No discussion of the problem of excessive human numbers would be complete without mention of the efforts which some countries have been making to achieve population control. Most notable in this regard are a number of former Soviet states which are now negatively growing at a phenomenal rate. Information regarding how these countries have achieved this result is however scarce to say the least, and so I can only assume that there has been a fairly dramatic transformation of sexual behaviour in these countries. China is another country which is endeavouring to practice growth control by initiating a policy limiting couples to the birth of just one child, and Iran is also a nation which has taken decisive action to reduce the growth of its population. In 1986 Iran's growth rate began to decline from an unusually high 3.2 percent to a meagre 1.2 percent in 2001, which is one of the most dramatic reductions ever recorded. Iran had initiated a family planning policy as early as 1967, but during the Islamic Revolution of the 1980s a strong pro-natalist outlook was adopted which saw growth rates climb to their all time highs of over 3 percent. A faltering economy, severe job shortages, and cities which were both overcrowded and polluted convinced the revolutionary government that a reversal of this outlook was necessary, and the limiting of family sizes soon became the norm within Iranian families. There is now little stigma associated with the use of contraceptives in Iranian society, and so far Iran is the only Islamic country in the Middle East to sanction a domestic condom producing factory.
A similar undertaking has also been attempted in China. When the Chinese Communist Party took control of the government in 1949 the population of this country was already in excess of half a billion human souls, and this number was expected to double within a meagre 35 years. Already evident to policy makers of the time were the problems resulting from overpopulation such as epidemics, slums, overwhelmed social services, and the strain on the natural environment caused by the overuse of fertile land and by the production of high volumes of waste. It was therefore a matter of some urgency that the newly installed government implement a policy aimed at reducing the rate at which the population was growing. While it may have seemed intrusive on the lives of individual families the implementation of a one child policy will probably have seemed to have been the best of a variety of pretty awful alternatives.
It was not until 1979 that the policy was brought into effect however during which time constitutional preparations were undertaken, the problem of overpopulation was brought to the public's attention, and according to the periodic census data the population estimate rapidly approached one billion human individuals. In terms of the practical implementation of the policy fines were imposed on couples having more than one child and they may also have been denied the payment of bonuses in their workplace. Throughout the implementation of the policy there has been considerable variation in its enforcement. In large towns and cities, for example, the policy has been strictly observed while in most rural areas families are allowed to have two children if the first one is either female or disabled.
The enforcement of the policy has, however, been problematic with some couples simply electing to pay the fine so that they may have a second child, and there has also been the abuse of human rights where couples who fail to adhere to the policy have been forced to undergo sterilization or abortion. There have been some grim stories told about how strictly the policy has been enforced in some cases such as the case in which a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy was forced to undergo an abortion, or how in one county in 2001 a quota of 20000 sterilizations or abortions was set because of reports that the policy was being ignored. In 2002 China abolished the practice of forcing women to undergo sterilization or abortion, but reports continue to emerge which suggest that this law is not being strictly observed.
In addition to criticisms of the policy which draw attention to the potential for the abuse of human rights other criticisms point out that the birth rate was already in decline throughout the 1970s prior to the implementation of the policy due to the widespread public awareness of the problem. Couples were voluntarily reducing the size of their families which in due course would have solved the problem with the nation's unmanageable growth rate. The issue of volition is all important in this regard since it negates the need to force families to obey laws restricting family sizes. Indeed another criticism of the policy points out that economic development will always be the most effective contraceptive since couples are motivated to have large families so that at least some children will survive long enough to care for them when they are too old to care for themselves. Proponents of this view draw attention to the success which capitalism has had in this regard both in the provision of funds supporting the development of a welfare state, and by encouraging individuals to save for their retirement.
In all fairness to those who originally formulated the one child policy the introduction of a capitalist economy would probably not have seemed very appealing to a newly installed communist administration, so they can hardly be blamed for not choosing this alternative. But the freedom of individuals to choose the particular role which they would like to play in the course of social relations should not be diminished in significance. A nation's economic relations should be judged according to their ability to adapt to the circumstances which face them, and a nation's ability to adapt crucially depends on the freedom of individuals to choose the adaptive alternative.
However, while much of my discussion has been based on the hope that we will meet these pressing needs within the time frame available to us, the truth is that hope is very quickly fading. Yet in spite of this pessimism I don't particularly want to live in a world without hope because of the potential for social chaos, and so I hope that if we go much longer without voluntary improvements in our problem with human numbers then governments will legislate to contain them. In the context of our present environmental difficulties I hope that individuals will now be able to orient their loyalty to the long suffering planet. It may have been easy to ignore our abuse of the environment for as long as we believed that it was made of inanimate matter, but now that we are able to identify with the planetary host, and its countless inhabitants, I hope that we will review this mistaken belief in sufficiently large numbers.
