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Mash theme song

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and…
The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.
The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
And to another give my seat
For that’s the only painless feat…

Song by Johnny Mandel, lyrics by Mike Altman,
for the 1969 movie, and TV series, MASH.

The Stupidest Song Ever Written

The opening musical score to the most wildly popular sit-com in television history, MASH, is what Mike Altman asked Johnny Mandel to create as “the stupidest song ever written.”

Is it ever. Or is it? We live in interesting times when the bedrock of ethics appear to be eroding under the currents of post-modern individualism and unspoken hopelessness. In the absence of hopefulness is a void that has no substance.

Suicide Defining the Zeitgeist?

Suicide is in the news and is defining the zeitgeist like never before (these are recent news items):

U.S. Suicide Rate has surged to its highest level in almost three decades.

* Child Suicide Is a Crisis In Canada.  Factors listed were: Substance abuse; Bullying; Sexual abuse; and Lack of awareness about mental health support.

* Now that the Canadian government has introduced Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide legislation, the group “Living with Dignity” made this submission.  Advokatelife.com created this response to the topic of Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.

Elderly men have the highest suicide rate in Canada: 31/100,000 is triple the number of suicides among people of all ages (2013). (For more information see the Canadian Coalition for Seniors, Mental Health.)

* Graeme Bayliss is managing editor of the Walrus Magazine, and is also clinically depressed. He wrote: Canada’s Assisted-Suicide Law Fails the Mentally Ill. This prompted Anna Maria Tremonti to have “an open uncomfortable conversation on mental health, suicide and doctor-assisted death.”

Canadian First Nation community is in crisis amid ‘almost nightly’ suicide attempts:

“A community of 2,000 has seen more than 100 attempts in seven months. After suicide attempts began to be a daily reality in the small Canadian community of Attawapiskat First Nation, leaders said they had little choice but to declare a state of emergency.”

More than 20,000 housewives have been killing themselves in India every year since 1997, the earliest year for which information was compiled by India’s National Crime Records Bureau. Yet the high number of homemakers killing themselves doesn’t make front page news.

Ask the “survivors” of suicide – the families and friends – “how painless was the suicide of loved ones?” It is folly to suggest suicide is painless.

Why do we want to kill ourselves?

As I wrote in Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide in Canada, one of the reasons we want to kill ourselves is to resist the possibility of suffering.

No one wants to suffer. The irony is that the health care that has prolonged life beyond unassisted limits is now being called upon to assist those who want to end their lives prematurely.

Often people have not thought beyond the point of suffering in general, and their own suffering in particular.  Then comes along the very articulate and successful Graeme Bayliss who is chronically depressed, and who insists that the new legislation lets down people like him! One can only imagine the meaningless dystopia unleashed on the mentally ill – were his ethic adopted.

Meanwhile not all is as it seems in the Netherlands – often used as “the example” of physician assisted suicide.  Holland is being forced to deal with the open season they have encouraged on the aging and vulnerable. The dirty little secret is some do not return alive from their visit to the hospital. Canadians tend to be overly hopeful that all the checks and balances will safeguard them, but evidence is mounting to the contrary.

There are other contributing factors to suicide, especially among First Nations Peoples who are over-represented in Canadian Suicide statistics. Poverty, alienation, and the long hangover from the Residential School cultural genocide among other factors, have their ongoing tentacles into crisis visited upon tragedy.

What kind of “life” is our society advocating as it makes death so much more accessible?

I am reminded of that old proverb:

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

And the people are perishing. There is no vision for life – for real life. Or is it a diminished hope, as the false notion of dying with dignity (sic) has eclipsed what it means to live with dignity?

Living with Dignity means to live in relationship – to live without loneliness and alienation – to live with shared sufferings and joys. It is interesting that the number one prevention factor that the Canadian Mental Health Association suggests for how Parents can nurture their children’s mental health is: “build strong caring relationships with your child” (note: Huffington Post video at the bottom of this link).

It is an irony of modernity that we live in a society that has been increasingly dismantling the integrity of “the family,” making it more difficult for parents to raise their own children, and who have to work against the social engineering of a culture that somehow does not foster the “building of strong caring relationships with one’s child.” Is it any wonder that a society that does not appear to understand what it means to foster and build strong families also seems less able to foster in children what it means to live with dignity? Thus we live in times when some can so easily mistake the next best thing as dying with dignity (sic).

Dignity is a big idea: here is some of the Declaration of Living with Dignity:

We believe that a human being possesses an inherent and inviolable dignity nothing can destroy.

We believe that a civilized and humane society carries the responsibility of protecting all of its citizens, beginning with those who are weakest and most vulnerable.

We believe that everyone should have access to compassionate care at the end of life, and we therefore reject euthanasia and assisted suicide as well as disproportionate treatment of patients.

We aim to promote the protection of the lives and inalienable dignity of persons made vulnerable by illness or age, by ensuring them compassionate support.

We call upon our fellow citizens to mobilize and pressure the governing bodies to improve existing palliative care, to ensure that all… citizens end their lives naturally, surrounded by attention and affection.

The dignity of persons is a big idea, and it stands as a rock in the river against which the currents of modernity erode. Dignity speaks to personhood, worth, and being found in relationship.

As I wrote in “Being as Communion“:

What it means to be a person is a profound mystery… It is not merely about one’s personal struggle to be a unique individual by stringing together accomplishments and experiences in a feeble attempt to reduce personhood to a resume. Personhood is found in relation with the One who made us for Himself.

“In this life you will have trouble”

Jesus says you will suffer in this short life. This is mere fact. The solution to suffering is not to prematurely end one’s life – for that would be to die as egocentrically as one lived. You are in relationship, and you belong to the One who made you for Himself.  This is more enigma…