MORAL COMPROMISE: REPRODUCTION
The need to reproduce drives all living things; it is the most powerful of the natural instincts. Creatures produce as many offspring as possible, and external forces kill the inferior surplus. In this way, balance is maintained, and the species remains vibrant. Humans have interfered with this natural balance, and consequently, have challenged nature to correct it: the ultimate victor should be rather obvious.
It is critical, for the future of mankind, to find a way to compromise on this natural law. Humans must reduce the rate of reproduction, or eventually face external natural forces that will control man's numbers in ways that have no room for compromise. No single change in human behaviour would have a more profound affect upon mankind's destiny, than a reduction in the birth rate. Without birth control; attaining world peace, universal medical care, or adequate distribution of food and water, will eventually lead to disaster: by decreasing the mortality rate, and thereby increasing the population. A major decline in the birth rate is prerequisite to any substantial change benefiting humanity; extending, or improving, life will cause an upsurge in reproduction, and lead to increased pressure on the environment: depleting resources, and driving more life forms to extinction. It is unlikely that the planet can sustain the current human population; raising the already phenomenal growth rate would only exacerbate the ecological imbalance.
People, particularly men*, will go to any extreme in order to engage in sexual intercourse. The human capacity for purely self-serving behaviour even permits some individuals to commit unnatural acts; such as child molestation and rape-murders: in these cases, there is no reproductive agenda, and therefore no natural purpose is served. [*four times as many men as women are afflicted by a sociopathic disorder] Aside from sexual aberration, the act of mating is not the primary problem, it is the pregnancy rate. People tend to ignore reason, when simple desire is involved, and engage in sexual acts with no consideration of the consequences: in this way, they are responding to the base instincts, and are behaving no differently than other animals. Those who practice birth control often implement the methods incorrectly; for example: the birth control pill is basically one-hundred percent effective when administered properly, but every day children are conceived by women using the pill. These persons either lack accurate instruction as to its use; or they perform intercourse despite the fact that they are aware of a risk factor, due to an error in their routine.
The first step in population control is to ensure that the people already using contraceptive methods are using them properly, and have easy access to them. This is important because offspring conceived by these individuals are unwanted: for financial, medical, or personal reasons; and are likely to be raised in a counter-productive environment. Subsequently, these children may develop problems that eventually impact negatively on society. A child that is born into a situation where income is insufficient, is prone to future criminal activity, as well as developing below-average intellect due to poor nutrition during the period of brain development. Unwanted children may develop behavioural disorders; particularly when unforeseen parenthood results in stress on the caregiver(s), with subsequent poor role modeling. Unplanned pregnancies often result in single parenting, babies being put up for adoption, or abortion.
Birth control methods must always be made available to all people, including accurate instruction in usage. Every charitable organization that is concerned with helping the poor, must include the provision of free contraception within its budget; otherwise, over the long term, they are only worsening the very situation that they are trying to alleviate. Governments that have socialized medicine must cover the cost of birth control, so that it is free to all citizens; over time, the expense will be recouped through a reduction in expenditures for obstetrics, pediatrics, and other related birth and child-rearing medical costs. Even countries that do not participate in a universal health care system would benefit by funding contraception, from such things as: a reduction in social assistance payments, improved tax yield due to people losing fewer hours of work, and a lesser number of child tax credits.
Two significant sectors of society oppose the funding of contraception: patriarchal religions, and traditional cultures. Both are similar, in that they owe their structure to archaic beliefs in the superiority of males over females; and each is inextricably linked to the other. In male dominated cultures, number of children is often representative of fertility, and subsequently, alleged masculinity. Generally, in such cultures, women have no say in family size: although they carry the blame when there are fertility problems; or when daughters, rather than sons, are produced. Men who have these sort of attitudes are exhibiting primitive animal behaviour: the dominant male in the pack produces the most offspring, therefore by definition, the man with the most children is the dominant male. Obviously, this no longer holds true in human society; but for a great many men, it is the only way in which they can delude themselves into believing that they are not a subordinate male. Taking this simple delusion to an extreme, we could say that the average male mouse is considerably more masculine than these men, due to the number of offspring it sires.
