A Plague of Children
We must turn to a course of reducing the size of the human population overt the next few centuries . . . as rapidly as possible. . . . 100% effective contraception available to all would not halt population growth. . . . People want too many children.
—Paul R. Ehrlich, Encounter, December 1970
This is not the Professor Paul Ehrlich of Salvarsan, the Magic Bullet, but this one, too, leader of the movement for ZPG—Zero Population Growth—is an eminent scientist. Therefore he sees things as they are, not as he would wish them to be. He knows that people want what they should not want, what is bad for them and us, what for their good and ours they must be kept from having. Not only children: Professor Ehrlich also knows that “people want to enjoy massive consumption” and that “people are aggressive and xenophobic.” No humane person could have a laissez-faire attitude toward aggression and xenophobia. He would want to curb them. And so with massive consumption, and with too many children.
Curb those dangerous passions and desires by education? Of course, but it would be folly to rely on education alone. Since antiquity the wise have known that people must be educated against greed, whether greed for money or for distinction; but that appetite has no limit, and that most people live to gratify appetite. Against murder we shield ourselves by other means besides education. Community is protected by the state, the state has police power, and police power compels by using or being manifestly ready to use force.
Perhaps murder is not the best analogy for the evil of too many children. Plague may be a better one. Both childbirth and plague are biological phenomena, and society entrusts the management of both to the medical profession. Reasonably advanced countries deal with plague by education, to be sure, but also by sanitation, by vigilance; above all by compulsory inoculation and vaccination. Against the plague of children the way to inoculate and vaccinate is to sterilize.
Many in ZPG are already educating us by the best method of the best teachers—not by telling but by showing, by setting an example. They have been sterilizing themselves voluntarily and demonstratively, so that we may be helped to leave our irrational prejudices behind. We always have to be shown. We had to be shown before we could welcome universal inoculation and vaccination.
Here the analogy ends. Inoculation and vaccination ideally should be irreversible, permanent. With sterilization, on the other hand, we could have too much of a good thing. We do not want total childlessness, only fewer children than parents, and only for a century or two. Afterward, when the population of the world has fallen to a tolerable level, we shall want as many children as parents (but no more).
So the scientists will have to be able to reverse sterilization if it is to be universal. Won’t selective sterilization do? Not if “selective” means “voluntary.” That would put us back to where we started: our problem is, precisely, that people are volunteering for (“people want”) too many children. Then how about selective compulsory sterilization, more or less like the draft, which is selective compulsory military service? That won’t work, either. Sterilize some, and the unsterilized may make up for them—perhaps by selling, directly or indirectly, the fruit of the womb to those whose wombs have been made barren.
Neither voluntary nor selective, therefore, but compulsory, universal, and reversible; or (to be fully explicit) compulsory, universal, reversible, female sterilization. It is not men who have babies. For any quantum of effort or resources that we put into the program, female sterilization will be decisively more effective than male. Assume a hundred men with a hundred women, and assume a male-only sterilization program so good that it is 99 per cent effective. With a hundred unsterilized women, one unsterilized man can produce a hundred children a year. A hundred unsterilized men, five hundred, could produce no more. Which is to say that a good male-only sterilization program is not, at the margin, any better than no program at all. But assume the same hundred men and hundred women, also with a sterilization program 99 per cent effective, and this time female rather than male. Now those two hundred people can produce no more than one child a year (barring a multiple birth). Women’s ressentiment, the single-standard ideology, what you will—these may exert pressure for male sterilization. Effectiveness requires female sterilization.
The method will be simplicity itself. Today every six-year-old has his inoculation and vaccination before being allowed to enter school. Tomorrow every ten-year-old schoolgirl will have her sterilization. When she is older and wants a child, she will apply to the Population Optimization Administration (POA) to have her fertility restored. After her child is born, the obstetrician will resterilize her. Needless to say, licences will be fewer for second children than for first, and no licenses will be given for third children.
This is more rational, more efficient, than sentimentally allowing every woman a first child whenever the fancy takes her, and only after the damage is done having POA remove her from active fertility. The welfare of all depends on POA’s smooth achievement of the Plan’s annual production quotas.
