December 26, 2003

OUR FESTERING FRIENDS IN THE NORTH:

Vancouver facing worst outbreak of syphilis in the developed world (AFP, Dec 24, 2003)

Vancouver is facing the worst outbreak of syphilis per capita in the developed world, with city health officials fearful of a looming epidemic of the sexually transmitted disease once thought almost wiped out in North America.  

Some 254 new cases have been diagnosed locally this year authorities said early this week -- more than the total for North America in two decades, with more expected, said Dr. Michael Rekart of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

"There's a lot of unsafe sex going on in Vancouver and the disease has simply taken hold," Rekart said. "Our outbreak is primarily among sex trade workers now, but we're worried about it jumping to the gay community and beyond and creating a bigger epidemic," he said.

Until 1997, syphilis was almost non-existent on the North American continent, with only one or two cases reported per year in British Columbia. Then suddenly it took off, with the strain affecting most Canadians traced to developing countries in Asia and Central America, said Rekart.


AND OUR WORRIED FRIENDS ACROSS THE POND:
'Liberal' cardinal fears Britons are obsessed with sex (Auslan Cramb, 22/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he was concerned that the country was in danger of descending into a "bacchanalian state" in which everyone was obsessed with their own sexual pleasure.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, who has made a concerted effort to shake off the "liberal" tag since his elevation two months ago, is planning a campaign to "re-Christianise" Scotland.

His comments follow a recent claim by the Pope that Britain was becoming a "secular nation" in which the message of Christ was no longer listened to.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "It is not Christ's teaching that if you happen to be homosexual then you can have a partner. It is not Christ's teaching that if your marriage breaks up, you can go and live with somebody else.

"Gay unions and these sorts of things are becoming commonplace. Where is society going at all? Is there nobody going to take a stand?

"We've had Christianity here for more than one and a half thousand years and our standards have plummeted in recent years.

"I think people in general do realise there has been a dramatic fall in standards.

"What are we going to do? Are we just going to progressively decline into a bacchanalian state where everyone is just concerned with their own pleasures and to sleep with whoever they want? The future at times does look quite bleak on this."


Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2003 8:24 AM
Comments

From the first article...

"The health authority hopes to launch a public campaign early next year with funding from the provincial government to communicate the dangers to the public, targeting primarily the gay community through chat rooms and other meeting places."

A potential plague of syphillis and the response is--wait for it--public education. I guess they are going that route because it is proving so successful with AIDS and HIV.

Posted by: Peter B at December 26, 2003 9:48 AM

Genital herpes was almost unheard of in the 1950s; now, it's predicted that fully half of the next generation of 18- to 24-year-old women will have it (source: healthcentral.com). Just awful, especially when C-sections needs to be performed because the mother's got a ragging case of it.

Posted by: Brent at December 26, 2003 11:58 AM

As it happens, I did an interview earlier this week with a woman who helped found a rescue mission for runaways in Vancouver more than 30 years ago.

"We cruised the bus stations. If we didn't get them the first day, they were lost."

Curiously, though, the recruits to a life of sex and disease were not raised in godless, secular city slums. They came in by bus from the (if you know the provinces) highly Christian environment of the prairies.

Soon enough, she told me, the recruiters responded by moving farther out of town "and we had to station our people in Chilliwack."

By the way, I am unsurprised to find a Catholic prelate preaching against sexual pleasure.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 26, 2003 2:23 PM

No Christian has ever underestimated the attractiveness of sin and its natural habitat--the city.

Posted by: oj at December 26, 2003 2:33 PM

True. It was an urban religion from the start.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 26, 2003 3:12 PM

Harry:

So, is your conclusion that Christianity contributes to the sex trade or doesn't do enough to prevent it?

BTW, did you ask her what percentage of the prairie fugitives were aboriginal?

(I imagine you and I would agree people like this are saints whatever they believe.)

Posted by: Peter B at December 26, 2003 5:15 PM

Peter, no I didn't think to ask about aboriginals. My sketchy knowledge of the underside of Vancouver (derived, I admit, mostly from Harold Hedd comix) suggests that it's mostly anglo. (My daughter in law is from Vancouver but did not grow up there.)

Mixed conclusion. In this case, my feeling is that the religious instruction doesn't do enough to tamper-proof (at least a segment of) its young people from some pretty obviously bad ideas.

In general, I think religion is a crapshoot for raising kids. My sister's favorite priest (an Irishman), who used to visit our home a lot, once remarked, apropos the scandal of the moment in London, which featured a harlot from an Irish convent, that his bishop in Dublin had once remarked that Irish convent schools were, on the whole, lousy educational institutions but did produce excellent saints and whores.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 26, 2003 8:54 PM

Harry:

Without claiming authority or being pretentiously authoritative about numbers, I'm pretty sure the aboriginal factor is important to this story.

With respect to the rest, I don't disagree with you in general. I don't know whether I would use the word crapshoot but, in a sense, the stakes are high and the burden on the parents is large. Naivity and innocence are part of a religious upbringing. There are tremendous risks for young people in this, and some pretty bad stories ensue. (although I would argue it is a combination of warped religion and incompetent parents, or worse.). But I am dubious about any claim that non-religious parents are better at protecting their kids from this hell. Lots of kids of non-religious, dysfunctional families also walk Vancouver's dark side and lurch for the cults.

