Selfish, or selfless?
World population is growing unsustainably. As of time of writing, world population is almost 7.9 billion. I’m rounding up, as based on data released by the UN, there’s 250 births every minute – that’s more than 4 a second – and 131.4 million a year, we’ll be there in a blink. That can be counted against a figure from the World Health Organisation, that 55.4 million people died in 2019.
The only way is up,
baby. Babies. Lots of them.
Would it be too strong to say having more than 2 children is irresponsible? Its not really my place to argue the point, regardless of personal choices. Should there be a limit imposed on the number of children? Hell no. However, couples who have 2 children or less, aren’t leaving any larger a footprint than their own. Obviously, that’s not how the world is, and even trying to formulate some sort of metric based on the archetype of an homogeneous relationship, is going to be limited. I don’t think it’s in my power to judge the scales of balance, in what constitutes a positive/negative environmental impact. Does forgoing plastic straws and composting our waste, level us sufficiently to grant moral rights to an additional child? Probably not.
We wouldn’t want to see a similar programme of population control, as seen in China between 1979 to 2015, the one-child policy, replicated anywhere else in the world. In 2015 China reverted to a two-child policy, which had been in place for a decade before 1978.
In terms of population increase, the trend is and almost always has been, on the up – despite, we have seen some noticeable shifts over the last few years, with millennials opting to delay parenthood, or abstain completely, to focus on their careers and personal lives – coupled with the environmental incentive, is now the best time ever to focus entirely on yourself?
Children are overrated. They come into your life, suck your blood for (at least) 18 years, then bugger off to leave you to live out the last decades of your life in the decrepit body you earned for you troubles.
What’s so great about children anyway? They’re bone idle, lazy, and don’t pull their weight around the house. They’re rubbish at sports, have no coordination and pay no attention to the offside rule. They never stick their hand in their pocket to pick up the pints. If you do get into a chat with them, half the time, either you, and/or they, have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. To top it off, their idea of hosting a dinner party, is feeding you cold spaghetti hoops out of their hand. Going into my 30’s, why the hell would I want that around?
Parasites. God damn bottom feeders. Sniffing up crumbs. The way things are now in the world, in most places, it’s just getting more and more expensive to get on the property ladder, pushing the immediate prospects of home ownership, way out of reach for the average 18 – 20 somethings. The trend is seeing young adults leaving the family home later than in their parents generation.
What’s up with teenagers these days too? I’m currently travelling Tasmania. I’ve picked up work on a family farm. It’s Easter school holidays and the owners 15 year old daughter stands in front of me as the sun peaks over the horizon, crack of dawn, her oversized glove gripping a foul smelling rotten potato.
“Haven’t you got anything better to do?”
I jokingly prodded.
She responds, dropping the spud through the rejection shoot on the harvester.
I chip away a bit, attempting to break the ice.
“So, any plans over then next couple of weeks?”
She looks around dartingly, at anything but my eyes, with familiar teenage awkwardness.
“Erm… work, I guess.”
What’s up with that?! This girl has her head screwed on straight.
When I was her age, I spent everyday of my Easter holidays galavanting around town, latched onto the direction the groups of girls we’re heading, like an overly agreeable, hormonal homing missile. My feet barely touched the ground. I didn’t spend a single moment indulging in my homework assignments – the only papers I picked up were Rizla.
This kid is way too responsible. It makes me sick.
I was a dirty little stopout – routinely spending nights on friends sofas – only occasionally popping my head home to raid the fridge and get more clean underwear. I had no priorities except having fun and getting that thing that naturally all teenage boys obsess about. We rode the buses around excitedly to new places, to crowd the parks through summer and cold, dark winter months, under wearing garments to flash that pubescent rounding out of flesh in an immature mating ritual, on abandoning the area to the nearest house party, leaving the sticky smell of overenthusiastic vomit. When we weren’t living by the night, we spun bicycles wheels, no hands on the handlebars, as we blew smoke rings and sophisticated our palates on heavy gulps of Special Brew, from the can.
Thats what teen years are for. If you ain’t fucking up, you ain’t doing it right.
