The HHS mandate has certainly been a boon to bloggers. Much worthwhile has been said about why are enemies are compelled by their beliefs to instrumentalize sex, marginalize the traditional family, and make war on the Church. I’ve almost stopped getting angry at them for these things, since they do follow as a matter of logical necessity from the guiding beliefs of the age. What I still find especially irritating about the Leftist hivemind is not just that they all have the same thoughts, but that they even come packaged and expressed in the same terms. Leftism is being even more perverse than it has to be.
1) What about the men?
Contraception, we are told, must be free because it’s important to women, either to the sacred cause of “women’s health” or the even more sacred cause of “women’s choices.” Now, just as you would never guess from the liberals’ rhetoric about “choice” that abortion actually involves snuffing out a fetus, you could listen to hours of their talk about “women’s health” without being reminded that contraception is about preventing the arrival of new children. Liberals like to be abstract, but I expect most of my readers have already had “the talk” with their parents and know that not just any activity results in pregnancy. We’re talking about heterosexual intercourse and nothing else. Conception means that someone has just become a mother, and someone else has just become a father. Becoming a mother is a big deal, but so is becoming a father. So it seems that two people’s strong interests are involved in each contraceptive use.
So, why never mention the fathers? Again, this isn’t Bonald being a heteronormative meanie–everybody knows that sex that results in pregnancy always involves a woman and a man. One would think that it would actually strengthen Obama’s case to refer to the men as well; he could say that he’s protecting the interests of both halfs of the population. Wouldn’t that make the mandate twice as good? Neither women nor men are to be punished with babies! Yet neither the White House nor its media lapdogs have done any such thing.
There are several reasons. First, to bring up men’s interests would mean referring to what exactly it is that contraception is designed to frustrate, and the Left is squeemish about this, preferring their vague statements about “women’s health” and “family planning”. More importantly, men are not a designated victim group. It is therefore wrong to be solicitous of their interests. They deserve to be punished. In fact, a measure that benefits women actually becomes less attractive if it also benefits men. The purity of the legislator’s intentions is brought into doubt. How can we know that what motivates them is really the good goal (helping women) and not the bad, selfish goal (helping men)?
2) How much is hidden in “harm” and “fairness”
Jonathan Haidt claims that liberals restrict their moral reasoning to considerations of “avoiding harm” and “fairness”, which conservatives also consider authority, group loyalty, and purity/sacrality. This is the case here. Calls to protect “women’s health” protest some unspecified harm that comes to women who don’t have a free means to sterilize themselves. Calls to protect their “choices” most likely derive their force from a sense that rich women get all these (unspecified) advantages of self-sterilization, so we must level the playing field for poor women.
Interestingly, it is the liberals’ criteria that are most reliant on a robust sense of human nature and human flourishing. The harm and fairness cases both assume that contraception contributes to human flourishing, that it is a fundamental human good. Of course, this is exactly the point in dispute. If the traditional Christian and Catholic view is correct, then contraception is degrading and wicked. Helping someone do something wicked and degrading is like sneaking drugs to an addict or porn to a compusive masturbator; they may be grateful, but you are not really helping them. You’re keeping them enslaved to disordered desires and blocked from genuine goods.
But let’s be agnostic for a second, and not assume that Catholic sexual morality is correct. Let’s not assume that birth control is intrinsically evil. Suppose we even assumed that it is some sort of good. One still hasn’t gotten to the liberal view of things. They don’t just take contraception to be a good; they take it to be a fundamental good. They say, in their confused but definite way, that denying a person birth control pills can block her from achieving the good life. Why else employ the dread measure of state coercion? The state doesn’t mandate that every good be available to every person. There’s no push to make sure every poor person has their own microscope, even though knowledge about the natural world is generally regarded as a good thing. It’s a fine thing to be able to look at cells, but some form of a good life is possible without it.
Liberals regard a situation where someone who is not in a position to have another child must abstain from sex as intolerable.
Is that true? I certainly don’t think so. One thing that is certain is that it is not a morally neutral claim. With their birth control fanaticism, liberalism has abandoned its founding pretense to be a neutral arbiter between competing comprehensive moral doctrines. It was always a sham, as everyone who’s been on the receiving end of the liberal stick knows. A Cartesian view of the body as a meaningless machine coupled with a crude utilitarian ethic is the officially established and legally enforced dogma of the modern State. There is no neutrality on matters of sex. In the public schools and juvenile justice system there hasn’t been for a long time. Government officials who would never dream of telling children to stop fornicating have no trouble ordering them to use condoms.
3) On the opposition “playing politics”
An interesting tick in liberal defenses of the administration, for example the ones Proph and Larry Auster have referenced, is their accusation that the opposition is engaging in some sort of partisan stunt. I’ve seen this pattern over and over again. The Left launches an attack on some sector of traditional society. (They are the progressives; they are aggressors by definition.) The attacked parties complain, which I wouldn’t think would surprise anyone. The Left, however, is outraged by their victims’ behavior. (They don’t feign outrage; I’m convinced they really feal it.) The Left sees itself as the aggreived party. What’s more, they don’t even give their opponents the courtesy of assuming that they are sincere in their beliefs. They immediately accuse them of manufacturing a publicity stunt so that, out of pure malice, they can derail benevolent Leftist initiatives to which no one could genuinely object.
In this case, it’s those sinister Catholic bishops in cahoots with sinister Republican politicians who planned this whole thing just to make Obama and his health care initiatives look bad. Why did they do this? Insert any standard Leftist demonological explanation: they hate women; they hate poor people; they hate Obama becaue he’s black; they’re the 1%, etc, etc, etc.
This is an interesting position to take. The New York Times and the rest of the liberal propaganda machine have decided not to be outraged that the Catholic Church condemns contraception, but that it has decided to create publicity stunts designed to get Republicans into office. This lets them salvage their tolerant & neutral credentials a bit. But does it really make sense? Put aside for the moment that most of the episcopate is pretty clearly pro-Democratic and pro-Obamacare. If we admit that the Church’s prohibition of contraception predates (by quite a healthy stretch of time) any use it might possibly have for American partisan polemics, if we admit that the Church is sincere in its condemnation, then one must admit that the Church would have to find the mandate intolerable. By their own principles, the bishops would be compelled to protest it. So are the liberals angry about the way that Church went about this? “Okay, so I understand that this is something that’s going to upset you. Why did you have to generate all this publicity? Don’t you know that this is going to help those people?” Should the Church have been more discrete in its complaints? Perhaps the pope should have addressed the president behind closed doors, with hat in hand, or maybe prostrated before the presidential throne. He could then beg for a favor. When summarily rejected, he would have the sense to thank the president for granting him an audience; then he’d go back to Rome and the Church would make no further trouble.
The problem is that the president and his officials are birth control fanatics; they refuse to reconsider or even discuss their commitment to universal contraception. If anyone was to win any concessions, it would have to be against Obama’s will; he would have to be compelled by legal or electoral force.
As Proph has pointed out, it’s really amazing how a single perspective–not only a single position, but a single formulation of it–so quickly materializes over the whole Left.
Filed under: Conservatism vs Liberalism, Modern fallacies | 9 Comments »