Posted by: Peter B at December 26, 2003 9:25 PM

"But I am dubious about any claim that non-religious parents are better at protecting their kids from this hell."

I don't think Harry made that claim. I think that parents fail their children when they either treat the world too casually and allow their children to wade into it with no sense of its dangers, or try to isolate them from its dangers in a cultural coccoon. The first approach assumes sexuality is an unqualified good, and denies the dangers. The second approach is akin to raising children in an antiseptic bubble - when they finally go into the world, they have no experiential antibodies to fight the virulent social pathogens that they will face.

Another aspect of the rural factor is that these areas are most likely impoverished, offering few economic opportunities, thus forcing young people to emigrate to the cities.

Posted by: Robert D at December 27, 2003 2:11 PM

Thanks, Robert, I couldn't have said it better myself.

My wife and I fussed over this when our children were young. She insisted that they get some exposure to religious instrudtion so they would come to understand the hypocrisy and insincerity of the teachers and be a bit skeptical of their all-embracing protestations of love later. I, being bookish, thought that reading the Bible and Brunvand would be enough.

We compromised by doing both: I read 'em the Bible, and they joined the Awana League.

It worked, too.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 27, 2003 2:44 PM

Harry/Robert

No fundamental disagreement here, except you are overemphasizing technique and underemphasizing commitment and sacrifice. Even if he is a bit of a straw man, the cold Calvinist brooding on scripture while his family wants emotionally does exist. So does the busy, modern, enlightened secularist who figures a little J.S. Mill is all his kids need. You don't have to introduce your child to all the realities of the sex trade in order to protect them from it. And you shouldn't.

If you are there for them and demand a lot of them, and they know it, the odds are it will work out. I said the odds. The rest is finesse.

Bertrand Russell's daughter was educated according to the most modern, scientific, enlightened concepts her parents could muster. In later life, she fled to religion.

Posted by: Peter B at December 27, 2003 6:03 PM

Peter:
That isn't surprising. Few people choose to go through life without religion.

That the social decay statistics you cite here are as large as they are suggest that religion isn't much help. There aren't nearly enough morally blinkered materialists around to create that kind of mayhem.

In a recent bit of (probably) good news, teen pregnancy last year continued declining.

To the lowest rate ever. As in capital-E ever.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 27, 2003 7:43 PM

Jeff:

Probably? Are you not sure?

Posted by: Peter B at December 28, 2003 10:50 AM

Peter:
Actually, I am sure.

I was just anticipating OJ insisting that the plummeting teen birth-rate was the result of rampaging secularism, and that it is nothing more than a harbinger of our ultimately following the Europeans to extinction.

Unfortunately, irony is hard to convey in this format, and if there is an irony emoticon, I sure don't know what it is.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 28, 2003 1:45 PM

Jeff:

Whew, I'm glad to hear that. Of course all secularists are morally blinkered by definition, but I must allow that natural selection appears to have randomly set some of you down less destructive courses than others. Congratulations.

More seriously, were you referring to teen pregnancies or teen births?

Posted by: Peter B at December 28, 2003 7:43 PM

Peter:
Both births and abortions are down--the sum as a pregnancy rate is the lowest ever recorded for US teenagers.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 28, 2003 8:57 PM

"No fundamental disagreement here, except you are overemphasizing technique and underemphasizing commitment and sacrifice. Even if he is a bit of a straw man, the cold Calvinist brooding on scripture while his family wants emotionally does exist. So does the busy, modern, enlightened secularist who figures a little J.S. Mill is all his kids need. You don't have to introduce your child to all the realities of the sex trade in order to protect them from it. And you shouldn't. "

Agreed, agreed. The best thing you can do for your children is to make your own marriage work. It is not so much technique or enlightened philosophy that will do the trick as it is experience. If children don't experience a committed marriage on the part of their parents, they will be less likely to be successful in their own. Likewise what you said about putting demands on them and being there for them.

"Bertrand Russell's daughter was educated according to the most modern, scientific, enlightened concepts her parents could muster. In later life, she fled to religion."

That is always a possibility. I accept that my daughter may someday become religious, and that is her choice that I will honor. I have exposed my daughter to religion, mainly because she will need to understand what the majority of the society she belongs to believes. She regularly sings religious songs in the school choir - they did beautiful renditions of Ave Maria and Go Down Moses for the Christmas concert.


Posted by: Robert D at December 29, 2003 6:15 PM

Harry, what is the Awana League?

Posted by: Robert D at December 29, 2003 6:17 PM

Methodist youth propaganda fellowship. It may be a local institution, I don't remember it in the South.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 29, 2003 10:21 PM

I didn't know the Canucks had changed their word for Red Men from Indians to aborigines. I wonder what the Indians think of that. If I were one I'd consider it a contemptible insult to be called something other than what I was, especially knowing that what makes a word or a name unspeakable is people's bad opinion of the thing that the word or name names, in this case the red race. Seeing strictly naught wrong with the red race, I see naught wrong with calling Red Men by their name, Indians. Unlike leftist Canucks I have naught to hide. By the way, how do they distinguish their aborigines from the Australian variety? (Just curious ... )

Posted by: Unadorned at December 31, 2003 1:29 AM
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