Listening and speaking

Lunch out with a woman I like and admire a lot, and a man who talked all the time. I asked her what she did at uni and she answered with an apologetic air, as if it was clichéd for someone like her, rather than his boundless self-confidence. She talked of living abroad, at one time she could get a word in edgeways, and I hardly remember a thing he said.

Similar unjustified self-confidence can be seen in this Tory leaflet:

There’s Spaffer Johnson, his tie neatly knotted, and Mr Corbyn in- a t-shirt! Shock, horror! They accuse Labour of “wrecking the economy” though under Labour, the debt generally goes down and economic growth is higher than under the Tories. The Tories claim they will “deliver Brexit”, though through incompetence, infighting and an inability to get a good withdrawal agreement they have delayed it eight months already. It’s lies and bluster. I take some hope from their negative, fear-mongering leaflet: it shows they do not believe they have anything positive to offer. They fearmonger against Mr Corbyn because they are running scared.

Here, by contrast, is Labour.

It begins, I believe that we can make real changes when people come together. So do I. This is the message of hope, the promise of working together for the common good, that makes politics worthwhile.

I went leafleting on Friday for 2 1/2 hours, and on Sunday morning I was still stiff. I went leafleting again, and now my ankle feels weak. I will have to wear a support. I had hoped to leaflet on Saturday morning but the depression stopped me. I don’t know it will until it does. I imagine I will be able to get up and do what I (think I) want to do, and then I don’t.

When my ankle went weak, though, I asked for a lift home. I did not push myself beyond what I could manage.

Caroline asked me what instruments I played, and then if I wanted to join a band. I felt anxiety. I am glad of being aware of it. No, I do not want to join a band. I have a synth and an amp, and have no wish to play with others. Possibly if I built some self-confidence. But I would not have known.

So, I improve at listening to myself, noticing and valuing myself.

The Tories are happy to waste public money, if they can increase hate and misery. 89% of people informing on ESA and PIP claimants to the Department for Withdrawing Payment are making baseless allegations. Yet the Tories spend, and the DWP investigates all allegations.

I love this paragraph of the Labour manifesto:

We will improve the safety of the
family court system for domestic
violence victims and prohibit their
cross-examination by their abuser.
We will introduce protections for victims of so-called revenge porn. Labour will introduce a no-fault divorce procedure. We will uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions.

But nutcase Christians have gone apeshit. The Labour Party have pledged to introduce abortion, on-demand, for any reason, up to birth, lies one site. Abortion should be no concern of the criminal law. It shoulfl be between a woman and her medical advisers. No doctor will do an unnecessary abortion. Any abortion after 24 weeks will be traumatic for the woman. No one does these lightly. Doctors’ organisations will enforce ethical rules.

“Debating” abortion

I shall swallow twenty quinine pills today; I feel a bit peculiar down there, south of my midriff… I assault myself with hot water and blood-curdling instruments, I shall fight patiently and relentlessly until you are once again returned to nothingness… it’s only just been a week, and already I am exhausted by the whole performance. But I shall bar your admission to life.

This is Etty Hillesum’s diary, explaining her self-induced abortion. If there were others involved, she does not mention them. As a Jew in Amsterdam in 1941, she could not have a child. As the US supreme court’s “Trump Judges” have decided they can ignore precedent if they disapprove of the original case, the stage is set for the repeal of Roe v Wade. “Heartbeat” laws are misnamed. There is no heart, and no heartbeat. There is no cardiovascular system. There is a group of cells which will divide and form a heart later, and there is electrical activity there.

I am appalled at the thought of Etty Hillesum’s self-induced abortion, and the risks she took. I quoted her in a comments thread, saying women will have abortions whatever the law is, and the response was, But surely you would accept that it would greatly reduce the numbers of abortions?

Well, yes, I would, probably. There will be misery in other ways, unwanted children, less consensual sex. But the risks women will take, the pain they will suffer, the damage they may do to themselves does not move the person. The commenter, after all, sees them as criminals.

