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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dan Savage and Recent Messaging: "Why bring a child into the World?"

Two recent images: two ways of messaging about the value of human life.

The first assumes that humans are far too fertile for earth's limited resources and that adding babies to the surface population only increases the opportunity for unequal distribution of resources. This recycled viewpoint was most recently perpetuated by Dan Savage, who proposed forced abortion for the next 30 years in America during a recent debate in Sydney. Mind you, this was in response to a question asking for a dangerous idea that would change the world for the better. But this is not coming from an exciting new idea but from a recycled idea dating to the 1960's view of the world as divided between the West and the Rest.

Forcibly limiting population, especially as proposed by a male and a homosexual at that, seems laughable. The audience could only laugh at Savage's straight-faced proposal of forced abortion. Intentionally offensive, Savage got in his laugh line as a slap down to the age old human spirit and drive to procreate.

No matter that overpopulation isn't a problem in the developed world in countries with advanced economies and is really a myth. In fact many developed countries face issues with their populations getting too old etc and America is heading into an era of slowed population growth.  Over all, it may be less a matter of the total number of people (as we have seen population increases in the past) so much as how resources are used that counts.  For instance, it is often distribution, rather than sufficient food production, that is the problem.

Moreover, forced abortion has not worked out very well, has it?   In fact, in Unnatural Selection, award winning writer Mara Hvistendahl analyzes the global gender imbalance resulting from sex- selected abortion, especially in Asia. Projections of China's future demographics show problems with their forced abortion policy, recently loosened.

The second messaging is nonverbal and makes a blatantly emotional appeal, yet also grounds the discussion of the world's dire extremes of poverty back to the imminent prospect of parenthood.
Parenting: the Unexpected

As part of a global sustainability  initiative, Unilever's Dove brand posted a short video recently, posing the question: "Why bring a child into the World?"  Pointing out that the ad makes use of a strong emotional appeal, a writer for adweek comments it may not be the place of a soap maker to field such questions.  Yet, the series of stark contrasts set up in the video provides an intriguing collection for a modernist argument on  the problematic nature of becoming a prospective parent.

Ultimately, bringing children into the world is a grand, extravagant gesture of hope and love.  Instead of hyperbolic statements on the need to stop bringing kids into the world, let's begin a new narrative that celebrates human potential.

Assisting Child survival is a just way to stabilize the population rate, according to Hans Rosling's presentation about the limits of population growth as families decline in size. Savage shouldn't worry, because projections suggest the population will level out at about 10 billion.

Watching the Dove soap video leads me to disagree with the underlying premise of Savage and his Malthusian pals.  In reality, we are just learning of the tremendous potential and enormous possibilities available to scientific discovery.  The human capacity for growth and adaptation is enormous.
Humans will adapt and the world will survive and this will continue for some time  People have the means to survive and prosper; love is big enough to contain our humanity. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Is There a Mind Meld At Georgetown?

Relishing spirited discussion but promoting open dialogue with those whose views differ from our own is upheld as basic to democracy if not intellectual inquiry. For this reason, free speech on campus was traditionally celebrated or at least upheld as a basic right.  Not so much today.

College is not just a disinterested dispenser of information and skills; colleges also cultivate group think indoctrination in current ideology.  Perhaps the best evidence of this mind meld-like hold on college students' intellectual faculties is seen in the lengths college administrators go to in order to silence dissension and the willingness of students to go along. The University of Cincinnati, in fact, claims they do not exist to provide a free speech forum, as noted in this analysis of campus censorship by a group called FIRE(Foundation for Individual Rights Education):


Georgetown University recently held a "Coming Out" day on campus, and the conservative group TFP (Tradition, Family, Property) who filmed their interaction with them was asked to leave.  In the TFP video, it is clear the university administrator prefers to silence rather than allow dialogue with those holding conservative views.  Likewise, the student newspaper fails to question the reason for TFP's presence on campus, and in fact essentially falls in line with the university's censorship of the conservative group.  Given the power base
, those who utter conservative views are asked by the administration to leave, escorted off campus, or relegated to small peripheral  "free speech zones" away from the actual public square. 

