Enough is enough

Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereshchagin

There isn't a single problem facing humanity right now that wouldn't have been solved if enough people in the early paleolithic decided it was better not to have offspring. Let me repeat. There isn't a single problem facing humanity right now that wouldn't have been solved if enough people in the early paleolithic decided it was better not to have offspring. War. Famine. Plague. Exploitation. Colonialism. Existential angst. All things that are but didn't have to be.

We can play word games all we want, claiming that problems can only be solved by people who exist, however, the fact remains we wouldn't be in this hellish man-made — and natural — world if our ancestors had been wise enough not to reproduce. Which means most of them weren't wise at all. They looked around their surroundings, to fellow animals and to themselves, saw their wretched condition, and the thought of stopping never crossed their minds. Well, at least it never crossed enough minds.

And because most didn't think about quitting, because enough of them were allowed by nature to produce viable descendants, we have to live in this demented slaughterhouse of a world, a world in which war, genocide and hatred prevail, a world that can go up in flames at any moment—at least since physicists were able to split the atom. After all, a nuclear war between major powers could kill upwards of 300 million of us within an hour, leaving the rest to die of hunger and despair in the following weeks and months.

This is our reality. This is the world 21st century humans have inherited, all because generation after generation, enough of us continue to kick the ball down the court, either expecting the future to bring about some marvelous golden era—it never does—or because they view this malignantly useless cycle of birth and death as something worthwhile. And while the whole world debates the never ending conflicts that—surprise, surprise—never end, I keep catching myself thinking about the paleolithic or “Stone Age”.

Currently, based on a few fossil records, it is debated if primitive stone tools started to be used by our ancestors at around 3.3 million years ago. If that is true, then it means these tools were being used since before the appearance of the Homo habilis, by the Australopithecus afarensis. Indisputably, though, stone tools were used by H. habilis, some 2.6 million years ago. Habilis is, of course, the first major species of the genus Homo, which eventually led to H. erectus, which led to H. sapiens.

Pondering about the long term and about existence would've been likely too much to ask from the Australopithecus, an animal that, even if capable of producing stone tools, wasn't much more intelligent than a chimpanzee. It probably was too much to ask of the H. habilis and H. erectus as well. We might think, then, that we can start asking for accountability from the H. sapiens, a species that appeared some 300,000 years ago, but if we're being honest, them is the stupidest species of all. Some of us are able to land on the Moon, yes, but many of us, if not most of us, are just dumb sadists who will brutally disembowel one another to appease a blood-thirsty made-up deity.

At the beginning of The Last Messiah, by Peter Wessel Zapffe, there's a scene in which a primitive man awakes and is commanded once again by his woman to go hunt for food. That day, though, the man looked at the other animals drinking from waterholes and felt kinship with them, realizing they all belong to a brotherhood of suffering. The man is later found dead by members of his tribe, sitting near a waterhole. By the end of the essay, the antinatalist “last messiah” character is described by Zapffe as a sort of spiritual descendant of that primitive man who refused to engage in a malignantly useless existence.

We can imagine, among early members of our species, the H. sapiens, a few individuals here and there refusing to go on. After history began, as religions and philosophies started to appear in all corners of the Earth, some decided to shave their heads and become monks, while others decided to practice asceticism in some other form. Most of those didn't leave descendants, so, evolutionary speaking, rejecting existence isn't a much valued trait.

Rock paintings in Tadrart Acacus region of Libya dated from 12,000 BC. Photo by Luca Galuzzi

But when talking about pre-history, we can imagine a few disillusioned primitive men and women, tens of thousands of years before records began to be written or drawn. At least we can hope there were some. Maybe they tried to communicate this disillusionment to others. Like today, however, the rejectionist message fell on deaf ears. It always will, unfortunately. What is a pessimist to do, but to try keep record of this constant warning of others? Not much.

While there's nothing we can do other than warn others that maybe it isn't such a great idea to keep pushing through expecting the universe to make sense to us, it's starting to get a little tiring seeing the same grotesque show over and over again without calling out the stupidity of this repetition. We merrily give birth in bona fide concentration camps, expecting applause for our recklessness and unwarranted hope. Enough is enough. It's about time our kind stops waiting for a man-made Utopia or for God to come down from Heaven and make everything alright.

Recognizing each other as members of a universal brotherhood of suffering is supposed to fill us with compassion towards one another, and it does. But sometimes emphasis is needed in order to communicate our plight, because, again: we are merrily giving birth in bona fide concentration camps. Contrary to other animals we breed in order to exploit and eat, no one is forcing us. We are capable of choosing. There is no alien farmer making us breed in war zones, slums, or even mansions and skyscrapers for that matter—those who exploit are as part of the malignant useless cycle as well as those who are exploited.

Yet, we choose hope amidst hell. You know the cliché of the genie or devil that grants wishes, but the wishes come with a curse? That's us. That's humanity. Yes, we landed on the Moon and treated horrible diseases that used to be death sentences. We became masters of nature. Those things did happen. Nevertheless, we are always faced with new catastrophes brought about by our victories. The same technologies that put us on the Moon are used on ICBMs. Our prosperity hides a world divided between a few lords and a multitude of servants, something no revolution ever truly changes.

We are chasing the end of a rainbow, the carrot at the end of the stick, knowing full well there's nothing to it. Embracing the absurd isn't the courageous affirmation of life that we once thought it was. It is folly. We are sinking and creating more victims to make us company while we drown, wondering why an ever greater number of them hate this predicament, even if they don't fully understand how deep is the pit they're in. So there you have it: no more, this stupidity needs to be called out. Let's stop creating new victims just because we feel we have a right, or worse, an obligation, to feed them to the meat grinder of existence.

by Fernando Olszewski