Sunday, August 2, 2015


Oh, I've seen the videos, and I guess, to me, they are a sign of a sort of a gradual moral degradation that occurred. Whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, to talk in this way, suggests to me just a hardening of the heart that happens when you, I guess, deal with this on a daily basis and are not - don't remain morally sensitive to the issues involved.
David Brooks. "Week In Politics: 'Black Lives Matter,' Planned Parenthood" NPR.
My first job out of college was working with children who had been taken out of their homes for abuse or neglect. These were children who could tell you some stories. It's been some twenty years since I left that job, and I can still remember many of them. And one thing that surprises some people when I tell those stories is the dispassionate way in which I do it.

One of the things that I've noticed is that there appears to be an expectation that horror never simply shades into everyday experience. That the fiftieth terrible story of abuse of a child should be just as unsettling as the first. But this isn't how people operate - instead, we adapt. It's like anything else that becomes a constant in one's life - eventually, it all fades into the background noise. Or people just don't make it. When I worked with children, a lot of people just didn't make it. One washed out within four days. The average length of time that people stayed on the job was six months. I was there for four and a half years, and a number of my co-workers had been there that entire time. And that meant that we had witnessed a steady stream of young people (this isn't a line of work you go into in your thirties - or at any point after you're making real money) come in the door with high hopes and high ideals, and decide that they couldn't deal with it. The work demanded a heart harder than the norm, because otherwise, the emotion would overwhelm you.

But it made talking with other people about work difficult. "How can you be so cavalier?" people would ask. In my less thoughtful moods, I would reply: "How quaint. You think there is a choice." David Brooks may see a need to remain morally sensitive to the issues involved, but when it's something that you have to do day in and day out, that moral sensitivity isn't an advantage. And so, it fades, so that you can do the job better. Because, on the job, you have to talk to the other people who do the job. And they don't have time for beating around the bush or euphemism.

The Planned Parenthood "sting" videos play on this. Insiders (and supposed insiders) talking business, but in a way that comes across as insensitive to those not in the business. If they are a sign of moral degradation, then it's an occupational hazard.

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