Fear, Loathing & Epiphany From Isaac's Diaper-Changing Table

by: David Sirota

Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 09:00

As many of you know, I've been on paternity leave for the last two weeks (and I appreciate all the kind words from everyone about my son, Isaac). Watching my wife, Emily, get through 30 hours of labor without pain meds, and then watching Isaac go through his first two weeks of life has been the single greatest experience of my entire life. I am truly in awe, though I have not yet reached the state of clarity I hoped to achieve when I first decided I wanted to have children.

See, my major hesitation in having children was a philosophical one. I wondered: Is it a moral decision to bring a child into such a fucked up world of pain, stress, rage and selfishness? Or is it an immoral decision to subject yet another human being to that world?

Obviously, I decided that it is - or at least can be - a moral decision to bring a child into this profoundly troubled world. I came to this realization through the old "if you're not part of the problem, you're part of the solution" cliche, believing in a slightly-less nasty version of Mike Judge's thesis in Idiocracy. Basically, if you think the underlying crisis in the world is that the braindead/mean/nasty/selfish/me-first-screw-everyone-else assholes are outbreeding the cognizant/altruistic/decent/we're-all-in-this-together crowd, then the more those of us in the latter try to multiply the latter for the next generation, the more hope we can have that the world will eventually be a better place.

Of course, I have no idea whether or not Isaac will end up being part of the solution. Because I believe in giving him the space to be whomever he decides he wants to be, he very well may end up a reaction to me and Emily - the Sirota's very own Alex P. Keaton, David Brooks, or (godforbid) worse. But I wouldn't bet on that. I really do think that - on average - the more the we're-all-in-this-together crowd makes sure there are offspring carrying that torch for the next generation (within population-growth limits), the better a place this world will be.

This, however, is my extremely-optimistic side talking. Things really aren't as clear as I'd hoped them to be - and the last two weeks are a microcosm of why.

David Sirota :: Fear, Loathing & Epiphany From Isaac's Diaper-Changing Table
In just the time that I've been on paternity leave tending to diapers and late-night crying and infant butt rash and breast-milk spit-up and projectile diarrhea, I've seen the Obama administration's deficit commission propose to slash Isaac's Social Security benefits and cement inequality into his future society via top-bracket income and corporate tax rate cuts. I've seen the president offer to help Republicans add to Isaac's debt (read: tax burden) through an extension of the Bush tax cuts for today's wealthy. And I've seen both parties make it harder for Isaac to get a decent-paying job as they champion yet more NAFTA-style trade deals.

So while I told myself that when I looked into Isaac's eyes I would know that having him was, indeed, a moral decision, I'm still not so sure - because the country I live in, the government I helped elect and the society I am a part of is - in Big Lebowski terms - all but guaranteeing him a world of pain.

This doesn't mean I would take back my decision to have Isaac. One thing is for sure - when I hold him, when I comfort him, hell, even when I'm being thrown up on by him, I'm thrilled he's here. I guess what I'm not clear on is whether that euphoric feeling is a product of any sense of morality (ie. bringing him into this world makes the world a better place) or simply an expression of my own narcissistic desire to personally experience the selfish joys of parenthood.

I tell myself its the morality - and I tell myself this because I'm an eternal optimist. That means that somewhere, I still believe that even with these past two weeks of capitulation and past 10 years of bipartisan complicity in mortgaging Isaac's future, things can get better. And I tell myself they can only get better if people like Isaac ultimately commit to making them better where me and my generation failed.

But I honestly don't know if we're already past the point of no return. I don't know if my failure - our failure - has sealed Isaac's fate. I don't know if the world can be a better place for him to have the decent life I've been so privileged to have - and the not knowing is what makes me look into his eyes and feel both indescribable happiness and indescribable fear.

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You are hereby awarded the rare and coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award for this post.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

Health, happiness & prosperity to you all. Now, I gotta ask... (4.00 / 1)
Do you honestly mean that if you lived in a different country, or helped elect a different government or contributed to a different society your Isaac (and my David) wouldn't live in a world of pain?  Wouldn't experience suffering?

I've got a bone to pick with the Buddha.  

Children are the only hope we have, personally (yes there's that side of it), and for a better world (yes there's that side of it).  

Children are (and always should be) an expression of love.  The world needs more love (and fewer diapers, but whatever).

And before I get a lot of flak from those who may think I'm quite an idiot... (0.00 / 0)
Your question seems to be the "morality" of bringing children into an imperfect world full of suffering.  Disease, poverty, aging, war...these, IMO, are the very reason why we need children.

If the world were in fact a perfect Utopia, why would we need to have children?  Without war, poverty, disease, aging & death we would all presumably live forever.  In that case it would be quite immoral to HAVE children; more humans who would simply suck up finite resources ultimately regressing humanity into a new cycle of poverty, war, disease etc.

I don't believe we can ever achieve perfection in this world of absolute duality.  Certainly not with the current crop of geniuses (myself included) and no previous generation has accomplished it either.

Love is giving, sharing & creating.  Isaac is a great gift & we thank you:)

Good points all. (0.00 / 0)
There were no children in the Garden of Eden. I'll take my chances on this place.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
emigrate (0.00 / 0)
If I were a new parent, I'd be preparing my child to emigrate as soon as he's able.  I'm too old to go at 54; no other place will have me.  But I've given up on the American experiment and a smart young man would likely be welcomed many places where he can make a good life for himself.  If you're lucky, the place where he goes will allow him to petition for his parents to follow.

Glad to see some optimism (0.00 / 0)
Yeah, shit's dark, but most of the stuff we have to do as a movement IS coming together. I sat down with Drinking Liberally's Justin Krebs for coffee yesterday while he was in my town and it gave me such positive energy.

I think Isaac came in at just the right time. We're just about to the good part.

I'm with you there ... (0.00 / 0)
The best one can do is to prepare them for the worst scenario. Should our fears come to pass, this world will need all the Neo's it can get.


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