Well, I remember when I was young, how the world was in the midst of the Cold War, as well as the Southeast Asia conflict. But of course, there is always a war somewhere, it’s a given in any lifetime. That said, the Cold War period was different, that constant uncertainty growing up, going to school, doing time, knowing that we were potential fodder for a foreign war, didn’t leave you overly motivated or ambitious. It’s hard to explain now, but we were well aware that we lived constantly with a threat of nuclear annihilation; fortunately we children were told ‘obliteration’ was an instant death.
It’s not all bad. Today I keep hearing how ‘peachy’ those days were, when the certainties in life were Coca-Cola, blue jeans and Elvis. Well maybe for some. My growing recognition of reality was quite different: isolated, remote, and tedious. You were never really taught anything that was relative to ‘living in the day’. You just eventually worked things out for yourself or figured it out through observation. With little apparent optimism for the future, the foundations of our lives felt unstable, like we were always treading water. There was no real certainty, direction or ‘givens’ in life.
For the most part, looking back tends to get overshadowed by the good things subsequently learnt, the things you weren’t materially aware of at the time. I think my experience was planted deeper in authenticity; we dared to be bold and take risks, we had fewer choices, our survival skills were sharper and we were not sheltered from the unsavoury realities of life i.e. pain, poverty, disappointment, failure, hardship and a non-interventionist death.
Some things just were. You didn’t think about it nor question too much. It’s like the three-quarter ‘drop post’ that was always kept in our vehicle; it was just there for no apparent reason. Then one day while droving sheep on a remote stock route, its purpose became clear. I was wide-eyed and motionless with what I witnessed. While it was quick, the sound was something a kid doesn’t easily forget, even though it was subsequently explained ‘that putting a stricken animal out of its misery was a case of being cruel to be kind’. That was that and we get on with it, as I came to terms with the thought, that the peace associated with death was clearly preferable than observing a deeply distressed animal, that could not be saved or relieved of its unbearable anguish. By not prolonging the inevitable this ‘being’ did not suffering a painful and protracted death at the hands of the elements and nature.
I later learned that my experience was nothing compared to the severity of the real cruelty endured during the 1937-1947 droughts in eastern Australia, as stories were recalled of farmers forced to walk off their land, leaving thousands of sheep to starve to death in the paddock. No one could afford to shoot them in post-depression and wartime Australia. People were basically struggling to survive at a time when the charitable works promoted by animal welfare groups, such as the RSPCA were unknown or out of reach.
At least when I was a young man, we could afford to destroy maimed stock that had survived trauma like ferocious scrub fires. I realise now that my experience as a kid was not one of cruelty but of compassion and kindness. It takes an unpleasant type of courage, care and commitment to humanely put a suffering being out of its misery. There’s a learning here for us all.
An American Professor of animal science, Temple Grandin is a world-renowned spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour. She has been quoted as saying that “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” She is obviously right, but it leaves me wondering why we can’t apply the same kindness to humans at the end of life as we do with animals. How did we become participants in this slow cruel form of ‘legal euthanasia’ that we practice when it is accepted that there is no ‘quality of life’ and ‘natural’ death is imminent? We don’t have to be cruel, so why are we?
Why do we allow physicians to hide behind a 12th-century Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” through inaction when their only option is to try and keep you comfortable while they starve you to death. It is unbelievable that doctors require a legal document to prevent resuscitation, just to force the medical profession to allow nature to take its course and for doctors to behave compassionately.
What is really going on here? Why the aggressive and expensive treatments that fail to improve the lives of the terminally ill, with no chance of quality and comfort for the individual? Or are they just experimenting on us? The ‘medical machine’ sells prolonged care because time is money when they know they cannot offer remedial treatment or a cure. It’s wrong that families are being robbed of the opportunity to grieve because a protracted death has been crafted into a ‘welcome relief’. We know that the profession does not make the law, but they are a powerful lobby group, hence things don’t change!
It has been reported that 25% of medical budgets are funding the final days of life; it’s a big industry. Perhaps prolonging the inevitable is something to do with medical research or is it just a very profitable business making mega profits, from those who have no voice, no representation, the comatose and infirm?
It’s certainly not about being kind, compassionate, humane or progressive. The blame lies at the feet of the policy reprobates and their insane bureaucracies; a culpable, complicit and avaricious ‘medical profession’ and the atheists, agnostics and believers who choose to use God as an excuse to secure their wealth and power. After all these years, I’m still fearful of being someone else’s ‘fodder’!
17th November 2016.