The Advice of the Childfree

As an aside Vidhi censured me last night for my “polemical” post since it seemed as though she was condoning my views on Arjun Rampal.

I explained to her my perspective that rich and powerful men must always be held to account as they are the movers and shakers of all societies. That includes Mr. Rampal, Mr. Akhtar and Mr. Ali Khan.

It is interesting that Farhan and Saif are the “spoiled” scions of an Indian elite whereas the much more humbler Shah Rukh Khan has kept his marriage and family together (whatever the rumours may be about them).

Farhan Akhtar is simply replicating the pattern of his philandering father and is now infecting his close friend Arjun. What irks me about these boys is that they all have daughters (5 daughters between them and only Saif has a son from his first marriage) and essentially the message they are transmitting to their daughters is that they can be replaced for a younger model when the time comes.

It’s interesting that Zoya Akhtar has never gotten married; the sins of the father visiting upon the innocent daughter. I also think that Alia Bhatt’s older half sister (Pooja Bhatt) never had children either, so it really is the daughters who get the pain of their selfish fathers.

I do not condone selfish behaviour by fathers. I’m not a father and I’m very happily child-free because neither Vidhi or I are at the stage of our life where we want to be parents. As an old school libertarian I don’t believe in laws necessarily regulating human behaviour but custom and culture.

Having children is a long and painful process since they are meant to be the culmination of any relationship. While I believe government has no role in marriage I simply cannot understand how a couple, who cannot bother to have a wedding, can go on to have a child.

I’ve noticed that the most successful children are those that have received intelligent and formidable parenting. Just because a man can happen to have children does not mean he should have them.

While I don’t think abortion should be the answer, it would be incumbent on all to realise that having a child should be a very hard-thought process. A sign of an affluent society is the shift from the quantitative to the qualitative and to my mind the collapsing birth rates are usually a sign of civilisation. Of course the line between self-actualisation and self-indulgence is a sober one so collapsing birthrates in Russia and Eastern Europe is a very different phenomenon to that in Western Europe or the US.

I am simply taking exceptions to the neo-Mughals of Bollywood who strut about thinking they are demi-gods. A good example is when I heard Nasserudin Shah state that he had taught his children (with Ratna Pathak) the Quran to improve their “Tahafuz.”

I’m taking that to mean that their fluency in Urdu but if one wanted to get really good in Urdu it would be better to learn Hindustani and Dari since Urdu is not simply a creolic language where one can add Perso-Arabic words at whim. Also those words that have been added have in themselves been transformed so reading the Quran to learn Urdu is disingenuous and simply  cloaking the real reasons for teaching it to his children.

Linguistics Podcast

Finally we’re doing a linguistics podcast tomorrow; Razib, əbʰɪ əʋət̪əns̪ अभिअवतंस & Indian Linguist. Any questions please pop into the comment.

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16 Replies to “The Advice of the Childfree”

    1. // Having children is a long and painful process //

      Lol, it is not. It is a very rewarding and emotionally fulfilling process!

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  1. Shah rukh (and his wife) is middle class , which puts a lot of onus on “family”, traditions etc. While Pataudi, Farhan etc are upper class, mostly cosmopolitan and are more at ease with non committal relationship and all.

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    1. “successful children need intelligent and formidable parenting”

      Oh you poor man! No amount of “intelligent” ( I do not even know what formidable parenting means) parenting will make your child successful, except giving a large trust fund.

      On the other hand, even if you completely ignore your kids ( I meant specifically yours) they will turn out fine.

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      1. The only people who can believe that children would turn out “fine” even if ignored would be the careless parents only.
        With mounting studies that show the effect of no fathers in families, this comment is not in line with modern thought.

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  2. Exactly! Magi, i think Razib’s comment means – get real and go back to business!

    Btw. one of great Putin’s successes in Russia is that he reversed the trend in population policies.

    A question for podcast (which everyone avoided so far) – which language was spoken in Europe in 2000BC? Optionally – to explain the term ‘Indo-European’ in the language context.

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  3. I have heard this argument made, though in the context of the American society, that it is rather easy for marriage to work among the cognitive elite – whether it be due to a the apparent empirical correlation between intelligence and monogamous nature, stronger “delaying gratification” muscle that the smart tend to possess, lesser fraying of emotional fabric from crippling economic stress, or because it really needs a well-equipped brain to navigate the increasing complexity of modern family life (calling for ever-increasing investment in children, for instance – when is this seemingly unsustaiable trend going to end?).

    Some of those who make this argument accuse the elites of having been very self-centered in calling for the kind of “liberal” attitude to marriage: because elites’ marriage is strong enough to not need an external regulation to survive, unlike the poor peoples’/that of the cognitive non-elite. In other words, the “liberal” attitude gives better breathing space to the elites, at the cost of crippling the lives of many non-elite children.

    Further, this has been presented as an argument against inequality per se (and not just absolute poverty) – namely, that inequality drowns out the non-elite perspective on topics like this. Just thought of it as it seems tangentially related to Zach’s point.

    PS: Bollywood actors are not cognitive elite, so their “loose morals” don’t have much bearing on the point.

    PPS: Following some other commenters, I should also apologize for the long comment.

