The Cult of Children & the impossibility of the ethical
Lee Edelman's No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive is, in Lacanian terms, an Impossible polemic. How could anyone not be on the side of the children, of the future, he asks, when the 'child remains the perpetual horizon of every acknowledged politics, the fantasmatic beneficiary of every political intervention. Even proponents of abortion rights, while promoting the freedom of women to control their reproductive choice, recurrently frame their political struggle, mirroring their anti-abortion foes as a "fight for our children - for our daughters and sons," and thus as a fight for the future? What, in that case, would it signify not to be "fighting for the children"?' (2-3)
Hence we are all coralled into holding hands with little orphan Annie and singing rousing hymns to the redemptive telos of 'tomorrow'. Yet tomorrow is indeed 'always a day away': it never arrives, not contingently, but structurally....
'In breaking our hold on the future, the sinthomosexual, himself neither martyr nor proponent of martyrdom for the sake of a cause, forsakes all causes, all social action, all responsibility for a better tomorrow or for the perfection of social forms. Against the promise of such an activism, he performs, instead, an act: the act of repudiating the social, of stepping, or trying to step...beyond compulsory compassion, beyond the future and the snare of images keeping us always in its thrall. Insisting, with Kant, on a freedom from pathological motivation, on a radical type of selflessness no allegory ever redeems, the sinthomosexual stands for the wholly impossible ethical act. And for just that reason the social order .... proves incapable of standing him.'
It's that last line that seals the deal for me; there's always seemed something profoundly disingenuous and even cynical about an ethic that insists that 'someone, please, think of the children!' An action premised on the (structurally) elusive Children appears more as an egoism premised on the interiorization of the future. The 'children' seem to become the phantasmic projection of one's own future, such that 'won't someone think of the children!' is little more than 'won't someone please think of me!' (hopefully I'm not misreading - I still struggle with translating theory into the more legible language [to me, anyway] of analytic philosophy).