Elected officials can no longer evade debating the ideologic issue of whether the individual right to procreate, to the detriment of society, is a basic human right and a fundamental freedom and whether it can be legally halted without damaging the fabric of freedom. The limitation of family size by law seems less an infringement than a boon to individual civil liberty.
—Edgar Berman, “We Must Limit Families by Law,” New York Times, December 15, 1970
But what is freedom? Rightly understood,
A universal license to be good.
—Hartley Coleridge, Liberty
The Times identifies Dr. Berman as a noted research surgeon who served as special assistant on health problems to Vice President Humphrey. On the evidence he is also a political philosopher, in that great tradition Coleridge fils compressed so ably into the couplet above. Aristotle reproved the tendency of people in democracies to think that freedom means everyone doing what he likes. For the Stoics the bad and ignorant are slaves, only the good and the wise and those who suppress their desires are free. (Freedom is the recognition of necessity. The gods themselves do not fight against necessity.) For John Milton none can love freedom heartily but good (or, wise and good) men; the rest love not freedom, but license. Spinoza called that man free who is guided by reason. Montesquieu thought freedom was the power to do what we ought to will, or alternatively the right to do what the law permits. Rousseau thought so too, and he so loved liberty that he would compel us to be free.
Still, a few difficulties remain. The same Milton who made freedom the exclusive property of the good and the wise suggested that Necessity is the tyrant’s plea. And there is the other tradition, represented by John Stuart Mill, for which the only freedom worthy of the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way. There is also the difficulty of passing from general principles to particular cases.
I do not know Professor Ehrlich or Dr. Berman, but I should not be greatly surprised if they belonged to a civil-liberties union, or at least sent it their contributions. I should not be surprised if they were repelled by the Nixon-Mitchell no-knock legislation. I assume they think it a disgrace, and a threat to our liberties, that a police force should be empowered to break into someone’s home without first knocking at the door.
Let us project our imaginations three years into the future. (Things move rapidly nowadays. Five years ago, who would have prophesied that our governments would now be so enlightened as routinely to provide abortion on demand, in public hospitals?) Universal, compulsory, female sterilization has been enacted into law, the Demographic Plan has been adopted, the Population Optimization Administration is in business. Defiant lawbreakers—naturists in the East Village or a New Mexico commune, Amish in Wisconsin—are reasonably believed to present a clear and present danger of conceiving, or even of giving birth, in contravention of the Plan, of the Annual Production Target (APT), and of the POA regulations, as authorized in the Universal Female Sterilization Act (UFSA). To knock or not to knock? If the police have to knock, they will find a man and woman playing rummy, or praying; or else a window suspiciously open and a bed suspiciously rumpled. If the police are allowed to kick the door in, they can well prevent a conception, or even a parturition, and nab the criminals in the act.
Or the POA police may know that anti-social physicians are issuing false sterilization documents. Shall a woman in possession of a document, but suspected with good cause of not having really been sterilized, be allowed to stand on the Fifth Amendment and escape examination by an honest, public-service physician?
In strict logic it may not be easy to choose between no-knocking to catch a dealer in heroin and no-knocking to catch an unlicensed procreatress or parturient. Practically, however, the choice is less difficult. Measured against the civil-libertarian principle, probable heroin-dealing is trifling; measured against the enormity of willful childbearing, the civil-libertarian scruple must give way: salus populi suprema lex, the people’s safety is the highest law. Let the wise guys inscribe their jeering graffiti, their “Pushers sí, mothers no.” The stock in trade of the old-fashioned politician was flag and mother. Luckily for us, both have become obscenities, equally.
So much for some of the difficulties uncovered in a legal approach to ZPG. Difficulties of another order are uncovered in an economic approach. An elated ZPG scientist has told me that recent research shows intelligence to contain only a small hereditary element. This scientific finding—which I must admit surprised me—will be helpful for appealing to the intelligent, who may have been thinking that it is their eugenic duty to have children. Now they may be told, in good conscience, not to procreate but to adopt. Adoption by the intelligent will accomplish two useful things: it will reduce total births, and it will transfer some infants from less satisfactory natural parents to more satisfactory adoptive ones.
