Last week I finished watching the Netflix series Traffickers. The pickings are pretty lean on NF if you’ve had enough of cartels, kidnappings, poisoned food, piratical capitalism, criminal psychopaths, Wall Street rip-offs, and “tragic” Hollywood drug overdoses… and if you’re just not into dog shows or Spring Break “comedies”. At least Nelufar Hedayat’s seven-part serial is factual, and features, indeed, a surprising amount of open-minded investigation. I’m afraid that the winsome Nelufar, though always painfully in earnest (and often ready to burst into tears, as in exploring the insatiable Chinese appetite for pangolins), reminds me of all too many twenty-somethings around us who are going on twelve. Her naïveté can border on obtuseness. I’m glad she didn’t get herself killed in Cambodia or El Salvador.
The segment on adoption is the one that I’m using today as a springboard. Having children has become critically problematic in many Western nations. Feminists have convinced three generations of women now that they’re trash if they surrender themselves to marriage and childbearing at twenty-two. Sexual experimentation and frequent abortions have often reduced fertility, even within that age bracket. Then we have our toxic high-tech environment, awash in drugs, hormones, electricity, and stress: another few ticks up the infertility scale. With the dating scene having grown so carnivorous, many young people who might otherwise nurture a keen interest in raising a family give up after a few years of emotional assault and battery. I must wonder if the burgeoning business in dating sites really makes the game any safer. All you know about a person in such impersonal circumstances comes from responses to a questionnaire, or perhaps from a few highly staged moments on a video.
These are my observations, not Hedayat’s. I offer them as my own explanation of what’s fueling the tawdry market in international adoptions. Most of Nelufar’s segment is devoted to the “legal kidnapping” of young children from living parents and then offering them to Western parents as orphans. A lot of money is swirling around in this sewer, and most of it ends up in the hands of criminal middlemen, in the form of bribes and bounties. I applaud Hedayat for not making out the adoptive parents in these cases to be just another beachhead of “Western imperialism”; she understands, rather, that they are victims of another kind. Were she to have dedicated an entire serial to the subject, she would have remarked, as well, that domestic adoptions for Westerners are a virtual impossibility. That’s not just because of the many instances where the mother changes her mind at the last moment, having been bathed for nine months in an abject attention and queenly power of which her life had always been void before; nor is it because of further cases, also common, where the true father was incorrectly identified when papers were signed, and he decides to show up (after sowing wild oats in other places) and claim his right-by-DNA three years after the little one has settled into a loving adoptive home.
No, the main reason that Western parents can’t adopt from Western sources is abortion. Well over half a million babies are terminated every year in the US before they can draw their first breath… and a few, apparently, just after they draw their first breath.
So here’s my solution. Kidnapping is impermissible: Hedayat makes that poignantly clear, if it needed clarification. But just as impermissible to our squeamish, highly evolved taste in the West is “buying a human being”: i.e., paying the mother of an unwanted child to surrender the infant at birth. Is destroying the baby, however, less heinous than “buying” it? I would think that any reasonable person would quickly come forth with a “no”: it is not better to suck the fetus’s brain out with a syringe than to let a loving couple carry it off to a waiting crib. However, to volunteer this prima facie value judgment is to go wandering dangerously along the margin of various PC highways—and talk about “traffic”! On these densely traveled ideological thoroughfares, the woman’s right to snuff out that creepy crawly bit of DNA within her must not be cast in doubt; so the “buying” option immediately runs into the Mack truck of a categorical moral assertion (the more categorical in that it tramples over moral common sense).
Now the “buyer” is put on the defensive and must plead his case as the more unsavory suitor. “So you think you can buy my… my fetus, you stinking money-bags capitalist, just like you have bought off the rest of the world around you? You think I’m for sale? You think my body is a commodity at your meat market? So… how much are you offering?” For the truth is that a great many women would sell their “fetus” if the price were right: not for ten grand, maybe… but for forty or fifty, hell yeah!
To be sure, the option is sordid. But the moral gymnastic that must be executed to exercise it is less a bending of consciousness in the buyer-seller dynamic than a warping of consciousness around the blunt fact that murder awaits the “unsold fetus”. No, no, no: mustn’t say that, mustn’t go there. We must have the buyer eat humble pie—and we must design the pay-off so that it more resembles an indemnity for hardship endured. “Poor dear, you’re suffering so much! Having this delivery will be painful, and it will also reduce your productivity on the job. The pain and suffering alone are worth… shall we say, forty thou?”
No, the solution I propose is not morally immaculate. It’s not even particularly clean. But as the lifestyle we fashion for ourselves sinks deeper and deeper into the mire (and I sincerely look for avant-gardists to clamor—say, by 2024–for a mother’s right to euthanize her baby a year after birth), we have fewer and fewer clean choices left. Moral survival nowadays is all about prioritizing dirty choices.