Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cuntjustification, Pt. 2

I actually have a post on baseball free agency almost completely written out, mainly because I (stupidly) didn't think the MT stuff would be very compelling to anyone but me. I was pleasantly mistaken. So, that'll come another day. Tease: Juan Pierre's contract is outrageous! Bet you can't wait.

Where to begin? A request has been made for some further substantiation of the claims made against MT, and it's proven to be a relatively difficult task when one is restricted to the interweb (my interest in the issue isn't great enough to buy anything about it). But I have found some things of interest (sorry, D, no "stats," though I fail to see what stats one could actually get on the subject, since MT refused to publicize anything except the mythology surrounding her order), that are worth mentioning. One of them is a Slate article by Chris Hitchens, who wrote a book called The Missionary Position that was all about our favorite Calcuttian.

(Aside on Hitchens: What does his drinking have to do with anything? Not only is he honest about his drinking — probably even proud of it — I challenge anyone to read something he's written and show me an example of how the scotch has diluted his ability to think or write one bit. To dismiss Hitchens' points because of his drinking is to engage in behaviour fit only for Republican presidential candidates)

There's also the book written by the timid-looking man who was interviewed in the Penn & Teller clip: The Final Verdict by Aroup Chaterjee, a Calcutta native who did extensive research on MT before her death. He's published the first three chapters online, and they make for some interesting reading. In the interest of offering a preview, here's a part that caught my eye:

On 30 August 1996, at around 5 p.m., I found a small commotion in front of Shishu Bhavan's entrance - a 'very poor' woman, Noor Jehan (name slightly changed at her own request), was wailing at the top of her voice. She had with her, her two children, both girls, the younger one about 10 months and the older about 2 years old. The 10 month old was obviously suffering with diarrhoea and was ill; the 2 year old was miserable and fed up and was lying on the pavement, screaming.

I asked Noor Jehan what the matter was. She told me that she had been thrown out of her home (she lived in a slum near the Calcutta docks) by her violent husband the night before and she had arrived at Shishu Bhavan at 10 p.m. hoping to get some help for her children. She had been let in by the night porter and had been allowed to sleep in the courtyard - they had even given her a sheet for her children. Promptly at 5 a.m. however, she had been thrown out on to the pavement with a cup of tea. From then on, she had been alternately pleading and demanding to be let in, so that the children could have something to eat and somewhere to sleep.

Noor Jehan's entreaties for help were not entertained by the nuns - the door remained firmly shut in her face. The baby's hungry wails were ignored. The local shopkeepers took pity on the woman and gave her some tea and bread; somebody brought some milk for the children. By the time that I arrived at 5 p.m., a small crowd of about a dozen people had gathered and had turned quite hostile towards the nuns.After a lot of loud banging, a nun appeared at the door. I asked her why they would not give the woman and her children some food, and shelter for that night only. The nun explained that they could do that, but only after the mother had handed over the absolute rights of her children to the Missionaries of Charity. In other words, the 'form of renunciation' had to be signed, or in this case, had to be imprinted with the impression of Noor Jehan's left thumb. The children would then, in due course, be adopted by a good Catholic family in the West - the last bit is my own presumption; the nun did not actually say it.

A couple of other things I stumbled across: An article in The New Statesman and an article by a former member of her order.

In reference to D's criticism of my criticism: Of course MT's done more "good" for the poor than I have. But I submit that MT has also done more harm to the poor than I have, both with her Skinner-esque approach to "helping" the poor and the use of her political capital to wage war against abortion and divorce. Furthermore, I submit MT had the ability to do much more good than she actually did, as evidenced by the money she raised under the auspices of helping the poor and eventually used to build convents instead. While I realize that charitable giving isn't a zero-sum equation, it's plausible to suggest that lots of people who wished to give to the poor would have diverted their funds to more honest sources had the truth — or at least some of the accusations — regarding MT's ministry been told in her lifetime. So, I'm willing to count against MT the good that wasn't done by her as, at least, lost "opportunity cost." Thus, she's a cunt.

Mark: I understand your point completely, but I'm not sure I see much moral distinction between the ends of your three options (welfare, religious organizations or abandonment). Both welfare and religious organizations have perpetuated the problem of poverty, in my opinion, by either attempting to buy off those who suffer from it, or tell them that to be decrepit is noble. At least in the case of abandonment, we don't take an active role, which isn't any more "wrong" than actively abetting poverty itself.

I realize the validity of the, "Well, at least the church is willing to do something," argument, but that doesn't make it any less troublesome. Society ends up paying a pretty extreme price in return for religion taking care of the abject, usually in the form of having to tolerate the organizations themselves. MT is a perfect example of this: If any other Nobel Prize winner got up on stage and said something as utterly insane as abortion being the "greatest destroyer of peace," he or she would become an instant punchline. But no one wanted to take MT to task for saying it, because she had become the world's guilt eater, and both the Peace Prize and the pass she got for her indefensible views were her wages (not to mention an attempt at accelerated sainthood by the previous Pope, before he cashed out, too). So, I end up asking this: Is it worth it, all of this baggage, to avoid guilt over not being poor but knowing poverty exists for others? That's ultimately a personal question, and my answer is no. But I understand if someone feels otherwise, provided they do so realizing the bargain they're making.

And, ultimately, I don't have a problem with others thinking that MT was more good than bad, or just good period. I have offered my cuntjustification; do with it what you will.

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