The making of a Late-Modern Testament.
|The legalization of abortion-on-demand was not a 'reform' so much as the final tranche of a 'system adjustment', anymore than it was a form of 'progress', other than the roll out of Indulgence Capitalism in the later 1960s, whereby a fantasy driven economic system demanded that reproductive sex become a commodified on-demand fantasy artifact; that female'sexuality' would become not just a commodified marketing tool, but the new sexistentialist redefinition of selfhood; that sexual behavior would be 'deregulated' and sexual codes of conduct privatized into 'no one else's business', where anything went and anything did...and does....and courtship shrank to the time it took to have dinner and see a show...
Abortion-on-demand was the final plank in the transformation of sex as a long term reproductive cycle engagement into a casual consumer artifact. It would no longer be encumbered by the messy and inconvenient biological consequence of sex, that suddenly found itself magically converted by pseudo-scientific 'flexireasoning' from what used to be rather quaintly called 'a life', to disposable biological trash, now degendered from a 'he' or 'she', to an 'it'.
The change was represented as 'empowering' and 'liberating' women from 'the tyranny' of 'authoritarian' patriarchal control of their bodies and sexual behavior, but the reality was, and is, that they exchanged 'respectable' and 'repressive' formal second class status for that of an informal one as courtesans, who no longer charged for their services......and paid for their own drinks.
Sweet.....Female 'self-actualization' firmly swaddled in a sexual-politically opaque male gender paradigm within an economic system that runs sexual intimacy like a brothel mall, because sex isn't just a keystone to the marketing of goods and services, but consciousness itself as a marketed construct, that can be sold anything.
In the adolescent society, sex has been turned into the ultimate toy; not just a quick and easy pleasure fix, but a powerful iconic mystery weighed down with the often desperate and hopeless desires of the existentially fragmented, under constructed and immature. They are denied the understanding that romantic and erotic love represent a not small, but the smallest, a not short lasting, but the shortest lasting and a not unimportant, but the least important strand of human love. They are therefore easily persuaded that orgasmic sex is the ultimate spiritual communion.
Sex priests and priestesses preach a gospel of pubescence to senescence fuckritude, in every available media pulpit, constantly. Gender relationships are forever being represented in a frozen attitude of perpetual eroticism and grand sexual passion.
The reality is that sexual pleasure is biological candy to get us into difficult, demanding and complex long term reproductive relationships. The other reality is that the very basic lower brain function that controls sexual feeling shamelessly promises the world, demands the utmost urgent attention and really believes in the moment of its greatest release that life is just constant orgasms, interrupted only by sleeps and exotic meals served in bed by room service.
The thudding disappointment that eventually falls into the divide between these two realities doesn’t lead to questioning of the propaganda so much as polygamous flings and serial monogamy. The inescapable exhaustion of libido through permanent 24/7 mobilization in the economic 'trenches' of an all out protracted production 'war' that saturation 'bombs' markets with civil ‘ordinance’ is blamed on the partner or the self. And that is before anyone has thought about screaming babies and the relentless toil of bringing up another generation.
The heat, sweat, adrenaline rush and glandular spike of orgasm has been turned into a metaphor for production warfare, the at-the-double tactical assault on production targets, the dominant themes of marketing war propaganda and erogenizing the consuming experience of shop troops, as they sacrifice all they have, and all they don't have, to get their pleasure buttons pressed in the propaganda drill halls and mall temples.
Emotionally and reproductively fruitless sex symbolizes an equally sterile use and throw away production economy increasingly disconnected from and damaging the biological and cultural life force.
Over time, it has started to become obvious to me just how poorly constructed the ideological fabrication of the sexual ‘revolution’ really was. Although the abortion debate seemed important as a free standing issue with large consequences in its own right, it was actually a fairly small tranche amongst much more powerful sets of ideas, technological changes and cultural moves. And it was this that gave pro-abortion protagonists their credibility and persuasiveness.
Shifting attitudes towards the legalization of abortion practice didn’t just suddenly come out of the ether, swinging by their own bootstraps. If that had been the case, they would have been a much more manageable force to be reckoned with.
Twenty years earlier, had our outstandingly successful local pro-abortion campaigner, Dr Bertram Wainer, tried to defy the abortion laws the way he did in 1969, he would have been unceremoniously thrown into jail, had his license to practice as a Doctor cancelled and would have fallen into a deep social disgrace that only obscurity and collective forgetfulness would eventually erase. And no one would have dared to defend him publicly, for fear that some measure of that fierce opprobrium would fall on them.
As I sifted through the history of the sexual revolution, I started noticing that while there was a political environment of conflict between capitalist ‘progressivism’ and its ‘progressivist’ ideological critics, there were a peculiarly well aligned set of agendas between free trade deregulation and marketed freedom of consumer ‘choice’ on the one hand, and on the other, sexual/social/moral deregulation and politically laissez-faire libertarian freedom of ‘choice’. It seemed to me, that however noisy the disagreements were between these elements of indulgence capitalism and its mainly state employed critics, their underlying agendas were mutually legitimizing and synergistically reinforcing.
I also noticed an equally synchronous sub-axis between both the production and consumption side of industrial sexual politics and the emergence of ‘sexistentialist’ and feminist ideologies.
On the one hand there was the migration of female labor into the production side of a peacetime civil version of an all out war production economy needing wartime levels of female labor input on a permanent basis. And on the other, there was the commodification of female sexuality and sexual pleasure within the goods and services economy, using marketing and media machines to run by far the biggest and most protracted propaganda bombardment campaign in the history of mass communications and consciousness management. Advertising and entertainment juggernauts flattened anything that got in the way of iconic consumer fantasies and whims that might slow down the burgeoning competitive production ‘warfare’ of latter day capitalism.
This was ideologically matched on the one hand by the emerging notion that sexuality and sexual release formed the ground of our being and ‘identity’, and our profoundest sense of the sublime, and on the other, demands for major civil and private shifts in the gender status of women. Both would give ideological expression to and legitimation for the underlying industrial shifts.
