Less Than Human

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  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    I’m sure my step-niece is perfectly able to reason, she just can’t communicate any of her thoughts.

    You say this line it’s a good thing, and for your niece it may be, but speaking personally I’d rather be completely unable to reason. It’s frustrating enough right now when I can’t get someone else to understand what seems so clear in my own mind, but the idea of being perfectly able to think, reason and understand but not to communicate anything is my idea of hell.

    If I’m in a PVS with no higher brain function at all then leave the machines on all you want - I won’t be there any more to care one way or another so do what makes you feel better. But if there’s any chance that I’m fully conscious but in a permanent locked in state where I can’t see, hear, move, speak or anything then for God’s sake pull the fucking plug and release me.
    So, you can tell your family and friends this whilst you are in full capacity.
    Not the same as killing off mentally disabled people. Or dementia patients.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Apologies Soror Magna. It was a silly comment, which I really can't justify.

    To be honest I am finding aspects of this thread disturbing and I need to bow out.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    I’m sure my step-niece is perfectly able to reason, she just can’t communicate any of her thoughts.

    You say this line it’s a good thing, and for your niece it may be, but speaking personally I’d rather be completely unable to reason. It’s frustrating enough right now when I can’t get someone else to understand what seems so clear in my own mind, but the idea of being perfectly able to think, reason and understand but not to communicate anything is my idea of hell.

    If I’m in a PVS with no higher brain function at all then leave the machines on all you want - I won’t be there any more to care one way or another so do what makes you feel better. But if there’s any chance that I’m fully conscious but in a permanent locked in state where I can’t see, hear, move, speak or anything then for God’s sake pull the fucking plug and release me.

    But would she say that? She is comfortable and often happy. She has her difficult days, but don’t we all?

    You can put your wishes in writing and ask for the plug to be pulled. She can’t.

    But this thread isn’t about the question ‘does she deserve/want to live?’ it’s the question ‘what makes her human?’

  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    edited August 28
    Vocabulary problem going on here. It really doesn't work to say "human" when what you really mean is "deserving" or "rational" or "a person" (whatever that means) or "sentient"...

    Human is a species.

    Homo sapiens is a species. Human used as a noun also refers to a member of Homo sapiens but, imo, it has a much more important use as an adjective when it refers to behaviour.
  • That's "humane" unless you want really fuzzy discourse.
  • That's "humane" unless you want really fuzzy discourse.

    humane is something else.

    Human is used as an adjective. According to this, it means of or typical of people. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/human
  • But calling people less than human is historical typical of genocidal theory and praxis.
  • But calling people less than human is historical typical of genocidal theory and praxis.

    But I'm not doing that. Those with severe mental conditions are no longer or never were people. They have lost or never gained those faculties by which we (as in I) define a person.

    It's not like I'm trying to suggest that anyone can be less than human because of their ethnicity or religion or culture.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 28
    It was on this basis, essentially, that severely disabled members of the species Homo sapiens sapiens - whom I consider both human and persons and you do not - were killed by the nazis during the holocaust.

    I do not believe that to be OK. Apparently, you do.
  • It was on this basis, essentially, that severely disabled members of the species Homo sapiens sapiens - whom I consider both human and persons and you do not - were killed by the nazis during the holocaust.

    I do not believe that to be OK. Apparently, you do.

    I am not familiar with the criteria the Nazis used to decide who should be euthanized. However, the Nazis were nationalists who were only interested in how individuals could serve the state. They had no interest in the well-being of individuals, per se. I, by contrast, am an individualist with no interest in the state or with any desire to shape society.

    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.
    It is difficult to see other than that the latter weighs heavier in your calculations than the former and then extend that to the former being rationalisation for the latter.
    One cannot know the mind of somone unable to communicate their thoughts, but observation indicates that people in the categories you define as less than human do not all suffer in the ways you seem to presume.

  • It was on this basis, essentially, that severely disabled members of the species Homo sapiens sapiens - whom I consider both human and persons and you do not - were killed by the nazis during the holocaust.

    I do not believe that to be OK. Apparently, you do.

    I am not familiar with the criteria the Nazis used to decide who should be euthanized.

    Perhaps you should find out.
    I, by contrast, am an individualist with no interest in the state or with any desire to shape society.

