It’s deeply ironic that while our predecessors thought the most important use of human will was to escape slavery to our own harmful appetites and judgements, “choice” is now cited as the most important moral authority for whatever is chosen. It’s as if personal choice makes something good, despite the obvious fact we may choose something bad—bad for ourselves, and maybe bad for others, now or in future.
For more than a half-century, we have been in the midst of an unprecedented legal war against the traditional moral constraints posed by our own biological nature, especially by childbirth and dying. At the same time, we play it both ways. If we want to behave in ways we know are deemed morally wrong, we simply cite biology as our authority, as if to say we can’t help ourselves because we’re victims of our own nature.
In particular, we demand freedom for everything having to do with our own bodies, especially with respect to choice of sexual object and appetite, and the so-called reproductive right (by which is meant a right not to reproduce). The latter, for deeply ideological reasons, forces us to confront the ultimate political question of the existence, or non-existence, of another human life located within us.
This is by default the most serious issue for all modern democracies, because in regimes resting on a right to equality and the sanctity of personal will, it’s possible for the mere existence of an inconvenient “other” to threaten such rights and bring them crashing down. Accordingly, to defend the ideological purity of their own political and moral commitments, many regimes in history have been forced to make entire classes of human beings disappear legally. We have done the same.
The ancient Greeks and Romans took it for granted that their regimes—especially their democracies—were impossible to sustain without slaves whose labors freed citizens to participate directly in political life. So they invented a special category of law to transform slaves into non-humans, into things, mere property they could buy or sell, beat or kill. This went so far as to argue that a slave could be legally charged for homicide, but not for murder, which requires intent, and only a human being can form intent.
All slave-holding nations and tribes in history, including all indigenous peoples of the Americas, have used similar category law or simple dictates to make a specific class of human beings disappear by judicial fiat, and reappear as non-human property. The Nazis, communists, and fascists used category law to make Jews, intellectuals, political enemies, and disfavored artists, among others, disappear, and reappear under the official dehumanizing label of the moment.
Our modern democracies are using the same legal deception to make millions of unborn children disappear, and reappear as what any honest person must recognize as womb-slaves. It’s odd that liberals, keen to deplore the history of slavery, seem unable to admit that our democracies, ostensibly devoted to protection of the weak, have been making slaves of unborn children by the millions for more than a half-century.
They won’t use this term, but will argue that without a law that makes unborn children non-human, democratic equality for women is impossible, simply because the natural burdens of childbearing render women disadvantaged and unequal to men. In an egalitarian democracy, inequality is the greatest sin, so a way had to be found enabling women to triumph over nature by eliminating the consequences of their own sexual behavior. Let us concentrate now on the legal and moral confusion this has unleashed.
A Human Being
In Canada, a human “child” is considered non-human until “born alive.” Section 223(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code articulates this legal abracadabra precisely, as follows: “A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”
Then, in Subsection (2), we read that “a person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.”
It’s simply absurd to state that a “child” becomes a “human being” after separation from the body of its mother, when we have just stated it’s a “child” (understood to be a young human being in every language of the world) before separation. It’s also absurd to state that a person commits homicide if this non-human “child” is injured before it becomes a human being—when it’s a mere thing—sufficiently to kill it after it becomes human.
Just a question, your Honor: If there’s no human being in there, how can you injure or kill “a child” who is not yet a child? And if it is a living child (it must be living before it can be killed, no?), then it must be a human child, right? I mean, we know it’s not a living turtle, or a flamingo. So, your Honor, this is really messed up. In Canadian civil law, a doctor can extract an umbilically attached but not-yet-human “child” from its mother’s belly for surgery, at which point it legally becomes “a human being,” perform the surgery, then stick the little human being back in the womb to finish gestation, at which point, it loses its humanity for the second time and becomes a non-human but living thing again.
Magic is the belief you have the power to change one substance into another; lead into gold, for example. Not to be outdone by sorcerers or witches of the past, a judge, with just a sentence or two, can magically change a living, kicking human child in the womb into a non-human lump of something or other (no one is saying exactly what); then, just as magically, can change that lump into an actual human being the moment it’s out of its mother. Canadian criminal law has produced a miracle almost as amazing as the transubstantiation of the communion wafer into the actual living body of Christ. The legal mind is really something.
A physician friend once illuminated the delusional nature of this magic by asking why, on one side of a two-inch-thick hospital wall, millions of dollars are being spent to preserve the life of a premature four-pound baby, while on the other side of that wall his colleagues are throwing an aborted, very human-looking, but legally not-yet-human baby of exactly the same weight into the garbage? For if, at that moment, each mother were suddenly to reverse her original choice, the almost fully-born human baby the medical team is fighting to save would disappear, suddenly converted by the will of its mother alone to the status of a non-human, a mere thing that happens to be alive; while on the other side of that wall the squirming but living thing still in its mother and so, legally defined as non-human (although it looks and acts in every respect like a human) and just about to be killed, would suddenly be transformed (converted, mutated?) by its mother’s will alone from a human-looking non-human into an actual human being.
