As I wrote before in Parent to Child Propagation of False Meaning, I am skeptical of most justifications for parenthood.
As a single person pursuing his own goals in life, I generally hear one of the following reasons for people having kids:
That’s lame. I didn’t ask why you care about the kids you have. Who wouldn’t? I asked why you had them in the first place.
Weak sauce. It’s natural for men to want to shag every attractive woman he sees as well; that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Progress. At least we’ve established now that the reasoning here started as a selfish one.
Ah, the refreshment of honesty. I can get behind that. Seriously. I respect the self-awareness and truth of this approach. I only wish more had the oomph to say it when it’s true.
But we were talking about work, not kids.
The reason I got sidetracked was because I see them quite the same. Those that use the conformist argument for having children are also likely to use it for doing work that is either devoid of meaning or clearly over the line into malicious.
And the reason is always the same:
Bullshit. It’s turtles all the way down.
Let’s say you’re in the business of denying healthcare claims to sick people. Yes, in this land of freedom and profit worship, this stands as a good, honest, god-lovin’ American job.
And let’s say I call you on it.
Invariably, the defense is as follows:
Unfortunately, I do know. That trick goes like this:
Going back to Ben’s quote above, which I find to be beautiful, I have to say that I’ve never really seen this in practice. What I see instead is unhappy people working corporate jobs, claiming to do it so that their kids won’t have to work soul-sucking work like them, and then grooming them for the exact same soul-sucking work themselves.
If someone is a coal miner, and they’re working so that their kid can NOT be one, that’s a clear distinction. But when you work a meaningless corporate job and you’re setting your kid up to be by the book (grades, college, “good job”), you’re just propagating to them the exact illness that you’re claiming to endure for their benefit.
I think we’re at the stage now where instead of saying that we are soldiers so that our kids can be politicians, so that their kids can be artists, we should instead say–right now–that war and politics are destructive. We should just try to be artists immediately.
How practical is this? Not very. I type this working for a large corporation, and that’s WITHOUT kids. So I’d label that as pretty hypocritical. The difference of course is that I’m not passing the ailment down to another generation, and that I spend a considerable amount of effort fighting the good fight.
Anyway, love the quote. Love the concept. I just worry that people aren’t really breaking the cycle of meaninglessness like they claim to be doing. They’re actually just keeping it going.