Friday, April 24, 2015

Are women who don't want children blue lobsters?

I probably don't need to say so but lobsters are normally red

A long but amusingly uninsightful essay below.  It appeared in "The Atlantic" under the heading "Why Women Aren't Having Children".  The author, Sophie Gilbert,  praises the attitudes and feelings of women who do not want to have children -- without apparently realizing that she is praising destruction of the attitudes concerned.  Attitudes and personality are highly hereditary so what is happening is that non-maternal women are breeding themselves out of existence.  With no children their particular genes will perish. 

There have always been some non-maternal women, some of whom became the well-known category of "maiden aunts".  But, in the absence of contraception and amid social pressures to marry, many did reproduce and passed on their anti-survival instincts.

So it is surely a very good thing that non-maternal women now feel free to breed themselves out of existence.   Future generations will look back on them with wonder and pity.

So an apt reply to the disturbed Shulamith Firestone, who believed that “childbearing was barbaric and pregnancy should be abolished”, is surely that she is more than welcome to abolish herself -- which she duly did in 2012, leaving no-one behind like her

Women who don't want children are evolutionary duds  -- and we are now seeing the last of them.  They are a "sport" (a genetic accident).  They are not as unusual as blue lobsters but result from a similar process.

A methodological note:  With regard to the fact that highly educated women are less likely to have children, one must offer the classic caution that correlation is not causation.  Not having children is not the same as not wanting them and for the subset who actually do not want them, it must be allowed that such women may be more likely to fill their lives with extra education.  The direction of the causal arrow between more education and childlessness is not in general known and subjective reports may be unreliable

A personal note:  What I have said above is undoubtedly politically incorrect and, if I were in employment, attempts would probably be made to get me fired.  What I have said is, however, I believe, entirely objective and, as such, is not intended to hurt,  offend, disparage or condemn.  And it is undoubtedly scientifically accurate. I cheerfully admit however that I have a great love of children and had a great time helping to bring up four of them.  I am not a blue lobster

Pope Francis is widely believed to be a cool Pope—a huggable, Upworthyish, meme-ready, self-deprecating leader for a new generation of worshippers. “He has described himself as a sinner,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Pope Francis’ entry on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world,  “and his nonjudgmental views on … issues such as sexual orientation and divorce have brought hope to millions of Roman Catholics around the world.”

But there’s one issue that can make even Cool Pope Francis himself sound a little, well, judgy. “A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pontiff told an audience in St. Peter’s Square earlier this year. “The choice not to have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal

Ignore the irony of a man who’s celibate by choice delivering a lecture on the sacred duty of procreating, and focus instead on his use of the word “selfish.” This particular descriptor is both the word most commonly associated with people who decide not to have children, and part of the title of a new collection of essays, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, by 16 different writers (both female and male) who fall into exactly that category. While the association appears to be so deeply embedded in the collective psyche that it’d take dynamite to shift it, if the book reveals anything, it’s that there’s an awful lot more to not wanting children than the impulse to put oneself first. “People who want children are all alike,” writes editor Meghan Daum in the book’s introduction, with apologies to Tolstoy. “People who don’t want children don’t want them in their own way.”

The 16 essays—variously funny, devastating, infuriating, insightful, and, yes, occasionally smug—not only dismantle the assumption of selfishness, they shed light on a stigma that’s remained stubbornly pervasive well into the 21st century, even as other formerly taboo lifestyles have become thoroughly mainstream. In 2015, thanks in no small part to the success of various works of fiction, it’s more acceptable to talk about wanting to be beaten by a sexual partner than it is to express honestly and openly a deliberate intent to not procreate.

“Shame,” writes the psychotherapist Jeanne Safer in one essay, “—for being selfish, unfeminine, or unable to nurture—is one of the hardest emotions to work through for women who are conflicted about having children.” In 1989, Safer wrote a magazine article about her “conscious decision not to have a child,” but was so aware of the thorny territory she was wading into that she published it under a pseudonym. The article became a book, Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children, and Safer became a figurehead for all the likeminded women who felt, she writes, “that someone was speaking for them at last.”

