The Fetus, Parasites, and Narcissism

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This is am image of a fetus about to be vacuum...

When I stop thinking that I can be shocked by what another person says in this narcissistic society, someone proves me wrong. I was part of a group discussing the issue of whether the man should play any role in decision making concerning abortion. Both males and females took one side or the other in about an equal ratio. One woman, however, burst into the discussion and said in an angry tone, “No man is going to make me carry a parasite in my womb for nine months!” Taken aback, I wondered how people would respond to her—and a woman with children said that children already born were parasites. If she had used a joking tone of voice that would have been fine. She was serious. This illustrates how far the “cultural of narcissism,” a term coined by the Christopher Lasch, has penetrated into the psyche of some Americans.

It was after artificial contraception became common that children ceased to be considered a gift. I am not opposing artificial contraception—there are cases in which it is the best option—but the mentality that children are burdens rather than gifts has been a toxic byproduct of the ready availability of the pill. The notion that carrying a child in the womb for nine months is “carrying a parasite” ignores the fact that half the parasite’s chromosomes came through the mother. We are not talking about an alien life form sucking away the essence of the mother. The opposition to the natural bond between mother and child represents an attitude that is wholly oriented toward the self and not toward a dependent being. What would this person think about old people in nursing homes, the homeless, or people on welfare. Anyone wise would shudder at such attitudes among some Americans today. What is more disturbing is the willingness to share such a selfish view. Do people lack the ability to discern when they come across as self-centered spoiled children rather than as adults? Do others listening to comments calling a fetus up to the ninth month—or even a born child—a “parasite” realize that there is something seriously flawed about such an attitude. Too many people do not hide their narcissism. Abortion is the ultimate instance of narcissism, especially considering that the vast majority of abortions are done for the purpose of birth control. People desire the pleasure of sex, and when that results in conception, then they have the “parasite” killed as if they are killing a paramecium rather than a person. The devotion to the autonomous self and the rejection of natural bonds are characteristics of modernity, and with the decline of Christianity in late modernity there are no restraints on narcissism. 1.2 million abortions a year are only one symptom—the increasing acceptance of physician assisted suicide among young people is another. One hopes that T. S. Eliot’s version of the end of the world will not come to pass, but extreme narcissism always results in violence. May God help us.

The Pampered Generation

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Greuze, Jean-Baptiste - The Spoiled Child - lo...

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As a university professor, I teach a variety of students, both traditional-age students and older, non-traditional students. I have been blessed with some excellent students who excel. Others may not be the brightest stars in academia, but they give their all even if they make a C in the course. I respect that. There are students who are both academically lazy and lack the ability to be in college. These students do not stick around for long. But then there are students who have the intelligence and ability to excel or at least do well, but do not out of apathy–unfortunately that is what I see the most out of the current generation of 18-22 year-olds.

Sometimes this generation has been called the generation of “trophy kids.” Parents who lack the maturity to find meaning in their own lives attempt to live their lives through their children. Children are pushed into organized sports early on instead of being encouraged in spontaneous play. If they have problems in school, they are diagnosed with ADHD or some other disorder and given their drugs for the day to pacify them. Today’s children are protected from the normal hurts and pains of the real world. Many live in gated communities shut off from the outside world. Parents try to hide from them the facts of disease and death, and they do not teach their children the necessity of working for what they earn. Instead, everything they desire is given to them. When they face tragedy, such as a death of a family member or close friend, or when they face a breakup with a romantic partner, they tend to fall apart. I remember in November of 1982 when my granddaddy died. I always dreaded that day from my childhood on, when I’d dream he turned into a skeleton in front of me. But my senior year in college, the inevitable happened. I had a term paper due in Introduction to Old Testament. Despite the fact of heartbreak beyond belief, I returned to school two days after the funeral and completed the term paper (as well as my other class assignments) by the due date. It was difficult, but I understood that, as unfair as it might be, life goes on after a death.

But if the average traditional-age student suffers a similar loss, that student will be unable to function for a week or more. Sometimes the student may drop out of school the rest of the semester. Now if that student were in the work force, he or she would most likely lose a job missing that many days of work, even after a death in the family. Life has its joys, but it is also cruel. By protecting their children from the inevitable losses of life, parents have failed in their duty to prepare their children for life away from home. This, and not only economic problems, helps explain the glut of adult children returning to live with their parents. Their parents used to provide everything they desired–why not once more? The problem is that parents do not live forever, and they will leave behind someone who is another strain on the social-welfare system, someone who will contribute little to loved ones or to society.

Some students will mature despite their parents’ failures. Some students who were brought up the proper way will become apathetic and lazy. But most students who were pampered as children will desire to be pampered adults. They will do the least amount of work to pass in college, they will do barely enough to get by when they are employed (and many will not care if they are fired for inadequate job performance). They will not vote, nor will they contribute to the good of their community. Self-absorbed, they will not be able to maintain stable marriages. Two self-absorbed people will not a marriage make.

In I Samuel, God punished Eli, not because he was a bad man, but because he knew his sons were doing evil, “and he restrained them not.” That mistake cost Israel a battle and cost Eli his life. What will be the cost to today’s parents who create shells of human beings who are too lazy to work, too lazy to think, and too fragile to bear the bumps of life?