The Plan documents the ongoing adventures that arise from living a truly alternative lifestyle: two people in love, no children, one works for an income, the other works to end capitalism, and the unifying force is a shared commitment to radical activism in all of its many forms.
“So, when are you and Jacquie going to have a kid?” my younger brother asked me as we sat in the movie theatre, eagerly awaiting the start of Fubar II.
I laughed, arched an eyebrow, and gave him the obvious answer: “Uh, never.”
It should be obvious, shouldn’t it? How could a pair of people whose entire lives revolve around radical activism even consider suspending their work towards an anti-consumerist utopia in order to spawn someone who would be utterly defenceless against the well-oiled marketing machine that pervades almost every moment of our public and private lives?
Only now — at the ripe age of 23 — am I learning that procreating is something of a societal expectation for people who have gotten married. Apparently, this is true even if the marriage was something that was gotten solely for the purposes of acquiring affordable dental care through spousal insurance benefits, and even if you both dressed in drag and the maid of honour wore a giant banana costume.
Amongst those who choose to do so, the following reasons are often given for being childfree: parenthood can be all-consuming and exhausting; children are expensive, unpredictable and bad for the environment, and children remind them of that one really creepy munchkin from the Wizard of Oz. These reasons are often dismissed as “selfish” by those for whom child-rearing is the only conceivable lifestyle. Call me crazy, but I think that devoting all of your time, money, energy and compassion to a single person that you share 50 per cent of your own genetic material with is clearly more selfish than spreading your material and immaterial resources around to those who are the most needy.
I know many good activists who are also good parents, so I’m not saying that a dual identity is impossible, but to me it doesn’t seem worth the risk of having to compromise one for the sake of the other.
As I see it, being a good parent involves two fundamental principles. The first is to prioritize your child’s well-being above the well-being of all others.
Imagine, if you will, the following situation: A train full of 100 passengers — all strangers — is barrelling towards a fork in a train track. You can choose whether the train will fork left or right. To the left is the edge of a cliff, to the right your child is tied Snidely Whiplash-style to the rails. If your primary concern is the greatest good for the greatest number — as mine is — you will save the lives of the 100; if your primary concern is being a good parent, you will save the life of your child. I think the third option is the best solution: never have a child in the first place so that Snidely has no one to tie to the tracks.
Although that hypothetical situation takes it to the extreme, conflicts between the well-being of your own child and the well-being of others face parents every day. Do you buy him the toy that he so desperately wants even though you know that doing so will prop up the neocolonial sweatshop industry and result in the further exploitation of children for profit? Do you support her decision to join the military even though you recognize that by doing so she will probably kill and possibly be killed for the sake of the military industrial complex and related interests? I’d rather opt out of the parenthood racket and avoid making those tough decisions.
This brings us to the second principle: to love and support your child no matter what.
As a society, we look down at parents who chastise their children because of their sexual orientation or their decision to become a death metal drummer instead of a doctor. Is it any better for a parent to express disappointment when their child joins the Conservative party or becomes the manager of an oil rig rather than leading a revolution? Since my view of what constitutes a “good” life is a tad narrower than most, how would that affect my unconditional acceptance of my child’s choices? And even if I could manage to choke out a “Good for you, kid” when my CEO daughter pontificated about profit margins or my police officer son waxed poetic about “getting tough on crime,” what would that mean for my identity as an activist?
Being a parent is a very demanding job. It involves huge sacrifices and requires a willingness to give up most of your own life for the sake of another person. Parents have to constantly fret about what impact their decisions will have on the well-being of their children. For a parent with politically radical ideas and whose life is based around radical activism, the task is made even more difficult. Because of the inherent contradictions between my values as an activist and the values of good parenting, I have decided to be childfree.
Keep an eye out for the next instalment of The Plan where Rob McGregor will explain why the public library is one of the most radical places around. Hint: It’s not just because books are super spiffy.
this is really getting unbearable. like, seriously. i want to smash my head against a wall. the only thing that is ‘obvious’ are your fatherly delusions of grandeur.
why do you think we need a professional activist to tell us what to do? and, check your privilege already dude!
