A couple weeks ago I laid down the basic principles for a voluntaryist philosophy of law and order called the Consistent Consent Ethic. The theory goes that the notion of criminality should be based on consent and consent alone. Any "crime" committed with the consent of the "victim" is not a crime at all and should thus be left to the teachers and philosophers to govern through education rather than by the government through coercion. I specifically chose the morally challenging examples of abortion and statutory rape in order to underscore the fact that legal doesn't always mean right and that the law isn't always the best way to handle moral dilemmas.
This week I want to take my philosophy a step further and explore a right that I have come to believe is every bit as fundamental as the right to life; the right to die. To some this may ring hypocritical coming from an unapologetic (albeit decidedly unorthodox) pro-lifer. After all, as I've noted before, the nucleus of my Consistent Consent Ethic is the Consistent Life Ethic I was raised to cherish. The cornerstone of this philosophy, like my own, is the basic maxim of "do no harm". The ultimate harm being the taking of another human life. But there is another equally egregious violation of human rights that I believe thoroughly violates the consent of the individual and that violation is forcing life.
If a person has the basic inalienable right to live then it only follows that they have a basic right to die and criminalizing that right in any way violates both the principle of the law as based on consent and the consent of an individual who wishes to end their own life for any reason. The prohibition of euthanasia is the most obvious example of this violation. If a person has the right to die then a person should also have the right to assist another person in achieving this goal. After witnessing the long, slow and painful death of his own mother, Dr. Jack Kevorkian devoted his life and career to assisting other terminal patients in dying with dignity. Being a known eccentric with many unorthodox philosophies in the regions of life and death (wonder what that's like?), it wasn't hard for a government committed to the violation of the consent of its own citizenry to railroad the good doctor and send him up river for the crime of assisting others in their darkest hour.
Kevorkian's first euthanasia patient was a victim of Alzheimer's Disease who didn't wish to spend the final years of her life slowly disintegrating both mentally and physically. As a person who has lost both grandmothers to Alzheimer's, I can personally attest to the diabolical cruelty of that affliction. The only thing I can think of that is crueler than that despicable disease is forcing someone to slowly die from it out of some perverted need to protect the patient from themselves. This renders the suffering to the status of prisoners of their own biology (not unlike mothers kept from making the morally questionable decision to terminate a pregnancy) and, unlike Dr. Kevorkian, I believe that the abolition of the Patient Prisoner Complex should liberate all of us, not just the physically terminal.
There is a popular saying about suicide, that it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The son of a bitch who said that clearly had very little understanding about the hellish reality of living with depression. I have lived with depression my entire life and I can personally attest that there is nothing temporary about that disease. It is a nagging, relentless, rabid animal that sinks it's dull fangs deep into your soul and never lets go. I've been to some dark places but I have never been suicidal. I have always relied on that old Marxist concept of the Eternal Struggle to give my life of suffering meaning. I have devoted myself fully to the creation of a better world no matter how many lifetimes it takes and I will die fighting that fight with a pen in my hand. But that's my right and I would never dream of denying another persons right to end their suffering. Suicide is a tragedy but so is living a life of pain simply because our society stigmatizes and many times criminalizes the right to die by ones own hands.
And suicide isn't the only form of consensual death. In the early 2000's, in rural Germany, a lonely young man named Armin Meiwes was at the end of his rope trying to tamp down a paraphilia that had consumed him since childhood with the urge to consume others. Rather than going down the path of many similarly troubled souls before him and violating an innocent person's right to life and dignity, Armin made the principled decision to seek out a consenting participant in his dark fantasies. After putting up an add online seeking a well built man interested in being slaughtered, Armin visited with many curious suitors, nearly all of whom ultimately changed their minds and all of whom Armin made zero attempt to force his will upon. Finally, Mr. Meiwes came into contact with a young man named Bernd Brandes who's aching desire to be consumed coalesced perfectly with Armin's own unorthodox sexual appetites. Here is where the story ends. Two men who could only be loved by one another and who could only truly love each other once, engaged in a bizarre act of consensual homicide and cannibalism. Brandes gave his life for love and in many ways Meiwes did too, he remains in prison.
But I say, where is the crime? Who is the victim here? The man who consented (on film) to end his life for the sanctuary of knowing love as he understood it for just one night? Or the man who is imprisoned for having the moral discipline and fortitude to channel his dark desires into consensual behavior? Men like Jack Kevorkian and Armin Meiwes are not monsters. They are mavericks and dare I say role models who sacrificed themselves completely for the struggle of achieving a truly consensual society and I for one choose to honor them.
Life is a precious gift. But what kind of giver gives a gift that can't be given back if it doesn't fit? The Consistent Consent Ethic is not an easy philosophy to follow. It involves accepting the fact that not only will there always be people who will do things that make us uncomfortable but that they have every right to do them, rightly or wrongly, as long as they don't violate the rights of others. And by standing in their way and using the precious power of the law to govern their behavior just because we may find their consensual actions abhorrent, we not only violate the rights that even these transgressive figures have chosen to respect but we violate the very notion of a truly free and egalitarian society. By violating the Consistent Consent Ethic, we violate ourselves. We become the very monsters we abhor.
Government should not be a hammer to bludgeon away the things that make us uncomfortable with our own humanity. It should be a paint brush that connects every color in a tapestry of voluntary behavior. We abuse the careful use of this delicate tool at the risk of the masterpiece we call society. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to put down the paintbrush and let the colors speak for themselves.
No more painting by the numbers, dearest motherfuckers, let all the colors shine bright and strange and beautiful and ugly. Let freedom reign and let consent be the reignmaker.
Peace, Love & Empathy- CH
Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post
* Freedom of Choice By Devo
* Rainmaker By Sleigh Bells
* Love Will Tear Us Apart By Joy Division
* Here Is Where the Story Ends By The Sundays
* Flesh Without Blood By Grimes
* Fourth of July By X
* Saturdays By Twin Shadow & HAIM
* Sappy By Nirvana
* She Drives Me Crazy By Fine Young Cannibals
* The Mercy Seat By Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds