The Luck of Birth

There are 133 million births each year worldwide. That is 364,000 a day. That is 253 births every minute, or about four every second. In the United States alone, 11,800 babies are born every day.

The vast majority of those babies will likely live in poverty for the rest of their lives. The lucky few privileged ones, born in the so-called first world, have a real chance to have safety, security, education and proper nourishment as they grow up. I am one of those. Except for the admiration and love of their parents and immediate family, none of those births get noticed by anyone in any way. Like bees in a hive or chickens in a farm, they are born anonymous and likely will live uneventful, average lives.

Last week, however, a prince was born, and the whole world seemed aflutter with excitement and admiration. The boy who would be king was admired seemingly by everyone, as if he were anything special. Another boy was born in a slum in Mumbai, and none of us will ever hear of him, whether he survives childhood or not. What is the difference between those two boys? The luck of birth.

As we are born, we are all equal. It’s a lottery ticket of the universe that determines whether the boy has a father who happened to be the firstborn to another father who happened to be the firstborn of a queen who happened to be the firstborn of a king who happened to succeed his philandering king brother who abdicated – and so the list goes on.

Let’s not forget that it’s not just the firstborn sired by the crown prince or the king that gets the coveted position, it’s only the firstborn with the woman who happens to have a marriage certificate. All other offspring are called bastards, and they are shunned, hidden and often abandoned, even though they have the same DNA and heritage the prince-boy has.

Monarchy decides arbitrarily by lucky birth right who gets to “rule” where fortunately rule has only ceremonial meaning today, unlike during the centuries that preceded the last one back to the deep middle ages. The mothers of the last two heirs to the throne of England were “commoners” who just happened to meet boyfriends who would be kings.

While the British don’t seem to have a problem with the term “commoner” I just used above, I am reluctant to even use that word here. A commoner is everyone born that doesn’t happen to have an aristocratic father or mother, again by birth. But this is the English language after all that I am writing in, and there is no other way to express this condition. There are common people, and there are noblemen. And the difference is doled out by the lottery of birth.

Of course, the same lottery determines if we are born white or black or brown, male or female, American or Iraqi or Somali, if we will be indoctrinated by Islam, Christianity or any other religion, or even gay or straight.

I don’t like the idea that some randomly born prince-baby will be able to have a life of privilege, with no worries about education, food, shelter, fame and riches. The prince-boy will likely make no more of a real contribution to the world than any other industrious, intelligent and motivated Englishman. But the English are willing to funnel huge amounts of taxpayer money into their royal family so they have a bunch of people they get to admire – just because they were lucky by birth.

It is moments like this when I am proud to live in a country where we don’t have an aristocracy, where, at least in the ideal, the playing field is even for everyone born here. Yes, we have old money in this country, our own informal aristocracy, and you get to be born into it. But for the most part, every one of us has an opportunity to do something significant, something way beyond anything the prince-boy will likely ever do, and make a difference for mankind. I refuse to accept or recognize that somehow the prince-boy is anything better or more deserving than any other baby in the world.

I don’t understand why many Americans fawn over the prince-boy as if they were missing something and had to borrow old-world glory to dream.

I am proud that I am an American and that I don’t have to bow to any king.

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