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Failure of Nerve

Wednesday, May 05, 2010 3:00 AM Comments (9)

Henry Ford, who is not my normal go-to guy for wisdom, did get one thing correct.  He said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” 

The paradox of our time is that we have more resources and opportunities available to us than ever before in human history—and we are more despairing about the future than ever before.

It’s crazy really.  Over at Inside Catholic, I’m taking a look at the parallel careers of Norman Borlaug and Paul Erlich.  Both men were confronted with the problem of a burgeoning world population in the mid-20th Century and therefore with the problem of world hunger.  Erlich, the Chattering Classes Anointed Prophet, wrote The Population Bomb in 1968 and counseled despair and defeat saying, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. . . . In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” He added, “I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971,” and, “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.”

This lazy, cowardly, despairing counsel has been the watchword of our Ruling Classes and Manufacturers of Culture ever since Thomas Malthus and continues to receive nothing but unstinting admiration today from a culture of death whose every solution to the problem of poverty and weakness is to exterminate the poor and the weak rather than help them.  The continual program of wealthy First World Countries toward the Third World is summed up in the words of humorist P.J. O’Rourke: “Just enough of me, way too much of you.”  Naturally, then, decades after Erlich’s false prophecies of doom were exploded, he is still treated as a Great Thinker by our intellect-worshipping Manufacturers of Culture.

Meanwhile, nobody’s ever heard of Norman Borlaug.  That’s because, instead of worshipping the intellect, Borlaug used his and become the Father of the Green Revolution which saved the lives of a billion people.  Instead of looking around at a world filled with opportunities to do good and hiding his one talent in the ground, he used what he had to save the lives of more people than anybody in history.

Naturally then, our folly-dominated media puts his obituary on page 12 but goes on an on about how Africans need to have fewer kids so that rich Brits and Americans can offset their carbon credits by encouraging population control among people who aren’t white.

I think of this lazy despairing refusal to take advantage of the easy opportunities that lie all around us for the taking as i read this letter from a reader:

Zenit is reporting that there was an abortion in Italy, of an unborn boy.  The boy had “two deformations”, one of the palate one of the lip.  In plain language, the parents opted to kill their child rather than deal with the correctable problem of a cleft lip and cleft palate.

My older brother Chuck was born (in 1955) with a cleft lip and a cleft palate.  My mother had to feed him with an eye dropper.  It took two hours to feed him and she had to do it every four hours, round the clock, seven days/week.  This was complicated by the fact that she almost immediately became pregnant with my sister, Martha.

Chuck has been a fire fighter and an EMT.  I don’t know how many lives he’s saved.  Now, he is semi retired and makes a living as a journalist.  He is an outstanding human being and I have always looked up to him.  Oh, and he has never forgotten any of my children’s birthdays.  For 14 years, every kid got a present from Uncle Chuck for their birthday and for Christmas.  This was especially important on the occasions when we were too broke to get anything for them ourselves.

The child in Italy survived the abortion, and was placed on a sheet in a container to die.  The child lived for two days.

Every once in a while, I think, “My God, what kind of world do we live in?”

Among other things, we live in a world where, as the faith recedes, so does the courage to do what was doable even 55 years ago.  Italy is a modern western country with modern medicine and even universal health care.  It was easy to correct this problem.  But the parents of this poor child simply lacked the nerve to do anything.  Death was easier, lazier, simpler.  The problem was not technological, medical, economic or social.  The problem was spiritual.  The Gospel is Hope.  Abandon the Gospel and you abandon Hope.  Abandon Hope and you give up trying.  Give up trying and you can’t be bothered to save a life even when the means to do so lie at your fingertips.  You think you can’t—and you are right.

Filed under culture of death

About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.