Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Marketing Away Morality

From the “Where are we going, and why are we in this hand-basket?” file:

Planned Parenthood is selling a t-shirt which simply reads: “I had an abortion.”

My oh my, the thoughts are flying.  I titled this blog “Marketing Away Morality” for the simple and clear reason that we as a culture seem to be able to reduce absolutely anything to an advertising slogan, slap it on a t-shirt or a refrigerator magnet, and turn it into a marketing niche.  We have the capacity to take something like cold-blooded murder and reduce it to a fashion choice. (“Should I wear my Nike shirt, or my Abortion shirt with these sneakers?”)  I think it is clear that in so many ways our culture has shoved morality out the window of convenience and replaced it with vapid terms like “rights” and “choice.”  We cover up horrendous acts with relativistic and subjective thoughtstoppers and then make money on it.

I caught a snippet of an interview on CNN covering this t-shirt, and the representative from Planned Parenthood gave the typical and predictable argument that they are only giving young girls the opportunity to own their choices and not be driven into shame by those who would judge them.  This is the belief that choices are entirely subjective and the way to avoid guilt and self-condemnation is to “come out of the closet” and proudly proclaim your choices.  Without going into how self-defeating this point of view is, I think it is important for us to reflect for a second on the notion of shame.

Much has been made recently about the loss of shame in our culture.  Shame, ultimately, is a check against immoral behavior, so it is natural that if we want to rid ourselves of the pangs of sin, we would rail against the natural feelings that result from sinful acts.  For instance, shame, properly understood, keeps us chaste.  Shame helps to develop propriety.  Shame keeps us from becoming sexual predators.  Shame keeps us from killing innocent people in cold blood.  So, in our culture’s twisted sense of value, when we feel shame (only about politically correct issues, of course) as a result of our actions, we are not encouraged to reflect on the action and its relative virtue or vice.  Instead, we should do what we can to get rid of the shame.  Instead of addressing the disease, we view the symptom as the problem.

This brings me to another point-maybe a more political point.  Imagine some website selling a t-shirt which reads, “I killed a small Arab.”  What are the odds that they would receive a congenial invitation for a thoughtful interview regarding their goals in selling this shirt? (From anyone-this is not about CNN.)  And can you imagine what the reaction would be if their answer had to do with helping young men embrace their actions and avoid the shame of keeping their feelings bottled up?  Yet we find ourselves in an analogous situation with the PP t-shirt and we find our culture reacting mildly.  

The loss of things like shame, or even a simple notion of what morality is supposed to do for us, have monstrous consequences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Phil! Brian here. One wonders how the public would receive T-shirts proudly proclaiming "I killed an abortion doctor today," maybe with a smiley face to keep it from being too provocative, of course. This new PP campaign seems to undermine the nauseating mantra emanating from the pro-choice camp: "I'm personally against abortion, but I believe in the right to choose." Looks like they've admitted they think abortions are just fine after all - they are worthy of public pride, in fact! How delightful...