Monday, March 24, 2008

This is a serious question.

Whenever I hear a news report about the plight of some woman that begins, "Debbie Jones, a single mother of seven...," I find myself unable to take whatever follows seriously. Or I guess a more candid and accurate way of putting it would be that the sympathy just drains out of me, all at once, bloosh, as if I were a car's oil pan and somebody popped the plug underneath. It almost doesn't matter what misfortune befell the woman, or what it is that the newscasters so obviously want me to feel; they just lose me. I tune out. And though I sense that I shouldn't react that way, that my conscience is pummeling me from somewhere within, I can't seem to help myself. I fight it, believe me. It just doesn't work. I have a similar reaction when I happen upon those excruciating ads from Catholic Charities trying to "guilt" viewers into donating to their missionary work in Africa. They'll show these beautiful young African girls, all of 15 or 16, surrounded by literal broods of starving doe-eyed children with flies on them. I want to scream at the set, "If you care so damn much about the poor, then stop fighting birth control! Teach these girls something about contraception!"

Anyway, getting back to Debbie Jones, here's my question: What do you think? It is unfair of me to be that way? Incidentally, no inferences whatsoever should be drawn about race in this little exercise. I've seen human-interest reporting of this type that touches on all demographic groups.

Thoughts?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

My first thought is: Why does she have seven kids? Does she hope with each child she will do better? I also have no sympathy for those families on TLC who have broods of children from using fertility drugs. Who told them to take fertility drugs? They always talk about how tired they are-duh? You got a basketball team- you should be tired. It is not normal to have six to eight children with one pregnancy, nor is it usually natural. BTW, who does J.Lo think she is fooling by saying she had her new twins without "help?"

Jeremy Smalling said...

Before the recent invention of birth control birthrates were determined by need and education. In modern days, even in parts of the world with plenty of birth control options, education is still the decisive factor in birth rate. Consider inner cities. I am skeptical of the notion that birth control would solve the issues being raised in these commercials. On the other hand, I am certain that birth control takes away the consequences of sinful behavior and takes away the consequences of society’s sinful behavior of leaving their members uneducated. Having been the veritable founders of organized charity (through the formation of the deaconia in the first century A.D.) the Catholic Church has had more time than any to learn the true form that charity should take. And yet, I bet that they would admit that if they have had more time they would be even better at it. That being said, the Catholic Church is not interested in using tools of impoverishment to attain some imaginary feeling of "progress" while leaving the true issue hidden. The true issue is an issue of Love - Love of neighbor. These Catholic commercials are attempting to awaken people's concern and love for their neighbors; while at the same time finding resources to meet the true needs of these people throughout the world - both material and spiritual. I fear that in our society the opposing forces of the world may have taught us to: 1. defend our habits such as by closing our ears to the cries from the dungeons of the world, 2. attack those who ask us to open ourselves up to an encounter with God and thus with Love, and 3. to try to deal with every situation with some kind of quick fix that releases us from any obligation of accepting the suffering of others into our own lives.

Cal said...

I personally don't think it's unfair. I may still listen to the story, but it's probably out of disgust. I just know the consequences on communities on this family structure is devastating. My thoughts is that how can this stuff happen in this day and age? I can understand one mistake, but multiple ones?

Just like the AIDS activists pound the drug companies to find a cure for the disease, I would think women's groups would put pressure on them to come up with a male contraceptive in pill or patch form. I know I have heard about research on this, but I'm not aware of any trials.

I think the argument that birth control promotes promiscuity is irrelevant compared to the desired outcome -- less single-parent homes.

ourfriendben said...

So many issues, so little time. I still think we have no concept of what this relatively new thing, birth control, will mean to us as a society. Before the mid-twentieth century, every sex act was a potential act of procreation. The huge families that resulted were reduced by famine and disease, keeping overpopulation from becoming the issue it is in our day of medical intervention. It seems to me that, since we can now control both procreation and most epidemic disease, it is incumbent upon us to make preventive birth control (not abortion, that abomination) a priority and a virtue, lest we destroy the world that was placed in our care. It appalls me that people would turn to fertility drugs instead of adoption. Shame, shame on them!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

Its actually interesting that your blog today coincides with a leading story in th eMetro today of a Conservative MP in England accused of being a Nazi because he hinted at enforced sterilisation of single Mothers on welfare benefits. He was referring to the Matthews family where a nine year old was recently abducted which is why they came to media attention. This is a woman who has seven children with 5 different fathers and has never worked a day in her life.