Although tagged and posted as "News," the campus Vox Populi article appears to be an an echo chamber for the administration's liberal viewpoint rather than a voice of all the people, since the Catholic position is not represented even on this ostensibly Catholic campus. Instead, reporter Isabel Echarte's news story "Yet Another Conservative, Catholic Group Thinks Georgetown Isn't Catholic Enough" ridicules the video as tiresome, juvenile, and not worthy of response.  

Admittedly, the title of TFP's video, "The Smoke of Satan at Georgetown University on Coming Out Day" is over the top,  intended to provoke viewership.  Yet, the Vox article further criticizes the video maker's right to question those celebrating homosexuality on a Catholic university. 

Indeed, Vox Populi does little to serve as a voice representing alternate viewpoints.  Rather than examine the conservative position, Echarte belittles TFP for using "philosophical jargon." While the video includes three phrases referencing Catholic doctrine, these are necessary to understand Catholic teaching.  Those taking classes on a Catholic college campus should presumably be aware of such "jargon" or be willing, as college students, to grapple with the terms.  

Above: A free speech wall ripped down by students, suggesting students are becoming intolerant of opposing viewpoints.

Of the phrases that could be construed as "philosophical jargon," two are introduced by a "Coming Out" day spokesperson: "hierarchy," and "individual revelation."  The term "hierarchy" is typically used to malign Church leadership, the media often suggesting that an all-male leadership can't possibly understand any sexual choices other than celibacy.  This may be the way the "Coming Out" spokesperson uses the word, since "hierarchy" is paired with "individual revelation," seeming to contrast the terms.

Actually, the Church sets in contrast
 "private" as opposed to "public" revelation, in order to distinguish scripture from ongoing claims of miraculous events or experiences, such as healings.  Whereas Catholics are required to believe in public revelation, private revelations are subject to extensive review and may not ever be officially sanctioned by the Church.  In the context of the video, it appears the "Coming Out" spokesperson is making a case for acceptance of alternative lifestyles such as homosexuality on the basis of private revelation.

The TFP person conducting the interview points out that homosexuality is considered "intrinisically disordered" by the Catholic Church.  This phrase asserts that homosexual actions are inherently or in themselves not directed toward a person's well being. According to Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson N.J., head of the committee on doctrine, "Homosexual acts are never morally acceptable.  Such acts never lead to happiness," he said, "because they are 'intrinsically disordered,' meaning they are not directed to the bonds of marriage and the goal of procreation that are 'part of God's design.' But having an inclination that is disordered does not in any way diminish human worth."

 Echarte might have included such definitions and thus moved the debate to genuine dialogue.  Instead, her Vox populi article demonstrates the "Mutz paradox."  This term was coined after Diane Mutz's book, Hearing the Other Side.  She found that the higher a crowd's educational level, the less willing they are to hear divergent views.  The result is an echo chamber.

Journalists from the Washington Post and the New York Times admit to submitting veto power to the liberal power base.   In another example mentioned in "Mainstream Media Censors the News," a journalist admitted that CNN had accepted advertising money from a third world dictator, later succumbing to becoming a mouthpiece for state-sponsored propaganda

This reality of media corruption requires what might be called a total review mentality in which every assertion is checked for "nutritional value." Steven Johnson uses the phrase in "Everything Bad is Good for You" to refer to the value of junk tv.  Like junk tv generally junk news forces us to be smarter, to track the real story by noticing what gets left out, to notice how adversarial shout downs, slander, ridicule, and straw man formulas dominate as sophisticated digital tactics. The left is now the new far right, willing to suppress those who disagree with them.

