"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, October 7, 2022

Abortion–Why ‘A Woman’s Right To Choose’ Ignores Fundamental Moral Principles

A number of years ago New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and Katha Pollitt of The Nation engaged in a debate about abortion. Douthat took a moderate pro-life position and Pollitt a radical pro-choice one.  The topics considered – illegal abortion, poverty, contraception, poverty, the role of men, equality, personhood, and murder – were all political; that is, they focused on women’s rights, equal access, gender, social equality, and justice. Neither Douthat nor Pollitt raised what is perhaps the most important consideration of all – morality.

The Catholic Church has consistently condemned abortion, but the most telling criticism has been a moral one.  Pope Francis in a recent Encyclical focusing on environmental issues has said:

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.

This statement reflects a philosophy remarkably similar to Hinduism.

Hinduism teaches that the five great elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) that constitute the environment are all derived from prakriti, the primal energy. Each of these elements has its own life and form; together the elements are interconnected and interdependent. The Upanishads explains the interdependence of these elements in relation to Brahman, the supreme reality, from which they arise: “From Brahman arises space, from space arises air, from air arises fire, from fire arises water, and from water arises earth.”

All life is interrelated.  No one living thing is disassociated from any other:

The one who loves all intensely
begins perceiving in all living beings
a part of himself. He becomes a lover of all,
He flows with the stream of happiness,
and is enriched by each soul.
(Yajur Veda)

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Whether or not life begins at conception is an irrelevant question when considered within this moral, philosophical framework.  The uprooting of a seedling before it has become a plant, the destruction of larvae, pupae, and grubs before they have matured into butterflies, plants, or bees are all acts of killing. Hindus make no distinction between the development of life or life itself.  A potential life is as significant in the Hindu world order as a fully-formed one.

Western logic demands absolute metaphysical answers. If one is discussing biological life, it is important to describe what life is, when it begins, and when it ends.  Everything depends on the definition of life without which there can be no legal rights and protections, no law or justice, no civil rights.  It is not surprising, therefore, that Douthat and Pollitt have focused exclusively on the legal, social, and political issues related to abortion.

Hindu scholars and Western moral philosophers have less concern for these secular, procedural issues and more for universal principles. Theologians since Augustine have argued about the nature of morality and whether or not there is a universal, Platonic ideal; a God-given code of conduct; or simply a culturally and temporally relative concept of behavior.  Yet they all agree that a moral sense is a defining nature of human life.  A moral approach to life is the sine qua non of human responsibility.

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Within this context, it is not important to fix the moment of conception, track a fetus’ mental development to determine at what point mental synaptic activity produces consciousness, or to assess viability.  It is only important to accept that a fetus is a living, growing, emergent human being no different from a pupa, larva, or seedling; and that to destroy it is interrupting a life cycle which is universal.

Both Francis and Paul II and Hindu philosophers speak not only about the moral implications of preventing one life from emerging, but what that act means to all life. In other words, both religious traditions teach about the sanctity of life, and how the lack of respect for one life leads inevitably to an erosion of respect of all life.

Such moral principles are at the foundation of human society. If all life is not sacred, then exceptions can be made.  Justifiable homicide, socio-economic determinates of crime, historical imperatives, retribution, can all be used to excuse violence, assault, and murder.

Respect for life is equally at the heart of social justice.  The law has become a procedural tool for adjudicating disputes, but it is based on the “God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  Jefferson and his Founding Father colleagues designed the American political system to be a moral one, based on religious principles.  They would be surprised and sorely disappointed to see how legalistic and procedural society has become.

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Every time a life is demeaned – whether through abortion, violence, murder, or execution – the moral fabric of society becomes further unraveled.

A factor in moral decline is expediency. Women have abortions because it isn’t the right time to have a child; because career and profession are more important; because troubled relationships might come apart with a child.  Secular, practical, and temporal issues take precedence over procreation.  It is one thing to defer pregnancy; but another altogether to terminate it.

Recent popes have echoed the same sentiment.  John Paul II was perhaps the most unforgiving critic, stating in his Evangelum Vitae:

The encyclical states that today “in many people's consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured”.This is manifested in the everyday way of thinking, in people’s habits and also in the state legislation itself. All this “is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake”. This is a serious and really grave situation when “we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception....  (From Gaizler and Nyeky on Bioethics)

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‘Convenient compromises and self-deception’ characterize expedient decision-making concerning abortion.  Not only do women and men consider reproduction, procreation, and abortion within the same context as employment, finances, and sexual relationships thus making it easier to make decisions; they deceive themselves by thinking that procreation/abortion is indeed no different than career advancement.

