The other night we watched a movie called Idiocracy, brought to you by the makers of Office Space and King of the Hill. The premise of the movie is that a guy of supremely average intelligence (as in, IQ exactly 100) gets frozen by the military as part of an experiment and ends up waking up 500 years later only to find that he is by far the smartest person on Earth. The reason for this is made clear early on in the movie, as an obviously well-off, intelligent couple waits, tries, and is unsuccessful at having a kid, while a stupid poor guy is shown having lots of kids with several women, who go on to have lots of kids, who go on to have lots of kids, etc. And then the world ends up stupid as shit.
I hadn’t known much about the movie (other than it was a Mike Judge film and the title) before watching the movie, but I remember having a conversation with Dan last summer about how it seems like the people who are having the most kids these days are a) the ones who can least afford them and b) not especially intelligent or well-educated. The people that I know of who are intelligent and well-educated seem to either wait a long time to start having kids, or they don’t have any at all. And the ones who have several kids, the ones who start having kids pretty early, aren’t especially well-educated (it’s hard to finish college when you get pregnant at 20. Or 18. Or 16.) I know several who had kids relatively early and who ARE intelligent, but most of them also got married early for religious or other reasons. Seems like these days, the thing to do is to wait several years after starting a long term relationship to get married, and then choose to be child-free or only have one or two kids. While I fully support people’s rights to make their own choices about spawning, at the same time I wonder whether it will take 500 years to get to the point of where society seemed to be in the movie we watched, or whether it will take significantly less time.
In the movie, the people shown having lots of kids weren’t married, and the structures of families were pretty loose (as is the case, I think, with many people who have multiple children with multiple partners). There are people in this country, however, who are having umpteen numbers of children within the bounds of a specific (married) relationship, and these people kind of scare me. I’m not talking about a large family of 5 or 6 or 7 kids, which in this day and age of natural family planning (for those anti-birth control) and so many options of birth control (for those not opposed) and even emergency contraception, is pretty unusual. I’m talking about the Duggars, and the others who fall under the quiverful movement (or similar). You all probably know that the Duggars whelped child #17 recently, which brings the number of years Michelle Duggar has been pregnant to a whopping 10.5. Part of me would like to say “To each his own” regarding this situation, but I think that 17 (and likely more, though I’m not sure how Michelle Duggar’s uterus hasn’t fallen out yet) kids is Just Too Many.
While they may be able to just squeak by financially on investments and the kindness of strangers/community members, it’s not the money part that gets to me. It’s that I can’t imagine how in the hell each kid gets enough parent time in a day. It just doesn’t seem possible. They’ve been open about their “buddy system” – how each older child is assigned a younger one to raise once it’s off the boob (and they nurse for short periods of time so as not to impede fertility). Having been the oldest of 3 kids, and relied upon for childcare duties on many occasions without being paid or even asked, I can tell you that I sometimes resented the situation and felt taken advantage of. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be the oldest (or one of the oldest) of more than 10 kids and essentially expected to raise younger siblings because my parents were too busy having sex and popping out more babies. Or even just homeschooling all my siblings. OfJimBob isn’t a teacher, yet she teaches all of her kids at home. And chores are assigned by zones. And the only socialization these kids get is with each other and a few select quiverful families.
I was pretty taken aback to encounter such a large family in the KOA campground of Salina back in July – and they only had 10 kids (ONLY). How can parents of such large broods really know their children’s personalities? How are they possibly able to spend one-on-one time with each of their kids? How doomed are we as a country and as a planet when there are people like this specifically breeding their own churches and/or religious armies? There was a reason, once upon a time, to have lots of kids – it was free labor for farming families, who needed all the help they could get to get by. Also, it’s only been very recently that so many babies have lived to adulthood – childhood diseases and accidents don’t kill nearly as many kids as they used to, something for which to thank modern medicine. You had lots of babies because a good number of them died before they could even talk. Now, there’s no reason whatsoever to think that having 17 children is a socially, fiscally, or environmentally responsible action – in fact, it’s totally selfish and irresponsible. Because statistically, not all those kids are going to grow up to be JimBobs and OfJimBobs – being homeschooled by mom with little to no socialization isn’t going to bode well for the future educational endeovers of these kids. I can’t imagine that every single one of these kids is going to grow up to be a healthy and productive member of society.
Honestly, it’s hard to know what the answer is when it comes to avoiding an idiocracy. On the one hand, it’s better to slow down global overpopulation. On the other hand, the people (in this country, at least) who are having lots of babies are generally doing so in an irresponsible manner. What do you think? Should smart, well-educated people start having more babies so we aren’t all complete idiots in 100 years? Or is it smarter to be socially and financially responsible, and not contribute to the overconsumption of resources in this country? It’s hard to know.