Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Coming of the Monster

N.B. Title props to Owen Francis Dudley, whose novel of the same name has almost absolutely nothing to do with what I am going to write here.

For years now I’ve had to share my birthday with creeps, spooks, spirits (not of the medicinal kind, from which Scrooge lived “on the total abstinence principle”), specters, phantoms, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, hobgoblins, trolls, gnomes, imps, sprites, elves (oh! many elves), witches, warlocks, wizards (avaunt thee, Potter!), fiends, demons, devils, monsters (non-incorporated), aliens; and the occasional space man, cowboy, or fairy princess.

New acquaintances don’t get it. “A birthday on Halloween! that must be great. All that candy growing up … !” Indeed, all that candy. And no friends or siblings to share it with, because they are all, ALL OF THEM out trickertreating. (Yes, it really is one word.) Pre- and post-celebrations are hard to organize too, because of the outrageous Catholic habit of holding superfluous All Saints Day parties around the holiday. And besides, when you celebrate on another day, it’s not the same. In a household of twelve, when you’re the only one who never gets to have your birthday on your actual day of birth … Well. Even my kid brother who has his on Christmas Eve has got it better; we’re always home for that, and no one forgets to give him two gifts.

Then, of course, there’s the reputation you get for being born on Halloween. In addition to the supernatural species mentioned above, I am having more and more to share my birthday with various adults whose only sense of the word “adult” seems to be the sense we would all formerly have called pejorative. It was bad enough when a stroll on the fatal evening brought me into contact with painted devils; now I also get to meet painted ladies, and their escorts, all looking as if they’ve stumbled out of the seamier, steamier kind of Olde West saloon. Heck, as far as their appearance goes, they might as well be singing Ogden Nash’s “Candy is dandy / But liquor is quicker.”

Why couldn’t I have been born on Mary’s Birthday, like my brother? Even the middle name “Marion” would have been a minor trial to put up with if it meant that kind of patron. What was wrong with the feast of St. Therese of Liseux, or the Archangels’ day (other than the fact that Providence was saving them for siblings of mine)? What about Christmas? I once had a coworker who was born on Christmas; how awesome is that? Heck, even Christmas Eve isn’t so bad: you get to share it with Sts. Adam and Eve. Not the best brains in the bunch, to be sure (how dumb do you have to be to take a snake’s advice?) but at least they repented and made it to heaven after all.

But now I know that my world is coming to an end, realio trulio, like Belinda’s dragon. As if my birthday weren’t already crowded enough, the paranormal stork is scheduled to deliver yet another monstrosity on it, here, into this world, Monday. For all I know the bird may already have landed, and deposited the horror on some doorstep in a neighborhood near you.

There’s been quite a bit of advance press about the arrival. According to one expert: "[a]s the impact of the imminent Great Disruption hits us," "our response will be proportionally dramatic, mobilizing as we do in war. ... We are heading for a crisis-driven choice." A Chinese official [same piece] takes a similarly bleak view of the impending disaster: "In China’s thousands of years of civilization, the conflict ... has never been as serious as it is today." Another writer admits that "It's hard not to be alarmed," and goes on to quote from a seer of older times: "'And then, according to the prediction of the Scriptures, there must be wars, and great slaughter, &c.' ... Will the world be hellish then? ... some parts of it are hellish today. ... Many people are justifiably worried" about "a collapse of global civilization." One news source summoned a panel of experts to advise on the issue. The coming monster is "already facing us with horrendous problems." "[T]oday, for the first time, a global civilization is in peril, and nothing significant is being done about it ..." Another author calls the situation "cause for profound global concern;" the arrival "could cost us the planet we live on in the way we now know it." A UN official says the event is "a reminder that we must act now." (Now you know it's desperate. When the UN gets serious ...)

"This," one expert commentator comments, "is not science fiction."

What is this living, breathing atrocity that will be setting its feet—or are they claws, perhaps? or fins, or even pincers bristling with scopulae?—what is this creature that will be touching its talons down upon the gentle shores of our Mother Gaia? What is this ravening, raging fiend of a misbegotten race, this deceptively, subversively cute and cuddly brown-skinned being?

Just the seven billionth human baby on the planet, that’s all.

Now, lest you accuse me of exaggeration, let me repeat the previous paragraph, with the links included. (WARNING: These articles are not for the reader with high blood pressure or one who is easily scandalized.)

According to one expert: "[a]s the impact of the imminent Great Disruption hits us," “our response will be proportionally dramatic, mobilizing as we do in war. ... We are heading for a crisis-driven choice.” A Chinese official [same piece] takes a similarly bleak view of the impending disaster: “In China’s thousands of years of civilization, the conflict ... has never been as serious as it is today." Another writer admits that "It’s hard not to be alarmed," and goes on to quote from a seer of older times: “'And then, according to the prediction of the Scriptures, there must be wars, and great slaughter, &c.' ... Will the world be hellish then? ... some parts of it are hellish today. ... Many people are justifiably worried" about "a collapse of global civilization." One news source summoned a panel of experts to advise on the issue. It's "already facing us with horrendous problems." "[T]oday, for the first time, a global civilization is in peril, and nothing significant is being done about it ..." Another author calls the situation "cause for profound global concern;" the arrival "could cost us the planet we live on in the way we now know it." A UN official says the event is "a reminder that we must act now." (Now you know it's desperate.)

"This," one expert commentator comments [first piece], "is not science fiction."

WSJ columnist William McGurn sums up the absurdity this way in his recent column, “And Baby Makes Seven Billion”:

Malthusian fears about population follow from the Malthusian view that human beings are primarily mouths to be fed rather than minds to be unlocked. In this reasoning, when a pig is born in China, the national wealth is thought to go up, but when a Chinese baby is born the national wealth goes down.


Precisely. The illogic of the population bombers is absurd, even from a purely rational and non-religious standpoint. (C.f. McGurn’s citation of my nemesis Matt Ridley.)

There is of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with defending babies by this method—nothing intrinsically wrong with seeing them as minds. The new humanism has its points, and one of them is that it does offer a minimal degree of respect for the species, while the defeatist and radically hedonistic philosophies of the 20th century did not. (I’m looking at you, Existentialism.) But a view that sees us as minds without truly understanding what a mind is, is a view that is ultimately deficient, like a bank without enough reserves. Someday there'll be a run, and then! heaven help us all. Someday we'll learn how to test babies for all kinds of mental deficiencies—perhaps even for IQ in general—and then anyone whose "mind" (which experimenters mistakenly identify with brain function) is not up to snuff will be game for extinction. (Isn’t this already happening with Down's Syndrome?) This is foolish as well as wrong; but the sort of facts that prove the folly of it rarely make major news.

But what can I say to those Christians who are still perplexed or concerned by the statistics they hear, to those Christians who have taken a more dystopian view of our planetary future?

Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? ... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? ... Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. (Matthew 6:26, 28-30; 10:29-31.)

That’s for you, Little Seven Billionth. Welcome to the world! come right in. Yeah, there’re some crazies over in the corner; don’t mind them. I will be honored to share Halloween with you.

Happy Birthday!!!

4 comments:

  1. Your just jealous 'cause you weren't born on the feast of St. Monica

    ReplyDelete
  2. "I'm looking at you, Existentialism."

    Priceless!

    ReplyDelete