‘Liberation’ and ‘progress’ conflated the worlds of producer, consumer, sexual and political freedom of choice; just as the axis of wants, needs and rights conflated the worlds of fantasy, necessity and entitlement; just as the sexual commodification of women conflated with their increasingly sexploitatitive availability that conflated with gender political equality with men; just as the world of reproduction was conflated with the world of ‘sexuality’; just as the traditional intensification of exploitation of alienated labor and natural resources conflated with intensification of exploitation of alienated consumer behavior, sexuality in particular and consciousness in general.
The sexual revolution grew out of the advancement of consumer capitalism. It became the prime embodiment of its economic values, as pleasure and giving in to its every blandishment became the paramount leverage for mass consciousness. Sex became the ultimate marketing tool and product idealtype that turned women into consumables and consumables into sexual icons to enhance their marketable promotability.
‘Liberating’ women from the constraints of the past was not liberation so much as setting them up to be exploited for their labor, sexuality and sexual availability.
I noticed that over time that the central agenda for getting women out of domestic productivity into its industrial equivalent was not just to use time made available by reduced fertility and the increased labor saving mechanization in the domestic environment, but to effectively strip labor resources out of it. While all the right ideological noises were made, there was never a question of reducing the male industrial effort to plug the holes left in the domestic infrastructure by the migration of women towards industrial labor.
On the contrary, overtime, second jobs, shift work, self employed contracting and new business building increased hours of labor, as did the pressures on the continually ratcheting consumer standard-of-living bottom line. The much anticipated work reduction dividend from new technology labor saving devices did not materialize. Rather it intensified work processes, reduced costs and increased output at ever more attractive prices to suck in ever more intensive consumption, debt and finding more income to pay for it. Whatever vague promises had been made by males to increase their labor time at home beyond mowing the lawns, they were mostly honored in the breach.
Most women found the industrialization of their labor simply added to their original workload while degrading their traditional service levels in the domestic environment, leaving them stuck with relatively unhelpful partners and/or exhausting themselves in their efforts to compensate for the losses in their traditional workplace.
And to their chagrin, their original domestic workload continued to inhibit their opportunities to compete in the traditional economic world of men, except as mainly auxiliaries and assistants. Their opportunities for promotion to the higher management levels was systematically inhibited not just by a ‘glass ceiling’ put there by ‘the boys club’, but the inability to marshal the kind of domestic assistance that is necessary to anyone entering higher office of any sort; assistance that can only be gained from a partner prepared to put their own industrial career ambitions to one side; something that most males have been and are unwilling to do.
I have long agonized over how to tell you that I can no longer sustain my marriage to you.
It has been doubly hard coming to this point because you are not unpleasant, aggressive, violent, unaffectionate, or an obviously irresponsible character. In many cultures, being an inoffensive and reliable provider would qualify you as a ‘good man’ and you undoubtedly qualify under those criteria.
However, for several years now I have tried to communicate to you that I need an equal and competent partner who contributes actively across the entire range of partnership and familial responsibility. I have repeatedly warned you that this was not happening in vital ways and despite using every strategy I could think of, in the end you just haven’t responded.
Worse, after I had given up trying to effect change, you took my silence as acquiescence rather than despair.
I had been put in the position of having to accept that I would never get the kind of support from you that I needed and deserved and that in some measure I would have to carry you for the indefinite future.
This has not improved my humor or my desire to be intimate with you. However, instead of connecting this back to my complete frustration with you, you have just come to see me as having become ‘bitchy’ and ‘cold’. (Mind you, it would have helped if you could have learnt to make intimacy part of your sex life. Thus when you would touch me, it would feel less like I was being mauled.)
Despite your periodic protestations that you would up your game, in the end you always fell back into the male career paradigm that defines domestic life as a secondary consideration that can be put on hold whenever there is any work pressure, real or imagined. Since you are always ‘under pressure’, your family is always ‘on hold’.
I have a career too, with exactly the same kinds of pressure on me, only I have to juggle it with my domestic life; the constant thinking, remembering, planning and implementing of all that needs be done at home every day of every year, year in year out. This has forced me to be an incredibly efficient time manager and decision-maker who could match you any day in any organization. Your needs do not deserve to take precedence over mine on any grounds of competence; quite the reverse.
I know you contribute financially to the family and sometimes you assist with certain domestic duties. When things are happening at home you often do come along for the ride, if you have ‘got time’ or it doesn’t clash with your weekly golf round with ‘the boys’.
However even with that contribution taken into account, that still leaves me with many times the number of balls in the air as you. When you return home after what is always a long day at the office, you feel the need to relax. Don’t we all. I hardly ever relax because I am ‘at work’ virtually all my waking time. It may not always be obvious, but then you choose not to notice. At breakfast when you are reading the paper, I am doing mental checklists and follow-ups.
It is clear to me that you don’t really understand or want to understand how taxing all this has been for me; how it has worn me down; and what it has cost me in lost career opportunities whenever I have had to make the tough choice between career and home in favor of home.
It is not that I begrudge you what you have achieved in your work per se. It is just that in part it has been bought at my expense. My career would have been a lot further down the track than it is if you had done your share at home.
Jack, it just isn’t enough to be affectionate and good-natured. Doing your share is what really matters and this goes to the heart of what it means to love someone. Love and intimacy are not just tender sentiment and sex. They are active and thoughtful commitments whereby you give yourself over to the needs of others. This involves attending, listening, servicing and above all giving the time to make that possible.
Relationships do not look after themselves! You have to invest in them, maintain them and repair them when necessary. You have left all that to me because deep down you imagine this is secret women’s business.
I do not regard myself as the sole keeper of our marriage and its familial and social networks. The world has changed Jack. I am not going to keep doing that just for the honor of your company every now and again. You are just not that important.
Your children have been similarly short-changed. Taking them to the footy is good bonding stuff and it does give me a bit a breather, but it isn’t a substitute for getting to know them properly; the hard relentless grind involved in taking an ongoing, systematic and regular interest in their lives and problems. You think you love them but all you give them are treats and money. That isn’t love. It’s a pay off.
This sad judgment has arisen not out of some particular event, but out of a long and anguished analysis of the big picture. Over and over again I have asked myself the question “why?” My conclusion is that you define yourself wholly by your earning capacity and power within a corporate hierarchy. Everything and everyone else has to fall in behind that.
