jueves, 2 de octubre de 2008

Morning-after pill: The case for Concertación Progresista

"Revenge is a dish best served cold"
Oscar Wilde

This blog endorses the centre-left Concertación, currently in government. In the coming local elections it's time to punish the right-wing Alianza for standing against the emergency contraceptive in particular, and their ultra-conservative stance in general


In this blog I have repeteadly argued that a woman should always have the freedom to decide whether to go ahead or not with an unplanned pregnancy. Earlier this year, Chile's Constitutional Tribunal--that impossibly unaccountable and biased all-powerful trace of the Pinochet dictatorship--ruled that a woman should not seek an emergency contraceptive in the state-run health centres, or else she's breaking the law. In other words, the Tribunal has decided that if a raped woman wants to ensure she is not going to get pregnant, well, she shouldn't.

The idiocy of the pro-life lobby is hard to fathom, and together with their natural allies in the right-wing Alianza (strongly religious and socially conservative) they should be feared. The Tribunal's ruling saw the light of day thanks to the invaluable help from a group of Alianza MPs who challenged the legality of a government resolution that ordered to purchase the morning-after pill to make it available in the public health system, on demand, by 14-year old girls or older. As expected, the Tribunal turned out to be a piece of legal folly that sparked massive protests staged in all Chile's main cities. After the controversy, nobody dared to ask why this contraceptive is ilegal when provided by the state, but why it remains legal if bought at the Chemist's. The reality is that that nobody dared to enforce the ruling in private pharmacies, where even some owners objected to sell it.

Now, with local elections underway and polling day looming (26th october), it's time for the electorate to punish the Alianza and vote for the candidates running in the lists presented by the centre-left Concertación. It's time now to express the anger in the ballot box, casting votes. Crucially, the public health centres are managed directly by mayors, and as expected, Concertación local governments will be less hostile to the distribution of the emergency contraceptive, illegal as it may be.

Why taking this pill is legitimate
The whole point of the verdict by the Tribunal can be summed up as follows: the morning-after pill may induce an abortion, and abortion is illegal in Chile, so it should never be used. It's important to highlight that Chile is one of the very few countries where abortion is prohibited under any circumstances, and it's even penalised, although no woman has been recently convicted under charges of abortion probably because no judge dares to enforce such tyrannical law.

Did you register to vote? The time is now then


Whether it's abortive-inducive or not, it's not quite the point in question. If it inhibits implantation of the embryo (in other words: if it causes an abortion), we need to keep in mind that abortion spontaneosuly occur even in planned pregnancies. The pro-life lobby seems indifferent to this fact of nature which poses the following uncomfortable question: if preventing the development of an embryo equals homicide, then why a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) is not a crime but an induced abortion is a punishable offence? Pro-lifers can't satisfactorily answer to this challenge. They fail to explain the reason why their God or whatever they call the Grand Architect etc has created women as natural-born embryo-killers.

If an embryo is likely to be aborted anyway, the fierce opposition to abortion shows the fundamental stupidity of the pro-life campaigners.

Feel the pain?
But there's more. I argue that inflicting pain to a living creature is what we really find repulsive. If your dog is irreversibly ill, you wouldn't stab him or drown him, but you find the way to put him down in a dignified, painless manner. In contrast, we don't think it's particulary abhorrent to kill an insect. This is because we don't want to deliberatley make another creature feel pain, and some beings can feel pain while others can't.

The case against an abortion of a developed foetus is because it's unnaceptable to make this human creature suffer, and for the foetus to experience pain it needs a nervous system and of course a brain--remember it's in the brain where pain is actually felt. The embryo is not only likely to be spontaneously aborted, but it's incapable of experiencing pain of any kind because it doesn't have a brain, and for that same reason, doesn't have a conscience. To put it bluntly, it's a bunch of cells that doesn't count as an individual, unless the mother thinks otherwise for personal convictions (religiuous beliefs, etc), in which case she's of course entitled to carry on with ther unplanned pregnancy.

