bellatrys (bellatrys) wrote,

Confessions of a Would-Be Teenage Clinic Bomber, part III, or,

Sentimentality, Envy, Vainglory Make a Toxic Trifecta All Right
(and Authority-Seeking & Prudery don't help any either)

I've described so far how, if you take seriously the teachings of the prolife movement as they have been expounded upon by all levels within it since the earliest years, it becomes not only a sane-seeming thing to do but a moral imperative to plan acts of violence that to everyone else look just like terrorism; in this penultimate installment I have tried to vivisect the mental traits and temptations that wind people into this cocoon-trap and make it so hard to see the internal contradictions and dishonesties of it all, make it so easy to become tools of natalists, xenophobes, union busters, the intellectual heirs of Fr. Coughlin and Henry Ford and Henry Cabot Lodge in all ways that can be numbered--


Sentimentality as the ruling passion passing for ethics in prolifism is pretty obvious once you start looking at what is okay with prolifers. Not just the death penalty (Seamless Garment folks are few and very far between) which after all is being applied to people who are guilty of something if not what they've been charged of: they're adults and thus sinners and so it really doesn't matter to your rank-and-file prolifer who can't imagine themselves ever being on Death Row (unless it's in the context of the godless liberal Death Camps of the NWO Apocalypse) nor anyone they know; the saying that prolifers only care about people from conception to birth sounds like a cheap shot, but when you combine it with the ferocious opposition to everything that would reduce infant mortality and improve quality of life and longevity across the board that is the rule and not the exception among prolife conservativism, it's hard to argue with - and even that becomes a mockery, a pretense, when you consider things like the disregard for prenatal health that goes along with toxic environments and inadequate nutrition let alone the forced abortions of the Marianas sweatshops and so on; but the really blatant hypocrisy of prolifism, and how it depends on the ability to compartmentalize so drastically that one can simultaneously care "passionately" about the plight of the unborn - and not care about them at all, when they're not the right sort of unborn.

I refer, of course, to the rampant indifference (at best) to casualties of war - which even the most naive and unimaginative prolifer over the age of twelve has to admit includes women and children, and some of those women must statistically be pregnant ones.

To take an author in our sphere, Orson Scott Card, whose rhetoric is entirely typical of the Wanderer crowd of the Seventies - , collateral babies and pregnant women killed by American bombs and guns are no biggie, damage is just a normal and expected cost of spreading civilization; but what about the slaughter of innocents destroying America's soul that he writes so passionately about here, you might ask? Well, that's different. How? It just is, don't make us spell it out!

Likewise the incredible (to one raised "prolife") frequency of miscarriages and the totally blase attitude of the movement towards those statistics compared with the weeping and ranting that goes on over "baby pesticide" and the imagined helpless infants flushed out of the womb and doomed to Limbo by IUDs and the Pill, the fact that the RTL groups literally never discussed this - or ever made any push to reduce it, the way that veterinary medicine (dealing with stud fees in the millions in agriculture) has studied and struggled to reduce spontaneous abortion rates by studying the causes and minimizing them - in all their wailing about how we're going to be outbred by Muslims/Mexicans/Asians over the years. It doesn't make any sense that the scourge of wanted pregnancies failing in such massive percentages would be a matter of complete indifference - if the objective goal really were that of preserving "innocent" life.

It makes sense, however, if you consider it not coming from any true ideallism but from a wellspring of sentiment: on the one hand, imagining the "pure" victims of cruel or callous individuals, sinister scientists or wanton Jezebels, allows for a dramatic tension that has no unpleasant ambiguity: imagine yourself in the position of heroic savior and get catharsis without cost (beyond being condemned by people you believe yourself superior to and enjoy being "persecuted" by anyway.)

On the other hand, imagining these same pure victims as being chopped up or burned by bombs and bullets that you helped pay for, an institution that you supported, an administration that you voted for - where's the catharsis in that? Where is the guilt? Blame the trigger-pullers? But they're Our Heroes, our vicarious selves! Blame the government? But you pulled the lever on election day! Blame yourself? Never! Last Train to Nuremberg-- indeed--


This is where being an authoritarian helps out; it's a lot easier to excuse your own embraced contradictions and hypocrisy if you don't have to do all the ethical lifting yourself, but can just point to some supposedly-more-moral leader and claim that you're not responsible, you just have to think and act that way.

Of course, then there's the problem of having chosen your authority figures (let alone which bits of the authority to follow and which to pretend aren't important) and if you don't watch out, you end up in this infinite recursion of justifications for choosing your exonerations of your choices - as Sartre warned about - trying to escape the moral responsibility of making any choice at all; and if your authority figures turn out to be wrong in other key areas then it gets harder and harder to hang on to them in this one.