But the intelligent (or at least the educated) are likelier than others to have incomes high enough for a substantial measure of discretionary spending. Convince them it is their duty to adopt, and when they go into the adoption market they may bid up the price of children, thereby stimulating producers to increase their production. Make that illegal and you could get a black market. Prohibition made liquor illegal but did not end liquor. Instead it brought about corruption, high prices to drinker and high profits to bootlegger, and a low, even dangerous, average quality of the product. And there is the additional possibility that after UFSA, some illegal purchasers may be brought into the market by people’s ancient propensity to regard stolen water as sweet.
One more economic point: as Professor Ehrlich shows, reduction of children goes hand in hand with reduction of massive consumption. Today we can spend on Cadillacs, or houseboats, or rising college-tuition fees. Not for long, though. With only one child permitted to a couple, even the tuition fees of the future may not sop up those discretionary dollars of ours; while Cadillacs and houseboats will be in short supply. We will have the spare cash to buy children with.
Consequently, it is prudent to assume that all the ingredients will be there for a vigorous black market in children, or in childbirth licenses. We cannot foresee its details, but we should get set for the ingenuity of eager buyers and sellers. This usually exceeds the ingenuity of honest officials, if only because a good part of the black market’s ingenuity is exercised in turning honest officials into corrupt ones. Seized by the authorities, moonshine and contraband narcotics have nevertheless been known to escape destruction and find their way back into the hands of illegal traffickers. What assurance have we that that will not also happen with contraband neonates?
All the more reason, then, why our scruples, which merit the greatest respect in the case of minor things like pushing heroin (or murder confessions), will have to be put aside in the case of the major thing, population.
. . . man in primitive societies has always controlled his own reproduction by custom. His customs in primitive, and to a less extent in advanced, societies have . . . always tended to produce not a maximum increase but an optimum density. Abortion, infanticide, restricted intercourse and various contraceptive devices are the means employed. . . . Those who are prevented from marrying or mating by warrior grading or postponed initiation . . . are forced into homosexuality which then becomes a major agent of family limitation. The old are generally left to die. And in extreme crisis the infants are eaten.
—C.D. Darlington, Evolution of Man and Society, 59
. . . other practices too have been reinvented over and over again, in the long course of time . . . for necessity is the mother of invention.. .
. . . the [Cretan] lawgiver has made many wise provisions . . . for the segregation of the women, so that they shall not bear many children; and he instituted male congress. . .
As to whether the children who are born shall be put away or brought up, let there be a law against bringing up anyone damaged; while from the point of view of the quantity of children, if the customary arrangements prevent any of those born from being put away, a limit must be set to the amount of child-production; and if any have coupled and a child in excess is conceived . . . abortion is necessary. . . . Let it be decided also for how long it is fitting that man and woman shall do their public service by producing children. . . . anyone more than four or five years older than [fifty] should be relieved from procreation . . . and thereafter any congress they may perform must clearly be for health’s sake or for a similar reason. As to congress with another woman or another man, simply let it be ignoble for anyone to be disclosed as engaging in it in any way at all, so long as he is a husband and has that title; while if anyone is disclosed to be doing anything of the sort during the time of his child-production, let him be amerced by deprivation of privilege commensurate with his error.
—Aristotle, Politics 1329b, 1272a, 1335b-1336a
Isn’t it in a futurist novel by Anthony Burgess that government counters overpopulation by drumming it into the citizenry that gay is beautiful, gay is better?
The Pill, legal abortion, Women’s Liberation, Gay Liberation—all have begun their careers of conquest pretty much at the same time. An old-fashioned moralist will say that separately and together these represent the triumph of the new paganism. The new pagans (so called) will say that those things which frighten the fuddy-duddies are only ideas whose time has come asserting themselves against the Establishment.
Maybe the credit lies elsewhere. Maybe the new pagans are forcing an open door. If there is such an essence as “government,” maybe in the last third of the 20th century government is not at all displeased with ideologies, enthusiasms, movements, and behaviors that hold the population down.
