Enough is enough; part II: infants are not martyrs

Massacre of the Innocents, by Peter Paul Rubens

Before making any other consideration, it is necessary to make it clear that the fight against oppression, against apartheid and against ethnic cleansing is completely fair. Those who exist are not obliged to willingly accept oppression or destruction because they belong to a group considered inferior in the minds of their oppressors. It takes a large degree of delusion to believe that a people united by centuries of common history will simply lie down on the ground and wait for their tormentors' tanks to run them over.

Having made this clear, regardless of whether the reasons behind a group's oppression are largely based on religious or purely material issues, infants are not martyrs. There is, of course, an elephant in the room when it comes to some conflicts. Call it religion, call it a “metaphysical ideal”, the fact is that, in certain wars, the weight that the idea of a divine mandate brings is much greater than in others. However, even in the analysis of the most religious of wars, the influence of faith began to be disregarded, if not completely, at least for the most part. What counts, for many, is the purely material analysis, that is, what counts is politics, economics and colonialism.

For example, the religious roots of certain colonial and segregation processes are ignored. Certain conflicts that aim to dominate a territory are clearly more based on political and economic issues (i.e. the fight for resources or strategic territory). But others aren't, especially when it comes to a land with few resources and whose involved parties are inspired to be there by their prophets. However, even if we absolved the belief in a transcendence of having influence in some conflicts, the statement that babies are not martyrs would remain valid.

Babies are not martyrs to either earthly causes, such as political ideals, or metaphysical causes. They are only so in the minds of those old enough to consider them as such. The main meaning of the word “martyr” alludes to the idea of suffering and dying for a cause, ideal or faith. Attributing martyrdom to new consciousnesses that didn't even have time to develop and choose their beliefs is grotesque. Of course, if we treat the word “martyr” as synonymous with “victim”, then yes, anyone can be a victim.

In fact, in this sense, all sentient beings are victims before being anything else, since they were forced to exist. But we know that it is not in the sense of being a victim of existence that the term is commonly used. Even when the word is used as a synonym for victim, the martyr is always the victim of an injustice perpetrated against a member of a just people, a just cause, a just belief, or all of these things together.

In recent weeks, a lot of photos and videos have appeared on social media showing parents and leaders holding injured or dead children and babies, calling them martyrs. This occurs mainly among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, as they are the ones who have lost the most children crushed by Israeli bombings. However, calling dead children martyrs is not a Palestinian monopoly. Israelis do it too. Since the beginning of the most recent escalation of violence in Palestine, Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government has released statements in which they treat their children as children of light, while the children of their “enemies” are children of darkness.

On both sides of this conflict, it is possible to find metaphysical justification for the creation of new consciousnesses specifically with the intention of them joining the efforts of a holy war. 1, 2 This type of metaphysical assertion is more difficult to make in conflicts based mostly on material issues, as in the case of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There, the majority of combatants on both sides profess the Orthodox Christian faith, and God is somewhat far from being the primary, secondary or tertiary motivation of those who kill and die.

Still, it is obvious that the idea of reproduction as a way to fight against invaders or as a way to create new conquerors exists even without divine motivation. Faith in a new world built exclusively by man also condemns millions of new consciousnesses to existence. Among famous examples of this, we can mention the Hitler's regime, which encouraged procreation with the aim of expanding the Aryan race, and the Stalinist regime, which reversed women's right to abortion — a right achieved when Lenin was head of State — and encouraged large families with the aim of boosting Soviet industry and society. 3, 4

In our madness, it is not enough for us to fight our own wars. We want to generate new combatants to die for our causes. In some cases, we do it so under the certainty that we are pushing them towards a wonderful reward after death. Our child-soldiers are an extension of ourselves and of our brothers in arms. We believe we have the full right to their lives. Modernity brought the idea of individual autonomy, but deep down, we still think like the medievals: both the sin and the glory of parents extend to their children and their entire generation. We just don't admit it.

In the best of cases, life is a huge factory run on slave labor. Even those who exploit the sweat of others have the job of exploiting them or, at least, watching them. Already Hesiod, in Works and Days, treated the human condition of toil and suffering as a curse. To make matters worse, we still find ourselves encouraged to bring new accursed to this world to serve as cannon fodder in our causes and in our wars, be them just or not. Enough is enough. Let us leave the world silent after us, closing the door to this hell while we exit.

by Fernando Olszewski

2. “Be Fruitful and Multiply”: The Role of Israeli Pronatalist Policy in the Pursuit of Jewish Demographic Dominance in the Holy Land
3. Nazi policies towards women
4. MOTHERS IN THE MOTHERLAND Stalinist Pronatalism and its Pan-European Context