Commentary by Donald DeMarco
The Interim

The story is told of the airline captain who announced some “good news” and some “bad news” to his passengers. The good news was that the plane was travelling smoothly at 30,000 feet and steadily at a speed of 500 miles per hour. The bad news was that the pilot had no idea where he was going. We are only too familiar with the innumerable ways in which technology can provide us with progress without purpose.

G. K. Chesterton once defined progress as a “comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.” We could also say that choice is an elective of which we have not settled the correlative.

We have become an aimless society. We believe in progress but not in direction, choice but not in what is chosen. We seem to have little or no time to link our actions to the objective correlatives that give them meaning. Hence, we believe in speed. We believe, as is symbolized by the cult move classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High, in fast food, fast cars, fast sex and fast-acting drugs. Speed, unfortunately, kills, and in more ways than one. Yet the thrills it provides along the way can distract us from the fact that, despite its mercurial pace, it is taking us nowhere.

World magazine has informed us that the National Abortion Rights Action League is dubbing the new wave of young people as “Generation Pro-Choice.” NARAL says, “If you support access to birth control, sex education and abortion, and you’ve never lived in a time when abortion was illegal … then congratulations, you are Generation Pro-Choice.”

It is a most fascinating act of Orwellian doublethink to believe that by closing our eyes to the precise nature of what we choose, we thereby enlarge our vision – myopia as the key to farsightedness.

Jill Stanek, whom World magazine named one of the 30 most prominent pro-life leaders of the past 30 years, has another way of describing today’s youth. In a presentation to 1,100 teenagers who were preparing for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., she said that a more fitting title for their age group is “Generation One-Third Dead,” because that fraction represents how many of them were killed by abortion.

We could think of other unflattering, yet pertinent, appellations: “Generation Eyes Half Shut,” “Generation Apathy,” “Generation Moral Myopia,” “Generation X Minus X,” “Generation Death,” and “The Generation That is Indifferent to Re-generation.”

Stanek’s criticism, of course, is directed not at today’s young people, but at NARAL’s ideological caricature of them. Mere choice, severed from object, consequence, and purpose, is mere willfulness, something that has never been deserving of either admiration or praise. Her view of the new generation is far more positive than NARAL’s, which fails egregiously in trying to conceal an insult under a trite euphemism. She is buoyed by a Gallup poll report that 72 per cent of American teens believe that abortion is morally wrong. This would suggest that the new generation is far more pro-life than pro-choice-whatever-that-choice-may-be.

It is an interesting point that the term “whatever,” so central to teenage discourse these days, has become a term of derision. “Whatever” has come to signify, “Don’t bother me, it doesn’t matter.” Because of the belief, essential to groups such as NARAL, that it is only the choice, not what is chosen, that matters, the so-called “Generation Pro-Choice” could more aptly be characterized as “Generation Whatever.” This is hardly a complement, but it does reveal the utter shallowness of NARAL’s manner of labelling.

Pepsi Cola has dubbed young people as belonging to “Generation Next” (presumably in contrast to “Generation X”). But, as Jill Stanek has cautioned, if Generation One-Third Dead ever does become Generation Pro-Choice, there may not be a next generation.

Don DeMarco is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of St. Jerome’s College, Waterloo, Ont.