Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Vagina: Not a Clown Car

The other night we watched a movie called Idiocracy, brought to you by the makers of Office Space and King of the Hill. The premise of the movie is that a guy of supremely average intelligence (as in, IQ exactly 100) gets frozen by the military as part of an experiment and ends up waking up 500 years later only to find that he is by far the smartest person on Earth. The reason for this is made clear early on in the movie, as an obviously well-off, intelligent couple waits, tries, and is unsuccessful at having a kid, while a stupid poor guy is shown having lots of kids with several women, who go on to have lots of kids, who go on to have lots of kids, etc. And then the world ends up stupid as shit.

I hadn't known much about the movie (other than it was a Mike Judge film and the title) before watching the movie, but I remember having a conversation with Dan last summer about how it seems like the people who are having the most kids these days are a) the ones who can least afford them and b) not especially intelligent or well-educated. The people that I know of who are intelligent and well-educated seem to either wait a long time to start having kids, or they don't have any at all. And the ones who have several kids, the ones who start having kids pretty early, aren't especially well-educated (it's hard to finish college when you get pregnant at 20. Or 18. Or 16.) I know several who had kids relatively early and who ARE intelligent, but most of them also got married early for religious or other reasons. Seems like these days, the thing to do is to wait several years after starting a long term relationship to get married, and then choose to be child-free or only have one or two kids. While I fully support people's rights to make their own choices about spawning, at the same time I wonder whether it will take 500 years to get to the point of where society seemed to be in the movie we watched, or whether it will take significantly less time.

In the movie, the people shown having lots of kids weren't married, and the structures of families were pretty loose (as is the case, I think, with many people who have multiple children with multiple partners). There are people in this country, however, who are having umpteen numbers of children within the bounds of a specific (married) relationship, and these people kind of scare me. I'm not talking about a large family of 5 or 6 or 7 kids, which in this day and age of natural family planning (for those anti-birth control) and so many options of birth control (for those not opposed) and even emergency contraception, is pretty unusual. I'm talking about the Duggars, and the others who fall under the quiverful movement (or similar). You all probably know that the Duggars whelped child #17 recently, which brings the number of years Michelle Duggar has been pregnant to a whopping 10.5. Part of me would like to say "To each his own" regarding this situation, but I think that 17 (and likely more, though I'm not sure how Michelle Duggar's uterus hasn't fallen out yet) kids is Just Too Many.

While they may be able to just squeak by financially on investments and the kindness of strangers/community members, it's not the money part that gets to me. It's that I can't imagine how in the hell each kid gets enough parent time in a day. It just doesn't seem possible. They've been open about their "buddy system" - how each older child is assigned a younger one to raise once it's off the boob (and they nurse for short periods of time so as not to impede fertility). Having been the oldest of 3 kids, and relied upon for childcare duties on many occasions without being paid or even asked, I can tell you that I sometimes resented the situation and felt taken advantage of. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be the oldest (or one of the oldest) of more than 10 kids and essentially expected to raise younger siblings because my parents were too busy having sex and popping out more babies. Or even just homeschooling all my siblings. OfJimBob isn't a teacher, yet she teaches all of her kids at home. And chores are assigned by zones. And the only socialization these kids get is with each other and a few select quiverful families.

I was pretty taken aback to encounter such a large family in the KOA campground of Salina back in July - and they only had 10 kids (ONLY). How can parents of such large broods really know their children's personalities? How are they possibly able to spend one-on-one time with each of their kids? How doomed are we as a country and as a planet when there are people like this specifically breeding their own churches and/or religious armies? There was a reason, once upon a time, to have lots of kids - it was free labor for farming families, who needed all the help they could get to get by. Also, it's only been very recently that so many babies have lived to adulthood - childhood diseases and accidents don't kill nearly as many kids as they used to, something for which to thank modern medicine. You had lots of babies because a good number of them died before they could even talk. Now, there's no reason whatsoever to think that having 17 children is a socially, fiscally, or environmentally responsible action - in fact, it's totally selfish and irresponsible. Because statistically, not all those kids are going to grow up to be JimBobs and OfJimBobs - being homeschooled by mom with little to no socialization isn't going to bode well for the future educational endeovers of these kids. I can't imagine that every single one of these kids is going to grow up to be a healthy and productive member of society.

