What a culture prioritises tells us a lot about its moral and spiritual condition. And what it doesn’t prioritise also tells us quite a bit. It seems that as we move further and further away from the Judeo-Christian foundations upon which the West was built, we move ever more to values and priorities that are questionable at best.
Indeed, it can be argued that along with the increased secularisation in the West there has been an increase in hedonism, selfishness and indifference to the social good. But to compensate for this, there may also be an increase in what can be called feel-good activism. This involves token gestures at social activism which cost the activists really almost nothing.
Last night’s Earth Hour would be a good case in point. It involved Westerners making a symbolic gesture that achieved almost nothing in terms of reducing carbon footprints, but did a lot to assuage guilt feelings of energy-guzzling Westerners.
They may have felt good about themselves in turning off the lights, but the deep-down selfishness was as untouched as were the carbon levels. Indeed, many would have watched the whole thing on their energy-consuming plasma TVs, never once noticing the irony in all this.
But giving oneself to various causes is one way in which guilt-ridden Westerners can seek to atone for their materialistic and essentially self-centred lifestyles. It allows them to feel good while making really no sacrifices at all. Indeed, it is a lot easier to write a cheque for some starving soul in Africa than it is to go around to the next door neighbour and provide actual help to meet their very real material needs.
Many of the causes people give themselves over to may be good causes indeed, and their intentions may be genuine. But again, what is prioritised, or is not prioritised, always concerns me. Two headlines in today’s Sunday Herald Sun nicely demonstrate what I am talking about here.
The first read, “How could anyone do this?” with the subheading, “The pictures below will revolt and horrify you”. The other headline, a few pages later, read, “Right to life ‘under threat’” The two headlines taken together almost gave me a glimmer of hope for a split second: “Wow, the anti-abortion message is finally making it into the newspapers” I hoped. But of course it was no such thing. The first headline had to do with the killing of baby seals; the second with global warming.
The first was a story of Canadian seals being clubbed to death, complete with three large pictures. The concern was the horrible death these poor seals faced. And obviously the subeditors wanted to make an emotional impression on the reader.
This was not just news reporting, in other words, but advocacy. They wanted to change the way readers thought and felt about a particular issue. Now clubbing innocent baby seals does indeed seem cruel, and it is right to be concerned about their treatment.
Yet what about unborn babies? They are as innocent and helpless as the seals are. Yet I wait in vain for newspapers to run pictures of the horrible ways they are killed in their own mothers’ wombs. Whether cut to pieces, or burned to death with saline solutions, it is a ghastly and barbaric practice.
So when will newspapers run these headlines about abortion: “How could anyone do this?” with the subheading, “The pictures below will revolt and horrify you”? I think a lot of people would change their minds about being pro-abortion if they actually knew what took place during such baby killing. But the media is intent on censoring that information, leaving us in the dark.
The other story talked about the right to life being under threat. Sounds like a good description of abortion to me. But no, it was about climate change, with the UN declaring that it is now a human rights issue. The UN said that climate change affects us all, especially the poor, and should thus be seen as a human rights issue.
I certainly have no problem with cultivating concern for the environment, and taking reasonable steps to keep it healthy. But I must ask the question, isn’t abortion a human rights issue? Isn’t the taking of innocent human life the most fundamental human rights issue of all? After all, one has to be born first, before one can even begin to worry about polluted air or global warming. To deny someone the right to life, while going on about climate change, seems to me to be another case of values being turned upside down.
But making noises about climate change is an easy thing to do, and it makes no real impact on our lifestyles. We can keep on living our greedy, selfish lifestyles, and once a year turn off a few lights. This costs us nothing, and it makes no demands on our lifestyles.
But saying no to abortion of course is genuinely costly. It means, among other things, taking responsibility for our sexuality, and not making unborn babies the scapegoats for our irresponsible lifestyles. It means saying no to reckless sex, and admitting that procreation is somehow intimately tied up with intercourse.
But that would cramp too many people’s style. Easier to abort the unborn baby than to practice sexual restraint. But such are the times that we live in.
So by all means, do something about the environment and baby seals. Such concerns are better than nothing, I suppose. But it would be nice if we took as seriously some equally, if not more, pressing issues, including the right of the unborn to live. And it would be nice to see the media getting on board for such worthy causes as well. But somehow I don’t think it will be happening any time soon.