Thursday, January 10, 2002

Cross your legs, darling...

After yesterday's spew about the march of Right Wing Reactionary Fundamentalism in the world, as represented by Peppermint-Patty Buchanan and the Fox "News" Network, I've been thinking more about population-growth control.

This is something I could get behind as a Cause. It seems to me that there is a huge focus in this and other countries on creating or preserving more and more precious little lives with absolutely no regard for the consequences of what's going to happen when those PLLs grow up and have even more PLLs, who will grow up and...look, I'm not good at math, but I know what an exponent is.

When I turn on the TV and see Sally Struthers crying about these poor little children with distended bellies and penumbrae of tse-tse flies in Africa and South America and Asia and elsewhere, I feel great compassion for them...but then I worry what will happen if their Precious Little Lives are spared (at the mere cost of pennies a day): they will grow up and have more PLLs who will have to be saved, and so on and so forth. Famine is one of Dame Nature's harsh but effective tools for population control: the African veldts or the South American plains (or the Asian grasslands or the North American valleys or the European forests) have X-amount of resources, both naturally-occuring and cultivable; when the population of the area outstrips the amount of resources, famine happens; people die, particularly children, and the population decreases in one or two generations to more supportable proportions.

The same thing happens with wild animals. When the grass doesn't grow, the ibex starves; when the ibex dwindles, the lion starves; when the lion dwindles, the vulture starves...and with all this dwindling, nobody is eating the grass, which gets to grow back, and the whole thing starts over again. The difference is that no washed-up-TV-star American ibex convines a bunch of other ibexes in other countries to send the starving African ibexes some of their own grass, thereby allowing the African ibexes to continue outstripping their own resources, thereby becoming dependent on the foreign ibexes and their ibex governments and the handouts of free grass. Sometimes wild animals are smarter than we are. Not as nice, but smarter.

Disease is another of Nature's tools. Every medical advance that saves lives creates more people on the planet at any given moment: diptheria, polio, tuberculosis, rickets, influenza, measles, and other once-common and once-fatal diseases have been hounded into near-extinction by our fear of death and the technology that has sprung up to pander to that fear...leaving literally billions of people alive who otherwise would have died before getting a chance to screw each other and create more billions of people to grow up and create still more billions of people, et cetera. Even genetic diseases are spread and nurtured by healing the symptoms in people so that they can lead normal lives...genetic tendencies towards heart disease, neurological diseases, phsychoses, and physical malformations are 'covered over' and then passed on to the next generation, where they are covered over and passed on again.

People rejoice that infantile mortality is at an all-time low, thanks to better diets and the miraculous advances of modern medicine. But I worry. Babies that would under other circumstances pass away before passing on their possibly defective genes to another generation are now living long and productive (and fertile) lives; babies who would have otherwise miscarried are kept in utero full term thanks to new drugs, ensuring at least some resource-draining life to millions and millions of infants; couples who are unable to conceive via the terms of Dame Nature are now using drugs and procedures to force reproduction...passing on genes that Nature chose to let languish, as if Nature has no idea what she's doing. Medical science has profited and flourished by responding to our natural and inescapable instincts to survive and reproduce—by making it possible to do both beyond any rational or ethical degree, beyond the dictates of Nature herself: thereby hastening our eventual demise as a species (and knowing our species, we'll take the whole planet with us).

So, what should be done about this? I'm not one to set myself up as an expert, and then change the subject when challenged. But this is a sticky situation. You just can't tell a mother that her baby should, for the good of the planet, drop dead. You can't convince people to refuse medical procedures that would prolong their lives. You can't pass laws preventing genetically defective people from reproducing (because you then have to set up a committee to decide the definition of "defective" and then you end up with genocidal Holocausts). You can't just run out and start wars, which is Man's method of population control...less efficient than Nature's, since it kills off the hale and strong while leaving the weak and deformed to spread their weak and deformed genes (before WWII, flat arches and heart murmurs were fairly they're quite common, thanks to those who stayed home producing more children than those who fought and died). There seems to be no ethical way of stopping all this unnecessary and harmful population growth. There aren't even any really practical unethical ways of doing it.

We can, however, reduce the exponential growth by education, availability of control methods, and diverting financial resources to the problem. Children in schools are taught how to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancies (so long as their parents agree to let them be taught), but are never taught about what having a child really means: that not only will this squalling creature take up your entire life, but will also take up all these resources and moneys and services...that bringing a child into the world is a grave responsibility, not a casual right. It is never suggested that perhaps having children isn't that important. That perhaps a life without children is still a full and useful and enjoyable life (not can be, but is). They are futher not taught by example that taking this responsibility lightly or abusing the trust results in serious consequences (which could happen by legislating more severe penalties for such offenses as child abuse, reckless endangerment, and rampant stupidity).

Birth control should be available to all people...not just available, but actually thrust upon them. A little saltpeter in the school lunch goes a long way. Pubescent children should be absolutely snowed with condoms, diaphragms, sponges, pills, and double-locked chastity belts. And more money should be spent on preventing birth than creating it...instead of developing fertility drugs (which I believe should be outlawed), there should be more resources funneled into developing sterility drugs. But when you try this, you get balked by the fundamentalists and the Vatican, who know that poor people saddled with a gaggle of brats who depend on your tax boons for survival can't confront and destroy you as effectively as comfortable people with plenty of time on their hands and without children to protect.

I also think that the Medicare and Welfare systems should be reconstructed to discourage reproduction. As it is, you get more money for more children...though going the other way around would be impracticable (it would be inethical to make the children suffer), there should be severe disincentives for people having more children...and that money could be channeled into incentives for people to adopt children.

Did you know that tubal occlusion is not covered by Medicare? That a welfare mom with two children cannot get her tubes tied if she wants it? I think that she should be able to have that procedure (in fact I think she should get that procedure whether she wants it or not...and that hit-and-run dads should have to submit to vasectomy to get out of stiff fines or jailtime).

But the problem is still bigger than any solution I can think of. I mean, I feel that fertility drugs should be outlawed, but also that people should be irreversibly sterilized automatically after having one child (men and women) whether that child lives or not, that people in famine-stricken countries should submit to systematic sterilization in exchange for aid, and that a worldwide campaign to stop having children should be launched with the financial and cultural support of all nations. That such measures should be kept up until people finally come to the conclusion that having children will not make them complete, that it will not give them immortality, that it will not be fun, that it is not necessary.

But none of that can happen, even in the light of my own's simply unethical to force people to abandon their cultural and natural desire to have children, to forcibly invade their bodies with birth-control devices or drugs, to force them to stand by and let their children die for the preservation of the group. So we are in an ethical dilemma, a quandary and a quagmire. There is a problem that will inevitably grow into future disaster, and there is no effective solution on the horizon.

However, there is still hope. People are beginning to understand that possessing the technology to wipe out entire countries doesn't mean that we should wipe out entire countries; from there, it is a long but possible step to understand that, just because we can prolong our lives and force reproduction, it doesn't mean we should unnaturally prolong or reproduce ourselves to the detriment of the species and the planet. Like the concept of a sun-centered cosmic system or a spherical Earth (which History reminds us were originally opposed and persecuted by the Vatican and other fundamentalist control groups), it starts in one mind, and moves on to other minds, and eventually the truth will set us free. Or else the species will come to an end, starving to death and killing each other over food and water.

But then, who are we to try and stop our own extinction? Every creature, every species, every planet, every star, every galaxy, every universe has its lifespan, which will eventually come to an end. To fight against the extinction of humanity is just as potentially misguided as fighting against my own inevitable death.

Well, now I have to think about that...

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