For a lot of people, the connection between Brett Kavanaugh’s ascent to the Supreme Court and family planning is fairly simple: He is a threat to Roe v. Wade, and women’s right to terminate their pregnancies. Others will go further and consider that – given how tainted he is – anything the Court does with abortion will only embolden and further the women’s movement. Both of these arguments are missing something about the Kavanaugh debacle that matters more, for everyone.
Our transfixing on this story is an example of how power over many is centralized in just a few people, and how they can influence our lives in many ways, both obvious and subtle.
Yes, Kavanaugh’s confirmation is an immediate threat to women. It is also a larger reminder of the way the patriarchy dominates all of us – a reminder worth hearing. Just look at Paul Ryan, who pushes women to have more kids in order to fuel the economy. Trump’s championing Kavanaugh is an obvious example of raw power over those who are vulnerable. But so are his family tax reforms, which are designed to encourage a patriarchal family planning model grounded on the values of economic growth and Handmaid’s Tale style national strength at a cost to child welfare, equality, and nature. What’s the difference? Progressives are outraged by Kavanaugh. Yet, they barely noticed Trump’s more subtle family planning moves, ones that will echo his values long into the future.
While the world was transfixed on the spectacle of a few people in Washington D.C., the world around us continued to change because of the actions and inactions of those in power. The environment became increasingly polluted, and the planet’s average temperature continued to rise. Each minute of the day roughly 250 babies were born into the world (not enough for many special economic interests that wanted more consumers, future laborers, and taxpayers), many in conditions that would lead to their early and unpleasant deaths, or if they survive, to the further destabilization of their communities and regions. Children were born around the world to both the rich and the poor, and that process alone furthered the gap between the two – significantly. Families bore children in whom they would instill the hierarchical sexism we see in Washington D.C. – ensuring its continuity long into the future.
Why is it so hard to even think in these terms? The average human alive today is hardwired to think and problem solve in terms of simple and immediate stories, rather than more abstractly. That’s not a good thing. Family planning is the greatest determinant of the quality of life on earth, and the quantity and social quality (through our early childhood development and its knock-on effects) of the people that will inhabit it. While we stared at the sensation of the testimony (much the way Al Gore noted we distractedly gape at the puppetry of Trump), the world was busily and quickly unfolding around us – and not all in ways that are good.
What’s the solution? We can break the temporal myopia and other cognitive dissonances by thinking of family planning policies in different ways than we do today. There are more matriarchal models that are based on an ethic of care, cooperation, and the restoration of nature. Rather than focus simply on what economic interests want, we can instead begin to focus on what future children need. First things should come first. That change will help us empower future generations, and begin to build real and decentralized democracies comprised of capable and thoughtful people engaged in true self-rule, new communities that are free from the handful of overly-influential people in Washington, D.C. and their centralization of power and control.
The public figures in Washington D.C., or Hollywood, or in boardrooms or on sports teams across the country, are like the shadows on the wall in the Allegory of the Cave. Learning to ignore and disempower them, to take back their resources and influence in order to empower future generations as the self-rulers of the future, and be mindful of the true world around us and our potential role in it, is our way out of that cave. The Brett Kavanaugh debacle goes well beyond Roe. It is a reminder of how dangerously limited our species is, and how we need to refocus our attention on changing the way we plan families if we want a better future.