A 27-year-old man is attempting to sue his parents on the basis that he never consented to being born. Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel identifies as an “antinatalist” which means that he believes birth has a negative value and procreation is morally wrong. And since it’s impossible to ask unborn children whether they want to be brought into the world, Raphael argues it’s wrong to have them at all. "It was not our decision to be born," he told the BBC—and so, in his view, it’s perfectly reasonable to demand recompense.
At the very least, Raphael believes that he should be paid for his existence. "If we are born without our consent, we should be maintained for the rest of our life,” he declares in a YouTube video—sporting a fake beard and sunglasses, which are there to allegedly protect his identity. “We should be paid by our parents to live. Why not?"
In Raphael’s estimation, delivering another person into the world and forcing them to have a career is tantamount to “kidnapping and slavery.” And while he does concede that’s it not actually possible to ask an unborn child to consent to its own life, he maintains it’s inherently unethical to reproduce for the sake of themselves and the state of the planet.
"There's no point to humanity. So many people are suffering,” he claims. “If humanity is extinct, Earth and animals would be happier. They'll certainly be better off. Also no human will then suffer. Human existence is totally pointless."
Raphael has so far been unsuccessful in finding a lawyer to take his case. Meanwhile, his parents—both lawyers themselves—have indicated they’re ready for a legal battle. When Raphael told his mother six months ago that he was suing her, her response was "that’s fine, but don’t expect me to go easy on you. I will destroy you in court.”
That’s not to say that they’re not onside with Raphael’s general argument, though. "Mum said she wished she had met me before I was born and that if she did, she definitely wouldn't have had me," Raphael explained to the BBC, while his mother posted on his Facebook page admitting that "If Raphael could come up with a rational explanation as to how we could have sought his consent to be born, I will accept my fault.”
And look, yes: this does feel kind of fishy. Between the fake beard, the sunglasses, and the bedroom blogger aesthetic, this could all well be an elaborate hoax designed to plug a new brand of super effective condom or something. It could even just be your run-of-the-mill attempt to drum up some attention and get some fleeting face time on the Internet. Which is probably why the Hindustan Times put the question to him directly.
Speaking via video call, journalist Amrita Kohli asked Raphael: are you genuine, or is this a joke? Raphael maintained that he isn't faking it, and explained that he wears the beard simply because he doesn't want to make his face public yet. He also admitted, however, that one could call his approach gimmicky for the fact that he "really wanted people to talk about anti-natalism… about the simple idea of not having kids."
Antinatalist thought can be traced back as far as the turn of the first and second centuries AD, ABC reports, with some interpretations of Gnosticism and Buddhism positing the idea that it’s wrong to bring children into the material world: a world that is full of suffering and evil. The idea has become more popularized in the West in recent years by philosophers like David Benatar, who in 2006 published a book titled Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence.
In his book, Benatar suggests that any experience involving pain is worse than no experience at all; thus living is worse than not living, and giving life to something is automatically bad.
“Coming into existence, far from ever constituting a net benefit, always constitutes a net harm,” he argues. “Each life contains a great deal of bad—much more than people usually think. The only way to guarantee that some future person will not suffer that harm is to ensure that the possible person never becomes an actual person.”
Raphael's position has been met with controversy in India, where 1.5 million children are born every month.