Follow-Up: Childlessness, Population, Killing Grandma

Creative Minority Report linked to The Daily Beast which linked to Newsweek on an article on voluntary childlessness, which we recently discussed here (phew!).  Couple things:

Consider contemporary Japan, which after decades of economic stagnation has become the most aged big country on the planet. Since 1990 the world’s third-largest economy has had more people over 65 than under 15; by 2050 it’s projected there will be more people over 80 than under 15. More than one in three Japanese women, predicts sociologist Mika Toyota, will never marry or have children (childbearing outside of marriage is still relatively rare in Japan and other wealthy Asian countries).

The results haven’t been pretty. In some places in Japan, particularly in the countryside, there are already too few working adults remaining to take care of the elderly, and kodokushi, or “lonely death,” among the aged, the unmarried, and the childless, is on the rise. Long a model of frugality, the demographically declining nation now has by far the high-income world’s highest rate of public indebtedness as spending on the elderly has shot past what the state can extract from its remaining productive workers. Last month, the nation’s new finance minister, Taro Aso, outright said that the elderly should be given grace to “hurry up and die.” This situation will not be made better by a desexualized younger Japanese generation: one in three young men ages 16 to 19 express “no interest” in sex—and that may be a good thing, given that 60 percent of young women of the same age share their indifference.

Wow. Some people seem to truly believe that the obvious ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ of overpopulation is to have fewer children. Nope. The obvious solution is to kill people off.  Population is effected as much by the death rate as the birth rate, and that persistently low and falling death rate is the real problem, as long as it’s somebody else’s death. You start with the easy targets – the unborn, the elderly, the sickly, the crippled, anyone whose ‘quality of life’ offends us.  The elderly in particular, who are to be  ‘given grace to “hurry up and die”’, will soon, like well before 2050, be required to have the grace to hurry up and die in order to cease to inconvenience their childless grandchildren. Then, since ‘enough people’ is an idea dogged in its resistance to being defined, you move on to those who would be better off dead, including those who don’t get with the program, whatever the program of the day is, such as the people who are so morally and intellectually deficient as to disagree with me.

And this behavior will be defined as ‘altruistic’ and ‘compassionate’.

Hadn’t really considered the possibility that  a portion of the population above the 10% or so that I’ve heard is typical would just loose interest in sex. But, upon reflection, sex without any attachment or consequences does stand to loose its appeal. Is it possible that romance (and children!) is not just an add-on to good sex, but is in fact essential for long term enjoyment?

What a concept.

Another thought that’s been rattling around the wide, open spaces inside my skull: a life that would be ruined by children isn’t much of a life to begin with. Ya know?

Perfect children, whose parent(s) had them only because they could afford Gap clothes and Harvard tuition, and had room in their successful, fulfilling lives to schedule an appropriate amount of quality time for them – the existence of these children otherwise would have been an affront to all that is right and good.

I was pleased that Newsweek’s reporter did not make this whole thing a rah-rah piece for the enlightened, but actually mentioned that a society without children in it could be kind of problematic. And – being generous here – it’s possible that the reporter consciously chose to allow the people interviewed to reveal themselves as reptilian creeps. But then again, immunity to irony runs pretty deep in today’s deep thinkers.

Seeking support for their plans to build taller and smaller, urbanists like Peter Calthorpe also link their density agenda with environmentalism; he’s deemed dense urbanism “a climate-change antibiotic.” Decades after dire predictions of mass starvation and rising population growth lost credibility, the environmental mantra against children remains reflexive. Now greens are pushing for fewer high-income children, since they generate more carbon than offspring in poorer countries. Jonathon Porritt, an adviser to Prince Charles, has called for Britain to halve its population, arguing that having even two children is “irresponsible.” The influential Center for Biological Diversity has called for planetary age standards for getting married or having children, while Lisa Hymas, senior editor at Grist, has signed up for what she calls a “fledgling child-free movement” to stand up against the “pro-natal bias that runs deep.” Her self-designation: “GINK, green inclinations, no kids.”