The plight of your family is not a result of financial hardship, but rather your need for a certain type of status and recognition. It is not that the products and services you help to produce are so vital to the welfare of humanity that it justifies putting your home on hold. It is not that ‘bringing home the bacon’ is vital either because I can do that as well as you can, given half a chance. What defines you Jack is your ego, its ambition and its need to show workaday playmates what a big and powerful boy you are. For that you have been prepared to sacrifice the love and respect of those closest to you. It is so sad that you will do almost anything for a customer, but not for us.
I say ‘boy’ advisedly. I have grown from being a girl to a woman not because I grew pubic hair, breasts and passed the age of citizenship and consent. The struggle to almost single handedly bring up our brood as well as hold down a responsible job has forced me to grow as a human being. As a result I am wiser, more resilient, empathic and broader in my understanding of humanity and myself than I used to be.
You on the other hand are still very much the man I married all those years ago. Only your looks have changed. You have stood still in your male complacency. Most of your friendships are a product of your juvenile years and they still reflect the immature and superficial camaraderie from which they sprang. They are critically undemanding relationships that reflect cozily on the parties to them. You would like us to be like that. And yes we could be tolerably amiable if we weren’t partners or co-parents or had to share the same roof. It is not that I dislike or hate you. It is the resentment and frustration that have got to me.
You certainly have developed as a business operator and your position in that environment reflects that. However, it is unfortunate that you have cultivated that part of yourself at the expense of all else. The parameters of business life are so limited they allow emotional juveniles to do well, gain credibility and power and gather around themselves similarly underdeveloped characters to bolster themselves and each other.
I have had to learn to deal with boy politics at work even though I don’t like or respect them. I have learnt to tolerate your mates, even though they bore me silly. However, my ability to tolerate our relationship, which has become so unequal in so many ways, has now tested me to my limit. I just can’t take it anymore.
But it isn’t just tolerance Jack. I have done my cost/benefit analysis. When we separate I will have to live in a smaller home in a less convenient and salubrious location. My budget will be a lot tighter and I will have to make do with an older and cheaper car. On the other hand, I will have one less dependent hanging off me. More, you will get the important fathering opportunities you are presently denying yourself, by way of either joint custody, or access one or two days a week. Either way, I am going to get a bit of rest and a personal life of my own which I can indulge with the same freedom you now enjoy.
I have come to the conclusion that you are not capable of running an equal domestic partnership. What you need is someone dedicated to indulging and mothering you. While it is still a very lopsided arrangement, there are still women out there willing to take it on if you financially support them. Good luck if you can find one who will put up with you, for even without an official workforce occupation, she will still be doing a far tougher job than you will ever hold down.
I have to some extent anticipated your letter. I have not been insensate to the increasingly frosty atmosphere within our relationship. I too have given up much hope of salvaging it, even if it were just for the sake of the children.
I do have a career and ambitions that I am not going to give up. To get to the top of the corporate ladder requires one hundred percent of my focus, as it does with every aspirant, male or female. All my competitors expect and get one hundred percent co-operation from their families. In return they get a very high standard of living and social status. That is the deal. That is how it has to be. You don’t like it and you are leaving. I respect that, but I have got to the point where I no longer regard that as regrettable.
For some time now, my secretary Jacqui and I have been developing a very understanding and fulfilling relationship. I am now staying at her place until we can find something a little bigger, once you and I have sorted out our affairs. Naturally we will be happy to see the children one day a week or perhaps for the whole weekend once a fortnight. Maybe longer access can be arranged during school holidays.
As to maintenance and property settlements, contact my solicitors. They and my accountants have been well briefed and thoroughly prepared for this eventuality. Naturally their offer will be very reasonable.
To make things even more difficult for women, libertarian indulgence did away with the usual firmness with testosteronal adolescent boys. Women are disciplined by the demands of their reproductive machinery, the software that comes with it and the eventual looming menopausal doorway. Boys are not so constrained, and the onset of testosterone flushes makes them think they are gods and the centre of the universe, which means they need to be taught otherwise. Failure to affect this means boys fail to grow up into disciplined men. So they become overgrown children instead, for their future wives or partners to carry on top of their own brood.
Lots of women became embittered, as it gradually dawned on them that their theoretical ‘equality’ was an over demanding and exhausting mongrel that had left them in the lurch. Worse, as their attention was shifted to other work sites, their children were unobtrusively disappeared through a digital mirror into Consumerland, and were no longer theirs, for they were now the property of the spades in suits, down at Wonderland Inc.
Just to add insult to the injury, at every turn, they saw themselves and their sexuality daubed and smeared across a production feast where they were the edible garnish and decoration. Sex sells and females get to be stars in a show that stretches all the way from being vacuously smiling and pouty product and service queens, to pornographic priestesses.
Then, when they thought they could escape the sexual straightjackets of the past, they found themselves ‘liberated’ into first date gimmes and no second chances if they didn’t deliver, minus inconvenient and emotionally messy entanglements, while paying their own way as ‘equals’ to boot.
If they didn’t feel like it, or wanted a bit more time to check out what was trying to get into their pants, “Well what’s the matter bitch? Are you a frigid dyke or something?” The boys don’t like being kept waiting. Girls are supposed to ‘like it’, just like the boys do, because they are ‘equals’ now, as if their sexuality and sensibility hung off the outer casing of their bodies, in the same way it does with boys.
‘Friends-with-benefits’ meant female ‘friends’. For boys, it went without saying. They are always ‘friends-with-benefits’, or at least they think they are. And the girls become good for a quick ‘friendly’, much in the same way that homosexuals have always been; you know, no hassles sex without the hang ups and gratuitous attachments that a traditional woman would almost always bring up, just because she had ‘done it’.
Being equal became synonymous with being available. And that could so easily spill over into not just becoming a sexual servant, but a sexual consumable stripped of any humanity, in a milieu of alienated consciousness that commodifies women.
Having yourself Skyped having it off with an unsuspecting female co-worker for all your office mates to ogle is just such a twenty-first century larf…...