He is perfectly logical, in his own eyes. What is odd is those who support abortion but oppose the death penalty. The life of the innocent in the womb is expendable, but the life of the heinous criminal is inviolable. That is easily refutable, but the refutation does not get through to him. The conscious, living, breathing human being, capable of repentance indeed who has possibly repented, and is possibly innocent anyway, may be kept in prison but should not be killed, because that makes the community as bad as he is. The 3mm long embryo has some nervous tissue, but in no sense a brain.

It seemed to me that conservatives opposing abortion do so on purity grounds. The community should not be responsible for abortions, because the community should be kept pure of such sin. So it should not pay foreign NGOs that even mention to women that abortion is possible, and health insurance should not cover terminations because then the companies, and indirectly other policy holders, are paying for terminations. So the argument that better sex education reduces abortion does not matter to them. Safe sex, too, is impure. They do not want to reduce the number of abortions, only to put the doctors and the women beyond the pale of society.

Society is where the Good people are, so the pro-lifers have no understanding or empathy for those on the margins. There are ways and means to control ones fertility, wrote one. Yes, but not in a domestic violence or coercive control situation. Women try to leave such situations, and have difficulty with this.

So there is no abortion debate. There are people righteous in their own minds who oppose it, and can come out with all sorts of phrases to justify their position, but who do not care about the suffering of the adult they can see, just the value of the embryo they cannot. (You’re an embryo until the ninth week after fertilisation.) And there are people who have no hope of politics, such that they vote for the candidate who is toughest against abortion. God knows what doctors will be able to do about ectopic pregnancies.

Like the trans “debate”, there are two emotional positions. My heart goes out to the woman who needs an abortion and who cannot have one- in Northern Ireland, for example. These things are a matter for the woman and her doctors. It is none of my business, and not a proper matter for legal restrictions: women will not be able to get unnecessary abortions. But that is an emotional response, not a purely logical one. And the idea that a fœtus has value, even if it has no brain, so that a woman should take it to term and watch it die after the cord is cut, is also an emotional position. Trans women should be tolerated, or trans women should be expelled, are also emotional positions. We decide based on who we see as our community, and on emotional grounds. Then we rationalise, and the position embeds as our rationalisations multiply.

The murderer is beyond the pale of the conservative’s pure society, so entitled to nothing. To the liberal, Terence still applies: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. I am human. Nothing human can be alien to me. I cannot draw a line around my society. It includes the refugee and the psychopath.

A feminist

I love what Dr Jen Gunter writes, on abortion, empathy, privilege, feminism, and incidentally on trans people.

An advert on facebook led me to an article from last month’s NYT on vaginas. Male partners sometimes criticise healthy vaginas as too loose, or smelling wrong, or tasting wrong, as a way of controlling women and making us feel insecure. This is not OK. I decide how I want to look. Women may actually harm themselves trying to make their vaginas acceptable. As a gynaecologist, Jen Gunter hears a lot of women describing the men’s manipulation.

In the comments here, I see different lines on “Not all men”. It gets clearer to me how that is offensive. Indeed, not all men rape women, and perhaps some men have never pushed women’s boundaries or wronged them in any way, but when a woman complains of shitty male behaviour, why should a man feel the need to say not all men? That’s irrelevant, she is not complaining of all men, but some men. The man may not be saying it never happens, but is derailing: it happens, it matters, and we should consider the experience of it, rather than judging the way it is shared. And, why feel any need to protest, if you do not feel guilty? What she wrote was “This is a form of control men often use”- not, all men; not, women don’t do something similar, though women may have less power in a relationship so might not, so much; but, men do it. Let us agree it is a bad thing, and try not to ourselves.

I dislike the line that “men suffer the same way”. Yes; but she was not claiming a right of retaliation, only saying it happens and is wrong. Someone signing a woman’s name accused Dr Gunter of an offensive, gross mischaracterization of an entire classification of people based on gender. That was not what I perceived. “Not all men” becomes a way of saying SHUT UP rather than a reasonable response.

She is worth reading for the facts on late abortions: after 25 weeks, a woman with a wanted pregnancy but health problems making continuing pregnancy too dangerous would have a C-section or induced labour. The child would be cared for. Concealed pregnancies, perhaps of a frightened teen or a rape survivor, are very rare. Sometimes a foetus has severe defects but the mother elects to carry anyway; but a foetus lying horizontally cannot be delivered vaginally.

