Jenny McCartney, writing in the Telegraph, has a cogent warning about the consequences of a Western culture grown increasingly crass and heartless toward our brothers and sisters. First she tells of a suicidal man who was almost talked down from a bridge jump, until impatient motorists let him know that his death was less important than their inconvenience. From “The Death of Polite Society:”
At a certain point the motorway traffic was stopped, leading to long tailbacks, but progress was being made. Then some infuriated motorists started shouting “Jump, you —-er” and “Jump, you b—–”, accompanied by the tooting of a lorry horn. Mr Cowling heard them: tears rolled down his face and, some time after, he duly jumped to his death.
Well, he had a dreadfully painful skin condition, so our “death with dignity” friends might say he should have been able to make it easier on himself and less irritating to busy motorists if a doctor had just given him the lethal jab or poison pills. After all, the call for assisted suicide/euthanasia, when boiled down to its core, is just a more polite way of saying, “Jump you —-er!”
McCartney then discusses a comedian named Frankie Boyle, splendid fellow, who makes fun of people with Down syndrome:
Listening to him is like walking down the street in conversation with someone who seems amusing company, until he suddenly pauses to spit on a homeless person in a doorway. Mr Boyle has recently used his stage act to ridicule children with Down’s syndrome, including their speech, clothes and shorter life expectancy.
Our version of funnyman Boyle is Family Guy, that has also made fun of people with Down as well, and mocked Terri Schiavo by calling her a “v-word” and depicting her brain as mashed potatoes with gravy, calling her “the most expensive plant you’ll ever see.”
McCartney’s point is to show how taboo busting–which generally gets the media and the usual edgy types all atwitter, can be very dangerous to the health of a society:
The worst savagery in history has always begun with a frenzy of taboo-busting, beginning with jeers and ending in blows. In Mao’s Cultural Revolution, university professors were beaten up and forced to wear dunce’s hats. In Nazi Germany, respectable elderly Jewish men had their beards pulled in front of mocking crowds. We are not there yet, of course, but perhaps it’s time to consider what a Britain full of busted taboos might really look like.
True, and I certainly don’t think we will ever get “there.” But we are pretty far down the road toward a different kind of crass society that rejects the weak and vulnerable and supports, or even, rewards those who end their lives. Ninety percent of Down babies are not allowed to be born thanks to eugenic abortion. We have biological colonialism, for example, people buying organs in China event though they know it meant someone was killed because they were the right tissue type–and favorable book reviews applauding a perpetrator who bragged about purchasing a to order kidney for his cousin. Jack Kevorkian helped kill 130 people, most disabled and not terminally ill, five not even sick–and he now gets $50,000 a speech and is played by Al Pacino in the movies. Robert Latimer murdered his 12-year-old daughter because she had cerebral palsy, and was hailed as a hero by a large segment of Canadian society. No movie deals for Latimer yet, perhaps because he is still on parole. Peter Singer advocates infanticide and gets rewarded with a fat, tenured professorship at Princeton. You get the drill.
McCartney is right, but it’s not about taboos really, rather, basic decency.