by Robert Arvay
In colonial times, the treatment for anemia was to bleed the patient, and when this inevitably made matters worse, the bleeding treatment was then deemed even more necessary than before. Today, we are applying the same logic to our social problems, and with much the same results.
The colonial doctors had the best of intentions, but sometimes, the best of intentions can go tragically wrong. The culprit is often called, “unforeseen consequences.”
The worst part of this is that when things get worse, the blame often gets misplaced. When the supposed cure proves worse than the disease, we repeat the supposed cure. If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, then we are truly crazy.
So much for analogies. Reality is not so simple. Social issues are a complex fabric of many root causes, and are difficult to trace – but let’s trace through the tangled web we have woven, and find the solution to our greatest problem. Since we have to begin somewhere, let’s start with our young people, who are the victims of us older people.
Most young people today are growing up in an era in which it is expected, almost fully expected, that teenagers will have premarital sex (ho boy, here comes the prudish sermon). What could be wrong with that? Sexually transmitted diseases? They can be cured. Out-of-wedlock pregnancies? They can be prevented by a number of means, or remedied by abortion. At least that seems to be the prevailing attitude.
There was a time when attitudes were different. There was a time when out-of-wedlock pregnancies were far, far more rare than they are today, and while sexually transmitted diseases existed, they were not at the epidemic proportion we find today.
Why were things different then than now?
An anecdote from my own experience will set the stage. When I was young, more than fifty years ago, it was discovered, and made rumor, that a female classmate had lost her virginity the day before. The very next day, her family moved out of state. We never saw them again. They found the shame to be unbearable.
Today, when I tell this anecdote to young adults and teenagers, I get a blank stare. My, those were cruel times, weren’t they? How insensitive people were! Today we are more enlightened, are we not?
No, we aren’t. Those were the days when out-of-wedlock pregnancies were far more rare than they are today, and so were the problems arising from them, including crime, poverty, and many others that, at first, seem unrelated.
How did we get from then to now? It is, indeed, a tangled web, one filled with good intentions and unintended consequences. Let’s follow the issue a bit further.
A year or so after the “virginity incident,” a new pharmaceutical became widely available. It was called, the birth control pill. At last! We finally had a solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancy. If we simply made birth control pills available to young, unmarried girls and women, why, the rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies would plummet to near zero. How could it possibly be otherwise? Oh, to be sure, there were naysayers. Why, some fools even predicted that the rate of such pregnancies would not go down, but would instead, skyrocket. How could they make such a stupid prediction?
The naysayers proved correct. Unimaginable as it seemed at the time, the very innovation that had been touted as a solution to the problem became instead, the instrument of increasing the problem.
Oh, no, you say. That makes no sense at all. There must have been some other reason.
What happened was that, the birth control pill slowly changed the attitudes people had about premarital sex. What had kept many a young lady a virgin until her wedding night was fear –the fear of shaming herself and her family, should she get pregnant, or indeed, even be discovered to have lost her virginity. Fear had been an effective antidote to the most powerful aphrodisiac, much to the chagrin of many a young and amorous boyfriend.
As attitudes shifted concerning premarital sex and, as the perceived consequences were thought to have decreased, then so also did the public attitude toward out-of-wedlock pregnancy. After all, if it is now okay to have sex before marriage with the birth control pill, then premarital sex itself can’t really be all that bad, even without the pill. And if sex without the pill results in pregnancy, then there is always abortion. What could go wrong?
Fear and shame had been removed. Discipline had been removed. Indeed, morality itself had been removed. No, these things did not occur overnight, but they did occur over the course of a couple of decades. Those decades were times of social upheaval. The feminist movement had roared back to life, and its most publicly vocal adherents were angry at men. Men had been holding women down, violating their rights, keeping them, as the slogan of the day had it, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.”
“Women’s Lib” had a new slogan: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” The male role in sex had become that of anonymous sperm donor. Fatherhood had been demoted to the level of animals, that is to say, merely biological, as far as many people were concerned. Many men gladly bought into this new paradigm, only too happy to impregnate women and move on, with no expectation of being held responsible. This brand of feminism did not free women, but enslaved them, reducing many of them to becoming the disposable playthings of promiscuous males.
Bleeding the patient produced awful results, but the doctor decided that a return to the old medicines would only make matters worse. What was needed was to bleed the patient even more.
The bleeding continued, as an entire welfare system – all with the best of intentions – was implemented with the pernicious effect of keeping many thousands of women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Indeed, welfare recipients were all but required to be unmarried mothers and men were forbidden to live with them. Single motherhood produced not liberation, but poverty. Fatherless sons, bereft of positive male role models, turned to crime. Fatherless daughters imitated their mothers, and gave birth to succeeding generations of welfare-dependent, fatherless children.
The web is too tangled to fully describe in the short space of this commentary, but anyone willing to investigate the ills of society today can conclude that technology and innovation are not an adequate substitute for moral character. We tried that medicine and it has produced only more of the disease we tried to cure. Today, we continue to bleed ourselves dry.
But at least this much has been accomplished—too many people no longer feel shame, not even when they most need it.
Robert Arvay is a Contributing Writer to The Patriot’s Notepad