It turns out that the world is a dangerous place after all
I saw this interesting article about a man and woman who decided to quit their “boring” public sector “jobs” and cycle through Africa and then through the Middle East. In this post, I want to focus on their worldviews, how people responded to the news of their deaths, and on why women are so attracted to men who don’t lead them, don’t protect them, and don’t provide for them.
On August 7, the New York Times ran a story by Rukmini Callimachi about Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, a young American couple, both graduates of Georgetown University, who decided to quit their humdrum office jobs and go on an epic bike ride and camping trip that would take them all over the world. “I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige,” Austin wrote. “I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned.”
I couldn’t find anywhere that said what their degrees were in, but I expect that they did easy non-STEM degrees and were swimming in debt. Rather than work their way out of it, they decided to quit their jobs and go on an adventure through Africa and the Middle East, to prove to the world that evil was not real, and that all the liberal nonsense they learned in school was true.
They biked through Kyrgyzstan and entered Tajikistan. It was in that country that their journey came to an abrupt end this past July 29, when five ISIS members deliberately plowed their car into the two adventurers, killing them…
The plan they had chosen involved pointless risk-taking:
Austin, a vegan who worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Geoghegan, a vegetarian who worked in a college admissions office, were both 29 years old – old enough, one would think, to have some idea of just how dangerous a route they had mapped out. A number of the countries they passed through are considered either “not free” or “partly free” by Freedom House. In several of them, it’s not uncommon for roving criminal gangs – or, for that matter, police or soldiers or border officials – to rob, rape, or kill innocent travelers without provocation and with total impunity… Other perils include wild carnivores, extreme weather, unsanitary food preparation, and substandard medical care.
Now the first thing that pops out to me about this was “where are the woman’s parents?” and then second “why did this woman choose this man, given that men have a role of protecting women?” But, you see, parents these days are terrified of telling their daughters “NO”, and women like Lauren are very attracted to men who want to take them on “adventures”, instead of marrying them and providing for them and their children. Adventures are desirable because there are no responsibilities or obligations. You get to show off to your boring friends how special you are, and how much fun you’re having.
Let’s take a close look at Austin’s worldview, which Geoghegan found so attractive:
“With…vulnerability,” he wrote, “comes immense generosity: good folks who will recognize your helplessness and recognize that you need assistance in one form or another and offer it in spades.”
[…]But to read Austin’s blog is to see no hint of hesitation, on the part of either of them, to keep on cycling – no sign of fear that their luck might run out at any moment. Their naivete is nothing less than breathtaking. “You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” wrote Austin during their trek. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted….I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own.”
This was a man who did not have an accurate view of the world. He had enormous confidence in his own opinions, and he didn’t bother informing himself with anything that would have contradicted his optimism. He was reckless and dangerous. And yet his “lack of fear” must have been very attractive to a woman who didn’t want to “waste” her youth on responsibilities and obligations. She preferred his happy sounding words to any real demonstrated ability as a man. He didn’t have a plan for her future. All he had to offer was fun and thrills in the moment, and that’s what she chose. And I’m certain that if things had continued, they would have broken up the relationship the minute that either of them had to fulfill some obligation that they didn’t feel like doing.
And how did this arrogant, reckless optimism work out for him and his girlfriend?
Even before Austin and Geoghegan met their untimely end, they had problems. In Namibia, Geoghegan picked up a stomach virus. (As Austin wrote on his blog: “she curls into the fetal position and rests, eyes closed, fighting chills and nausea and fatigue. There’s little that we can do at the moment. I give her some ibuprofen.” Whereupon they resume biking.) Also in Namibia, they were almost hit by a car while bicycling along a highway. In Botswana, they both got sick. In Zambia, Austin had a serious bike crash that sent him flying and left him bleeding all over. In Malawi, he got malaria. In Tanzania, a man tried to bully him into forking over some money. In Ceuta, a driver tried to run him over, and another rear-ended him. In Spain, Geoghegan got conjunctivitis. In Marseilles, she had to be hospitalized for an ear infection that had rendered her deaf. Given the dangers they braved, indeed, they were fortunate to have made it as far as Tajikistan.
Is this what a man is now? Someone who recklessly risks the life of a woman? Why doesn’t he get a real STEM degree, get a real private sector job, and buy her a real house that she can feel safe in? Because this isn’t what women are looking for today. They want fun and thrills and adventure. They push away men who try to get them to behave responsibly, and they put their trust in men who tell them what they want to hear: that they should follow their heart. And no one has anything to say about it. We tell young women that they are right to value fun and thrills and adventures. We tell young women that they are right to choose irresponsible bad boys who give them all the feelings.
The secular left was very supportive of what Austin did to his girlfriend:
The Times article about Austin and Geoghegan drew hundreds of reader comments. A surprising number were by other people who’d bicycled or backpacked in far-off, dangerous places. Most saw Austin and Geoghegan as “heroic,” “authentic,” “idealistic,” “inspiring,” “a Beautiful example of Purity and Light.” Sample reactions: “Their candle burned brightly before it was extinguished.” And: “Good for them! They followed their dream.” Then there’s this: “I only see the beauty of two people taking steps to live the life they envision….The good experienced in their journey far far outweighs any negative.” Easy to say when you’re not the one in the body bag. “What is more dangerous,” asked yet another reader, “exposing yourself to the world and its dangers, and living a full vivid life, or insulating yourself in a safe box, in front of screens, where the world and its marvels and dangers cannot touch you? Jay and Lauren understood that safety is its own danger. They are awesome people.”
He was a bad leader, and he led her into a disaster. But that’s what she wanted, and everyone is celebrating what a great man he was.
No one is taking responsibility for letting it happen:
Her parents, Robert and Elvira Geoghegan, said in a statement that her trip “was typical of her enthusiastic embrace of life’s opportunities, her openness to new people and places, and her quest for a better understanding of the world.”
[…]Santovasco, Austin’s mother, said her son and his girlfriend were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“For them to be in this one place where they decided to kill people is unfathomable to us,” she said.
These days, it’s very fashionable for people to want to follow their hearts. Many people who believe in God don’t really think about how to deny themselves in order to serve God. They think that it’s God’s job to sort of guarantee that they will be happy if they focus on their own desires. All they have to do is be reckless in their decisions, and have no fear, and God will make them fabulously happy.
What the story of Austin and Geoghegan tells us is that hedonism is actually a secular life plan. Christians should not be doing things like that with their lives.