Eric has a post on Christian interference and coercion with respect to assisted suicide. One aspect in particular hooked my attention.
Christians who are anti-choice-in-dying have been complaining for some time now that it’s not just about pain. In fact, they point out that of those in Oregon who choose assisted suicide very few are in intense pain. It is, they say, because of loss of independence, loss of dignity, loss of control that people choose to end their lives, not just because the pain is unrelenting and uncontrollable. And that is true. Choice in dying is not just about pain. It is about choice. It is to provide choice for people who do not want to go on living with the kinds of disabilities and distresses that make their lives no longer worth living — for them, not for others. It’s about individual life choices. And they are choosing only for themselves, not for others. It is about their sense of the worth and value of theirown lives, not about the lives of others. And Christians don’t want people to have that choice. They are determined, along with many of their Muslim and Jewish partners in crime, to make their will felt somewhere and by someone. Let it not be said that their influence does not stretch to some suffering person. They are still a vital force in society. Indeed, they say, they should be given a greater part to play in decisions regarding social policy, for religion is, after all, as the fatuous Karen Armstrong keeps repeating like a dripping faucet, about love and compassion, and about compassion and care for the sick and the dying especially. And they want someone left to have compassion on.
And that’s exactly what I don’t want, and I’m not the only one.
It’s pretty much the last refuge of the piously-inclined to say that slow miserable death provides a wonderful opportunity for compassion to roll up its sleeves and get to work. But here’s the thing: I don’t want compassion. I want to be in no need of compassion.
I don’t want to be helpless and dependent. It’s that simple. Being that way and getting lots of compassion doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse. It just underlines the helplessness and dependency.
Compassion is a very over-rated virtue. It’s good in emergencies, to motivate people to act, and that includes slow-motion emergencies like chronic poverty and underdevelopment and exploitation. But it’s lousy as a permanent fixture, and it’s nightmarish as a reason to keep people alive who would prefer to escape precisely the condition that is the object of compassion.