But if you can avoid questioning them it's nice and easy, and since questioning itself is a violation of the chosen authority it makes the avoiding easier, too. (At least until it's more work closing your eyes.) This way you don't have to deal with the way that other people have different authorities and consider them to be just as truly moral and valid even within your own sub-group, and what makes you so sure that your choice of authority is the correct one over everyone else's?

It also makes it easy to switch mental states, replacing one authority figure with another and going from belief to contradictory belief without needing to work out why: you can believe absolutely that everyone ought to dabble in the arts and letters, and invoke Chesterton on how a thing worth doing well is also worth doing badly, if you are feeling populist and egalitarian and making all your children take music lessons whether or not they're the ones who want to - or you can read The Cult of the Amateur, and with flattered elitism declare that only the trained and acclaimed gatekeepers should put forth their offerings to the humble masses' reception - and not feel guilty any more for not trying to take part in things you're not very good at, either.

It can be more nebulous too, but I'm pretty sure that alternating authority currents are what make it possible for the same individuals to at one time declare someone known to be making circa $20k a year before taxes/junk insurance/student loans/rent/utils "a lady of leisure," an oxymoronic rich single woman who is to be envied for her elitism and scorned for being "a burden to society", and at another time declare loudly that $20k a year is a pittance, not enough for anyone to live on - before going full circle back to the "idle rich" rhetoric upon yet a third occasion, without any signs of dissonance-induced discomfort.

This allows you as well to take the declaration by your chosen authority figures that, frex, in reality tuna fish is cheaper than cat food and thus any claims that increases in poverty would result in more senior citizens being driven to eat cat food were simply histrionics, LOL silly libs! - and completely ignore the relative prices of both cat food and canned tuna at the local grocer's, where a mere glance would (and did) reveal that the most expensive canned cat food was still cheaper than the least expensive canned tuna on sale, and the least expensive tins of cat food were running at worst half and at best a third or less the price of shredded tuna at the time. Ten minutes, tops, to walk from one aisle to the other and read the shelf labels and compare. But hey, it works to exonerate the regurgitator from having to feel badly for anyone who doesn't Have Theirs, and that's what matters!

Where it becomes surreal is when it becomes projection - this is part of the general Empathy!Fail I talked about earlier - and the accusations of "only thinking what Air America and Michael Moore tell you too" are made, without any evidence whatsoever, and without any factual correctness either - or when someone shows up on a comment thread, or an entire site, filled almost entirely with heated wrangling over a vast spectrum of opinions, arguments, basic principles and beliefs on how said principles should best be put into practice, and declares (presumably after reading and witnessing said fractiousness) that everyone on Teh Left marches in lockstep, taking our marching orders from George Soros (that sinister European Jew! --George who? says 90% of Left Blogistan) and mindlessly agrees and suppresses all dissent; even when a furious debate is raging pretty much anywhere you look as to what voluntary community limits - if any! - should be put on public discourse by the participators (as well as why) at all times, somewhere. The contrast to Free Republic and Red State could hardly be greater - which makes the "reality-based community" dig a little more trenchant, and the difficulty of penetrating the bubble most apparent.

Where this is particularly poignant, to me, is watching the derision by conservatives of "political correctness," particularly in discussions where something is being fiercely argued about in a (relatively) new development. Hur, hur, lookit the pussy libs, too cowardly to call each other "retards" like us heroic he-manly champeens!

--Hey, you fools, this is what the practice of Philosophy - of dialectic and ethics, along with the roughest-hewn of rhetoric - looks like in the wild, hashing out in real time what we accept as right and wrong, and equally importantly why, and what changes we might have to thus make "in our thoughts and in our deeds," in what we have done & failed to do, for the sake of justice and/or mercy, on a daily basis?

Isn't this exactly what conserativism boasts of being the sole true keepers of, the heritage of the agora, Socrates and Kant and moral reasoning and informed consciences and repentance and reform and all that?

Isn't this exactly what it's supposed to look like and how it's supposed to function, the living flame being tended and getting singed by it in the process as simply part of the process - or is it just supposed to be the "worship of ashes" by Golden Asses, and was all along? A bunch of parlor tricks - or shell games! - by pros in starched collars and tuxes to wow the rubes, gull them into gaping silence while their pockets are picked, and not in fact a Liberal Art designed to change the world for the better no matter how painful a process and what we may be required to give up, along the way--?


I'll get back to the role of Authoritarian Personality Type in this regard, but: in short, it makes everything so much easier...within certain parameters.

Envy of women who don't follow your rules

A huge amount of prolifism, particularly among the female contingent, is simply Envy, camouflaged as moral superiority and scorn of sin. Some of it's blatant: envy of women who can have children and don't by those who can't, like Leslee Unruh. Even if it's only in their imaginations - how can they actually know who else is fertile and who isn't? - they still hate and resent all these selfish slutty wretches who are wasting their power to Make Babies! that these Good Prolife Wives want and crave and would be perfect mothers to (at least until they get old enough to be wiggly and inconvenient and not cute cuddly passive little bundles of wuv any more.) The "[white] sluts should be having and giving up their babies so that we can adopt them" thing - oh yeah, I've seen this up very close to hand, a lot closer than I like to admit.

