A Thought Experiment

Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Imagine you wake up tomorrow and over night your society has magically transformed into one which endorses the punching of babies. More than that, punching babies is the norm. There are adverts for baby punching on TV, on billboards, at the bus stop outside your house. “I’m loving it”. 

You can’t go out for a bite to eat with a friend without them ordering, then punching a baby at least once during your time together. 

Baby punching is now considered an integral part of Christmas. Your grandmother will be most put out if you decline the infant she offers you over the dinner table. Your mother will tut.

At first you ask your friends why they’re doing this? It seems cruel and unnecessary. They are immediately and, to your mind, disproportionately angry at the question. They tell you to stop judging their choices. Maybe they even avoid you after this conversation.

You’re offered a baby to punch at a work event and decline. Someone asks why, and feeling like you don’t want to lie you respond that you’re not into punching babies. Congrats, you’re now the butt of jokes in your office forever. 

Confused and not a little hurt by all of this, you retreat. You stop mentioning it. You look the other way. Not good enough, you soon find.

Everyone hates a preachy baby pacifist. So goes the punchline on panel shows and your friend’s Facebook statuses. You are universally regarded as a twat without even opening your mouth on the subject.

You bring along a baby doll next time you’re out with friends, to fit in and perhaps to offer them an alternative. People are initially curious, some politely try it, giving it a half hearted slap and nodding at you pityingly. Others are outright disgusted by your synthetic baby. It’s just not the same, they say. That’s kind of the point, you say. They look baffled. You are so fucking weird.

People insist that your health will suffer. You feel fine. They point out that there’s an entire industry dedicated to breeding babies for punching. Don’t you care about those jobs? Don’t you realise that if everyone stopped punching babies then far fewer babies would ever exist? You think you’d rather baby farmers retrained in something else, and you struggle to feel for the plight of hypothetical, as yet non existent babies while surrounded daily by very real bruised and crying infants.

Ultimately your decision to abstain from baby punching spares multiple kids from being punched per year. Still, it seems everyone else is carrying on unabated and baby punching is actually on the rise globally, so you’re frequently told that your individual choice makes no difference at all.

My question to you is whether, under these frankly bizarre circumstances, you think you’d ever pick up an infant, look right into its uncomprehending, wondering face, slowly pull back your arm, and then slam it in the gut?

(originally published in the April edition of LAD$ Zine)