12.7.08

Response to Conscious Choice Letter

This is a letter taken from Conscious Choice from a reader responding to an article advising women who were having a hard time conceiving on ways to potentially increase their chances of doing so:

"Giving birth to your own child in America is one of the most selfish, wasteful things you can ever do. 500,000 children are in foster care or orphaned in the United States right now. Overpopulation is causing foodlessness and environmental disaster everywhere we look.

"Your magazine just gave the green light to breeding, and even tactics to outwit Mother Nature's best population control device: infertility.

"Totally unacceptable."

-Uterus-free vegan, Chicago
(letter taken, ironically, from Conscious Choice, July 2008 issue)

My dream response:

Dear Uterus-Free Vegan,

First, let me tell you how very, VERY thankful you have chosen NOT to procreate. THANK YOU! There are more than enough self-important, know-it-all jerks running around already; and knowing at least one militant ass bloodline will be ending when you die is truly a comfort. By the by, how many children have you adopted to date? I'm guessing zero.

It is true that there are over 500,000 children in foster care in the US alone; and over 51 million unwanted children born annually worldwide. It would be outstanding if loving homes could be found for all of these children, and I do seriously wish more people would consider adoption. But the problem is much larger than finding a few good homes. The problem is not that people are unwilling to adopt, the problem is there are too many women having children that they do not want

Your phrase "gives a green light to breeding" I find especially charming. Humans are animals designed to "breed," (did you miss fifth grade health? Perhaps you were out with the chicken pox that week?) but that does NOT imply that one has to "overcome" that instinct to attain, I don't know, enlightenment? A non-animal state? Whatever nirvana you have envisioned in your twisted, selfish little mind.

Many women or couples are unable to have children but that inability does not quench their desire to have children of their own. The fact that they have options, options to bring VERY WANTED CHILDREN into the world, is not a "tactic to outwit mother nature" but a tactic to make mothers of very deserving, very loving people who otherwise couldn't experience motherhood. I know I'm deliberately "missing" your point, but that's because your point is ignorant and selfish to the extreme. Adopting a foster child is an amazing act of selflessness and love, but many couples have reservations concerning adoption, or, simply, they (very naturally) want to have their own children. It's more than just an instinct to want one's own child - a living, breathing embodiment of love incarnate.

(put that in your enlightened pipe and smoke it)

You obviously think you know everything. You think people should ignore their instincts and their feelings and do things "for the greater good," but in reality you're an arrogant, self-important, hate-filled, selfish person who gives a terrible name to those of us who call ourselves "pro-choice." Because we mean that - Pro-Choice. That includes the choice of going to whatever means possible to have a child.

That you want.

And that you will love.

Many women I know DO want children of their own, and this is absolutely awesome. NO woman who wants to have her own child/children should EVER be told they are being selfish. Women who have children they do not want - especially those who have several kids they have no interest in raising, leaving the children to raise eachother; or leaving them to the State or a family member (usually gramma) to raise for them - should be talked to.

But not by you. Because you are an idiot.

You sign yourself "uterus-free". So...you're free of your uterus? Are you a man? Have you had a complete hysterectomy? Because the fact that your uterus is unoccupied is not freedom. I sense a self-loathing here that is indeed well-placed.

Sincerely,
OrangeMoJoJo"

16 comments:

Shannon said...

One could also suggest to "Uterus free" that if s/he is so concerned about overpopulation, s/he could jump off a bridge. Into a vat of acid. Filled with sharks. Infected with ebola. Which have been genetically modified to be even more deadly.

;)

OrangeMoJoJo said...

With lasers on their heads. And bad aim.

Rev Transit said...

Good Lord, you guys are being way colder than the original poster, whom I basically agree with. The most environment-friendly decision you can make in your life is not to bear children, which is her basic point.

Jo's reply seems to be that many women (and men actually) have a great desire to bear children of their own. That's true. But, since quenching one's own desire is essentially the epitome of a selfish act, the reply doesn't do anything to address the original poster's argument. I understand that Jo admits that in the post, but it hardly excuses a response and comment that are even more impolite.