The politics of principled feminism gelled with the recruitment requirements of a shamelessly sexploitative all out production warfare and the ‘carpet bombing’ of civil society with consumer ‘ordinance’. The latter overwhelmed the former from the beginning, asset stripping and smashing up domestic life in the process and making way for the biggest mass walkout on domestic relationships in history.
This catastrophe did not lead to any attempt to reconstruct and stabilize the infrastructure of intimate relationships as much as smooth its disintegration and facilitate further serial devastation. Domestic life took on the precarious existence of a city under attack. Laissez-faire political consciousness normalized and legitimized this status quo as an inevitable part of life and rejected any concept that this was a systemic rather than personal failure of the parties involved; or not even failure; just boredom or ennui.
Gender reconstruction and training regimes along feminist lines that would guarantee equitable and stable relationship bottom lines did not facilitate the kind of economic activity that household breakups and restarts brought in their wake. And their ideological substance would at some point obstruct the totalitarian vacuuming of social labor and infrastructure that capital demanded of civil society. So feminist political agenda and gender reconstruction, that might actually change something for the better, never got enough oxygen to be anything but a colorful academic sideshow.
The really difficult re-alignments of gender power necessary to rebalance post-traditional reproductive relationships would have required substantial root and branch shifts in the way economic value and productivity were measured and allocated. It would have to change the way capitalist economies regarded wealth and accounted for it. Rather like environmental ‘services’, the domestic economy simply wasn’t and isn’t recognized as part of the monetized wealth infrastructures, delivering critical ‘economic’ inputs and outputs, able to command substantial ‘economic sector’ status and regulatory protection, and prevent unaudited and covert looting of its ‘account lines’. Unmonetized and unaccounted for, such looting was made invisible and portrayable as ‘liberating’ women from ‘the shackles of the past’.
What consumer capitalism did was to put the desperate temporary expedients of total war and national emergency on a permanent basis, by continuing to strip the domestic sector of its labor and relationship infrastructure. ‘Society’ could withstand that kind of withdrawal of resources for the duration of the war, but to do it as standard practice on an indefinite basis simply caused civil society to gradually eviscerate itself. And women in particular and the system of social reproduction in general became the victims of extremist economic violence.
‘Families’ where both parents ‘work’ full time and their children are parented by the sponsors, aren’t so much social units as a burnt out shells full of shop troops under constant fire from product and service ordinance, that turns them into consumer fodder. And now a third generation of MacWarfare veterans has arrived, that knows absolutely nothing else......
The emergence of the abortion ‘issue’ came with the turf almost as a ‘tidying up’ side issue. It came as part of a range of interlinked social and economic trends, and the final clinchers to make them co-ordinate smoothly were the delivery of reliable contraception and anti-biotic drugs, which removed most of the risks of pregnancy and/or venereal disease. Multiple partner casual sex became ‘safe’, at least for a while. Abortion on demand merely acted as a backstop if there were any ‘slip ups’ that might lead to embarrassing and/or unprepared for and/or financially inconvenient outcomes.
To make abortion a respectable option, it was reconstructed as a ‘victimless’ ‘procedure’, surrounded by anodyne medicalized terminology that magically deprived what was being removed of any separate existence from the body of his or her mother; i.e., a ‘thing’ with the same status as tonsils or an appendix. Late term abortions might be a bit tough on the operating staff as they killed something that looked human, but antiseptically clean and technologically reassuring operating theatres, anesthetic and discreet aftercare, screened everybody else from the unpalatable fact that someone obviously alive had just been turned into a corpse.
To make abortion a respectable option, its opponents had to be delegitimized with an avalanche of ridicule, ideological and moral assertion, ‘scientific’ justification, and best of all, pointing out the emergently obvious; that the traditionalist ‘pro life’ bastions and their police enforcers were already so undermined and/or corrupted, they couldn’t be taken seriously by ‘rational and just’ people.
Twenty years of erosion of traditionalist thinking by emerging consumerist markets and later telecommunication media conditioning from the middle fifties had taken their toll. Desperate attempts to hold back the tide by still extant traditional authorities only confirmed that they were ‘out of step’ with the times and living on borrowed time. Increasingly they became targets of mockery and contempt.
Policemen may be the loyal enforcers of existing laws and the conservative supporters of the values and customs that underpin them, but even they could see enough writing on the wall to turn a blind eye or accept a bribe. A single campaigner like Doctor Wainer could (with a little help from his friends) destroy what was left of anti-abortion legislation and policing system almost ridiculously easily.
Quite small, but influential ‘grassroots’ front organization with promisingly liberating names boasting media savvy people behind them and fronted by earnestly outraged and attractive young mouthpieces, would bombard audiences with campaign slogans. Celeb ‘experts’ would keep raising ‘controversial’ media opinion and ‘debate’, and strategically placed journalists would regularly produce ‘thoughtful’ and ‘articulate’ pieces on ‘victimization’, ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’.
Against this juggernaut were pitted ageing, humorless, thin lipped, balding and bespectacled defenders of the old order, who clearly had absolutely no idea what they were up against, or why the ideological carpet kept being pulled from under them. They trotted out the old armamentarium of once persuasive ideological musketry, only to be overwhelmed by blasts of publicrelationspeak. And what a bunch of losers they looked!
The Catholic Church position was also weakened not just by the advances of secularism, but also an inconsistent position that declared the life of the unborn as ‘innocent’ and ‘sacrosanct’, but failed to be quite so unequivocal once the little beasty popped out of its mother’s tummy and became a social animal. Executing people and sending them to war was not an insuperable theological problem. The last auto da fe execution for heresy was conducted by church authorities in Mexico as late as 1850. Life wasn’t that sacred.
The extraordinary irony was and is that the Church’s main opponents in this matter have a horror of executions and wars, but think that the unborn are ‘subhuman unpersons’ to be killed at will, for any reason at all, or none. Yet extraordinarily, some of them even want to include animals as non human ‘persons’ with attributed and enforceable rights! How does that work!?
The Catholic notion of the creation of a soul at the very moment of conception was an idea made obsolescent by the advent of science, which did without philosophical dualisms and sought only demonstrable cause and effect in the single dimension of the observable world. Biology doesn’t do souls. So debunking the soul argument wasn’t that hard.
