Monday, 21 March 2016

A burden on society

For the past six weeks someone in my household has been sick. This means there have been trips to the doctors, restless nights, cleaning up vomit and worst. After a while it gets draining. My wife has an immune system from Xavier's School for the Gifted so she has dogged all the gastro and flu and looked after us. She also is carrying another person in her womb, which makes her even more super-human.

Being sick has meant I have had to take days off work, cancel appointments, replied late to emails and others had to fill in for me. Some would say I have been a burden to the people around me, and by extension to society. On my off days I haven't really contributed to "the greater good", whatever that means.

Plato once compared society to the workings of a ship. Everyone on board is heading the same direction and they are only getting their because everyone is doing their part. It does seem fair that everyone should do their part and not be a burden to society.

Later others took Plato's ideas and made it more pragmatic and forceful. Today, what someone produces can become their whole identity, and others can value their own self worth by their achievements or income. On the flip side, it means that those who are seen to not work or contribute to society are considered second class citizens and a burden on the rest of us. G. K. Chesterton dismissed Plato's ship analogy quite quickly by stating that: "The elementary fact is that we were all born in a state; we were not all born on a ship". Working on a ship is a specialised environment, but living in a state should be viewed as more than some sort of commercial endeavour.

There is more to life than your productivity. I think, within reason, you shouldn't worry about being a burden on others. In fact, being human means you are to be a burden on society. When you were born, you could not walk, communicate and someone had to teach you to eat. I have seen hours old goats walking and eating without need for anyone to encourage it to do so. To be a burden on others is to be human, it is one of the thing that separates us from other pack animals. It is the small, sick, weak and elderly that are eaten by the lions.

No man is an island, and yet our ultra individualistic culture encourages us to think about and entertain ourselves, way past the point of boredom. Because individual expression and independence is the highest virtual in our society it means we don't like asking for help. Asking for help somehow shows we are not as independent as we think we are. This is true, we are not independent, we are human beings.

So, when the issue of legalised euthanasia comes up we should remember that being a burden on society isn't a valid reason for opting out of society; it is proof you are human. It is the small, sick, weak and elderly that society could do well to learn from. It is from these people that we all learn how to care, how to be grateful and how to look beyond our own needs.


Post a Comment