Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Not even supervillains are antinatalist

And that shocks me a bit. The closest thing we folks get to a bit of fair representation in the world of the arts is the supervillain who wants to blow up the world, for undisclosed reasons. It's never specifically stated however that that villain wants to destroy the world to prevent future suffering (thus making them an antivillain, instead), but most of the time it's just because that villain is a generally hateful person, and needs to be taught a lesson so he/she stops being such a big meanie. I don't specifically understand how this culture has never even caught on to a even a fragment of this whole antinatalist idea, because to me it sounds like quite an easy way to make your show one to be remembered (which hence sells DVDs and the like). Doctor Mort D. Thanatos is putting sterilising chemicals into the water supply? Stop that fiend! He's trying to murder our unborn children! And so on.

Antinatalism is just not something that is... anywhere really. It is not a word in most people's vocabulary, and it is not an idea that can be processed by brains easily. It actually takes people a while to assimilate what you're trying to say before they start insulting you with regards to it. To me, this sounds like a world-wide conspiracy, which again, would be a great plot for a movie. And I think it could well be a conspiracy - orchestrated by our genes. Not that we could PROVE that or anything. But it does seem strange that even those of us who do not want to live, detest the world or hate the way things are, do not (generally) immediately come to the conclusion of antinatalism. At least in my experience, antinatalism has never been something intuitive. I don't know if other animals can commit suicide, but to some extent I expect that they may have drives to say, throw themselves to predators for the sake of their kin's genes, just because of the way evolution works (not going into that whole massive "that allele survives and its frequency therefore tends to increase over generations' thing). Suicide, despite how detestable most people find it, is emotionally available. It is a conclusion that comes naturally - without the need to ingest various logical arguments. But antinatalism, however, as far as I can tell from how few our numbers are, just doesn't. Obviously, you say, there is no evolutionary reason for it, so why should it appear. Except so many ideas in this world HAVE appeared and continue to appear every generation - say, multiple deities, our rulers are right, our rulers are wrong, let's be governed, let's not be governed.

But to go off track a bit (i.e. I came to a conclusion in the time it took me to write out that paragraph), I think maybe this post will have become outdated in the future (HOPEFULLY). While some ancient societies did have notions of sexual equality (SORT OF - Sir John Gibbs's book is all I have to go on here), I'm sure very few people back then would have found that concept intuitive. And the thing is, it seems pretty much intuitive now, as far as most people are concerned. There are two types of intuitive, then. That arising from the phenotypical effects of your genes (suicide - probably), and that arising from the culture you're in. And the fact that antinatalism is neither, means it isn't actually as strange as I thought. Yes, it's quite scary when people don't have a clue what you're talking about. But I'm sure early abolitionists and feminists probably felt the same way. In summary, I should learn not to be so weirded out by things.


  1. There are indications of antinatalism in some early Christian sects and even in Talmudic scholarship. They just don't get off the ground - to fly from brain to brain effectively, ideas have to be intuitive for the time and context, as you say. I also have some hope that antinatalism will become more intuitive, if only because life will get much worse for first-world people.

  2. I think I was around 29 or 30 when I finally arrived at the conclusion that it was best never to have been born. I'd been tilting that way gently ever since reading Beckett and Schopenhauer at the age of 18, but my natural programming and cultural innoculation made the idea of regretting birth not yet wholly acceptable. But then 10 more years of life did the trick:-) Discovering Benatars' book was a revelation. I wasn't the only one....

  3. The closest thing to a philanthropic antinatalist villain I can think of is Seymour from Final Fantasy X, although his "evil" plot wasn't so much about stopping new births as it was about, uh, becoming a giant monster and killing everyone horribly. Still, his explicitly stated motive was to permanently end the cycle of death and suffering, which of course seems a lot more noble to you and me than it apparently did to the game's writers.