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The current crises and the next crises.

Future generations will look back and assess more easily than ours whether the current economy crises is teaching us a lesson or not. We can't see the whole forest yet because we are still attempting to count the trees and we have barely begun to separate the sick ones from the healthy one. This economy crises is really a moral crises because it is all about honesty, prudence and self-restraint (or how many of us ignored those standards). Dishonest people are very difficult to deal with and it does not matter whether they belong to one party or another, or one nation or another, they always end up being a thorn in our side! Within the last 20 years, the combination of rising wealth, rapid technological advances and unrestrained personal greed allowed a financial culture to look more and more like a global casino. What happened to our conscience (1) to the daily use of our moral compass? We can only hope that this crises will work as an enormous "reboot" for all. Our moral ethics have constantly tried to play catch up with technology. The massive amount of money that was juggled around the globe daily was made possible because of computers and the internet. And I wonder how much "control" we will ever have over the malicious use of these technologies since we can't even control spam and email viruses. Will we ever be able to monitor all banking transactions and reign in devious speculators? Only the future will tell.

If it is now obvious to all how something went terribly wrong in our economy and the consequences it is having on all of us, on our jobs, our houses, our savings and our 401Ks, there is another critical field where ethics (or the lack of) could really mess up the whole fabric of our society and affect our future and that is the field of science and medicine. Bio-ethics is a wide-open field largely unregulated for now (2) . If modern medicine has achieved some truly great victories recently, there is also a sinister current growing within it and it is, just like in the economy crises, fed by personal greed, reckless desires and warped consciences. Embryos are being used for scientific experiment like guinea pigs or implanted by the dozen (3); the wombs of third world countries are being rented by the wealthy women of the West in a new form of exploitation (4) ; bodies in hospitals are being shot with morphine and dissected alive (5) for body parts; older or frail or sick people are viewed as useless and are encouraged to "go" and are even assisted in their forced exit (6); attempts are continuously made at cloning (7) and even at cross-species manipulation. From eugenics (8) to euthanasia, from abortion at all terms of gestation to organ trafficking to medical tourism (9) , from fetal farming (10) to human-animal hybrid work, from assisted suicide to designer babies (11), the temptations are that much stronger because of the new technological and scientific advances and because of a precipitous decline in our moral ethics. It is a scary and confusing picture and various data and statistics are juggled around to keep us bewildered: "it's for the best; it will help others; it's what you really want; anyhow it's just the way it goes". We urgently need a common reflection on bio-ethical guidelines (based on honesty, prudence and the truth!) to form cautious and rational regulations at the national level and seeking to work out international consensus for the common good.

The modern notion of "human rights" was born in the West and is derived from the Judeo-Christian view of the inherent dignity of every life , whether it is young or old, strong or weak, healthy or sick; it believes that we all benefits when we accord basic human rights to every voice, whether it is an articulate and educated one or a weak and silent one. Much work still need to be done and the latest fights (and the most exciting!) are for the voices of the smallest and weakest among us, the unborn (12), the handicapped, the depressed or the elderly. If you don't see your "neighbor" in the embryo (13)in the womb, then the abortion issue will remain the main cultural divider. If you don't think (or do not care) whether anyone has a soul and that the soul is only separated from the body at death, then there will be continued experiments on body parts and the utilitarian view of people might prevail. If we don't learn our lesson now, then we should expect to have to go through another meltdown very soon, and it will effect not only our wallets but our bodies and our health, in us or in our loved ones

No material progress can be lasting if it is not nourished and sustained with moral principles (14), and in many ways, that is very good news, because it starts with "me", with my own ability to seek the truth and cling to reason and equip myself with prudence in every aspect of my life. Rather than waiting for the whole world to "get it right", I know that it starts with me, living and doing the righteous thing and I found this very empowering and reassuring. This part of the message (based on truth and reason and prudence) can be understood by believers and non-believers alike and can be used as a common bridge. In my case, I am blessed with an additional dimension anchored in faith in God, who created me, and in his Son, who redeemed me. It is exactly in the process of living a moral and just life that I can share my faith with my believing brothers and sisters and witness to all the others. So in the end, when the global alarms are popping up all over the landscape, I found it very comforting to know that this is the best time for me to do the right thing, in my own corner, with my own little voice, and that today's solution to the current crises or to the next one can be started and built right here at home, one heart and one conscience at a time.

Copyright 04-02-2009 Michele Szekely - San Francisco

(1) Conscience vs the state: In ancient Rome "Christians challenged the authority of the government by claiming that its influence controlled only one area of their lives. They paid taxes, fought and died in the military and supplemented the State's weak provisions for the poor and the ill with their own charity. But their duty to their God directed by their conscience would not let them recognize the Emperor as having control over actions that would affect their immortal souls". See article by Elizabeth Lev here here on Zenit

(2) Bio-ethics regulations: "The United States is known as the "Wild West" of assisted reproductive technologies. In this era of globalization, regulation and oversight of what many call the "baby business" is urgently needed. See here . "Legislators should tame the 'Wild West' of assisted reproduction by Marcy Darnovsky " The sad fact is that the majority of U.S. fertility centers break the rules of their own profession, with no apparent shame or consequence.". Read more here for the progressive voice on bio-ethics.

