Friday, March 9, 2012

Letter to Helena Hahn Basquette - part 2

Letter to Helena Hahn Basquette, continued:

I can hear you saying, “Isn’t it true that the world is overpopulated?”  The truth is that there is not an overpopulation crisis. Quite the opposite. The population of Russia has dropped from 148 million in 1990 to 143 million today. It will drop to 111 million by 2050. The Russian government is now paying people to have children. The population of China is about to face the same crisis. The Chinese are simply not having enough children to keep up with their death rate. 

People in China and India have a cultural prejudice in favor of male children. It is common in both India and China to have an abortion if the child in its mother’s womb is a girl. That means China and India are on their way to becoming countries populated by old men. The situation is much the same in Western Europe. Some estimates predict that at the current rate, there will be no Italians in 400 years. The situation is much the same in all of Western Europe. Amazingly, Africa is facing an under population crisis in parts of central Africa, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is the young and those of productive working age, especially women, who are missing.  China will soon face the end of its abundant work force and its economic growth. So would the United States, were it not for the immigration of young workers, especially from Latin America.

How do you define overpopulated? People have never lived longer nor eaten better than the age in which we now live. Admittedly there is starvation and a struggle for resources, but starvation seems usually  the result of political inequity and war, not of inadequate resources. 

“But overpopulation causes pollution!”  People don’t cause pollution, any more than cows or termites or any other form of organic life. Machines cause pollution. It is fascinating to note that the greatest environmental pollution is produced by countries that have controlled their population. Russia, Western Europe, and the United States are all committed to population control, or have been in the past. They also have large “carbon footprints.” Now that China has succeeded in limiting its population growth, it is taking its place among the great polluters. 

Depopulated societies are mechanized societies. They need machines to do the work that people once did.  In the USA we seem to think that it is reasonable to have one child and three cars, a summer home, a mini mansion with five televisions, six phones, a garbage can full of leftovers, styrofoam carry out containers filling the refrigerator etc. etc.  We spend our money on things because we don’t have to provide for children.

Children are not a form of pollution. They are, please forgive my reference here, biodegradable. They, like you and I, are dust and to dust they will return. This is not true of the styrofoam container that mom got at the carry out as she drove her Hummer from her job downtown to the prestigious day care academy on the North Shore to pick up her 2.3 children. The styrofoam container will still be in a landfill centuries from now. 

My mother would never have gotten carry out to feed her seven children. She couldn’t have afforded it. Leftovers became soup the next day and hash the day after that. We ate what we bought. Now our garbage cans are filled with the food we disdain to reheat and the poor rummage through our dumpsters, grateful for the feast we have discarded.  We pretend that we are concerned about the environment and pride ourselves on having limited the size of our family as an effective means of reducing pollution. We are idiots.

"How about the rights of women? Hasn’t the ability to control the size of her family empowered woman to compete in the work place and the wider world? Do you really think that birth control and abortion have improved the situation of women in the world?"

Again, forgive my unfortunate turn of phrase. The pill has created recreational sex, and who has been made the toy of this new game? Women are objectified more cynically and brutally than ever before. Internet pornography, the soft porn that passes for prime time comedy, and the constant search for the more desirable sexual trophy have made women only as valuable as their makeup. It is not the depth of their souls nor the quality of their mind that TV producers and advertising agents value. It is their ability to arouse that really matters. 

Women used to define themselves by their relationships. Now they are working drones just like men who define themselves by their dreary jobs, not by their relationships. When asked the question, “What are you?” We answer that we are lawyers or shop clerks or firemen or firewomen, bricklayers, soda jerks, whatever. We are not mom and dad, or spouses and lovers. We are our jobs, not our loves. This is the victory of feminism? 

My mother was an exceptionally beautiful woman. After giving birth to seven children she struggled to control her weight. My father was never in favor of my mother’s diets. He worried that they would ruin her beauty. She was beautiful in his eyes not despite the fact that she had born seven children, but because of it. 

Her motherhood  enhanced her beauty. She never changed her hair color and wore almost no makeup or jewelry, but my father knew that she was beautiful and so did her children. She was valued for her relationships and not for her ornamental value. She was thought of as beautiful by her husband, her children and all those who knew her well. She had a dignity that no amount of paint can confer.  She was a woman, not an aging adolescent trying to hide her years with layers of make up, dyed hair and expensive baubles. 

Her virtues were the jewels she wore. She needed no other ornaments. So many of the jewels that decorate the beauties of our age of plastic and tinsel are mined by children forced to work in the mines, digging stones like tanzanite and diamonds out of the African soil.  The gem trade and its child slavery helps fuel the wars in Africa, Asia and South America. 

We don’t waste our money on having children so we have the wealth to sit in front of the television and order jewelry that has been dug out of the rocky ground by children.  We pretend that smaller families are somehow morally superior to large families, when the truth is that we prefer things to children. We are worse than idiots. We are monsters.

(most certainly to be continued.....)

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