Recently I made the observation that our rulers largely govern us on the assumption that we differ from animals only in degree rather than kind. This shift is arguably bound up with the eclipsing of the concept of personhood, and it is not certain that we can ever get it back. As a consequence of our errors in philosophical anthropology, it is widely held that the freedom to indulge our appetitive impulses marks the highest possible good. Since publishing my thoughts, a friend challenged me on this claim, and her challenge is such a robust supplement to my observation that I deemed it imperative to share what she said. What follows is drawn wholly from our exchange.
There is something weirder going on than a conceptual error in our philosophical anthropology. In the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, ‘letting it all hang out,’ and discovering our inner noble savage might have been the popular thing, but it seems that both the architects of the Brave New World and the serfs who live in it actually fear the state of nature found in the Rousseauian paradise. In fact, we have a profound aversion to nature. Rather than acting like animals, we feel a kind of queasiness not only when we witness the more animal-side of human life, but even when we witness animals acting like animals.
For example, in New York City, stray cats are hunted down and ‘rescued’ by armies of Do-Gooders who devote all their free time to this cause. God forbid that a cat should wander around free. Once caught, the animal is vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and microchipped. When one adopts a cat, one must agree not to let it outdoors, and also declare that the cat is not being adopted to deal with a mouse problem. Keeping a cat to kill mice is deemed inhumane. A recent article in The New York Times feature “The Ethicist” suggested that no cats should be allowed outdoors in case they kill other animals. Personally, I do not like cats, and in my native England, domestic cats are responsible for devastating our songbird population every year (this is perhaps the first time that I have shared a concern with the organisation PETA). But even I, with my dislike of cats, was taken aback by the fact that someone genuinely wrote to The New York Times to ask if he should take his cat to a shelter, where it will likely be put down, because of its propensity for hunting.
All pets, now, are meant to be vaccinated, rendered incapable of reproducing (unless you are a certified breeder), and micro-chipped. This is deemed the sanitary, humane thing to do. And pets cannot be allowed to visibly participate in the food chain. If grindingly poor fishermen are enslaved for months on a boat in the South China Sea to catch fish to be made into cat food, that’s one thing, but actually letting a cat hunt a rodent and eat it is apparently inhumane and unhygienic. Nature-queasiness has gone a step further, however, for there are now people who feed their cats vegetarian diets, despite cats being obligate carnivores.
We simply cannot cope with nature. It makes us squeamish.
The way we treat our pets mirrors our sensibilities with regard to people. Reproduction is frowned upon. Pregnancy is viewed as a kind of sickness. But even contraceptive sex is something that millennials are uneasy about. It turns out that there are hundreds of articles online, published by Vanity Fair, Vice, and many more, trying to work out why millennials are not having sex—it is a big topic of conversation which you can discover for yourself by Googling it. As head of the Department of Health in Pennsylvania, the trans-sexual who now goes by the name of Rachel Levine (President Biden’s Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, whom you can watch here refusing to answer questions about the sterilization of minors via hormone therapy and genital mutilation) published guidelines for safe sex during the COVID pandemic that favour “virtual” sex, with these guidelines leaving the reader with this helpful reminder: “You are your safest sex partner!”
There are those who speak of autism as the next stage of evolution. Autistic people shun relationships. It is our tendency to socialize, establish communities, and reproduce that is supposedly responsible for destroying the environment. So autism, the thinking goes, might be a positive adaptation. The more people share autistic traits, the fewer communities there will be; the fewer new people, the fewer demands made on the environment. In film, autistic people are viewed in a positive light, as who have special powers. Look at “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck. He’s a macho autistic chap who shuns opportunities for romantic encounters and his side-kick is an autistic female with other mental disabilities, but with the assistance of technology turns out to be super-intelligent.
COVID may have been the final nail in the coffin of our relationship with nature. The pandemic (or rather our collective response to it) has made everyone into a hypochondriac. We are all terrified of getting sick, terrified of human contact. We cannot cope with the most basic challenges of nature. The young, who should be rash, carefree, and indifferent to danger, are huddled in their homes terrified to go outside. They have food and loo paper delivered to their apartments. When they do go out, they are masked up, gloved, and slathered with antiseptics. The Guardians of the Fourth Industrial Revolution would have us disease-free, genderless, sterile, “socially distant,” and communicating via their machines on a permanent basis. It is a natural development of the ambition of the Nazis or the American eugenics movement to create a cleaner, superior race.
Of course, not everyone accepts the direction in which we are travelling, but the ‘woke’ liberals, those now governing the U.S., and the proponents of the Great Reset are definitely on board (and I am sorry to say it, but so is Pope Francis it seems).
Sebastian Morello is a lecturer, public speaker, and columnist. Trained by Sir Roger Scruton, he has published books on philosophy, history, and education. He lives in Bedfordshire, England, with his wife and children.