December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Monday, 11 February 2008

Some things I miss from high school

The good old days when we would sit and talk about nonsense all day without being malicious to anyone.

The way we ribbed each other and never got offended.

Being able to sit down and discuss anything with total disregard to pecking order.

Pecking order? What's that?

Not caring whether we sounded nerdy or not.

Discussing world events as if we knew everything going on behind the scenes, even though we knew jack shit.

Going to classes because we wanted to see our friends, not because we cared about lessons.

Being able to daydream in class and still come up with the right answer.

Mom’s cooking – because that’s when we knew the day was over.

Sleeping in the bus rather than trying to remember the nerves in the brachial plexus.

Not caring about a test because it didn’t matter if we failed or passed.

Making up imaginary enemies – because we didn’t have any real ones.

Having time to write about things that mattered to us, rather than do endless library searches.

The way we all understood what one of us was talking about.

Not having to worry about sleeping late because we could always sleep in class.

Not having to worry about anything outside the classroom.

Being able to lean back in bed and read a book of our own choosing, not a textbook recommended by module leaders.

The way everything outside school and our houses never mattered.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Abortion

That day after a very long Friday night at the club, I got into the safety bus with a bunch of other people I didn’t know. They were fairly drunk. One of them, a young lady with an American accent, made the statement “I support abortion because we don’t have enough resources to feed everyone and the world is overpopulated”. I held my tongue about how wrong that statement was. I might have argued the point, but I didn’t think that it would have gotten through given that she was already up there with the fairies, and spouting absolute nonsense. I don’t know whether she would have said the same thing if she were sober, but here I go anyway.

Let me make it clear from the start, I support abortion as well. That’s not the issue I’m angry about. I’m just not happy with the rest of her statement.

The main things I’m not happy about:

First, abortion is not about resources, it’s about choice.

Realistically, how much of the world’s resources would abortion save? How many people undergo abortions? Take fourteen million in 2006, as reported by the Johnston Archive. Let’s say that half of them are for medical reasons, in other words they would have been necessary for the safety of the mother, or they wouldn’t have survived to term anyway. That leaves seven million. How much of the world’s population is that? Just over 0.1% – a tiny figure among the 6 billion we already have. Sure, if every one of those 7 million lives to the age of 100, then that might have some impact. But what are the odds of that? Abortion doesn’t save nearly enough resources to make an impact on overpopulation. It does, however, give one the right to control their body.

Second, we produce enough grain to feed the world 1.5 times over – the fact is that we do have the resources.

Yes, the fact is that we can and do produce enough food for everyone on the planet, and then some. Our production capacity isn't nearly at its peak either, thanks to European grain subsidies that make it economically unfeasible to scale up grain production in Africa and other countries. The reason why people are dying of hunger in the streets is because of the imbalance of resources. Why, then, do we not feed these people? Why do we leave them to die on the streets while we let our crop surpluses rot? That is another story, best saved for another day – but the reasons boil down to greed, ignorance and self-interest.

Third, if we all consumed the same amount as the average American, we’d need four planet earths to feed our resource hunger.

I don’t know if the young lady was American, Canadian, or just got her accent by watching a lot of TV. And I’m not singling out America because she had an accent. The fact is, the average US citizen consumes far more than the average person. And using the same line of reasoning as hers, if you really want to save resources, then you shouldn’t just kill any baby, but instead take the effort to kill American babies – because killing one of them is saving the resources for four others. See how flawed the argument is? Who do you choose to go, the ones who are actually going to consume more, or the ones more easily fooled?

Fourth, the statement neglects the issue that poor people don’t even have access to basic medical care.

If her idea was that we would do the poor a favour by reducing their burdens towards their families, then she’s barking up the wrong tree. It might do an individual family more good, but only if the family has access to a hospital, and by extension, more basic resources like electricity, plumbing and roads. The vast majority of the world’s population doesn’t have that. Millions live on less than a US dollar a day. Do they really have access to proper medical care and hospitals, or are they more likely to simply dump the newborn baby in a trash can because they can’t pay for an abortion?

Fifth, abortion to save resources is akin to purging the world of ‘undesirables’.

Yes, quite so. “We have too many people now, and they’re consuming our resources. What do we do?” “I know! We’ll kill their babies!” The irony is that the people making these decisions are probably consuming the resources that would keep 50 others alive. Touting abortion as a way to reducing the burden on the planet simply makes it more socially acceptable, but the bottom line is that if ever abortion is used to limit human numbers, it is but one step away from culling animals in national parks. Given our grain surpluses, I doubt highly that we’ve reached that level of desparation.

Sixth, and probably most importantly, there is no ‘magic pill’ to cure overconsumption of our resources.

Even if killing poor people’s babies to control their numbers is morally acceptable – and it’s not – there would still be overconsumption. It exists because people are greedy and don’t know when to stop. Take the world as it is today, and imagine that you crossed out one in every ten people on the street – would we still have problems with overconsumption of the world’s resources? Yes. Every one of us consumes more than we need, then we blame our neighbours for the lack of resources and the pollution. This has to stop, and the first step towards that is acknowledging that probably every one reading this blog post is overconsuming. Equally disturbing, her comment raises the issue of what she has been taught by the media, her education and her parents. If I had to hazard a guess as to what background she came from, I'd safely say it wasn't from a lower middle class family. People in that position simply don't say things like that.

And, at the end of my rant:

People who believe abortion is going to do anything to control the world’s population are probably wrong, unless it is mandatory, like China's one child policy. And let’s be honest, most people wouldn't want to be told how many children they should have. At best, abortion would give a family control over the number of children they have, and the number of mouths they need to feed. But looking at the world on a macro scale, this dwindles into nothingness. The facts are that abortion has nearly nothing to do with controlling population sizes, and that overconsumption is not going to be cured by legalising abortions, but by making drastic changes in our lifestyles, our economies, and our very concepts of 'need' and 'want'.