Sunday, 4 December 2011
Two stories this week tie together for me.
First we have Jeremy Clarkson, a basically foolish television presenter who presents robustness of thought as larky eccentricity and so helps to neutralise it still further in the general culture, apparently embroiled in another of those boring controversies the media like to invent when they can't fabricate a 'race row'.
This time it's interesting, though, because it shows how popular attitudes are reversing, and therefore what does now qualify as provocative and tasteless and what does not.
Discussing people who commit suicide by throwing themselves under trains in a newspaper column, he wrote:
I have the deepest sympathy for anyone whose life is so mangled and messed up that they believe death's icy embrace will be better...
However, it is a very selfish way to go because the disruption it causes is immense. And think what it's like for the poor train driver who sees you lying on the line and can do absolutely nothing to avoid a collision.
According to AOL, "the comments have sparked criticism among suicide and mental health charities".
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, described the piece as "extraordinarily tasteless in its tone," adding that "people who have contemplated suicide... will think it is in extremely bad taste.
"It stands out like a sore thumb from what is increasingly a more supportive approach to suicide by the media."
The suggestion that suicide, especially when performed in public in circumstances that cannot fail to traumatise large numbers of people, in all likelihood including very young children, is selfish and wrong is now a controversial one. To suggest it forcefully is "extraordinarily tasteless", people who have "contemplated" doing just that appalling thing "will find it in very bad taste" and - most telling of all - "It stands out like a sore thumb from what is increasingly a more supportive approach to suicide by the media".
Well, that more supportive approach to suicide, along with the more supportive approach to abortion and the more supportive (read: coercive) approach to euthanasia may at least help us all to cut down on our fuel bills.
Anyone else remember this, which crept into the New Scientist a couple of years ago:
Victoria University professors Brenda and Robert Vale, architects who specialise in sustainable living, say pet owners should swap cats and dogs for creatures they can eat, such as chickens or rabbits, in their provocative new book Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.The couple have assessed the carbon emissions created by popular pets, taking into account the ingredients of pet food and the land needed to create them.
"If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around," Brenda Vale said.
"A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don't worry about having Alsatians and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact ... is comparable."
Now we have this (hat tip to Darrell):
In Durham, England, corpses will soon be used to generate electricity.
A crematorium is installing turbines in its burners that will convert waste heat from the combustion of each corpse into as much as 150 kilowatt-hours of juice — enough to power 1,500 televisions for an hour. The facility plans to sell the electricity to local power companies.
Some might find this concept creepy. Others might be pleased to learn that the process "makes cremation much greener by utilizing its by-products," in the words of cremation engineer Steve Looker, owner and chief executive officer of the Florida-based company B&L Cremation Systems, which is unaffiliated with the Durham enterprise.
In Europe, tightening regulations on crematorium emissions, coupled with the high price of energy, will lead more and more facilities to go the way of Durham in the future, Looker said.
Remember those poor soppy plane crash survivors, stuck halfway up a mountain fretting for days about whether they should have eaten their dead comrades in the Andean air disaster? What a bunch of big girl's blouses! By this logic they should have tucked into Mrs Moskowitz before the chocolate bars ran out.
What is a corpse after all if not meat, what is a person after all if not meat - or a brilliant means of powering 1500 televisions for an hour? Well, it's good to know my life had an ultimate meaning: he gaveth his life so that 1500 cretins could watch The X-Factor. This is what we are charging now for humanity.
Who's the atheist here? It's me, remember? So why is it that I'm constantly having to defend the sanctity of human life?
We all know that the future Hitler planned to impose upon is now just around the corner through our own free choice, and between the abortions at one end and the euthanasia at the other - not compulsory, you understand, merely encouraged with all the 24-hour blanket subtlety the media class can muster - we will soon have a good twenty or so years of Soylent Green sandwiches before our bags are packed for us, provided we're perfect in the first place of course. Or what passes for perfect these days: incredibly uninformed and fashionably dressed.
I don't believe in pixies and elves but I do know ideas have consequences, and that pragmatism in matters once deemed spiritual - the application to social policy of the Darwinian fact that we are evolved animals that invented morality - leads to a kind of universal Auschwitz, where there is no purpose to living and so no right to it, without the consent of a council of technocratic bigots wearing Richard Dawkins masks.
Now that the Monopoly money has run out, and the people are taking to the streets to protest the prospect of having to first earn what they spend, this is going to be increasingly sold to us as a regrettable necessity, a sensible and pragmatic solution for pragmatic times.
Of course we don't want to use corpses for fuel, but hard times call for hard measures. The idea that it could work the other way: that we could avoid the conversion of one dead person into mere commodity simply by turning off 1500 televisions for an hour... well, there's regrettable - and there's just plain crazy.
And of course we don't want you to voluntarily shuffle off when you cease to be of any practical use to anyone, and God knows we'd never force you, but isn't it just a teensy bit selfish, eating all that food and occupying all that space, when you could be powering somebody's television somewhere?
Make no mistake and allow no exception: we are the worst generation that has ever lived.