Bushy bearded 27-year old Raphael Samuel’s public threat last month to sue his parents for giving birth to him without his consent was dismissed by most people as an amusing social media stunt. Even his mother, a lawyer, was very casual in her reaction saying, “If Raphael could come up with a rational explanation as to how we could have sought his consent to be born, I will accept my fault.” But Samuel has been hailed as a hero in the littleknown worldwide circle of men and women who call themselves anti-natalists.
Anti-natalism is a philosophy that believes the act of procreation is morally wrong because more the children we produce, more we will harm the environment. To be clear, it is different from those who are into what is called ‘childfreedom’. The latter denotes people who, though not against procreation, still want to be child-free for other reasons including economics and freedom. A third category of people with similar views are those who believe in a concept called ‘Efilism’. The term comes from reversing how ‘life’ is written, and refers to those who believe that the existence of all humans including children in the world is morally wrong.
Anti-natalism is a belief that has existed at the fringes of the society since the time of the Greeks, and some believe even the Bhagavad Gita carries hints of it. The most famous modern-day proponent of the theory is David Benatar, head of the department of philosophy at Univeristy of Cape Town whose 2006 book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence is credited by many to have revived anti-natalism in the age of the social media. In the book he rationalizes his philosophy saying: “While good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place.”
Anti-natalist groups in India and worldwide could not be happier with the kind of mainstream publicity that Samuel has managed to generate. “He’s logical. We cannot create a baby because we are afraid of old age, and loneliness,” says the anonymous co-moderator of the Indian anti-natalism Facebook page called The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement which has over 10,000 likes. The 35-year old Delhi-resident says he started the community page in 2011, while in the throes of an existential crisis.
The reaction from international groups have been as exuberant. Says Karl White a 42-year old Irish man who runs the Anti-natalism Philosophy Discussion Group on Facebook that has around 2225 members, “I admire Raphael’s courage. From Indian friends, I gather, family obedience is paramount in Indian society, so he’s shown a lot of bravery.” Adds journalist and film-maker Andreas Nilssen Moss, from Norway, who is a co-administrator of another group called Anti-natalism on Facebook with nearly 6000 members,“I think why it took off is maybe because Samuel has made a light-hearted and comedic performance of the position. Anti-natalism is otherwise seen as very dark and bleak.” Moss even quotes Gandhi to justify the position of his group: “Suppose for a moment that all procreation stops, it will only mean that all destruction will cease. Moksha is nothing but release from the cycle of births and deaths. This alone is believed to be the highest bliss, and rightly.”Gandhi to justify the position of his group: “Suppose for a moment that all procreation stops, it will only mean that all destruction will cease. Moksha is nothing but release from the cycle of births and deaths. This alone is believed to be the highest bliss, and rightly.”
The publicity generated by Samuel spurred the Bangalore-based Facebook group called Child-free India into immediate action. They called for a meeting to bring ‘child-free proponents, voluntary human extinction movement activists, antinatalists and efilists’. Say co-organisers Pratima Naik, 28, and Anugraha Kumar Sharma (who identifies as an efilist since 2000), “There is a lot of diversity here. People are child-free for different reasons. We had to have one or two meetings so that we could get a sense of each other and think in a common direction.”
Not only have they given themselves a new tagline called ‘No Babies Please, they also plan to register as a trust in Karnataka. Responsibilities have been delegated among members in areas such as funding, branding and, social media. Their goal include setting up an old-age home for senior citizens, writing books, making documentaries, encouraging adoption, advocating a onechild policy, euthanasia, and compensation protests where they want parents to pay fines to children and apologise for bringing them into this world.
Whether or not this movement grows into something significant, Naik seems elated with the public response to the Bengaluru meet. “There are many people who are messaging us on Facebook, and connecting with us,” he says. Adds Sharma, “We have been receiving private messages from several people who want an event in their city. Several child-free individuals have requested us to put them in a support network.”
(Picture Credits – Raphael’s Facebook Page)