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What the Dickens are population controllers up to?
The flint-hearted, prune-faced, carbon-obsessed bean-counters who want fewer people, especially fewer poor people, should reread A Christmas Carol.
Take the Optimum Population Trust, a superannuated gaggle of gimlet-eyed, thin-lipped Gradgrinds who out-Scrooge Scrooge. Their aim is to slash the number of unfeathered bipeds who pollute the earth with carbon emissions. "Everything we manage to achieve for the natural environment is being wiped out by the nearly 80 million extra people each year who need to use up space and resources," they claim. They have even launched PopOffsets, a charity which offsets your carbon footprint by reducing the number of babies in the developing world. And they have the nerve to describe themselves as a "charity"!
I can just imagine them counting up their miserabilist PopOffset dollars: "Another $7 for the charity, one less baby in Ghana; $21 for the charity, 3 less in Sierra Leone; $35 for the charity; 5 less in Chad." And after a heavy night out on New Year’s Eve adding to their carbon footprint with champers and fireworks, the new hair of the dog is a donation to PopOffset to scrub a few more babies from the population of Zaire.
What would Dickens say to this? Perhaps what he said about the unreformed Scrooge:
After 2000 celebrations of how precious a single life is, we still haven’t learned the lesson of A Christmas Carol. Had I thought of it earlier, I would have sent a copy to Sir David Attenborough, the famed documentary director who is an enthusiastic patron of the OPT. The OPT’s fanatical determination to eliminate CO2 by eliminating people is basically the "odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling" Malthusian policy of eliminating poverty by eliminating the poor. Scrooge was a Malthusian, you will remember. Here he is refusing a few pence for the poor:
It sounds familiar doesn’t it? The rich, isolated, beggar-my-neighbour individual. The mean, narrow-minded bean-counting. The fear of the population bomb. The scoffing at the possibility of happiness. "‘If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, ‘every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’"
How do the Spirits of Christmas teach Scrooge that "quality of life" isn’t everything? Basically by showing him visions of family life. It’s the simple, affectionate family life of the impoverished Cratchits and their six children. "They were not a handsome family; they were not well-dressed… but they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time," says Dickens. Of all of them, it is Tiny Tim, the "useless" cripple, with his crutch and iron frame, who strikes the spark of human sympathy into Scrooge’s withered heart.
An illegitimate appeal to crass sentimentality? Of course it is. Dickens is notorious for it. But most arguments for population control and all the other manifestations of the culture of death are crassly sentimental. I remember a newspaper article about a Dutch woman who helped organise her mother’s euthanasia: "We didn’t talk anymore. We just held hands because everything was said …the room was full of love and understanding… Then my mother said, ‘I’m ready for the journey. Give me a kiss.’"
Give me a break. You can search the complete works of Dickens for a passage more purple and manipulative than this. But of such material are woven the arguments which sway public opinion, not subtle philosophical, legal, moral and medical discourses.
The most telling argument for human life is family life. I’m sure that an afternoon with the Cratchits would shake the convictions of the latter-day Scrooges in the OPT.
But just by observing a healthy, normal family you learn how precious a life is. You learn that the most defenceless and vulnerable family members enrich the lives of the others. You see that the joys are multiplied and the sorrows divided. Parents often think that their battles to raise their kids are just their private struggle. But they have a public dimension as well. They undermine the scoffers by showing that love and self-sacrifice are possible. They give hope to the wounded doubters. Happy families are the real Ghost of the Christmas Present.
Perhaps the problem with the prune-faced patrons of the OPT is that they haven’t read enough Dickens. If I had my way they wouldn’t allowed to put out another press release until they have learned by heart the Ghost’s lecture to Scrooge:
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.
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