Twenty-six years later, the women Safer interviewed tell her they’re more than happy with their choices, but still the shadow of shame lingers. “Any person who marries but rejects procreation is seen as unnatural,” writes the author Sigrid Nunez in another essay. “But a woman who confesses never to have felt the desire for a baby is considered a freak. Women have always been raised to believe they would not be complete and could not be thought to have succeeded in life without the experience of motherhood.”

The concept of the innate biological desire to have a baby is a familiar one, repeated throughout books and television shows and emotional anecdotes about how friends and family members were suddenly gripped with a burning desire to get pregnant. But for women who’ve never felt such an urge, and who keep waiting for it to happen without ever experiencing any such stirrings, the notion can be alienating. “I finally said to myself, I don’t really want to have a baby, I want to want to have a baby,” writes Safer. “I longed to feel like everyone else, but I had to face the fact that I did not.” If you're of child-bearing age, it can indeed feel like Facebook feeds are flooded with bump selfies and sonograms and baby pictures. In the 1970s, one in ten women reached menopause without giving birth to a child. But by 2010, it was one in five, according to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, and one in four for women with a bachelor’s degree. A quarter of educated American women are getting through life without ever having children.

The inextricable links between increased education and intelligence, and opting out of procreation, are underscored by Laura Kipnis, a cultural critic who writes one of the more explicitly feminist essays in the book. Referring to the activist Shulamith Firestone, who believed that “childbearing was barbaric and pregnancy should be abolished,” Kipnis ponders the value of equating motherhood with “such supposedly ‘natural’ facts as maternal instinct and mother-child bonds,” which, she writes, “exist as social conventions of womanhood at this moment in history, not as eternal conditions.” The concept of profound maternal affection, she argues, was invented in the 19th century after both birth and child mortality rates started to decline. Before that, women couldn’t afford to get attached to infants that had a 15 to 30 percent chance of not reaching their first birthday. Ditto the concept of mother-child bonding, which coincided with the rise of industrialization, “when wage labor first became an option for women” and it became important to impress upon them the significance of staying home. The reason why fewer women are giving birth in Western countries, Kipnis says, is education.

Though no one exactly says it, women are voting with their ovaries, and the reason is simple. There are too few social supports, especially given the fact that the majority of women are no longer just mothers now, they’re mother-workers. Yet virtually no social policy accounts for this. Interestingly, women with the most education are the ones having the fewest children, though even basic literacy has a negative effect on birthrates in the developing world—the higher the literacy rate, the lower the birthrate. In other words, when women acquire critical skills and start weighing their options, they soon wise up to the fact that they’re not getting enough recompense for their labors.
That critical thinking plays a role in falling birthrates is backed up by a study conducted at Kansas State University, in which researchers found that “people’s desire to have children is most influenced by the positive and negative interactions, and the trade-offs.” These are detailed elegantly in an essay by Lionel Shriver, the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book in which a mother’s life is ruined by her psychopathic son. “I could have afforded children, financially,” Shriver writes. “I just didn’t want them. They are untidy, they would have messed up my apartment. In the main, they are ungrateful. They would have siphoned away too much time from my precious books.”

Shriver acknowledges that this attitude could be interpreted as selfish. But, it seems, her feelings are indicative of “a larger transformation in Western culture no less profound than our collective consensus on what life is for.” In other words, she's saying, an existential shift in the way educated humans approach living—a switch from living for the (possibly celestial) future to enjoying the present—has led humans to think much more carefully about having children, since the drawbacks tend to outweigh the benefits. “As we age,” she writes, “we are apt to look back on our pasts and question, not, did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.”

