With all due respect to my Dutch readers and followers, I must admit I was somewhat disturbed at the news coming out of The Netherlands last evening. Before addressing this though, allow me to state that one must be careful not to tar an entire people with the same brush that one uses to tar those who seem to be trashing the culture and values of said people. I am of course very much aware of the splendors of Dutch art and architecture from the Middle Ages through its colonial period; that there are still many of solid values among the Dutch people; and the contributions of Dutch scientists and thinkers to the development of Western technology and ideas cannot be stressed highly enough. I even got into downloading podcasts because I came across the work of Dutch priest and SQPN founder Father Roderick Vonhögen, whom I have written about previously for Matt Warner over at Fallible Blogma – though Matt has met Father Roderick and I have not yet had the pleasure.
That being said, it must be admitted that some in Holland today are seeking to create a culture – indeed, some would argue that they already have – which is completely entangled in a web of secularism and moral relativism. In this case, word comes that certain members of the Dutch Medical Association are seeking to broaden the criteria for legal euthanasia, to include some rather unprecedented categories. These Dutch doctors want to include some rather surprising and disturbing factors when considering whether to euthanize someone, including whether the petitioner is lonely or poor. And please note, gentle reader, that the person seeking to be euthanized would not even have to be suffering from any kind of terminal or severely crippling illness, which is the usual justification given by those who support euthanasia for promoting it.
It does appear odd, purely from a numbers perspective, that in Holland, which like many European countries is going through a severe population implosion, a group of those individuals charged with caring for the lives of the Dutch people seems to be interested in voluntarily decreasing their country’s population. With abortions standing steady at around 30,000 children killed a year, and a proposed loosening of the criteria by which one can legally kill someone else without criminal penalty, one wonders whether these doctors have thought about the demographic impact of their actions, not to mention the obvious societal ones. What sort of Holland will emerge from all of this, of course, remains to be seen.
It is truly a scourge to feel lonely, of course, though with the advent of social media one could argue that there are more ways for lonely people to “hang out”, at least virtually, than ever before. Even those who are unable to leave their home due to illness or other circumstances can manage to find a whole world of connections through technology to help ease their sense of isolation, at any hour of the day or night. Indeed, we are often told that the Scandinavians invented the cell phone because of their bleak, isolated winters, when they needed to be more easily available to, as the old advert used to run, reach out and touch someone.
More importantly, one of the best cures for loneliness, as Father Benedict Groeschel points out in several of his books, is to go out and do something for someone else, rather than focusing all of your attention on yourself. Perhaps the increase in feelings of loneliness and depression we have experienced in the West over the past forty years has something to do with the fact that we have been taught to maximize our own personal pleasure and self-esteem. While it is not surprising that raising generations of people on the idea that the self alone is all one needs would lead to people feeling lonely, that is hardly a legitimate reason for those suffering from such feelings to go through a legal-medical process by which they can be removed from the planet.
As to the scourge of poverty, Christ tells us that we will always have the poor with us, and with flawed human nature being what it is, we can rest assured that human greed will always make sure that His words remain true. In places like Holland of course, where there is so much wealth, it can be very difficult to be poor, particularly when everyone else seems to have so much more than you have. In poor countries where there is very little to go around, there is less of a point of comparison, and so everyone pretty much fits in the same boat.
Yet to be poor is also to be rich, for those who are able to detach themselves, voluntarily or not, from the love and pursuit of material goods generally have a far more healthy assessment of the realities of life than those who try to insulate themselves from their ultimate mortality by the accumulation of possessions, experiences, and so on. A culture which sits, transfixed, watching televised documentaries on the lives of compulsive hoarders, tells us something not only about the phenomenon of hoarding itself, but also about ourselves, for wanting to observe it at close quarters. It is also rather telling of the motivations of those involved that the aforementioned Dutch medical experts – none of whom presumably live in anything remotely approaching poverty – would seem to feel that being poor is a good reason to kill yourself.
There are many lonely and poor people in this country, in Holland, and in all corners of the world, who perhaps in their moments of weakness think that they would be better off dead. Yet to take this road is to deny that there is no point in going on at all, not even when there are people who are even more lonely and poor, who could use the help and encouragement of someone else in similar circumstances. Perhaps, rather than encouraging a culture of death, these Dutch doctors – and indeed, we, ourselves – ought to be encouraging those who are somehow trod upon by life to reach out to one another and find mutual means of support, rather than helpingthem to find ways to throw in the towel.