(3) Embryos: In the multiple ways of assisted reproduction, "excess" embryos are routinely destroyed or frozen for later use or for research. If you don't destroy them, here are amazing pictures on what they look like, a few years later: Newsweek slide show on multiple births here

(4) Wombs for rent was the title of a series of stunning photos taken by photographer Stephanie Sinclair on surrogacy in India. Many of them illustrate the Marie Claire article here Womb for rent by Kevin Clarke. "Have infertile couples taken a maternity leave of their senses? "The modern "womb worker": women in the developing world offering up this most vital resource in exchange for cheap compensation" The new exploitation of 3rd world resources. Read here

(5) Brain death and organ donations: A very difficult topic but we have a responsibility to speak the truth and to know that, under the "goodness" of organ donations, there is an alarming trend happening and it rejects the traditional criteria of establishing death and relies exclusively on "brain death" (which, in itself, is a very controversial criteria) and the consequences are that hospitals are actually performing live dissection. Read this painful article of a "bereaved mother" here. Then read this article on "Woman Diagnosed as "Brain Dead" Walks and Talks after Awakening" here

(6) Euthanasia: Forced Exit: the Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder. Wesley Smith makes the case against assisted suicide, challenging "right to die" advocates and urging that "euthanasia is unwise, unethical, and just plain wrong, a social experiment that if implemented will lead to cultural and ethical catastrophe."

(7) Cloning: The World Health Organization issued clear and strong guidelines against cloning because of the physical and debilitating risks involved in such experiments, "in any other biomedical field, such as the development of a new pharmaceutical product, no responsible researcher would contemplate proceeding to a human trial" (which is why such research is currently done in secrecy). But there are more red flags and WHO presents many: "Autonomy: if a person’s DNA were used to create one or more copies without that person’s permission or knowledge; Conflicts of interest; Psychological/social harm from its status as a "genetic copy”; the Dignity of the person; turning human beings into manufactured objects; it will "only be available to a small group of privileged individuals with the financial resources". See especially § 9,10 and 11 of "A dozen questions (and answers) on human cloning" here.

(8) Eugenics: any Google search will quickly reveal the disturbing link between birth control and eugenics and racism in Margaret Sanders, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who was very explicit in getting "rid of the unfit" in her Negro Project. See more: here

(9) Medical Tourism: PlanetHospital is one such site specializing in medical tourism where the West can shop globally for cheap medical procedure, where there is very little mention of bio-ethics but where money rules and facilitates this new form of colonialism. This site specifically advertised sex change or surrogacy for gay couples and "will assist in the arrangements with the doctors, the passports, visas, flights, hotels transfers and even put a concierge at your disposal" See here

(10) Fetal farming: "Campus newspaper ads offering tens of thousands of dollars for egg providers are routine. Many observers are concerned about the commercialization of human reproduction, and worry that these payments constitute undue inducements to put one's health at risk." Read more here

(11) Designer babies: Creating the perfect child "the potential for misuse of this technology could have dire consequences for the human race. "This runs many risks. It's used in many countries to avoid the birth of female children. "The technologies are going to be accessible to affluent couples and would be used in ways that could increase inequality. The last thing we need now is a genetic elite. "This designing aspect would also lead to an objectification of children as commodities." Read more here by Richard Hayes

(12) Human rights: Because we are made "in the image of God" and because God gave us free will; the combination of these two crucial truths (human dignity and human freedom) form the underlying platform of human rights. For a Christian, they are a gift from God but even a non-believer can see the goodness and prudence in them based on reason and solidarity and can fully espouse them. This wonderful and fruitful alliance (of faith and reason) gave birth to our modern notion of human rights. For a fascinating account of such historical, cultural and theological developments, I highly recommend "L'Europe, ses fondements, aujourd'hui et demain" by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

(13) Stem cells: adult stem cell successes and why it gets downplayed by the Media. "Stunning Discovery Could Mean No Need to Use Embryos in Research." by WESLEY J. SMITH here Stem cells: the winners are iPS cells! "two teams of researchers (one in Wisconsin and one in Japan) announced they had successfully transformed regular human adult skin cells into what appeared to be the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using human embryos. Since then, several crucial advances have made the technique more efficient, more effective, and safer . These techniques not only avoid any ethical concern, but they offer a far cheaper and easier method" Read the article Biotech on the First Things site : here

(14) The World and Morals: and to finish, here is an interesting quote on the intricacy of the physical world and the challenges of a moral life: Einstein said: "Two things inspire me to awe -- the starry heavens above and the moral universe within."


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