Years ago, I began to write columns for local newspapers and the odd website using satire, parody and other non-linear devices. Early on I registered the domain name winsomewit.com. For a time I kept the site updated, but over the last five years it has languished. A recent twitter message encouraged me to begin again.
Below is a sample of a satirical piece that I wrote back in 2005.. The name Terry Schiavo has long since dimmed from our corporate minds, but the issue of human dignity has not.
“A Modest Proposal—Revisited”
By Jay Beuoy
In 1729, Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, wrote a pamphlet regarding the problem of Irish orphans. He entitled it, “A Modest Proposal”. Swift suggested a solution to the over-abundance of Irish orphans. He considered his plan “a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth.”
His ingenious solution was to fatten them at their mothers’ breasts for a “solar year” and then have them butchered and sold on the market as human quasi-veal. Swift considered it a win-win situation relieving both the family and society of the ongoing financial burden of care taking.
Where are the clear-eyed, sober-thinking rationalists of our day, that we have allowed the Terri Schiavo case to go on so long without suggesting a similar course of action? I am not proposing that we simply fatten and kill mentally impaired individuals who are currently sustained by feeding tubes. That would be ludicrous.
The economics don’t add up as with the case of Irish orphans. The cost per pound invested would far exceed the cost per pound “on the hoof” even imagining the best market factors. There are however other ways of realizing a profit from the sale of human flesh that were not imaginable in Swift’s day.
Thanks to the advances of modern medicine, we can now consider the sale of vital-organs. Current laws prohibit such sale of body parts. The logic goes that once individuals could buy and sell organs, there would be a new incentive to kidnap and murder.
However, a concern like this one could be minimized with severe penalties for those traders in flesh who get caught destroying “high quality” human life. Any one caught destroying “fully” human life would be given the death penalty. In turn, their organs could be sold and the money given to the state to offset court costs. Any flesh-traders caught killing the healthy but less than human, such as pimps, prostitutes or Enron executives would pay a hefty fine and lose their license for some specified period.
In either scenario, the state would recoup monies lost, and society at large would not be burdened. Health insurance companies would be able to lower rates for all otherwise healthy individuals. Taxes could be lowered. There might even be a surplus to use so that displaced nursing home employees could be retrained as organ inspectors, chop-shop technicians and flesh brokers. I’m hard-pressed to see any financial downside.
Of course there will be howls of protests from the Religious Right, the Catholic Church and even Ralf Nader. These are to be anticipated, but thank heavens; we have a line of rationale that Swift could not muster. In his day, even the English considered Irish orphans, though disgusting, to be human.
Fortunately we have advanced beyond such antiquarian notions. Enough distance now separates our culture from its Christian moorings that we need not consider Terri Schiavo to be fully human. Profit and quality-of-life pragmatism allow us to hold a more enlightened view.
Humanity is no longer a state of being but a continuum on a sliding scale. If you slide off one end of the scale you can be processed and packaged on the other. We may have squandered Terri Schiavo’s fair market value by starving her to death, but there will be others. Consider it a modest proposal.