Friday, February 17, 2012
Whales Are People Too and Other Interesting Chestnuts from the Age of the Absurd
Reductio ad absurdum is a rhetorical device intended to demonstrate the absurdity of another man's arguments by drawing out all of its crazy implications. But how does one demonstrate the absurdity of something, when that absurdity has more or less become the norm? Welcome to the Age of the Absurd where books like Brave New World and 1984 have simply become works of realism (as opposed to Sci-Fi), and where all of those exotic Twilight Zone endings have become as mundane as the every day. The theatre is filled- now let the actors take the stage.
The first performance comes to us from the organization known as PETA, who, several months ago, filed a lawsuit on behalf of five killer whales because, as they put it, they were "enslaved" at Sea World. This gives new meaning to the expression "Disney voice over". Or what about that school district up in Virginia that is considering a ban on cross-dressing because school officials are having a problem with boys wearing "dresses and wigs"? In England they chose a different route. At Oxford, far from banning these things, they actually created a new policy which stated that one could dress according to one's own taste, which included an indult for men to wear dresses. Should this shock us? What else do we expect when we say that each individual should be able to "define" their own gender.
Our third performance of the night comes to us from a Pennsylvania university where they have recently decided to put Plan B in a vending machine there. I still remember going to the health room the first week I was at college. At the front desk there was a gigantic bowl of what I initially thought were lollipops, but upon further examination, I discovered something else; an avalanche of multi-colored condoms. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world where birth control is regarded as a "health remedy", and where taking an abortion pill is like taking your daily vitamins, or as in the case of this northeastern school, like pushing A11 on the machine and getting a Snicker's bar.
In related fertility news, a couple in Australia has filed a 10 million dollar law suit against a hospital for what they regard as their child's "wrongful birth". Apparently, they "love Keeden now that he's here, but had they known, they would not have gone through with the birth." Ah, the ineffable beauty of a mother's love. Yet what is most creepy about this story is the fact that the couple speaks so naturally of their son as if he were some defective piece of furniture. But if we find that we are shocked by this callousness, then we ourselves may be just as callous, for how could we be so naive as to think that we could make an industry of manufacturing human embryos (as was the case with this Australian couple), and then feign surprise when that life is treated as a manufactured product.
I recently saw a sign for a fertility clinic that had a picture of a baby on it, which read; "Growing your family one child at a time". Whether they intended it to be a creepy play on words or not is of little consequence. "Growing your family" is precisely what they are in the business of doing, and unless they're referring to selling some Cabbage Patch Doll, I have to regard such phraseology as the fulfillment of practically everything that Brave New World warned us about.
Our final performance of the night comes to us from three fabulous characters: a boy who "married" his dog, a woman who exchanged nuptials with her dead lover, and yet another woman who "married a warehouse" because, as she put it, she opposed the gentrification of Seattle. This is of course a tremendous shock to everyone, for who could have imagined that marriage would become a mockery the moment it was reduced from a sacrament to a sentiment? What do all three of these "nuptials" have in common? Not one of them actually involves the consent of the other party. Now there is a very good reason why the dog, the dead man, and the warehouse have never voiced their concerns over this marriage- the most obvious being their incapacity to speak. Nevertheless, I will not do what PETA did and try to put words in the mouth of some animal or inanimate object. I will simply assume that their silence on these matters tells me everything I need to know.
Quite frequently when one tries to employ the "reductio ad absurdum" argument, they are told that; "... Oh, that will never happen", and then when it does happen, they are then told the next thing will never happen either. Forgive me if I am a little bit skeptical about the assurances of an individual that tells me that something won't happen because it hasn't happened already. Some will complain that the slippery slope argument is not an effective one. I would agree, it is not an argument, but it is does provide an accurate description of what humans do when they abandon all of their convictions.
By now you might be inclined to yawn at the almost predictable spectacle. We go to the circus when we need a little break from the regular rigmarole of our lives, but if the whole world is a circus, then nothing is. It is a bit like reading one of those tabloid magazines with headlines about Big Foot and UFOs. After a while the bizarre has almost become the banal. But more absurd than any story about Half-Human Centaurs or Alien Abductions is the even stranger fact that the Church- along with all of those science-fiction moralists- has been right all along. Indeed, amidst the mayhem and insanity of this theatre of the absurd, there is one performance even more absurd than the rest; an act so freakish that the crowd is left in disbelief. Those crazy Catholics walking across the high-wire, juggling and riding on a unicycle with no handle-bars, doomed to fall at any moment. And from the outside this must be exactly what the Catholic position appears to be, but for those on the inside who have witnessed this performance for the last 2000 years, the only real question is when we will get to the other side.