She continually calls for our empathy. Some women don’t want a C-section in this situation for baby who can’t live. I think you can understand that. And Some women just can’t bear continuing. Imagine everyone touching your belly asking if you are having a boy or a girl and you know your baby has no brain? I have heard that story. It breaks people.

This post is particularly good on empathy, privilege, and thinking your way into someone else’s situation. You can’t experience the same situation, every situation is different, yet you should be able to imagine theirs. Assuming what someone else felt or might have felt based on your own experience (or wanted experience) is the opposite of empathy.

Once as a resident I rolled by eyes when discussing a woman who was presenting for her third abortion. I mean really, I thought. She’d been sent home after both of her previous abortions with 4 months of free birth control pills and here she was just six months later. My attending, an older man, took me aside and reamed me for that display of privilege. I’ve never forgotten that. In fact, it prompted me to design a study to look at that very question, why do women have repeat abortions? Guess what it turns out is a big factor? Domestic violence. Though empathy may be too much of a stretch for Republican authoritarians concerned for their own moral rightness.

I checked whether she had anything on transgender. She mentions it in passing, but always in a friendly way. The agency tasked with enhancing the “health and well-being of Americans” now believes that certain religious beliefs are more important than health care. This could apply to contraception, abortion, vaccines, addiction medicine, sexually transmitted infection screening, and transgender care just to name a few… government planning will be all based on some non science ideas such as life begins at conception, pre marital sex is wrong, anything but marital sex between cis women and men is wrong. If we think too much about the hostile people it colours our view of humanity. Here is a woman working for the rights of women, who is positive about trans people, and uses our words such as “cis”.

The Truth?

What is truth?

Truth is subjective. You can never find the end of the rainbow, because where it appears to be depends on where the observer is. And, what my friend thinks of me is important to me, but something she said might have assumed great importance to me, something else might have gone over my head, and what she thinks might vary according to her mood.

And Truth is objective. There is a real world where things happen whether or not someone observes them. (My philosopher friend only once tried to talk of philosophy with me, ascertained I knew nothing of Hegel, and gave up.) We perceive nothing exactly as it objectively is, but care and respect may bring us closer to objective truth, and prejudice or carelessness drive us away.

On Radio 4, Charmaine Yoest of “American Values” said Evangelicals should not have “voted for Hillary Clinton, a woman who stood on the stage during the debate and very aggressively defended something as barbaric as partial birth abortion. Donald Trump was very unusual on the Republican side on being willing to dig in and very forcefully come back and say that it would be not okay with him for you to be able to abort a baby up to the very last moment of birth.” Here’s the link: the time is 36.50.

That was not my recollection of the debate, so I went back to it. Here is a transcript, here a video. On the Supreme Court, Mrs Clinton said it was important “that we not reverse Roe v Wade”. Mr Trump responded aggressively that “the second amendment is under absolute siege”. On abortion, he would put pro-life justices on the court who would overturn Roe v Wade.

Mr Wallace, the moderator: You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial birth abortions. Why?

Mrs Clinton: there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account.

Mr Trump: Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby…based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

The segment starts at 11.40. I considered it again. Mrs Clinton is measured, and defends late abortions. Mr Trump’s phrase “rip the baby out of the womb” is an appalling way of describing the abortion of a foetus whose birth defect prevents it from living outside the womb, or where the mother’s life is in danger.

Mmm. Truth. For Charmaine Yoest, the health of the mother is not a consideration when considering late, perhaps any, abortions; and “rip the baby out of the womb” is merely telling it as it is, though to me “baby” is not an accurate description of a foetus with anencephaly, or other extreme defects.

My memory was of Mr Trump being aggressive, Mrs Clinton reasonable, and so when I heard Charmaine Yoest say Mrs Clinton was “aggressive” I was angry. How dare she so misrepresent reality? Your subjectivity may be closer to or further from the truth. Getting closer matters. So I went to consider the evidence, and still find her inaccurate- though not much more inaccurate than my recollection.

I find Mrs Clinton far more persuasive. While a woman might choose to save her baby even at the cost of her own life, it seems monstrous to me to force her to do so. And, for Ms Yoest, all abortion is wrong, so she might still find most Republicans backsliders on this issue. When I heard her, I was angry with her lying; I still find her biased, yet not properly characterised as “inaccurate”. Oh dear.

