Friday, August 12, 2005

The Case Against Babies

Coolest essay I've read in years. By Joy Williams. Go. Read. Now.

Swiped from Gwenda.


Blogger David Moles said...

Still not a patch on A Modest Proposal.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

No it's not a Modest Proposal, at all, though it reminded me of it. And yes, babies are very very cute. But it's a great essay nonetheless, and interesting in how it thinks about the subject. Babies will always be cute, but will earth always be cute if we keep having babies beyond our means to sustain life on earth?

Cuteness always wins in the end, though, so I suggest we just throw an apocalypse party now, with lots of pictures of babies shoring up the walls. ;-)

11:34 AM  
Blogger David Moles said...

But despite Ms. Williams' experience, by and large the sort of people who will read this essay are already not having babies, or are anyway not having as many babies as they used to. I'm sorry the ones who are having babies are making her unhappy, but I'm having trouble getting worked up about it as an issue of global importance.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Much agreed, and despite that unfortunate irony, it's still a good essay, I think, as essays go. I'm not worked up about it in any way but as an essay in an of itself. It's just good writing. I think half the time the people who need to be reading the stuff *anyone* writes aren't reading period. As literacy continues to decline, that's how it seems at least.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Go over and give Gwenda flack, too. She's who posted it first. Nyah!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Christopher. The writing was excellent, but the author gets so many of her facts wrong that she comes off sounding very foolish. Her casually quoted stats about when the world population will double, etc. are dead wrong. In fact, it's becoming quite passe to angst over population increase, as it's increasingly apparent that the world is headed for an unavoidable population crash--one that will probably have thoroughly devastating economic effects. This is *why* the French subsidize baby-having. Moreover, I find it rather sad that she wants to blame people suffering from infertility for overpopulation. IVF is not a choice I'd make for myself, but I have suffered the anguish of infertility for nearly the entire time I've been married, and it's always a stab to the gut to hear someone suggest that the solution to overpopulation is for *infertile* people to stop reproducing. WTF? Why don't they just leave us alone? The truth is that very few westerners have large families by choice, and those who do go for it seem to do an excellent job of raising happy, productive, well-adjusted people. If every baby in the world were a wanted baby, most of the problems of overpopulation would evaporate.

Anyway...good writing, but a silly rant, and it's got to be at least 5-8 years old, as that's how long it's been since Bill Gates' daughter was born. (And I do believe she's an only child, to boot.)

By the way, I can't help but very gently point out that the folks enthusing about this essay seem to be those who haven't (yet) made the leap to parenthood. You really have no idea how cute those babies are... ;-)

Catherine Shaffer

1:29 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I'm not going to argue with whatever you're saying Catherine, as I haven't researched the subject, though I would like to say that I think Williams wasn't blaming infertile couple who seek techno aid to have kids for overpopulation, but using the craze of popularity that surrounds having kids through this aid as an example. And also I would like to point out that, even though I am a total enthusiast of this essay, I am not against having children, and in fact am a closet want to have a children dad in waiting. I find kids to be the cutest in the world, and that's why I love my job teaching them (closet parenting, to Japanese kids in this case) and can't wait to have my own, whether they're biologically mine or not. (Cause you know, we all can't control stuff like this, and I haven't settled down with ANYONE, so who knows, one day I may have to just adopt).

1:34 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

This'll teach you to talk about how cool something is without explaining in great detail exactly in what ways you find it cool and it what ways you don't. :)

2:07 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Nah, it won't teach me. I'll always think my own little thoughts about what's cool and what's not, and they'll be little, and everyone will tell me why, but I'll still think they're cool, even when others say they're not for reasons I wasn't intending.
;-) It's one of my character flaws.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Gwenda said...

Well, Joy Williams is a genius (if you haven't read her stories, especially, and novels, do so) and I also LOVE this essay. See, I like your crabby crotchety sort of I Hate People essays, even when I don't agree with them. (See also this recent Fran Lebowitz interview.) And even if I did want to have kids, which I don't, it would be hard for me to get worked up about this -- this essay is about as dangerous to the future of people having kids as gay marriages are to straight people's marriages.

Anyway, in a culture where one of the constant messages is Must Form Nulear Family With 2.5 Children it is refreshing to see someone openly attack that message. And be funny at the same time.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Gwenda said...

Hmmm... Make that nuclear, though I'm intrigued by nulear.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Fish Monkey said...

Catherine --
there is a difference between an economic disaster and an ecological one. Of course, from an economic point of view reproduction is great -- more workers, more taxpayers etc. But ecologically, it is a disaster. And it's not just numbers, it's the rate of consumption. The problem is that it is increasing all over the world; people want a higher standard of living, and who can blame them? But a higher standard of living means more consumption. more pollution, more extinction etc.

And here's a nice cartoon to illustrate the point of the essay:

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catherine Shaffer: yup, 1996. Much less interesting now that I know the essay's almost a decade old - but a little more interesting now that I know Ms. Williams has a daughter.

12:21 PM  

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