There’s no dead certs. Who’s knows what type of child you’ll produce? There doesn’t exist a takeaway price list, with a option of the golden child. All the parenting tricks in the world can’t guarantee a prodigal kid, with Olympian athleticism and marble physique, destined to go on to receive a Nobel prize for service to mankind.
That’s the gamble – whichever horse wins, it’s odds on, your sweet darling son or daughter will still hit puberty and start throwing rolled eyes across the room. You can never own your child. They aren’t your property, sooner or later, they’re going to assert their autonomy.
You might get a piece of shit who blows smoke rings and gulps cans of Special Brew.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. My parents dropped me into football (soccer) practice after school, when I was about 5 years old. All the other kids scrabbled around, thudding balls and calling eagerly for a pass. I was rolling about on my back pitch side, picking dandelions and blowing them into the wind.
I can recall vividly one moment of glory. The end of practice always concluded with penalty shootouts. I stood there in goal, poised and ready to save the impending flying football from entering the net. My body was there, static, arms by my side like a human lollipop, but my mind was way off, chasing dragonflies and doing cartwheels. The ball left the kids boot, piercing the air like an English longbow, and before I could even think about what body part needed to move to stop it, the mud splattered plastic exterior imprinted the iconic duo of hexagons and pentagons into my innocent face. There was a flash, and the only thing I really remember next is having the sting washed out under the cold running water of the tap, by the coach. Saved it though, so I suppose the objective was met. What a lad.
You get what you’re given, and what you’re given is going to be expensive and all consuming. The path is paved with uncertainty and there’s no turning back…
I’m enjoying my life. Whats in it for me? Well, you selfish bastard, who will be around to look after you when you’re old, need the dribble wiped from your chin and a diaper change? It’s a two way street.
I was witness to a close family friends passing a few years ago. It was acutely eye opening, if not life changing. It certainly educated me on the process of end of life care. Watching the grace, tact and discretion at which the nurses dealt with the mechanics of facilitating a “comfortable” death, both for the departing and for those who remain. I was overwhelmed with profound respect, appreciation and awe for the hospital staff, who routinely face what most people will only have to a few times during their life. What struck me, is all the uncertainty, in something which is by definition, certain. If my insight is taken as a microscopic incarnation of the immense possible experiences there are in death, it would in a modern society be termed a typical one. Dying in hospital, with family and friends at the bedside. Sudden illness’ act on underlying weakness’. It crept on so slowly, yet so fast. One moment, there’s hope in the air, as those who visit with well wishes, clutch for more time. The reality is always under the surface, but theres an inevitable tendency to subdue the worse outcome from the forefront. In the moment hope disappears, finally comes the sharp pull back – disbelief. Oh shit, it’s happening. There’s was a sudden rush to formulate some structure – a plan of action, maybe, but nobody really knows what to do. It’s all new territory, and utterly surreal. Some people grasp distortedly at things – like becoming wholly focussed on making sure the dying have their false teeth in, or something, when getting their teeth would mean a 20 minute round trip to the car park, instead of being present. In the end, nothing changes the outcome.
I had never seen somebody die before – their life leave their body. The doctor administered a sedative, which relaxed their breathing, helping the person pass away quietly and relatively peacefully. Those who wish to, can come close, lay a hand on their loved one, let them know they aren’t alone – whisper empty promises that they’ll see them again. Anything you say or do now is almost entirely symbolic – it’s for you, more than them. What’s important is you are there.
I don’t want to die alone. I don’t know in how far that is “selfish”, as it is human.
Beyond the irreplaceable value of having a loving family to share the precious moments with, as you age, they’ll be there to support you, and you, them – through it all.
We are communal creatures, and we haven’t made it this far by going it alone.
I guess I might be cleaning the apple and banana purée burp up from over the back of my shoulder, when I do finally have children, after all, and the Special Brew burp from over the arm of the sofa, when they get a bit older…
…or, maybe mine will be prodigal…
There’s only one way to find out.
You’ve got to ask yourself one question;
‘Do I feel lucky?‘ – Well, do ya, punk?
Once the developing world catches up to the material standards of the first world nations, and the incentives to delay parenthood, or cede it completely, become great enough to effect population decline, it’s likely the next big problem will be in having too few young people to drive the economy, and the big question; how do we take care of our elderly?
Words by © Darius the Mate
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