The Popeye Generation

By now most people have seen the videos on YouTube. An agent provocateur ventures to a college campus and asks students if someone with male chromosomes and genitalia is a woman if s/he claims to be a woman. The students uniformly accept that the person is whatever gender they claim. Then the provocateur asks the student to go a step or two further. Is someone whatever race they claim? Is someone whatever height they claim? Is someone whatever age they claim?

The student is now caught in a conundrum, and you can see the wheels spinning as they try to decide what they must say in this situation. If they deny that someone is whatever race or height or age they claim, then they seriously weaken the idea that someone is whatever gender they claim. With years of the right schooling behind them they can’t go to that bad place, so they eventually agree that each person can choose his or her own race, height, and age.

The students are members of the Popeye Generation, in which each person gets to say “I yam what I yam” and everyone else must accept it or be labeled a bigot.

Of course, these students know that they are accepting falsehoods.


But let’s suppose that these students are telling the truth. Let’s suppose that everyone can choose all these facts about themselves. What if we add one more fact?

Let us suppose that a male provocateur on campus claims to be female. This is accepted unequivocally by students. Suppose then that the provocateur claims to come from another planet.

If the student is intellectually consistent, then the student will say that, yes, he or she accepts that the provocateur hails from a planet other than earth.

But if the student really, truly accepts that the provocateur is an alien life form, then the student has made one of the greatest discoveries in human history. We have sent spacecraft out to the ends of the solar system to try to find life. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project scans radiation from every quadrant of the galaxy trying to find any sign of intelligence other than earth. For years, scientists have pondered the Fermi Paradox, which asks why, if there is intelligent life in the universe, we have not located it.

But if the provocateur is an alien life form, then we have solved the Fermi Paradox. We will have discovered not only that there is life on other planets, but that evolutionary biology followed exactly the same pathways on distant planets as it did on earth. This will stun biologists and cosmologists. Depending on which planet the alien provocateur comes from, perhaps the alien has traveled here faster than the speed of light, allowing us to learn new truths about space and time, and jumpstarting a program to investigate the furthest regions of space.

If the student truly believes that the provocateur is an alien life form, then the student cannot stop with merely accepting the fact. The student should immediately inform the science faculty and also the federal government. The National Security Council would call an immediate session to discuss how to handle the first contact with aliens. We would need to know if the alien’s intentions are peaceful, and what level of advanced technology the alien has brought from her home planet. The Centers for Disease Control would be interested to hear of advanced alien medical technology. The president would want to meet the alien, and Congress would convene a joint session to hear the wisdom from another world.

Directly from Congress, the alien would be whisked off to the United Nations to address the General Assembly. With the alien standing before the assembled august personages from all nations, we might even hope that we terrestrials would realize that we must put aside our differences and all come together as one human people.

Perhaps, in this day and age when many no longer wish to measure time in years from the birth of Our Lord (AD), it would now be measured as FC—years since first contact.

Getting back to reality….

If a student professed to believe the provocateur was an alien, we know the student would not actually believe it. We know that the student would merely be paying lip service to the claim, and not giving internal assent.

We know this is also the case when a student pretends to accept as true other things about the provocateur which are known to be false.

In one video with campus provocateur Steven Crowder, a student professes to accept that Crowder is a bobcat. But we know the student does not believe that because the student continues having a conversation with Crowder. People don’t have conversations with bobcats, and bobcats could well be dangerous. So, if the student believed that Crowder was an actual bobcat, the student ought to have called campus security to try to catch a dangerous animal before anyone was injured.

From this we might draw a general principle: if you say you believe something but all of your actions show that you don’t believe it, then we can conclude you don’t believe it.

Coming back to the transgender issue, we might ask whether people believe self-identified transgendered individuals are truly different genders, or if they just pretend to believe it.

Let’s suppose another hypothetical. Before transitioning to Caitlin Jenner, suppose Bruce Jenner had high blood pressure and was at elevated risk for a stroke or heart attack. Bruce Jenner’s doctor would no doubt have treated him for this condition. But we know that women have a lower risk of stroke and heart attack than men, and if a woman had the same blood pressure and cholesterol readings as a man, a doctor might treat it very differently.

So after Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlin Jenner, does Jenner’s doctor treat him/her as a man or as a woman? Does the doctor say, yes you are now truly a woman, and put Jenner’s life in jeopardy, or does the doctor continue to treat Caitlin as a man? It’s one thing for a student at a university to claim to believe something known to be false, but it would be entirely different for a medical professional, since there would be real consequences.

But there are consequences in the real world in saying that men and women and genders are interchangeable. At the very least, it redefines the family, which is the basis for society and civilization. It puts us into the brave new world in which children have two mothers, or two fathers, or three mothers, or ten fathers, or any combination. California already allows for multiple legal parents, and other states are sure to follow.

In mathematics, truths build upon each other. From a few simple axioms, most of mathematics can be derived. But if you start off with the wrong axioms, then every manner of error is possible. If, for instance, one posits that 1 equals 2, then any mathematical equation can be proved true.

Truths in society are similar. If you start out positing as true those ideas which are known to be false, then any further falsehood must be accepted as well. That’s why the college students who accept that a man can be a woman by an act of self-declaration must also accept that a man can be a bobcat—or an alien.

In one of the Youtube videos with Crowder, a transgendered person claims repeatedly the right to have their own personal truth. Transgendered people have every right to love, and support, and compassion. And certainly no one should commit any violence against them. Those are their rights as human beings and children of God.

But a right to your own truth is a right no one can ever have.

Kevin Clark


Kevin Clark is a graduate of Christendom College and is currently editor of Seton Magazine. His writings have also appeared in Reflections, The Teaching Home, Hereditas, The Annals of Ste. Anne de Beaupre, and Catholic Men’s Quarterly. His fictional works include Will of God; Numbers Up; and Could You Not Watch? and other stories.