Monday, July 02, 2007

The Beginning of Time? Really?

The argument of Frank Furedi's here puzzles me.

"Since the beginning of time, [No, I ain't messing, it's how his essay starts!] one of the clearest markers of an enlightened society has been the moral status it attaches to human life."

[Stop laughing! If we postulate that creationism is real, then I reckon time can begin when human life does -- why NOT?]

Furedi goes on:

"The humanist impulse that once drove the development of the modern world has been replaced by a tendency to view humanity with suspicion, or even outright hostility. The vocabulary of our times – ‘human impact on the environment’; ‘ecological footprint’; ‘human consumption’ – invokes a sense of dread over the active exercise of human life. Apparently, there are too many of us doing too much living and breathing."

"Today, many green-leaning writers and activists argue that population control is the best solution to the problems we face. This belief that there are ‘too many people’ inhabiting the globe has reared its ugly head numerous times over the past 200 years. Since the times of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), a catastrophic vision of population growth causing the collapse of society has formed an important part of the culturally pessimistic outlook."

"As one Malthusian crusader notes: ‘A non-existent person has no environmental footprint; the emission “saving” is instant and total.’ (1) This preference for the non-existent over the existent speaks to a powerful anti-humanist sensibility. And it is not only eccentric and isolated misanthropes who value ‘non-existence’ as being somehow morally superior to existence – rather, this outlook is symptomatic of a wider trend for devaluing the status of human life."

Since I've taught Victorian Literature every Spring for the past four, I can, sort of, guess what he's saying about Malthus -- that is, it wasn't overbreeding so much that Malthus found icky, as it was who was overbreeding (that is, those nasty inferior poor folk with the inferior genetic stock): sort of the same argument being made by a certain segment of our population today. (Oh noes! Soon in America WHITE PEOPLE will be a MINORITY! You white girls must BREED! Make babies! Lotz! Now! Because those bad immigrants! Look! They brreeeeed!)

So he's arguing that the root to population control shares a root with racism...because back when we discovered that we might be able to outbreed our planet (ie the Victorian era) some scientists had some racist notions.

But it's not clear why we should conflate arguing that it might be a good plan not to have eight or nine kids, in today's biosphere and economy, with murdering children -- as he's kind of suggesting here:

"The catastrophic imagination in contemporary Western culture has encouraged the Malthusian lobby to target the very aspiration for procreation. Controlling fertility is now described as a duty rather than a matter of choice. ‘Couples making decisions about family size do so in the belief that it is a matter for them and their personal preferences alone’, says the OPT, with incredulity (6). The idea that people should have the right to make choices about their family size is dismissed as an indefensible outrage against common sense.

"This assault on the right to procreate is often intrusive, even coercive. Take the example of Rwanda. The world was horrified by the mass slaughter in Rwanda in 1994, during which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed. Yet it appears that, so far as the population-control lobby is concerned, there are still too many people living in Rwanda. As one headline earlier this year put it: ‘After so many deaths, too many births.’ Apparently, ‘After the 1994 genocide, in which more than 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered, it seemed difficult to believe that overpopulation would ever be a problem. Yet Rwanda has long had more people than its meagre resources and small area can support.’ Now, with the guidance of Western non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Rwandan government is planning a sweeping population-control programme. "

Birth control is not in itself the moral equivalent of genocide -- although I will agree that the choice about birth control should be left to the woman herself. If she wants one kid, fine. If she wants ten, whatever. (That's why that joke about the Duggers always bothers me. Yeah, it's not a clown car; on the other hand, it's their business if they want 17 kids. On the other hand, I know, they aren't keeping it their business, are they -- they're using their 17 kids to try to convince all of us we should all have 17, it's KIDS AS A SERMON! YAY! but whatever.)

Furedi does have a point. It's just not the one he's making. If you want to see the point to be made on this issue, head over to Pandagon, where Amanda is doing her fine job laying it all out for us, here:

(ARG! Broken links again. Rats.)

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