13 October, 2021
GUEST WRITER PETER FLEMING
We welcome guest contributions and are proud to include another guest feature to head this edition, Peter Fleming on Euthanasia:
Power, Convenience and Comfort – Are these the Australian Values We Want?
The push for pro-euthanasia legislation throws into sharp relief a disconcerting change in Australian social values. As Christianity promulgated the concepts of equality, human rights and the inherent dignity of all humans as the image of God, it infused civilization with an idea of social relations which did not rest on power but humility and service. Self-proclaimed progressive humanists run away from these values, and run backwards by doing so. While thinking they promote human rights, they actually remove their foundations; thus, ‘progress’ becomes regression.
The groundwork has already been laid with abortion. In spite of much-enhanced scientific knowledge about the humanness of the human in the womb, many progressive humanists endorse an adult woman’s right of power over the vulnerable infant girl or boy in her care. A human is deemed to have rights only according to whether someone else wants or does not want the human to live. In this, inherent human rights do not exist, and only might is right.
To this notion that power is the pre-eminent social force, the progressive utopia adds the value of personal convenience. According to a 2004 survey by the Guttmacher Institute, which surveyed 1,209 post-abortive women from nine different clinics across the United States, the greatest number of abortions were because the mother-to-be was ‘not ready for a child’ (25% of abortions), or the mother-to-be couldn’t ‘afford a baby’ (23%), or the mother was ‘done having children’ (19%). These reasons, added together, suggest that convenience is the greatest driving factor in abortions.
To these values of power (of the already powerful, the adult humans) and convenience, we can add the ‘progressive’ value of personal comfort, advocated by supporters of euthanasia. Supposedly, to be able to choose the time to die, and so avoid pain, is a sign of ‘dignity’. But in normal human converse, dignity is more evoked by struggle, not acquiescence to the inevitable; and the greatest accomplishments of society, in matters of justice, human equality and rights, have come not from focusing on personal comfort, but rather from struggle. A person who conquers the mountain is ennobled, rather than the person who gives up and rolls back down the slope.
Further, in normal human converse, we do not automatically associate human dignity with freedom of choice. Slaves had an innate human dignity, which the Christian anti-slavery movement recognized, or else – logically – there would have been no reason to free them. The law recognized slaves only as property; Christianity insists that all humans have dignity regardless of their legal status; only Christianity, Judaism and Islam recognize that human dignity is not bestowed by humans at their will.
Atheistic humanist advocates of euthanasia have difficulty identifying any source of human dignity, since their cosmic view is of a world created by accident, evolving through chance and ultimately having no meaning; even humanity’s greatest attribute, reason, is not to be trusted, for it too exists accidentally, it mistakes anthropocentric judgment for objective and universal truth.
Nobody wishes the elderly to die in pain, which is why we have sophisticated palliative care, a service of love which recognizes the true human dignity of the person. Laws granting euthanasia options, by economic logic, run the risk of reducing spending on such care – another instance of the self-proclaimed progressives taking us backwards.
Further, laws send messages beyond their own content. In the selfish grab for power, convenience and comfort, do those who advocate euthanasia consider what implicit permissions they convey to young people with suicidal thoughts?
So-called progressives think the passage of laws allowing euthanasia would be a feather in society’s cap; rest sadly assured, such a victory will be Pyrrhic.
[Peter Fleming is a teacher and author, among other works, of the novels Falling to Destiny and Falling into History, and was the librettist of the musical adaptation of the Philippines’ national novel, Noli Me Tangere (Parramatta Riverside Theatres) and of Frank Christie Frank Clarke! (Sydney Fringe Festival).]
AND YOU THOUGHT INFANTICIDE WAS ILLEGAL?
No language can give an adequate description of the moral hideousness of the abortion bill recently passed with a party-line vote in the (US) House of Representatives.
JOHN HALDANE RETURNS TO AUSTRALIA
Emeritus Prof John Haldane (Moral Philosophy, St Andrews, Scotland) will be in Australia for the remainder of 2021. He was a guest of the Centre in Hobart several years ago and we hope he’ll return. He is offering a series of five online lectures on the Catholic contribution to the culture of Europe and the World. Register here.
THE COVID WARS
It hardly needs saying that this is a hot topic. One of our readers responds to our last newsletter:
Australia has lost its way. Managerialism has supervened over Christian humanism. People die alone because the organisational need to minimise infection has overcome the civilisational need to maximise compassion. Livelihoods are destroyed because the administratively most efficient way to limit infection is to keep the population still. Instead of taking the citizenry into its confidence, as befits a republic of equals, the government retreats to noble lies and ultimatums, eliciting a rebellion which should have been entirely predictable. The rebellious—our neighbours and fellow citizens, children with us of one Motherland—are then demonised, offered up to us for detestation, and brutalised by those who should protect them.
All this for a virus that is 99% survivable.
It is all a tremendous failure of moral imagination, and moral courage, in place of which the vain and timorous apparatchiks of our managerial state whip up a moral panic, abetted by a contemptible media class and the fears of an irreligious mass for whom the death of the body is the greatest possible evil.
After this panicked and ham-fisted reaction, some friends of mine have said they no longer recognise the Australia they knew. I for one recognise it all too well.
This piece by John Waters on the psychology of the mob looks at the work of Mattias Desmet: ‘the upward climb to civilisation is an intellectual process driven by individuals; the descent is a herd in stampede.’
Is Anti-Catholicism the Anti-Semitism of the new intellectual class? In this reportby Julian Leeser it appears that the new Premier of New South Wales has been on the nose since he took over. ‘Catholic father of six’ tells you all you need to know!
WHAT IS THE POINT OF ‘THE LIBERAL ARTS’?
At a 1984 meeting with IBM executives in New York Barry Jones (then federal Minister for Science) asked, ‘What type of people are you looking for?’ and was told ‘The same people we have always looked for – honours graduates in English or Philosophy who are good at playing chess’. This US webinar looks at the same question a generation later.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER FIRE (AGAIN)
University of Sussex philosophy professor Kathleen Stock faces toxic criticism; and the good news is that her Vice-Chancellor supports her.
With best wishes to all our readers,
Write for further details about either of these short courses.