Then a new king arose over Egypt, who had not known Joseph, and he said to his people, “Why, the Israelite people are too many and too strong for us. . . .” So taskmasters were put over them to oppress them. . . . But the more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, until the Egyptians could not stand them any more. . . . Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives. . . , “When you deliver the Hebrew women, . . . if it is a boy, kill him. . . .” But because the midwives were God-fearing, they did not do as the king of Egypt had ordered them. . . . So Pharaoh commanded all his people as follows: “Any boy that is born, throw him into the Nile. . .”
In 1726 and 1727 the [Hapsburg] Emperor Charles VI issued two decrees, as a result of which in both Bohemia and Moravia the existing right of permanent residence of the long-settled Jewish families was allowed to be bequeathed to only one of the sons in a family. As the heir, that son was allowed to establish a new family; but as soon as he got married, his brothers and sisters lost the right to remain. The purpose of this cruel law, worthy of the ancient Pharaohs, was to block the natural increase of the Jews and thus to effect a “Reduktion” in their numbers. . .
—Simon Dubnow, Weltgeschichte des jüdischen Volkes, VII, 279-80
(Prosecution Exhibit 1544)
On 6 March I attended a meeting in the Reich Main Security Office concerning the further handling of the Jewish problem. The purpose of the meeting was to clarify how the general directives laid down in the “meeting of the State Secretaries” of 20 January 1942 [editor’s note: the Wannsee Conference, on the Final Solution of the Jewish Question] are to be carried out actually in practice. The question of the sterilization of the persons of mixed blood amounting to approximately 70,000 individuals was considered to be particularly difficult. According to a report by the Supreme Medical Authority, this would be equal to 70,000 days spent in hospitals. As the hospitals are occupied by the wounded, this method does not seem practicable, at least during the war. As an alternative to the solution mentioned in section IV/1 of the minutes of 20 January it was, therefore, suggested to assemble all persons of mixed blood (first degree) in a single city . . . and to postpone the question of sterilization to the period after the war. . .
Berlin, 7 March 1942
—Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals.
October 1946-April 1949, XIII, 221-22
Under the patronage of the SS and Police, sterilization experiments were conducted on Jews in the killing center of Auschwitz, and from time to time the experimenters sent in reports to the effect that a technique for large-scale sterilizations was about to be “perfected.”
[in Holland] by February 1944, only 8610 intermarried Jews were still living in their homes. These Jews were accorded complete exemption from anti-Jewish measures, to the point of permission to dispose of the star, if they could prove their sterility. A total of 2256 Jews had submitted such proof; hundreds of them had acquired it by subjecting themselves to an operation. . . . It appears that sterility of the Christian partner was not an acceptable ground for releasing restrictions. It was the Jewish partner who had to be sterile.
—Raul Hilberg, Destruction of
the European Jews, 273, 377
Long before the proclamation of the Jewish State, the She’erit Ha-peletah [“the surviving remnant ”] established miniature Jewish states within the [Displaced Persons’] camps. . . . Tens of thousands of new families were established, resulting in a birth rate of 75 to 100 for every 1,000—unsurpassed in the world.
—Editorial, last issue (Jan. 13, 1950) of Dos Vort, the newspaper of She’erit Ha-peletah; in Leo W. Schwarz, The Redeemers, 308
The keynote is the very low level of Jewish fertility. In all countries for which data are available, including the United States, the fertility of the Jews is below that of the general population. In several countries it has fallen below replacement level. After a short-lived post-World War II baby boom, Jewish birth figures declined in the 1950’s. . . . In all diaspora Jewish communities . . . the proportion of . . . old people is greater. . . . This . . . affects unfavorably the balance of births and deaths.