Next example. We were discussing men’s refuges for male victims of domestic violence, and a woman was holding forth on how necessary these were and how there was far too little funding. Now, whether that is true or not does not depend on whether or not there is enough funding for female victims, any more than for, say, adoption services; yet I felt some reservations. It seemed to me that the woman holding forth wanted to convince us, or to be articulating a common understanding- it is so reassuring to be with people who think just as we do; and that the other woman listening had reservations, but was not stating them. And these are my impressions, which may simply be false.

OK, next go. The Daily Express front page today. EU EXIT: THE PATH IS CLEAR. Massive boost as Labour say they won’t stand in the way. I saw this in the coffee shop, and felt ill. I don’t know whether Labour would whip MPs to vote for Brexit, or just not whip them to vote against; but I think Brexit is a calamity, and the Express disagrees.

I was surprised to find my friend has no opinion on climate change. She has not looked into it, there are views on both sides. I lamented denialists in power in America, and she was unfazed. I feel my understanding of the scientific consensus is accurate enough, and that carbon emissions are changing the climate, potentially disastrously; and it matters what politicians do. She says Mr Trump is not that much worse than what has gone before- how can you trust any politicians after they invaded Iraq?

Based on these recent experiences, perhaps I can never be sure of what is truth. I still believe in objective truth, just I am not certain of its knowability. You may think I give in too easily. There will be more on this tomorrow.

Meet the Jeannetts

How could anyone vote for Trump? Well, some consider abortion is the most important issue of the election. Two facebook friends resident in the US, both met through WordPress, were brought up Republican and in one case conservative Evangelical, but both will be voting for Mrs Clinton in November. However, through them I get to see what their friends say.

Andrew Jeannett shared a despicable video from a programme called Faith for our Nation, broadcast on the Believers’ Voice of Victory Network, Dish channel 265. Kenneth Copeland says, You’re going to be held seriously, seriously, to account by God if you don’t vote… You’re going to be guilty of murder, you’re going to be guilty of every baby that’s aborted from this election forward. God speaks to Copeland, and told him personally, I know my way around politicians, I’ve been dealing with them since Nimrod, and I’ve never failed yet… This is God’s nation and no body is going to take it away from him. Mr Jeannett shared this as a video from Right Wing Watch, commenting, fear fear fear!!!! guilt guilt guilt!!! hear it, see it, distance yourself from it. I say, The LORD will not hold him guiltless, who taketh his name in vain.

Not even all pro-life people take this view. Charissa comments, Y’all do not have the corner market on life issues. We are all equal in the eyes of God, from the unborn babe to the convicted killer…each life is exactly equally precious to God. […]What about the Syrian refugees who are literally trying to escape being starved to death or bombed or some other horrendous end[…] There is an incredible amount of false guilt that goes around Christian circles especially. When you have people in places of presumed authority and leadership telling you constantly that you are doing something wrong, whether or not you actually are, you are probably going to feel guilty. She asks what would lose Trump their vote?

One answers, only if he adopted Hillary’s platform. Another agrees: Mr Trump would have to change his publicly stated position on abortion and adopt Hillary’s. Yes, he may not follow through and stay the course once he’s elected, but I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. What choice do we have, after all? Hillary has already made it abundantly clear that she favors killing babies in the womb–even up to the moment of birth. Nothing–I repeat–NOTHING! could be more heinous than that.

Trump is a liar, says someone. David Record (Uncle David) most pro-Trump here, says Trump hasn’t been a pathological liar over his lifetime… Benghazi… emails… He didn’t defend a rapist and get him off Scott free. That last line is an attack on American justice. A jury finds not guilty, but Record knows better, and thinks people he thinks guilty should not have a public defender- or that public defender should not do her job. He is incorrigible. So is Susan Jeannett Neal, who says I’m voting for Trump. I believe that he is God-driven and will restore law and order to this country and wipe out ISIS, which no one else has even tried to do.

Mel uses striking language to attack Trump. Where are his fruits? Where are his treasures stored? He is not your savior. He will hand you over to the Romans to be crucified.

