Friday, January 20, 2012

And old fart writes: ‘Euthanasia? Over my dead body!’ And sweet Mandy gets yet another look in. If you’re reading this, Mandy, ask me out

Having reached the venerable age of 114, I’m bound to meet the truth halfway and admit that I am - my good looks notwithstanding - no spring chicken. But physical age apart - I would say ‘temporal’ age if it didn’t sound a little fatuous - there are one or two things which distinguish us 114-year-olds from one another. That is to say some 114 could be well over 160 given their asinine grumpy, complaining outlook on life, whereas others, if the light is right, could well pass for 85, given that they have, somehow, retained a sunnier, younger, more optimistic outlook (though if they live in California, all bets are off). And I like to think - and here I am obliged to take a deep breath - that I belong to the second group, that I am not the oldest old fart on the block, that I have, somehow, retained that sunnier, younger, more optimistic outlook on life which so eludes some my fellow travellers on the train of life.

Take my wife, for example: it might not be particularly gallant to say so, but she is not just a glass-half-empty type of women, she is so bloody negative about everything that she gives pessimism a bad name. Matters are so bad, in fact, that any number of dyed-in-the-wool local pessimists, people who wouldn’t have a good word to say about the Devil, will cross the lane rather than cross swords with her. It brings them down too much. Why is he telling us this, you ask, why is he being so open about it all? Simple. Not only does she not read this blog - as part of a broader strategy of not taking the blindest interest in any aspect of my life - but she wouldn’t even know how to turn on a computer. So the chances of her finding out that I am blackening her name with abandon and without ruth are closer to zero than the chances of Iran’s President Amadinejad being guest of honour at a bris. Am I exaggerating? Ask my sister, late of Istanbul, now resident in Warsaw. (I managed to convince her of the usefulness of staying one step ahead of the law.)

So being a - rather good-looking, quite charming, if somewhat raffish - 114-year-old but of a younger persuasion, I am concerned that I don’t develop that awful and awfully boring habit of complaining about everything, because complainers piss me off. At this point my wife might feel inclined to make another guest appearance, but I feel you already have the picture and if there’s one thing worse than perpetual complaining, it is banging on a little too long. (The danger is that people might start to ask themselves: who’s the problem, her or you?)

I know you will be familiar with the type: they insist that not only do trains run half as efficiently and punctually as once they did, but people have forgotten the importance of manners (especially on trains, apparently), progress - ‘so-called progress’ - is anything but, why do they insist on

printing everything far smaller than they used to, time was once when a pint of beer/glass of wine/quick shag in the local brothel didn’t cost an arm and a leg and - a favourite of gentlemen of a certain age - pissing used to be so much easier (and you were able to empty your bladder in one go - there was none of this getting up and going to the john every 30 minutes. Bloody progress!

The gentler sex - and whoever thought up that phrase had a bone-dry sense of humour - have nothing to be smug about: one old bat of my circle who is way into her 90s complained to me the other night that she had not been propositioned in over 40 years. What was becoming of the male sex? she wondered.

The thought occurred to me that given the amount some of us less-than-young folk complain, there might well be something in this euthanasia malarkey. I mean it is the latest thing. Once folk use to show off to each other about where they were spending the summer or the winter. Then they hoped to impress those more gullible than themselves by apparently having far more ‘disposable income’. Now, given that quite a few are of ‘advance years’, they hope that espousing modern thought and being au fait with the a latest thinking might demonstrate that although they quite often look it, they are not wholly dead. And in the Year Of Our Lord 2012 there is surely no more modern thought than that we should kill off all our old folk before they become a burden and start to cost us some serious money.

Naturally, there are quite a few who are not quite as gung-ho about this ‘euthanasia’ (and will it be long before some bright PR spark attempts to popularise the doctrine by launching an ad campaign promoting ‘youthanasia’?). But there are more than enough folk who like to think of themselves as ‘quite bright’ and listen to Radio 4 far more often than is good for them who are rather taken with the idea. ‘Why,’ they ask rhetorically, ‘should I not die when and how I wish if I am suffering from incurable cancer?’

