Starling wins his Nobel Prize by demonstrating something called "cultural para-stimuli." He conducts experiments where he performs brain surgery on a group of 30 cats. One of the effects of the surgery is that it removes certain situational inhibitions from the cats, causing them to become obsessed with sex. The turning point in the experiment comes when Starling discovers that the control group of cats, those who have had no surgical procedure, has become just as sexually frenzied as the other cats - simply from observing and living in the sex-saturated environment those cats created.
The little moral of this story, at least as far as I'm concerned, is that it demonstrates dramatically the effects of culture and environment on behavior. This should come as so surprise to liberals, who for years have been using "environment" as an excuse for types of criminal behavior. Yet what's ironic about this is that the same liberals are the first ones to deny the effects of cultural stimuli when it comes to things such as television, radio, and movies. When one objects to the crude contents of programs such as Howard Stern's, or the nudity and adult content increasingly found on even your average TV show, the answer invariably comes back: "if you don't like it, turn it off."
Fine. You're absolutely right - I don't have to watch it if it offends me. But, as I've pointed out for years, I still have to live in a culture that has been shaped (contaminated, if you like) by the effects of that programming. Feed a bunch of teen-age boys a constant diet of sexual filth on TV, and then ask your teen-age daughter to walk on some dark Saturday night through a neighborhood made up of those boys. Feel comfortable about that? I didn't think so - at least not if you were interested in protecting your daughter's purity.
The reason I'm bringing this up now is because of the ruling in New York a couple of weeks striking down that state's prohibition on gay marriage. This doesn't make New York unique - it joins Massachusetts and other states in becoming a battleground over gay marriage. But ask yourselves this - just when did this battle become so heated? Even a few years ago something like this was unthinkable - just as unthinkable as the idea of polygamy or incestuous marriage is today (at least according to many proponents of gay marriage, who assure us that there's no slippery slope at work here). And yet to many people, even those opposed to gay marriage, there seems to be some type of civil right at work here. Could it be that this has come from the conditioning experienced in the environment created by Corporate America?
Nowadays you don't seem to be able to find a major American company that doesn't provide homosexual benefits as a basic part of their comp package. Some say it's a basic attempt to be competitive - you have to keep up with the Joneses (or in this case, the Jones Company) if you want to hire the best and the brightest. Maybe this is true. But what effect has it had on the culture? As one conservative activist put it, "You have to realize that the corporations do not want -- and the homosexual community does not want -- to discuss behavior. When you try to legally define sexual orientation, you get into behavior. If you do that, you'll turn off that homosexual market."
Does Corporate America really have this kind of power and influence? Some would say no, but listen to the words of Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America:
Knight said he is also angered by the social message corporate America is sending.Lest one think that this is a recent development, Chesterton wrote about it in The Superstition of Divorce. In writing about capitalism he says:
"The biggest cost is to young people who are being told by corporate America that marriage no longer matters, or giving it a special status and protecting it," Knight said. "Marriage is cheapened [by domestic partnership benefits] ... and we cheapen it at our own peril."
Corporate America is acting recklessly in trying to appease a pampered vocal pressure group," he asserted. "A tiny number of people take advantage of this policy. It is a corporation's way of being politically correct and appearing to be progressive."
"The masters of modern plutocracy know what they are about...A very profound and precise instinct has led them to single out the human household as the chief obstacle to their inhuman progress. Without the family we are helpless before the State, which in our modern case is the Servile State."
Gay marriage and abortion are closely linked in that they are both attacks on the family, and on the teachings of the Church. One need only consult Pope Leo XIII, in his epic encyclical Rerum Novarum:
No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God's authority from the beginning: "Increase and multiply." Hence we have the family, the "society" of a man's house -- a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.
There are bright spots. Most good conservative Catholic publications include advertisements for a phone company that details how so many companies - telecom companies in this case, but it's not limited to that - use their profits to support pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, and pornographic organizations. Their tag line - the one I want you to keep with you going forward is this: "Why Are Catholics Losing the Culture War? Because Good People Support the Wrong Companies."
So what can be done? Judie Brown offers this terrific idea - write to companies and protest. The excellent St. Antoninus Institute for Catholic Education in Business offers a pro-life shopping guide that gives you valuable information (updated only to 2002, alas) on how different companies stand on abortion. And there are many groups that track companies which provide homosexual benefits to their employees. Use resources like the liberal Human Rights Commission, which publicize these companies, to educate yourself.
Look to your own behavior, too - not just the products you buy, but the company you work for, the stocks you own. Find out if you're supporting the wrong side in the culture war. Ask yourself what you can do - what you can afford to do - and don't be afraid to do it.
Finally, pray. The great prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to protect us in battle will be a source of comfort and strength during the trials that will come our way. It used to be said many years ago after every Sunday Mass, as part of the Church's prayer for the conversion of Russia. Is not the conversion of Corporate America just as important?
And remember this - no matter what anyone says, or does, to you, don't be afraid. For as was said long ago, if God is with us, who can be against us?