Abortion is not the only lunacy prayed in aid of Trump. Open borders = 600 million people estimated to come here, what kind of life will it be for the children and grandchildren WAKE UP AMERICA! Hmm. Is that Poe or Godwin? I can never remember.

Dan sees it in apocalyptic terms. Israel was overtaken when it did not follow God. We could be too. But Keaton, whose evangelicalism I dislike- As I understand the Bible, those poor souls who are aborted would be ferried instantaneously to Heaven, bypassing all of the sin, pain, and ugliness of this world is unduly negative- nevertheless brings in climate change. Do not rape the planet.

I went to Susan’s page, counted twenty pro-Trump or anti-Hillary posts in one day then gave up. They include “I was the Clintons’ Hitman” by Larry Nichols, and a meme calling Paul Ryan a traitor. David Record’s page has a post calling Christians against Trump “Pharisees”, a Clinton Scandal video, and another calling Mrs Clinton the most pro-abort candidate we’ve ever seen.

I see what she says, but don’t understand why. She thinks abortion is the most important issue; she thinks Mrs Clinton is a monster; but I can’t understand why anyone would think like that.

Susan is deplorable, possibly; incorrigible, certainly. But not even all conservative Evangelicals will vote Trump. Thank God!

Then I found this in the Washington Times. The candidates are as bad as each other, says Suzanne Fields, and one commenter blames this on the MSM: Kasich could have trounced Clinton, but the MSM pushed the GOP to the Right, and promoted a candidate Mrs Clinton could beat.

On bullshit

That debate on abortion was utterly depressing. Some people are disgusted that anyone could force a woman to incubate an unwanted foetus for nine months, with all the physical and emotional pain that involves. Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body. Others say that cluster of cells is a potential human life, and are disgusted that human life could be expunged. Debates on whether anyone can be “pro-life” without being anti-gun, anti-capital punishment and anti-war, or whether legal prohibition or better family planning services are the best way to avoid abortion, draw dividing lines little different from the main one on pro-life v pro-choice. This does not stop us hurling ourselves against each other. “I find you disgusting- and so should everyone else!” We try to win. Possibly, we will not even co-operate on having a useful conversation- finding any excuse to blame or condemn the other- but we can define what a useful conversation would look like.

Petter A Naessan: Speakers and listeners assume that the others abide by certain, predominantly unstated, speech norms. The cooperative principle can be divided more specifically into the maxims of quantity, quality, relevance, and manner. For bullshitological purposes, the violation of the maxims would appear to be relevant. So if utterances convey not enough or too much information (quantity), are intentionally false or lack evidence (quality), are irrelevant to any current topic or issue (relevance), and are obscure, ambiguous, unnecessarily wordy or disorderly (manner), then they make our conversation valueless, apart from giving transitory feelings of triumph or despair giving way to ennui.

The bullshit of politicians is a threat to public order and the public good. The disaster of Brexit is being achieved by bullshit. Both the liar and the bullshitter try to get away with something. But ‘lying’ is perceived to be a conscious act of deception, whereas ‘bullshitting’ is unconnected to a concern for truth. Frankfurt regards this ‘indifference to how things really are’, as the essence of bullshit. Furthermore, a lie is necessarily false, but bullshit is not – bullshit may happen to be correct or incorrect. The crux of the matter is that bullshitters hide their lack of commitment to truth. Since bullshitters ignore truth instead of acknowledging and subverting it, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies.

Stephen Poole in The Guardian: Trump is merely the most energetic current exploiter of a fact that modern politicians have long known: the media is broken, and you can mercilessly exploit its flaws to your own benefit. (That, after all, is what “spin doctors” are for.) If you repeat a lie often enough, then that claim becomes the story, and it’s what most people remember. And a structural confusion between “impartiality” and “balance” undermines the mission to inform of institutions such as the BBC. To be impartial would be to point out untruths wherever they come from. But to be “balanced” is to have a three-way between a presenter and two economists on opposite sides of some question. Never mind that one economist represents the views of 95% of the profession and the other is an ideologically blinkered outlier: the structure of the interview itself implies to the audience that the arguments are evenly divided.

Petter Naessan reviewing On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt in Philosophy Now.
Stephen Poole: “How we let the phoneys take control and debase the language of politics,” in The Guardian.