If you felt that it were fair that children would inherit the sins of their parents, then I suppose things would work out entirely fair. Couples who chose to "breed" would have children who inherit the overpopulated planet we have today, bearing the burden for their own contribution to the greenhouse gases and resource depletion going full steam ahead. Sadly, though, the children of "non-breeding" parents will have to enjoy the virtue of their non-existence "in absentia".

I would have put the original poster's point a little differently. The most virtuous thing you can do is to raise other people's children. The second most virtuous is to decide not to have children. Those who just can't overcome the "selfish gene" occupy the various gradations of the third category.

Shannon said...

A) I was being facetious. Note the emoticon placed for clarity. I disagree with the letter, but don't wish the author harm. That would be silly.

B) I don't agree with your views on "virtue" (I guess that lifeless planets must be the most virtuous places on the planet), at least

c) If you accept your premise that the earth is overpopulated, then you're wrong: the most selfless thing you can do isn't simply not procreating; the most selfless thing you can do is to kill yourself and reduce the population. This is an absurd position in my view.

Shannon said...

Ooops - lifeless planets must be the most virtuous places in the universe.

Rev Transit said...

"This is an absurd position in my view."

Then why mention it?

I'll be gone in within 40 years. If I don't leave anyone new behind, my carbon footprint stops then. If you have kids and they have kids, etc, your carbon footprint goes on forever.

Nobody's arguing for catastrophic plagues on humans or lifeless planets or reducing the human population to nothing. Our subject is what individuals could choose to do now, what will help, what will hurt.

OrangeMoJoJo said...

There are several reasons why I was so harsh with this Uterus Free Vegan,

1) I disagree with her/him. Strongly. But I would have been LESS harsh if their tone had not so offensive But since it was....

2) s/he singles out women who have a hard time conceiving and obviously WANT kids, instead of focusing on the problem: where are these foster kids coming from, and how do we WE take care of them?

3) who is s/he to speak for Mother Nature? Gaia provided the plants that are being used to create these fertility meds.

4) NOBODY CALLS MY MOM SELFISH.

I mean, "Giving birth to your own child in America is one of the most selfish, wasteful things you can ever do." should totally be on the cover of a Hallmark card with "Happy Mother's Day" printed inside.

The key, for me, is that yes, we have 500,000 kids in foster care. But to say that "YOU! You're infertile! Here's your foster kid!" Is WAY too simplistic an "answer" to the problem, and if a woman wants her own kid, she wants her own kid. Some certainly will consider adoption, but many simply won't.

"Overcoming" her desire? Why? Why should she? Being treated for infertility is no picnic. It's not all "DANG! Blue again. Let me take this pill and buy another test in a coupla weeks..." it can be months and months of prescriptions and trial and error and medical visits and tests and more tests and disappointments and tears and tablets and needles and timing and schedules all kinds of other things. So to single out women who are infertile or who have a difficult time conceiving as "selfish" when they put their bodies through procedures just short of torture in order to have a child THAT THEY WANT is cruel and ignorant.

"But, since quenching one's own desire is essentially the epitome of a selfish act..." ??? I assume you meant "selfless", but even then...??? So...I want an iPod but I don't buy it? That's selfless? I have my own kids, raise them to the best of my ability, love them - that's selfish?

"The most virtuous thing you can do is to raise other people's children. The second most virtuous is to decide not to have children."

The most virtuous thing you can do is raise your children - by blood or adoption - with all of your love and to the best of your ability. Raising kids is not a virtue. Raising them well and in a home full of love is.

SO. Instead of telling infertile women that they should adopt, and making disparaging remarks about "breeders" - how do we deal with these 500,000 kids?

Shannon said...

""This is an absurd position in my view."

