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Photo: Getty Images
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SocietyFebruary 15, 2019

Wish you weren’t here: Anti-natalism is just immensely sad

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The anti-natalism isn’t funny, says Emily Writes. It’s just very sad.

Content warning: suicidal thoughts

Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel, 27, should really be a joke right? He’s suing his parents, who are both lawyers, for conceiving him and bringing him into the world. They’re taking it in good humour and there are plenty of easy laughs in the idea that someone could consent before they exist to… existing. But really, there’s not much fun to be had in the idea that someone feels so desperately pained by the world that they’d rather not have been born into it.

At the heart of Samuel’s philosophy of anti-natalism is the argument that life is so full of misery that people should stop procreating immediately.

“There’s no point to humanity,” he says. “So many people are suffering. If humanity is extinct, Earth and animals would be happier. They’ll certainly be better off. Also no human will then suffer. Human existence is totally pointless.”

Some are calling it performance art. Some are calling it eco-activism. It reminded me of something I have been trying to turn away from, while ultimately having to face, for a year now.

A year ago I was discharged from hospital into the care of my loving family. For three weeks, few people knew my life had been saved after I’d made a desperate and wrong decision to hurt myself. My husband obviously knew, as he barely left my side. My mother-in-law knew as she cared for our babies while I was in hospital so my husband could stay with me. My sister and her husband knew, as she flew from Australia, leaving her family for a week to care for me. My editor and publisher knew. My best friends, a small group of about five, knew as they helped get us food and helped with the children.

We told some people I’d broken my leg. It seemed easier to explain than a broken spirit.

For a long time, they were the only people who knew because I felt immense shame at what I’d done to my family, to myself.

What I did, it didn’t feel like a choice. It certainly didn’t feel like a conscious act. Human cruelty got me there but human kindness saved me.

A year on I’m stronger and I see life differently.

But I know what it feels like to give up. To believe everyone would be happier without you. To believe every horrible thing being said about you will only stop if you’re not there, to believe there’s only misery – that existence, particularly yours, is pointless.

None of it is funny.

But, being able to laugh again is what eventually started my road to recovery. That’s the thing – the joy sneaks in. You can pull the curtains closed tight, put your head under your pillow, cover yourself up, but the light comes in. Just a tiny bit at first to herald a new day. Just something to let you know, the world keeps going – and you need to keep going to.

The light in the dark is your husband’s red-rimmed eyes furiously telling you how he much he loves you, your sister dropping everything to be with you, your loved ones holding you so gently it’s like you’re made of glass. The sun coming in, is that they’re not afraid of your fragility. Not disgusted by your shame or your vulnerability.

You’re slowly built up again by tears, words, touch, love – all of the things that make us human. It’s as if every step you take, even if you’re carried by those who hold you dear, is a step toward understanding that this sea of humanity is where you belong.

This flawed, sometimes awful, mess of human existence is ours – it’s yours. And without you, you see the space it leaves – if you go, you spread the dark and then the misery has to be carried by those who fought so hard to help you through.

Not every day is easy. It couldn’t possibly be. There is suffering. But it’s not yours to carry alone. If you’re not here, you can’t help others through their suffering. You just add more darkness to what can already be a pretty dark place.

Some sense of service helps me – serving my family, serving my community, serving others, serving myself.

I’ve found if you let others help you find the light when it feels like there’s only darkness – you’ll see you can be born new in so many ways. You can be born each day in the face of your children smiling and laughing. Watch as the light creeps in. Your dog bounding in the grass, another light. Resting your head on the shoulder of a loved one, a light. Coffee with your colleagues, the sun on your face, a child’s birthday party, a swim in the ocean – it’s light. Good works. Light. Good deeds. Light.

And after a while the day starts and you no longer feel a burden. Only light.

And you’re grateful you were born.


Where to get help

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland.

Samaritans – 0800 726 666.

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). Open 24/7

Depression Helpline  – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202. This service is staffed 24/7 by trained counsellors

Samaritans  – 0800 726 666

Healthline – 0800 611 116

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