You [don’t] perceive yourself as being in a position of power because that is the main advantage of power – that you don’t have to think about it. You don’t think about money when you’re eating at a restaurant. But you sure as fuck think about it when you’re too poor to eat. – Jason Pargin
I’ve discovered recently how poor of an argumentative essayist I am. Vague sources, intense emotionality, unskilled transitions… it goes on and on… anyway, out of some recent ideas, I’ll try to put down some thoughts on no. 6 on the list:
6. Why poverty alleviation begins with contraception.
And maybe I can polish this later. Now, on to the incoherent rambles. This will be especially incoherent because internet is quite slow right now and my Googling capabiliy is severely compromised.
Most charitable organizations in the country focus on things like housing, food and education. I want to argue that population control should be given much more importance than it currently is. The cost of raising a person to become a healthy (physically, mentally and emotionally) and productive adult is much larger than most people imagine, and also much more difficult.
Enough has been said about the economic costs of overpopulation, lots of conflicting arguments out there, and not enough credible resources to be found online at 10:37 p.m. on a Tuesday night by a kid who spent the day in the innards of the city and (among other things) had to listen to pedicab drivers shouting about how they wanted to fuck the janitor’s wife, and tried to feed a dying dog on the street who seemed too far gone to even be able to eat. Economists and government officials and religious freaks can argue til the cows come home about whether or not the country can support a rapidly growing population, but as any struggling family knows, an additional child puts a tremendous strain on resources that are stretched thin enough as it is. Sure, a child can also be a potential addition to the labor force, but that is subject to many factors – Will he or she have the moral backbone not to turn to crime or simply become apathetic? Forget becoming skilled and trained in an essential field – will he or she even be healthy enough to work? Meanwhile, the kid needs to eat – that cost is a certainty, while the benefit of their labor is only a potentiality.
That part I wrote to satisfy people who like big words (although I couldn’t quite bring myself to put in as many big words as are usually in essays like this).
But that isn’t really why I think people should be having less children. My real reason is that I think everyone deserves to grow up in a family that is willing and able to care for them. And by “family” I mean any group that includes a capable adult – whether it’s a mixed family, extended family, adoptive family, or even just a single parent.
People who think that food, housing, education and other public services are enough to raise a functional population are missing a truth that is so obvious and yet never seems to occur to most people: that humans need love to grow. You could feed an impoverished child, send him to school, and call it a day – but does the thought occur to you that you could be sending him home to parents who (at best) are overworked from their jobs and other children, or are neglectful, possibly even abusive? How could we (I) look at these people and think that throwing money and resources at them would solve all their problems? You think that simply taking a child off the street and giving him food and a roof over his head will result in him or her growing up to be an intelligent and caring individual? You think that they are not humans like you, who can feel lonely and sad, and need someone who has the time to teach them right from wrong? You think that they would be happy to win awards and have no one to attend their ceremonies? Or anyone who will remember their birthday, let alone throw them a party? How can we think that this does not hurt, enough to impede their development as individuals?
That’s why I prefaced with the quote from Jason Pargin. We don’t think about this because most of us grew up with families. We take it for granted that somebody loves us and looks out for us, no matter how dysfunctional those relationships might be.
I once knew someone who grew up without her parents and was taken in by a relative who just seemed not particularly fond of children. She told me about when a friend of her relative’s visited, and was nice to her. When the woman told her that she looked beautiful, she cried – so starved she was for a simple assertion that she was special in any way. This girl grew up, by all rights, with everything she needed. She had all her basic needs taken care of, had friends, had a guardian, got a good education. But she often spoke of feeling a disconnection, and (at the time I met her) was very uncertain about her decisions and the rightness of her actions. She was also imperceptive about other people’s emotions and was often baffled by the hurt reactions of her friends to things she would do.
She was also a skilled professional and a workaholic.
I think that is the reason why this society wants to keep raising people the way they do – to become robots who do not need attention and affection, who will go to their jobs, go home, play video games or something, and do it all over again every day until they die.
It’s not like I am the first to think of this. But I wish I could get people who are involved in development to consider their whole strategy with this in mind: That humans should not simply grow to be productive as if they are animals, but that they should become thinking individuals who know that they have unique talents, have the discipline and intelligence to work well, and – maybe most importantly – have the ability to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way. Sure, there are people who can grow up alone and still become this way. But it’s very rare that it happens. Even people who grew up in benign neglect of families can become seriously fucked up – how much more for someone who does not have a family at all? Love is a need, as basic as food and shelter, and the only way to make sure everyone can have that is to limit population – to make sure that every child is born into a family that will be able to recognize them as unique individuals and help them develop. This task is not something that can be accomplished in a four-year program, with objectives and timelines, after which everyone involved can leave and be satisified that they have done their job. This task can only be accomplished by people who will do it for years and years, possibly the rest of their life, every day until the child has grown into an adult who can stand on their own feet. This is simply not possible when there are too many children who need care and attention.