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Our Enslavement to “Freedom”


by James Hitchcock
July 13, 2006

For almost fifty years a series of radical changes in human existence have opened a wide gulf between ourselves and our ancestors. The changes appear to be inevitable, and they have occurred with such speed that most people have scarcely had time to think about them.

New methods of contraception have severed the connection between sex and the procreation of children and, in case contraception fails, abortion is now legal. But despite this preoccupation with avoiding pregnancy, it is now possible for women to become pregnant through technology rather than sexual intercourse. It is within the realm of possibility to manipulate conception in order to choose the sex of the child, and allegedly it is even possible to create life in laboratories.

Sexual relations between people of the same sex are considered normal, and people can have their sex changed by surgical procedure. Meanwhile, at the other end of life there is a push towards assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Each of these denies aspects of our traditional understanding of what it means to be human: sex is not necessarily related to procreation, sexual identity and the family are not fixed by God or nature, human life is not sacred, and we are not answerable to any higher power.

Encompassing all these is a denial of our inherent dignity. Human beings are merely one species among many and actually constitute a threat to nature. There are too many of us, so that anything that holds down our number is laudable.

Each of these changes looks like progress, because they involve breakthroughs in technology. Western civilization has always had an almost unlimited openness to technological change -- more so than any other culture in the world -- and only rarely has there been significant resistance to such changes.

Today what is broadly called environmentalism does question technology, but there is an odd contradiction here -- people who are opposed to human “meddling” with nature, who want only natural foods and who decry pollution, are rarely concerned about contraception and cloning. Things having to do human reproduction are still new, exciting, and liberating, whereas pesticides, dams, and gasoline engines are old hat.

These changes have been sold under the slogan of freedom, as each new development promises to liberate people from inconvenient limits on their behavior. Thus radical interference with the human reproductive cycle is welcomed, because the idea of sexual “liberation” has become almost sacred.

But unnoticed amidst all these changes is an idea invented in the twentieth century and promoted under a variety of names – social engineering, which is the claim that most people do not really know what is best for themselves and for society. However, instead of calling for naked force, social engineers call for “education,” meaning propaganda, and for manipulating people through social agencies.

These radical changes have themselves made people less free, because they have destroyed signposts of thousands of years’ duration and plunged us into a confusion in which it is difficult to make rational judgments  -- what is a family and does it matter, is gender real, what indeed is a human being?

We have a profile of the kind of person the social engineers consider the ideal citizen -- someone who questions the wisdom of bringing children into the world and approves of having at most one or two, who wholeheartedly approves of homosexuality, who considers gender merely a “social construct,” who welcomes laboratory experiments with human life, and who urges people not to delay unduly their exit from this life.

Social engineering hopes to create a perfect society, which in turn requires that people not be allowed to exercise their freedom by standing in the way. Abortion is a “choice,” but the right to choose cannot be extended to people who reproduce “irresponsibly,” and the creation of human beings through technology might produce a higher type of person. People who cling to outmoded moral beliefs cannot be allowed to indoctrinate even their own children, much less have a voice in public policy. The chronically ill and those deemed biologically deficient cannot be allowed to use a disproportionate share of medical resources, so that their deaths must in some cases be facilitated by the state.

Decades ago Aldous Huxley wrote a novel whose title entered our language – Brave New World. Much of this sounds like science fiction, and its full realization may be some distance in the future, but there is no doubt that society is headed in that direction. The only thing that can prevent it is a vigilant citizenry who, unfortunately, often seems confused and timid and fails to see how offers of present “freedom” have become the basis for future enslavement.

James Hitchcock, professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press. Dr. Hitchcock's The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life, Vol. 1 The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses and Vol. II From 'Higher Law' to 'Sectarian Scruples', were released by Princeton University Press September 2, 2004.

E-Mail: Dr. James Hitchcock

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