Democratic Underground  

May 15, 2002
By Jeremiah Bourque

I've had it.

If there is one thing that I can no longer stand, it is that piece of scum Al Qaeda being able to use the FBI as his press agent and the Washington Times as his propaganda outlet, without expending a single dollar of his own money (or that of Osama's), and yank the United States of America around by a string attached to his pinkie finger, at a time of his own choosing. At his discretion, the security apparatus of the government goes ballistic. It probably depends on what kind of mood he's in on a given day.

How many of these terror alerts is it going to take for people to understand that this man, a Mr. Abu Zubaydah, has been trained to spread terror through any means available? He doesn't need a bomb! All he needs is the naivete of the US government to accomplish his task. He is causing more disruption with mere words than Al Qaeda has ever been able to inflict short of the 9/11 attack. Not even when they were blowing up ships and embassies was the United States jerking from alert to alert like this. Doesn't the merry-go-round stop somewhere?

How about this.

It's a fine day for a crucifixion, isn't it? That's the opening line to this little gem. "The person who refuses to play politics, who refuses to compromise: Is he not a traitor to democracy?"

I heard this from the TV show, "The District," last weekend. I have not heard something spoken in a civilized manner that is so repugnant in recent memory, since, quite frankly, being someone who disdains politics and who isn't too hot on compromise on matters of principle (as opposed to daily details of accomplishing tasks), I find it a little personal. This is making a broad implication that the man who does not bend is a Hitler, a man who is a danger to the system, to all that is precious to our way of life, all because he will not play the game.

Thus, the man who refuses to become a prostitute, becomes a monster.

And isn't it true? Isn't this the message society has sent us from the day we were born? You can be free until the moment that the interests of the community are greater than your own, at which point the freedom of the community requires the shackling of the individual. So why not expand it to other areas of life?

Or areas of death?

Let's take Diane Pretty, for instance.

If you haven't heard the name, well, don't blame yourself, not everyone cruises the British online print media on a nightly basis. This was a British woman who died of "motor neurone disease" on Saturday. She'd sued for the right to die at the hands of her husband. She couldn't move her main body and so, most certainly could not take her life herself. Her death was, it seems, quite distressing and something of a horror.

However, the real significance is the case that she filed in order to try and circumvent British law preventing the taking of her life as an act of mercy. She attempted to use human rights legislation to back her cause. Britain has no constitution, but it has signed a treaty that binds it to common doctrines of human rights common in the European Union, and thus, after being turned down in her own nation, she appealed to Europe.

It is the contents that deserve mention in the Daily Whopper. This is what they said: Articles 2 and 3 of the Human Rights Act, prohibiting inhuman and degrading treatment, were devoted to the protection of life and the dignity of life, because of the fundamental value of life, not only to the individual, but also to the community as a whole. Therefore, it would stand the purpose of these articles on its head to use them as a pretext to end a life.

To clarify: If a life is more important to the community as a whole than to the individual living that life, then there are no individual rights, save those that correspond precisely to the right of the community to preserve a life. If the individual wants his or her life ended, then too bad.

Of course, given we are talking about human rights, there is inconsistency. There has been a ruling that a person who was put on a ventilator without her permission could have that ventilator taken off. Essentially, the hospital said, oops, too bad, we saved your life, we can't end it, it's against our ethics. Tough luck. The woman in that case was a health care professional. She might live for decades, should she choose to, even though she would have no use of the majority of her body. Essentially she decided that she cared for people just like she had become, and wanted to choose whether she wanted to live that way or not.

Essentially, that choice was a legal irrelevancy. The issue was, if active care is provided against someone's will, can that care be continued against someone's will? The answer is a clear no, at least in Europe, and thus, in Britain.

However, if she chooses to have the life support equipment shut off, she will be forced to die by suffocation. Under no circumstances will she be, say, pumped full of morphine until she dies, peacefully and painlessly. That's simply not in the cards; that would be active assistance, a legal and ethical no-no, no matter what the hell she wants.

Now, back to the larger issue. What is being said here is essentially explaining to me, in a way that I can understand, how religious ethics work. A life has value to the community. Therefore, that life must be protected, because it has value to the community. The will of the person either living that life, or the will of the person responsible for giving birth to the life, creating the life, or in a position to give a mercy killing and end a life, is completely, utterly irrelevant. Or, put more importantly, ought not be relevant. I shout this only because of my revulsion to the concept, and that obviously, in the modern world, what, by the view of religion, ought to be, is not; individuals have some ability to trump the values of the community and have their own advanced.

It would seem that, from a religious point of view, from a tribal point of view, this is a mistake, wrong, in error. The individual should not have the power to destroy something of value to the community.

Such as... with a gun?

So let's take gun control. We want to stop people from shooting themselves, right? "We," society, the "community as a whole," get to decide whether someone should be allowed to possess a gun with which they may, perhaps, take their own life with.

Since that life is more important to us than it is to the person living that life, we have the right to restrict the ownership of the gun that may be used to take that valuable life away from the people who value it, us, society, the "community as a whole." That is, at least, the mode of thought that seems to prevail with many people.

Consequently, I must ask... in what way is this gun control we are referring to? This isn't about controlling the gun; it's about controlling the person.

This is about human control.

None of this is about controlling things.

Terror is not about blowing up buildings.

Stopping mercy killing is not about saving lives.

Fighting abortion is not about preventing murder.

Assaulting cloning is not about the dignity of life.

Gun control is not about controlling guns.

All of these things are about controlling humans, the individuals that make up the community as a whole.

So I ask you in the end, who is the greater madman? He who believes in controlling others, or he who believes in freedom from the control of others? Which is the greater madness, and the greater sanity? From which is liberation the most necessary: from control, or from freedom?

Perhaps there is no one answer that will truly satisfy. After all, our ideas of human dignity only gain air time because we preach them to other humans. If aliens were looking at our species and debating the patenting of DNA, they would likely classify the free human being as a "wild" human, as a disadvantage rather than a boon. Our concepts of life and death are likely largely of our own making, though it can be argued whether those concepts are entirely ours, or some divinely inspired, some spawned from Satan.

However, all I can really say for myself is, if freedom from the control of society as an ideal is madness, then it is the sanest madness I can contemplate. Though society surely must protect itself, a society that forgets it is formed of individuals, surely forgets that human dignity spawns from something more fundamental, more primal, than the community at large.

It comes from a particular sentiment, one that can be summarized in two words.

I am.

Japanese culture buff, translator, philosopher, writer, and some other junk.

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