Blake, Pestilence

True love waits

No-one wants abortions to happen. To reduce the numbers, there are three main paths- legal restrictions, better religious education, and better sex education. I want to speak up for the second.

Better religious education, and more people following in the footsteps of Christ, will reduce abortions. The two great commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. This means respect and care for all, including those who need abortions. It also means care for those who are at risk of needing abortions: social groups which may be found through sociological research. They are our sisters; every hair on their head is numbered. Rescuing them from abortion does not mean enforcing rules on them, but making it as far as possible unnecessary. We enforce rules on subjects. Sisters deserve better.

Constantine used Christianity as the ideology of his empire. It became a system of moral control of the populace: the State could kill the body, and convince the person soul and body would be destroyed in Hell. Before that, Jesus told us how to navigate a strange, unpredictable world, in which the rich, living in luxury and self-indulgence, kept back the wages of the labourers by fraud; a millennial time, when there were wars and rumours of wars, and tales of a Messiah and the coming of God; people trying to live as best they could by following the rules they thought were God’s rules, and a watchful Empire taking over, ready to enforce its will by extreme violence. About forty years after he died, the Empire destroyed the Temple.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world be saved through him. Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to rule in a more moral fashion, but to give up all stake in that society and become an itinerant. Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

So it is not the Christian’s job to enforce rules on others. We recognise that is the State’s job, and every person should be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. We obey because of conscience, not just fear. Jesus sent out the seventy, expecting them to be welcomed and fed, and so we should behave like those hospitable Jews. We should bear one another up with a tender hand.

We should also not judge, but remember our own frailty and need. We each need the support of the community, so should not deny that support to others. So when someone needs an abortion, we should support that; but work so that fewer abortions are needed. Self-respect and respect of others promotes sex in a loving relationship, rather than abusive or exploitative sex.

The Christian who only intervenes to say No- who takes no interest in a woman until she needs an abortion, and then denies her what she needs- behaves in the opposite way to Christ and drives people from Christ.

Dirk van Baburen, Christ washing disciples feet

The Catholic Church and abortion

They are against it. They imagine they have moral reasons for this. Their method of moral reasoning is inferior to mine. My method of moral reasoning fits free people; theirs fits people following the rules of an oligarchy.

Catholic morality is deontological, following rules. Certain acts are considered sins, whatever the consequences: the end never justifies the means, they say. My morality is at least in part consequentialist: I look at the intended result.

Can a foetus be aborted to save the life of the mother, when if it is not aborted both will die? No, they say: Two natural deaths are a lesser evil than one murder. John Paul II wrote, The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo. This is clearly not an argument: it is merely a reiteration of words, to be completely clear.

However, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus has implanted in the fallopian tube, removal of that tube is permissible under the principle of double effect- the surgeon removes the tube, mutilating her and making pregnancy later less likely, in order to save the woman’s life, with the unintended consequence that the foetus dies. However, removal of the foetus from the fallopian tube, saving the tube, is not permitted, because that is the direct act of killing the foetus.

I analyse this situation by its consequences. This is named consequentialist ethics. Consider the choices:

  1. Remove the foetus without damaging the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, she retains her chances of pregnancy later.
  2. Remove the foetus and the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, her chances of pregnancy are reduced.

To me, clearly, the first is preferable. The church considers the second preferable because it considers acts rather than consequences. For me, the end justifies the means. For them, the need to avoid the wicked act of directly killing the foetus justifies mutilating the mother.

I cite the legal principle that a person is presumed to intend the consequences of their acts. The Catholic doctor knows that the foetus is implanted in the fallopian tube which s/he removes; how can it be said that the doctor does not intend to kill it?

To me, there are situations where moral rules are useful. Do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal; but it seems to me that I follow rules from virtue ethics rather than deontology: I am not the kind of person who does that. This makes me a moral agent, the judge of my own morality, rather than slavishly following rules thought out before consequentialist ethics was conceived.

Catholic position from The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager.

Benozzo_Gozzoli, the Triumph of Aquinas over Averroes

Limits on freedom

Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump 2

Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump 3Comment, here: As there is no right dependent on labor and efforts of others there is no right to healthcare. The ACA forces people to pay for something for others, doesn’t really matter what the thing in question happens to be, it’s a violation of individual liberty.