The source of this existential magic is not God, of course, or the suddenly invoked incantation of a mystical spirit. It’s a legal fiction conferring life-giving, or life-denying, power on millions of women; nay, on anyone simply born female. Little girls in every democracy grow up knowing they may one day say, “You may live; but you shall die.” This is an ultimate power previously assumed to belong only to a god.
It’s simply a bald truth that as a political and moral extension of the will to triumph over nature, the Western democracies, fanatically beholden to the ideological presupposition of equality for all, have adopted an ancient technique for converting millions of living humans into non-humans prior to disposing of them, thus converting our democracies into slave-regimes of a new kind. We need to speak this truth in the public square: Any modern democracy using this technique is a slave regime, pure and simple.
Another instance of this urge to triumph over our own biological nature—already achieved in many jurisdictions—is the rising demand for the right to control death by personal will. Suicide is self-inflicted death, or “self-murder,” traditionally viewed with considerable sorrow and disapproval. But, beyond the understanding that to rest the ethos of an entire society on a right of suicide would be to opt for something very dark indeed, we can’t very easily prevent this use of will.
So-called “assisted-suicide” is something else. It means someone helps you kill yourself. They give you the pills, hand you the garbage bag to suffocate yourself, wheel you to the edge of the bridge where you jump, whatever. But you self-administer; you do the killing of yourself.
Euthanasia is very different again. It means someone else takes the terminal step to make you die, is instrumental in killing you. This person must apply, tie, and hold the suffocation bag in place against your reflex struggles (or may have to drug you first); put the pills or pour the killer-cocktail down your throat; or stick the needle in your arm. Here, too, the will, ever strident, demands mastery over nature, but in this case, someone else, with your consent, asserts a legal and moral mastery over your nature.
In the Netherlands, a group called Out of Free Will has campaigned vigorously (it’s not law yet) for the right of people over 70 who are simply “tired of life” to be euthanized by the state. There’s much public discussion of “auto-euthanasia,” and the availability of a “last will pill.” Dutch statisticians report figures annually for ELWERP (End of Life Without Explicit Request of Patient), that is, for citizens killed involuntarily. There’s ongoing argument and outrage on all sides over how many do or do not get killed by the state each year. But it happens, and I figure one such killing is outrageous enough. Seniors in Dutch hospitals who don’t want to be killed should ask the doctor to drink some of the orange juice before they do.
The latest sophistication in the Netherlands is the mobile death squad, or “euthanasia on wheels.” If out of conscience your own physician refuses to kill you, the state will happily oblige. One phone call, and a doctor-nurse team from the End of Life Clinic (which has a network of 140 doctors and nurses country-wide) will appear at your doorstep. You just need to answer their questions properly, and they will put you down, free of charge (actually, pre-paid by the tax and insurance system). You can read their advertisement on their Expertisecentrum Euthanasie website.
I visited the Netherlands once. You hardly see any badly disabled kids or doddery old people there. With the proper democratic rights you can easily clean ‘em all out, and open for tourism with the healthiest, most vital population of tall, robust people I ever saw. At any rate, in all modern democracies the legal right to Will a Kill, so to speak, is shaping up as the ultimate triumph of will over human nature, because it means freely disposing of life and death; it means playing God.
Just how far does this trend of exerting personal will over human nature go? As far as the entire cosmos. In 1971, the American astronaut Alan Shepard was sufficiently irreverent to drive a golf ball 800 yards on the moon—a cocky gestural transfiguration of the solar system into his personal playground. But the extension of human will extends much farther. In the notorious 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, we heard for the first time that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” I’m okay with people asking about the mystery of life. I have asked all my life. Searching for meaning is good. But an individual “right” to define? That’s extreme hubris.
This oft-quoted, judicially euphoric statement betrays a dumbed-down conceit whereby the meaning of the entire universe is declared subject to invention by so many billions of individual wills we might as well agree it has no meaning at all. At least, none that matters to anyone other than ourselves. It’s a pro-godlet ruling that reduces ultimate meaning to private will.
I conclude by saying that our contemporary view of freedom and God has changed a lot. We used to say God is the ultimate Good and can do only good things because that is God’s nature, so we ought to follow suit. Freedom was observance of the Good, and of Human Nature in search of the Good. But we have switched-out Gods to make personal life more convenient. We had to, because in a democratic regime no longer resting on liberty and the natural differences to which it gives rise, but instead on an ideology of forced equality and the sovereignty of will, you need a God of pure will in whose image you can proceed to fashion yourself.
So now, with no constraining external truth to worry about (truth is up to you), the Good is absorbed into whatever you will. Will becomes truth, no longer something to be searched for, found outside ourselves, and expressed in the body politic, but expressed differently by each of us as an individual godlet. This substitution of Gods constitutes a theological revolution in Western life with profound and as yet unforeseeable implications.
William Gairdner is an author who lives near Toronto. His latest book is “The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree” (2015). His website is WilliamGairdner.ca
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.