In civilised societies a time limit has been determined where we can draw a line to establish the legal limit for an abortion. I suggest that this is set at 24 weeks into the pregnancy, when it is plausible to have a developed brain and where it is feasible for the embryo to survive. Sadly, in Chile there's no debate on this matter but it's about time to have our laws in line with the rest of the world (with Roe vs Wade, for instance), that's why a good start is the promotion of emergency contraceptives. Incidentally, they would help to prevent abortion in advanced foetuses, but the religious/right-wing/conservative lobby is not up for talks. If the conservatives claim that the super-powerful creature they worship is on their side, and apparently he's an unbreakable pro-lifer, there's not much to discuss with them (and no point in asking them explain the spontaneous-abortion bit, apparently their god is not as powerful as they believed, or he's sloppy when designing people). So at this local election is time to keep the conservatives out of government.

The same ones who ferociously oppose the morning-after pill also object to condoms, although the latter can't provoke an abortion. Their stance is indefensible mainly because it lacks consistency, and I suspect that their pro-life campaign is a nothing but a facade to stifle sexuality. It's this same section of the public opinion the ones who promote virginity and place images of "virgin mary" in various strategic locations (by the way, Mary--if she existed-- got pregnant at the age of 12, which under Chilean law renders the Holly Ghost a statutuory rapist).

Should a libertarian/liberal really vote for the left?
After voting for the left we can expect higher taxes, more bureaucracy, and a giant state. Nothing really palatable for free-marketeers like us. We want individuals empowered to decide for themselves and for that we need low taxes, a lean state and limited government. But a modern economy demands a modern society. As it stands, the left offers the best hope to liberalise social attitudes and to obliterate the absurd laws concerning reproductive rights, essential to fight poverty. There will be a chance in the future to fix the economy and clean up the mess.

Let's not forget that it's in the slums of Santiago and other major cities where poor and uneducated girls become teenage mothers. With no life skills and no chance of getting well-paid jobs, and confronted with unwanted pregnancies, they breed poverty and crime. It's in the state-run health centres where proper and robust sex education is needed, together with comprehensive plans for fertility control based on individual choice, not government coercion.

There's a golden rule in politics which says that voters should prefer the opposition if it offers a better chance of sound governance than the coallition in office. The right wing politicians have consistently proved they can turn Chile into a big Opus Dei branch.

For now, it's time to keep the progressive left in government, at least at municipality level.



Your comments are welcome.

11 comentarios:

Flo dijo...

Man, you really came down hard on those who believe in God, are against abortion and other similar ideas...Many could feel offended. But I guess you don't give a flying whatever about that, huh?
Happily I'm not one of those who feel hurt or annoyed or anything.
In regards to your post, as you know I couldn't agree more. As far as laws are concerned, at least.
The problem is, that it is almost a fact that the Alianza will win the Presidential elections, and that they will put a stop to all such ideas. Imagine: if they were able to stop this little pill from being sold, using a technicality such as the Tribunal Constitucional, once they are in office they will be much more powerful.
Let's not forget, as well, that not only right-winged people in this country are against the pill and abortion. The Democracia Cristiana will always be against it, and being a center party, they will always be a crucial participant in public decision-making.
It doesn't take a left-wing government to change this. It takes much more than that, and this country is clearly far from changing at all.

SergioA dijo...

flo: muy razonable tu postura, no obcecada

chile liberal: ¿liberales votando por la izquierda para tener una sociedad moderna para llegar a una economía moderna?
¿una sociedad progresista conducirá una economía moderna?
o
¿una economía moderna conducirá a una sociedad moderna?

Su Excelencia dijo...

Hay 3 ejes importantes en el actual escenario político chileno:
1. Social (religión, PDD, etc.), donde el PRSD, PPD, PS y JP tienen una posición progresista, UDI y parte de RN una posición clerical y retrógrada, con la DC y parte de RN en el medio.
2. Económico, donde el JP y el ala chavista del PS tienen una postura estatista, y todos los demás una postura "neoliberal" con matices: más hacia el "crony capitalism" en la derecha, más socialdemócrata en la Concertación, y con unos pocos libremercadistas en ambas coaliciones.
3. Político-institucional, donde el PC, la UDI y una mayoría de RN (pero no Piñera) prefieren un régimen lo más autoritario y represivo posible, y el resto una democracia liberal.

Para un liberal no hay donde perderse: el supuesto trade-off entre libertades político-sociales y libertad económica no existe. La mayor parte de la derecha chilena actual (incluyendo a una mayoría de su electorado) quiere un crony capitalism clientelista en un marco autoritario. La socialdemocracia, con todos sus defectos, es preferible, lejos.

Anónimo dijo...

