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Moral equivalence: war and abortion

9 November 2008

Excellent post on the topic of the moral equivalence of war and abortion here. I doubt that it will do much to convince those who regard those who have moral scruples about abortion as “fetus fetishists”, nor those who seek to convince us it is the supreme, if not the only issue to be taken into account when voting in elections. But it certainly makes sense to me. Here are a couple of snippets, but go and read it and see.

Now, I think there is a good case to be made for seeing abortion as the most insidious form of violence active in the world today. It is part of what Slavoj Žižek refers to as “systemic violence,” the “catastrophic consequences of the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems.” Unlike the “subjective violence” that is quantifiable, visible, and plain in war, abortion is invisible in everyday life. “Violence” is thought of as a “perturbation of the ‘normal’ state of things.” But it is precisely this sort of systemic violence that is “inherent to this ‘normal’ state of things.” Abortion is one of the most insidious forms of this sort of systemic violence. Whether in the service of state totalitarianism as in China or what Sheldon Wolin calls the “inverted totalitarianism” of Western culture, consumed by the pernicious force of choice and commodity fetishism, abortion occupies an insidious place of systemic violence which sustains social and political systems and ways of life which, tragically, we all participate in to one degree or another.

and another

I get uncomfortable at the way many conservatives seek to elevate the issue of abortion to a pedestal above all other issues of violence and coercion in our culture. To use the seriousness of abortion as a shield against having to think about the moral severity of militarization, torture, and genocide is just as reprehensible as those who use such issues to downplay the seriousness of abortion. John Paul II was correct to include all of these horrors within his indictment of the “culture of death.” Seeking to do some sort of moral algebra within the culture of death to determine which is the “worst” seems like an utterly wrong question. To make one issue loom horrifically large before inevitably hides other things from our field of vision, making us myopic, curmudgeonly, and perfect subjects for the discipline of capitalism which is happy to absorb special interest groups and partisan hacks into the fabric of the global order.

We in South Africa had plenty of experience with systemic (sometimes called structural) violence under apartheid, when everything could appear “normal” at least in the rich white suburbs. And the systemic violence continues. We wonder why criminals appear to be becoming more violent, and have less and leass respect for human life. But what can we expect when the government as a whole shows so little respect for human life?

One Comment leave one →
  1. 10 November 2008 1:22 am

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. It is true that abortion sometimes takes an elevated place in our society.

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