Honestly, it's hard to know what the answer is when it comes to avoiding an idiocracy. On the one hand, it's better to slow down global overpopulation. On the other hand, the people (in this country, at least) who are having lots of babies are generally doing so in an irresponsible manner. What do you think? Should smart, well-educated people start having more babies so we aren't all complete idiots in 100 years? Or is it smarter to be socially and financially responsible, and not contribute to the overconsumption of resources in this country? It's hard to know.


Anonymous said...

Maybe women who think their vaginas are clown cars would stop if you pointed out to them that, hey, their vaginas are like clown cars. That would certainly give me pause.

Coming from where I come from, I grew up around a lot of large families. One with eight kids was so crazy (clinically) and unorganized that it qualified as abuse. Another with ten kids was loving and respectful and organized and healthy. Healthy in that older children weren't expected to raise the younger ones, which is the thing that I have the most problem with. Well, that and people homeschooling children when they aren't qualified (i.e., my aunt, who just happens to have seven children).

It's definitely a slippery slope, but for my part, I'm going to stick with the procreation plan that works for me rather than use it to battle the people birthing more and more soldiers for Jesus. My vagina is not a clown car, but it's also not a weapon. (Well, not usually...)

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Well, I don't think the well-off and intelligent have ever had too many children, but I have to take issue with the entire subgroup of people you're referring to, essentially the intellectual bourgeoisie. How long have we even had an intellectual bourgeoisie-individuals in high-skilled trades with copious amounts of education? How long has it taken for people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, women and minorities to even be legally allowed to participate? If you're talking about lawyers, doctors, teachers and other high-skilled trades...arguably getting into that class has only been possible, just for white men, since maybe about 1900? And we're talking the '60s and onward for women. I don't necessarily think every kid born before the yuppie power-couple of today was necessarily stupid. Money just gives you access-ultimately it's how the parents view learning that matters.

Granted, the Duggars are crazy, but a heavy, heavy portion of South Asian immigrants come from miserable third world poverty (including my own parents) and end up being both intellectually and financially successful.

What I protest is not people having large families (though I agree with your assessment of 17 kid families), nor do I believe poverty necessarily means you'll end up with low IQ, but the disturbing slide backwards towards ignorance in the name of some supernatural deity-seemingly affecting people of different classes. I can't say "to each his own" about people who believe in creationism, I really can't. I think they're profoundly mentally disturbed.

I mean come on, Isaac Newton was like a Super God Warrior and the man is the father of modern physics, isn't he? Why can't freaks these days take a page from his book?

I think, from a eugenical point of view, however, the status quo is pretty good for the intelligent and well-off. A limited population able to concentrate the ever-increasing amounts of money necessary to nurture a baby yuppie while the poor are on the outside, either slack jawed or unable to buy their way in...what would be the argument against it?

(I don't actually believe that by the way, I'm just saying, there's no real reason to have more intelligent people if you're talking the grand scheme of things)

Yank In Texas said...

Big families freak me out and by big families I mean more than 10.
I'm not a fan of the Duggars, not only because there are so many kids and they don't really even seem to know much about them, but I really don't like the way they are being raised and sheltered.
Those poor kids who have to raise their older siblings. It just seems like there's no individuality enouraged at all. I even read that the kids have to SIGN UP to get one on one time. Yes, there's a sheet in the kitchen. Come on!!
Then there's the education, which just does not seem to be adequate. I'm not against homeschooling at all but these kids don't seem to be learning what they need. I'll try to find the link to Josh's website for his consulting company but the grammar and spelling errors are atrocious!

I baby-sat for a family of 7 kids (at the time. They ended up with 10.) They were a good, Catholic family, that didn't believe in birth control. The mother had a heart attack in her early 40s due to the strain all those pregnancies had put on her body. However, that family was so normal and crazy. I really liked baby-sitting for them. The kids dressed normally, did different things, and were all encouraged to do what the wanted to do. (within reason and the Catholic Church of course.) Yes, the older girls had to help out a bit with the younger ones but they weren't buddies. No way. The older and the younger kids had separate rooms. The mom knew how to make the kids feel special and spent a lot of time with them. (With the baby-sitter's help. She often took half of the kids with her to run errands and stuff.) From what I know, the two oldest girls are in college and doing really well. She was a great example of handling it well. From what I see, the Duggars are not doing so much parenting.

My plan, maybe 2. If we get around to it. We of the if it happens, it happens, if not, oh well.