Hi! It's Emilia again. I have written a couple of pieces on abortion for a local magazine, so I'll print one of them here. It may not be relevant to Chile (or any other country outside Canada, for that matter), but I'll show you it anyway.

Another look at abortion

Monday’s Globe & Mail carried a story about abortion. Apparently women in the Ottawa area who wish to terminate their pregnancies are waiting longer than usual – sometimes weeks – to do so due to staffing shortages at hospitals that perform the procedure. As was to be expected, pro-choicers and pro-lifers reacted differently to the news: the former with frustration at what they saw as women’s difficulty in exercising their reproductive rights and the latter with hope that the delays might cause some women to rethink their decision. One point on which members of both camps concurred, however: Canadians aren’t thinking much about abortion these days.

Indeed, abortion appears to have passed from the limelight. It is no longer the burning issue it was in the 1980s, for example, a decade that saw everything from the acquittal of Dr. Henry Morgentaler to the introduction of abortion on demand to attempts by men to stop their girlfriends from undergoing the operation. Politicians on both the left and right have largely steered clear of the subject. Media coverage has likewise dwindled, whereas in the 1980s it seemed not a day went by without a piece on abortion in one of the major Canadian dailies.

Nonetheless, through it all some trends have emerged. First, most Canadians support a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, at least in the first few months. This stance may be due in part to a general liberalization of societal mores, as witnessed in the greater acceptance of phenomena like homosexuality, premarital sex, and out-of-wedlock childbearing. It might also stem from Canadians’ reluctance to let the state into areas they feel it has no business being, such as the family. Of course such hesitancy can work against “progressive” as well as conservative goals. For instance, despite efforts by some child advocacy groups to ban corporal punishment, polls consistently show a majority of Canadians - including myself - oppose making the practice illegal on the grounds that the choice to spank their children or not should fall to the parents themselves.

It does not follow however that most people share the entire pro-choice agenda. According to a number of surveys, over 50% of respondents are against the use of public funds for abortions. There thus exists a large contingency of individuals – and again I count myself among them – who believe that while the procedure should be legal, the government has no obligation to pay for it (other than perhaps in the minority of cases where the pregnancy is caused by rape, threatens the mother’s life, or would result in the birth of a deformed child).

Speaking as a so-called average Canadian, I suspect that many people are tired of the extremist rhetoric from both the pro-life and pro-choice movements. In the former camp, inflammatory terms like “murder” and “baby killing” tend to alienate those who consider abortion the taking of a life of some sort but who don’t equate it to the strangling of a five-month-old infant. On the other side of the fence, I can’t help but get irritated by some pro-choice advocates who take umbrage at the suggestion that an abortion for a fourteen-year-old rape victim is less morally ambiguous that that for a thirty-year-old married woman who thinks children would impinge on her lifestyle (both real-life incidents).

The majority of Canadians obviously don’t view abortion as just another medical procedure. But they appear to have come to the conclusion that criminalizing it would create more problems than it would solve. On the other hand, many of the pro-choice camp’s demands and its seeming unwillingness to address the moral dimension of the issue will probably leave the general population’s support for the movement lukewarm.

Anónimo dijo...

And here's the other essay I wrote on the topic:

Emilia

Henry Morgentaler: Devil or Angel?

In an essay I wrote a few months ago I said that abortion was no longer a “hot topic” in Canada. I’ve recently been forced to retract this statement, however. The reason: Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a family physician, abortion provider, and leading pro-choice advocate in this country, has received the Order of Canada for his contributions to Canadian society.

The decision – by Governor General Michaelle Jean – to bestow this honour upon Dr. Morgentaler created a firestorm of controversy unseen since the 1980s. That was the decade in which articles on abortion appeared in major Canadian newspapers on literally a weekly if not daily basis. At the time, under Canadian law women who wished to end their pregnancies had to obtain permission from a hospital-based committee consisting of three doctors who determined whether the woman in question possessed adequate grounds to do so. These grounds included medical as well as social reasons. Dr. Morgentaler on the other hand ran freestanding clinics where a woman could undergo the procedure for no other reason than she wanted it. For setting up these clinics he was imprisoned, put on trial, and acquitted on at least three occasions. Finally things came to a head in 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada, in a case entitled R. vs. Morgentaler, effectively legalized so-called abortion on demand by removing any reference to the procedure from the Criminal Code. Morgentaler, and any other abortionists for that matter, were free to set up shop without restriction.

