Unless We All Die Praying

Terry Pratchett recently used a Dimbleby lecture to argue that people should be able to choose a quiet, painless death over a messy screaming one. Since then, he has taken some flak, and it appears to be getting to him.

I get email updates from Terry Pratchett. I’m not sure if they are online, but this one is particularly reflective. He discusses the amount of opposition the Dimbleby lecture has generated: the ‘dreary trail of objections from those, who, I swear won’t be happy unless we all die praying.’ (He also writes that he gets letters from former nurses: ‘Seldom is their purpose to tell me about the wonders of care homes.’)

I recognise the opposition. It’s the opposition to legalise votes for women, abortion, the extension of the franchise and once upon a time the opposition to giving painkillers to women in labour, on the basis that they should pay for ‘the sin of Eve’. Queen Victoria, famously fecund, put a stop to that evil stupidity. I recognise their tone of voice; it is the headmaster enraged because the fifth form are being cheeky. There is no shame because they know they are right even if, in some cases, they are on the right. Jeers, sneers and smears and, of course, repeatedly, adhominom arguments are all, therefore, fair enough.

In every case there was a chorus that forecast, more or less the end of the world. Well, here we are and if the world is ending it would appear to be for other reasons. People, you and me, are not trusted. The right doesn’t like us because we don’t do what we’re told by our betters, and the left doesn’t like us because it secretly thinks we would be on the right given half a chance and a lottery win. And both think we should not make our own decisions, because we might make the wrong ones.

We are presented with a version G.K.Chesterton’s game ‘Fool the Prophet’. Governments and religions make rules that the compliant populous puts up with right up until they decide not to. Suicide and assisted dying will continue to happen no matter what opponents may hope and we know that by far the majority of people in this country are in favour of it being available in the terms I have just mentioned. Almost every politician pushes that fact aside. I must say I am rather surprised at Ann Widecombe who, I always thought had her head screwed on, but it turns out that it is against the thread. For one thing, she doesn’t seem to realise that it is legal to argue for the legalisation of something that is currently illegal. If this were not the case, there would be no such thing as politics.

I hope Terry doesn’t let the bastards get him down.


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