Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Decline of the West

Philip Rieff insisted that “the therapeutic education of children is a threat to their inner existence.” What Rieff means by “therapeutic” is the presupposition that freedom involves the emancipation from constraining codes of behavior -- what Rieff calls “interdictions,” seen by a “therapeutic” culture, for instance, as the source of neurosis and the bad behavior of those who find these constraints too tedious or too inconvenient or too demeaning to tolerate. Rieff, on the contrary, and in concert with the Judeo-Christian tradition, argues that freedom precisely requires these interdictions, these constraints on instinct. What he calls “the therapeutic” is the spirit of the age which defines freedom as antithetical to the constraint without which the culture will, he persuasively argues, will simply unravel. (Look around.)

It is the case that “the therapeutic education of children is a threat to their inner existence” because interiority, that is, full functioning personhood, is inseparable from self-control, the restraint of instinct. Since constraining sexual instinct is essential to both personal and social life, a society that teaches its children to regard that restraint with contempt is a society in the act of social suicide, a society willing to compound the literal assassination of its unborn children with the spiritual assassination of those children who managed to make it to their adolescent years. 

Just as Rieff argues that “the true, modern, enlightened solution for a rising rate of crime is the redefinition of crime,” so the solution to the breakdown of sexual morality is programs, the putatively unintended but often enough actually intended effect of which is the further breakdown of sexual morality. As Rieff puts it: “transgressive criticism has its own logic: the new evils to be rooted out from our midst are the forms of renunciation themselves. … The problem of evil is thus to be solved by breaking the repressive tyranny of [the] good.”

Here’s an example of how that works: It’s from a Peter Hitchens column in a recent edition of The London Mail Online here:
More sex education means more teenage pregnancies...always

Sex education has failed. So the Establishment decrees that we must have more of it, and in fact that there shall be no escape from it.

What I don’t grasp is why the people of this country put up with so many separate insults to their intelligence in any given week.

And why this particular blatantly obvious sequence comes round year by year and nobody even laughs, let alone draws the correct conclusion.

Despite the casual massacre of unborn babies in the abortion mills, and the free handouts of morning-after pills (originally developed for pedigree dogs which had been consorting improperly with mongrels), and the ready issue of condoms to anyone who asks, and the prescription of contraceptive devices to young girls behind the backs of their parents by smiling advice workers, and the invasion of school classrooms by supposedly educational smut, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy has failed, is failing and will continue to fail.

In the week that figures clearly showed that the Government’s supposed target for cutting teen pregnancy by half is never going to be reached, compulsory smut education – a key part of this ‘strategy’ – was forced on all English schools by law for the first time.

There will be no opt-outs. The new liberal gospel of ‘do what thou wilt – but wear a condom while thou doest it’ will be taught by order of the State.

Some years ago, I wrote a short history of sex education in this country. I didn’t then know about its first invention, during the Hungarian Soviet revolution of 1919, when Education Commissar George Lukacs ordered teachers to instruct children about sex in a deliberate effort to debauch Christian morality.

But what I found was this. That the people who want it are always militant Leftists who loathe conventional family life; that the pretext for it has always been the same – a supposed effort to reduce teen pregnancy and sexual disease; and that it has always been followed by the exact opposite.

It was introduced into schools against much parental resistance during the early Fifties. And, yes, the more of it there was, the more under-age and extramarital sex there seemed to be.

By 1963, in Norwich, parents were told that their young were to be instructed in sexual matters because the illegitimacy rate in that fine city had reached an alarming 7.7 per cent (compared with a national rate of 5.9 per cent). The national rate is now 46 per cent and climbing, so that was obviously a success, wasn’t it?

Well, yes it was, because the people who force these peculiar classes on our young are lying about their aims. You can see why.

Most of us, in any other circumstance, would be highly suspicious of adults who wanted to talk about sex to other people’s children.

But by this sleight of hand – that they are somehow being protected from disease and unwanted pregnancy – we are tricked into permitting it.

And our civilised society goes swirling down the plughole of moral chaos.
I’m on the road in Wyoming, posting only irregularly. I invite my friends who make this blog far more interesting than I do to have at this one.

1 comment:

John said...

Last night, as my dog and I were taking our nightly walk together, your reflection on “The Spirit of the Age” was playing on my iPod. In particular, your discussion of Bernard in Virginia Woolf’s novel, “The Waves”, struck me even though I had heard you talk about this character before. As you know, Bernard’s life is a collection of “many stories, none of which are true”; episodic fragments without a meta-narrative. Because there is no sequence to the events of his life, Bernard’s attempt to string together a coherent story distills into disappointment and spiritual malaise. As you noted, because “nothing follows from what went before”, Bernard has lost his way and is left to peer into the nihilistic abyss. But the capper was Bernard sitting in Rome (“Rome, mind you”, you said) watching a group of Catholic priests walk by. As he mused about his own life, he reflected that “in these dilemmas the devout consult those violet-sashed and sensual looking gentry trooping past me; but for ourselves, we resent teachers...” This not only captures the spirit of our age very powerfully, it seems to me that it is exactly where the “therapeutic education” bemoaned by Rieff leads us.
And this morning as I attempted to give driving directions to my 18-year-old daughter for a class she was attending tonight, she dismissively told me that she “knew the way” and made it clear to me that she considered my proposed route one that only an imbecile would follow. Never mind that she has been driving all of one year or so and I have been driving in these parts for a good bit longer, to say the least. (And, never mind that the route I was proposing was far superior to hers.) Needless to say I thought of Bernard and his disdain for “teachers”and was moved to remark to my wife that I thought children were supposed to honor their fathers and mothers!
And then I read your post. With Bernard on my brain and my daughter on my heart, I realized that what Rieff is talking about is all around us. It infects all of us and the only antidote, the only thing that can keep us from eventually peering into the abyss in despair, is prayerful contact with the Biblical God who so loved us that He sent Christ to save us . Without the Great Hope that flows from this, we have no choice but to continue our deperate attempt to wring meaning out of the episodic fragments of our lives. God help us!!