But paradoxically, this gave rise to notions in the secular imagination of ‘personhood functionalism’ that were every bit as dualistic as their defunct predecessors, because what they were saying was, if the new organism in the pregnant woman had not reached certain critical growth benchmarks, its ‘essence’ as a human being, its ‘personhood’, did not exist. Ergo, it wasn’t ‘human’ and therefore could be considered as mere ‘unrealized’ biological ‘stuff’, and thus, without legal or human rights.
In a much more general way, we seculars carry in our intellectual baggage a dualistic conceptual landscape that is just a secular version of the traditional essence/substance models of reality. When we talk about genetics, we continue to imagine that there is still a yawning difference between the idea and its actualization, between the software and the hardware, between the plan and the building, between the genetic instruction and the growth it triggers; as if these things were quite separate and discrete phenomena.
In our imagined reality, that is how things appear to us, but in genetics, self unfolding and inflating sequenced cell division growth comes straight out of the instruction template itself, fully armed and queued, the moment the organism goes live and is feeding and excreting wastes, which starts happening on cell division one. The organism seamlessly goes on doing that until he or she is fully grown into adulthood, whether it be growing a heart or bringing sexual organs on line at adolescence.
The genetic code is a biological instruction set, but on activation, it becomes the 3D printer, the factory premises and its product all rolled into one, on cell division one, in the first seconds of life.
A tree seed starts to germinate and bud into a tree the moment it is introduced to water, long before it emerges out of the soil with a proper root feeding system and starts to photosynthesize in sunlight. So it is with humans.
To use a military analogy, in 1940, the Germans smashed their way into France on initially narrow fronts, but backed up by a mechanized and armored van going back as much as eighty kilometers from the front. As the initial assault force broke through, the van shuffled forward in its wake, like the shaft of an arrow, in a continuous breakthrough maneuver which then broke out into sub forces to cut off the French front from its key communications and transport nodes to its rear.
At the moment of initial assault, 80-90% of the German force was militarily inactive and queued for action, but it was not some abstraction or theoretical entity. It was ‘there’ and waiting to go, and started moving forward immediately as the initial assault force broke through. Every one of the soldiers in that van had in their heads exactly what they needed to do in accordance with the detailed military plan produced by the military command.
In some measure, this is what happens when the first cells divide after the sperm breaks through into the egg. All the genetic instructions queue in an orderly manner for their turn in the life break out. All the genetic ‘troops’ that make up the van of an entire individual are ‘there’, like the military van, just as surely as they are at any other stage of the growth process, as it spreads out towards its strategically directed ‘territorial’ growth targets.
From the very second it comes into being, the emergent human is a separate living individual that is continuously meeting his or her own biological goals. Almost immediately, he or she delivers them within his or her own self designing and self building containment system, after he or she has had a first meal out of the ovum egg leftovers and attached him or herself to the womb wall.
And while being a mother is a very big job, she is ‘only’ providing the biological real estate, the services infrastructure to the placenta, and providing raw materials, energy, water, hormone ‘telemetry’ and oxygen to it, and transporting wastes and fetal instructions on the way out. These organisms never share their mother’s blood supply. From week four they supply and pump their own as completely autonomous entities.
From second one, they are completely in control of their own self manufacture. The placenta and the planning, raw materials processing, manufacturing and assembly that goes on inside it, is the new organism’s own business and his or her relationship to the mother is that of client and service provider, as he or she remains until the organism is ready to go his or her own way as a mature adult.
I challenge anyone to find a biological textbook that does not confirm that a quite separate, unique and self determining life begins at conception. First cell division human organisms aren’t sacred objects with an absolute right to life anymore than the rest of us, but they do have human value because they are as human then as at any other stage of their lives.
The emerging human organism has a developmental growth taxonomy that enables us to provide well rationalized stages of development, but to use them to interpose some ideological view as to when a ‘valid’ human life begins is just pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo. We are all going through ‘a life stage’ until we die and ‘a growth stage’ until we fully mature. And all of them are a seamless part of a single life entity and history, from the very first cell division, to the last gasp!
For purposes of justifying our killing it, we invent ‘biological’ criteria of ‘personhood’ to define away his or her ‘humanity’. We invest particular biological growth markers that we use to rationalize the killing, with ‘scientific’ and humanitarian sounding reassurance; no brain, lungs or blood supply. ‘It’ can’t ‘think’ to fear ‘its’ own death or register pain or anguish. ‘It’ hasn’t even got a heart. ‘It’ is ‘just’ a microscopic ‘pre-embryo’, so it’s OK to squash ‘it’, as if ‘it’ were a cockroach or a mosquito.
The reality is that the ‘it’ is either a he or she. Sex is determined on the first cell division.
In biological terms, zygote and embryo stage humans are ‘thinking’ very hard about what they are doing and managing a range of variables that would easily confound the best and biggest engineering, design and building teams on the planet, but they just aren’t going to be able to recognize and deal with an attack from ‘outer space’. ‘Intelligence’ isn’t necessarily just neural consciousness. An unlocking activated genetic code growth sequence involves colossal amounts of biological data flow. At around 1.5 gigabytes per cell and a hundred trillion of them at maturity, even after a week, the operation is complex, vast, well organized and very fast.
And if we don’t destroy this individual early enough to justify the too-small-to-matter-nothing status, we have a fallback ‘scientific’ position of ‘viability-outside-the-womb’. That takes us towards the end of the second trimester. You know, if it can’t survive ex utero it can’t be a ‘person’, because it can’t live in the world of other persons. We define being ‘a person’ as a social ‘someone’ who we can interact with on ‘the outside’. Human rights only apply to the socially capable. When they ‘terminate’ ‘it’, ‘it’ sure looks like a person, but no worries. It doesn’t qualify for legal protection because the law says it isn’t a legal person. Voila. And as long as one doesn’t think too hard about what has to be done, that is pretty cool if one needs to get rid of ‘it’.
‘Humanity’ is not just a social construct, but an existential one whose status is in no way reliant on ‘developmental’ criteria. One could just as easily argue that the very old, having outlived their social function and no longer able to properly participate as a social person, because their soft and hardware is so broken down, should be ‘scientifically’ categorized as in ‘deathphase’ and ‘clinically terminated’, according to ‘scientifically’ determined guidelines, after consultation with at least three psychiatrists.