—Usiel O. Schmelz, “Evaluation of Jewish Population Estimates,”
American Jewish Year Book, 1969, 274-75
Long ago the Jewish parochials were put in their place by that joke about The Elephant and The Jewish Question, and now the parochials are worrying about The
Population Explosion and The Jewish Question. The parochials are solemn about the Jews’ uniqueness in being so much fewer, all these years after Hitler’s war, than before it. They say that Russians, Poles, Germans have made up their wartime losses, and that only the Jews have not. They worry even about America, and will tell you that the Jewish ratio to the total population has dropped a fifth in one generation.
Of every 1,000 people in the world, 996 or 997 are not Jews. A concern about minorities is admirable, of course, and all that, but really! How much attention are we—even those of us who happen to have been born Jews (whatever “Jews” may mean)—supposed to give to a tiny fraction of the world’s population? Explaining why his country cannot afford to be anti-Russian, a Pole has said that Russia is bad enough, but China will be impossible: the entire Polish people is smaller than a small statistical error in the Chinese census. But all the Jews in the world are fewer than half of the Poles in Poland. All the Jews in the world are fewer than two-thirds of the blacks in the United States, fewer than one-third of the Catholics in the United States. How can you justify a preoccupation with Jews?
If it were only a matter of the Jews as Jews, therefore, we need have no second thoughts. It is only as the Jews represent groupiness—group interests, passions, and suspicions—that we have to pay attention to them, or rather to the groupy questions that are regrettably likely to be raised. Let us restate the central principle: the philoprogenitiveness of selfish or backward individuals is at odds with the common good of the human race; and against selfish desires, or archaic values and habits of thought, the common good must prevail. That truth cannot be shaken. But the existence of groups means that individuals have sentiments and purposes stemming from their group memberships as well as from their individualities.
The first practical complication arising from groupiness is easily disposed of. That is what used to be called national interest or, from another perspective, patriotism. Some may argue that the very metaphors ZPG people use in talking about population show that population has military significance: “bomb” and “explosion.” They may then go on to point out that for American ZPGers, the birth of an American baby is much worse than the birth of a Chinese or Indian baby, because Americans use up a hugely disproportionate share of the world’s goods, and foul earth, water, and air with a hugely disproportionate share of the world’s junk and waste. For ZPGers, this means that ZPG is more urgently needed in America than in China or India. But with population having military significance, will not what may amount to unilateral American ZPG be a kind of unilateral American disarmament?
This is easily answered: yes. But the matter must not be allowed to rest there. Counter-questions are in order. Are you a militarist, a hawk, a cold-warrior? What kind of person are you, to oppose ZPG for narrow reasons of national interest, so called—which, at that, are nothing more than apprehensions of military (!) disadvantage?
The domestic rivalries of group interests are stickier. Take abortion, for instance. There are some (and not blacks alone) who think it a remarkable coincidence that abortion, so long illegal and so long a near-monopoly of the white middle class, should have been made legal and widely available just when the taxpayer types were making louder and louder noises about the rising cost of supporting the rising number of welfare children. If those suspicious of abortion should now direct their suspicions against ZPG, they would be misguided, of course; but given their experience and outlook, can they be convinced they are wrong?
There is more yet. Some blacks are against abortion not primarily because they resent the motives they impute to the social engineers who legislated it but because, quite simply, they want the black population to increase more rapidly than the white. Such people say that the blacks of the United States are a minority of awkward size, 11 per cent—too big not to be conspicuous, too small to be strong. They want the black proportion bigger, about 25 per cent. For them, ZPG will be even worse than abortion, which after all is voluntary. ZPG will be compulsory and it will freeze population ratios. Inevitably, some will say it is anti-black. Of course freezing population ratios is not what ZPG is for. We know that, but the black populationists may tell us again that white racism is not always conscious. And, unfortunately, freezing American population ratios can evoke memories. The explicit purpose of the Immigration Restriction Acts of the 1920’s was, by freezing population ratios, to preserve America’s Nordic character against Slavs, Mediterraneans, Asians, and Africans (and Jews).
Conscientious citizens will serve on the local Population Optimization Administration boards, and loudmouths will make life miserable for them. Has Mrs. A been denied a license for reversal of sterilization? Then the POA board is discriminating against Catholics. Miss B? The board is against feminists. Mrs. C? Against the poor. Mrs. D? Against blacks. Mrs. E? Against the wives of policemen. The members of the board are prejudiced, arbitrary, snobbish. They are corrupt. They show favoritism. The head of the POA in Washington is corrupt and prejudiced.