Changing the attitudes of males in patriarchal societies is a daunting task: teaching people that life is defined by more than sexuality is one thing, but overriding the subconscious primate drives is quite another. Men resist thoughts that are outside of their confined and structured existence: to realize that the facade you have created, to justify your position in the pecking order, is inconsequential; is to lose your purpose in life. Males that lack the ability to comprehend a deeper meaning to existence cannot allow themselves to contemplate anything that would remove their feeling of domination.
Women who live within a patriarchal society give tacit approval of its structure, by failing to attempt to change it. The problem is that many of these women are quite content with such a lifestyle; being subordinate to men permits females to live an organized life, without accountability or the need to make potentially stressful decisions: a life within set parameters which permits them to fulfill their innate need to reproduce.
For both men and women, in a male dominated culture, the perceived benefits outweigh the risks associated with free thought. Their self-worth is based upon simple primate clan behaviour, and is free from the complexities of modern abstract social interaction. This insistence on using basic animal values would be fine, if every human wished to live as such; but, as we have explored earlier, mankind cannot have it both ways: either we live as just primates, without the advantages of technology; or we live as primates that are capable of modifying our behaviour, in order to enjoy the benefits that our advanced intellect can bring.
A number of religions are against birth control, and some even promote excessive reproduction. There are two main reasons why these types of belief systems originally adopted this attitude. Most religions developed within patriarchal cultures; and it is a simple matter, for the men that control the sects, to attribute rules, ensuring male domination, to their god/gods: in this way, some religions function as a patriarchal society that is a subculture within modern society. Such systems are basically defined in the same way as primitive primate groups, with the addition of mystical reinforcement: to maintain the status quo in the face of liberalizing pressures from outside the group.
In both cultural and religious structures of this type, birth control is feared because it empowers women: providing them with the choice between being dependent upon men due to the burdens of pregnancy and child rearing; or free to pursue other goals that do not require male dependency. Segments of Western society may see this need for male support in families as being over-dramatized; but Westerners see the situation from the perspective of a minute percentage of the overall population: in reality, billions of people live under a system where psychological, economic, and legal restraints enforce male domination. A number of religions follow this path, with the majority of members being blissfully unaware of the root cause of their behaviour: they simply accept that their god ordered things to be this way. I have yet to come across any holy books that were personally written by any gods; all the significant works were written by men, who claimed to be "inspired" by ultimate entities.
The other reason some religions were established with restrictions on family planning, was to encourage growth of their particular sect. Indoctrination is far more successful when you can condition someone from birth, rather than converting someone who has preset ideas. To most sects, size is power; and in times past, if you could not establish a large enough following before you were perceived as a threat, other larger religions would wipe you from the face of the Earth. This made it necessary to encourage rapid reproduction; with birth control being the anathema of the sect. Many contemporary religions follow a modified version of this system: size is primarily financial, rather than defensive, power. These reasons for perceiving contraception as evil, are not known by the general congregation: they simply believe that it is "God's will", and therefore attempt to impose their beliefs upon everyone else.
Providing contraception to all those who wish to use it is the first step toward repairing the damage mankind has done to the world, and consequently, itself. All people should be free to choose not to have a child; without cultural, legal, or financial restriction. People in various religions must realize that it is not their place to discourage birth control in persons that do not share their beliefs. Women in traditional cultures must strive toward having the freedom to use contraception: the men are certainly not going to spontaneously give up a portion of their power. Individuals who have enough money to live comfortably must be willing to part with a tiny portion of it, in order to help fund the provision of contraceptive devices and instruction: the long term gain far outweighs the token sacrifice.
The instinctive social drives that form our moral structure must be compromised. The need to form pair-bonds, and to engage in sex, are the strongest of innate natural forces; but it is possible to obey these drives, and still prevent impregnation. Nature provides the instincts to ensure copulation; but nature does not force insemination: humans actually have a choice.
To this point, we have covered the topic in a very general way. In the next chapter, we will take it to a more personal level, and explore reasons for family planning from both a religious, and individual perspective. It is important to demonstrate that all members of our species have a social moral obligation to humanity as a whole; and that what is best for all of mankind, is ultimately best for each of the people who are components of it.