In a way, I wish we knew exactly who this child was when he or she was born into the world. On the other hand, given certain aggressive measures to ‘control’ population, perhaps we’d best not have an identity.
But that’s precisely the point. Behind the numbers and statistics and academic angst is the fact that the word ‘population’ means people, lots of them, individual women and men and children who are unique and distinct from every other human being in the world, with equal dignity.
Which is why I was glad to see Seven Billion Reasons to Celebrate.
As the Financial Times reported late last week:
“In contrast to the photographs feting the symbolic sixth billionth birth in 1999, the UN is deliberately avoiding selecting a similar baby to mark this year’s milestone, in a move that Babtunde Osotimehin, executive director of the [UN Fund for Population, or UNFPA], said showed the need for reflection rather than celebration.”
“Reflection” rather than “celebration”?
Can we talk honestly, just for a moment? When was the last time anyone heard bien-pensants in population policy circles bemoaning a surfeit of blond-haired, blue-eyed babies? Think about it.
As these graceless official preparations for Baby Seven Billion inadvertently indicate, there is an ugly underside to today’s international “population movement” (whose enthusiasts no longer prefer to be called “population controllers”).
It is an underside whose intellectual heritage traces back to the heyday of eugenics, with its then-explicit emphasis on the imperative of pruning away “the unfit” from the human race. As Ur-eugenicist and population-controller Margaret Sanger, the mother of these modern efforts, declared in the 1920s,
“Feeble-mindedness perpetuates itself from the ranks of those who are blandly indifferent to their racial responsibilities. And it is largely this type of humanity we are now drawing upon to perpetuate our world for the generations to come.”
And lest anyone forget: those high-minded eugenic precepts were parent to the concept of unlebenswertes Leben (roughly translated, “lives not worth living,” as determined by those other than the particular souls in question)—a notion that would fatefully come into vogue in Germany during that country’s darkest hour.
For obvious reasons, this is a pedigree that today’s population controllers do not strain to highlight.
And incidentally: what of this veil of tears into which Baby Seven Billion is being born? Baby Six Billion is now about 12 years old (having been born in 1999)—and Baby Five Billion has recently marked his or her 24th birthday (he or she was born in early 1987). The world has changed over these years—and not for the worse, if material living standards are our benchmark.
Read on in that article. Bottom line:
The plain fact is that Baby Seven Billion will have a greater chance to live to adulthood and receive an education—and a lower chance of suffering extreme material poverty—than a child at any previous juncture in history. This prospect, in and of itself, should be a cause for celebration.
Besides the fact of life itself.
The Vatican’s press director welcomed this baby into the world, wherever he or she is.
“Dear baby number seven billion,” said the Italian priest Nov. 5, “we pray that you can understand that your life will find its fullest meaning not in this world but in the next. Because this is what you were born for. Your Creator and Father made you for this.” …
“I don’t know if you were born on a remote island, or in a refugee tent. I don’t know whether you are healthy or sick or handicapped. I don’t know whether both your parents were there to embrace you at your birth, or whether your mother alone was there to hold you.”
“I don’t know whether people will say there are too many or too few of you and your contemporaries. Today, I don’t care about that.”
Fr. Lombardi told the landmark baby that the world he or she is coming into “is a bit complicated and it’s not friendly for everyone.”
“We haven’t done a very good job preparing it for you,” he admitted.
He noted that the G20 Summit of the world’s wealthiest nations had just concluded its two-day meeting in the French city of Cannes.
“The leaders of the richest and most powerful nations are sitting around a table, struggling to find a way forward. We too are asking ourselves about your future.”
Fr. Lombardi’s greeting is personal but also universal. And exquisite.
He told the baby that he or she is “unique and special, that you are a wonderful gift, that you are a miracle, that your spirit will live forever, and so you are welcome.”
“We hope that when you smile someone will respond to your smile, and when you cry someone will caress you. We hope you can go to school and that you won’t go hungry. We hope that someone will answer your questions wisely and encourage you as you find your place in the world.”
Let’s do all we can to make that happen.