He called it Breakdown Britain. I'm starting to believe that this, above embryonic research, will be the new moral dilemma ie Should some people not be allowed to fall pregnant?

Londoner

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, there was a judge who made sterilization a choice or more jail time for one defendant. The judge got a lot of heat for that, but I think he was ahead of his time.

Cal
There have been many studies on male birth control pills, especially in China. The drug companies have not been too interested in them here though. You do raise a good point about men and birth control. I have heard some horror stories about men who still will not wear condoms with women they “think” are on birth control. If I was a man, I would put two condoms on for deceases alone!

I think as long as American society and drug companies still believe birth control is a “women’s issue” there will be more stories like the one Steve is blogging about.

roger o'keefe said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Steve, because it's a letter-perfect example of the point I was trying to make the other day about the free market. Of course we're going to have sympathy for the innocent children caught up episodes such as you describe. That doesn't mean it's the government's right to begin redistributing my money, which was hard-earned and has been carefully and thoughtfully managed and preserved, to this woman who has lived her life in a totally reckless way. If I choose to contribute to her plight, it's one thing. But it should be voluntary. People like Gates, Buffett and Branson show that it's possible to be wealthy and socially responsible at the same time. And they do it within the workings of the free market.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for having the courage to write the truth about this issue. I just want to weep or gag (or both) every time I read another report about how no progress has been made in abating world hunger or poverty. Of course not! It's because we keep making more people than can reasonably be supported!!!!! Hello, birth control? (And that doesn't automatically mean "abortion," because if you had effective birth control in the first place, you wouldn't need abortion).

Carl said...

Roger: Amen!

Cal said...

I just heard a story on my local news today about researchers in Australia developing a male birth control pill that would have the effect of a vasectomy but would be reversible.

They now want to try it in different ages and races to see its effects.

melissa said...

I pretty much have the same reactions as you, Steve, both to the single mom of seven and to the Catholic stance on birth control.

I do think there's an important point that no one has mentioned yet. Women don't get pregnant in a vacuum. If a woman is a single mother of seven, that means there are 1-7 men running around who aren't taking care of their kids. (Assuming they aren't paying child support, which sounds like the situation you are describing.) If we're gonna be angry at the continual production of unwanted children despite the prevalence of birth control, let's be angry at both the women and the men who participate in this act.

Of course, it's the women who make the news because they're taking care of the kids, and it's the kids who we should have sympathy for. They didn't choose to be born to two irresponsible adults.

Also, OFBen, birth control may not have been mass produced until recently, but people have always known of ways to prevent pregnancy and/or abort pregnancy. For example, in extremely large quantities, ginger will force a woman to menstruate even when in the early stages of pregnancy, hence causing abortion. Humans have always had ways of controlling population, whether through prevention of pregnancy, abortion, or infanticide.

ourfriendben said...

Ack--infanticide! Forgot that horror, Melissa, and shame on *me* for doing so. And yes, of course there have always been various kinds of birth control; it's just that the typical 9- to 13-child families of the past (often followed by more from subsequent wives when the father had finally driven the first wife to her grave with nonstop childbearing) suggest to me that the vast majority of humans didn't use them, whereas now they're more reliable and more widely available.

Steve Salerno said...

I want to apologize for a bit of unintended sexism that crept into this post. Because, of course, it isn't just the "girls" who need to be taught about contraception; it's the boys, too. I think the point really needs to be impressed on the girls, since right or wrong, in the end they're going to be the ones having the babies. Still, in any social structure, at any level, it is irresponsible to suggest that this is a female-only concern.

Elizabeth said...

Isn't "a bit of unintended sexism" a lot like a bit of unintended pregnancy? It's simply there, for all to see.

Your point's taken; just marvelin', Steve. :)

Steve Salerno said...

What can I say? I stand philosophically naked for all to see.

(Now...that's not sexist somehow, too, is it? Hostile environment?)

Elizabeth said...

Hostile? Nah. It's just that with all this philosophical nakkidness them's biases show, yanno? Glad you grabbed the cloth of decency to cover them up a bit. ;)

Of course we could always get into the "my bias is better than your bias" contest...

:)