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Week of: February 4, 2001

Quality of Life: It's All in Your Head

by F.R. Duplantier

Several of the best books published last year documented the fact that ideas have consequences, and that bad ideas have bad consequences.

In What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us, Danielle Crittenden explained how feminism has failed the women of today. "We are more likely to be divorced or never married at all than women of previous generations," she reported. "We are more likely to bear children out of wedlock. We are more likely to be junkies or drunks or to die in poverty. We are more likely to have an abortion or to catch a sexually transmitted disease. If we are mothers . . . we are more likely to work at full-time jobs and still shoulder the bulk of housework as well." Crittenden concluded that the problem women suffer from today is the very opposite of the one encountered by their mothers. The mothers may have felt "denied the chance to realize [their] human potential," but their daughters feel "cut off from those aspects of life that are distinctly and uniquely feminine."

In The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, Roger Kimball examined "the narcissistic hedonism that was an important ingredient of the counterculture from its development in the 1950s." America's cultural revolution was "an attack on maturity [or] a glorification of youth, of immaturity," he asserted. "The idealization of youth has resulted not only in the spread of adolescent values and passions," Kimball lamented; "it has also led to the eclipse of adult virtues like circumspection, responsibility, and restraint."

In Plagues of the Mind, The New Epidemic of False Knowledge, Bruce Thornton deconstructed Multiculturalism, which, he insisted, "is not about respecting cultural differences or the diversity of ethnic groups in America." What it is, he argued, is "a melodramatic tale of the wickedness of the West and its role in destroying the peaceful paradises in which other peoples . . . lived before Europeans and then Americans came along to inflict on them racism, sexism, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, homophobia, technology, and environmental degradation." Despite its failings, Thornton concluded, Western civilization must be credited with originating and perpetuating "the idea of the individual, rational human being who should be free to choose, and who possesses certain inalienable rights that should demand our respect regardless of gender, race, religion, or culture."

In The Revenge of Conscience, J. Budziszewski confronted the reasons for his former nihilism and described how God ultimately rescued him from nothingness. "I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself," he recalled. "Not exactly a feeling of guilt, not exactly a feeling of shame, just horror: an overpowering true intuition that my condition was terribly wrong." Budziszewski now writes and teaches about "those very moral principles I used to deny -- the ones we can't not know because they are imprinted on our minds, inscribed on our consciences, written on our hearts." He specializes in "understanding the ways that we pretend we don't know what we really do -- the ways we suppress our knowledge, the ways we hold it down, the ways we deceive ourselves and others."


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