As expected, different groups have reacted differently to Morgentaler’s reception of the award. Feminist Judy Rebick, for example, described it as a “victory for Canadian women” in the generally conservative National Post. For Rebick and other pro-choice activists, Morgentaler’s work has made it possible for women to control their own bodies without fear of having to resort to a dangerous illegal abortion. At the other end of the spectrum, pro-life individuals and organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, were up in arms at Dr. Morgentaler’s nomination to the Order of Canada. They hold him responsible for the death of thousands of unborn babies. The minister at a church near my home invited his parishioners to sign an on-line petition opposing the nomination. Some past recipients of the Order, including Lucien Larre, a British Columbia priest who founded a home for drug-addicted youths, have returned their award in protest. Even people not necessarily affiliated with the anti-abortion movement have expressed reservations about the decision to grant Henry Morgentaler the Order of Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who despite the presence of pro-lifers in his party has denied any intention to change Canada’s current abortion law, claims he would have preferred to see the award go to someone who united rather than divided the nation. Some White Supremacists have denounced Morgentaler as the Jew who kills White babies (I must admit to being a bit perplexed not only by the White Supremacists’ view that Jews are not White but by their portrayal of abortion as an anti-White genocidal plot, as White women actually terminate their pregnancies at a lower per capita rate than minority women do).

I myself lack strong feelings either way on Morgentaler’s reception of the Order. First, awards like the Order of Canada don’t really mean much to me. In addition, I’m fairly apolitical about abortion in general. A candidate’s position on the matter, for instance, won’t make or break my vote. I suppose I’m part of the so-called “mushy middle,” i.e. support legal abortion in the first few months of pregnancy, later for medical reasons, all the while conceding that the procedure is not the moral equivalent of having a tooth pulled. I’d even concur with the pro-lifers that abortions done for social reasons shouldn’t be paid for with public money. In these respects I think I’m like the majority of Canadians, who veer from either extreme on the issue.

Ironically, perhaps both the pro-life and pro-choice sides are guilty of according Henry Morgentaler more importance than he is actually due. To paraphrase Voltaire, if Morgentaler did not exist, we would have had to invent him. Abortion on demand, de facto or de jure, would in all likelihood have become a reality in Canada with or without him, just as it did in most other industrialized nations at a time when legislation on issues like abortion, divorce and homosexuality were being liberalized. Even before the 1988 Supreme Court decision, the much-maligned abortion committees probably didn’t stop too many women from ending their pregnancies. Many of them simply obtained permission to do so by claiming bearing a child would threaten their “health,” as in psychological health. Though anti-abortionists lay the death of thousands of what they consider unborn children at Morgentaler’s feet, in his absence someone else would have almost certainly stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and offered the same service. Just as animals will continue to be butchered as long as people eat meat, abortion will always occur if there is a demand for it.

The key to reducing the demand for abortion and resolving the debate lies in providing accessible and effective birth control so that women can avoid pregnancies they do not want. Unfortunately many members of the pro-life movement oppose not only abortion but contraception as well. Indeed one abortion provider in the Netherlands, a country with a low abortion rate despite very liberal laws, told an interviewer that by providing birth control information to his patients he has probably “prevented more abortions than the Pope.” My own hope is to see abortion one day become, in the words of former US President Bill Clinton, safe, legal and rare.

Chile Liberal dijo...

@Flo: my words are just that, words. Backstreet abortions are the real offence. And they are happening as we speak. Women who suffer infections or complications after unsafe abortions can't go to hospital for fear of ending up in jail.

As the 19th-century philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill said:

"Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but generally stupid people are Conservatives."

They enjoy absolute power. Harsh words agaisnt them from time to time are a necessity. But I want to engage in a dialogue and a debate. But let's be clear, it's them who hold a position of power, and they exercise it upon us.

You point out the position of the Christian Democrat party, a centrist party in the left wing coalition. But they are running under the Democratic Concertación list, different to the Progressive Concertación. I endorse the latter.

Regarding the presidential election, I think it's a great time to destroy the current right-wing Alianza, and hopefully see a primary election held in the run up to the presidential race, where Piñera can purge all that is rotten in the right.

I respectfully disagree with you though. Piñera has a strong chance to win. But so did Hilary Clinton, and senator Obama. Look at them now.

