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Mario Gamba – journalist, music critic and writer – talked about his views on fatherhood when we met him in his house in Rome.

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MARIO GAMBA: «Yes, I have quite a few opinions on this matter. Let’s start from something you can often see at the supermarket, at a café, in the streets: a newborn baby crying desperately.
I find these situations not only extremely annoying, as for everyone else, I think, but I also try to empathise, pitying them, with these poor souls who must keep this creature at bay, for the rest of their life as guardians and parents.
This concept has always made me feel very uncomfortable, I never wished to find myself in a situation like that.
I’ve had this view for a long time, when I lived in my home town, near Mantua, so at a much younger age, when I was somehow less mature ideologically, but the idea of raising a person, a child, with all the difficulties and the burden that come with it, on top of the responsibilities that society puts on you, as you are accountable for this person’s life.
You really are accountable for, as somehow it depends on you.
This kind of annoying and oppressive relationship, and this type of power dynamics, as you’re responsible for their well-being and upbringing is something I always loathed, I always thought it was something to run away from.
When I thought or fantasised about my ideal relationship with a woman, it always revolved around eros, with friendship or respect, if that was the case even better, but never thought about children and having a family, not even in my most tender fantasies.
I only had one fantasy of that sort long time ago, when I was much younger.
The only fantasy I have ever had, which may be considered vaguely incestuous but not necessarily, was of me as an adult with an adolescent daughter, around 14 or 15 years old, and of us strolling and talking.
I have this sort of “maieutic” role, a sort of guide, a kind of intellectual teacher.
Not too much, I have a dialogue with this imaginary daughter of mine, who has this kind of relationship with me.
That’s the only fantasy I can recall.
Not exactly incestuous because I never fantasised about any kind of erotic contact.
I just envisioned a stroll on a countryside, with me as her life mentor but friendly, as a peer.
But seeing her as a daughter, this is the only idea of fatherhood that I can recall ever having.
Then… later on in life, this feeling became more radical, to be very blunt, a true hate for the concept of family as such, for the way family works, it’s very core, because I had suffered a lot as a child.
Especially the feeling of constraint, the feeling of hyper-protection, and other things of that sort, all of these feelings came out during a phase when everything around me gets very critical and argumentative, and it’s focussed mainly on the aversion towards family.
So much that, as it is common knowledge, around 1968, young people like me started criticising the idea of family to the point of imagining a society where families no longer exist, where people are raised in a different context other than this tight relation to the parental figures.
This, to me, considering my aversion towards children and towards the idea of having to undertake responsibilities, of being forced to sacrifice your free time and independence to take care of the children, something that I always felt, it was an additional reason that weakens, if not totally eliminates my paternal instinct.
If I had to pinpoint something that vaguely resembles the so-called paternal instinct, I wouldn’t know where to look for it.
There are some episode from life in my hometown, where I remember men sitting at a café talking about their sons, talking about having children, with a touch of male pride, as if they were their property, as if having children is an important source of pride for men.
As if that’s something that pertains to men, not to women, they were not even contemplated in this picture.
It was a pure male pride in having kids, having descendants.
But then, after my first marriage, I returned to my village from Milan where I was living at the time, I met these same characters and they asked me if I had kids and I said I didn’t.
They half-seriously, or rather totally jokingly, and a bit maliciously asked me if I “were able to”.
I vividly remember this joke and their association of paternity and male sexual potency and even ownership… This is a concept I discovered later on speaking to my feminist friends who gave some deeper insight.
The idea of paternity as an expression of male sexual potency is essentially groundless because it doesn’t take much power to impregnate a woman.
It might even be the opposite but let’s not get into that.
This is one episode, but there are others that drew me away from this, but the bottom line is this… Some of my women friends describe their maternal instinct as a physical, almost sensual desire.
It may also be a cultural factor, that should be properly looked into, but not by me.
I can understand that, as it is a very direct reaction, but when I hear men talking about their desire for fatherhood this happens quite a lot especially among youngsters… I hear them talking about these home routines, with their newborn who poohs and this young father taking care of them, both parents change the child’s diaper with joy, as a bonding experience.
Well, I have a feeling of rejection, I find these things laughable.
Well, it’s not my thing really, let’s face it.
I don’t nurture this instinct in me, this desire, this urge or this portrayal of fatherhood.
If people tell me that I’m selfish and that if everyone were like me human species would go extinct,
I say, “let’s go extinct then!”
After all, this species achieved many things some good, but also many very bad ones, so it may well disappear.
Naturally, I vividly remember the whole fatherhood “propaganda”, on the necessity of carrying on the family line, of preserving the family etcetera, which, to be honest, wasn’t so oppressing at home, because there wasn’t much of a legacy to be carried.
Nevertheless, there still was this underlying pressure, in all families, especially back then.
But I have no regrets, the thought that my family line will stop with me, doesn’t even remotely affect me. Let it stop with me, I don’t know.
I don’t understand what it is that I have to keep going, or defend… Apart from that one fantasy I had with my imaginary daughter, exclusively with a daughter,I’ve never seen myself as an educator.
So much so that I get uneasy whenever I’m around small children, of friends and relatives if I have to say something.
I can’t find the right language to communicate with them, to tell them not to do something, I can tell them not to do something if they’re throwing a really expensive Japanese vase out of the window but nothing more, I feel like I don’t have the right language.
I have the language of an educator of adults, it’s an argumentative language, and as such I don’t easily give in, and I want my ideas and points of view to win, but that is a very different thing.
If anybody were to tell me that I’m selfish and that if everyone were like me humans would go extinct I respond, “okay, let’s go extinct then!” I never had, I never internalised the idea that one necessarily has to procreate.
We did so much as a species, I’m curious to see in the upcoming years what humankind can do, but I don’t see why I should feel responsible for carrying on the species.
A species that did some very good but also some very bad things.
It’s not a matter of balance.
At some point, we should go extinct, why not, maybe there are species on Mars or another planet, that can do great and useful things.
We don’t even know what’s useful and what isn’t.
Useful to who?
Considering the current criterion, something that may be useful to me, might not be useful to those who govern us, those in power, who I deem to be nefarious in every way and to all.
So the concept of usefulness would be totally different and I wouldn’t know how to describe it.
Children, cats, dogs… children are always the centre of attention, and I don’t understand why.
If not because they’re deemed as defenceless, and they are supposed not to have tools.
If adults meet and there is a child he or she immediately becomes the centre of attention, the topic of conversations, stories etcetera.
One of the things I can’t stand, but have to put up with, is the centrality of children when it comes to adults.
I find it annoying but it can’t be any other way because kids need to be cared for.
Children are notably bossy, children are seductive and bossy.
They’re strong, in their own way, seeing them as weak may be wrong given that they surely have their mechanisms of domination, and they are attention-seekers in all situations and therefore this unequal power dynamic, this apparent dominance but real awe where kids are involved, well, it isn’t even remotely funny, at all, it’s a bit upsetting actually.
Seeing it as something permanent doesn’t excite me, maybe if it had happened things would have been different.
This is my instinct at this stage, and since I’m more than an adult I don’t think my opinions will change, nor will my imagery be any different from now.»

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