A Lament for Sally (and the rest of us)
There is a difference between freedom and autonomy (literally, self-law). Freedom allows flourishing within a defined context conducive to life. To bloom bright and beautiful, flowers are “constrained” by their need for water, good soil, and sun. Autonomy demands the right to redefine terms and refuse any restraint. Pop culture and political activists in black robes have made it clear: We demand autonomy. No fixed definitions for social institutions and therefore none for us as individuals. We demand the right to self-define, no matter whose freedom gets trampled in the process and no matter who gets hurt, including ourselves. As we will increasingly see, but will likely keep refusing to learn, self-definition is self-destruction.
_The following satire is barely hyperbolic. _ _As these __recent articles show - doctors in Belgium to kill healthy 24 year old and Aggressive pursuit of the right to die - this scenario is now nightmarishly close to materializing. _
Sally had another hard day at school, and she’s crying. The really sad thing is that, being a minor, Sally doesn’t have free, legal access to medicine which could help her kill herself. She might not even be giving suicide the serious attention it deserves as perhaps her best option for treatment. Sally is obviously mentally ill; her teachers say that she cries in class at least once a week. So why should Sally have to consult a doctor in order to die a peaceful, dignified death? As if she’s not suffering enough already!
True, doctors are the trained technicians who can best diagnose the problems of biological machines – which is what we are, after all. So when we face hard choices in life, it’s wisest and safest to first consult people who operate in hard science, not in silly, outdated religious sentiment. (Don’t get me wrong, spirituality is psychologically helpful for some people, so long as they don’t claim that anything they believe is binding on anyone else, i.e., actually true). Doctors know us best, and the best doctors are the ones who understand that while medicine is a means to preserve life, we should also explore all the ways it can bring death. These doctors (and by extension, government which approves their training and stipulates their ethics) are best suited to help us make hard choices, and maybe even to make the choices for us if they think we’re not up for the challenge.
Still, with all due respect to enlightened doctors: If I can define myself, why can’t I diagnose myself? Who knows me better than I? Maybe I don’t want my malfunction to be fixed. Why do I need someone’s permission, or prescription, to get medicine that will let me die before I suffer the indignity of another malfunction? As an adult, it’s my right to die when and how I want. And I think Sally has that right, too.
Why should a kid have to get permission from her doctor, or her parents for that matter, if she wants to medicinally kill herself? It’s HER self, after all. Age is arbitrary. So is parenthood, for that matter. Parenthood is just another will to power, a repressive social construct imposed upon us by the intolerant elite. We’ve known for a long time that there are no fixed definitions for family. All you need is love. And doesn’t love demand equality and always honor the autonomy of the other? Anything less is oppressive, and anyone who tells you otherwise thinks he owns you.
Still, if Sally is given her rights, she might be scared to die. That’s another sign of mental illness. (Poor thing, she has so many maladies!) Maybe her classmate Johnny can help. Johnny is such an angel, so sensitive and smart! Johnny could help her see that death really might be her best option after a sad day of school. Johnny might even be willing to help her with it. He already shows signs of wanting to kill, and he’s very persuasive. Johnny is definitely doctor material.
Nah, no need to worry about Johnny’s tendencies getting out of hand. He’s evolved enough to understand that death is beautiful. He’s not superstitious. He knows that nothing actually happens after death, so he won’t try to psychologically manipulate anyone with talk of “the afterlife.” Johnny knows that death brings us to the beautiful blankness for which we’re all headed anyway, and Johnny is just happy to provide people a warm introduction to their oblivion. And the earlier the better, Johnny says. He’s so compassionate!
Come to think of it, maybe I’m not being progressive enough on this issue. What if Johnny and others like him are more evolved than we realize? What if they're SO smart, and SO compassionate, that they understand even before other people do when those other people should die? But that might involve violating other people’s autonomy, you say? Well, true. That’s a tough one. But, at the end of the day, we have to be realists.
We have to admit that at some point, people’s autonomies will come into conflict. Something’s gotta give, which means someone’s gotta go. Might as well be sad sacs like Sally, whose tears bring the rest of us down anyway. Why should we have to put up with that? It’s good that only the strong survive. Negative emotions are oppressive. Sally’s death would be a mercy to her, and to the rest of us.
We need to focus on making sure that future generations have the right to self-definition for which we’ve fought so hard, so they can explore avenues for autonomy we’ve never even thought of yet, repressed as we still are by old religious superstitions. We need to liberate the visionary strong among us to make the world a better place before our oblivion.
Don’t forget, this is all beautiful! This is autonomy. This is what life’s all about now: death.
--- May God free us from our autonomy.