But there's lots of other envy and resentment going on, too, including but not limited to:

• Women who dress w/o obsessing over whether or not some guy, somewhere, somehow might be turned on by a glimpse of your collarbone and it would be your fault he's now got a Stain on his Soul;

• Wives who have jobs and don't bind themselves to their washing machines kitchens 24/7 - they're selfish, greedy wretches who aren't good wives or mothers, and value money over family as well as God - but also stupid since they have to also do the housework after their day job since of course no man will ever do such women's work;

• Women who aren't constantly exhausted, sticky, and penny-pinching to make ends meet because they have no children - or only have one or two or three children - but they'll get theirs when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats - or sooner, when they're old and grey and have no loving children to take care of them and end up in nursing homes instead;

• Wives whose husbands actually do help and don't make it seem like they're the world's greatest heroes whose feet need to be continually kissed for doing the dishes - those aren't Real Men, they're wimpy and unmanly and henpecked who have abandoned their masculine duties and nature;

• Women who have had lovers before marriage, or without being married, or have been divorced, and don't feel horribly guilty or sinful about it - they'll learn better in Purgatory if they don't end up in Hell for their sins;

So women who are miserable as all get-out in their traditional family values homes tell themselves, and each other, over and over and fucking OVER again, because they are too proud/too chicken to admit, even to themselves, that this is not what they wanted, not what they thought they were getting into, that they're tired of being full-time SAHMs and would like to get a job now and get out of the house once in a while and maybe Betty Friedman and Gloria Steinem had a point or too after all the mockery and sneering of them that they did for being Ebol Feminists - nope, it's not possible to walk it back from that, you have to keep on doubling and trebling down on the ideology, call it all the work of Satan and sin that needs to be purged out with more holy water to cast out the demons in the walls and self-harming behavior--

(We had gallons of holy water in the cupboard, and that isn't an exaggeration. Big glass mason jars full of it. It didn't work too well.)

Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Qivering, who is one of the bravest women and best mothers I know of, portrays this chronic Envy/Denial state beautifully in posts like this one - you can't admit that you want - even a little, even in the "but I'd never REALLY, I'm just temped by the idea of it" way - what the Bad Girls have. Like, you know, wearing pants, sometimes, or short-sleeved shirts, or watching an R-rated movie on TV, or being able to drive on the highway without husbandly permission, or read a book for fun, or go to art school and draw naked men, or...

It's one thing to proclaim yourself A Sinner - everybody's expected to do that, after all, to prove their humility and Christian virtue - but another thing to admit to actually sinning in uncool and unglamorous (but serious) ways. (And this is true all across all boards - "I am a sinner!" is an active declaration, inverted heroism, one's soul a battleground of Good and Evil; "I am a bully" is not so noble-sounding, though; still less "I was a pawn and a tool - but a willing one.") So you can't admit doubt or frustration even to yourself, ultimately because doing so calls into question the whole edifice that this is the only One True Right & Natural Way For The Sexes To Be, if you dare ask yourself if it's really good for your children to be raised like this, to allow them to be treated like this, if you really have no value but as a vessel for pouring out more people ...whose sole value comes from them being vessels to pour out still more vessels...waitaminute, isn't there something a little bizarre in this logic? and bits of mortar start falling out of the walls...

Even wanting anything - even things that are by your own community standards Morally Neutral - ends up becoming a source of guilt, because you're supposed to be dying to self, after all. So you end up unable to articulate to yourself any wants, along with "don't wants", and you go quietly crazy - including the not-uncommon wish for death (though of course wanting to commit suicide is a sin, you have to pray for God to "take" you instead), and using high-risk pregnancy as passive suicide attempts - until you finally snap, one way or another. Hopefully it isn't along Andrea Yeats lines...

Envy of Men Who Aren't Bound Either

But there are male manifestations of this conservative "prolife" envy as well - all those worthless pussy liberal dudes just pretending to be feminists to score with naive coeds, those Bad Boys who are getting all that Bad Girl tail, they come in for it do the "uncorrupted" countries of Asia and Africa and the Middle East where men are still men and women still women, even if they are godless heathens, and isn't it too bad that that's the case?

(Less frequently it goes the other way - envy of "the old days" when men were allowed to show emotions and have them and not forced into narrow nekulturny macho stereotypes, summed up in the meme "knights used to cry!" and hug, and they were the manliest of men, we all agree! - so why can't we guys do so today without getting called 'gay'--?" does show up in some of the academic conservative Christian circles; the tragic irony of it is that instead of actually resisting and defying the heteronormative patriarchal modes that they feel so restricted by, they go right on upholding them...because being gender-nonconforming in public and defending it as a legitimate mode of being is not simply tough work, but dangerous, to boot. You feel it's unfair that women are "allowed" to wear pants and you can't wear a skirt in public? We fought for the right to "cross-dress" and won it, against the force of law as well as custom, a hundred-odd years ago: if you're man brave enough, go right ahead and wear a sarong or a kilt - or a dress - or a coat blinged up with gold braid and lace, we liberal feminists aren't stopping you!)

