Sweet till seventeen

A friend of mine — an artist — is a proponent of euthanasia. Or more precisely, as he holds that euthanasia is immoral, he advocates public executions. Or rather, private ones, but in clinics covered by the medicare plan.

He thinks: “Everyone should be put down on their eighteenth birthday.”

“Sorry, eightieth birthday did you say?”

“No, eighteenth.”

When I asked him to qualify “everyone,” he refused. He said that it is true, some need putting down more than others, and some (he mentioned Shakespeare, Dante, Michelangelo, Titian) would actually be worth keeping around. “But it would be invidious to pick and choose.”

His argument is that, in most lives (he reckons nearly all), everything interesting has happened by the age of seventeen. This includes every experience that can be freshly apprehended, and every exciting thought that will ever be entertained.

“After age seventeen, not one in a hundred is still mentally alive, or has anything to express beyond his immediate appetites. From that point they’re just fixated on sating them, in a highly repetitive way.”

He figures that by simply banning contraception and abortion — which he anyway considers to be “moral imperatives” — enough orphans would be produced to sustain the population. But when I queried the implications of this, he demurred.

“Details, details,” he insisted. “I’m not a policy wonk.”

Up here in the High Doganate, we like to keep an open mind, and consider proposals from all possible angles. (Blame Aristotle for this; blame Thomas Aquinas; blame cheap whisky.) But we rebel against hypocrisy, and naturally we asked our friend how he had allowed himself to reach the age of sixty.

He was hardly surprised by this question.

“You’re being obtuse. Suicide is another thing, I’m entirely opposed to that. It is morally insupportable; as you have said yourself, it is a form of murder, ‘self-murder’. You can go to Hell for that.”

“But isn’t killing others a form of murder, too?”

“Not when it is an established state policy, and everyone is treated equally.”

I had to admit he was perfectly democratic.

“But how would you sell it in the public square?”

“Oh, that part is easy. It can be presented as a remedy for anthropogenic global warming; as a way to preserve the Amazon Rain Forest, and species diversity. Not that I care; I’m not a politician.”

“But wouldn’t people towards their eighteenth birthdays try to run away?”

“Not in Canada, they wouldn’t. Peer pressure would make them turn up punctually at the clinic for their execution appointments, with their tax forms all in order. If anyone didn’t, the outrage would be huge. Their own friends would hunt them down; there’d be no place to hide. But long before that, the scofflaw would have thought better of the matter.”

All good points. He understands the Canadian character well enough.

“But in the States?”

“Yes, I can imagine a few making it to the outback down there. But hey, the very fact there were redneck survivalists would make the rest all the more eager to obey. Remember: these are people who elected Obama. Twice.”

“Hmm, interesting,” I concluded.