To advance meaningful freedom it may be necessary to silence those demagogues.
The Lord spoke to Moses and said: Speak to the Israelites and say to them: I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as is done in the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, nor shall you do as is done in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you; you shall not follow their ordained practices. You shall keep My laws and observe My decrees. . . : I am the LORD your God. . . . My decrees and My laws, by which, if a man obeys them, he will have life: I am the LORD. None of you shall approach anyone of his own flesh to uncover nakedness: I am the LORD. . . . You shall not lie seminally with your neighbor’s wife, defiling yourself with her. You shall not give any of your children for offering to Molech, lest you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; that is an abomination. You shall not lie with any animal, thereby defiling yourself. . . . For by all such things those nations defiled themselves whom I am driving out in your favor. . . . But you, you must not do any of these abominations . . . so that the land shall not spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that preceded you. . . . I am the LORD your God.
—Leviticus 18 (read in the synagogue Yom Kippur afternoon)
Moses . . . gave the Jews novel religious usages, opposed to those of all other people. For the Jews everything is profane which among us is sacred, and contrariwise, among them everything is permitted which to us is unclean. . . . though a people most inclined to lust, they shun lying with foreign women—while among themselves nothing is unlawful. . . . Also they are concerned to increase their population; for they think it an abomination to kill any unwanted or inconvenient child. . . . the Jews understand God . . . to be one . . . supreme, eternal . . . not to be represented. . . . Therefore they display no images in their cities, not to speak of their temples; such flattery their kings do not receive from them, nor such honor the Caesars. . . . the Jewish way is senseless and filthy.
—Tacitus, Histories, V, iv, v
. . . one commandment the pagans keep is that they do not write a marriage contract between males . . .
they do not write a marriage contract between males: For though the pagans are assumed to practice homosexuality, and in fact do practice it, they are not so far gone in derision of the commandment against it as actually to write a marriage contract.
—Rashi ad loc.
Nero . . . married the boy Sporus with all due rites, including dowry and bridal veil; took him home, accompanied by a large crowd, and kept him as his wife. Somebody’s rather clever mot is still in circulation, that it would have been a good thing for everyone if Nero’s father Domitius had had such a wife.
—Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars VI, xxviii
The She’erit Ha-peletah witnessed the collapse of European [sc., Western] civilization. . . . We have given the world the will and testament of those who perished: “Do not put your faith in European civilization. . . . Return to the sources of Jewish morality. Live in accordance with the moral imperative of Judaism. . .”
—Dos Vort, January 10, 1950
As Israel were redeemed from Egypt for the merit of having been fruitful and having multiplied, so will Israel be redeemed in future for the merit of being fruitful and multiplying. . . . Know this to be so, that Israel are redeemed only if they are fruitful and multiply; as it is said [Isaiah 54:3], “For to left and right you will increase. . .”
—Seder Elijah Zuta 14 ad fin.
Well, maybe at that it Would be artificial, in talking about ZPG, not to talk about the Jews.
So many in the movement seem to be Jews. So many of the self-sterilizers, who are setting an example for the more backward, seem to be Jews. That is, Jews of the good kind, not like the The Elephant-and-The-Jewish-Question ones. The latter, in a characterization once standard in Christian theology, are carnal—which is to say, fleshly, or material. The fleshly, material Jews are also the parochials, who link everything to The Jewish Question. About everything they ask, “Is it good for the Jews?” They ask that even about ZPG.
Parochial, fleshly Jews say that since ZPG is for combatting the population explosion, it is the right thing for population-exploders: Indians, Chinese, Russians, Americans, what have you. But the Jews are not exploding, it is not they who have too many children. The Jews have too few children, they are imploding. For Jewish population-imploders, say the fleshly parochials, the right thing is not ZPG but MPG—Maximum Population Growth. Self-consciously Hebraic, they yet appeal to a Hellenic principle: justice is the equal treatment of equals; whereas, no less than the unequal treatment of equals, the equal treatment of unequals is injustice.