Piñera himself is OK. But he can't lead the country supported by the ultra-Conservatives, cause he will have to appoint them in the cabinet, and the moderate Conservatives in RN are not sufficiently represented because most of the right-wing electorate is ultra-conservative.

@SergioA: No. Ecomomía y sociedad van de la mano. En Chile la sociedad avanzó muchísimo durante el gobierno de Frei Montalva, en los años 60. Las primeras políticas de control de la natalidad se aplicaron en aquella época. El resultado comenzó a verse a principios de los 80, donde varias sensatas políticas de libre mercado se aplicaron (desgraciadamente, bajo una dictadura), pero el resultado ahí fue notorio: crecimiento sostenido desde finales de los 80 por más de una década.

Fueron las políticas sociales de Frei Montalva las que incidieron mucho más en el desarrollo económico que las políticas de los Chicago Boys.

Hoy, la economía va mucho más adelante que la sociedad. Es por eso que el país no crece con el vigor de antes. La forma de remediarlo es liberalizando la sociedad, tal como se liberalizó la economía. La Concertación es la única coalición que promete avanzar en esta materia.

Para contestar tu pregunta, en el Chile de hoy, la economía es moderna pero la sociedad es retrógrada.

Así como rechazo la injerencia del Estado a la hora de hacer negocios, contratar trabajadores o abrir empresas, rechazo la injerencia del Estado para que una mujer decida si termina su embarazo o no, o si dos personas del mismo sexo deciden casarse, etc. De nuevo, individuos libres para una sociedad libre que creen una economía libre.

@Su Excelencia: buen resumen. Como se sabe, Chile es en el punto 1 donde muestra un enorme déficit.

De acuerdo con tu post y lo suscribo.

@Emilia: some parts of your essay show the disparity between Canada and Chile

(...) most Canadians support a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, at least in the first few months

In Chile, I think there's an increasing number of people who acknowledge the need for abortion in cases of rape etc. But this is still frowned upon because Chile is socially ultra-conservative.

(...) a general liberalization of societal mores, as witnessed in the greater acceptance of phenomena like homosexuality, premarital sex, and out-of-wedlock childbearing

Homosexuality is not the taboo it used to be. For once, celebrity culture had helped. Chileans now see openly gay people in the TV sets in their living rooms, but when it comes to accepting homosexuals in the family, society or the workplace Chile still can be classed as homophobic. Same-sex marriage is years away.

Prematiral sex: well, the Bible was rihgt to condem pre-marital sex. Back in those years, people married at a very early age. Today most of us leave school by 18, finish college in the mid 20s and get married well into the 20s or early 30s. I think biologically we need to engage in sexual intercourse by a certain age as part of a normal psychological development, and that certain age is usally way before the age we get married. Pre-marital sex is not the hot topic it used to be, but there's still the odd idiocy such like that Chilean priest who denounced women for wearing a white wedding dress but not being virgin.

out-of-wedlock childbearing: not surprisingly, we only fixed our laws in the early 90s. Before that time, literally, most Chileans were bastards. Guess who were the most vociferous enemies of the new law: the right-wingers.

Canadians’ reluctance to let the state into areas they feel it has no business being, such as the family.

By far, the most striking difference between both countries. Chileans want the state to rule everything, even their lives if necessary. For Chileans, a benevolent dictator is desireable. Uniformity and obedience are held as high values. I suppose Catholic societies are like this, as opposes to Protestant ones.

In most of your writing I agree with you, for instance I think an abortion is not just another medical procedure. We should ask ourselves why women are getting unplanned pregnancies, find the root cause and then act on it. I find this is impossible with the Conservatives.

They oppose comprehensive sex education, because they oppose condoms so don't mention it and they oppose premarital sex. They fear that talking about sex will 'open children's eyes' The sad reality is that the vast majority of Chileans have not had a proper sex education, but paradoxically we live in a sexually-charged society. The new generation though is radical and has grabbed the headlines in some international magazines, this article in Newsweek and this one in the New York Times.

the Roman Catholic Church, were up in arms at Dr. Morgentaler’s nomination to the Order of Canada. They hold him responsible for the death of thousands of unborn babies.

I would advise against awarding someone like that doctor because it does upset some sections of the public, and I agree that a national award like a government order was not the best idea, and I can't understand the Roman Catholic organization. They have threatened catholic Members of Parliament in Mexico and Uruguay when they passed an abortion law, and they have equated abortion in Spain with the Holocaust.

the Netherlands, a country with a low abortion rate despite very liberal laws, told an interviewer that by providing birth control information to his patients he has probably “prevented more abortions than the Pope.”

