Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You Could Die Laughing at This (or Get a Doctor to Help You)

(Originally Posted Friday, 16 March 2012)

Over the past few days on SOLO (http://www.solopassion.com/), there has been a debate raging reminiscent of the sort of badly written screenplays for which I used to write "coverage" when I briefly worked as a reader for various producers in Hollywood; i.e., the narrative starts nowhere, goes nowhere, and ends nowhere. 

A minor randroid on SOLO referring to itself as "Leonid" waxes enthusiastic about suicide, provided that it be moral. And how, pray tell, does this Leonid distinguish a moral suicide from an immoral one? It writes:
I think [suicide's] justified if and only if life becomes its own opposite . . . an agony.

Um, but, isn't that what anyone committed to killing himself would claim; i.e., that his life had become the opposite of life, and that he was in agony? Yes, I think so. Does the Leonid believe that, therefore, an immoral suicide would be one committed frivolously, just for shits-and-giggles? As in "La, la, la, la, la, la, la! What a fine, sunny day it is today! Instead of tandem-biking with my best friend and having a picnic in the park, I think I'll go into the closet and hang myself. Yes, I've always meant to give that a try, and I'm feeling so positive and expansive, I think it's time to do it. Heigh, ho! What fun!"

Would that be an "immoral" suicide? Has the Leonid thought this through? Does the Leonid even know what he's talking about? We suspect not.

Another randroid at SOLO calling itself, for some reason, "Mark Hubbard," suggests that having the actual freedom to walk into his own closet any time he feels inclined to do so, and hang himself with the straps of his straitjacket is insufficient. He requires the state to support his efforts by passing legislation in which this freedom is "protected"; something like, e.g., "We, the State, do hereby declare that Mark Hubbard (as well as anyone else in our glorious dominion) has the explicit right to enter his own closet, on his own decision, and hang himself with his own belt until dead." 

Which hypothetical immediately brings up this question: Is there anything standing in the way of his doing this right now, even without such legislation? Has he tried? Is his closet guarded by the state? Has the state installed "security" cameras in his closet to ensure that Hubbard not enter it for the sake of hanging himself?

Um, we think not. In fact, we think that suicide is not the issue at all in this debate. 

But before continuing, let me say this: having known many Objectivists for many years, first InLife and later, OnLine, I can testify to the fact that they are big talkers, i.e., bullshitters. It's usually harmless because they are mainly occupied bullshitting themselves and other Objectivists, the cause probably being that their psyches generate a rich fantasy life, in which they imagine themselves as one of Ayn Rand's characters . . . perhaps some young, promising writer, or actor, or composer, or inventor, happily doing Midas Mulligan's laundry in Galt's Gulch in order to participate in The Great Strike against the Looters and Moochers. How exciting! "Yes, I am one of them!" they cry. But my own experience tells me they are, in fact, abject cowards. They blow lots of hot air regarding their supposed right to kill themselves in order to prove their "integrity" toward life because they imagine John Galt and Howard Roark saying the same thing; however, the entire thing is an act. It's actually a form of play.

No. Objectivists who argue how it is a right to commit suicide would never have the courage of their rhetoric and actually hang themselves, or defenestrate themselves. They already have the freedom to do so, ergo, they don't require the state to declare that they also have the right.

No, no. What these randroids actually want is something quite different.

They want the state to grant the right of someone else — for example, a doctor — to kill them upon their request. That's a different issue entirely.

If a randroid were terminally ill (God forbid!), and if the physical agony were so great that he concluded it made day-to-day life unbearable, I can tell you right now that he would never shoot himself, or hang himself, or hurl himself off the roof of a tall building. They already have the freedom to do so, but they haven't the courage. What they actually want is to be able to go to some nearby "clinic" and request a service from a doctor, or some other medically trained technician, such as, e.g., "I'm terminally ill and in great pain. Here's a check for $250.00. Please put me to sleep and inject me with poison. Oh, you don't take checks? Put it on my credit card."

That's what they want. Objectivists hide behind the rhetoric of "suicide" and the supposed "right to die with dignity", but what they really want is the right for someone else to commit murder if requested and compensated by the intended victim.

There are many problems with such a system. Just one of them is that, given the fact of interventionism, i.e., that there has, for many years, been a close relationship between the State and Medicine, and especially given the fact that the State licenses doctors, the question naturally arises as to whether the State should approve one of its own licensees whose practice includes killing patients on their request. Especially, since the licensing and approval process, being (both traditionally and currently) a State function, is financed by taxes. Does this not implicate taxpayers, at least indirectly, in the state-sanctioned killing of those who want others to end their lives for them? Yes, I think it does. And I think taxpayers would (and should) object to the State's use of their money being spent on a bureaucratic process that results in approving and licensing a medical expert's use of technically sophisticated means to kill someone simply because he requests it. 

That's only one problem with the system (there are others), but it's one that randroids and other "right to die" advocates constantly evade.

So when the Mark Hubbard on SOLO complains that Ken Orr vehemently disapproves of state-sanctioned murder-upon-request-by-victim, we neither agree nor sympathize with the Hubbard. We know nothing about Mr. Orr except that, on this particular issue, he is right: the function of the state is to protect rights, and since life is the source of rights, the primary function of the state is to protect life. The protection of life, not the protection of dignity.

Got news for the Hubbard, who drones on about the difference between "rights" and "responsibilities": Yo! The State is not responsible for your dignity! You are responsible for your dignity. If you feel the need or desire to off yourself because of some anguish, physical or mental, that is crushing your dignitas, you already have the freedom to do so. Just have the courage of your convictions and do it. But don't ask someone else, such as a doctor, to do it for you.

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