Thursday, July 14, 2016

Reasons Not To Have Kids

Orlando; Dallas; Charleston. Brexit. Less than one-third of people polled believe the United States is headed in the right direction.

Admittedly, if you drill down and focus just on certain events, the world can seem pretty bleak. Almost as if its falling apart. I would - have! - argue that you would be wrong. I would also argue that its irresponsible. Not just as citizens of society, but as parents, as well.

Because the belief that we are worse off today than pretty much any period in time is an artifice of the mind psychologists call habituation. Its a trick our brain plays on us. You get that new phone or car or apartment and you love it. And then as the weeks go by you become acclimated to it. The new and exciting becomes background.

You forget how good you have it.

The emphasis on current also means we tend to forget about the past, when things were also violent and hateful.

Which is what we do when we pretend that a single current event portends the end of society or is an indicator that we are all worse off. And sure, its possible that on any given day, week or month, the U.S. may be a worse place to live than it was 50 years ago.

But I doubt it.

The reality is life expectancy has exploded. And while you'll often see memes on Facebook about how this or that cost $0.29 back in 1950, those memes never mention that, when you factor in inflation, you'd have to work twice as long just to buy that product at that same price today. So while things are more expensive in absolute terms, you can buy more of those things today. Sure, maybe Wonder bread cost a nickel way back when; but today you can buy that with half the labor and you have 300 other breads to choose from.

Years ago, buying a used car was a sketchy proposition. Because few cars saw 100,000 miles a second owner had trouble getting any real value out of one unless it started with really low mileage. Today you can rationally expect to get to at least 100,000 and even 200,000 or more miles out of a vehicle.

That improvement  has to come at a cost, right? Well, did you know a Corvette is more affordable today than it was 30 years ago? True story. And that ignores the fact that because of seat belts, lane detection warnings, air bags, and back-up camaras that cars are immensely safer today than they were 30 years ago.

Yes, the price of a Corvette isn't exactly a weighty issue for most people. And yes, we have serious issues to address and important problems with which to grapple. But we had many of those same issues 30 to 60 years, when crime was higher, gays couldn't marry let alone be public about their love lives, blacks lacked access to basic civil rights, and we had never even considered anything but white, male presidents, let alone electing two from outside that category in a row.

For instance, we recently had a big kerfuffle about whether minorities were adequately represented at awards shows. Compare that to 30 years ago, when Spike Lee was saying he didn't believe there were any films for and by black people. None.

So we sit and judge the poor parenting skills of a sad couple whose kid was snatched by an alligator. Parents these days, we say, tsking tsking as we post a meme on Facebook, totally oblivious to the fact that a nearly identical thing happened 30 years ago.

We clutch our pearls at the thought of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton being president and all the malice in the political arena, forgetting that in 1804 Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed founding father Alexander Hamilton. Burr then plotted with the military to seize the Louisiana Territory from the United States.

Speaking of violence, did you know that violent crime and property crime have been falling for almost 25 years now? You may have heard a story about how some elder used leave the door unlocked at night when they were young. That shouldn't be a brag but a testament to their stupidity. Crime peaked between the 1970s and the early 1990s, so there is almost no chance the speaker was safer during the time in question than they are right now. Don't trust wikipedia? How about CBS? Still not convinced? Here are the FBI stats.


Pick a time in the past, present or future, and you'll find some issue worth worrying about. Until we overcome death, anger and resource scarcity, it seems likely that something will be the leading cause of death and some select group will have more than some other select group.

So go ahead and have children - or don't - but for heaven's sake don't make the decision based on a skewed view of how the world will look 30 years from now.

If you can think of one, I'd love you to post in the comments about a product or situation that is worse today than 30 years ago. Go ahead, give it your best shot!

2 comments:

  1. The only thing I'd argue with you here is that you're covering three very broad topics in this short blog post. You touch upon 1. the world is bleak 2. this isn't a reason to not have kids 3. the wold is better/worse than it was.

    2. Yeah, I don't think the state of the world is a reason to not have kids. Unless you knew the world was going to end in ten years (definitely). Then that'd be sorta crummy thing to do.

    3. There's really no point in comparing today to "back in the old day" whether you come to a positive conclusion or not. The point is what are the problems we're facing today. I'm not saying we shouldn't be glad of the progress we've made, but just because there's progress doesn't mean the journey is over. To say "well, things are better now" makes it sound like the journey is over. It's not, and we need to be careful about spreading too much of that mentality, as well as worrying about spreading too much of a "we need to go back to the good ol' days" (Also, I have a feeling the people saying that latter quote are a very specific subset of people who didn't fear for their lives because of class, race, etc back in the "good ol days". But anyway.)

    The world is bleak, and I think you make some good points (and I'm not trying to be a doomsday crier), I think to ignore the bleakness of the world is to avoid trying to fix what's wrong with the world. I don't think you mean to sound like those incidents you mentioned weren't important and horrible, but the way they're brushed off as "well, it's not any worse than it was" kind of diminishes the terrible things that happened/continue to happen.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is: Just because things are better doesn't mean they're all right.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I continue to see comments and sometimes articles with the idea that not having kids is the right thing, because the world will be so awful for them (usually from a climate change perspective, but others as well). I probably see that more due to my reading list, but its out there.

    There really isn't a point in comparing them. But people do it. ALL THE TIME:

    "back in my day"
    "I remember when"
    "We never locked our door"
    "Kids these days (which compares back)"

    I'd argue with the "bleak" perspective, but to each their own. I think life on Earth is pretty grand for all but a moderate percentage of people alive today.

    And I'm not saying all is well, or progress isn't important. I think I actually say that exact thing in the post: "And yes, we have serious issues to address and important problems with which to grapple."

    Because while we have still have real issues to address, pretending the past was better is both wrong AND dangerous. Wrong because of facts, and dangerous because believing the past was better suggests those norms, mores and rules were maybe better - and they weren't. And if we allow ourselves to believe that we are somehow less safe today than our parents, we make laws and rules based on those (wrong) beliefs, which threaten our children's actual lives.

    ReplyDelete