Relationships in a World of Individualism

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    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

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  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isnโ€™t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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Postmodern Sex Education (Spanish style)

Posted by Dale Kuehne on February 9, 2010

“What were once vices …” The Doobie Brothers, 1974

“Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves, and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. But as the liberties and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances and admit to infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that principle.

The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men, each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial, positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the constitution of a state and the due distribution of its powers a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions. The state is to have recruits to its strength, and remedies to its distempers. What is the use of discussing a man’s abstract right to food or medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician rather than the professor of metaphysics.

The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science, because the real effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation, and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects it produces in the beginning. The reverse also happens: and very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions. In states there are often some obscure and almost latent causes, things which appear at first view of little moment, on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may most essentially depend. The science of government being therefore so practical in itself and intended for such practical purposes a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.”

Edmund Burke, “Reflections on the Revolution in France” 1790


8 Responses to “Postmodern Sex Education (Spanish style)”

  1. Lauren Fithian said

    I’ve been researching this whole thing online for quite a while in the hope that I could post a comment based on a larger base of reliable information. It has an interesting back story–but one which is under-reported. It is unfortunate that the main source of information on this controversy, CNA, uses such inflammatory language to describe it. “Promotes” bestiality, “promotes” homosexuality, “promotes” sex, “promotes” masturbation, etc…. It reminds me of the various groups in the US who insist that evolution should not be taught in public school because only their biblical understanding (earth created in six days a short while back) is correct. Or the groups that insist that gay marriage will lead to bestiality for all. “It’s going to turn our children gay” is hardly a reasoned argument and exposes deep-seeded fear and lack of love and empathy.

    The abortion rate in Spain has doubled in the last few years. This is a sad and tragic part of the story behind the need for something to be done in the way of sex education. I make no attempt to try to figure out what. Perhaps the government’s effort was misguided or offensive to many people–but at least it was an effort. The skyrocketing abortion rate is among the very same group of citizens who are protesting the sex education (or, as many of them would label it: “pro-gay, pro-bestiality education”).

    Finally ๐Ÿ™‚ –It seems to me that discussion of the various issues surrounding sex, young people and sex education too often get swallowed up and lost in the trap of injecting anti-gay sentiment into every possible issue. Many of the short pieces I read about the controversy in Spain revealed this as one of the main bases for objection to the curriculum.

  2. Ann said

    The last paragraph of Burke you quoted above is so far beyond the agenda-driven thought processes of argumentative folks, today, that it continually surprises me. Thanks for posting such thought-provoking words, Dale. I’ve wondered aloud and in writing – probably to the discomfort of lots of people! ๐Ÿ˜€ – why so few people consider the gender striations in business and in religious institutions to be acceptable or lamentable, and won’t see that the same rifts extend all the way into and through the self and gendered/sexual behavior & expression?

  3. Leanne said

    At least the government made an effort? That effort was downright irresponsible. The problem is that in recent decades, society has accepted a “live and let live” attitude. Tolerance has become the key word for everyone and many say we should be tolerant of the sexual behaviors and practices of others. If we don’t tolerate the actions of others we are suddenly horrible people. Tolerance as defined in Merriam Webser Dictionary is: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own. I do not have to be sympathetic to actions or ideas that I do not believe to be just. Perhaps we should change the “live and let live” idea to “teach and let live a virtuous, moral, and ethical life by example”. This is really difficult to do today when it is easier to just go with the flow. People tend to stray from what is right and justify their actions until they start believing what they are doing is moral and acceptable. How can children take responsibility for their actions and learn what they should do in life if the adults they look up to are seriously lacking in character, education and judgment? It is funny you added a Burke quote…I quoted him in my status yesterday. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Lauren Fithian said

    Not one of us has to do anything more than accept the full humanity of all of our fellow humans. The idea that any one group, religious or otherwise, has the one and only correct set of morals–and the specific instructions for living by these morals–is repugnant. The situation in Uganda illustrates this. In Uganda today, there is a proposed bill that would literally condemn homosexuals to life imprisonment (and possibly death by hanging)–simply for being homosexual. This bill was motivated in part by “Christian” individuals and organizations in the US who have ties to Uganda and various other African countries. Just how big is the leap from “condemning” gay sex as immoral to condemning the human who is gay and then to condemning that individual to imprisonment or death? It’s a plane ride across the Atlantic! [I use the example of gay sex only because it is one of the more prominent and current areas in which good people who strive to lead highly moral and ethical lives seem to have almost unbridgeable divisions of opinion. Not because I have assumed anti-gay sentiment on the part of anyone in this discussion stream.]

    As for Burke’s “edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society,” I make this comment: Slavery arguably served a common purpose of society. Denying women full humanity arguably served a common purpose of society. Institutionalized racism-same. The fact that an “edifice” is big and long-standing does not mean it should remain standing for even one more day! Some of our “edifices” are relics of long-standing negative traditions, philosophies and practices. “Infinite caution” in tearing them down is unwarranted. On the contrary, caution in tearing them down serves to carry on the same misguided/backward/hateful/prejudiced/etc…. practices for over-long.

  5. Leanne said

    First of all, it is great to have a forum where we can post in a civil manner. I disagree that we as a human race do not have to do anything more than accept full humanity. We have a heavy responsibility to help create a society that is good for the whole. I can also respect humanity and idividuals, but I do not have to accept how they live their lives. Would you tell Mohamed Atta that his morals and goals in life cannot be argued with b/c all people have different morals, and just b/c you don’t agree with what he does, it should still be tolerated as no restraint should be set upon him? Is the way terrorists carry on day to day logical, rational, or just? Free choice allows human beings to seek justice, find logic and moral principles that guide them to a life with meaning and goodness. Some principles ARE absolute. It is obvious we cannot live without absolute morals when we witness terrorist behavior, the 9/11 attack, and other extreme regimes. No one mentioned a religious group or any one particular group in general. This applies to everyone without exception. If a person has any sense of justice, that person sees that moral absolutes exist.

  6. Very good well informed ty you for the information. From the guys at Bloggles

  7. Just found this article on Yahoo – have you published any other similar posts? 


  8. i was beginning to feel i might possibly end up being the sole woman / man that cared about this, at the very least now i realize i’m not outlandish ๐Ÿ™‚ i’ll make sure to go and visit a few various posts just after i get some caffeine in me, it really is tricky to read with out my coffee, i am gonna mess around a bit and go to play with my myspace poker chips cheers ๐Ÿ™‚

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