Making Babies At The Twilight Of The Empire
Thinking about the world my son will inherit.
Bringing a baby into the world always brings the context of "what kind of world" much closer.
After a year where the pandemic's stress test made it clear that we are both in steep institutional decline and the impotent subjects of an increasingly powerful oligarchy backed by technology and a poisonous religious schism - I'm invariably led to some long and hard thinking about my son's future.
Having a baby adds a whole other level of skin-in-the-game to my journey on this planet. The comfy nihilism I've marinated in for decades, the numb hum of the producer/consumer life is abruptly interrupted.
There are high stakes now, and the notion of providence has entered the scene with a bang. Though I'm more settled than I've ever been and gripped by an almost cosmic calm, I'm also often startled by dark visions. From malfunction to malpractice, from disease to accident, a new spectrum of ever-more exotic terrors stalks my imagination. I'm filled with love, hope, excitement, and care for the little being who has taken up residence with me, but the other permanent resident is now the fear of God. This is probably no new feeling to the expectant parent, but it's a jolt to the soul of anyone dulled by comfort and noise.
I don't know much about the world my son will grow up in.
I try my best to make sense of it, but in doing so, I often conjure demons I increasingly hope aren't real. Admittedly, I've made a point of seeking them out, describing them in detail, and spending inordinate amounts of time playing out all their possible scenarios. So I comfort myself knowing my chosen seats are a bit too close to the spectacle for my own good.
My child is a boy. The implications of this fact go through my head often. Our system has less and less space for men or women as we're careening towards the ultimate freedom of desexualized androgyny, but the dark force that allegedly warps our reality is always gendered; it is profoundly and destructively male. The world will have no qualms about communicating this to him, and I wonder how I might soften the message without cheating him of the relevant information it's trying to convey. I'm no Pollyanna, but "hey, a good proportion of high-status people think you're part of a dark conspiracy against women" is a tricky one to navigate.
I wonder about who he'll love, who he'll marry - if he'll marry. Love has always been a war, but fraternizing with the enemy feels like it has seen more lighthearted times. I wonder what I'll be able to tell him about love without starting with disclaimers and conditions.
I want my son to be free to be himself, choose his destiny and grow into his potential. But the idea of the self we've created and prop up with every unit of media is an untethered mimetic spiral masquerading as a sacred quest for authenticity. Being authentic and rootless is impossible. Authenticity is emergent from layers deeper than the neocortex, from entanglements more ancestral than the mere 2D self sold to us by identity mongers.
In a general sense, being male involves a degree of becoming, one that makes one worthy of being chosen. It's an often difficult, often cruel existence, and though I can intuit its contours from the outside, it's hard to speak about from a woman's perspective. I do know my son will have to either go through it or fail at it. I worry that the ways to fail comfortably are multiplying and that the comforts promised are worse than an illusion - they are a sentence. The siren song of the eternal womb extends to all corners of our society, whispering that it's cruel to try, that you're either doomed to fail or doomed to oppress. I want to give my son strength, but I'm constitutionally set up to want to protect him. What type of mother should you be if the world at large is set to "Devouring"?
That's why I believe that one of the important roles for me as a mother is to love and care for my husband. The most relevant facts of life that my son will learn will come from my husband and our relationship. And even though I love a good rant and musing about "the regime," I won't be able to give him a worldview without creating some beastly monument for him to rebel against. What I can do is model a good life to the best of my abilities and offer a stable, calm, and hopefully happy starting point for his journey. I'm just starting to accommodate to this degree of helplessness, but I feel it will have to be a fixture in my new life.
Overall, I'm far from being a doomer about my son's life. I won't be able to spare him suffering, and there will be dragons he'll have to slay alone, but even the twilight of the Empire hides a few glowing embers. There is an increasing number of these points of light - people building wonderful things, wisdom arising in unexpected places, returns of the good and the beautiful. Humanity is nothing if not adaptable, and I have a lot of hope for us - we're all going to make it.
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