Christopher Hitchens and Peter Singer
Yes we do, most of us most of the time, suppress our expression of certain attitudes and our use of certain terms in the belief that they are too offensive or controversial. For example as a general rule we avoid talking about, following a freer toddler period in our lives, our bodily functions, including by and large much of our routine sexual activity.
And we avoid no less, even among friends, talking about some of our most cherished beliefs, religious or otherwise, if we feel that they’re not shared, by those friends among others. In all this we are succumbing to a kind of correctness, or at least an unwillingness to arouse unpleasantness, if not anger, in our readers or listeners.
Just within the past day or two, however, I have read two writers, not known for their political or other correctness, who do freely express their opinions regarding subjects that for most of us are taboo, or at least judged by us to be better left unsaid.
Christopher Hitchens in a Sunday Magazine piece based on the interviewer’s, Deborah Solomon’s, reading of the writer’s recent memoir in which he has a lot to say about his male friends, but little about his wife and children, has this to say regarding his own sexual preferences, if not sexual activity:
“There are still people who want to criminalize homosexuality one way or another, and I thought it might be useful if more heterosexual men admitted that they are a little bit gay, as is everyone, and that homosexuality is a form of love and not just sex.”
I find myself agreeing with Hitchens, but probably wouldn’t have been the first to say it. Now, however, following his lead, I would add, “it might be useful also if more heterosexual women admitted that they too were a little bit gay.”
And furthermore I would ask all those of my generation, and perhaps even of my children’s generation now well into middle age, that they quietly abandon their attachment in their own lives to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the armed services.
For there is, just as in so many other present and past separations imposed upon people who mostly are all alike in the essentials, no valid separation to be made, no line to be drawn (or wall to be built), then or now. There is no valid separation between them and us.
The other writer, Peter Singer in an op ed piece in today’s Times, asks the question, “Should This Be the Last Generation?” In other words, should we cease to reproduce in order not to subject new lives to what for too many of us are lives of pain and suffering? Or is it right to go on having children whose destinies we know from our own experiences will not be happy ones?
I would never have asked this question. It arouses thoughts that I would prefer not to have. I wonder if Peter Singer has grandchildren? About the only thing I don’t question about life is the inherent worth, and beauty, and yes goodness of children. To question their even being here, to wish them away, seems to me the ultimate sacrilege.
Singer concludes his piece by asking us, the reader, five questions:
If a child is likely to have a life full of pain and suffering is that a reason against bringing the child into existence?
If a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life, is that a reason for bringing the child into existence?
Is life worth living, for most people in developed nations today?
Is a world with people in it better than a world with no sentient beings at all?
Would it be wrong for us all to agree not to have children, so that we would be the last generation on Earth?
I would answer no to Singer’s first question, although not because I believe in God, or that all creatures are his creations. Rather because I find myself unable to judge such things as the extent of my own pain and suffering, let alone that of others.
To the other four questions I would answer yes, although in each case I would be unable to support my answer. Is life worth living? Is the world better for our having children? Is it wrong not to have children? I really don’t know.
Most of the things that Singer questions we had best not question but simply accept. The acceptances make us what we are, and if there’s a black hole among subject matters out there, one to be avoided at all costs, this is it, — the denial of the links between the generations, and the absolute importance of the preservation of these links or connections.
To neglect the children, both having them and caring for them, is to neglect who we are. Our having children (at least enough of us to insure that the species continues) is still probably the best answer we have to the question why we are here.Explore posts in the same categories: Thoughts