Up The Women   (2015Oct29)

Thursday, October 29, 2015                                             10:17 AM

I began to read a story on Medium and got into it before I realized it was telling of the writer’s attempts to deal with a sister’s suicide—but I couldn’t stop reading. Not how I would have chosen to start my day. Then, in my email, there’s a NY Times story about China ending its one-child policy—imagine—the largest population on earth, largely undeveloped, largely hungry—and the government’s policy was not to grow more food, but to have less people. Bunch of fucking geniuses in charge over there—well, they’ve given it up now, so that’s something. Still no word on growing more food, though—fucking geniuses.

I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about abortion. What is life? When does it begin? The Pro-Lifers will insist that life begins at the moment of fertilization. That makes sense to a degree—otherwise we’d have to consider every ovum or spermatozoa a potential life as well. Imagine a killer being charged with however many counts of murder as there were ova in his victim’s ovaries—not to mention the thousands of potential lives wasted every time a man masturbates—that would be ridiculous.

Still—is fertilization the only decision-point? Before modern medicine, we considered the first breath taken as the dividing line between potential and human life. Further back, infants were not fully human until after their baptism—and even further back, one was not part of the tribe until one had passed the coming-of-age trial. One could make the case that the first fetal heartbeat was the start of life—or, if we could do an EEG test on fetuses, we could say that the beginning of consciousness was the true start. For legal purposes, we now use the term ‘viable’, which connotes the fetuses’ ability to survive outside their wombs, as a dividing line between potential and human life.

We cannot escape the fact that our modern arguments over terminology are a by-product of our understanding of medicine. In times past, unwanted newborns were abandoned, or even murdered outright—and this was usually done to female infants. Men, having been born and raised by their own mothers, saw no further use for additional women—talk about ego. And women were forced to produce as many babies as possible, even if it killed them. While this created a built-in workforce for the men, it only created bigger crowds which the women had to cook for, clean, and clothe every day. And with health being what it was, a woman who birthed ten or fifteen children could still end up with only a few survivors—just as her own life was nasty, brutish, and short.

The western patriarchal society of old was expert in dismissing everything of value about women while imposing on them unconscionable limits to their rights and freedoms. Even the shadow of those times today leaves many women doubting their equality with men. And who can blame them for this confusion? Taken all in all, women are not equal to men—they are superior. Women biologically have greater endurance, greater resistance to stress—and they can produce life. Men seem to surpass women only in their ability to bully—which perhaps explains why we’ve waited until the 21st century to address bullying as a bad thing.

The church’s insistence on women being available to men (their ‘wifely’ duty) provided a rational for men to copulate with women even against their wishes (which could easily be described as ‘rape’, even among married couples). And this fiat to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ was extended to forbid women from doing anything to interfere with any life engendered by this manhandling. Thus the taboo on birth control. Originally, birth control was considered ‘anything’—including the so-called rhythm method or the use of a simple condom. The crime was that of withholding the creation of new life in any way—not of killing an unborn baby. Had earlier societies known how to determine the sex of an infant before birth, they would have gleefully aborted plenty of babies as worthless females-in-waiting.

The present-day Pro Life movement is a tattered vestige of this ancient misogyny—having lost the religious upper-hand, they are left with this one specious category of birth control that still offers them a lifeline to the draconian morals of old. And how they scream about the ‘sanctity of life’—while ignoring every one of the many other ways in which life is brutalized by society from cradle to grave.

The debate over fertilization versus viability should be decided in favor of a woman’s right to choose if for no other reason than women deserve some recompense for the untold centuries of sexual slavery and gender persecution as the established order of things. If, in granting women the right to control their own bodies, we allow for the possibility of some rare abuse, it is nothing compared to the rank injustice that has been women’s lot for so very, very long.

Pope Deferred

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I’ve been where the pope is at—I can sympathize. He doesn’t feel he has the strength to do all that a modern pope is expected to do—the travel, the heated debates over orthodoxy, the public pronouncements and appearances across the globe. He is undoubtedly unhappy about ceding his life’s greatest achievement before his time—but he knows that he simply hasn’t the strength to do the job properly.

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And I know what it’s like to be barraged with outrage and questioning—‘all the other popes died in office!’—‘how can he let the church down this way’—‘what is the real reason he’s abdicating?’ ..and so on. The questions only deepen his sadness at having to appear to ‘quit’ when he is actually acting in the best interests of his flock. How disgusting it must be for him to have pederasty be the most publicly discussed aspect of his church. How conflicted he must be about the conditions caused by overpopulation in the world’s poorest areas—and reconciling that with church dogma forbidding birth control of any kind.

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It won’t be long before we have to discuss the status of manufactured humans—or, worse yet, creatures with only partially-human DNA. Are they property?—are they a crime against nature?—do they have souls?—is owning one a venal or a mortal sin—or no sin at all? The pope that gets that one in his lap will need a degree in biology just to issue an edict.

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Women are being accepted into many faiths as pastors or priests—how can the Catholic Church respond to the self-evident equality of men and women when it contradicts their deepest beliefs? And consider Celibacy—it has been made painfully clear that priests have sexually abused children as far back as living memory—which implies that it’s gone on longer even than that. What good is a vow of celibacy when it is connected to that horrendous history? Catholics might be better off with married priests—they certainly can’t be any worse off. Can a modern pope process this unfolding tragedy into a renewal of dignity and self-sacrifice that has been, until now, only a false gloss over the real activities of working priests? I’d hate that job—kinda like being the judge and the defendant at a murder trial.

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But worst of all is Obedience. It is a central tenet of the Roman Catholic Church—it really can’t be removed without losing the entire structure. But obedience is a problematic concept when it is used to hide stupidity and corruption. This is a problem for many faiths, really. The idea that authority shouldn’t be questioned is part of the zeitgeist of a religion—it draws a parallel to the concept of questioning the faith itself, and thus makes it forbidden.

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This is the crux of the conflict between modern civilization and the major faiths—the world has learned that government should be accountable—that it is our duty to question our leaders and criticize their mistakes. The world has also learned much science—a practice based on never-ending questioning of everything! The validity of disobedience has been glorified by the American Revolution and the more-recent Arab Spring. The validity of scientific inquiry is even more desirable—weapons, medicines, agriculture—you name it, science will add some nitrous tanks and boost the hell out of it.

 

Where once caste systems, total power, and superstition made a nice, neat fit with Religion, the modern world has inverted the principles of both Government and Reason. Those two legs of the tripod of tyranny have become actively averse to their old teammate, Religion. Separation of church and state becomes more true with every passing year—even in places other than the USA. The Neo-Cons made an impressive effort to roll back time, for a while. But their need to do so was even more impressive—church memberships are plummeting, as are the number of divinity students and acolytes.

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It can’t be helped, really. The example I always use is the bible story about God stopping the Sun in the sky. The fundamentalists have come up with debate-points that ‘teach the controversy’, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that the people who believed in God back then also believed the Sun moved across the sky. Science has overtaken this myth, just as it has turned ‘Heaven’ into our ‘Upper Atmosphere’, followed by ‘Outer Space’—places we regularly fly through.

We’ve gone ‘all in’ on global technology—and, too late, the pious have realized how thoroughly incompatible Knowledge is with Religion. In the Middle East, countries use nuclear-science-based weapons to threaten the infidels (the people with different religions) and blithely overlook the fact that the science of our universe is unchanged by one’s faith. No matter what superstitions we cling to, Einstein still applies. But then, Einstein believed in God—so, there you are.

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