Then why mention it? "

Because it seems a logical outgrowth of your "virtue". And, again, if you're trying to argue what is "most virtuous", then what reduces your carbon footprint the most is immediate suicide. Plain and simple.

Sorry you feel your parents made a selfish decision in bringing you into this world. I'm pretty happy mine were so selfish.

Shannon said...

"The most virtuous thing you can do is to raise other people's children. The second most virtuous is to decide not to have children."

Blah. I really dislike people arguing from "virtue". Largely because it is almost impossible to debate.

Virtue, in my view, is either self-defined or calls on a non-human 3rd party for definition (i.e. God). Since I doubt you're calling on God for your environmental virtues (I could be wrong, of course), I'll assume the system of virtues you refer to is self-defined.

Why self-defined? "Virtue" seems to me to be completely dependent on time, place, culture, etc. What was "virtuous" in the past isn't now and vice-versa. It's obviously not the universal concept that many who preach virtues (and this likely doesn't include you) make it out to be. Virtues have been drummed up to do all kinds of things we disapprove of now: colonization, sterilization programs, ethnic cleansing, acts of racism and sexism, and on and on. The very fact we now view the checked past of virtue as checkered shows me clearly it lacks universality.

So, if virtue is self-defined, that is, that it is a system of moral codes you a) choose to believe are important (and to at least some degree this is an arbitrary choice since there is no universal system of virtue) and b) most people would wish to make this choice into a universal system everyone follows and c) most people judge those who "fail" to follow their system, I can only conclude that systems of virtue are inherently a) selfish and b) arrogant.

Selfish because your system of virtue is _yours_. It has no universality. Arrogant because most (don't know about you) would impose, if they could, that system on others, even those who don't agree with those "virtues".

So to argue selflessness from within a system that is inherently selfish is a touch hypocritical.

To come back to my original point, though: it's going to be difficult to debate this in any meaningful way if you stick with seeing children (or lack thereof) as a virtue. Because virtue is, I think, self-defined. And arguing definitions is usually pointless.

Other objections follow...

Shannon said...

Another issue I have with your comment is the assumption that the planet is over-populated. You offer no reasons why this is so, but present it as fact.

Since you "know" the planet is overpopulated, perhaps you can tell us what the "proper" population size is?

It doesn't follow that more population = automatically worse for the environment. As you've pointed out before, air quality in London is far better now that it was 100 years ago, despite a much greater population. New England was almost completely deforested in the 1800s, but is now 80% forested, despite a larger population. Water quality in the US as a whole is better than it was in the 70's, despite a larger population.

And even granting that more population (currently) means more greenhouse gases, you are once again arguing from a "selfish" position: you want the environment to stay largely as it is now - very much a human-centric position. This, despite the fact that "nature" has been through dozens of radically different environments in that past, despite the fact that "nature" provides for extinction in 99%+ of species.

I'm not saying your "selfish" position is a bad one: I'm rather on the green side of things myself. But to wrap oneself in a slightly self-righteous mantel and be willing to deem some acts as "virtuous" and "selfless" based on what _you_ consider important is, again, a touch hypocritical.

Best, I think, to drop the whole "virtue" nonsense and simply state a non-universal personal conviction: I value the environment. Therefore I think it best not to have children, because this will reduce the human impact on the environment.

My apologies that drifted about to a couple different areas. But I'll admit, I do dislike it when people who claim "virtue" as a basis for argument, so I kinda drifted back to that...

Rev Transit said...

"Best, I think, to drop the whole "virtue" nonsense and simply state a non-universal personal conviction: I value the environment. Therefore I think it best not to have children, because this will reduce the human impact on the environment."

Ok, you knew what I meant, so why all the fuss about it?

"4) NOBODY CALLS MY MOM SELFISH."

Obviously, the original poster was casting a much wider net. And, of course, we now know much more about our footprint on this planet. The decisions she made were made with a different set of facts at hand.

"Sorry you feel your parents made a selfish decision in bringing you into this world. I'm pretty happy mine were so selfish."

