A Simple Solution

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The recent essay concerning abortion by Stefan Molyneux has touched on something in today’s culture that I have been thinking about. Mr. Molyneux correctly describes abortion as a "solution" to social problems. That is, he recognizes that the government and much or our society sees the tragedy of abortion as a solution. In fact, solutions like abortion have become pervasive to what are essentially people problems.

There is a simple solution to people problems. Kill the person. From the first stirrings of life to the lingering end this simple solution is becoming the preferred norm. Of course abortion is a simple solution to the problem of an unwanted child. Even if many do not recognize the fetus as a person, it cannot be argued that killing something is the partial solution to problems such as overpopulation and crime. I wonder if Earth First environmentalists have fantasies of a simple solution for reducing the parasitic population of humans. Much has been written about the sad case of Terry Schiavo. All I wish to state is the obvious, that there was a problem for Mr. Schiavo that has now been solved by the simple solution of her death. And regarding a simple solution to the civil unrest after Katrina I give you Governor Kathleen Blanco with my favorite quote of 2005, her description of the Louisiana National Guard.

They have M-16s, and they’re locked and loaded . . . These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.

In a former, perhaps more brutal age, Caesar could deal with his people problems in Gaul in a straightforward way.

By this battle the war with the Veneti and the whole of the sea coast was finished; for both all the youth, and all, too, of more advanced age, in whom there was any discretion or rank, had assembled in that battle; and they had collected in that one place whatever naval forces they had anywhere; and when these were lost, the survivors had no place to retreat to, nor means of defending their towns. They accordingly surrendered themselves and all their possessions to Caesar, on whom Caesar thought that punishment should be inflicted the more severely, in order that for the future the rights of ambassadors might be more carefully respected by barbarians; having, therefore, put to death all their senate, he sold the rest for slaves.

Today one might question who the barbarians were. And today the neoconservatives dream that President Bush could deal with the Iraqi insurgency in a similar fashion. But as I think about it, in many ways Bush’s Caesarian section of democracy in the Middle East is very much in the spirit of that esteemed statesman who did so much to turn his ancient republic into an empire.

It is argued that we have brutal adversaries so we must employ brutal means. Certainly there are Islamic fanatics that understand simple solutions such as the late, great Ayatollah Khomeini, who was quoted in The West and the Rest by Roger Scruton.

If one allows the infidels to continue playing their role of corrupters on Earth, their eventual moral punishment will be all the stronger. Thus, if we kill the infidels in order to put a stop to their [corrupting] activities, we have indeed done them a service. For their eventual punishment will be less. To allow the infidels to stay alive means to let them do more corrupting. [To kill them] is a surgical operation commanded by Allah the Creator. . . . Those who follow the Koran are aware that we have to apply the laws of qissas [retribution] and that we have to kill. . . . War is a blessing for the world and for every nation. It is Allah himself who commands men to wage war and kill.

The logic is compelling. Our response to fanaticism and terrorism, to the uncertainty of picking out the terrorists in airports, is the simple solution of training air marshals to have a shoot to kill mentality and a hair trigger. It should be understood but isn’t that the license to kill has not been granted to James Bond 007, but to the bureaucratic equivalent of your postman. Thus we have nervous passengers gunned down by our protectors. Furthermore, we send bombs and cruise missiles at our enemies, based on slam-dunk intelligence, no matter the innocence, gender, or age of the bystanders. And of course there are the continuous wars that cause so much death and destruction,

Many readers will certainly recognize the theme of this essay is what John Paul II called the culture of death. He has written in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae the following description of the moral and social case against state sponsored death.

This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people — even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity?” When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human coexistence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom. . .

The point of this essay is to warn readers to be wary of the simple solution that kills the problem.

Ira Katz [send him mail] teaches mechanical engineering at Lafayette College. He is the co-author of Handling Mr. Hyde: Questions and Answers about Manic Depression and Introduction to Fluid Mechanics.

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