Here we have Exhibit A of the ultimate self-absorption, the depths of selfishness
Item: The marriage rate in the US is at an all-time low: 6.5 marriages per 1,000 people. The European rate is even lower.
Item: For the first time, the majority of American millennials (56%) are unmarried.
Item: In 2020, the number of deaths exceeded that of births in 25 American states — up from only five states the year before.
Most significant Item: In San Francisco, more households have dogs than children.
These four news stories are not unrelated. Item #1 leads inevitably to item #4. When people stop getting married, it should not come as a shock that children will become a rarity on the streets of major cities.
To illustrate: a bit of theology. Theologians used to label the connections between man and G-d, and man and his neighbor, as the “I–Thou” relationship. That soon changed to “I-It,” in which the emphasis of our relationship was not on G-d or on others, but on things. The “It” became the focus of our lives.
Now we have gone beyond that as well. Now it is the “I-I” relationship. There is no longer any Thou in the relationship, not even a thou with a lower case “t,” and no longer even an “It.” Now it is all I–Me–Myself.
We live in an “I–I” society. Because just as soon as there is no Thou or thou, and once there is nothing else but the Me, there is nothing left. And so today what is displayed in all its destructiveness is the nothing that is left.
Specifically, there is now a countrywide organization dedicated to the proposition that no one should ever have any children — not now, and not ever. In brief, even the “I” should cease to exist.
This goes beyond family planning or abortions. This is a formal anti-baby organization whose stated aim is not merely to put off pregnancy, but to eliminate its possibility permanently.
Why? For a certain mindset, the reasons are self-evident. Children get in the way of “self-fulfillment.” They are too much trouble. They require much care, take much time, create parental anxiety, demand huge amounts of work and energy and planning and expense — assets that could be better used to enjoy life and own the things one always wanted to have. The ultimate goal of this new group is to usher in a “post-parental world.”
This is a new step for those who, for one reason or another, decided they do not want any children at all. These were a tiny minority. Most sentient men and women heeded their natural, age-old instincts, and deeply desired to have offspring. Today, however, we see signs that what was once an isolated and rare personal choice is gradually expanding into a wider no-kids-at-all movement.
The “I Generation” has embarked on the logical next step: to eliminate the “I” entirely, and make certain that this generation is the last generation of humankind to exist on the earth, and that after them there is… nothing. They wish to go back to pre-creation, when everything was tohu va’vohu, barren sterile, and vacant. This is not merely après moi le déluge, but après moi, rien, where nothing exists, not even the Divine “I,” the Anochi that begins the Ten Commandments.
Here we have Exhibit A of the ultimate self-absorption, the depths of selfishness. One thousand generations of mankind can come to a screeching halt, humanity itself can cease to exist, as long as we can have our fun and games.
This goes beyond individual suicide; this is humanity-suicide. And in fact, there is now available in Switzerland a sleek new handheld machine that enables people to commit suicide in a swift, pleasant way, without even a touch of discomfort.
Of course, all this will not succeed. The Biblical mil’u es ha’aretz v’chivshuha, “populate the earth,” is too deeply embedded in the DNA of mankind. The great effort involved in child-rearing is for most of mankind offset by the joy of raising a new generation as a continuation of the self. This human biological instinct — and for Jews, a cardinal mitzvah — will not be uprooted by myopic self-indulgent people whose only concern is their daily injection of pleasure.
Psalm 37:11 declares that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” But the anti-kids people disagree. They would be quite comfortable in San Francisco where, apparently, it is not the meek humans that do the inheriting, but other, more lowly, creatures — the kinds that bark.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 890)
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