This thought occurs to me frequently when I observe the lifestyles of people with children. The constant on-the-go, hyperactive, rat-on-a-treadmill, day-in-day-out doing doing doing, running running running from dawn until dusk, keeps peoples' focus permanently off themselves, off the greater good, off introspection, off the pursuit of self actualization, off personal, intellectual and spiritual growth. Those who have children would argue that being a parent is a means to self-actualization, achieving a higher purpose in life and contributing to the greater good. Of course it's easy to maintain this idea when it's so heavily reinforced in our pronatalist culture. But I disagree with this on a fundamental level.
The fact is, in thinking objectively about all the people in my life who are parents, my assessment is that aside from raising children, they have nothing else going on. They are busy, busy, busy and doing, doing, doing, but what does all this busyness and doing amount to? It amounts to expending one's entire life energies solely to raise a child who will grow up to become a parent who will be busy, busy, busy, doing, doing doing and the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. And for what purpose? What purpose does all this serve aside from keeping humanity going?
Keeping humanity going is seen as the greatest purpose in life and parents are ascribed hero status for doing their share toward contributing to this most selfless of goals. But for the sake of argument, I would like to ask a question which never gets asked: why do we assume that the continuation of the human species is a heroic goal? Or even a worthwhile goal? Are humans so egocentric and self important that we cannot imagine a world without ourselves, or see how much of our planet would benefit from a reduction in our numbers? Do we really believe that the earth would cease to exist without us in it?
Even if one ascribes to the idea that continuing the human species is important, the world is already severely overpopulated. Environmental resources are strained. The earth is overheated and polluted. Ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. There are millions upon millions of poor and starving human beings inhabiting our planet, many in our own country. Do we really need to add more? Given the fact that the earth is teetering on the edge of extinction thanks to mankind and the exploding population, perhaps the mandate that we each replicate ourselves is not only outdated, it's dangerous to our very existence.
The parental rat-on-a-treadmill existence may keep minds occupied, calendars booked, mini vans running, wallets emptied and consumerism in high gear, but aside from that, I think the question really needs to be asked of what the greater purpose of all this really is and why we are so easily brainwashed into the idea that reproduction is the highest of human aspirations. In reality, having children is the path of least resistance, of greatest reinforcement and when all is said and done, it's no great accomplishment. So why do we continue to treat it like it is?