A good Belgian friend of ours has his own small production house, he makes videos for whoever needs his help, as long as he’s interested in the project.
Recently he’s filmed interviews with people who want euthanasia, on the basis of intolerable mental suffering. They are not terminally ill, but life has become unbearable to them. One of them explained it as: ‘My life energy is gone’.
It’s a long struggle to get the permission to end one’s life. Physicians only agree when all other methods to improve the quality of the person’s life have been exhausted.
My wife and I watched a short interview with one of them, a young woman with a master’s degree in physics.
Zuzana, my wife, was shocked. She refuses to accept that society thinks this is ok.
It really hit a nerve, because the same day she took to skype and had a long conversation about this with her mother, who was equally shocked.
I know from conversations with her father, that he’s also deeply distressed when I mention things about euthanasia, and some practices in Belgium and The Netherlands.
To my wife and her family human life has meaning. It has sacred meaning, and they strongly believe we are all here with a purpose bigger than ourselves.
Me, being from the west, and raised half atheist, half catholic, in a very liberal spirit, find it hard to tell people what they should be doing. If this young woman wants to end her life in decent circumstances, not by blowing have of her face away with a shotgun or by drinking highly toxic cleaning products or some such iffy method, I feel like I am not allowed to forbid her from making that choice. On the conditions that skilled medical personnel agrees that her life has become a living hell.
My wife vehemently disagrees. She sees it as egocentric, spoiled behavior in a society that has embraced nihillism. Based on her years of experience living in the west my wife has concluded that the west’s dominant values are:
- The celebration of individualism
- Permissive individual freedom
- No responsibility towards others
- Everything needs to be fun
- A morbid sort of hedonism
- Life that’s to be enjoyed on one’s own, and connections with people are to support more joy, fun, hedonism. As soon as somebody limits the fun, that person needs to be ditched
- Life as ultimately meaningless, a form of entertainment, not very different from watching a movie.
- Nobody seems to be serving a cause bigger than embellishing their own turf
- People making money without questioning the values behind the way they make their money to support a hedonistic life style. Anything beyond that is considered useless, unimportant, a burden
You can imagine, that I, as a Belgian, who grew up here, cannot easily dismiss such criticism coming from my wife. Especially knowing that she is far happier than most Belgians I know, and seems to have a gentle armor against the influences of our society that push us to be greedy, vain, egocentric and always in need of more stuff, titles, etc at the cost of building real connections with other people. Almost everything that happens in our society, happens because the money elite at the top wants it to happen. Your values, your reflexes, your focus is largely determined by what has come to be known as the one percent.
My wife has grown up shielded from the mainstream culture, she has not swallowed the continuous stream of subtle messages to adopt a life style that serves the elite.
When I see my wife looking at western society I observe someone who is stunned by our material affluence, and at the same time deeply shocked by what she sees as our moral bankrupcy and collective poverty of the spirit.