David Benatar in Aeon:
In 2006, I published a book called Better Never to Have Been. I argued that coming into existence is always a serious harm. People should never, under any circumstance, procreate – a position called ‘anti-natalism’. In response, readers wrote letters of appreciation, support and, of course, there was outrage. But I also got this message, which is the most wrenching feedback I have received:
I have suffered horribly since I was a teen because of severe bullying in school that left me profoundly traumatised to the point I had to abandon school. Unhappily, I also have terrible looks and I’ve been judged, mocked, insulted because of being ‘too ugly’ even by random strangers in the street what usually happens almost daily. I’ve been called the ugliest person they ever seen. That’s extremely hard to deal with. Then, to finish it, I’ve been diagnosed with a serious congenital heart disease when I was just 18, and today in my early 20s, I suffer from severe heart failure and malignant arrhythmia that threaten to kill me. My heart has almost stopped many times and I deal with the fear of sudden death each day of my existence. I am petrified by fear of death and the agony and torment of imminent death is indescribable. I don’t have much time left and the unavoidable will happen soon. My life has been pure hell and I don’t even know what to think anymore. Certainly, sentencing someone to such a world is the worst of all crimes, and a serious moral violation. If it wasn’t by my parents’ selfish desire, I wouldn’t be here today suffering what I suffer for no reason at all, I could have been spared in the absolute peace of non-existence but I am here living this daily torture.
One does not have to be an anti-natalist to be moved by these words (which are quoted with permission). Some might be inclined to say my correspondent’s situation is an exceptional one, which should not incline us towards anti-natalism. However, severe suffering is not a rare phenomenon, and thus anti-natalism is a view that, at the very least, should be taken seriously and considered with an open mind.