That the U.S. birth rate is declining isn’t news. Those in their prime procreative years are having much less sex and far fewer babies than any generation in our history that we know of. The reasons for that are many and highly complex. So it’s interesting to ask people in their 20s and 30s who don’t intend to have children their reasons. That’s what Suzy Weiss did and her results illuminate much about the people who profess them. To be blunt, if this is what these people think, we’re all very glad they’re not having children. Sometimes they sound like nothing so much as six-year-olds with good vocabularies.
More important is the extent to which they’ve absorbed every negative view of the U.S. and the world on offer by the progressive Left and are making plans accordingly. That any of those viewpoints might be wrong, or even worth critically investigating, found no voice from any of Weiss’s interviewees.
Typical is Rachel Diamond who,
always assumed she’d have a family of her own. Then came college at Arcadia University; her political awakening, away from her conservative roots, and towards progressivism;
That, plus a therapist who taught her that her parents had abused her, made her decide “that she never wanted to be [a parent] herself. Never ever ever.”
That “political awakening” seems to have engendered, in Diamond and all the millennials with whom Weiss spoke, a terror of, well, pretty much everything.
[T]he message from this young cohort is clear: Life is already exhausting enough. And the world is broken and burning. Who would want to bring new, innocent life into a criminally unequal society situated on a planet with catastrophically rising sea levels?
On the other hand, a more sensible message might run something like this: Human life has pretty much never been easier than it is for today’s college-educated; the human race is making spectacular progress on a remarkable number of fronts such as poverty, health, food, sanitation, longevity, crime, war and literacy; income inequality may be a problem, but, in the U.S. and essentially all of the developed world, the unequivocal trend is toward greater prosperity for the vast majority of people. Sea levels? If they’re rising at all, scientists are having a hard time measuring it. As President Obama’s Undersecretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy, Steven Koonin, writes in his book “Unsettled,”
[W]e have contributed to sea level rise, but there’s also scant evidence that this contribution has been or will be significant, much less disastrous.
The young people Weiss interviewed appear to be reasonably intelligent, but entirely unmotivated to use their brains to challenge the progressive narrative. Have they read anything that contradicts, or even adds nuance to, the beliefs they absorbed in college? Does it occur to them that there’s an enormous body of thought and fact that is utterly at odds with their preferred doomsday scenario?
If so, they didn’t mention it to Weiss. That cohort also keep it from Clay Routledge, “an existential psychologist at North Dakota State University who has studied young people’s attitudes toward the future.” According to him,
there is a growing school of thought among twenty-somethings that humans are the problem. It’s not just that we’ve built factories and polluted the oceans and launched tons of garbage into space. It’s that there’s something about us — our psychology, our chromosomal wiring — that makes it impossible for us to make things better. “They’re saying that the future isn’t a good investment,” Routledge says. “And if there’s no future, why would you be anything but hedonistic? Why would you donate to charities? Why would you try to make the world better or care about human progress?” He adds that this generation has a sense that “humans were a mistake.”
Well, if the earth will soon end in a blaze of human-caused climatic warming, then certainly many of those conclusions follow. But what if it doesn’t? What if the doomsayers are wrong, as they almost certainly are? What if times have never been better for vast and growing numbers of people, as they are? The “twenty-somethings” don’t ask. They believe they have the answers, but have come to that belief by carefully shielding themselves from contradictory facts and ideas.
The same seems to hold true for their beliefs about children and families. Not one of Weiss’s interviewees betrays the slightest interest in, much less understanding of, the reasons why people have children. Nowhere is the concept voiced that having and raising children is the most selfless thing a person can do, or that giving to another person the way parents do can return the greatest of rewards. Parents report exactly that time and again, but Weiss’s twenty-somethings don’t know it. Given that, Routledge’s rhetorical question – “why would you be anything but hedonistic?” – begins to sound more like an excuse for hedonism than a reason for not having kids.
As I said earlier, these people sound entirely unequipped, not just for raising families, but for pretty much every adult endeavor. Consider:
Life is already exhausting enough.
No, actually it’s easier, safer, more secure than ever before in human history.
“My generation is very aware of the ways that our parents traumatized us,” she tells me. “My mom smoked a lot of weed and did her own thing, and my dad was away a lot for work.”
Actually, your mother smoking pot and your father working to support his family do not constitute trauma.
The child-free have many reasons for not wanting babies: fear of pregnancy, fear of authority, fear of preeclampsia (a pregnancy disorder that can lead to undesirable outcomes for the mother and baby), fear of postpartum depression.
So, so many things to fear, every one of them having held far greater potential for real harm in times gone by than today. Preeclampsia used to be a killer; now it’s easily treated.
Now, I don’t care whether people have children or not. Such is a personal decision that’s not for me to criticize or laud. And I’m fully aware that, in this day and age, plenty of people in their twenties are, in many ways, not adults. Twenty-five is the new 15. So I don’t expect these people to be fully mature or their attitudes to be fully formed. What strikes me most is the impact the progressive Left has had on those attitudes and the fact that they seem to have swallowed the leftist narrative of impending doom hook, line and sinker.