Don’t you sometimes wish that you could do that with babies that scream too much? Perhaps the inability to speak and understand speech is another ‘pre-person stage’, which could be sufficient grounds for ‘terminating’ ‘it’. We could terminate ‘it’ nicely in the sanitized surroundings of an operating theatre, using satisfactorily established bureaucratic ‘scientific’ criteria, such as the mother’s ‘mental health’ and the infant’s pre-speech sub human status. And why not? We already know that there are too many people on the planet and this is used as a rationale for reducing female fertility. So, why not have an extra stage of ‘terminability’, as part of a new ex utero fourth ‘quadrimester’ that gives women a try-before-you-buy option. What could be a fairer consumer choice than that?
The myth of ‘personhood’ and ‘someoneness’ is an ideological construct that bears no relation at all to the biological process that goes on from scratch to maturity. At best it is a statement of our emotional engagement with a character that was always there in his or her own biological space, but now is in our social space. In the womb, he or she is unknown and anonymous in the way that any living entity is that is out of our ken, or lives in distant places. He or she is an abstraction, who is just plain easier to get rid of than one we know and recognize as a co-socializer, with whom we can now form social attachment and legal relations.
Any society that wasn’t running some very powerful economic, social and ideological agendas to the contrary would instantly recognize the non person status of the early developing individual as both dishonest and set on ridiculously wobbly intellectual foundations. And its protagonists were able to get away with using them because they were part of an economic tidal wave that carried with it a broad agenda of deregulatory and libertarian ideological shifts across all areas of life, which swept all before it, burying its opposition as it went.
“And what about the rights of women over what goes on in their bodies?” I hear you ask. She has the same right as anyone else to remove any foreign object or tissue from herself that is hers to remove. What she does not have is a right to kill someone else, who just happens to be residing inside her, in good health, as part of his or her usual first nine months of life, as a result of ordinary sex that she consented to. As the still very fashionable Kahlil Gibran famously stated, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
No human organisms at any stage of their lives belong to anyone except themselves. And for parents to pretend that they can be the arbiter of the life and death of their progeny is no more legitimate than the old power of masters and mistresses to kill their slaves.
What she does have a right to do is defend her body against anything that will be reasonably foreseeably compromise her health. And that does not include feeling upset or depressed because she doesn’t want a baby and doesn’t want to deal with a predictable consequence of her sexual behavior! The ‘mental health issue’ was always a corrupt psychiatry crib really meant to deal with issues of say a mother with known and previously documented suicidal, self harming, or other serious psychopathic tendencies, that would likely compromise her or the child during the pregnancy. And it might focus the mind of a woman who wanted to use this avenue to have her child killed, if it led to a compulsory hysterectomy, so that she could not have any more.
And it goes without saying that she cannot be bound to carry a life that was forced on her by an act of sexual violence. In such a case, we respect the woman’s integrity more than the life created in her. The right to life is always a qualified one measured against the larger social good. Life doesn’t have to be sacred to be rated highly; just not unconditionally.
Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is not even vaguely the same as some sort of quasi-consumer ‘choice’. Having to kill any member of our own species is never just an individual ‘choice’, but a very serious social necessity, which needs to be sanctioned by legal/social process that puts firm parameters around that possibility. And in this category would fall issues arising from discovering that the fetus is significantly defective or damaged.
If a man and woman really don’t want to reproduce, then the answer is plainly, don’t have sex. If they do, then the partners should ensure against the outcome as carefully as possible, knowing that the possibility of pregnancy is a major (though not necessarily likely) risk they are prepared to live with. Pregnancy is never just ‘an accident’.
In my view, for a couple to enter sexual congress without a willingness to accept the responsibility of a long term reproductive partnership in the event of pregnancy, are not only being inconsequential and willful in their thinking, but lacking respect for the dance of life that brings us all into the world.
But of course when it comes to equal involvement in having to deal with pregnancy, women are ‘much more equal than others’. The reality is that her partner is a bystander.
Men who are not emotionally committed to a partner and parenting are likely to have far fewer inhibitions about ridding themselves of inconvenient trailing edges like a child, because life sits as lightly on them as their genitalia do, outside the main casing of their bodies. Women who own virtually 100% of the life sustaining reproductive machinery, are regularly, uncomfortably and sometimes painfully reminded of it, and its hazards, and how pervasive biophilic feeling is in their consciousness.
Having the right to kill her child is a terrible price for acquiring some of the same sexual inconsequentiality as men. Most men have no idea just how tough abortion can be on a woman, however good the technology and service environment is for getting it done.
And this is why sexual equality is a distorted construct that is actually more about men, who when they find out they are prospective fathers, can have the problem removed without hassles, as a result of the power of yes; yes to the ease of pressuring her to get rid of the unwanted when pregnancy does happen, yes to a more sexually willing female than otherwise, if convenient ‘termination’ weren't available, and yes to intimate relationships that don’t have to go anywhere because the politics of their intimacy is casual and irresponsible. That is a mainly male fantasy.
Yes, women do go along with it, sometimes wholeheartedly, for a while. But I think ‘going along’ is the operative word. And in contemplating the politics of this, female equalitarian ‘empowerment’ is not the word that immediately springs to mind, because the equality on offer is inside a male paradigm.
The union of men and women is supposed to be about life, not death. It is supposed to be about sustainable relationships, not casual ones. It is supposed to be about values that will mentor the next generation, so that they can carry on not just the species, but the gender and sociophilic stability modeling that all human beings are supposed to get from their parents, i.e., all the virtues that we see falling to pieces around us as self-indulgent egoism takes front and centre stage in everything we do.
What passes for 'love' has become just another cliché within an alienated consciousness detached from the consequential realities of protracted and extremely demanding relationships. 'Love', like the consumer paradigm itself, has become a form of sexual commodification that only attends to the pleasures and gratifications of sex, instead of the deep engagement and responsibility sharing of reproduction. Love is hard work. And desire and its gratification are but a small component of its larger reward, once it has been earned. Nobody really 'falls' in love. It is just a nice verbal package expressing sexual attraction for someone you barely know, and committed to nothing except the same fulsome sentiments and erotic fantasies as those of adolescents.
