Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Don't mistake Compensations for Justifications

Having been thrown into this life we do our best to make it tolerable. Each of us finds things and activities that make existence bearable and affords us distraction from the realities of the human condition. Culture and Civilisation are the names generally afforded to the greatest bulkwarks we have against existential despair and the ontological mess.

Anyone clued in to the reality of the human predicament should be able to acknowledge that these things/structures/institutions are provisional, contingent and ephemeral. However, those hostile to AN thinking make a serious error in mistaking these compensations for justifications. They believe that Culture, Society, Civilisation and so on make human life meaningful and worthwhile. Rather than view the individual human life as being the first and most important datum of existence, they afford this consideration instead to those abstractions. Hence they enable themselves to ignore real human suffering, and focus instead on concepts such as ‘Progress’, ‘the Future’, the Human Race’, ‘Culture’, ‘Society’ and so on. Consequently, whenever they encounter AN or any form of pessimism, they respond by referring to a supposed need to maintain the existence of any or a combination of those abstractions, regardless of how much individual (ie, real) suffering is required to perpetuate these things.                                                                                 
 Now obviously it is undeniably a good thing that people have access to electricity, water, heating, distraction and entertainment rather than not. But we need to be aware that these things are palliatives and defences against the sheer nakedness of our existence. They do not form a reason bringing new people into existence. Think of how odd it would sound if someone said ‘I want to have a child so they can enjoy double glazing/ sit by a heater in the winter/ surf the internet/ admire the painting of Van Gogh’ etc. Yet this is a common gambit taken by those who defend life and procreation, although it is generally phrased more vaguely along such lines as ‘I want a child so as to give it a good life’ or some such variation.

As stated, certain facets of life may make it more bearable than otherwise, but let’s not reach too far. In fact, I would modify Benatar’s distinction between ‘a life worth continuing’ and ‘a life worth starting’. Strictly speaking, I believe no life is worth continuing; it may simply be bearable, and that’s it. If you talk about a life worth continuing, then an opponent of AN can say ‘well, if you think a life is worth continuing, then surely it has been worth starting’. To my mind, there is only the grim reality on the one hand, and distraction/diversion/delusion on the other. I don’t think life is worth starting or continuing. If I haven’t committed suicide, it’s simply because I haven’t yet reached the point where existence is absolutely unbearable, but perhaps that time may come some day, and that applies to everyone, AN or not. 

So by all means, let’s try and make existence as bearable as possible without treading on anyone else’s toes, but let’s bear in mind that all we’re fundamentally doing is administering palliatives, not finding justifications. Just because there were examples of heroic self-sacrifice, humour, comradeship and courage in Auschwitz doesn’t mean that it was a good thing that Auschwitz existed, and this goes for life as a whole. Bandaging our own and each other’s wounds is a necessary and noble thing, but it would have been better had the scenario in which this is the best we can do had never come into being in the first place.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Quick Update

Just a quick update. Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post: I'm glad good poetry is still appreciated in a world of plastic shit:-)

I've nothing much to say at present. I turned 36 last week and am feeling pretty blank and bored. Even though current finances dictate that I should be out hustling, my non-interest in the world prevents me from engaging with it.

I definitely think that what seperates me, and I daresay other people of an AN disposition, from the mob, is the lack of what I referred to a few posts back as ontophilia: the natural love of being. I definitely don't have it, and as a result feel hollow and empty at the core.

If you love life, you're motored by delusion, whether it be Religion, Art, Family, Nation, Career, Progress, Nature or any of the other capital letter words.

If you've seen through all of humanity's self-important nonsense, then your only recourse is distraction/diversion. I really don't see any other viable way. Delusion or diversion; the choice is yours.

Anyway, one of the commenters on the last post inquired about having a 'How I became an Antinatalist' forum. Seeing as how I am too mired in sloth to set up such a site, I'm happy to let anyone tell their story here if they wish.

Hope everyone's well.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Al-Ma'arri, Arabic Poet of Antinatalism

A big thanks to KaBoem, who put me on to this topic. Cheers, sir!

Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri was an Arabic poet of the 11th century, of a profoundly pessimistic disposition, who rejected religion and condemned procreation. The poems and writing quoted below are taken from Reynold Nicholson’s 1921 book, Studies in Islamic Poetry and Mysticism, available to download online at the following address: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL7029984M/Studies_in_Islamic_poetry.

 If you enjoy what’s below, there’s plenty more in the book.

Nicholson describes the poet’s themes as being ‘the pain of life, the peace of death,
the wickedness and folly of mankind, the might of Fate and the march of Time, the emptiness of ambition, the duty of renunciation, the longing for solitude and then to rest in the grave. The pessimism of the Luzum [the poetry collection] wears the form of an intense pervading darkness, stamping itself on the mind and deeply affecting the imagination. It is an old philosophy and its poets have been many, but I can think of none who in sincerity, individuality, and eloquence has surpassed Al-Ma'arri.’

The words Luztimu md Idyalzam signify "The obligation of that which
is not obligatory", which is how Al-Ma’arri saw the business of living.

If ye unto your sons would prove
By act how dearly them ye love
Then every voice of wisdom joins
To bid you leave  them  in your loins

The rich man desires a son to inherit his wealth, but were the fathers intelligent no children would be born. Procreation is a sin, though not called one. A father wronged by his sons pays the just penalty for the crime which he committed against them.  To beget is to increase the sum of evil...It is better for a people, instead of multiplying, to perish off the face of the earth. The first condition of happiness is that no woman should have been created.

 This world, O my friend, is like a carcase unsepulchred,
And we are the dogs that yelp around it on every side.
A loser is he, whoso advances to eat thereof;
A gainer is he, whoso returns from it hungry still.
If any be not waylaid by calamities in the night,
Some ill hap of Time is sure to meet him at morningtide

This world is such an abode that if those present here
Have their wits entire, they will never weep for the absent ones.

Would that a lad had died in the very hour of birth
And never sucked, as she lay in childbed, his mother's breast !
Her babe, it says to her or ever its tongue can speak,
"Nothing thou gett'st of me but sorrow and bitter pain."

'Tis God's will a man should live in torment and tribulation,
Until those that know him cry,
" He hath paid now the lifelong
Give joy to his next of kin on the day of his departure,
For they gain a heritage of riches, and he of peace

O Death ! be thou my guest : I am tired of living,
And I have tried both sorts in joy and sorrow.
My morrow shall be my yesterday, none doubts it;
My yesterday nevermore shall be my morrow

Nor birth I chose nor old age nor to live :
What the Past grudged me shall the Present give?
Here must I stay, by Doom's both hands constrained,
Nor go until my going is ordained.
You who would guide me out of dark illusion,
You lie your story does but make confusion.
For can you alter that you brand with shame,
Or is it not unalterably the same?

 Ah, let us go, whom nature gave firm minds and courage fast,
To meet the Fates pursuing us, that we may die at last.
The draught of Life, to me it seems the bitterest thing to drain.
And lo, in bitter sooth we all must spew it out again

Were I sent out to explore this world of thine by a band
Migrating hither, from me no liar's tale would they hear,
But words like these: '"Tis a land whose herbs are sickness and
Its sweetest water distils a bane for generous souls.
Oh, 'tis the torment of Hell ! Make haste, up, saddle and ride
To any region but that ! Avoid it, camp ye not there !
Abominations it hath ; no day or part of a day
Is pure and clean. Travel on, spur fast and faster the steeds !
I tell you that which is known for sure, not tangled in doubt;
None drawn with cords of untruth inveigle I to his harm."