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Our Enslavement to "Freedom" | Dr. James Hitchcock | IgnatiusInsight.com
For almost fifty years a series of radical changes in
human existence have opened a wide gulf between ourselves and our ancestors.
The changes appear to be inevitable, and they have occurred with such speed
that most people have scarcely had time to think about them.
New methods of contraception have severed the connection
between sex and the procreation of children and, in case contraception fails,
abortion is now legal. But despite this preoccupation with avoiding pregnancy,
it is now possible for women to become pregnant through technology rather than
sexual intercourse. It is within the realm of possibility to manipulate
conception in order to choose the sex of the child, and allegedly it is even
possible to create life in laboratories.
Sexual relations between people of the same sex are
considered normal, and people can have their sex changed by surgical procedure.
Meanwhile, at the other end of life there is a push towards assisted suicide
Each of these denies aspects of our traditional
understanding of what it means to be human: sex is not necessarily related to
procreation, sexual identity and the family are not fixed by God or nature,
human life is not sacred, and we are not answerable to any higher power.
Encompassing all these is a denial of our inherent
dignity. Human beings are merely one species among many and actually constitute
a threat to nature. There are too many of us, so that anything that holds down
our number is laudable.
Each of these changes looks like progress, because they
involve breakthroughs in technology. Western civilization has always had an
almost unlimited openness to technological change -- more so than any other
culture in the world -- and only rarely has there been significant resistance
to such changes.
Today what is broadly called environmentalism does
question technology, but there is an odd contradiction here -- people who are
opposed to human "meddling" with nature, who want only natural foods and who
decry pollution, are rarely concerned about contraception and cloning. Things
having to do human reproduction are still new, exciting, and liberating,
whereas pesticides, dams, and gasoline engines are old hat.
These changes have been sold under the slogan of freedom,
as each new development promises to liberate people from inconvenient limits on
their behavior. Thus radical interference with the human reproductive cycle is
welcomed, because the idea of sexual "liberation" has become almost sacred.
But unnoticed amidst all these changes is an idea invented
in the twentieth century and promoted under a variety of names -- social
engineering, which is the claim that most people do not really know what is
best for themselves and for society. However, instead of calling for naked
force, social engineers call for "education," meaning propaganda, and for
manipulating people through social agencies.
These radical changes have themselves made people less
free, because they have destroyed signposts of thousands of years' duration and
plunged us into a confusion in which it is difficult to make rational
judgments -- what is a family and does it matter, is gender real, what
indeed is a human being?
We have a profile of the kind of person the social
engineers consider the ideal citizen -- someone who questions the wisdom of
bringing children into the world and approves of having at most one or two, who
wholeheartedly approves of homosexuality, who considers gender merely a "social
construct," who welcomes laboratory experiments with human life, and who urges
people not to delay unduly their exit from this life.
Social engineering hopes to create a perfect society,
which in turn requires that people not be allowed to exercise their freedom by
standing in the way. Abortion is a "choice," but the right to choose cannot be
extended to people who reproduce "irresponsibly," and the creation of human
beings through technology might produce a higher type of person. People who
cling to outmoded moral beliefs cannot be allowed to indoctrinate even their
own children, much less have a voice in public policy. The chronically ill and
those deemed biologically deficient cannot be allowed to use a disproportionate
share of medical resources, so that their deaths must in some cases be
facilitated by the state.
Decades ago Aldous Huxley wrote a novel whose title
entered our language --Brave New World.
Much of this sounds like science fiction, and its full realization may be some
distance in the future, but there is no doubt that society is headed in that
direction. The only thing that can prevent it is a vigilant citizenry who,
unfortunately, often seems confused and timid and fails to see how offers of
present "freedom" have become the basis for future enslavement.
(This article originally appeared on July 13, 2006, on the
Women for Faith and Family website. It is reprinted by the kind permission of the author.)
Other IgnatiusInsight.com columns by Dr. Hitchcock:
Conscience and Chaos
Orientation Is Not a "Gift"
Authority of Scripture vs. the "Hermeneutic of Suspicion"
Ideology: The Grilling of Judge Roberts
Court's Penumbra of Politics
Ratzinger: Man for the Job
Modern Culture; Asserting the Gospel
Bishops, Liberal Results
The Myth of
the Wall of Separation
The Church and
Theory of the Enlightened
Dr. James Hitchcock, (e-mail)
professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary
Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press, in the Adoremus
Bulletin, and on the Women
for Faith and Family website. He is the author of several books, including
The Recovery of the Sacred, What is Secular Humanism?, and Years
of Crisis: Collected Essays, 1970-1983.
Princeton University Press just published his two-volume history of the
Supreme Court, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life:
The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses (Vol. 1) and
From "Higher Law" to "Sectarian Scruples"
(Vol. 2). He is also a regular contributor to many Catholic periodicals,
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