How to understand this blog

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

picking sides

I wrote this blog post a while ago, and since then have been sitting on it for a while. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to publish it because it's very ranty, and not exactly in the normal style of this blog. So be warned - it deals with controversial stuff, and I am clearly quite upset about some things. The boat may be rocked.

Let's make a deal. Just in case you read this and disagree, and just in case any comments get heated. I promise not to deal any differently with you than I normally would. I respect the people who read this blog, I respect that we have differences of opinion, and I will continue to read YOUR blogs with pleasure. I would love if you could continue to read mine without judging my normal blog posts by what you may disagree with in this one.


I am going through a phase of feeling completely cynical about politics. (I know it's not exactly abnormal.)

I've always seen myself as a left-winger. I generally like left-wing people who argue about things better than right-wing people who argue about things. I love the idea of a society that recognises the contribution of the working class to wealth. I really, really love that I live in a country with a public health system that tends to work and is available to everyone. I like that if I am ever in deep financial trouble I probably won't have to go and live on the street. I like unions.

I'm not a fan of the Right. It is so fixated on the economic rights of the individual that it tends to ignore the masses and their need to, you know, eat. Its theory is that, by allowing individuals to accrue unlimited wealth, society will be more generally wealthy as an inevitable result. It seems to assume that people with lots of money will automatically be charitably-minded, responsible people who are brimming over with integrity. Ha!

I still feel this way about these things.

However, I'm growing less and less convinced that either Left or Right or anyone in between or on the extremes has a clue how to cope with difficult problems. The centrist/right-wing party in charge at the moment hasn't exactly fixed anything in the last few years they've been in power (to be fair, they aren't responsible for the financial problems of the global economy). On the other hand, the Left is almost cartoonish, bleating the same old song - "Tax the rich!" And what? All our problems will be solved? Recently, the Labour Party leader claimed that he would raise the minimum wage and this in itself would create more jobs... really?! I'm not a right-winger but, even so, this does not exactly compute.

It also bugs me how the Left has a penchant for saying that if you're one of us you need to feel the same way about every single issue. A few left-wing blogs I've been following lately have told me that because I believe that abortion is a violation of human rights I am therefore a man, socially conservative, a supporter of the war in Iraq, and a member of the right wing. If it helps you to ignore my objections by persuading yourself of that... well, please enjoy your bubble.

I'm beginning to think that the Left, over the last century or so, has a major problem. We TALK in terms of the masses. Social justice for all. Human rights. But actually we're all about picking sides, demanding justice for our half and delivering oppression on the other.

Lenin and Stalin and the international Communist movement were very open about this. It was the working class versus the capitalist oppressors, and it was a class war. And so only the rights of the workers have any weight whatsoever, and everyone else can rot in the gulag or be liquidated in purges. Stalinist or Maoist or Leninist crimes have been well known for a long time now, and the non-Communist Left rightly dissociates itself from them. Heck, even the Communists do so.

All the same, the non-Communist Left falls into the same trap when it starts arguing that, because it feels intense sympathy for one particular group of individuals, it's okay to ignore the rights of other individuals.

To fall pregnant, when you don't want to be pregnant... I feel sad thinking about this. It would be horrible. I'm not sure how to emphasise this without coming across a little trite, but please believe that women in this position have my full sympathy.

However, this in itself is not a wildcard to ignore the humanity of an unborn child. Demanding an end to this sad situation through abortion is another symptom of this mentality of picking-sides. As long as justice is done on ONE side, then it's okay that a human life is taken on the other.

Would anyone seriously question the humanity of a foetus if it were not for the fact that they want to have the freedom to abort it if it appears at an inconvenient time? Or if it were not for the fact that the state would prefer not to spend money on a child with a birth defect, who needs extra care, education, and support?

To call that child a parasite is just as unjust as calling the children of the Russian Tsar parasites who deserved to be murdered. It's just as unfair as exiling to forced labour and probable death the children of a peasant who happened to own a cow and was therefore a "rich" kulak.

And to tell ME that it's none of my business if an individual or a society decides to take someone else's life from them is a statement that has been made by a string of evil tyrants. It should never be received unquestioningly.

It's easier to get away with arguing that a foetus is not a human, because you can't see this unborn child. You can argue that, because it's not "normal" or it looks different to us, it doesn't have human rights in the same way we do. It's also easy to persuade yourself that it's okay because none of the people taking part in the debate will ever be threatened with this kind of "termination" (a word that bears a frightening resemblance to "liquidation", in my opinion). We have all made it out of the uterus, and therefore we are safe from this particular threat.

What happens, though, when WE become inconvenient? When we are in a car crash and lose control of our bodies? When we become elderly, frail, senile? By explaining away the rights of the individual in one case, will we have weakened our support of human rights in all cases?

And are we really comfortable, in the modern world, with saying that the worth placed on an individual by society defines their right to live or die? Are we comfortable with saying that an individual who has Down's Syndrome should not have made it out of the womb? And why - because they're not normal? They don't fit in with the majority of people? They don't "contribute" to society? It's offensive, isn't it. And yet it's the constant implication.

Our system has made us believe that we have to choose one or the other. The rights of the woman or the rights of the baby. By picking one or the other, we are buying into a system that degrades both. We need to change the system. Make it value pregnant women, support them, provide them with financial and emotional help. Make it value the vulnerable of all ages. Zero tolerance for discrimination in the workplace or society at large for women who are pregnant. Et cetera.

The inevitable response to my objections is usually that, if I really cared about the foetus, I would care about the foetus post-birth. That OBVIOUSLY the majority of abortions in New Zealand and elsewhere are undergone for selfless reasons - because the pregnant woman knows she wouldn't be able to provide the right kind of life for her child.

Firstly, here we have again the assumption that I am a rabid right-winger and don't want to vote for governments that will provide support for single mothers or families who live in difficult situations. I am not that person. Actually, I will almost always vote Labour or even lefter.

Secondly, the obvious retort is that we would not use the same logic about other humans in society. We don't kill criminals who have not been reformed because they will probably cause suffering when they leave prison and have an unhappy life. We are horrified and angry when the lives of infants and small children are taken away from them, no matter what sort of economic circumstances or family situation they were affected by.

We believe these things because we've seen these people, we've talked to them, they've had a chance to talk to us. We want to live in a society that gives everyone a chance to make what they can of what they've been given.

We believe that life is a Good Thing, an opportunity, and no one should be able to take it away on behalf of someone else because they think someone else will be better off that way - what narrow-minded arrogance!

We just seem to forget this, when it happens to be an unborn human. Maybe it's because it would be too inconvenient. Maybe it's because we can't see them, and they look different to us. Whatever the reason, I've had enough of this convenient blindness.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

I like your political post.

I'm always a bit wishy-washy on the abortion issue. I'm slightly left-wing, but I'm not pro-choice. I don't know if I consider myself pro-life either. I do consider abortion to be an awful human rights violation, but if it were illegal, I just wonder if an almost equal number of unsafe abortions would occur.

I guess I'd like to see more funding for family planning, in the hopes of making abortion more rare, but it's usually the pro-life bunch that is most eager to cut that.