“Over-civilization and barbarism are within an inch of each other. And a mark of both is the power of medicine-men.” G.K. Chesterton
I remember a comparison of two short stories I read for a literature class in college. My liberal colleagues were horrified when an older man lost his job and found himself on the streets–likely to starve. The man was a native-American whom his white supervisor had disregarded–perhaps because of his age and his race.
In the other story, a tribe practiced geronticide (killing the elderly) by throwing an older member out of the boat and chopping off her fingers as she attempted to reenter said boat.
My fellow students were horrified at the first story but didn’t even blink at the second one. The first story represented oppression of one group against another. The second story was “just their culture.”
And they were entitled to “their culture.”
I still don’t understand how they could so clearly see one injustice and not see the other.
Perhaps it boils down to a philosophy Rachel Jankovic outlines in her book You Who?: Why You Matter and How to Deal with It.
Jankovic compares the idea that all human life is sacred with the idea that people who can make choices matter more than people who cannot.
Since the second idea prevails, we have abortion throughout pregnancy, and sometimes even later. But young children aren’t the only ones who are incapable of making choices.
In my own Pennsylvania, we recently learned that Secretary of Health Rachel Levine’s mother miraculously found a safe haven away from the nursing home where she resided until just before an order came from above that could have jeopardized her life.
The order from Dr. Levine required nursing homes to accept Covid-19 positive patients to ensure that the hospital beds they had been occupying would be empty when others, perhaps more valuable to society, needed them.
Dr. Levine says Mother made the request herself. She was capable of choosing, not because of her race or age, but because of a different sort of tribal connection. The elder Mrs. Levine somehow knew when to get out.
“Of the state’s 3,806 coronavirus deaths, 2,611 . . . occurred in nursing homes and long-term-care facilities.”
Dr. Mengele was probably nice to his mother too.
I’m guessing my college peers who could so easily divide their logic between the ousted man and the fingerless grandmother nearly three decades ago might find it more difficult to reconcile the deaths of their own grandmothers at the hands of a state official who figured out how to dodge personal tragedy.
Pagan societies sacrifice humans to false gods. They eliminate the weak who might deprive the strong of sustenance or shelter.
Civilized nations protect the young, the weak, the elderly, those incapable of making their own choices, those without the kind of connection Mrs. Levine has.
Pagan or civilized? I know which one we used to be.