The Personal is Political: Individual Choice & its Collective Outcomes

by TBG

The Personal is Political: Individual Choice & its Collective Outcomes

Written By Lauren Brookes for Helier Sentinel 

Between 1940 and 1971 a synthetic form of oestrogen called diethylstilbestrol (DES) was prescribed to pregnant women in an attempt to prevent, along with other related complications, miscarriage and premature labour. It took less than 2 decades for scientists to work out that it wasn’t actually effective in either regard, but it carried on being prescribed for certain things (both of which in hindsight should have been a warning sign) like stopping lactation and as emergency contraception. What finally got the FDA to withdraw the drug from the American market was the discovery in 1971 that prenatal exposure to DES was linked to a type of cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma; in Europe, however, it wasn’t withdrawn until 1978.


It turned out that DES was far worse than initially realised. Today it is recognised as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, with the potential to cause not only cancer, but birth defects, fertility issues, depression, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, developmental abnormalities, and increased incidence of homosexuality in males. With the estimates on the number of babies exposed in utero reaching into the millions, it begs the question: were the broader consequences worth the supposed personal benefits? The short answer, as it is with many of these situations, is no. A population increasingly comprised of mentally unstable, sickened, malformed, barely fertile individuals is clearly undesirable, and furthermore places undue pressure on those who have avoided all of this to work even harder to account for the disproportionately high resource usage by people who contribute less than average.


Some may question why I chose to use this as an example, and it’s because of its simplicity. Bad choices are not always motivated by bad intentions; often the real bad guy is the one that offered the bad choice as an option, and his greatest tool of persuasion is to manipulate and influence the process of decision-making. The framing is clear when it comes to mothers choosing to take DES - what’s increased cancer risk in later life compared to the baby dying in the womb and never even getting the chance to live? - and from this perspective it’s easy to see why the risk of cumulative negative effects was ignored even once identified. With other personal choices, the benefit of ignoring the downsides is far less nobly motivated. Poor diet, lack of exercise, regular and/or excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, taking pharmaceuticals that alter your hormones: all of these are done because they serve (often purely hedonistic) personal desire at the expense of collective productivity, health, happiness, and success.


This conversation bumps into others - is it moral, then, to abort children who have known disorders such as Down’s syndrome? Or to forbid those with hereditary conditions to procreate? What about providing medical solutions to life-limiting disease, allowing them to live when in nature they would die? My answer to this is simply that prevention is better than cure. For example, incidence of Down’s syndrome (and the other two trisomies, Edward’s and Patau’s syndrome) has increased in prevalence over time, and this is almost entirely attributed to increased maternal age. The way to prevent conception of excessive numbers of high-demand low-contribution individuals in this instance is simply for women to have babies a bit sooner. Distilled to the two core considerations, favouring individual choice over collective outcome once again has a negative overall effect for society and consequently everyone who has to live in it.


It might seem harsh to characterise people with Down’s syndrome (and others like them) in this way, but popular discourse has been suffering for some time due to lacking a healthy dose of reality. In the 2021 census a full 24% of the UK population (16m out of 67m) stated that they had a disability: the cost of accommodating, treating, and supporting the disabled population is soon going to outstrip the ability of the able population to provide for them, especially considering the portion of working age adults who claimed to have a disability was a shocking 23%. Following on from this point, the three most common disability types were mobility, stamina/breathing/fatigue, and mental health problems - all of which cover a wide range of issues, most of which were likely (and, more to the point, reasonably) preventable. The abdication of taking responsibility for oneself does not mean the need for responsibility lessens or disappears, it just means it must be transferred to someone else, and the readiness of the government to facilitate this has led to the birth of a somewhat perpetually child-like group, hopelessly dependent yet endlessly demanding.


Advocating for high standards of individual choices, out of everything touted as the saviour of our people on the right, seems to be the hardest sell. We’re just as unprepared as the general populace to eschew the easy and enjoyable in favour of the onerous, unexciting path to long-term growth. We believe that our ancestors had it easy, and in some ways that’s true: they weren’t required to cultivate an attitude of discipline required to remove them entirely from multiple significant aspects of their everyday life, largely because those aspects simply didn’t exist then. These days avoiding fast food, birth control, recreational drugs, and being excessively sedentary actually requires conscious decision and in some circles would completely alienate you from the common way of life - in fact, it would earn you active derision and suspicion, as if by choosing not to poison your body for yourself and for future generations you are somehow weird or bad.


If the right is to lead the way on anything, it should be by embodying this moral value of putting the importance of the collective outcome before that of the individual choice. It takes discipline and sacrifice, and it’s likely that your only immediate reward will be a sense of satisfaction. But over time you develop an identity of being enlightened, superior in your being, and this is where you truly begin to experience the glory of honouring yourself, your ancestors, your descendants, and all that you have and will create together. If individual choice is prioritised, society will cease to exist. If collective outcome is prioritised, each person will be empowered to reach their true potential.

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