Congratulations on making an anti-abortion argument your own.

"The original poster made me mad" is not a rational argument, but rather an emotional one. If that's what y'all choose to rely on-- how this whole argument makes you feel-- that's your choice and your right. But it's much like the old courtroom adage: when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when the law is on your side, pound the law; when both are against you, pound the table. In my life, when I've found myself arguing the emotional angle, I've usually figured out in the end that I was wrong-- or at least that there was another viable point of view I should consider. YMMV.

There are some rational arguments you could make, btw. Reducing the carbon footprint isn't the only virtue, for example. Someone's child could possibly someday come up with a cure for what ails the planet or help get us off the planet. I'm sure you could come up with some other ones.

I think it's useful to identify child-bearing as selfish so that men and women can make the wisest possible decision. I'd hardly be one to suggest that no one should ever do anything selfish. If you think bearing your own child will bring you immense satisfaction and you know you're being selfish, then maybe you should go ahead and do it anyway.

But if you're having a child because you think that's what women should do or because your parents want a grandchild-- well, maybe you shouldn't.

There is great irony that the selfish choice is also the self-sacrificing choice.

OrangeMoJoJo said...

"Obviously, the original poster was casting a much wider net."

She specified women who have a difficult time conceiving. Why are you deliberately ignoring that fact? If you are going to make an argument for adoption, make an argument for adoption. DO NOT ATTACK mothers for being mothers, ESPECIALLY MOTHERS WHO WANT TO BE MOTHERS. As David Shiner would say, "stick to the text!"

"And, of course, we now know much more about our footprint on this planet. The decisions she made were made with a different set of facts at hand."

My footprint with a child would still be a FRACTION of, say Donald Trump's footprint. Or Rod Blagojevich with his entourage and sedan fleet. Or Las Vegas. There are "green" ways to raise a child - cloth diapers, food bought from local farmers markets pureed at home as baby food. But this is a different argument, and if you want to argue against having children, I urge you to do so on your blog because A) I am certain you'd do a much better job than S/He who is Liberated from his/her Uterus, and B) arguing that s/he's right is NOT going to get us anywhere. Because s/he isn't.

Shannon said...

"Ok, you knew what I meant, so why all the fuss about it?"

That's just it, Rev. I didn't know what you meant. "Virtue" is loaded with all kinds of moral overtones I find unpleasant. You used the word and I took it at face value. It's generally what I try to do (take people at their word). If that's not what you meant, I'm glad for the clarification.

OrangeMoJoJo said...

"The original poster made me mad" is not a rational argument, but rather an emotional one.

"The original post made me mad" is not my argument - it was the stimulus for my argument.

Shannon said...

So: based purely on your paradigm of environmental impact (other people surely have other paradigms and concerns), then I'd agree that, in general, having children is "selfish" - or, to use a more neutral phrase, tend to have a negative impact on the environment. As Jo has rightfully pointed out, there are plenty of other activities which have a negative impact on the environment which, too, would have to viewed as "selfish" - having a car, flying anywhere, eating meat, using electricity, taking showers, etc, etc. (Of course, if we're going to follow this trail, it's likely best for the environment in state care, where their carbon footprint is likely to be smaller than being placed with a family.)

Again, this is only from a narrowly pro-environment view, obviously. Most people aren't going to subscribe to it (but rather factor in other ethical systems which temper it).

So, yes, based within the narrow confines above (and I stress that I don't buy into that narrow system, but can see the logic of it), having kids is "selfish" (as are most human activities which bring joy and diversion). Even so, I'd never accuse someone who is going through the emotional struggle of infertility of being selfish (and I know you'd never do that, Rev - but it's what made Jo so mad). There's such a thing as compassion that ought to temper even the most self-righteous.

Shannon said...

Oops - typo:

Of course, if we're going to follow this trail, it's likely best for the environment if we leave kids in state care, where their carbon footprint is likely to be smaller than being placed with a family.