But where will the GINKs (love that! so onomatopoetic!) come from, if not from among  “high-income children”? (And here I thought it was their parents who got paid. Man, I’m doing it wrong.) Breathtaking cluelessness.  And, yea, that little detail about the failure of the grim Malthusian future to actually happen seems to make no impression on the well trained. And that “pro-natal bias” does run deep. Darwin deep!

Speaking of survival of the fittest, the essay then addresses the long-term horror of having conservative believers out-reproduce the Enlightened:

If these trends continue, and if these children share their parents’ politics—two big ifs, to be sure—even the Democratic stronghold of Gotham will be pulled rightward.

This prospect would pose dangers to our society as a whole, and singletons in particular, including a potential reversion to a more rigidly traditionalist worldview.

Danger?  Of reversion to a ” more rigidly traditionalist worldview”? Oooha! Unlike the exquisite flexibility now evident among the culturally elect? Our intrepid reporter (or his editor) needs to get out more, maybe meet some people outside Manhattan and DC. Then they go on to talk about some real math, as in how this whole lifestyle choice is leading to an economically untenable position. Which will require offing Grandma. Among other things.

And it goes on. The comments section, upon a light skim, would not incline one towards optimism that the self-satisfied moral superiority of the childless is going to fade any time soon.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

5 thoughts on “Follow-Up: Childlessness, Population, Killing Grandma”

  1. Our grandchildren will snicker about these people when they read about them on wikipedia on the page “sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.”

  2. Ha! And Ha!

    What’s funny to me: If I were forced to choose between living in the modern luxury I’m accustomed to but having no children, or living a rustic existence with a bunch of kids, that’s no choice at all, I’ll take the kids every time. I have to wonder if any of these people really know any children or happy families.

  3. Japan, you can argue, has been fading since the annihilation of its culture after WW2. However, that news report you mention relies on something more akin to unreliable pop-statistics- it is the kind of thing you usually, and rightfully so, rail against.

    The one study in question has been used in western news stories for at least two years now. It was a questionnaire of approximately 86 kids; and if memory serves me right, something like <30 responded to the questions. There were other qualms as well, and I apologize for not being more specific; I could be wrong, but I merely remember the first wave of this so called news report about desexualized Japan. I am posting from a phone and cannot access the material myself- you should take a look at it- and read the take of a Japanese blog written by an expatriot entitled ampontan. He covered it pretty well.

    This does not minimize Japan's problem or the likelihood that we are only a generation or two behind but I believe that this particular gossip/study is irresponsible and playing up to media prejudices in the same way that all priests are now child molestors and all cops are crooked.

    That the media is so innumerate or lazy or attached to their narratives…well it is disturbing in many ways. That they have such a stranglehold does not bode well for us or our progeny, regardless of their numbers.

    1. Good catch. A quick Google finds this: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/14/japanese-government-young-men-losing-interest-sex/, which doesn’t provide a link to the actual study (translated, I hope, into English). The study (meaning self-reported poll data with no objective validation at all) claims fewer than 2000 ‘valid’ participants, but that number seems to include married and unmarried people across an unspecified age range – so, given the relatively small numbers of young people in Japan, it’s quite possible you are right in remembering double-digit numbers of respondents to the young-people-losing-interest-in-sex portion of the study.

      I included that section of the quotation because it seemed interesting as a possible artifact of a virulently anti-children culture. As mentioned, I remember once hearing (I’ll look for it once I get our wireless router replaced so I can sit at a table like a civilized person!) somewhere that when surveys of sexual preference include the option ‘not interested in sex’, about 10% of respondents choose that option. In other words, 5 times as many people are simply not interested in sex as are homosexual – which, given the level of intense ambient social sexualization, should be a population of some interest.

      But I’ll need to look that up. In any event, the whole desexualization tangent doesn’t really say anything directly about the rapid decline in birthrate and upcoming drop in population, which was what I was primarily thinking about. Thanks again for reading.

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