Such expediency and self-deception inevitably lead to an erosion of all moral judgment. Once morality is characterized only as a variable in an equation, it loses its primacy and universality.

In other words if the decision to terminate a pregnancy is made on the grounds of expediency alone, it will have inescapable consequences for all decisions with a moral component.  It simply becomes easier and easier to ignore or dismiss moral responsibility.

In this modern secularized, culturally relevant, ‘inclusive’ political environment, it is not surprising that such moral considerations are absent.  Moral judgement, say progressive activists, is tantamount to exclusion.   Since all morality is relative, then it is a moot point in any discussion of social reform.  

The fight against AIDS in Africa was set back many years because of such sentiments.  Washington managers insisted on mechanistic, practical, valueless interventions; and messages went out about the need to reduce serial partners and to use condoms.  No messages about moral behavior – freewheeling sex in an epidemic environment where before antiretroviral drugs AIDS was a death sentence was profoundly immoral – and what could have been an important brake on the spread of disease, was ignored.

Inner city communities faced with unprecedented violence refuse to acknowledge personal responsibility and moral failure, preferring to perpetuate a culture of entitlement, reparation, and excuse based on historical wrongs.  Life – and the moral principles which sustain it – have been relegated and marginalized.

Morality based on a respect for all life is elemental and unavoidable.  Abortion and murder in the inner-city are related; and Popes Francis and John Paul II have been right to stress the inter-relatedness of life-threatening actions.

Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s work argues for the secular state to be subsumed within the spiritual one.  The specter of sin and irredeemable punishment for it, he argued would be far more powerful than any civil laws.  In other words, morality is a powerful inhibitor to social malfeasance. 

This argument is totally dismissed today.  Even the mere questioning of the separation of church and state – or in a modern context, permitting religion to have an influential, modifying role in society – is anathema to many.  Yet even in a secular world, the Judeo-Christian principles of right behavior and moral concern are part of history, culturally relevant, and never absent.

It is significant to note how absent these issues have been from the debate on abortion in America.  Yet in some ways it is not surprising.  ‘Morality’ and ‘values’ have become politically-charged words.  The Left accuses the Right of using them to cover up for social backwardness, racism, and social inequality.  Conservatives blame liberals for the continuing erosion of religion, faith, and morality.

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Sooner rather than later both sides will realize that morality far from being divisive, is common ground.  Moral principles form the foundation for society; and they are indeed universal.  Whether inspired by the Bible or reflected in the texts of moral philosophers, they cannot be ignored.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Hookers, Floozies, And Tarts–The Good Life Gone And Done With In Righteous Days

“Look to the Lord Jesus”, pleaded Barton Love, pastor of the Third Baptist Church of Christ, minister to thousands as his chosen disciple.  “Only he can save you from the raging fires of Hell, the burning flames of eternal doom.  Only he…” and here the Reverend Love turned his eyes and arms to the rafters in ecstasy  - Jesus was not just the Son of God but a living, breathing being who came down from heaven for the redemption of sin – “…only he can can deliver you from evil, protect you against the Evil One, keep you safe and sound within his embrace and away from the spiteful, hateful sins of the flesh”.

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Pastor Love had a particular animus against these particular sins, sins of temptation and sensual deviance.  Sins of concupiscence were worse than treachery, perfidy, or deceit, for they denied the holiness of our bodily sepulcher, cast us into the dark reaches of sensual mire, spit in the face of Our Savior and open the doors to the Devil’s kingdom.

“Sin is all around us”, he shouted angrily at his congregation, “and you…weak, shallow, insubstantial followers of Satan…welcome it, embrace it, take its foul, stinking slime into your bodies.”

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Here the Reverend Love paused for breath and solace from the Almighty.  Serving him was a Herculean task, a thankless and lonely one as the sea of iniquity rose like a storm tide; but he had to go one.  His rewards would not be in this life but in the next, alongside the Savior.

Not far from Pastor Love’s church was a striptease joint, floating offshore in compliance with the states’ modesty laws, a floating rookery of sin but well within the legal limits prescribed by the legislature.  “Why, good ol’ boys got to have a little fun now and again”, said Beveridge Channing, legislator and part owner of Heaven on Earth, all pasties, glitz, glamour, after hours bordello, and the best damned time this side of anywhere. 

The show at Heaven on Earth was indeed a worthy rival to Las Vegas, and because of the state’s liberal interpretation of the decency clauses of the Constitution and the political influence of men like Channing, it became the nation’s trifecta – a glamourous, tinselly, sequined strip show, the most beautiful, available women for pleasure, and a chandeliered, gilt, Baroque hall of mirrors. 

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Heaven on Earth was always in the news.  Forbes ran a cover story on its business model (‘careful navigation through political, religious, and social waters to rake in millions’) and no less than a major Chattanooga journal applauded its ‘giant step away from the righteous bullying of progressive MeToo hysterics.  At the same time it was the scene of all feminist outrage.  ‘A disgusting display of misogynistic, abusive, woman hatred, pandering to the lowest, sickest form of deformed male desire.

Once Joe Biden’s Vice President got wind of Heaven on Earth, she joined in the chorus of male-hating, sex-baiting, howling.  She called for federal action to shut the place down, to burn it, and dump the ashes in the Passaic River.  Her metaphor struck home with the  Newark Mafia which had used the Meadowlands as their private dumping grounds and the Passaic River for those bodies they wanted found, and resonated with the woke hoi-polloi for whom the most ignominious fate of Heaven on Earth would be too good for them.

Most of the rest of the country wondered what the fuss was all about.  Hookers, floozies, and tarts had always been part and parcel of every society for millennia – prostitutes were not being exploited but were, in the very words of progressive feminism, ‘commercial sex workers’.  They prostituted themselves before no man but executed a contract, deserved to be unionized, organized, and militant.  Of course once such liberal protectionism was implemented, the whole allure of the bordello or the Rue St. Denis hooker was lost. Once sex becomes a negotiated contract, it loses all appeal.

The Honorary Consul, a novel by Graham Greene is about two men’s love for a prostitute the frequented at a local brothel.  They both saw beyond the transaction and found Clara a particularly desirable woman.  Eduardo Plarr could never understand what it was about her – perhaps something as insignificant as a mole on her cheek – that gave her a personal allure; and Charley Fortnum wanted love no matter how previously contrived; but there love was, and the distinction between prostitution and ordinary sex was blurred.

In The Quiet American, Greene reprises the same theme of love and prostitution.  Phuong is a call girl loved by both Fowler and Pyle.  Fowler admits that he does not want to die alone, and a woman in his bed for his later years is satisfaction enough.  The much younger Pyle is taken with her Asian beauty, her complaisance, and her dependence.

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Until he met Phuong, Fowler was a frequenter of Saigon’s many brothels, a way of life for many women and certainly part of the expatriate life of European and American men. 

In Wayne Wang’s movie Chinese Box, a desperate Jeremy Irons is obsessed by a prostitute, and fills his last days with pursuit of her. The world of New Orleans was populated by octoroon prostitutes who serviced young white men in elegant surroundings.  The brothels were not shameful places of disrepute, but respectable places of friendship and pleasure. 

Men do not frequent prostitutes simply for sexual release, but for a much more intimate satisfaction.  The Jane Fonda character in the movie Klute is proud of her skills as an erotica therapist who is canny at understanding what men’s fantasies are and how to realize them.  It is hard to imagine that in the cleansed, monitored, and safe world of legalized prostitution that any psycho-sexual relationship would ever be established.  The ‘cages’ of Bombay where cheap, garishly painted prostitutes advertise their wares and beckon passers-by are there because of male fantasy, not simple intercourse.  The prostitutes in an early Amsterdam, displayed in large show windows were no different. The The Night Porter, a disturbing film about sex and prostitution in Nazi Germany deals with exaggerated male sexual fantasy and expresses the very primitive and ineluctable male sexual drive.

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In America the official censure of prostitution has made its way through the byways of social opprobrium to such a degree that sex itself even among consenting adults is considered suspicious, harboring within its dynamic the potential for misogynistic male sexual abuse.  The hysteria of MeToo has infected the most simple and uncomplicated heterosexual relationships.  Anything that even suggests the exploitation of women  - girly magazines, Las Vegas runways, sexually alluring covers of Cosmopolitan and Elle – is by nature corrosive, corrupting, and anti-feminist. All this despite the fact that women are hardwired to attract a mate, are as given  to sexual fantasy as men, and that interior sexual dynamics, despite woke MeToo-ism have never changed.  The movie Belle de Nuit is the story of a beautiful, haute bourgeoise woman (Catherine Deneuve) who becomes a prostitute to live out her fantasies.

The age of neo-Puritanical, censorious, sexually woke America cannot last.  Sooner or later the faux sexuality of transgenderism, the championing of LGBTQ+, and the demotion of heterosexuality as the norm will disappear and the dynamics of D.H. Lawrence will return.  Sex is a market – not in the sense of commercial sex work but in supply and demand.  Prostitution, strip shows, after hours sexual clubs, and strange fantastical intimations in sex shops and S&M parlors will return in an unregulated, un-sanctimonious age.  Hookers, floozies, and tarts will be back with a vengeance.