Tristyn Bloom on one aspect of pro-abortion thought that is often neglected:
We often hear that a problem with young people today is that we are irresponsible. We don’t have a sense of duty. We don’t have a sense of order. We’re immature. I think that the problem is actually the opposite.
I think that we are pathologically terrified of risk and I think that we have this enslavement to our own ideas of respectability, our own ideas of our life plan, our commitments, our existing duties such that something as radically changing as a new life doesn’t fit in with those existing duties. To accept that life would be the irresponsible choice, and that’s the framework from which a lot of people are operating. They see themselves as accepting consequences, as responsible. They have a semblance of a moral framework and we can’t ignore that just because it’s completely the opposite of our own. And this isn’t just about whether or not you accept a child. I think that we are so enslaved to a plan, and a routine, and a vision of our lives, we can’t embrace the unsettledness, openness, flexibility, and folly it takes to have an actually pro-life culture in every instance.
I think this is true, and expands into other areas of life as well. There is a stronger continuity between my generation and the pre-sixties modern culture than is often understood. The Baby Boomers are the blip, the particular economic and social situation they found themselves in allowing for a moment of radical experimentalism. The effect they had was one of acceleration rather than revolution, helping to sweep away traditions which were already being rendered incoherent by the utilitarian calculus of modernity.
It is this sense of utilitarianism which has come to define propriety and social mores, at least to a certain extent (when you start looking at things from a larger, political, perspective, the notion of fairness increasingly becomes a moral trump card). Actions have costs, benefits and risks, and the ethical choice is one which takes that into account. Having lots of of kids, for instance, is frowned upon because it is seen as being both personally and socially* irresponsible.
But this is also a vision of life that becomes progressively divorced from meaning. It’s the sort of “healthy” ho-hum bourgeoisie existence that Friedrich Nietzche had a panic over. And this is why I have a sympathy for counter-cultural sorts, weirdos and the like, even if they’re doing something I’d consider stupid or evil; because there is an acknowledgement of the of the enervating and sterile aspect of modernity and a desire for spontaneity. That is what makes the beatniks and hippies fascinating, because they correctly recognized the meaninglessness of the world they grew up in and reacted against it. They went for the wrong medicine and ironically wound up having bits and pieces of their own ethos assimilated back into the mainstream, but they had some awareness.
There is a great moment in G.K. Chesterton’s (kinda sorta) SF satire of modernity, The Napoleon of Notting Hill where one of the characters has what can only be described as a sort of existential/mystical shock:
The King had still little beyond the confused sense of a man caught in a torrent – the feeling of men eddying by. Then something happened which he was never able afterwards to describe, and which we cannot describe for him. Suddenly in the dark entrance, between the broken gates of a garden, there appeared framed a flaming figure.
Adam Wayne, the conqueror, with his face flung back, and his mane like a lion’s, stood with his great sword pointed upwards, the red raiment of his office flapping round him like the red wings of an archangel. And the King saw, he knew not how, something new and overwhelming. The great green trees and the great red robes swung together in the wind. The sword seemed made for the sunlight. The preposterous masquerade, born of his own mockery, towered over him and embraced the world. This was the normal, this was sanity, this was nature; and he himself, with his rationality and his detachment and his black frock coat, he was the exception and the accident – a blot of black upon a world of crimson and gold.
This is the sort of terror that we structure our lives around avoiding. We can handle ourselves being mere blips in a meaningless universe because that gives us as meaning-makers the leverage to flip ourselves back into the center. But a cosmos which is shot through with meaning unnervingly assures us that life is bigger than us, and our plans. As Bloom continues:
If you look at even the language used — “unplanned pregnancy” because that is the strange case. The normal case is the planned pregnancy. And this is understandable in two ways. One, it’s a concession to comfort and the economy of family. Not everyone in the pro-life movement is against contraception, for example. But the other, I think, is a psychological necessity because two, in a certain sense we are very unwilling to admit that we are all essentially accidents.
Especially for secular people, or people with different theological assumptions, that is what the creation of life kind of amounts to. Scientific materialism seems to force us to admit this. And I feel that on some level modern parents compensate for this meaninglessness by investing their child with meaning through planning. You were chosen. You were fated. You were designated. They are compensating for the meaninglessness of the way conception happens by choosing it on their own and by actively bestowing that significance upon them. We are the little gods of our own children. And we extend this to everything in our lives. In our education. Where we live. What we do. How we eat. Everything imbued with meaning by the fact of being chosen. And these choices, in turn, define us back to ourselves.
We like the idea of Destiny, the idea of someone rising to a a task they didn’t expect or ask for – provided it happens to someone else. It makes for a good story. But for ourselves we’d rather just have careers.
*Which is kind of a testimony to Malthus’ profound ability to resurrect himself in spite of multiple killings. The man is like a frigging vampire or something. I also wonder if dire predictions about overpopulation are the sort of secular flipside of “The Second Coming is totally going to happen in 1854 guys!!!!11!” mode of thought