    Society is the aggregate of individual decisions, taken by individuals from a constellations of motives and beliefs. Each and every decision and expression of opinion shapes society to some extent - regardless of the individual’s intent. And we all have to live with the consequences of that.
    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.

    Are you sure ? If a close relative of yours, say your child, developed a severe physical disability but was mentally sharp as a tack, physically healthy and pain free - but needed 24 hour care to facilitate their life - is that something you would ever consider doing ? Or would you wish somebody else to relieve you of that burden ?
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.
    It is difficult to see other than that the latter weighs heavier in your calculations than the former and then extend that to the former being rationalisation for the latter.
    One cannot know the mind of somone unable to communicate their thoughts, but observation indicates that people in the categories you define as less than human do not all suffer in the ways you seem to presume.

    You have slightly misunderstood what I'm getting at. It's not that the afflicted are suffering pain or discomfit but that I simply cannot imagine anyone capable of choosing would choose to live such a life. I also cannot imagine anyone would choose to dedicate their life to caring for those who can never get well.
  • It was on this basis, essentially, that severely disabled members of the species Homo sapiens sapiens - whom I consider both human and persons and you do not - were killed by the nazis during the holocaust.

    I do not believe that to be OK. Apparently, you do.

    I am not familiar with the criteria the Nazis used to decide who should be euthanized.

    Perhaps you should find out.
    I, by contrast, am an individualist with no interest in the state or with any desire to shape society.

    Society is the aggregate of individual decisions, taken by individuals from a constellations of motives and beliefs. Each and every decision and expression of opinion shapes society to some extent - regardless of the individual’s intent. And we all have to live with the consequences of that.
    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.

    Are you sure ? If a close relative of yours, say your child, developed a severe physical disability but was mentally sharp as a tack, physically healthy and pain free - but needed 24 hour care to facilitate their life - is that something you would ever consider doing ? Or would you wish somebody else to relieve you of that burden ?

    Yes. society is shaped by individual actions and opinions, but I don't care what that shape is so long as every one gets to exercise their individual freedom without excessive infringement on the freedom of others.

    I never wanted children (and don't have any) because I never wanted to care for a child, healthy or otherwise.
  • My argument is that you, and those who hold similar opinions to your own, will over time infringe the liberties of others - because of the shape of political discourse - you don’t care, I think, largely because the people whose liberties I believe will be excessively curtailed (be killed) are those amongst us you don’t consider to be people.

    I wonder what you think of this book, in particular - as an individualist - do you feel it reasonable to divide people (those you recognise as people) into pawns and patrons. That is, would you choose to organise your relationships with people primarily on the basis of how useful they are to you ? Is this what human as action means to you ?

    (By the way, I commend your good sense in not having children you don’t want, too many people do have kids to meet other people’s expectations and that can be a road to disaster.)
  • snip

    I wonder what you think of this book, in particular - as an individualist - do you feel it reasonable to divide people (those you recognise as people) into pawns and patrons. That is, would you choose to organise your relationships with people primarily on the basis of how useful they are to you ? Is this what human as action means to you ?

    My relationships are based on how enjoyable I find someone's company.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.
    It is difficult to see other than that the latter weighs heavier in your calculations than the former and then extend that to the former being rationalisation for the latter.
    One cannot know the mind of somone unable to communicate their thoughts, but observation indicates that people in the categories you define as less than human do not all suffer in the ways you seem to presume.

    You have slightly misunderstood what I'm getting at. It's not that the afflicted are suffering pain or discomfit but that I simply cannot imagine anyone capable of choosing would choose to live such a life. I also cannot imagine anyone would choose to dedicate their life to caring for those who can never get well.

    That’s a deficiency of imagination, though. Just because you can’t imagine something doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. There are plenty of people who’ve chosen to live with severe disabilities.

    Similarly, there are whole industries built around caring for people who can never get well. As someone who once worked in one of those industries, I can assure you many people doing that work view it as a calling.
  • I also cannot imagine anyone would choose to dedicate their life to caring for those who can never get well.

