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From abortion to euthanasia: Do we realize we’re headed to solitude?


Shutterstock I Jan Faukner

Jean Duchesne - published on 03/16/24

"Societal" reforms such as the one announced by French President Macron on "aid in dying" in the name of "fraternity" are driven by an unrealistic anthropology.

In an interview published on March 11, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that he would propose a bill making “aid in dying” legal in France. This comes on the heels of the approval of a change to that nation’s constitution, enshrining the “right” to abortion. This reveals a disturbing trend, not just in France but in other countries as well.

The convergence of struggles?

The “convergence of struggles” is part of a certain “leftist” mythology: very diverse demands or protests — ranging from working conditions and wages or income to pension schemes, ecology, this or that government reform project, police violence, and more broadly, everything that “victimizes” — are supposed to be able and even obliged to coordinate within the framework of a common struggle against bourgeois, capitalist, reactionary, oligarchic, elitist, patriarchal oppression, and so on.

The various “social movements,” expressions of outrage, and revolts that are juxtaposed or follow one another in the news, however, are proving somewhat difficult to federate or combine. In France, environmental defenders and anarcho-syndicalists have not come together, for example. And the denunciation of pro-Israeli imperialist liberalism reveals nothing else in common between its secularized detractors in the West and the religious fanatics of Hamas. 

The contagious bipolarization of American politics, between the extremes of “wokism” and populist nationalism, definitively ruins the illusion that all anti-establishment rebellions are ultimately moving in the same direction.

On the other hand, there is one area where convergences can be detected, although they are not explicit because they remain unconscious, or prefer not to take the risk of manifesting themselves. This is the field of “societal” struggles. Campaigns for abortion and all forms of prenatal manipulation, sexual liberation, euthanasia, and assisted suicide are certainly conducted separately, one after the other. However, they all point in the same direction, and are thus part of a more global aim.

A commonplace but revealing phenomenon

This goal is indeed unavowed and undoubtedly unavowable — though we’re not proposing a conspiracy theory, as it is a priori safer to attribute all this to hurried flippancy or obsessive fixations than to thoughtful, patient, and organized determination. There is, therefore, no well-defined ultimate goal that inspires the carefully targeted arguments in each case to disqualify the moral prohibitions of traditional culture and justify the legal or technologically advanced artifices that are supposed to correct the painful dysfunctions of what used to be called “nature.”

This purpose is reflected in perhaps the most obvious way in a phenomenon that has become commonplace: the instability of couples. This is reflected in the fact that on average about one in two marriages in France now ends in divorce, with the result that the number of “blended” and “single-parent” families is on the increase.

Break-ups, whatever their cause, are rarely without their drawbacks. Consequently, quite apart from the vexing failure of the investment made, they have generally been regarded as failures. But this is changing, and there’s probably more at work here than the obvious disaffection with classic conjugality.

In praise of autonomy

One indication of this is an interview with a philosopher-psychoanalyst-psychologist-psychotherapist, which appeared at the end of February in a French publication (Madame Figaro) that is not known for being overtly subversive. The title says it all: “We’re not meant to be with just one person.” The specialist in “relationship problems” (among other things) explains that life together creates “a comfort zone, a security that can insidiously lock us in.”

So much so that “to leave someone who no longer suits us at some point in our lives is effectively to assume a form of freedom, […] to reconnect with our self and with our desires.” It’s about “affirming that […] the other does not complete us.” This assumption of autonomy is not even a centering, for “it allows us to embrace our inconstancy,” and “life is movement, like our psyche.”

Here we see the emergence of a certain vision of the human being, who is said to be able to flourish only if governed by his or her desires of the moment.

Here we see the emergence of a certain vision of the human being, who is said to be able to flourish only if governed by his or her desires of the moment. This anthropology is quite unrealistic. It assumes that individuals are as if alone in the world, and can determine and change themselves as they please, solely according to the desires they do or don’t have, or cease to have, in their immediate environment, without any critical, interpretative, or even speculative perspective.

And this independence is blind since, not content with rejecting a priori any considerations that might contradict it, it claims to owe nothing to the discourses that legitimize and therefore encourage (or even arouse) the appetites it seeks to satisfy.

Anthropology without thought

It’s not hard to see all the things that this vision of human beings makes trivial and beneficial, besides changing “partners”: avoiding offspring that would get in the way of enjoying life, and eliminating the unborn child if it gets in the way — or conversely having one made if procreation fails; practicing “sexuality without being in love” (as the doctor quoted above puts it); marrying or cohabiting without the other person’s sexual identity being of the slightest importance; and finally, when aging and illness not only prevent the fulfillment of desires, but even dry them up, asking to be eliminated “out of compassion,” or cutting short one’s own frustrating, irreversible decline.

“Societal” struggles thus ultimately lead to solitude, as a prelude to dissolution into a nothingness where the exhaustion of desire deprives existence of all motivation.

The absence of a destination is a good explanation for these erratic itineraries. There’s virtually no thought: Thinking is limited to arguments and tactics to obtain the concrete, technical, and legal means to satisfy desires and ward off inconveniences.

Of course, this short-sighted pragmatism doesn’t hold up well — and not only in the face of beliefs (still predominant outside the secularized West) that open up horizons beyond direct and contradictory experience.

Truth of faith and human wisdom

For the massive “societal” movements are based on a defeat of thought. The arbitrary dogma that inspires them and that they promote is that individual autonomy is both desirable and possible, with the whole of society having no other raison d’être than to serve it.

But this is an illusion, for while each person is unique, he or she is only the center of his or her own particular — and therefore partial — vision of the world. And each person remains to varying degrees dependent on others, in an interplay of solidarity and, with some people, active reciprocities. 

This is supremely exemplified in the privileged union between a man and a woman, both singular, which is much more than the alliance of two egos. The very essence of this union is to broaden and deepen the desire that led to its formalization, becoming fruitful through children who will not remain enclosed within it, but will share the life received far beyond the family circle.

That this union should not be broken reflects the extension of the desires of the moment into the infinite. God says in the Bible that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). This is not only a truth of faith. It’s also the timeless wisdom of mankind. And it’s what gives us the strength to resist “societal” reforms.

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