24 January 2013

Japan’s Let ‘Em Die Party

The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.

And what problem is that, Mr Asō? Why, naturally, it’s the problem of health care for the Japanese elderly! The same elderly who now make up nearly a quarter of Japan’s total population, who are not being replaced fast enough by their own populace due to the neoliberal orientation of their economy (encouraged by Mr Asō’s party, the Liberal Democrats), and who are hardly being replaced at all by immigrants due to the massive public xenophobia of the Japanese political class and the growing antipathy toward the Japanese government by pretty much every other East Asian nation of note (both also encouraged by Mr Asō’s party, and indeed by Mr Asō himself on numerous occasions - see also here).

Of course, Japan being a society heavily influenced by Confucian philosophy and having a high respect for the elderly, one might expect that Asō’s comments didn’t go over too well. Though Confucius supported the idea that a person’s death might be necessary because the virtues of care and justice would demand it (if it were done for the positive benefit of a lord, a loved one or a family member; or if it were done as an act of loyalty), he would have abhorred the idea that one should commit suicide for convenience or because of financial troubles. Suicide, when not aimed at fulfilling a virtue of care or justice, violates the virtue-ethic of xiao (孝, filiality) in several egregious ways. Firstly, the decision to commit suicide for selfish reasons is an abrogation of one’s life-long duties to care for one’s parents and to ensure the continuation of the family. Secondly and more importantly, it is a presumptuous harm to the existence that is given by one’s parents, and is thus an expression of ingratitude. As Confucius said: 「身體髮膚,受之父母,不敢毀傷,孝之始也。」 - ‘Our bodies, every hair and bit of skin, are received from our fathers and mothers; not presuming to injure that body is the beginning of filiality.’ Mr Asō’s way of thinking is triply anathema to Confucian thought, as it holds that old people should die for the sake of pecuniary convenience to the state! Surely, given the context in which this pronouncement occurred, this falls under Mencius’s condemnation of 率獸而食人 (‘leading on beasts to devour people’).

But wait. What’s that, you say? Mr Asō is Catholic? Well, then, in that case, surely there exists in Catholic doctrine some support for Mr Asō’s idea that the elderly should hurry up and die--

The Catholic Church holds as sacred both the dignity of each individual person and the gift of life. Therefore, the following principles are morally binding: First, to make an attempt on the life of or to kill an innocent person is an evil action. Second, each person is bound to lead his life in accord with God's plan and with an openness to His will, looking to life's fulfillment in heaven. Finally, intentionally committing suicide is a murder of oneself and considered a rejection of God's plan. For these reasons, the Second Vatican Council condemned “all offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide...” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 27).

Oh. Well, then, what about the current Pope? Surely he must--

the Holy Father once again recalled “the firm and constant ethical condemnation of all forms of direct euthanasia, in keeping with the centuries-long teaching of the Church”.

“The synergetic efforts of civil society and of the community of believers must ensure not only that everyone is able to live in a dignified and responsible way, but also that they can face moments of trial and of death in the finest condition of fraternity and solidarity, even where death comes in a poor family or a hospital bed”.

Society, said the Pontiff, must “ensure due support to families who undertake to care in the home, sometimes for long periods, sick members who are afflicted with degenerative conditions, ... or who need particularly costly assistance. ... It is above all in this field that synergy between the Church and the institutions can prove particularly important in ensuring the necessary help for human life in moments of frailty”.

Oh. Rather blunt, that. ‘Firm and constant ethical condemnation of direct euthanasia’, ‘society must ensure due support’, and ‘synergy between the Church and the institutions’ is important in achieving it, hm. Tough luck finding moral succour there, Tarō-chan.

Indeed, it seems Japan’s problems (and boy, if this recent outburst is any indication, does it ever have problems) won’t be solved, until all of the chauvinistic, neoliberal and anti-life ideas courted by the Japanese political class (particularly in one specific political party, which I oughtn’t need to name) hurry up and die, as they should.

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