    But you do not need to imagine; this happens every day - special needs education, palliative care specialists, people who foster and adopt children with disabilities etc etc

    A consultant doctor of palliative care, for example, has spent 15 years training to do that. It didn’t happen by accident. Likewise a consultant in learning disabilities.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    My concern is to end the suffering of the afflicted and end the suffering of those who care for the afflicted.
    It is difficult to see other than that the latter weighs heavier in your calculations than the former and then extend that to the former being rationalisation for the latter.
    One cannot know the mind of somone unable to communicate their thoughts, but observation indicates that people in the categories you define as less than human do not all suffer in the ways you seem to presume.

    You have slightly misunderstood what I'm getting at. It's not that the afflicted are suffering pain or discomfit but that I simply cannot imagine anyone capable of choosing would choose to live such a life. I also cannot imagine anyone would choose to dedicate their life to caring for those who can never get well.
    You go beyond this when you classify them as not human. You are making an active classification and that is not nothing,

  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I also cannot imagine anyone would choose to dedicate their life to caring for those who can never get well.

    But you do not need to imagine; this happens every day - special needs education, palliative care specialists, people who foster and adopt children with disabilities etc etc

    A consultant doctor of palliative care, for example, has spent 15 years training to do that. It didn’t happen by accident. Likewise a consultant in learning disabilities.

    Yes, this. It seems a peculiar thing to have some measure of pride in, not knowing or wanting to know what it's like to care for other people.

    I was the main caregiver for my two children (now in their 20s) when it was (I'll be charitable about other people's attitudes) 'unusual' for a father to stay at home and look after babies. And I'm now increasingly assuming the role of carer for my mum, who is still cognitively very able, but can't manage either the heavy lifting she used to, nor the technological interaction modern society increasingly requires of her.

    If you have any questions, I'll attempt to answer them, @Colin Smith .
  • That's "humane" unless you want really fuzzy discourse.

    humane is something else.

    Human is used as an adjective. According to this, it means of or typical of people. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/human

    Dude.

    [takes deep breath]

    THIS IS PRECISELY MY POINT.

    If you are going to use the adjective human to refer to those who are (gasp!) human in discussions of "what does it mean to be a human being?", you cannot at the same time redefine what it means to be human without begging the question. You are assuming your conclusion and driving everyone (okay, at least me) batshit insane.

    "Human" in the normally accepted usage is an adjective applied to members of humanity; homo sapiens; the human species; humankind.

    If you are now going to redefine it to mean something in the general vaguosity of "sentience/worthwhileness/value/worthiness-to-be-let-to-live" or similar... you really ought in all decency to find a different word. Molesting honest, decent, right-living words that have never done anything to deserve it just isn't on. What will happen if you persist is that half of us will assume you are using the term in its normal sense (member of the human species) and half of us will pick up that you have somehow, someway, randomly stretched or compressed or turned into a toroid-shaped gateway to the eleventh dimension of hell meaning--but we won't know exactly what, and we will wind up bickering over things that we might actually be in agreement on, but simply can't tell, because your usage is so... unique.

    Please don't do that.
  • LC--

    Beautifully written! :)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited August 29
    Thank you LC.

    I found Colin Smith's comments I am not interested in being loved by someone I look down on, I am not interested in being loved by someone I look down on and others in a similar vein both very disturbing and very saddening. I can't understand how someone can reach such a position. For a start, looking down on a person...
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited August 29
    It is grievous. As for me, I suspect one of the main "functions" as it were of severely disabled people in society is to give occasion for just such love, both from carer and from care receiver. So often it's just beautiful,
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    It is grievous. As for me, I suspect one of the main "functions" as it were of severely disabled people in society is to give occasion for just such love, both from carer and from care receiver. So often it's just beautiful,

    I agree.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited August 29
    Very well said @Lamb Chopped.

    I know two people who have given over thirty years, giving up almost everything - career, social life etc - to care for severely disabled relatives, both of whom had little or no ability to move or communicate.

    The experience has enriched them beyond measure and turned them into incredible, astounding, patient, thoughtful human beings. Of course, they were already amazing people to take on the task. But far from diminishing them as people, those years have given them an insight into humanity few of us will ever achieve.

    I know I couldn’t do it - but that’s because I don’t have their strength and resilience. I admire them.

    My family cared for my Mum for years on a rota basis, I did weekends as I worked full time. It gave me some small insight into their lives. But only small as Mum was very old - we knew our task was time limited and it was shared. These two are looking after people who will more than likely outlive them.

  • You have slightly misunderstood what I'm getting at. It's not that the afflicted are suffering pain or discomfit but that I simply cannot imagine anyone capable of choosing would choose to live such a life. I also cannot imagine anyone would choose to dedicate their life to caring for those who can never get well.

    For a writer, your imagination does seem quite limited here. As Doublethink has said, neither is uncommon. I work across two hospices, a hospital palliative care team and three community palliative care teams. At a very rough estimate that’s well over 100 clinical professionals plus at least that again in support staff who have made exactly that choice and find our work vital, meaningful, satisfying and, though often full of tears, equally often full of laughter.

    And what I see in my patients is that none of them cease to be human, whatever stage they are at. However limited by illness, they remain individuals and we treat them as such (the frustrations of doing so in an increasingly overstretched system which doesn’t is another thread)

    This lovely piece by Charlotte Church this weekend summed it up pretty well.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited August 29
    Thanks @CJCfarwest

    This from the article was true in our experience too. Mum ended up in a specialist dementia home and we then brought her home to my brother’s farm for her last two weeks. She was provided with a hospital bed (in the farm kitchen) and all the nursing care she needed. The whole family lived there and we took turns to be by her side overnight. A special time for us all -
    Memories of moments in her final days are precious and I am gratefully aware of how lucky my family and I are to have had them. They exist because of palliative-care specialists. What a mystically unique role: part scientist, part shaman; half doctor, half priest; with careful words held equally as important as the careful drugs. Never hard-heartedly functional, and never “compulsively positive”, it is as if they are of the same station as midwives, just on the other end. I am profoundly moved by this practice. The UK is reportedly the best in the world at end-of-life care, which is cause to be proud, and there are calls from both the International Association of Research in Cancer and the World Health Organization to declare palliative care a human right.

    “What a mystically unique role: part scientist, part shaman; half doctor, half priest; with careful words held equally as important as the careful drugs.”

    Indeed!


  • Doc Tor wrote: »

    Yes, this. It seems a peculiar thing to have some measure of pride in, not knowing or wanting to know what it's like to care for other people.

    I was the main caregiver for my two children (now in their 20s) when it was (I'll be charitable about other people's attitudes) 'unusual' for a father to stay at home and look after babies. And I'm now increasingly assuming the role of carer for my mum, who is still cognitively very able, but can't manage either the heavy lifting she used to, nor the technological interaction modern society increasingly requires of her.

    If you have any questions, I'll attempt to answer them, @Colin Smith .

    I'm not taking any pride in "not knowing or wanting to know what it's like to care for other people" and there are in fact people I care about and who I'd like to help get better at doing the things they are enjoying (e.g., that's why I run a writing group) but what I resent and disagree with is any expectation that I should care or that I have a duty to care.

    But kudos for going against society's expectations.
  • CJCfarwest wrote: »

    For a writer, your imagination does seem quite limited here. As Doublethink has said, neither is uncommon. I work across two hospices, a hospital palliative care team and three community palliative care teams. At a very rough estimate that’s well over 100 clinical professionals plus at least that again in support staff who have made exactly that choice and find our work vital, meaningful, satisfying and, though often full of tears, equally often full of laughter.

    And what I see in my patients is that none of them cease to be human, whatever stage they are at. However limited by illness, they remain individuals and we treat them as such (the frustrations of doing so in an increasingly overstretched system which doesn’t is another thread)

    This lovely piece by Charlotte Church this weekend summed it up pretty well.

    It's fair to say that I would never attempt to write something where the focus was on caring for someone.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I'm not taking any pride in "not knowing or wanting to know what it's like to care for other people"

    Except that most people would see others' caring as laudable, while acknowledging their own ability are lacking ("I could never do what you're doing...").

    Perhaps 'pride' wasn't the right word, and for that I apologise, but most - I believe the substantial majority of humanity - would physically and emotionally care for others to some degree or other, with or without the bonds of family or friendship, and would go so far as to say that this is a significant part of what defines us as human.
    and there are in fact people I care about and who I'd like to help get better at doing the things they are enjoying (e.g., that's why I run a writing group) but what I resent and disagree with is any expectation that I should care or that I have a duty to care.

    This is not the same thing at all. The expectation that you should care comes from our common notions of humanity. That you don't appear to share them doesn't make them any less common.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »

    Except that most people would see others' caring as laudable, while acknowledging their own ability are lacking ("I could never do what you're doing...").