And then there's the simple financial envy of neighbors who don't have everything falling apart and can afford a new, or at least decent used car, or go on vacation, or have a pool or a/c or a nice TV - because they're sinners, selfish people who don't really love their children the way we do, because they only have one or two or three of them and spoil them rotten, but ours is the High & Lonely Destiny! Nuh-uh, we don't want those sour grapes, not a one of them!

The irony of this (one of them at least) is that it actually ends up totally devaluing the act of choosing to have a large family, the choice to have many children: if this is what you have to do because otherwise you're Sinning Against God And Nature and you have no other morally acceptable option, then where's the superior virtue in doing it? Yes, you're suffering the hardships that result - but that's merely your duty, and why should you get medals/cookies for doing the bare minimum? Whereas a hippie family with an egalitarian marriage and lots of kids who nevertheless remain firmly prochoice and anti-patriarchy - and yes, they do exist, and yes, they do even write about it - not only is happier rather than pretending or using orwellian doublethink casuistry to claim so, but is living the example of the virtues that prolifers claim to uphold.


This is an obvious one, where sex is something irreversibly contaminating that men do to women and women are duty bound to say no to, except their husbands, wherein the reverse; but it also extends into the dependence on/creation of a Mythical Pure Past which we must try to return to, to make everything else magically (and I use the word advisedly) fix itself and fall into place, solving all the problems of economics and society at a swoop--

Ironically, my parents never bought into the Fifties Myth, which was already in full force in the early Seventies (the endless reruns of Leave It To Beaver, the revisioning of Happy Days on television), because their memories of those days were too clear and painful. But they did buy into the myths of some older Good Old Days, whose bounds were nebulous and never to be pinned down exactly but were before all this modern Sex and Violence took hold of society and Faith and Goodness Reigned Supreme.

I of course believed too - until I went to work as a fourteen-year-old volunteer at the library and had to load up the microfilms from the local papers from the latter 1800s and stat all the articles about a murder case unfolding over the course of several months as one of my first assignments. Between the old newspapers, and reading old stories of Old Hollywood, and all the stuff that got through the censors of the past - including people complaining about censorship - it was impossible for me, at least, to go on believing that the past was any different from the present when it came to the ways people treated each other, except for the trappings. Even the arguments were the same, once you deciphered the slang...

But if you remain loyally inside the conservative Catholic bubble, or whatever bubble-within-the-bubble-cluster your particular sub-sect has created, then you can avoid all this; only read the sanitized and clerically-approved versions of history - one huge market-segment, and you can see why - is the exclusively-Victorian-through-WWII-era kids' lit, which is nearly as perfect as can be since there is no sex, what violence there is is sanitized, gender roles and social status quos are never questioned, and Teh Virchoos are upheld in the proper way to create dutiful, docile members of a decently-ordered society.

Or, well, parents can at least pretend they are, because everything subversive is well-hid, or at least not broadcast on the back covers the way they are in YA novels today, and kids will do their own wrestling with ancient codes and dog-whistles and ethical quandaries - or the mocking of adult hypocrisies and societal failures - in private. And you can at least be sure that even in books for and about teenage girls there will be nothing to give your daughters a hint of warning about menstruation let alone the mechanics of copulation which they should, according to the imprimatur'd family advice books of the pre-Vatican II decades, know nothing of until they come to the marriage bed (yes, really, this is held up as the ideal in sundry texts by mainstream Catholic publishers from the 20s through the 50s in my alma mater's library) and so you can pretend that this is actually the case since they certainly won't tell you if they're being molested by family friends or not--

No, the whole point is to be able to pretend that there was this long-ago, far-away world in which there was no public art or discourse that would have required you, if you were living then, to have to think about four bare legs in a bed, about hiding the salami,about why a decent woman should blush inarticulately at the suggestion of going apple-picking, about flourishing and riding and glass parsnips, about molly houses and sapphic frolicks with the candlesticks, about things more wild and kinky yet, puppy play and S&M a la Cleland, about non-con nonprovoked, about anything but vanilla het sex-within-marriage discreetly veiled behind a fade-to-black leading to always-wanted unproblematic pregnancies that never required the midwives to employ the pruning shears that were a part of their regular kit since antiquity and never involve words like "fistula" SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP! ALLOFTHATISTHERESULTOFGODLESSMODERNITY--if everyone just followed The Rules everything would be fine, a properly ordered society (with no sexy stuff tempting anyone to sins of lust, and nobody arguing over injustice or jobs or anything) flowing out from properly ordered homes with properly ordered gender roles keeping everyone in their proper places...

