Wednesday 15 July 2015

Helen Keller and the sexual revolution

Supposing we concede, for the sake of argument (because the evidence apparently contradicts it) that the sexual revolutionaries really are correct in their assertion that there are a very large proportion of modern people who have unconventional sexual dispositions - suppose we even allow that this was a majority of people (and not merely, as seems reasonably plausible, a majority of the Western leadership class in - e.g. - the mass media, entertainment and politics)

Suppose that is that 'society' really is - on average - sexually pathological: What then?

This situation would not be implausible. Human sexuality is difficult, complex, multifactorial, multi-stage and difficult to get right - many things might disrupt its development: genetic, toxic, infective, environmental... many things. And these things might be widespread - so sexual pathologies might be widespread - indeed everybody might suffer, to some extent, from one or another sexual pathology - there might be nobody wholly healthy in this regard.

There might even be situations in which sexual pathologies were (for a while, until perhaps those people became extinct) universal.

Would that mean that - because they are common - we, as a society, should pretend that sexual pathologies are good, desirable, preferable?

For comparison -- There have been times and places when apparently 100 percent of the population was diseased and sick - for example with anaemia from some parasite infections such as bilharzia, or malaria; or impaired from some types of sublethal toxicity - perhaps lead.

Would that mean that disease became good, preferable, desirable?

We can easily perceive that unconventional sexualities statistically lead to sub-fertility (which is an objective hallmark of disease) - and to increased risk of multiple impairment and sufferings - in that respect being like other pathologies.

Even when the pathology is chosen by a person; then this could be interpreted as such choice having been (on average) the consequence of pathology - in other words a psychopathology. By analogy mental illnesses such as mania and melancholic depression often lead to maladaptive choices - such as increased death rates from risk-taking, or suicide.

Where does this get us?

Simply, we need to acknowledge pathology when it is present and identified - and even if we suffer a pathology, then we should acknowledge that health is better than pathology.

Health is better than pathology - is that really a controversial statement? I know it can be made to seem controversial - but that way madness lies...

We need not treat a pathology - after all there may be (often is) no safe or effective treatment - or the treatment may be worse than the disease! - but that does not stop pathology being pathology.

And this is not affected by the fact that many people with pathologies are better people, and/ or better functioning people than those without pathologies (or with different pathologies). Those with pathologies may do a better job, make a more significant contribution, than those without pathology: Of Course!

Which is where Helen Keller (1880-1968) comes in. She was deaf and blind from the age of two - which I think we will agree is a very significant pathology - you or I would (presumably) not want to be both deaf and blind, nor would we want our loved ones to be deaf and blind.

Yet Keller learned to communicate with touch-signs, and became an influential national figure who made a big difference. Unfortunately, that difference was mostly in moving the USA in a Leftist direction through her championship of progressive political causes... but the general point still stands: Helen Keller with/ despite her severe pathologies of blindness and deafness did more than the great majority of seeing and hearing people.

But this fact, if we accept it as a fact, does not affect the other fact that it is better not to be blind and deaf.

And by a reasonable analogy, and whatever the proportion of the population affected, it is likewise better not to have sexual pathologies - health is better than disease; even when few people, or none at all, are fully healthy.

If we deny the reality of pathology and that health is better than disease, then by a few easy steps it becomes acceptable (maybe even a duty) to try and persuade people, even children, to blind and deafen themselves; even to blind and deafen children before the age of consent, and against their parents wishes - on the basis that Helen Keller proved it was a valid lifestyle option...



Anonymous said...

You are right, but that does not keep many people in the deaf "culture," for example, from prohibiting cochlear implants in the children.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon - I have read this in the media but I do not know whether it is true, nor whether it is 'many' people who are involved. But even if it is true, refraining from (an invasive, uncertain) treatment is not the same thing as actively-causing pathology - for example, deliberately inflicting deafness on naturally-hearing children (so they become part of a preferred deaf-culture)-- which is more analogous to what has-been and is happening in the domain of sexuality.

Wade said...

"But this fact, if we accept it as a fact, does not affect the other fact that it is better not to be blind and deaf."

I've often thought this about Helen Keller. Maybe the fact that she suffered from deafness and blindness is one of the causes of her embracing pathological, leftist political positions. Surely a lifetime of having to compensate for something this debilitating would tend to distort a person's perceptions of society. I'm not aware of whether Helen Keller saw herself as a victim. She obviously was a very strong person, at least in the sense of strength and power you elaborated on in the post "Working to develop our gifts and powers may do harm, tends to do harm, in the absence of good motivations." But leftist people in my experience tend to have a distorted perceptions regarding what motivates individuals, who are better adjusted than they, and therefore results in them becoming enemies of the good.

I have a "progressive" friend who is now an English college professor who once complained to me we here in the US have failed to acknowledge, or pay tribute to, Helen Keller's communist advocacy. I think he felt it was a sign of weakness for us Americans that we have retconned Keller's significance by focusing on how she was able to triumph over her handicaps rather than giving voice to her political views (as a kid, I knew who she was but I had no idea that she was a communist). We normally whitewash her story when we tell it to our kids -- and I'm just fine with that.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wade Good points. Although we do need to be aware that being a communist meant different things at different times and there were some good people who were communists from ignorance.

Bruce Charlton said...

@doug thanks for your comment, although I think you may be getting me mixed up with someone else - because I don't know anything about GZG.

HofJude said...

There was an essay in The New Yorker - I think by Updike, in the 90s - on Helen Keller's sexuality. She was strongly attracted to men, and discussed sexual attraction - in one instance, with Alexander Graham Bell, of course in love with them. She had a beau, but her mother broke it up, frightening the young man away. Updike suggests that her turn to 20th century fads was a reaction to being talked out of the possibility that she could marry and love physically. I found this clipping in my late experimental-neurologist-father's files, along with hundreds of offprints on primate tool-using.
So there you are, Bruce.

Bruce Charlton said...