    Perhaps 'pride' wasn't the right word, and for that I apologise, but most - I believe the substantial majority of humanity - would physically and emotionally care for others to some degree or other, with or without the bonds of family or friendship, and would go so far as to say that this is a significant part of what defines us as human.
    and there are in fact people I care about and who I'd like to help get better at doing the things they are enjoying (e.g., that's why I run a writing group) but what I resent and disagree with is any expectation that I should care or that I have a duty to care.

    This is not the same thing at all. The expectation that you should care comes from our common notions of humanity. That you don't appear to share them doesn't make them any less common.

    Thank you for the apology.

    I do care for others to some degree but accept that it is a small degree and with minimal sacrifice on my part. I not see self-sacrifice as laudable and admire those who put their own fulfilment first. I particularly admire the climber, Alison Hargreaves, who continued to make dangerous ascents 'despite' being a mother with two young children. When she died descending K2 many people vilified her for her 'selfishness'. I genuinely believe people would be happier if they put themselves first more often.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    I agree. We can’t care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves.

    But it doesn’t then follow that we don’t need to care for others.

    (Even for selfish reasons! I’m walking my friend’s dogs at the moment as she’s broken her leg. I don’t enjoy it, her dogs are a real pain in the arse, it’s a chore. But - the feeling of pleasure I get from the relief on her face is huge. And yes, selfish.)
  • Boogie wrote: »
    I agree. We can’t care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves.

    But it doesn’t then follow that we don’t need to care for others.

    (Even for selfish reasons! I’m walking my friend’s dogs at the moment as she’s broken her leg. I don’t enjoy it, her dogs are a real pain in the arse, it’s a chore. But - the feeling of pleasure I get from the relief on her face is huge. And yes, selfish.)

    I agree that we do get pleasure from helping others or for helping with good causes, such as the nine hours I volunteered over the bank holiday selling tea and cakes at the Chalice Well Gardens.

    Though I'd point out that you're doing it with an expectation that your friend's leg will mend and that the walking will only last at most an hour or so, and I don't sell tea and cake everyday!
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I do care for others to some degree but accept that it is a small degree and with minimal sacrifice on my part. I not see self-sacrifice as laudable and admire those who put their own fulfilment first. I particularly admire the climber, Alison Hargreaves, who continued to make dangerous ascents 'despite' being a mother with two young children. When she died descending K2 many people vilified her for her 'selfishness'. I genuinely believe people would be happier if they put themselves first more often.

    Hargreaves was inevitably a victim of sexist double standards. Many experienced climbers and explorers have children, who they leave behind while they attempt dangerous feats. But this extends to everyday life - women who dare to have a job or, heaven forfend, a career, that takes them away from home. Only mothers get criticised, and fathers appear to get a pass.

    And yes, I understand how difficult it is to care for others - it's time- and self-consuming, and it's not for everybody. But I'm struggling to understand why you think it's wrong - that's certainly the impression I'm getting from you, and by now, you should be realising by now, given the responses on this thread, that your own reticence to self-sacrifice is highly anomalous. From that, any conclusions you might reach on who is 'less than human' are yours and yours alone. You are entitled to them, but we are also entitled to find those views distasteful, and say so.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited August 29
    Boogie wrote: »
    I agree. We can’t care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves.

    But it doesn’t then follow that we don’t need to care for others.

    (Even for selfish reasons! I’m walking my friend’s dogs at the moment as she’s broken her leg. I don’t enjoy it, her dogs are a real pain in the arse, it’s a chore. But - the feeling of pleasure I get from the relief on her face is huge. And yes, selfish.)

    I agree that we do get pleasure from helping others or for helping with good causes, such as the nine hours I volunteered over the bank holiday selling tea and cakes at the Chalice Well Gardens.

    Though I'd point out that you're doing it with an expectation that your friend's leg will mend and that the walking will only last at most an hour or so, and I don't sell tea and cake everyday!

    Absolutely - as I said about caring for my Mum every weekend too, hard as it was - I knew it was time limited.

    But other things are not and we still do them. To label those who need our care (the extreme cases) as ‘less than human’ is to look entirely in the wrong place for solutions imo.

  • Humans, enjoying each other’s company.
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