Over the post war period, the consumer society assembled a set of licenses for individuals to indulge themselves in whatever whim or desire they wanted. And anything that got in the way or might restrain that was systematically removed by a coalition of Libertarian laissez-faire economic, social and political forces.
Despite the fact that sexual congress would always risk a pregnancy, albeit a very reduced one amongst those who were careful and responsible, it was an ever present specter hanging over its pleasures. Since nobody was able to morally question non reproductively intentioned sex anymore, the only question left was to ask how we could ‘reasonably’ get rid of unwanted reproductive product without ‘forcing’ people into the illegal ‘backyard’ abortion trade.
To put this into some sort of perspective, in the pre-consumerist period, only people regarded as totally unscrupulous would go for an abortion, because they knew that killing unborn children was wrong. As to the rest, to avoid a discreditable blot on their personal reputation, they married if that were at all possible, or suffered the disgrace of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and virtually compulsory adoption out, to give the child a decent chance in a ‘proper’ home. (By brutally appalling contrast, Australia now offers baby bonuses to very young women who make ‘a career’ out of producing mostly socially and educationally disabled children, by serially shiftless young fathers, for the overburdened welfare system to cope with indefinitely, on an inter-generational basis.)
As consumerist values reconstructed moral consciousness, the unexpectedly pregnant woman became regarded as a ‘victim’ of her pregnancy and that ‘necessitated’ an abortion which ‘unreasonable’ forces of ‘obsolete’ social and moral conventions prevented her from having. So, ‘helpless’ in the absence of a ‘reasonable’ solution, she would be ‘forced’ to go to a backyarder, or if affluent enough, to one of those very expensive doctors who ‘did it’. This kind of ideological tripe is of the same order as that of the bank robber who claims he was ‘forced’ to shoot people because they resisted the robbery.
Once the obsolete social and moral forces were shunted out of the way, abortion was made invisible and became a consumable like anything else, securing non reproductively intentioned sex into the mainstream of human behavior, as unquestioned as air conditioning or a second car.
Notwithstanding that, the basic underlying fact of primate life is that the powerful hormones that sex causes to be released throughout the body is just biological candy to get us to reproduce. Despite the fact that we no longer have as many children as we used to, it doesn’t mean the basic deal has changed. And I think many women, whose relationship to sex and feeling is vastly more complex than it is for men, still want emotional engagement and commitment in their sexual relations, as if they were going to lead to long term secure reproductive relationships.
It really feels like the sexual revolution has been a mainly male sexual politic into which women have been co-opted, but they don’t say much because it is uncool not to be ‘liberated’ and ‘equal’. And it is what they asked the gods for, and now they have got it, but not in the measure and spirit that was asked for.
The statue of Liberty is the closest we have to an image of one of the gods we currently worship. The forces it represents are just as capricious and full of their own agendas as those on Mount Olympus and just as capable of delivering perverse outcomes that still tick all the boxes on the supplicant request form. They forgot to ask for a female paradigm that would give female perspective and sensibility real clout that could successfully contest the male one.
I think that women should be able to tell men to go and screw each other, if all they want is a quick ‘friendly’. But during the sixties, men were able to start playing them off each other to get sexual compliance and they had to give in or find themselves ‘on the shelf’, because, given penicillin and the pill, if they didn’t deliver, someone else would. And by the early seventies, with abortion-on-demand, the girls were well and truly locked down in an ‘equalitarian’ and ‘liberating’ sexual free-for-all, whether they liked it or not. The reality is that even if she has some combination of fame, social connection, money, beauty, or exceptional close quarters political nous, she is still fair game, as well as vulnerable, in a way men never will be.
Women on the whole can run rings around men in terms of the psychological smarts. But the one thing they cannot do is undo the inequality of negotiating power that derives from the fact that they are saddled with the entire operating machinery of reproduction, and men aren’t. It makes men more emotionally detached and more likely to wander in their attentions. While women can emulate that sometimes not terribly admirable quality for a while, it eventually grates on them, because their sexuality emotionally grounds them in the end. Women almost always end up investing more effort and intelligence in their intimate relationships to secure them, and keep them going. And it means they have more to lose. Men intuitively know this.
Sexual politics is tough like that, which is why we maybe need to make sexual continence ‘fashionable’ again and empowering not so much sexual ‘equality’, as a powerful female say on how they want their intimate relationships to unfold, that seem equitable to them. It is very tough for individuals to stand against a powerful political imperative. They can be so easily marginalized and worked against each other. Only if enough girls join the movement, will the boys have to come to the party and learn to be considerate gentlemen once again, engage a woman on her own terms and give her the space she needs to gauge whether his many and egregious male faults are tolerable in the longer term, before she lets him so much as a millimeter past her workaday social space.
And that is going to mean the onerous business of fully engaging with her and what she offers beyond obvious instant gratification, has to be with an eye to sharing the extremely hard and protracted work that sexual pleasure is supposed to lead to.
Anything less than that is an invitation to being parasited by males whose sexual agendas could just as easily be met by a good quality audio-animatronic doll.
And the fact is that venereal disease hasn’t gone away as it was once imagined it would. Condoms are not 100% safe reproductive prophylactic, let alone a VD one. And being the proud owners of pretty nearly 100% of the reproductive suite, girls have a lot to lose if they get hit with one of those infections that don’t go away. Why should they feel they have to put their venereal health at risk for the sake of a casual sex paradigm that isn’t really in their longer term interests?
In a society that reconstructs itself around the fundamentals of genuinely reproductive relationships, abortion ‘rights’ are not going to get much truck, because aspiring lovers will be expected to engage fully and be completely prepared for the long term consequences of that engagement. There will be far fewer ‘inconvenient’, ‘embarrassing’, or ‘unplanned’ pregnancies, anymore than there will be single parent families, unless someone has died. And when they have had as many children as they feel is responsible in all the circumstances, snip, snip...for the boys, naturally, because the girls stop being fertile naturally anyway.
