site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of October 10, 2022

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

23
Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

, but it was her decision.

Why does this mean anything?

Who do you think owns your life? Who gets to decide what you do with it?

I'm just a horrified atheist in the style of @Tophattingson, but I believe the religious traditions' answer to that is "God". God has a plan for you, and you don't get to duck out of that plan just because you're feeling wretched. Or if you prefer sci-fi, I remember being moved by Col. Graff's line in Ender's Game: "Human beings are free except when humanity needs them."

Yes, the religious take on this (at least from the Christian perspective) is "you don't get to kill yourself, and neither does anyone else, even if you 'consent.'"

It's not so much that your life doesn't belong to you (although if you pressed us, we'd say it ultimately doesn't), as it is that it is immoral to do certain things with your life, including ending it. Human beings are considered inherently valuable in themselves, not as containers of value. And to kill yourself rejects that value and is therefore not only a sin against God but against yourself. From a strongly libertarian or (in moral foundations terms) care/harm moral standpoint this may seem unduly overbearing, but this is nonetheless how we look at things.

The hand-wringing over "well, was this one of the times when euthanasia is justified?" is basically irrelevant to us; euthanasia in general is beyond the pale, it should not be under the purview of the state or medical professionals or your family or even yourself whether it's a good idea for you to die or not -- it's not, end of story. The fact that in this case there are boards and hearings and medical consultations and Zoom meetings (Good God!) where people get to systematically decide whether your life is wretched enough for you to die or not makes it worse, not better, because it puts a bureaucratic and formal procedure behind an action which is ultimately gravely immoral. It dresses up the bare act of killing with fancy words and fancy processes, when from my perspective what has occurred to this poor girl is as morally repugnant and barbaric as a psychopath slicing her neck open. No medical professional gets to kill you and call it "healthcare."

(And, yes, we see there being an incredibly massive difference between killing and letting die, because we're virtue ethicists or deontologists, not utilitarians. Acts have strong moral relevance, states of being less so.)

I'm not interested in making suicide illegal -- I think this makes it either an A) unpunishable crime, because the perpetrator is dead, or B) punishes people who need help rather than punishment, those who tried and failed to commit suicide.

But I think there needs to be stigma around it, and I say this as someone who has been medically treated for acute suicidality. Committing suicide -- and we should call it committing, like a crime, because it's self-murder -- should be treated as a no man's land, as seriously and terribly immoral, as something which destroys families, as a terrible act which forever slanders the reputation of the person who goes through with it. We should call it "selfish." We should call it "cowardly." We should call it "irreversible." Because it is all of those things.

We should remove the stigma around depression. Around anxiety. Around psychotic conditions, schizophrenia. These are the conditions that people endure with laudable courage and strength. But suicide is not the act of the brave and strong but of the selfish and contemptible. It is an evil act, and I will speak of it as such to euthanasia advocates until the day I breathe my last.

People who ineptly try and commit suicide and fail should not be hated but forgiven, not be punished but helped, not be shunned but moved to a place of healing. But they should be sternly warned that suicide is not an option, that if they try again and succeed there is no coming back, and that such an action, if completed, will bring incalculable ruin on them, their families, and everyone they love. I say that for both harm-reduction reasons -- speaking from experience, I think this is the sort of logic that actually makes people decide not to kill themselves -- and because I think it is the moral truth.

There are certainly states of being and mental conditions that reduce a person's culpability for suicide, though I would argue these are mostly psychotic rather than neurotic. But any system which believes it can confer upon itself not only the power but the duty to kill a 23-year-old woman with PTSD is a deeply sick and rotten system. The people who approved, ordered, and performed her killing can no more wash their hands of the sin by calling it "healthcare" or "euthanasia," than Pilate could wash his hands of the murder of Christ by blaming his sin on the political system or the crowd.