You may not like my solution to our ecological predicament because you think that I'm advocating a life of solitude and overwhelming loneliness, but I expect that you assume this view because you are looking at solitude from the point of view of those for whom marriage and family will always be the ultimate value. Prior to my discussion of these things you probably thought that solitude was one of the worst experiences you could think of, but I hope that I have at least opened your eyes to the possibility of an alternative to your way of looking at things. For me it is a peculiar irony that I feel least alone when I am most alone. When I am alone I am able to maintain a mood which is subtle enough for me to relate to some of the timeless beings which I have been lucky enough to encounter in my life, and believe me there are some wondrous creatures out there. The question really is not one of what your particular preference may be, but rather the one of how urgently we need to change our ecological behaviour. You should be asking yourself how long have we got before the whole thing collapses, and do I really want to bring children into such a world?
I've heard talk in the popular culture of today which voices the question 'Are we alone in the universe?' The question refers, of course, to the possibility of there being other humans somewhere out there with whom we could develop friendly relations, and who would inspire the peoples of Earth to achieve the goal of making such relations possible. Let me say, on the basis of the regression of abstractions, that it is very likely that beings similar to ourselves exist out there because we all consist of harmonic patterns which represent the same fundamental energy field. But whether we will every encounter such people is another question entirely. Quite apart from the difficulty of one of us making the journey across the gulf of space, there is the very distinct possibility that we have both emerged from the primordial consciousness at different points in time. Not only is space voluminous, but the dimension of time is every bit as extensive.
The voicing of this question indicates, however, a profound loneliness within the human spirit which looks out into time and space in the hope of finding a reflection of itself among the many worlds which undoubtedly populate our galaxy. So loneliness is neither a novelty in human experience, nor is it particularly unwelcome. Humanity seems to be yearning for the company of those who are not unlike itself, but without realising the profound affinity which it already shares with those creatures who it is in contact with each day. Whatever objections you may have about assuming a solitary existence are therefore ironic. It is hubris which inspires the view that humanity is different from all the other creatures here on Earth, and which presumes to be superior not only to those around us, but to those beings who populate our immediate cosmic neighbourhood. If anything can be learned from the host model and the regression of abstractions then it is that we are not alone. On the contrary we are surrounded on all sides by creatures who are very similar to ourselves, and with whom we could share our humanity. It has been my experience that humanity is a spirit of compassion which goes much deeper than merely identifying those of us who share a common location in the biological classification of animals. If it takes an adventure into the mystery of schizophrenia to appreciate this then don't be afraid of discovering what might be out there.
When I was first admitted to psychiatric hospital in March of 1983 I had lost everything of any value in my life. I had absolutely no possessions, I had lost my sanity, I was homeless, and I was exhausted from struggling with the fear which had driven me to destitution. But it wasn't long before I started to get myself back together again. I changed my attitude completely when I was awarded a disability pension. I felt like I was an employee of the government, and so I set about the task of understanding what had happened to me. I admit that there were times when I wished I had never started down this path. There were times when I rued the day I ever took up with Castaneda, and yet I count those days of psychotic delirium among the most fulfilling of my life. Today I am able to confidently report that schizophrenia is survivable, you can venture to the edge of a profound personal knowledge, and return very much the wiser. I believe that the road is safe, and that it is certainly worth investigating. And if you feel that utter solitude is not for you then feel free to adapt these ideas to ones which will more comfortably suit you. Solitude is obviously not for everyone, so I hope that you will find a way to share this knowledge with someone who is dear to you. Perhaps the two of you could enter into prayer with the planetary host, and be guided by this being through the perilous ecological choices which each of us will have to make over the course of the next decade or so.
I also hope you won't feel obliged to alter your sexual behaviour. Sex is without doubt the most compelling motive we have for achieving social cohesion, and contrary to any conflict which your sexual feelings may suffer during the coming social transformation, all we need to achieve is contraception. Let me also point out that any value we may derive from the infinite regression of abstractions will be in the provision of a theory about our bodies which doesn't ultimately lead to reproduction.
I would be disappointed to find that these ideas appealed only to the relatively few people who were adapted to a solitary existence, when the host model and the regression of abstractions should appeal equally to every last person on this planet. Certainly if these ideas are to have any effect on birth rates around the world, then they will have to appeal to more than those who live in the west where birth rates are already well in decline. There are, of course, serious economic impediments to implementing the sort of ideological transformation I am referring to. But I believe that with the escalation of environmental problems, the growing conflict between nation states and more serious social problems within national boundaries, there will be a groundswell of willingness among people to adapt to the challenges which face us. I doubt that I will be alone in the view that our problems will always be in proportion to our numbers, and that we could even entertain the liveliest of conflicts, if only our numbers were much smaller. There will, however, be many among you who believe that I am way out on a limb arguing along these lines, but for me excessive human numbers are obviously responsible for our problems.
We have come a long way in the last 200 years or so, but our industrial journey has cost an ecological catastrophe. Humans numbered no more than a billion in 1820 which was not so long ago that we have forgotten the demeanour of this time, the Industrial Revolution was well under way, and yet we had barely begun to realise the sort of impact it might have on this world. With so few of us we were able to achieve a profound technical mastery which ultimately led to disaster, but which offers the hope that so few of us could refrain from being quite so destructive. If our numbers were again so few we could still realise our wildest technological fancies, but with a confidence in our ability to control their ecological consequences. When our numbers are again no more than a billion I believe that we will make beautiful music together which will echo throughout the ages, and fill the void with a radiance which will remain forever a shining example of our ability to achieve the goal of representational fidelity.