It will not tolerate shallow and exploitative relationships between men and women. It will not indulge mythical fantasies about the very young; that they are somehow ‘not live’ or unworthy of some regard and protection. And above all, it will go to considerable lengths to invest social resources in grooming and training its young in meeting their long term responsibilities towards each other, so that they, and especially young men, will deliver on all the bottom lines that make a long term relationships equitable, sustainable and dare I say it, comfortable.
Thus a bride will not be marrying an emotional child who she will have to carry as extra baggage on top of the ones she will bear. She will not have to ask, chivvy or lose her temper to get her reasonable needs met. He will know what to do, will have had that relentlessly drilled into him and he will know that if he consistently doesn’t step up to the mark, his family and community are going to want to know the reason why. And if some fairly ‘rough’ treatment is necessary to get him to ‘see the light’, well that is what is going to happen, for the marriage vows and the terms of the contract that will have been tailor made for that couple, will be regularly audited and socially enforceable, unless changed by the common consent of all the parties.
Abortion-on-demand only makes sense in an environment that has casualized sex, disconnected it completely from its real purpose and alienated sex and sexuality from the politics of genuine long term reproductive intimacy. And that in my view is an anti-woman politic that doesn’t really shift the balance of power between men and women; on the contrary.
People are going to look back on the late consumer age in fascinated horror at its gross excesses and mangled values. The libertarians who were its harbingers will be delegitimized and regarded as deviants not tolerable in decent society.
Abortions will go on, because even in the best regulated societies, they are still an inevitable part of life. If they are to be done, they need to be safely done. No one wants an illegal market in procuring one. But that would not mean there wouldn’t be sub-judicial ‘consequences’ in a social milieu that really hated the values and behavior that gave rise to having to abuse and waste medical resources and goodwill to kill someone.
In a post-modern age, people are going to be much more careful about their sexual behavior, and be much clearer about what that behavior means and what it leads to. And it will mean much tighter organization of social life, and less opportunity for ‘privacy’. Poorly constructed, partial and laissez-faire arrangements would not be tolerated in a society with strongly delineated social goals and means for achieving them.
Alienated social norms that were a product of consumer capitalist relations of production and consumption will cease as we move into some version of capitalism ‘lite’, as it moves to embrace social and existential capital as part of the wealth portfolio of every citizen and the society as a whole. It will no longer externalize non monetized capital, whether it be ecological, social or existential software assets. And even though by the older measures of GDP, the economies of a cantonized capitalism ‘lite’ will be much smaller than those of late modern giga-economies, and less physically secure, their software will be more ‘affluent’ and secure in ways that the old order could not have dreamed of. And their denizens will begin to appreciate just how broken down the third world shanty towns of the old social consciousness used to be.
In the meantime, it’s 40 million disappeared little humans a year. But as any German hausfrau would have told you in 1944, about the Jewish ‘disappeared’, “Sie sind Untermenschen Liebling, und eine Bedrohung für die arischen Reich”. (They are subhuman darling, and a threat to the Aryan State). And now, in a human rights loving and war averse Germany, the grand daughter, confronted with an unwanted addition to her life might say, with an eerie sense of deja vu, “Es ist untermenschen liebling, und eine Bedrohung für mein Lebensstil” (It is subhuman darling, and a threat to my lifestyle).
The extraordinary irony was that by 1943, providing an abortion to a German Aryan woman was a capital offence, whereas after 1991, it could be procured on demand. And without even attempting to make a judgment on either of those examples, it demonstrates how very selective we are about the life we choose to kill as a matter of course and that which we choose to protect at all costs. To say that this reflects an ideological luck of the draw seems to be putting it mildly.
Today we have lobbies for the intellectually and physically disabled objecting to the termination of fetuses with identified serious defects, because there is no such thing as a defective ‘anybody’. They are still valid human beings who can become loved and loving social contributors like anyone else. And then on the other hand there are others, who will casually have the unwanted killed, just because they can.
I haven’t the slightest hesitation adding to the ordinary rigors of natural selection to keep defective genes out of the species gene pool, or for that matter, unnecessarily adding to the long term liabilities of the already under siege welfare and medical care systems. However, I cannot see why we should kill anyone because people adult enough to have children are not adult enough to plan around and take responsibility for the reproductive risk they took and the life they subsequently created. That is what Planned Parenthood really meant, before the ‘pro-choice’ moral supermarketarians mangled it. The plain fact of the matter always was and is, that any couple who had had a reproductive ‘accident’ had made ‘a choice’ in entering sexual congress in the first place!
And if getting that understanding as a social norm means we need a more regulated, disciplined and less indulgent society, with much higher personal standards expected of its members, and particularly its more junior ones, then that is what needs to be done.
We are talking here about a society that takes responsibility for its young and the terms and conditions under which parents will be allowed to reproduce its social product, because it is the ultimate ‘customer’. So it won’t tolerate the dysfunctional and sloppy libertarianism of the late consumer age, which left behind so much inter-generationally screwed up garbage, it would take the best part of a century to fix.
If the present ‘system’ of reproduction were to be treated like any other ‘industry’, the present one would be immediately shut down and reconstructed, for in all likelihood trading while insolvent, breaking every basic common sense regulatory bottom line if there were any, having no consistent social and existential education and social training templates or infrastructure for the reproductive labor force to mentor and shape its product with, no proper management and enforcement systems worth a crumpet, and delivering poorly designed, under-constructed and sloppily made product that is notoriously unreliable and infamous for not just breaking down under pressure, but behaving erratically and sometimes dangerously under normal operating conditions.
Thus ‘the debate’ isn’t about the sacredness of life or ‘consumer choice’. It is about consequential behavior and the quality control that the social commons should exercise in determining how its subjects conduct themselves to get that outcome, in everything they do. We should be as purposefully disciplined and uncasual in the way we construct our social product as we are when we have to kill someone, no matter how large or small the potential victim might be.
Murder is a social crime, for it not only involves taking a life, but violently disturbing the social order. War is not a social crime because it is a violent instrument for the defense of the social order. Abortion is taking a human life outside the context of a social order he or she never participated in. It is not a social crime, but it is still a serious humanitarian matter for which individuals should be held accountable in ways that reflect on and affect their reproductive and civil standing, if they cannot reasonably justify it.
Inconvenience might seem at the very shallow end of the moral excuses pool...