Brilliant!!

And about abortion...
in the words of former US President Bill Clinton, safe, legal and rare.

I couldn't agree more.


One good point you mention is the funding. I am willing to have abortion clinics not paid by the state but financed by private individuals and benefactors. I would happily support such organizations.


Chileans like to see themselves as a country fastly approaching the industrialised nations standards, and think of New Zealand, Finland Ireland or even Spain like their paradigm. Reality says that in this regard Chile is closer to the Philippinnes, Guatemala and Nicaragua, countries where abortion is criminalised.

The Conservatives even claim that Chile is in this regard an example of high moral values. They are completely blinded to reality.

I agree that abortions should be rare. The morning-after pill was meant to help decrease backstreet abortions. But they even oppose that pill. They managed to change the laws in the 80s so that a woman would not terminate a pregnancy on health grounds, to prevent a loophole that could facilitate an abortion in case of a psychological crisis. In other words, they claim that medicine has advanced so much that a pregnancy nevers poses a risk to a woman's health, and that the unborn is equally entitled to live like the mother and it is ilegal to cause the death of the unborn to save the mother.

I am sick of them.

Anónimo dijo...

Hello, it's Emilia again. Thank you for commenting on my articles.

Just one thing: I'm not sure in Canada at least you can always say Protestant=progressive and Catholic=conservative. For instance, our one Catholic majority province, Quebec, is perhaps the most liberal in the country when it comes to gay rights, out-of-wedlock childbearing, etcetera. Also, some of the most vociferous opponents of same-sex marriage were the fundamentalist Protestant Churches (not the more mainstream Protestants like the Anglicans or Presbyterians). So there are some progressive Catholics and less progressive Protestants.

Teen pregnancy is falling in Canada, which is good. We've got a teen pregnancy rate below that of the US but higher than that in most of Western Europe. It's about at the same level of other Anglo-Saxon countries like Britain and Australia. Still, I hope better sex education will drive the teen pregnancy rate down even furtherer. I don't disapprove of teen pregnancy, or teen sex, on moral grounds: I just think most teenagers (that is, under 18) are not emotionally ready for sex or especially for parenthood.

On the other hand, I guess I'm looking at this from a global perspective, but I don't find Chile or Latin America as a whole that conservative. Maybe in terms of abortion, yes, but on the other hand there's no stoning of women who commit adultery, infanticide of baby girls en masse, cutting off women's clitorises so they can't enjoy sex (apologies if I'm too explicit here!). And most Latin American immigrants to Canada adapt well culturally. I sometimes wonder about whether immigrants from what I consider more conservative places, like the Middle East, for example, can truly adapt to Canada if they don't leave their old country customs at the doorstep. I'm not advocating an end to immigration: I just think people who immigrate to Canada have to accept the Canadian way of life.

Chile Liberal dijo...

@Emilia: I meant secular protestant societies are more progressive than catholic progressive societies, or at least have been more liberals earlier than Catholic ones. Certainly, Spain is pretty much a liberal country, like Quebec I believe, but it's been recent. I was thinking of countries like the Netherlands or Switzerland, with a strong history of civil liberties etc. Practising catholics & protestant (evangelicals, tell me about it) are equally orthodox and not willing to engage in any constructive debate (God is on their side, what could possibly be against them?).

I totally agree with you on: most teenagers (that is, under 18) are not emotionally ready for sex or especially for parenthood. Amazing how morality has evolved... some decades ago, or centuries ago, prople would marry at an earlier age, and in arranged marriages. Conservatives of course keep complaining that we live a 'moral crisis'. That's what I meant by conservatism, more in comparison with leading and Enlightened countries like the Netherlands and the like. Well I'm glad that compared against Saudi Arabia, Chile is a beacon of freedom and civil liberties!

Let me go off the tangent a bit, but if you have time tell me, what would be a distinctive value of the Canadian way of life? Or how do you define the canadian way of life?

Anónimo dijo...

Hello, it's me again (Emilia). I see what you mean about progressive Catholic societies (like Spain or Quebec) getting to that point later than similar Protestant societies. Even Quebec was pretty much under the stranglehold of the Catholic Church until the 1960s (a French-Canadian friend of mine who is a practising Catholic will admit to this). So I understand maybe places like Spain or Ireland became the way they are much later than, as you say, the Netherlands or Switzerland.

