Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Ezzo and the Immoral Baby

Post-Modern Clog talks about Tulipgirl talking about a rather intriguing nutcase child care expert named Gary Ezzo.

From what I can gather, Ezzo’s guide to raising kids is this: don’t feed them whenever they want, spank them liberally, and leave them alone a lot. Anything less will turn them in “selfish” heathens.

I can write pages (and have!) on the use and abuse of the term “selfish”, but Ezzo raises a more fundamental point. In his worldview, nature is unrelated, and may even be antagonistic, to that which is “good”.

A baby is the closest that a human will ever come to being an animal. A baby knows no right or wrong beyond that of its own biological survival. For a baby, that which feels good is good, and that which feels bad is bad. For a baby, there is no search for knowledge or truth—it lacks the capacity for forming that goal, let along obtaining it. For a baby, there is no search for self-esteem—it knows nothing but self.

Of course, a baby can’t survive like this forever. Eventually, he will be exposed to phenomena that feel good, but are detrimental to his well being. Eventually, his wants and cries alone will not be able to provide those wants. Eventually, he will have to interact with others by providing his own wants without interfering with the wants of others. Such is mortality and maturity. Many of us are still working at it. But for a baby, without mind or ability, wants = good. A baby's morality runs on autopilot.

Whether by evolution or intelligence design, we expect, and hope, that such programming is the best way for a child to survive. But this is not the case in Ezzo’s world. One can draw one of two conclusions from Ezzo’s childcare: (1) Babies are “broken” and must be “fixed” by the proper training, or (2) morality has nothing to do with comfortable preservation.

If (1), then children are innately bad, the people they turn into are bad (at least, up until GKGW was published), society is bad, and nature is bad—since that is the root of a child’s desires. Such a message is the broadest view a Christian could take towards original sin—that everything and everyone is evil. That view produces the most misanthropic of Christians and the most virulent criticisms of Christianity. It’s a conclusion that is a stretch far beyond what Genesis 3 says: That man is estranged from God because he tries to be God.

If (2), then quite literally, morality has absolutely no earthly purpose whatsoever. You’re reward for being moral is that you’ll die sooner and go to heaven. Meanwhile, sinful “opportunists” who strive to improve their situation on earth will be rewarded with damnation. This is the other hated school of Christianity: self-loathing flagellants who preach that suffering = good. This view is easily contradict by proper biblical translation and cross-interpretation. “Suffer” in the bible can easily translate in “endure” or “wait”, i.e. keeping focus during bad times. But when “suffering” is used as we use it today, it is always and exclusively used to denote suffering at the hands of unbelievers—persecution and martyrdom. Also, such an enthusiastic view of suffering easily contradicts Jesus’ necessity for love and peace, which each Christian should enjoy liberally. I hate using this metaphor, but in a moral state, a Christian’s worldly station would resemble that of Ned Flanders, highly blessed and loved, but constantly goaded by the Homer Simpsons of the world.

Any way you look at it, Ezzo sees only a malevolent universe, and babies as part of that malevolent universe. In a very real and ontological sense, Ezzo hates newborns. Jesus teaches us to “suffer the little children”. Ezzo, seems determine to invert the word order.


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