dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)
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Today my attention was drawn to this article, a reflective piece on the writer's desire to be a mother over and above every other possible life goal. Amongst other things, it contained the bizarre phrase, "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." It was a fairly moderate article, considering it appeared on Life Site News, which is essentially a repository of Catholic fascist propaganda; but it nevertheless got me thinking about the fact that reproduction is often spoken of as something - quite often the thing - that gives life meaning and purpose; and how the political pro-life movement have made it their purpose to strive for the maximum quantity of human life without consideration of its quality.

First to the article itself and its saccharine hymn to motherhood. Surely it's worth all the pain and sacrifice, the writer opines. Doesn't having children mean hope for the world? Isn't it just so important to reproduce, regardless of whatever else you do with your life? The following quotation sums up the thrust of the whole piece:

"I imagine someone of great mystical authority standing before me - let’s say Gandalf the Grey – and saying, “You must choose. You can’t have both. Here are your choices: all the fame and respect you’ve ever wanted, the ability to do comedy and write and act and sing and get paid for all of it gloriously, and win Academy Awards and have everyone admire you and find you beautiful and go down in history as a great voice of your age. Or: motherhood.”

I choose motherhood without hesitation."


If it weren't the case that women all too often do face the choice between motherhood and career success under our present societal arrangements, this might seem like a fairly harmless declaration of committed intent - "Sure, I'm willing to sacrifice one set of goals for a different goal that's more important to me"; but there is something undeniably sinister in the glorification of a choice women are often forced to make, in a way most men are not. You may not fulfill your intellectual and creative potential, runs the article's message, but what does that matter if you succeed at having babies? That's the real point of your existence, after all.

At first it seems fairly innocuous to say that the purpose of life is to procreate; consider all those blissfully pro-natal magazine features with celebrities declaring that their offspring have given their lives meaning; as if they could, with perfect equanimity, give up their fame and fortune and go and live in a flat to raise their children without all those expensive toys and round-the-clock nannies and so on - because they've found their one true calling in life.

On closer inspection, though, the idea that the point of life is to create more life is quite absurdly circular. It might be a marvellous feat of engineering to build a machine that does nothing except make copies of itself which, in turn, make copies of themselves and so on - but it seems rather a waste of time and resources if they don't actually do anything else. It's certainly legitimate to claim that a function of life is to produce more life but can it really be called a purpose? Is that what life is for? In a purely biological sense, maybe so; but I don't think that's what the "children give my life meaning" brigade are really on about.

And what about this odd notion that "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on"? Even if I believed in a supernatural power, I think I would still find this idea slightly creepy. What kind of a god looks at the world and human society the way it currently is and decides the best thing for it is more humans? Especially if those humans are born in grinding poverty and deprivation, in conflict zones, or to parents who are unable or unwilling to care for them?

This is, of course, the core of the pro-life philosophy - more human life is a good thing, intrinsically so, no matter the circumstances or the likely quality of that life. In fact, the more suffering, the better. How else to explain their perverse insistence that all pregnancies must be carried to term - or at least as long as possible, even at grave risk to the mother or if the child is likely to be profoundly disabled, or was the result of rape, or in any and all circumstances that make it undesirable for the woman in question to have the child? And their commitment to preventing the legalisation of euthanasia, ensuring that patients suffering from terminal illness stick around to endure as much pain and indignity as possible?

Of course they all put it back onto God - it's "God's will" that we don't interfere with "his plans" for human life, whatever those may be; that we accept his "gift" of children even in the most unfavourable circumstances; that we remain and endure whatever suffering he has in store for us at the end. This is a god that loves suffering and hates pleasure, and its worshippers the world over follow suit because they believe that the ultimate point of life is not to be found in this world but in the one they imagine is waiting for them after death.

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