Now I don’t doubt that for some very ill people life can being unbearable. But nor do I doubt that in many cases a compassionate GP (that’s your doctor) has done what he or she felt was the kindest thing to do. But what is new about all this talk of ‘mercy killing’ is not that we are debating the morality of it, but that we are seriously debating whether it should be codified. And that, seemingly arcane point, is what I find most disturbing. On the one hand we bang the drum about ‘the right to life’ and our ‘human rights’, on the other we are quite prepared to sanctify abortion as a means of birth control rather than any of any number of perfectly rational and acceptable alternatives, and we are seriously debating the pros and cons of killing off our old people.

I can already hear the objections to my argument: euthanasia will and must be voluntary, its proponents will proclaim. To which I respond: that is your ideal now, but once you have conceded a little ground, you will, sooner or later, be obliged to concede a little more. What will ‘current moral thinking’ be 50 and 60 years down the line?
Yes, I know that what I have just written is one of
We know, we know, but it really is
what he would have wanted
the mainstays of almost every reactionary argument, but that doesn’t mean there might not be a grain of truth in it (and I dare not even start discussing the biggest of all in moral philosophy which can be described in many fashions but will I shall here describe by way of a question: just how seriously can we take our moral code if it can be reformulated almost at whim given what the current ‘current thinking’ might be?)

I didn’t set out to rumble on about euthanasia when I started this entry (and I am rather taken with my own joke about ‘youthanasia’), but it is a question we should settle sooner rather than later. The obvious objection is that unscrupulous beneficiaries might well hold off from outright murder - our modern caring police officers are rather good at tracking down that kind of thing. But they might feel less dainty about trying to persuade Mum or Dad that they should ‘consider others’ and see whether or not dying sooner rather than later would not be such a bad thing. And, who knows, if the aches and pains are playing up rather more one day, Mum or Dad might well thing they have a point and sign on the dotted line where in previous days they felt less inclined to do so.

But I should like to raise the more refined point: just how much can we claim to respect life, as we all too often claim to do, if we are seriously considering whether euthanasia ain’t all that bad?

NB I am not against abortion at all. But I am against the wholesale and unthinking demand for ‘abortion on demand’. In many case abortion can and is wholly justified. But killing a foetus just because ‘having a child now’, for example, is financially inconvenient, does strike me as pretty bloody repulsive. But those who think I am something of a pious prick might like to read this previous entry.

. . .

Like any modern man/woman/person with a link to ‘the public’, I keep an eye on my statistics. In my case the link is this blog. In other cases the man/women/person involved (and how soon will it be before we are obliged, on threat of several years in jail, to refer to the other as ‘the entity’?) might be an actor, a writer, a politician or a snake oil salesman. What we all have in common is, when we are feeling grand and on top of the world, is a desperate desire to know whether ‘they’ are amused, convinced, persuaded, ready to buy or simply ready. And when, on those rare, but all too dreadful occasions when we don’t feel on top of the world, we are equally desperate, but on these occasions demand any proof or even evidence that they haven’t sussed us, that they haven’t realised that we are total and utter charlatans, have defrauded them and that we are no more, and often far less, than they are. (That last is something they must never come to know.)

So being as just as egomaniac as you are, although with, perhaps, rather less justification, I look at my stats once and often twice a day. They tell me how many times my blog has been read, where readers live and what particular entries they are reading. And top of the list is this one. WThe title might not seem obviously attractive, and what exactly those who seek out this particular entry want to know is not immediately apparent, but when you realise that the entry also includes a picture of one Mandy Rice-Davies, the universal (well, sort of) interest becomes a little more understandable.

Young Mandy (I am going by the picture below of a very attractive young women, but as she was born on October 21, 1944, she is approaching 70, so ‘young’, though a gallant word to use, is rather pushing it) gained ‘notoriety’ (as in she was found
out) in the ‘Profumo Affair’, but as she is subsequently quoted as observing that her life since those heady days has been ‘one slow descent into respectability’, she is forgiven everything, although even the notion that we should ‘forgive’ her is curiously offensive. I like to think that a young woman as attractive and witty as she was then (many South Walian women have a certain kind of wit which I find attractive, although in truth I am attracted to many women who have that kind of wit and not all of them come from South Wales. In fact, they often come from everywhere – it is that particular spark I like) grow into attractive and witty middle-aged, then older women. Well, that isn’t necessarily true, but a boy can dream. Here for all the Mandy Rice-Davies addicts is that picture again as well as one or two others I have been able to track down. And, Mandy, if you ever get to read this, why don’t you buy me lunch? Or me buy you lunch? Whatever.

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