College students need to learn how to see through intolerance in- the- name- of- diversity--you know, the bullies who smear and snipe at anyone whose views do not adhere to the dominant narrative.   So, Georgetown students encounter a doctrinaire celebration of diversity on "Coming Out" day  while not encouraged to discuss, let alone fully investigate the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Make no mistake, this is a form of censorship.

  Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving people in their variety and their beauty, but that does not need to mean embracing any and all beliefs as equally valid and true.   


*"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.


The Philosopher's Daughter

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

1 in 3 Campaign and the Happy Gap

Choice Sells

Buyers like choice. Optional colors, for instance, make the item more appealing, offering not just itself, but a choice.  The same pet bed in red, blue, or in a print or even a custom option. Because choice. Yet, women are reporting less happiness than in the past, and this is referred to as the "Happy Gap."  The question is "Why?" Those reporting on the study are nonplussed, since opportunities for women have increased over the years.  Women have more choices than ever before for academic and career fulfillment.

Sixties Happiness Shift

While we  tend to think of the Sixties as all about fashion and the Beatles, the ground shifted. Thomas Kuhn famously wrote about the impact of a paradigm shift, such as happened in the watch-making business.  Swiss watch makers failed to switch over to the digital model--they were literally "stuck" in the past, in the old ways of doing things.  Likewise, it seems our cultural clock is stuck in the Sixties.  Although we do not see people advocating getting naked in quite the same way they did during the Sixties, we are still living the hangover of that free love era.  Not just a passing trend in bell bottoms and peasant blouses, the Sixties left a huge ideological mark that persistently nudged us toward a paradigm shift every bit as vital as that when the wrist watch went digital.

"Reproductive freedom" was the watch word for this shift. Women seized on abortion as the means to freedom over her own biology as the pivotal right, and gradually the feminist-political complex joined to the medical establishment.  And it was all about abortion advocacy, sold as choice.  Options are lovely--who wouldn't want them?  Let  "sister" become a doctor, lawyer, astronaut--whatever she wants to be.  

The Shelf Life for Choice

Yet, when it comes to family matters, it's not really just a cost/ benefit analysis as women are led to think. Should I have a child now or later?  Should I settle with this man or wait and see if a better one comes along? Women have chosen to delay childbearing, even avoiding childbearing through contraception and when that failed, abortion.  Choosing reproductive freedom was the great escape from history.  Yet, for a woman to forfeit the opportunity of childbearing is not automatically to secure happiness.She can choose to abort her child but she cannot so readily evade experiencing the consequences of that choice any more than she can choose to fly.

Choice itself is not making women happy--that's because it's a false choice.  It's a choice often set up as between her emotions and her body, her boyfriend or her baby, or to give birth or abort the baby. In a TED talk called "The Paradox of Choice," Barry Schwartz notes that freedom stands in for and is equated with choice.   

So, choice begins to stand in for or substitute for real freedom.  Even when a choice is made, however, there are nagging doubts, given other options, as to whether this was the best choice.  Happiness is undermined, in other words, by a women's "liberation" that amounted to expanded choice. Should I start my family now or pursue my ambitions?  Kate Spicer tells her story of adhering to the current feminist abortion advocacy.   She is not alone in expressing regret for a decision to abort a child only to recognize later that she missed out on giving life.  

Stacking the Question toward Choice

Should I have a child or fail to prosper by placing a big wrench in my own career path and potential? The way questions are formulated, in other words, tends to guarantee a particular response.Would you like this brand new car?  Or would you prefer to walk everywhere?  Feminism continues to offer women a false choice: an either/ or: give birth or abort--rarely is any other option mentioned, let alone examined in full.

As evidenced by the 26 abortion stories featured recently in New York Magazine, abortion has not empowered women.  In fact, the best that can be said is perhaps that some women found consolation, for instance, in control over their lives.  One woman remarks that after her abortion, she immediately began planning a European vacation.  But does such compensation ever really make up for the missed years of motherhood?

