Two old menToday, I'd like to contrast two views from two elderly men. One shows love for his fellow humans; the other not so much. One makes a gentle, heartfelt plea to extend dignity and compassion to humans in suffering; the other a complaint that my home nation extends tolerance to a section of the community that he disapproves of.
Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's and will decline as he ages, losing the wit and vivacity that define him. I'm not a huge fan of his books but their gentle humanism has surely done no harm to the many people who have read them. He is an outspoken supporter of the right to assisted suicide, and has made a suggestion that resolves many of the difficulties with this approach to terminal illness. It's a genuine concern that many have that were we to permit euthanasia, the elderly would be pressured into it, killed off by relatives greedy for their estate or tired of caring for a sick parent, perhaps unsure what they were agreeing to. A tribunal that decided whether the person was making the decision with reason and sound mind is a fine idea.
We are not lumps of meat. We should not treat ourselves as though we are. Life in itself is not valuable--living is. It's a distinction that I think is valuable. Of course it is difficult to decide whether someone is truly living: many people have a quality of life that we would not accept for ourselves but we find difficult to judge whether it is sufficient for them. I read the other day of a young woman who had contracted severe ME, and could not speak or move. She wished only to die. It is a tragedy that a life should be cut short, but in my view, a greater one that it should be prolonged only so the person should suffer.
I formed my view when my beloved granddad was dying in Arrowe Park hospital. He had lung cancer and was destined to die in the bed he lay in. He was in a lot of pain and wanted only to die. His life had ended; there is no other way to think of it. He had no enjoyment of it. The things he liked to do he could no longer do. Yes, it would distress his wife for him to be allowed to die, but she was concerned only for herself. Of course I believe that is understandable: she had loved him for many years and I know what a wrench it can be to lose a partner that has been part of your life for a long time. She did not want what was true to be true.
My granddad begged to die. He was too weak to find a way to kill himself. Nobody should have to do that. I do not care what your religion says about life; I do not care how sacred you think life is. Living is what counts. I have never forgiven myself for lacking the courage to help him.
I don't know what the Pope's illness is but more and more, this horrible reactionary old man fashions himself into a figurehead of intolerance and hatred. Catholicism is not alone among religions as being a tool for horrible reactionary old men to hate other people with, but you cannot help but feel that it's a pity. In the Bible, Jesus is quite clear that we should love each other unreservedly. There is no codicil stating "except for teh gays". Catholicism could be a force for good in the world (I'm sure in some ways it is). After all, its believers are mostly unreflective, adopting the religion because they were indoctrinated as children, and many adhere to whatever moral strictures are doled out to them by Pope and priest. Sadly, those strictures do not generally focus on loving thy neighbour, but more on petty matters of sexual morality, which are a peculiar focus of a group of celibate men for reasons we need not speculate on.
One has to remind oneself that when the Pope claims that the UK is restricting the "freedom of religious belief" that that belief is that gays are hateful and should be hated. Why anyone even listens to an ancient womanhating clown is beyond me. The guy has no idea how people live. He's never even been married. Indeed, he's never even had sex, as far as I know, so what would he know about the feelings we share for each other. He's spent years whipping his out of himself.