OTOH, if you actually read any of the unfiltered stuff from the Good Old Days - 1890s, 1790s, 1690s, 1590s, 1490s, 1390s, as far back as you like - then even the filtered stuff becomes more and more obviously so, and you can't help but realize how much of a lie the sweet, safe, sheltered vision of the past is - and this longing is not simply for a purity from sex, no more than it's a strictly conservative thing: there is equally a longing for a past purged from political complexities and all wrongs that can't be reduced to a Robin Hood vs. King John or [Good] Crusaders vs. [Ebol] Turks fable, and how dare you make us think about how our folk heroes were villains by our own lights, how dare you take away the simple myths of The Frontier and The Revolution? MammothFail was but one manifestation of something that is all too common among homeschooling families relying on McGuffey Readers and similarly redacted, politically-correct-according-to-past-powerblocks historical fictions: the desire to recreate that "safe" version of a sanitized American heritage from one's nostalgic childhood readings - without the uncomfortable and distressing moral realities of Conquest.

Including economics, as well as racism, sexism, religious bigotry - all of it related in some way to class warfare of the oldest sort.

How dare you bring in the Erased into our consciousness? How dare you make us aware that people were robbed, and ruined, and rebelled nonetheless? And that these robberies and ruinations, and thus rebellions, not only have lasting effects that carry on to the present, but go on to the present day and hour? And that our ancestors benefitted, and we benefit yet, from these wrongs? Why do you make us feel like we ought to do something, and not just pat ourselves on the backs for how moral we are? Get out, get out--!

And it's way easier to argue that the - relative and severely limited, to be sure - prosperity of the 1950s was not due to any Eisenhower-era rate of taxation and the investment of such "robbery" into infrasructure as much as it was to a slower rate of outsourcing and top-down scabbing than what we have had since and accepted for the sake of increased Wall Street profits (and the ability to pay those oh-so-invaluable CEOs hundreds of times not only what the rank-and-file that made their products and profits makes but also CEOs in other countries as well) but solely and utterly due to the even-then-reactionary sexual (and other social) mores of the day and if only we could ban divorce and recriminalize contraception and abortion and queerness and make it acceptable to openly discriminate against white women and brown people and guys of all colors who don't act macho enough for our ever-shifting standards of "masculinity"--

--all that would be what rolled back the clouds of offshored manufacturing and stagnant wages leading to people not buying anything because only going into debt based on the carrot-lure of the American dream promising them prosperity if they just worked even harder was what allowed them to keep on shopping for all those durable goods which are now languishing in stores whose employees aren't paid enough to buy what they sell and unrepaired bridges collapsing under their own weight because Taxation Is Theft and Magna Mater forbid we spend any of our collective resources on stuff that we all benefit from even if we don't use every last inch of it ourselves, and unemployment rising, rising, rising through the decades because making even more people unable to buy the shit we sell even if we don't make it here any more is what makes Wall Street happy--

Look! Over there! Somebody's showing a bit too much skin! Aren't you turned on horrified by it? Burn the witch! She's responsible for your empty granaries! and most definitely not the protection fees you pay to keep the royal armory shiny! Doubly so, if she's "really" a he! A furriner too, no doubt--

Just like it's easier to pretend that some sexual disfunction is the explanation to all of history, "sin" is what made WWI happen, not long-standing competitions over natural resources rationalized by grand theories of Destiny and promoted by those who saw opportunities for industrial expansion no matter who won or lost; coal had no more to do with it than oil or seaports, it was the Can-Can and the condom that caused the bloody Somme, no doubt about it! And Rome's decline and fall had less to do with the exhaustively-documented problems of fiscal corruption and looting of the public purses and collection of resources into ever smaller circles "balanced" by endless expansion and conquest unsuccessfully countered by generations of would-be reformers, but with the adoption of Christianity lead in the water them turning gay like the Greeks, because of course the decline of Hellas had nothing to do with a little scrap known as the Peloponnesian War or depletion of natural resources (such as the still-enduring deforestation) and climate change and consequent diseases and famines and sundry regional rivals meanwhile getting themselves organized over the generations and everything to do with Teh Buttsecks!

Yeah - in La La Land, maybe. But it makes for a nice simple fable that doesn't offer confusing and ambiguous oracles of what to (possibly) do to avoid our predecessors' fates - which might involve not only study and debate but difficult tasks and real giving-up of things for the wealthy to avoid going the way of Croesus - but rather a nice convenient pharmakos of Others to sacrifice to the great god Pecksniff and his sacred consort Curtain-Twitcher instead--


If you're Voting Prolife (let alone protesting) then you're not just a college dropout who couldn't hold a job and couldn't win the man of your dreams and married the first jerk who came along twice because you couldn't hack being single, you're fighting the frickin' NAZIS with SPIRITUAL WARFARE and making arrows for the Army of the Lord! You're not some poor schlub droning away in a cubicle like all the other cubicle drones, living in the ticky-tacky, driving to work every day, part of the madding crowd, you're just like John Wayne and Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy, you're fighting WWII all over again only even BETTER because YOU aren't fighting for a bunch of ungrateful godless Europeans, you're saving sinless innocents! How cool is that?