That attitude might indeed be selfish, but is it any more selfish than bringing ever more humans into an overpopulated world? Is it more selfish than having a baby simply because you want to, which is often the case? Has anyone in recent memory declared that they were procreating out of a selfless desire to perpetuate the human race, when the human race has never, ever, been less in need of perpetuation? The sense that having children is the most worthy of human activities is questioned by the writer Tim Kreider, who argues that it’s “a pretty low-rent ultimate purpose that’s shared with viruses and bacteria.” Ditto Geoff Dyer, who writes in his very funny essay that “not having children is seen as supremely selfish, as though the people having children were selflessly sacrificing themselves in a valiant attempt to ensure the survival of our endangered species, and fill up this vast and underpopulated planet.”

Has anyone in recent memory declared that they were procreating out of selfless altruism?
Not having children isn’t selfish. Not having children is a perfectly rational and reasonable response given that humans are essentially parasites on the face of a perfectly lovely and well-balanced planet, ploughing through its natural resources, eradicating its endangered species, and ruining its most wonderful landscapes. This might sound misanthropic, and it is, but it is also true.

Maybe the world would be a better place if fewer women weren’t compelled to have children while their resources are stretched unreasonably thin. Maybe fewer sweet, chubby-cheeked toddlers would grow up to be surly, resentful adults because they always had the lingering sense their presence wasn’t wanted. Many of the writers in Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed discuss their own traumatic childhoods, and how they were made to feel responsible for their parents’ failed careers, or failed relationships, or unhappy lives. But there should be no shame attached to the decision not to participate any further in the great human experiment, whether or not it comes from the fact that that experiment has failed a person in the past. “To me, the lack of desire to have a child is innate,” the Fusion culture editor Danielle Henderson writes. “It exists outside of my control. It is simply who I am, and I can take neither credit nor blame for all that it may or may not signify.”

As a compilation of writing, Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed is generally very strong, bringing together a diverse range of voices and styles to riff entertainingly on a subject that has seemed, up until now, unriffable. But as a collection of manifestos, it’s hugely significant. It won’t influence anyone hell-bent on children away from having them, nor will it dissuade people who feel eternally conflicted about the subject. But what it does, more crucially, is refuse to accept the perpetuation of the myths that have surrounded childbirth for the last 200 years—that women have a biological need to procreate, and that having children is the single most significant thing a person can do with his or her life, and that not having children leaves people sad and empty. Try telling that to Oprah Winfrey, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Jane Austen, or Queen Elizabeth I. Or George Washington, or Nikola Tesla. The argument that lingers after having read the book is that the sooner having children is approached from a rational standpoint rather than an emotional one, the better for humanity, even if the result is that there are slightly fewer people left to enjoy it.


New York Times Accidentally Tells the Truth About the Palestinians

To read the New York Times, one would think that the situation in the Judea-Samaria (West Bank) region in 2015 is the same as it was in 1985 or 1975. Israel is “occupying the West Bank,” Palestinians are denied the right to vote, and Palestinian violence is inevitable because Israeli control makes them feel hopeless. That was more or less the theme of the Times‘ March 31 feature story on the situation in the territories today.

But every once in a while, a Times reporter accidentally lets the cat out of the bag, and a discerning reader discovers that the truth is almost the exact opposite of what the Times is trying to convey.

Correspondent Diaa Hadid began her lengthy March 31 article on what was (for her) a hopeful note, pointing out that “the United States and Europe seem ever more ready to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.”

Then, in the 12th paragraph, Hadid mentioned a fact that must have been confusing to Times readers. The Palestinian Authority held “a presidential election in 2005,” she noted in passing.

Wait a minute. We thought that the Palestinians have all been disenfranchised by the Israeli “occupation.” We were told –by the Times and most of the international news media– that Israel is preventing the Palestinians from exercising their democratic right to vote. Now it turns out that the Palestinian Authority did have an election in 2005 –and the only reason they haven’t held another once since then is because, as Hadid wrote, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas “has systematically snuffed out any challenges to his rule.”

In other words, it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, that is preventing Palestinian democracy. Interesting!

Then, another fascinating fact, this one in the 13th paragraph. A Palestinian critic of Abbas told the reporter, Ms. Hadid, that he “would only give the nickname Abu Mohammed, because he feared harassment by security forces.” She was referring, of course, to the Palestinian security forces. Remarkable! So it’s not the Israelis who are suppressing Palestinian dissidents and protesters–it’s the Palestinian Authority’s own security forces.