The stark purity of extremism is attractive to a certain type of mind. I prefer messy bodges, myself: I might not produce a rigorous argument, but I know what I like. Or I am special pleading: obviously, people in a position I can imagine myself in should not suffer X. That comment was about birth control, and an American company’s refusal to pay for a health insurance plan for its employees which includes a morning-after pill, which it claims is abortion.

First, the morning-after pill. I don’t see much practical moral difference between preventing sperm reaching a fertile ovum, and preventing a fertilized ovum from implanting. However there is a moral difference between preventing implantation and aborting an eight-week foetus- the mother should decide when she needs an abortion, but the longer she waits, the more traumatic it is for her. Alternatives are banning impulsive sex- good luck with that- or insisting that women take large quantities of artificial hormone. All the alternatives are worse, but the ignorant rationalist, who likes verbal arguments, says morning-after pill is an abortion, so wrong.

My justification for limits on freedom is the need for society. I recognise that not all people have the same felt need for society- Kim Jong Un seems happy with his rigid controlled state of hate and fear, based on ancient Chinese philosophy, which I like to think I would find unbearable, even were I in a position of power.

I observe that Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution started, did not have democracy until 1918, when 60% of adult males acquired the vote. It had limits on free speech in the law of sedition, and on freedom of assembly in anti-Union law. The Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump 1freedom of the capitalist to set up large companies with cheap labour contributed to industrial growth, and someone with the talent of Beethoven growing up in a pit village would still go down the mine. That sort of freedom limits human flourishing. If it were necessary in 1800, with the wealth of the world it is not necessary now, and restricting the freedom of billionaires to do what they like, in order to benefit billions of poorer folk, is worthwhile.

A Christian libertarian will have heard the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus points out he rescues a man who will die without help, and this is a Good Thing. The link between that one charitable act and society, through taxation, paying for the health care of all, is obvious. If the conservative Christian cannot see it, he suffers moral blindness, a mental disability which diminishes his humanity.

Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump

The Benefits of Nazism

My friend’s school put on The Producers recently. Perhaps they thought it edgy for a child who learned German at his mother’s knee to wear a Nazi uniform, but with the grandchildren of combatants now in middle age, it is time to see the benefits of Nazism. I don’t mean all we have learned from them- “First they came for the Jews”, and I know that it is for me to do something about that, because I am a Jew- we learned that from their opponents. The Nazis were so wrong that what is right became crystal clear. The Nazis- testing the Wrong Way to destruction, so no-one else need ever go there. What I mean is all that is tempting about their ideology.

One tempting thing is the Ourselves Alone loyalty. So Foreigners are dangerous, and must be restricted: David Cameron portrays Romanians as benefit scroungers, and seeks to have them excluded from the country, playing on our fears and resentment.

Another is the black and white morality. Anti-abortionists can get together and feel one with the Group, a powerful and delightful feeling, and feel Right, which is even better. They are divorced from reality, but their feelings are wonderful. This causes suffering for others. The Northern Ireland Justice Minister is consulting on extending the category of permitted abortions from pregnancies which threaten the life of the mother to pregnancies where the baby could not survive outside the womb.

That anyone could imagine it was right to force a woman to go through with a pregnancy where the baby could not survive outside the womb is horrifying: and the other political parties have expressed opposition to the extension of the law.

There are extreme cases in the abortion debate- partial birth abortion at 38 weeks, where there is no threat to the mother or foetal abnormality, say- and in my pro-choice position, I swither between a pragmatic view that such extreme cases are so rare that I need not have a position, most abortions take place before twelve weeks, and a clear view that the woman has the right to choose. But this is not the tempting moral simplicity of the anti-abortionist, but a refusal to make a judgment on the woman, who will have feelings for her child, and will only have an abortion if she cannot see an alternative. It is not for me to decide. I refuse to define myself against the Outsiders, the Bad People.

I am not saying Mr Cameron is a nazi, merely that he had adopted a central plank of the nazi world view, rather than a peripheral one like Hitler’s vegetarianism.

Springtime for Hitler and Germany!
Tomorrow belongs to me!