About the "Canadian way of life," it's really hard to define, and of course Canadians don't always meet the ideals on which we (and this doesn't mean all Canadians) like to pride ourselves. Well, one aspect of Canadian life we like to boast about is tolerance, that we accept everyone as they are regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Now please keep in mind I'm by no means saying we always live up to this goal. For example, as I mentioned, the same-sex marriage ruling was not passed without a fight. Also, sometimes "tolerance" can have its negative points. For instance, a few years ago in the province of Ontario (where I live), there was a huge debate as to whether Muslims should be allowed to practise sharia law, a legal system that puts women at a disadvantage (note: this would not mean women could be stoned to death in Canada, but they might have to follow certain procedures if they wanted a divorce, for instance). Luckily it was not allowed (and some of the most vociferous opponents of instituting sharia law were practising Muslims). But Canada and other countries like the Netherlands have to face the question of whether we should "tolerate" cultures that aren't so tolerant in the first place.

I suppose part of this tolerance is being liberal. For example, at least the younger generation of Canadians tends to take a progressive view of issues like premarital sex, homosexuality (though, again, this depends on the person: for example, even a young person who belongs to a fundamentalist Protestant group might not be so liberal on same-sex marriage), and even abortion insofar it should be a woman's choice.

Another aspect of Canadians is their so-called "quiet patriotism" as opposed to the Americans' "land of the brave" bravado. This difference may stem from the fact that Canadians never had to fight to have their own country. We didn't have a Revolution; we broke away from Britain very peacefully and have remained a member of the Commonwealth. While in some ways Canadians' humility may be a virtue, sometimes Canadians could do more with a sense of self-esteem. I almost envy countries that have a George Washington or Simon Bolivar. Instead our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, who wasn't even born in Canada; he was Scottish, was a raging alcoholic. Well, we have a highway named after him, so maybe he's somewhat memorable...

With regard to religion, we're in a kind of funny situation. Canadians on the average are less religious than Americans. Most of us believe in God and are at least nominally Christian, but church attendance isn't as great as it is in the US. On the other hand, unlike the United States, there is not such a clear separation of church and state. For example, as I was mentioning in an earlier essay, many provinces have state-funded religious schools. However, I've never heard of a judge insisting on having the Ten Commandments in the courtroom, etc. On the other hand, we have an area called Canada's Bible Belt (the Prairie provinces), but as far as I know there is no push to have evolution in the public school system. The most I've heard out of there was some fundamentalist Christian man setting up a creationist museum to counter the nearby dinosaur museum (a number of dinosaur remains have been found in Alberta; my uncle lives in that province, and if I ever go visit him I'll take my daughter to the dinosaur museum, not the creationist one).

It's kind of hard to define Canada. And again, not all Canadians live up to the ideals the country is said to cherish. But this is at least my perception of it.

Just a question: what did you mean when you said "all Chileans were bastards" in the context of out of wedlock childbearing?

Chile Liberal dijo...

@Emilia: "All Chileans were bastards· I meant that up to 1998, and only thanks to a reform proposed by the centre-left coallition (ferociuos opposition again from the right-wingers), in Chile there were so-called 'illegitimate children', i.e. children born out of wedlock who were not recognised by the father, and so they had to be named with the surname of the mother twice, making it a huge social marker and source of discrmination and humilliation.

These children didn't have inheritance rights, were not recognised as people, they didn't even have relatives. In other words, they were bastards. Imagine that if you see the link I added (in Spanish unfortunately), the reform benefited 44% of children born in 1997. So this was not a minor issue, and note that Chile was the only country in The Americas with this unacceptable legislation.

According to the definition in Cambridge dictionary:

bastard (CHILD)
noun [C] OLD USE

a person born to parents who are not married to each other; an illegitimate child:
He was born in 1798, the bastard son of a country squire and his mistress.


About Canada, yeah that's pretty much what I thought, although I fear that the immigration process may turn wrong. It's getting easy to emigrate to Canada, and with a robust welfare state you may attract the wrong people.

Anónimo dijo...

Well, I think there is a move in Canada by Conservative governments (including the current one, which appears to be headed for another electoral victory in a few days) to crack down on welfare abuse. Don't get me wrong: I think some people need social assistance, but there are people who take advantage of it.

Emilia