "I feel absolutely no sense of responsibility for the propagation of the human race. There are far too many human beings in the world as it is." Yeah, but you just got done saying that the world might not do so well without the European peoples.

Nah, deep inside, Gabriella knows what she did. In the famous words from Animal House. "Hey, you fucked up. You trusted us" (.. writers of the New York Times, that'd be.)

"Gabriella" is no dummy. Like author Lionel Shriver, she thinks deeply about these things. That didn't seem to help anything though. It'd be great if there a few thoughts in the comments about the words of Gabriella and whose fault this kind of story is. We'll write the other 2 shortly, but they'll be plenty of other types of stupidity this week, so don't fret if this is not your favorite flavor.

Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 6:55PM MST
PS: Alarmist, I can't remember when you were in Florida last, but you'll find the maskless society very pleasant next time you go. I'm in another State, but we are down to about 3-5%, I'd say.

Some kid at the school picnic had the Bazooka Joe look today, but that was because he had been out for the Kung Flu, according to my son - for 2 whole days! He still ran around and wrestled with the other kids, and his Dad didn't have a mask on.
Dieter Kief
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 2:01PM MST
Mask wearing
"...the Germans hang on as if it is the battle for Berlin..."
its the battle for their lives, Alarmist...

But, but, but: Bookstore Konstanz saturday: half/ half. Supermarket: 30% masks 70% without. - "All we are saying is / Give maskless a chance!"
Hotel southern Germany: 20% masks... Staff: "No, no, you're welcome without a mask!"
Dentist: No masks any longer - you're welcome...

The Alarmist
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 8:18AM MST

I went shopping in Germany yesterday. Mask requirements have been dropped, so I merrily go sans mask, and nobody can say anything to me. From what I could see, roughly 80% to 90% of my fellow shoppers are masked, and what I see of their faces suggest they aren’t pleased to see my unmasked face anywhere near them. By contrast, at my local Hypermarché in France, mask-wearing last weekend was less than 50%. Nobody at a local restaurant, sitting indoors, bothered to don a mask. The French, at least in the countryside, are over it ... the Germans hang on as if it is the battlefor Berlin.

Like so many things in Europe, the Germans tend to too much believe the gospel being preached to them by their leaders. This is really a shame, because I have more than a few german friends, but I have little doubt Germans will legislate themselves out of existence and feel good about it all the while. The French run the EU ... the Germans pay for it.

It’s hard to look past the Kindergarten grooming thing, but I doubt the EU will carry on with these fantasies for very long once we get into the next winter with no gas and oil.
Dieter Kief
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 6:48AM MST

Mod, I've read through the whole thing (did not regret it, hehe).
By and large: yes: With regard to the perspective of many muslims on the West too. Munich has a job-offer up today in German papers: Very well paid 50% job (as of now...) to bring the TRANS-phenomenon into - - - kindergarten!

(These things all hang together... - even the work-from-home aspect you mentioned quite a bit with regard to the Government workers in times of Corona pops up here: "Home office possible!")

With regard to everything-hangs-together: The german Green Party discusses two new taxes today: 1) Extra taxes on not climate-friendly food (= meat etc.). 2) A war and energy super-tax to help the Ukrainians. - The more taxes, the bigger the cake for those inside the red-green boat on its way to the earthly paradise!

(It = the shere and obvious stupidity of all of that - has something transcendentally (otherworldly/ paradise-like...) funny to it. I can't help it. (There is a connection between religion, liberty and humor methinks (Umberto Eco wrote about that stuff in The Name of the Rose (Hegel and Goethe (Faust) knew that too) - if maybe in a little bit twisted manner in the case of the Name of the Rose, but Eco did write about this quite interesting interdependence of these three fields).
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 5:50AM MST
PS: I didn't address the main parts of your comments, Dieter, I realized. I don't know if people who have kids all see it as being for the reasons you say (about escaping death). I do think religion is a big part of it, as we can see in "Gabriella's" take on her childless life.
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 5:48AM MST
PS: Yes, Dieter, having only one kid does make things different. I can remember when I was a kid not knowing what "only child" even meant. That's not to say some of the kids weren't, but when the teacher introduced one kid, including "he" or "she", this was LONG ago "is an only child", I had to ask someone. "Oh, no brothers and sisters. That must be strange."

Yes, in China especially, that having been forced them for upon a couple of generations, that has got to have changed the general mentality (most especially about going to war, let's say). There are lots of spoiled kids, now adults too, in China, and lots here too. You have to be careful.

Maybe the pendulum will swing the other way, but that, and what's going on now, wouldn't be nearly as worrisome, if it weren't for mass immigration changing the whole picture. Is Japan the only civilized place that is doing this the right way?

Finally, Dieter, about the general point, the discussion leads to the role of women in society. That's been the problem, and only changing the mentality on that will change the demographic picture.

This is the end of the Motherhood article, but hopefully you have read the whole thing:

"There has to be something wrong when spurning reproduction doesn't make Gabriella and me the "mavericks" that we'd both have fancied ourselves in our younger days, but standard issue for our age. Surely the contemporary absorption with our own lives as the be-all and end-all ultimately hails from an insidious misanthropy - a lack of faith in the whole human enterprise. In its darkest form, the growing cohort of childless couples determined to throw all their money at Being Here Now - to take that step-aerobics class, visit Tanzania, put an addition on the house while making no effort to ensure there's someone around to inherit the place when the party is over - has the quality of the mad, slightly hysterical scenes of gleeful abandon that fiction writers craft when imagining the end of the world.

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."
Dieter Kief
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 5:09AM MST

Science blogger eugyppius on Twitter about the subjects PS and Lionel shriver and yous truly muse about above:

"the only way we can get out of this, is losing this horrible
strangling sickly boomer fear of death. we have to not care

about dying anymore, we have to embrace our mortality. if we don’t, it is just living death for us, until we die."
Dieter Kief
Tuesday - May 3rd 2022 12:10AM MST

"I am terrified of and obsessed with my own extinction, and what happens next is of little interest."

Having kids (I have none) is a way to cope with "The End" (Jim Morrison/ The Doors).

Put in a different way: It is no easy task to cope with being finite - with your own existential finity.

So: We're here definitely on religious (= group) grounds, but people plow these fields - on their own ("I'm an atheist").

That's why lots of things that are deeply rooted in our collective (=religious) expirience tend to be handled very much in crisis (= not too rational/ too excited) modes (see Corona).

The one kid family is prone to overreacting in existential crises too, - because this one kid has too much existential load on its shoulders and morphs into something saintlike (see: The Coddling of the American Mind and - see China/ maybe Corona in China too).
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