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Monday, December 17, 2012

Our problem is hubris

It was considered the most deadly and greatest of sins to commit, “hubris”; wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride or passion, especially towards the Gods. It was the classic temptation of the ancient Greek mortals who, finding themselves in roles of leadership or their own successes, started to view themselves as impervious to disaster and even worse, on an even keel with the Gods. One of the most vivid examples of hubris in ancient Greek literature is that of Icarus, who used wings fashioned from feathers and wax by his father, Daedalus, to try to escape an earthly prison. But, intoxicated by the achievement of flight, Icarus disregarded his father’s warning and flew so high the sun melted his wings and he fell to his death.
I've been struggling lately with identifying the underlying cause of all the mistakes everyone keeps making. Why is everyone always doing the worst possible thing? Our nation re-elected Obama! What a calamitous mistake! Some of you will rue your terrible mistake and the rest of us will suffer for it. Whether it's the rash of school shootings, the widespread drug use, the economic collapse we're about to experience, the mountain of unsupportable national debt, or the trillions of dollars now swelling our next existential economic threat: the looming student loan bubble, the cause in every case is the same: hubris. I came to that realization while I was reading Temple of the Winds by Terry Goodkind. I came to a certain part in the book with the following passage:
Nadine stared off in thought. “Sometimes a woman would tell me that it seemed like it would never happen, that it seemed unreal. She’d wait, knowing it would happen, but never really believing it, dreading the things she’d heard about how hard it would be. Dreading the pain. Sometimes they think things will change, like they’ll wake up one day and not be pregnant, or something.

“Then, the baby would come. Suddenly, she’ll be in a panic. The time has come. She’ll be terrified that it’s really happening, at last. Sometimes they’ll scream just from that fear, the fear of the pain. That’s when I can help them. I’m there with them. I reassure them that it will be all right.

“For the first time, for some of them, they finally believe it’s happening. I guess it’s only natural to dread such a profound change in their lives. Until it’s over, until the day is upon them, some of them are miserable with dread.”
Suddenly it struck me; our society has gone about the process of systematically eliminating all the negative consequences of irresponsible behavior. Can you imagine having a baby in the old-fashioned way, without hospitals, without sterile surroundings and equipment, without an epidural? I don't think it's possible unless you've been through it. Consider also, how we separate and shield our children from understanding these consequences. In days-of-yore the daughters of the household would be enlisted in the birthing process, not shielded from it. They would hear the agonized howls of unendurable agony; they would smell the blood, shit, and all manner of foul birthing fluids. They would see the stark grimace of pain and they'd feel the shaking storm of consequence that once attended every birth in the normal course of human events. In all likelihood these young girls would be horribly shocked! They'd be repulsed, appalled, and probably make a solemn vow to never never never allow themselves to fall into this same terrible trap.

Giving birth is supposed to hurt! It's supposed to be an agonizing event as terrifying and as painful as death itself, and God made it this way for good reasons. But we know better don't we? We're smarter than God.

Modern medicine has become a shield that permits us to engage in all manner of sexual promiscuity with little or no consequences. Sexually transmitted diseases and babies were once a terrible consequence that once served to keep most young women—and young men—on the straight and narrow path, the path that God intended us to tread. We've paved over that path and the world is now a vast amusement park filled with every distraction we can think of. So is it any wonder our children have stopped growing up?

Before today, I thought that the Hippocratic oath stated: do no harm. In fact, it doesn't say that, and I think that it's a shame it doesn't. Instead, it's a long-winded legalistic and quite pompous sounding litany of proper professional behavior expected of a physician. There's more in there about doctor-patient confidentiality than there is about helping the sick. There's nothing in the new version at all about not doing harm. You'd think that cutting off a perfectly healthy penis and turning it inside out and suturing it up inside a man's pelvis would be a terrible violation of the Hippocratic oath, but nope.

You say God made a mistake and you were born in the wrong body? Let's see if we can fix that little problem for you. Too fat? You don't have to diet or exercise; how about a little liposuction instead? God make your breasts too small, breast implants will make you happy. Tummy tucks, stomach staples, sexual reassignment surgery, there are whole classifications of surgery that are nothing but harmful. If you disagree, think about that poor deluded specimen once known as Michael Jackson. Do you think if he'd known how terribly it would all turn out he'd have gone under the knife in the first place? I don't think so. We train doctors to give the patient what the patient says he wants instead of what the patient really needs. There's a whole segment of the medical community that think they're smarter, maybe even wiser than God.

No fault divorce and child support are two more terrible ideas that eliminate consequences. Mother can eat her cake and yet somehow still have it. She can get rid of the person who supports her for no reason at all, and yet somehow still make ex-husband continue to support her. Daddy becomes a wage-slave working to pay for a moment's mistake and rarely, if ever, spends time with his child. The mother can—and does—build a string of these wage slaves like she's running some kind of ghetto plantation.

Food-stamps, welfare, public housing, etc, are further examples of pridefully eliminating the consequences of foolish and short-sighted decisions. You don't have to learn anything in school. You don't have to be able to get or keep a job, get or keep a husband. All you have to do is know what to say to your case-worker. The underlying cause of our every problem is hubris; the symptoms are found wherever you see doctors or the state attempting to shield the imprudent from their justly deserved consequences, and the ineluctable results can be read again and—horrifyingly—again in every new heart-breaking headline.

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