And if a reader managed to make it all the way down to paragraph 23, he would find Ms. Hadid mentioning that “Mr. Abbas was once praised for establishing security, cracking down on gunmen who terrorize Palestinian communities…” So it is Palestinian, not Israeli, “gunmen” who have been “terrorizing” the Palestinians. Who knew?

But the real kicker was in the 14th paragraph. “The Palestinian Authority,” Ms. Hadid reported –again, in passing– “governs Palestinian communities in the West Bank.”

How can that be? She had referred at the beginning of the article to “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.” Now she is reporting the exact opposite–namely, that it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, which governs “Palestinian communities” there.

And she was right. Because although the Times and other supporters of the Palestinian cause are loathe to acknowledge it, Israel (under Yitzhak Rabin) in 1995 withdrew from the areas in Judea-Samaria where more than 95 percent of the Palestinians reside. The “occupation” ended twenty years ago. You can’t blame Israel for the way the PA mismanages the areas that it occupies.

By the 31st paragraph, however, Ms. Hadid managed to come full circle and find a way to blame Israel. Even though it is the Palestinian Authority that governs the Palestinians; even though the Palestinians do indeed vote, when the PA consents to hold elections; and even though it is the PA’s security forces that “terrorize” the Palestinians–nevertheless, it’s all Israel’s fault: “While many Palestinians acknowledge their system is broken” –a generous way of describing the situation– “they worry that it is being used as an excuse by Israel and other countries to allow their statehood hopes to wither.”

The truth is that the Palestinian Authority’s self-rule regime is already a state in every major respect but two: it does not have full control of its borders, and it does not have a full-fledged army. Not surprisingly, Israel is not anxious to have terrorists pouring across a PA-controlled border, or PA tanks and jet bombers a few miles from Tel Aviv.

So if Diaa Hadid and the New York Times want to make the case for supplying tanks to the PA, let them be open about it and say so–but please, stop pretending that the problem is some mythical Israeli “occupation.” It’s not 1985 any more.


Congress Looks to nobble DC's Intolerance

The U.S. Constitution is a six-block walk from the D.C. City Council — but it’s light years away from the District’s policy making. For years, members of the D.C. government have pretended that the First Amendment in their neighborhood doesn’t apply to their lawmaking, especially when it comes to social issues.

The latest example is the city’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which it raced through in January against the warnings of its own legal team. Under the bill, it would be a crime for groups to not only refuse to pay for abortion coverage — but to refuse to hire a pro-abortion activist. Of course, everyone is familiar with the first part of the measure, thanks to the ObamaCare mandate. But ordering groups like FRC to set aside its beliefs and hire members of the opposition? That’s as unconstitutional as it gets!

Imagine if Congress passed a law demanding that Muslim organizations hire Jews? Or that an atheist group put Christians on the payroll? It’s the same concept here — but the D.C. Council has somehow bypassed the controversy in the name of “tolerance.” Or so it thought. Thanks to the Republican House, Congress is planning to remind D.C. that it has legislative power over the Council. As part of its oversight powers, the House and Senate have 30 legislative days to review the District’s laws and strike them down, if necessary. Both Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) have resolutions designed to do exactly that. For Congress, it would be a rare muscle-flexing over the District. According to records, it’s been 23 years since a disapproval measure has actually been taken up by both chambers.

Right now, conservatives' biggest enemy is time. With the review period set to end on May 2, the clock is ticking on a potential counter-punch. Then, of course, there’s the matter of the White House’s approval. Even if the House and Senate overrule D.C., it still needs the President’s signature. Not to worry, says the Republican Study Committee. There are plenty of ways to make RHNDA toothless without the White House’s help. “Should the President fail to sign a resolution of disapproval … the committee should ensure that any Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations measure contains language that would prohibit funds to implement or carry out any rule or regulation associated with the [bills].”

