By Dushyant Shekhawat Feb. 07, 2019
There is a philosophical basis for the arguments of Raphael Samuel, the Mumbai man suing his parents for being born. But in carrying out a superficial social-media stunt rather than addressing the issue with any nuance, his intent is hard to discern.
Sometime around noon today, I felt a headache coming on. I mentally ran through my options. I could either pop an aspirin, take a quick nap, or if I was anything like Mumbai resident Raphael Samuel, sue my parents for bringing me into this miserable existence. In a headline-grabbing stunt that has attracted the attention of international media like the BBC, the Mumbai man announced his decision to launch legal proceedings against his parents for giving birth to him without his consent.
Samuel holds that everyone alive was born without their consent, and that “nobody owes their parents anything”. Though children are not obligated to provide for their parents, according to Samuel, he obviously believes parents are responsible for the kids they bring into this world, which is why he is suing his.
“If we are born without our consent, then we should be maintained for the rest of our life. We should be paid to live. Why not,” the 27-year-old asks. Being of the same age as Samuel, I can’t help but wince when watching the video explaining his “anti-natalist” stance, because while he might have thought he was making a very valid and deep philosophical point (which we’ll get to later), all I saw on my screen was the embodiment about all the very worst stereotypes of the millennial generation, to which both Samuel and I belong.
For years now, research papers and essays have been published about how millennials are just the worst. As print publishing crawled toward its grave, millennials were blamed for killing it off. Do you feel like traditional romance has vanished from the dating landscape? Must be those pesky millennials. The global diamond industry is witnessing a downturn and yep, somebody found a way to blame it on millennials. But despite “killing” more victims than Ted Bundy and Aurangzeb combined, nothing harmed the reputation of the millennial generation more than the many labels slapped onto them by mainstream society – labels which Samuel is justifying by demanding his parents compensate him for giving birth to him.
The school of thought on which Samuel is basing his arguments is anti-natalism, which holds that life is so painful, that human beings should stop reproducing.
Lazy. Entitled. Selfish. These are the traits of the stereotypical millennial, at least according to people who don’t know too many of us. And by demanding financial restitution from his parents, Samuel is reinforcing their stereotype. His video was calibrated to attract as many outraged eyeballs as possible, but unfortunately what most people will see is a loser looking for a free handout at his mother and father’s expense. There is a philosophical basis for Samuel’s arguments, but in carrying out a superficial social-media stunt rather than addressing the issue with any nuance (another common complaint against this generation), he’s muddied the waters so badly that his intent is hard to discern.
The school of thought on which Samuel is basing his arguments is anti-natalism, which holds that life is so painful, that human beings should stop reproducing out of compassion for unborn children. David Benatar, a leading anti-natalist thinker and author, puts forward one of the guiding principles of anti-natalism as the idea that if humanity were to not exist, “all the unpleasantness and all the misery and all the suffering could be over, without any real cost”. In simpler terms, good things would remain good by virtue of their intrinsic nature, but bad things would no longer be bad since there would be no one to be negatively affected by them.
Now there are plenty of valid reasons to not have children – an overheating planet, apocalyptic levels of pollution, and dwindling natural resources for starters, without even considering personal motivations – but Samuel overlooked all of those in favour of a self-centred rant about how individuals should not be held responsible for their own lives. If Samuel was looking to start a meaningful discussion about how we view procreation, which would have been relevant in a country like ours where having kids is considered a duty, his hamfisted reach for viral fame missed the mark by a mile. Matthew McConaughey’s character in True Detective provides a more balanced take on anti-natalism in one line – “I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution” – than Samuel did in his entire long-winded explanation.
Hopefully the courts don’t waste their time hearing this man’s case, given that he’s let down both the philosophy he claims to be speaking for and the generation he represents. Personally, I think not being able to appreciate the miracle of being alive on the only planet in the known universe which supports life in all its glory in favour of wishy-washy ruminations on the misery of the human condition, is just an act of mental masturbation, annoying to those around you.
As a parting recommendation to Raphael Samuel, who clearly needs some uplifting messaging, I’d like to offer some words of wisdom from Dr Seuss. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” And hopefully, that direction leads away from a courtroom where your parents are the defendants.