Friday, 16 September 2011

They really aren't

OK, so temperamental televisions channels are a minor inconvenience, but some things which are portrayed as "simple" are far more significant. You could say they're a matter of life and death. I've met Katherine Araniello a couple of times. She's a conceptual artist, and she's thoroughly disabled. She appeared on 4Thought TV in the summer, talking about suicide.

Today she wrote a thought-provoking extended comment on Facebook, to which I responded:

Assisted suicide – The continual debate

What concerns me is the constant bombardment of how terrible it is if one does become disabled or they have a terminal illness and the negative imagery this places on anyone who isn't fit and healthy. People who are living with disabilities and terminal illness are in fear of their own lives being ended prematurely when they go into hospital because of the viewpoint that someone who is so ill or so physically dependent on others cannot possibly want to live – There are cases in which disabled/terminally ill people are in hospital and the only reference to them is the function of their body – e.g. it may be that they are on full-time ventilation – they require 24-hour assistance – and it is these people who are rendered as having no quality of life. There are cases in which such lives have been taken over by the medical world who believe that it is fair to not resuscitate someone who is so ill or disabled. These are the facts and these are the fears and these are the realities of the 21st-century that we are living in –

Earlier Katherine had made a comment about fascism, and I began my response from there:
    • Michael Wenham 
      Interesting, isn't it, that our society dislikes "travellers" - one of Hitler's target-groups? And I gather there are attempts to exclude the holocaust from history syllabuses for fear of "offence". I've just watched "Band of Brothers" withits horrific concentration camp scene. "Ah, but we could never get to that HERE!" Well, it began in Germany with doctors dispensing with the absolute sanctity of life. The phrase "the right to death has a sinister history: it recalls vividly the entire reasonableness of the successful campaign in Germany during the 1910s through to the 20s and 30s to convince the medical profession that “assisted dying” or “sterbehilfe” for those with an impaired “quality of life” (to use a modern expression which also has sinister historical overtones) as morally acceptable: a book published 13 years before Hitler took power, The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life, Binding and Hoche’s Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens, together with Jost’s Das Recht auf den Tod (The Right to Death) [remember Sir Terry’s “right to die"?] had a huge influence on the German medical profession and without doubt paved the way for the Nazi euthanasia programme" (William Oddie). It probably wouldn't get that far here, but we should be warned that there are dangers in the idea of compassion. That's how the Nazis portrayed euthanasia.

    • But you're right, Katherine, that there is a sustained negative portrayal of disability and dependence, which is both insulting, untrue and creates an atmosphere of fear. Actually we ARE ALL dependent, interdependent, and it's NOT degrading or demeaning to need help. We need to embrace that reality, not run away from it and try to scare others into running away too. "No man is an island" is true. You and I are pretty much 100% dependent on others, but your life is amazingly fulfilled, it seems to me, frustrating but fulfilled.

      The mantras of "compassion" and "my right" sound simple, but they aren't. Things never are; they really aren't!

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