Seriously, you can't underestimate a) how much wannabe-warrior-dude fantasy is involved in prolifism, even - or especially - for the women in the movement (High Vor!), b) how dishonest it all is and how much better off they'd be if they just faced up to our mundanity and relative helplessness to bring about tikun olam with noble, clear-eyed courage instead of convincing themselves that they're really Spartacus and Judah Maccabeus and Isabella of Spain and George Washington and Daniel Boone all reborn as one composite Gloriosus figure and found wholesome fantasy outlets for their frustrations that didn't involve trying to find simple, easy, wrong solutions to a messy and horrible world (that's always been messy and horrible) by policing other people's sex lives, and mainly women's - boys after all must sow their wild oats, men have their unstoppable instincts making any Antiochan limitations of consent a laughable notion, but women not having desire (unless they're "nymphos") are inexcusable if they stoop to folly, and must be stopped from tempting hapless males and damning themselves as well.

Even so, unless you stay totally inside the bubble - and this is not only difficult to do because the world is large and real, but because doing so is boring and also ineffective for what you claim to be trying to accomplish - you end up having to confront at least some of the contradictions of your meme-set and deal with said contradictions. This is best done by shouting at people till they go away - IRL or online - because actually engaging in dialectic, defending your beliefs in ways that don't involve appeals to authority and dealing with counterexamples and arguments that aren't in your phrasebook is difficult, and not much fun (this is not a liberal-conservative thing either, how often do we lament having to do "[X] 101" over and over again or not wanting to deal with conflict ourselves?) and thus you see the lack of comments and the deleting/banning that goes on like crazy at Free Republic etc.

But this is not entirely satisfying, and doesn't help with the questions that stay on in your head - things like how Dr. Tiller was shot in a church where he went every week, frex, or how come it is and was so hard to find an OB-GYN who never did abortions, or how come all the choir ladies at the parish are/were on the Pill and talk about it openly and are they going to hell? or why it's not misogyny to claim that women always lie about and are responsible for, rape? or why we lied about there being no health dangers in pregnancy when So-and-so nearly died? or why it's okay to pretend that an ectopic pregancy fallopian tube removal isn't really an abortion, or to let nuns in war zones go on the Pill in case of rape where it isn't okay for any laywoman, beyond Msgr. So-and-so said so...

This is where, after appeals to authority, being able to find some example (real or imagined) of hypocrisy in the opposition is the most popular tactic (and why accusations of hypocrisy in turn are so hotly denied) - OSC frex claiming that the Peace Movement went away after the draft ended in the rant I linked above, which is either gross ignorance or a bald-faced lie it matters little which, as the end and the intent are the same - or accusing your opponents of only opposing you because they're venal (how much of this is projection, I wonder?) because they want to excuse or allow or justify their own selfish desires (which you of course are so nobly resisting and suppressing, and even when you aren't you're STILL better than they because at least you know you're a sinner and feel guilty about it) and thus you don't have to consider the arguments; or best of all, just change the subject and find something new to go on the attack about. It works for Bill Donohue after all...

The inability to actually convert, the unwillingness to even try, but to attempt to simply make laws to enforce and failing that, to intimidate is not limited to the "prolife" aspect of conservativism: it's part-and-parcel of the Authoritarian Personality Type, that on the one hand needs an Authority - carefully hand-picked to Authorize what the authoritarian wants - to provide moral cover and absolvement from responsiblity, and on the other hand needs Underlings to tell what to do - but the insecure only can deal with subjects who don't argue back, or only enough to provide an opportunity to squash them down without it being real work, real resistance let alone any sort of actual challenge which might lead to a questioning of authority up the line-- though at the same time, a lot of conservative authoritarians are uncomfortable with being in authority and want to simultaneously pretend that everyone is all equal and just going along with them because they think they're great, and to not have to deal with any such questions that inevitably occur when you're "first among equals," or even just have a good give-and-take in a situation.

This is a horribly awkward situation for the underlings, since "Okay, we'll do it because you said so since you're in charge and you sign the paychecks" is like tossing magnesium into the water pitcher and yet APTs get tweaky when everyone is too compliant and agreeable (where this is an endlessly-shifting state), because they suspect it can't possibly be real respect (since they're insecure and know that they're suppressing dissent, sigh.) Wanting everyone to give the unquestioning obedience of a "You're the boss-man, dood," without having to stoop to the humiliation of the irrational "Because I SAID so!" and knowing that everyone is just humoring you because you're in power is a very sad, and sadly common state of things in conservative-run organizations (families or workplaces; I suspect this is connected with the problem I have observed repeatedly and widely, of authoritarians typically being on the one hand terribly paranoid, often bizarrely so, to the point of alienating all but the most long-suffering of the loyal (and eventually often even those, too) - and on the other hand being ready to trust completely unsuitable sorts (and obviously-so to everyone else around them) in what I've come to think of as "Tartuffe Syndrome" - it seems an incongruous mix, but it seems so frequent that I suspect there must be common threads to be teased out.)