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    1. Yes, it took me nearly 4-5 years to realise as a highly neurotic, lazy and low-IQ guy that social liberalism mainly deals with the bare minimums of ethics in many cases and as you say, the cognitive elites indeed have a very strong fibre (of all kinds) and they are being fundamentally hypocritical if they think everyone is like them. (I as a low-IQ person but with moderate social status inherited due to the continued efforts of very hardworking poor people over generations, am personally still very unresolved at this point regarding the nature of humanism; on the one hand, my life and experience is irreversibly altered and shaped by the reception of the (perceived) warmth of humanism and the associated concept of dignity that I as a person with chronically low amounts of self-worth and extraordinarily high amounts of self-hate attach to my life, but on the other hand, I would have turned out to be much better if my grandmother has kept beating me into adulthood or if someone performed some kind of killing of me for me – either loving/hateful – and wiped me off the face of this planet (which probably would have been the case in the old ancient world) as this would have ended my misery once for all. But alas, a true Vaishnava never kills, however badly you pray for one to end up as your liberator. And Atmahatya ends up destroying not just myself but also lots of other people.)

      Anyway froginthewell ji, I only have doubts regarding one aspect of your idea. Is it the case that it is the cognitive elites that push humanistic liberalism (consciously or unconsciously being selfish and hypocritical) or is it actually any other types of elites or even non-elites (in some rare cases perhaps) in history? I don’t know about this at all so I am genuinely curious.

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  4. First and foremost, I dont have children, dabbled with idea around forty or so. Things didnt fall into place and was not all that committed to having children. Responsibility?.

    I think the first question we should ask our selfes*, why do we need to have children
    a) pass on our genes (for me that was one of the reasons). That begs the next question is it because we think our genes are smarter/dominant than others (on reflection did not think so).
    b) Emotional needs. Need to have children to complete the path of life. A sense of achievement.

    *For those who want to rationalize their descisions.

    If the answer is a) pass on genes for whatever reason what strategy should be used. r or K slection strategies.

    Elites (in modern times): K selected
    Poor: r selected

    r-selection strategy, with many offspring, short gestation, less parental care, and a short time until sexual maturity.

    In the past, elites such as Genghis Khan pursued a r selection. i.e Many children.

    Other than short gestation, the poor fill all of the above. Sexual Maturity though the same for poor and elites, the poor start having children at an early age. Elite children keep on defering child bearing till quite late in life.

    Does it really matter if r or K. Maybe your genes get passed down. In thousand years Will anyone remember you as the founder (or member) of that gene path.

    Maybe the Japanese Emperor system might work to carry the name. But will it workover 2,000 years or more. Very unlikely. There are probably descendants of Pharohs, but they dont even know they are Pharohs descendants.

    In the long run the Barbarians win, the elite become effete. In a sense the poor will inherit the earth.

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  5. The best act a man and woman can do towards civillization and planet Earth now is go Childfree. Human population needs to go down to 2-3 billion level quickly. There will be always a section of people who will cherish family and children. The best way to ensure that poor, ultra-conservative people do not overrun the earth with their brood is to convert their values and material conditions as quickly as possible. Thankfully that has been happening all over Latin America and Asia. Africa and Middle East will also probably change quickly.

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  6. Santhoshgaru, Now you’ve put me on a spot, of having to spell out that my comment was a vague “highly type 1” surmise. That said, yes it is more complex than I said: these days “liberal humanism”, however deserving or otherwise the label, gets pushed by a lot of non-cognitive elites and even non-elites whose strategic interests overlap with elites, including Bollywood stars and buzzfeed authors. But my feeling is that, not only do the cognitive elite sympathize with this gang, but also that the fundamental memes were historically set in place by the cognitive elite (Voltaire, Marx,…), who then stepped aside and let the others work under their auspices, providing intellectual/memetic support (e.g., to move overton windows around) and certificates of authority.

    BTW what you have written about yourself is the sort of thing I effortfully prevented myself from writing as self-description, for fear of irritating some of the well-endowed titans around. Your comment depresses me due to how well it resonates with my own experience. Hope you find peace.

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  7. From the hindu/sanatana dharma dharmic point of view, the answer is very poignant in the drawing of Chinnamasta. Progeny in itself is a desire of the Brahman. You can see Kali standing on a copulating couple giving equal rights to everyone, both left and right paths. It cannot get more crystal clear. The Brahman’s desire is the creation of the universe itself. If the Brahman desired, who are we in his wake? We living beings are all but a small part. But that’s from the dharmic hindu point of view. Other religions do not have that sort of view. That sort of drives my view.

    Plus, have we even factored in hormones, sexual ability, marriage troubles etc. All these issues takes the focus away from having children.

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    1. Tantra does not advocate having children just because the brahman induces you to do so.
      The yama and niyama to be followed by the Tantrik adepts include brahmacharya, which means no sex or rather no kids. Traditional practices of Tantra including the Vamacharas, ask the practitioner to have complete restraint on his senses and prohibit one from following through his sensual desires.
      So, even if the brahman is wanting you to procreate, Hindu Dharma asks you to be wary and make informed choices.
      Also, Hindu dharma also speaks about fate and free will. Having a kid falls into the category of free will.
      (I have learnt the Vedas traditionally and also into Tantra, so you can be assured that Im not bluffing)

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