I Feel Free

While my daughter is away I feel free…

My elder daughter and I share an understanding: I will write pieces for this blog and she alone will post them. The arrangement rests upon our secure shared knowledge of my technical incapacity to do the posting.  It rests too upon the lovingkindness of the daughter*.

That daughter is away. A small item has germinated in the deep soils of my being and it presses urgently to find the light. That trifle cannot possibly be a blog post, because, as I have mentioned, the daughter alone is blogenabled. What follows must be something different. It is the unripe fruit of my liberty.

I met a man the other day who was unwell. The man smiled a mouth of American teeth. He wore a white shirt, a dark tie with a tiepin and a name tag. The name on the tag read ELDER BLOGS**. The man was young, slim, erect in his bearing and he was bearing up despite being quite unwell. Elder Bloggs was accompanied by another young man, equally erect, endowed likewise with enviable teeth, a similar black tie, a very white shirt and a nametag of his own. This read: ELDER MAO**. Elder Mao spoke American but he was evidently Chinese.

We spoke of illness and of healing and we agreed I should try my hand at the latter. The Elders visited me again the following day. Healing was underway and we had leisure now to speak of other matters.

I asked Brother Mao: Is your family still in China?

Yes.

The American teeth appeared in affirmation.

Do they share your faith?

Yes.

Is it permitted in China?

Yes. In the family. I mean privately.

More teeth, to allay any misgiving.

Addressing both Elders I asked: Are you preaching the Gospel here in Australia?

Yes. Nodding of heads. Many teeth.

But – reverting here to Brother Mao – Is it permitted to preach the Gospel in China?

Oh no.

My eyebrow invited the Elder to elaborate.

It is against Government policy. China is atheistic.

No teeth. A worried look.

I resumed: I understand Falung Gong followers can be punished for teaching their practices. Do the same rules apply to you?

A nod. A serious look. No words: not apparently free to elaborate further.

I remembered Tiananmen Square.

I remember the times.

I remember the times of the Aboriginal man in the Channel Country who reminisced on his days as a cattleman. He looked back on those days with pride, long days that stretched into weeks on the track. Those periods of freedom punctuated the other days, days that were years on the station where he was bound, not at liberty to leave the boss’ employ. One man did and the cops hauled him back to the station where the whitefeller bosses whipped hi with iron chains. I calculated our age difference. When this man was eighteen I was ten, growing up in liberty. I learned at school of William Wilberforce and the ending of slavery. I lived in Australia. We didn’t have slavery in Australia. I remember the times.

I remember the times when we took away the children and gave them to whitefellers. I heard my parents’ friends say: They are going to good homes.

I remember when liked to wear Nike running shoes. But then I learned of child slavery in Asian factories.

I remember the times in Broken Hill when children as young as twelve were dying in the mines, of accidents, of lead poisoning.

I remember the times when my tribes lived in Judea under the Romans. They were times when great rabbis were burned alive for studying Torah.

I remember the times when we were enslaved in Egypt, times when they stole the children and drowned the baby boys.

I remember slavery in Auschwitz. If I went to the right I went into slavery. The slaves were the luckier ones.

Tonight, at home here in lucky Australia, I’ll lean back, a free man, and I’ll drink four glasses. I’ll tell my generations of the times when I was a slave.

And if they ask: were you a slave, Saba? – I’ll tell them I’ve never been to Egypt but I remember the times. I’ll tell the children I mustn’t forget the times.  If I ever forget I won’t deserve to be free.

* both daughters actually. The younger, removed geographically, is spared the call of this blog.

** I have changed the Elders’ names.

Dying. Liberty. Law.

Philip Nitschke believes in liberty. In particular he believes in the right of a human being to die when he wishes to. He does not believe a government should trump that right.

I think, in principle – somewhat unexpectedly – I agree with Nitschke. Thus far.
I have seen my patients suffering intolerable pain that will not end. Governments, lawmakers, do not sit in the bedrooms of the dying. They cannot know how deeply disqualified they are here.
Nitschke has been a gadfly irritating the conscience of this country for decades now. I have felt an instinctive distance from him, quite unreasoned, candidly prejudicial. It was not until he declared (in response to questioning in a recent interview) that his philosophic touchstones are Camus, Marcuse and Nietsche, that my finger suddenly touched on the point of prejudice: Nitschke – Nietsche. The latter is a name to which no Jew can be insensitive. Like Wagner, like Eliot, a name carries echoes. I read Nietsche and I hear echoes of “Man and Superman”. Vibrating behind, the euthanasing of the ‘untermentsch’ in the Third Reich.
Nitschke thinks the euthanasing of people who are “tired of life”, as proposed in the Netherlands, is reasonable. The so-called  Groningen Protocol spells out criteria for infant euthanasia. The Belgian Senate approved by landslide proposals to extend euthanasia to children and to “people suffering dementia and other diseases of the brain.” The Royal Dutch Medical Association believes doctors can euthanase children because “a doctor’s primary duty of care is towards the patient.”
All this makes me shake my head. I know next to nothing of Nietsche, I have seen none of the context of the deliberations of my colleagues in the Royal Dutch Medical Association; I know nought of the Groningen Protocols (‘protocols’ – another word that echoes, echoes, echoes).
What do I know?
I know the problems of suffering are grievous.
I know that the ethical burdens are weighty.
I know just as severe pain cries out for relief, so societal dilemmas cry out for solution. People look to lawmakers to solve the problem by making a law. A law will be a relief, a slogan to comfort us.
I don’t believe that all problems can be solved by lawmakers.
I believe lawmakers have no right to legislate for one citizen to kill another.
I know there are some laws that some people will not carry out; and all too many others will.
I have no doubt that a society that authorises doctors to kill, kills trust in doctors.
Clearly what I know and what I think are insufficient. They are incoherent, not a policy, not a solution.
Human suffering cannot be outlawed.
Law is not the solution.
We are bound to pursue a solution.
But we might never find that solution.