Thus the frequent claims that "everything would be easier" in a dictatorship/monarchy/the military - leading rather than ordering requiring delicacy and tact and the ability to articulate defenses that actually satisfy one's colleagues - and the complete failures of evangelism in the wider world (I don't believe for a moment that Doug Giles or any of the other Town Hall ranters think that they're going to convert anyone who doesn't already agree, that they're anything but preaching to the choir) w/r/t everything from banning Decadent Art & Lit to mandating displays of the Ten Commandments. They don't actually know how to argue, when they can't control the terms of the discourse; and of course there is that horrible problem that when you do engage in dialectic with strangers, you might actually realize you were wrong and what do you do then?

a) change your positions - but this is hard and not particularly heroic-feeling;

b) change the subject: turn over the checkerboard, derail with grammar flames and ad homs (the real kind) and declare yourself victor; in an extreme case, retreat from the world - ditto;

c) find another subject to attack on - Toujours l'elan! Let's go and save America from the Death Panels now!

Because it tastes better than honesty...

Vainglory's awfully seductive: the temptation to declare one's self the hero who saves everyone, who will do everything better, is one of the cheapest and easiest drugs to come by. I, frex, in pre-Tao days, intended as soon as I could afford it - and I "knew" after all that as a single, working woman I would have lots of money, just as I "knew" that godless doctors handed out tubal ligations like lollipops and that social workers went around looking for godly Christian families to break up - to adopt a child, or lots of children, as many as I could, so that I would not be "selfish" and would be Doing Good. Not only doing good, either, but doing better: the point would be to raise them better than we had been raised, without the trauma and the chaos - like Josephine Baker tried to do, frex - and prove my parents wrong that I was a horrible person who wanted to kill my siblings and would make a horrible mother (as I was so often harangued about, in between being told I was such a great babysitter that I was indispensible to the family and thus shouldn't want anything else from life...) in a mirror-inversion of my classmates in grammar school who would frequently claim that they planned (both boys and girls, mind you) to have children when they grew up precisely so that they could torment them in the ways that their own parents did to them, and thus get "revenge", however illogically and unjustly, on them. (--Yes, this really was a frequent ethical argument at my first parochial school, stated in such bald and expicit language, the manifestation of what happens when you have injustice and suffering and no critical thinking - if we can't get revenge on those who abuse their power against us, we'll take it out on scapegoats, even if we have to manufacture our own!)

Of course I pretty quickly figured out (it's hard to ignore reality, even if you're bad at math) that in the pink-collar trap you don't get rich, with or without kids, with or without a boss who explicitly says that women shouldn't get equal pay for equal work as men, or puts you on salary to avoid paying the mandated overtime; that only made it more agonizing for I felt it was my duty as someone who would be better at it than most of the women I knew that I ought to be able to adopt the Unwanted, and then I began to agonize over how many hypothetical orphans I'd be able to adopt if I won the lottery, and the injustice of not adopting all of them, in a kind of "what if the hammer was to fall" anticipation.

Yeah, it was a healthier distress than feeling guilty about not blowing shit up, but still.

Eventually I read a lot of old Chinese philosophy about motivations and vainglory and altruism that helped get my head straightened out, and realized that doing Good Works to show off wasn't a good thing, even if they were just hypothetical Good Works, and even if the Good Works really were good things to do, and you shouldn't have children - of your body or of fosterage - just to prove some kind of point and make yourself feel better about how moral and selfless a person you are. Which, yeah, moot point for someone making US$300 a week on a good week let alone a single woman not a world-famous entertainer; but at least if I ever do win the lottery I'll be less likely to rush out and FUBAR a bunch of other lives in a hurry to attain some sort of ethical levelling-up.

As I said, poseurs

The thing is, it's so much easier - psychologically and materially - to pretend that that society's declines - that is, real declines, not simply "I'm personally not doing as well as I was before" or "our town is losing jobs" but to see the bigger picture, that nobody is doing well except for a shrinking few and that towns all over are losing jobs, or only gaining shit jobs, because if you only go by your own personal experience, well, you could be one of the prospering few, your town could be one of the ones experiencing a boom at the others' expense, but how does it fit into the panorama broad and wide of prosperity and impoverishment is the question - and of course what to do about it.

You can realize that the American Dream was nothing more than a carrot to keep you trotting in harness, and from there resign yourself to the fact that you are a drone being driven by a master class which you will never attain, and console yourself with biting and kicking your harness mates - and pretending that you're secretly a crucial part* of an Epic Struggle between Good and Evil by doing so, too.