Surprised By Parenthood

A video that has gone viral in the last week speaks powerfully of the mystery of birth and the beauty of life, too amazingly complicated, unexpected, and too wonderful to comprise in any ready label, such as "planned parenthood."

And, no matter how enjoyable the trip to Spain, it is women who may carry the most regret and grief over abortions; they are not fooled into thinking abortion was the best life had to offer.  Here's how one viewer of the video summed up the astonishing show: 

"This gave me a new appreciation for twins and how crazy birth is in general.  When those elevator doors open everybody gets spit out on whatever floor and you wake up and start        experiencing the universe as this conscious self aware thing taking the bad and the good and    whatever else time throws at you only to go back ot sleep at some yet to be determined time       down the road.  But twins start out together.  Did you see them?  They looked like miners being rescued or refugees clinging to one another, squinting.  They have no idea what's in store.  We all start like that and we all end generally the same way, maybe not in the same clothes and a little worse for wear.
 You'd think those two things we all share in common would be enough to put an end to all the vitriol, loneliness, and apathy and whatever other terrible pains we inflict on each other, but I suppose it's easy to forget. We're always somewhere between the void closer to birth or closer to death and the in between is pretty distracting.  We're strange creatures.  Strange beautiful creatures.   Strange beautiful terrible creatures."    

The fact that we share this existence with others is something splendid.  This video went viral because it gave us a glimpse of baby memory--what the baby experiences in that sheltered inner space during that sublime time in the womb prior to birth.  In fact, this video reveals the baby's consciousness of itself in relation to other; who are we to declare that personhood forms later or to pronounce our inability to recall a memory from a time of preverbal consciousness some kind of proof? In reality, it only attests to an adult's ability to consider a dulled consciousness a superior form of life.   This is life before we came upon it, before we could attach scientific calculations or economic valuations, and it is fantastic, fragile-resilient, and ultimately ineffable.  We are privileged to witness life; parents are allowed in on the magnificent project that is life.  Having witnessed what it entails, who could choose to miss it?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Eyes Wide Shut: Show Me the Flower in the Rifle Barrel

What does it take to wake a college student?  They are understandably stressed out, distracted by classes, homework, jobs, and exams.  Students are high energy too, knowing they need to deliver the facts on demand.  There's a  bit of the college student in all of us!

But you know those facts don't always do what you want them to, as the Talking Heads song "Crosseyed and Painless"  reminds us.

"Facts won't do what I want them to"           

In my own life, pulled along in the excitement of ideas and a hectic work life I  floated in a dreamy haze of inaction for Van Winkle years. My generation's 60's style free love sold to us as a social good.... Seriously? 

Now we are told that certain photos must not be shown and it seems cannot be seen. In the interest of women's "good."  


"Facts are simple and facts are straight"

Images speak.  Sometimes they cry out.  So, here's the image deemed too controversial (notice, the photo's accuracy was not questioned); nonetheless, you were not allowed to "see" it, to look, and to examine the truthfulness of claims regarding the status of the preborn. (The Chicago TribuneUSA Today, and the LA Times refused to publish this image, part of an advertisement created by Heroic Media.):

Artist Donna Lee
"Facts are written all over your face"

Rather than undifferentiated cells, this photo shows a medically- accurate fetal model held in a hand.   Science is based on observation, and it isn't just scientists who have eyes or the new eyes provided by ultrasounds-eyes that tell us a 20 week old fetus has separate arms, legs, body, and face.  Science is making it possible for all of us to have eyes to see.

If the photo had shown earlier human development, not an infant able to be nestled in a human hand-- there would appear nothing morally problematic: "if you get the abortion early enough, the fetus doesn't even look like a baby." Yet, already at fertilization, there is human life, looking the way it's supposed to look at that stage of development, increasingly revealed by science, to be rapidly replicating, coordinated human development.