I’ve been following “The Plan” for the last few weeks on the recommendation of a beautiful young lady I am friends with. Though I won’t go into detail on how she described you, “The Plan”, she did use the words crazy, nuts and psycho, words I myself would also use to describe you. I am not here to name call, or make fun of your beliefs; I am just here to pass along how I see the world through my eyes, and not through the eyes of what you call a “Radical Activist”.
You speak about a global reform you are helping to put forward, one that will end capitalism, close government, and bring forward equality throughout the globe. Your ideals of a socialist, anarchistic society are ones that are interesting to read about, and I will admit there is a great shortage of it in the media. What I do question though is where you see feasibility in “The Plan”. Capitalism is present throughout the world, and it is here to stay. There is a reason that since man first possessed an advanced thinking structure he (and she) has traded, bargained, bartered and bought: It works! Capitalism is a wonderful thing Rob. The free health and dental you receive through your partner’s work, the house or apartment you live in, the computer you are reading this on, all by-products of capitalism. Socialism is a lovely ideal. Everyone works to the best of their ability, and everyone reaps the benefits. It is an ideal that has been put to test many times. Thousands of case studies, isolation experiments, and real life examples show that socialism does not work, and it is, and never will be nothing more than an ideal. Dream big, but dream within possibility.
Also, in this week’s article (Child Free: The Only Way to be for Me), you speak about how selfish it is to have kids. You say that giving life, care and financial support to a being that shares half your genetic make-up is selfish, and on paper I totally agree. I was very taken aback when I considered this, and thought that maybe you were really on to something. But after consideration I realized that though it may be selfish to pour thousands upon thousands of dollars, and hours and hours of work into a child instead of helping the less fortunate, there is one important detail you are missing. When you have a child you are given a shell to fill. Whether it is with ideas of socialism or capitalism, love or hate, Christianity or Islam, you are keeping an idea or a hope alive for generations to come. An idea is a powerful thing, much more powerful than the thousands of dollars it costs to develop. You speak of not wanting to make hard decisions as a parent (citing the idea of “To save one, is to kill many”). Life is full of hard decisions. I would call one a fool to let this hold them back from having children. You do not seem like you are into the whole “kid thing” though. It’s good that you realize this, but I feel it is harsh of you to tell people having a child is “selfish”.
Though there are so many things I’d love to comment about, the last thing I will say (or at least for now) is that you should not speak of the brave men and women who serve and protect our country with such indecency. They go out and risk their lives every day to keep you, me and every other Canadian free. Whether you’re left, right or centre, everyone wants freedom, let’s not insult those who are trying to help us keep it. To refer to a soldier’s job as just part “of the military industrial complex and related interests” is disrespectful and ignorant. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about what life would be life without them before speak down to them like that again.
Rob, here is my “Plan” for you. Go get a job, and donate every penny you have to people who need it. This will do so much good for so many, and only an idiot would call you anything but a respectable man for doing this. By all means, fight for your cause in your spare time. Change is not only inevitable, but fundamental for growth, but before you fight for change think about its implications. Finally, love your wife and the people around you. You speak as if everyone around you is just another link in “The Plan”. Loves an amazing thing, just as amazing as change. I look forward to hearing your response, views and opinions in upcoming editions of “The Plan”.
“Live, Laugh, Love”
These columns have been some of the best writing the Manitoban’s had for years. Looking forward to more.
‘The Plan’ is great literature. A Dostoevsky’s ‘Notes From the Underground’ updated for our times. The author doesn’t intend it this way from what I’ve heard, but we can invoke the intentional fallacy on this one and deem him brilliant despite himself. Outstanding. May our intrepid hero live long and not prosper!
a truly alternative lifestyle: two people in love, no children, one works for an income, the other works to end capitalism.
Please explain how this works, you try to stop capitalism and yet rely on it to maintain your lifestyle?