When The Future Is Forgotten

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Most of Europe’s political leaders – almost without exception, among the big ones – have no children. The list is almost airtight: Frances’ Emmanuel Macron; Germany’s Angela Merkel, the UK’s Theresa May,Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, Italiy’s Paolo Gentiloni, the Netherlands’Mark Rutte, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel – none have kids. Sweden’s Stefan Löfven has no bio-kids; the EU’s uber-bureaucrat Jean-Claude Juncker is also “child-free”.

And this is significant:

One of the benefits of parenthood is the daily confrontation with free will—a human nature. Parents may have their child’s life, career, and happiness planned out, but a child has other ideas -constantly. Love, patience, teaching, negotiating, scolding—nurture—can help direct the child, but the overwhelming otherness of the child is undeniable. They are not blank slates upon whom the parent exercises his will.

Political leaders without this experience of parenthood may be susceptible to the idea that people are blank-slates, interchangeable units of human capital. As a parent and a teacher, I have seen many brilliant and well-meaning parents and colleagues crash their will and intellect against the rock of a child’s independent nature. Now, scale such a hubristic paternalism to a nation. Or a continent.

Contemporary childless leaders, however ascendant they feel today, may be the last gasp of secularism. The future is won by those who show up, and only the religiously orthodox are having children.

The number of utopians – good and evil (and as opposed to totalitarian gansters, who may talk of utopia but never practice it), from the far left, far right, and the far libertarian fringe – who have eschewed parenthood is also a little daunting.

I know my own approach to politics was a lot more…entitled? Absolutist? Based on assumptions that raising kids showed me were unsupportable? All of those and more, before I had kids.

So now we have the leadership of one of the world’s most powerful blocs of natoins, all governing from the perspective of people who’ve never had to deal with kids?

I think it’s also significant that the leaders of the former Communist countries in Europe – Poland, Hungary (fiive kids!), the Czechs, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria – people who’ve had to deal with genuine cognitive dissonance and the imperfection of institutions in their lifetimes – tend to have kids.