"Facts go out and slam the door"
 The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal ran the original advertisement  while stipulating that the wording make "it clear that it was a paid advertisement."   The Chicago Tribune demanded  a different picture of a live 20-week old baby en utero--was it the 3 dimensionality of the  photo image that was so disturbing?  If so, there are now 3D images of  infants in utero, so we can all see the life of a developing fetus with greater clarity than ever before.  

What's interesting about this is that we are told, on the one hand, that images of abortion victims are too graphic; on that grounds, this clearly sanitized photo of a fetal model should be more acceptable--the infant is not decapitated or bloody--the photo omits the gritty realism of the effects of the abortionist's scalpel.  Yet, the photo does capture in an intimate and personal way, the size and form of the baby.

Yet, this image too was and apparently is too graphic for the general public: You were not allowed to see the real size and anatomy of a fetus that gives lie to the myth that abortion merely rids the woman's body of a "clump of cells."  Could "clump of cells" not describe any member of the human family?

Look for yourself. The miracle of human life developing at an unbelievably rapid pace inside the uterus is nothing less than astonishing.  

 To be politically correct today is to have eyes wide shut. As the image of a 20 week old human embryo shows, there's a third story involved, and it's going unheard. 

Yes, the woman experiences a crisis, but that does not undo the developing life inside her.  Is abortion really a peaceful response to a crisis? Is it really a social good? 

We've now had 40 years to gather in the windfalls the feminists promised: abortion would end  poverty and child abuse.  In reality, both have been perpetuated, if anything, by abortion.  "Make love, not war" we declared, effectively protesting the war by the appeal of sex- as- liberation as peacemaking.   Making love instead of  war sounded good.  Flower children, after all,  handed daisies to soldiers.  

The movement effectively drew on an image of flower child innocence.  "Love, not war" was propped up by "love, don't judge," all played out by "good" flower children.  Creepily, aggression toward the weakest and the most essentially voiceless among us sustains this ongoing "free love" ethic. 

Abbie Hoffman's "Flower Brigade" was accompanied by protests in which college students demanded sexual liberation.  Simultaneously with the idyllic flower power movement we were threatened with economic collapse from a population bomb--prophesied in the Malthusian overtones of Paul Erlich and increasingly articulated by feminists who in effect declared war on our offspring.  

Yet we had to wait for an image as powerful as the daisy threaded into a rifle barrel to understand the impact of our Beetle's generation's particular mode of aggression. Women who took up the liberationist mantra later reported feeling "coerced" into abortion.  No matter that the population explosion never went off.  We all got the memo: curb our actual procreation.  Make love not babies. 

What was inherited from the Summer of Love was a sexuality colonized by social progressives and consistently linked both to the peace movements and the need for contraception and abortion as a means of correction for the sin of human propagation.   The generation after the baby boomers recognize their parents efforts to sustain romanticisation of their youth prior to selling out.                    

 Those who coined the "free love" edict continue to claim: no one gets hurt.  It was left to the generation after the baby boomers to recognize sexual libertinage as a failed project. The wreckage of divorce, single parents, and STDs was all around them, reminders that sexual license and abortion were not unquestionable social goods.  Increasingly clear is the way the current base has echoed the 60s strategy of linking sexuality to political change.  And the body count from peace loving yet uncommitted sexual acts now dwarfs casualties of the Vietnam war.

"Crosseyed and Painless." 

Hooking up, after all, is not the same thing as love--how could genuine love for the other include the fall out we began seeing and continue to see despite our best efforts at a  black out.  The facts are living turned inside out. 

Some people wake up on their own; Most of us need an alarm clock.  Images of the victims--an ever mounting pile-- from our 60's frolic provide a counter balance to the pretty image of the flower child with tangled hair, bared breasts, sweetly sniffing daisies with unfocused eyes.... Victims, even without clearly defined faces, call to us ever louder with the new ultrasound technologies.  And that alarm is getting harder to ignore.