First of all, let me say that there are over six billion unique sets of human preferences on this planet, yet rare indeed, it seems, are people capable of understanding that their own preferences are not necessarily shared by those around them — which is one important reason there are so few libertarians (most people don’t even see forcing others to pay for, say, a solid-gold monument to the state’s first governor as force since everyone [meaning, in fact, the person speaking and a few others who think much like the person speaking] wants a solid-gold monument to the state’s first governor).
And even on the rare occasions when people are able to understand that preferences vary, it’s usually because they’ve been hammered by the general culture into feeling severe shame if they don’t acknowledge diversity in one specific variable — say, sexual orientation — but not because they have in any way generalized the idea of diversity to arrive at the realization that a great many sorts of preferences might vary. So, particularly in New York City, you’re quite likely to hear people who in one breath will say they cannot imagine anyone being so narrow-minded as to fail to understand gays (good, good, that’s a start, almost there) and in the next breath say they cannot imagine someone not wanting kids or liking football or, say, loving Crosby, Stills, and Nash — alas, the imagination apparently has its limits, and in most brains they really aren’t very far away.
To help you imagine how someone who doesn’t want kids might look at them, first recognize that much of what seems universally-desired seems so because of instinct and cultural habituation — but that these things can sometimes be overcome, ignored, or for whatever quirky hormonal/environmental reasons simply absent in some people. Some people can’t look at skis without feeling, as if by ancient and nigh-universal instinct, a compulsion to get on them and go hurtling into the future — while others, like my manga-selling friend Ali Kokmen, react to skis by saying, “I sort of feel like just by walking I’m going fast enough already.” Some people look at kids — and by people I mainly mean women, since I have successfully refuted feminism in an earlier blog entry and am thus allowed to speak in gendered terms, though preferences of course vary — and feel a deep, visceral need to go grab them, marvel at their cuteness, squeeze their cheeks, ask how old they are, and dream up ways to get one just like that inside their wombs as quickly as possible.
I look at kids, especially the young ones, and think, roughly: “I have an IQ of about 150. I am horrorstruck anew with almost every day that I walk through this tragic world at how stupid, vicious, ignorant, parasitic, irrational, and lacking in emotional self-discipline even the adults are. Indeed, every time I walk around New York City, I find myself wondering, metaphorically speaking, Where are the adults? since almost every overheard conversation seems like the inane, gossipy, cruel, vapid, amoral, shallow natterings of mental defectives and emotionally-stunted pseudo-children. Thank goodness I do not have to deal with people who are still worse, such as people who drool on themselves, expect me to feed them because they can’t figure out how to do so themselves, or emit ear-splitting shrieks like alarmed monkeys when they are distressed. And yet — and yet! — there are people among us who indeed do drool and shriek, who demand toys, know next to nothing of this world that might provide conversation fodder fit to relieve the general tedium, drain precious time and energy like vampires from those around them, and continually drag those around them down to something resembling their paltry and rudimentary intellectual level, so that even the geniuses in their presence, like defeated and enslaved beings, must now spend most of their waking hours talking about poop, blocks, why not everything with fur is a cat, and how if you be good and stop the ear-splitting shrieking for just a few minutes maybe we’ll go look at the horsey (or what have you). What an unmitigated disaster. What a nightmare. I would sooner be tortured to death by terrorists or some Latin American death squad, since at least then the pain would end soon enough, than endure this mentally-stunted worst-case scenario for years on end, as if having voluntarily lobotomized myself — and at great expense, while so many of the projects of far greater interest on my to-do list remain tragically unfulfilled. It’s hard enough to find adults worthy of the label, why intentionally interact with people who — admittedly through no fault of their own — are years away from embodying the qualities of mind I most admire and want to be around, such as being articulate, well-informed, rational, and self-sufficient? Children are, in short, a catastrophe.”
And yet I can understand and sympathize with those who think they’re interesting and cute enough to endure — more power to you, parents of America! I would not try to stop you from doing your jobs as parents — the most important jobs in the world, really, and if I wanted to do it, believe me, I’d want to do it well. There can be no greater moral responsibility in everyday life than raising a child well — which is all the more reason I choose not to do it. I mean, I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “You know, today might be a good day — but it’d be better if I were shackled to a midget who was completely dependent on me for all his needs and indeed his very life! That’d make things more pleasant and special!” Few seek out such situations (though again, if you’re one of those people, by all means, go for it!).
In fact, fewer people reproduce in large numbers as societies become more modern, so there’s a sense in which people’s preferences are subtly “coming around to my way of thinking” — as people find more things to do, women have more options (there’s something useful about feminism — I didn’t say it had no useful facets at all), and the necessity of youthful farm labor retreats into history, they tend to have fewer kids, such that the eco-doomsday warnings of a population explosion so common a mere generation ago have now turned (like ice age warnings into global warming warnings) into dour analyses of the “birth dearth” — with places like Italy and Japan already falling below replacement level (slightly fewer than two kids per two parents, statistically speaking) so that if current trends hold (though they never do), Italy and Japan will cease to exist in the not too distant future.
And while I don’t expect the human race to cease to exist, I am not morally alarmed by the idea of it shrinking considerably (that would mean fewer jerks walking around), something that is in any case still generations off, if it ever comes to pass (at which point environmentalists, if they have not simply forgotten or consciously obscured their population-shrinking intellectual lineage by that point, will have reason to celebrate). In any case, in the long run, I expect much of the population will be either immortal or replaced by robots, or both, but I’ll discuss that topic more in two weeks (as preparation for our July Debate at Lolita Bar, on history and the future).
So to sum up: you may like kids, but please understand that some of us have a long list of other things to do and just don’t see the big appeal in jettisoning lots of those things in order to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging around with needy dwarfs. As I once said, in a joke that found its way into Kyle Smith’s novel Love Monkey and that may (come to think of it) have been the inspiration for an Alien-themed baby shower I went to, we are accustomed to seeing people have kids, but if you somehow reached adulthood without hearing about it and then saw the process for the first time with unbiased eyes, you might think it was like something out of a horror movie, this creature bursting out of the woman with blood and screams, taking over the lives of those around it. No thanks. What part of “Gah, gah, bah, guggle, SHRIEEEEEK SHRIEEEEEK WAAAAAAAAHHH!! SHRIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!! SHRIEEEEEEEEEEK!!” don’t you understand?