Prophetic Jews, on the other hand, are not always asking, “Is it good for the Jews?” Prophetic Jews know better than to grant the parochials’ plea for exempting the Jews. ZPG is the Jews’ obligation not only because it is the obligation of all, but especially because it is in the highest degree a prophetic duty for Jews to take the lead and be an example. The fleshly parochials—we may as well call them priestly, too, to set them off against the prophetic—would actually say that for the Jews a devotion to ZPG is suicide. They do not even shrink from hinting that there may be something immoderate, problematic, about Jews cheerfully volunteering for sterilization, untroubled by any memory of what sterilization meant for Jews only yesterday, and of how the capacity and desire of the survivors to bring children into the world affirmed the Psalmist’s “I shall not die, but live.”
This sort of thing the prophetic Jews reject with the indignation it deserves; as they reject with the contempt it deserves the pedantic quibble that prophetics ought to know their Prophets.
The prophetics will not let their humanity, their very vocation for prophetism, be cribbed and confined by pedantries, or by tribal compulsions to relive old, irrelevant horrors, or by home-bound, timorous refusals to adventure forth into a wider universe of thought and concern. The prophetics understand that it does not matter if the Jews die away, so long as Jewish ideals live; that if Jewish ideals are to live, it may well be necessary for the Jews to die away; even that it may be a Jewish ideal that the Jews should die away.
Is it not sad that there are still some Jews deaf to a prophetic voice?
So Pharaoh commanded all his people as follows: “Any [Hebrew] boy that is born, throw him into the Nile. . . .” Now, a man of the house of Levi had gone and married a Levite woman. She conceived and bore a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, hid him for three months. When she could no longer keep him hidden, she got a papyrus basket for him, caulked it with bitumen and pitch, placed the boy in it, and put it among the reeds by the bank of the river. His sister stationed herself at a distance to learn what would happen to him.
Pharaoh’s daughter, having come down to wash in the Nile . . . , noticed the basket among the reeds and sent a maid for it, who picked it up. Opening it, the princess saw the baby—a boy, crying—and taking pity on him, said, “He must be one of those Hebrew children.” So his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and engage a nurse among the Hebrew women for you, to suckle the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said yes, and the girl went and engaged the child’s mother. . . . When the boy was older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her son, and named him Moses. . . .
Amulius deposed his brother Numitor and reigned in his place. Adding crime to crime, he destroyed his brother’s male line; and Numitor’s daughter Rea Silvia . . . Amulius appointed Vestal Virgin, putting an end to her hopes for progeny. . . . Having been raped, Rea Silvia the Vestal gave birth to twins . . . and named Mars as the father. . . . But neither the gods nor men could save her or her children from the cruel king. The priestess was bound and put into prison, and the boys were ordered thrown into the river. . . . By divine chance the Tiber had overflowed its banks . . . and no one could get to the river proper. . . . Thus, imagining they were carrying out the king’s order, his men put the infants into the nearest overflow. . . . The tale is told that when the flood let up, the tub containing the boys floated to a dry spot; and a thirsty she-wolf, coming down from the surrounding hills and attracted by the childish wails, was so mildened that she let down her dugs and suckled the boys. The king’s herdsman, whose name was Faustulus, found her licking them with her tongue and took them home to be brought up by his wife Larentia. (But there are some who think that it was Larentia who was called She-wolf, among the shepherds, as being a common harlot. . . .) Such was the manner of Romulus and Remus’s birth and upbringing. . .
—Livy, History of Rome from Its Founding I, iii, iv
If children are to be headed off or put away, let there be no slip-ups. Sterilizations must sterilize, abortions abort (and drownings drown). One thing is pretty certain, that the world needs no new Prophets or Founders, no new Judaisms or Romes. Even now someone may be writing a novel set in the 22nd century, complete with mythos of the child doomed, spared, endangered again, and finally revealed as Savior—whether Founder or Prophet. What will be his equivalent of tub and caulked basket?