Or you can decide that you're not going to play by the rules for mules, you're going to play by the masters' rules and do whatever it takes, use whoever it takes, to get into the drivers' seat yourself and screw everybody else. Again, as I have often said, even most Objectivist and Libertarians feel uncomfortable defending outright predatory sociopathy, and will try to argue that their IGMFU behavior is really beneficial to everyone, somehow, really; pretending you're actually a crucial part of the Epic Struggle on the side of Good by doing so is often part of this, and prolifism is a nice simple way that doesn't require even the effort of being vegetarian, for most prolifers.

Or you can just drop out, not play any game and coast along as best you can interfering with nothing. Which is not admirable, but not as harmful as the former.

Or you can try to wreck everything, kick over the traces and create as much destruction as possible as a judgment on an unfixable system, which is harmful and not admirable either, if understandable.

Or you can work to end a world of masters and mules for the betterment of all, whether or not you're in the driver's seat yourself, whether or not you benefit from the current system, and refuse to be distracted by scapegoats and red herrings, no matter how easy and adrenaline-stimulating a hunt they provide. Which is dull and takes a lot of unrewarding work to make even the least improvement, and dreary, and thus doesn't lend itself quite as easily to the same vainglorious fancies of moral heroism.

But if you're going to claim that that Abortion Is The New Holocaust and The Pill Kills and all of that, then you damn well ought to live in accordance with your principles, and if you're not out there bombing every corner drug store for being just as bad as the Nazis and shooting the doctors who delivered even, yes, you and your children to save other children and doing a hell of a lot more than just wave signs and fill in bubbles and call other people immoral - or at least openly supporting those who are brave enough to do all that, then you're just a poseur, all you moderate prolifers who of course are horrified by the (but really oh-so-understandable) violence committed by more consistent comrades, - not just a coward, but a self-indulgent pose-striker who doesn't really believe a word of it and is using it to justify yourself in your own sight and elevate yourself over the common herd - and keep your hands & soul clean from the muck of politics and history and reform and the possibility of having been wrong or failing in the course of it.

(In imagination, at least, because the reality is you can't avoid the consequences of choosing, of staying "pure" and "innocent" and the Sin Cooties are still there in your unchoice!)

Reading List

You don't need me to help you google examples of prolifist rhetoric, but you might want to check out some of the oldest and best-established sources of memes and tropes to understand what they are and where they're coming from, starting with the one which first in my experience used the "Dred Scott Decision" comparison, first ranted against unions and social security in between condemnations of sex ed and the honorific "Ms." and atheist-pagan public schools - and first complained openly about how Catholics Muslims were outbreeding Europeans [sic] and what a betrayal of American principles The West this was, to allow RC churches mosques to be built in the US Spain, in 1850 1978--The Wanderer (yeah I went there)

Crisis Magazine, which still promotes abuser of students and former Bushco advisor Deal Hudson.

New Oxford Review which didn't used to be quite so sex-obsessed in the Seventies and Eighties: equal time was given to creating fictional dialogues with straw-liberal pop-psychologists and complaining about tacky liturgical art, too.

National Catholic Register, which claimed that the production and distribution of Monty Python's Life of Brian was an example of how Christians were persecuted in today's society, at the time it was released - how surprised I was to find that it was a beloved tradition among Catholic theology teachers in later years!

And, again, to conclude - the website No Longer Qivering, collecting the personal experiences and testimonies of other women who bought into - or were born into - what has come to call itself the Quiverfull Movement (from the passage about how your children will be like arrows in the hand of God, psalm 127 KJV (126 Douai-Rheims) and what it's like to believe this from the inside, while no longer still buying into it.

* The irony is that we all actually of course are, only we don't and can't know what our role is while we're onstage playing it. Who's going to turn out in hindsight to be a key player and who will be a footnote if that in the future? All studying the past tells us is that it's a complete tossup...

** And yes, making a Dorothy Day icon was a deliberately-ironic choice, given not only her choice to have and keep Tamar as we read about in the same long-ago college theo class that guardedly declared that good Catholics could use "artificial means" to restrict family size if it were done with an informed conscience, but her evasions of the oppositions of Rome's representatives to her work while complaining about the unacceptable flawedness of the secular Left (a Magdalene Laundry wouldn't have let her keep her baby!) - but that's the thing, if you look for fixed foundations and unflawed saints in life, you're going the wrong way. If you need to have everybody agree with you about everything or else banish them - well. Day, for all her subjectivity and sentimentality - Beauty proves Deity? really? - was someone who got down and started digging, instead of griping that people weren't venerating Christians for the ideals we failed to live up to. And thus the Church has pretty much succeeded in erasing her since her death, and the secular Left become the standardbearers who remember her and try to live up to her ideals...
Tags: ethics, feminism, prolifism, religion, sexism, social justice, taoism, theocracy, war
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