It was not a very long time ago when I was sitting with my husband-to-be, dreaming of the family we will eventually have. We even named two children: Cyrus and Fiona. But these were two out of the eight which I was fantasizing would constitute our family. The main reason was the fact that I lived a happy childhood and was convinced that the bigger the family, the bigger the joy, the love and the giving.
My husband-to-be and I were both finalizing our graduate degree in philosophy and were enmeshed in thoughts and entangling discussions. Thus, while I was not naive to life, I was still under the spell of what I believed was a good moral universe, or at least the belief that we can make a difference to ensure the world will be a better place. For the reader now, in 2020, this might sound like naivete. But it was not. It was an unyielding belief that idealism is but another face to realism.
Time elapsed and I struggled through the quandary of how to be moral in an immoral world, dedicating my life and profession to making things better. Fiona and Cyrus were not born yet, so I was working for the other Fionas and Cyruses.
2020 turned me into a blatant anti-natalist. Theological arguments aside, I fought against the idea that we have a moral obligation not to have children. Now I surrender to this argument with clarity of thought and evidence-based events.
Not only do we have a moral obligation not to bring children to the universe, but doing so would be morally wrong and reprehensible if we cannot accept but to raise ethical, dignified, humane children.
Those of us who do not think the latter is necessary will certainly not agree with me. My childhood alertness to the plight of St. Theresa –who prayed that her sick children be not healed so that they can go to heaven without sins– struck me as unmotherly, albeit philosophically sound. Now I understand this as the epitome of motherhood. As such, it is okay to sit alone for a Ramadan iftar dinner without the joy of having your kids fill the room.
Bringing children to this world means that you will have to accept that they grow up in a Draconian universe of deceit, lies and greed. 2020 no longer gives you the option of raising them well and helping them find their way.
Raising “good” children is almost an impossibility. They will be a prey to peer pressures, social media, love of appearances, and worshippers of power and money. They will fall in love with an artificial dog (a robot) until a new gadget emerges and get hooked to mobile games that enhance a violent and selfish streak. You will inconsolably witness innocence lost at a tender age with an insatiable thirst for more possessions. They will be bombarded, even if saliently, by the “kindness is weakness” motto, “honesty is stupidity” motto, and “deceitfulness is intelligence” motto.
Parents who were raised like us will find it hard to keep up with the Sisyphean task. They will either lose or acquiesce that their children live miserably under the pressure of moral distress and moral injury –that is, ironically, if they were lucky enough.
I did not give up. I will continue doing my best for a better world. I still believe in the engaged intellectual, although I am coming to see that this is no longer agreeable to the world since they are summoned to hush. But I gave up on the idea of having children, which is nothing but a means to gratify an irresponsible and selfish streak to fill an existential void, a malaise and a mal de vivre.