One strategy would be to load up the resolutions with policy riders that handcuff how the District’s “reproductive health” monies can be spent. Republicans in the House will consider all of their options when they mark up the resolution tonight.

In her press conference [Monday], D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said that the debate “needlessly pits reproductive freedom against freedom from discrimination.” We agree. Religious groups should be free from the same “discrimination” this bill unleashes on men and women of faith. Her measure is a slap in the face of the First Amendment, religious freedom, and employers' rights.

Disagreement isn’t discrimination, as David Wuerl and John Garvey point out. H.J. Res. 43 agrees with D.C.’s own Attorney General — and hundreds of years of constitutional law — that forcing people to surrender their deeply-held beliefs is “legally insufficient.” We applaud the conservatives in the House and Senate for going to bat for Americans' freedom to live and work according to their faith.


Childish attempt at censorship by leader of Canada's liberals

Warren Kinsella

Forget about Justin Trudeau and Ezra Levant. Difficult, we know, but try.  Reflect, instead, on David Akin.

David Akin is a journalist, a real one. Unlike Ezra (or Yours Truly), David is not a purveyor of infotainment. He is a real reporter, one who chases facts, and I would not be surprised if he has actual ink running through his veins.

David has worked as a journalist at the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, Canwest and CTV News. At CTV, he won a Gemini Award for his work. At the Globe, he was a National Newspaper Award finalist.

David presently works at the Sun News Network, where he covers elections on his Battleground show. I can tell you, without qualification, that he is one of the most respected journalists on Parliament Hill.

And Justin Trudeau won’t talk to him.  Not because Ezra Levant called Trudeau’s parents names on his TV show last week. After Ezra did that, Trudeau announced that he would not be talking to anyone associated with the Sun News Network.

No, Justin Trudeau hadn’t been talking to David Akin for long, long before that. Simply because he was associated with Sun.

I know this because, last Christmas, Sun execs asked me to interview Trudeau on-air. I’d been a Special Assistant to Jean Chretien, I’d run as a Liberal, and I wasn’t Ezra Levant. So I called up Trudeau’s most senior advisor, who I’ve known for years.

The senior advisor laughed. Not a chance, he said. Why, I asked. “Because,” he said, “Ezra Levant put my name on a list of the most dangerous people in Canada.”

I tried to point out that being called “dangerous” by Ezra Levant is the highest compliment a Liberal could receive. I argued that I’d run all the questions by them in advance. To no avail.

No interview, I was told. No access to a (possible) future Prime Minister by the (actual) largest newspaper chain in Canada.

I told David Akin about all this. He shrugged. “Don’t feel bad,” he said. “Trudeau won’t ever talk to me, either.”

Real journalists are never afraid to correct the record. So, let’s do so: Justin Trudeau refusing to talk to anyone associated with Sun News – a diktat that will soon be embraced by every Liberal seeking to curry favour with him, just watch – isn’t news. He’s been refusing to do so for a long time.

Which brings us to this week, when Justin Trudeau formalized his Sun ban.

“We have raised this issue with the appropriate people at Quebecor Inc., the owners and operators of Sun News Network, and have asked that they consider an appropriate response. Until the company resolves the matter, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, will continue to not engage with Sun Media,’’ said a Liberal Party spokesperson.

Lots of journalists thereafter jumped into the fray. Their commentary can be summarized thusly: one, Ezra Levant is a “clown” (as one Globe writer put it). Two, even if Ezra is a clown, Justin Trudeau is wrong to stop talking to real journalists like David Akin.

Me? Well, I do infotainment, like Ezra does. But I think that Trudeau had no reason, none, to ignore Sun folks before now. It made him look petulant and thin-skinned.

Now, however, he has all the excuse he needs to ignore us. (Oh, and if someone called my Mom that name? I’d beat them until they had to eat dinner through a straw.)

This one looks bad on everyone: Trudeau, for never speaking to a great reporter like David Akin; and Levant, for making it harder for a guy like David Akin to do his job.

Because – and this isn’t infotainment, folks, it’s fact – if reporters like David Akin can’t do their job, democracy itself suffers



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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