I want to write about decisions; you know, those things that masquerade as badges of freedom and liberty, but sap your energy and leave you unsatisfied and coldly yearning for what might have been. We try to fend off that creeping impenetrable silence of frustrated being with baubles and shouty things that impress and promise so very much, and yet we know deep down that it is all a game of procrastination. It is all we can do to put off the dreaded silence for just long enough to enjoy the pleasure that only temporary life can bestow.
I don’t mean to sound hollow, but decisions are such bullshit! On Friday (NZ time) 66 percent of eligible voters in the UK decided by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to tear Britain out of the European Union. So about a quarter of British voters — with a median age of 73 — have set the future of Europe ablaze. This is not hyperbole. The economic fallout has already begun with the Pound dropping to a record low, and the UK credit rating being downgraded. These are immediate blows, and being as economically illiterate as I am I cannot predict what will happen next in that vein. Fortunately the volume of media analysis about the entire sorry mess is enough to drown a continent…
Really Britain, was that a wise decision? Scotland is now halfway out the door, there are rumblings in Northern Ireland, the British territory of Gibraltar is skittish (its population of 30k voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, and Spanish claims of sovereignty over it might strike a louder tone now). When does the very name United Kingdom become a farce? When it is just England, Wales and the Falklands? If that was in the minds of voters when they crowded into booths that might be different, it would be an informed choice. But I think inaccurate portrayals of immigration were dancing around the lobes of the voters.
I looked forward to writing a political obituary for David Cameron, but not like this. Last year I predicted he would last two to three years at the most before Boris Johnson rolled him. I was being generous in my forecast though I couldn’t know it at the time. It is small comfort now to note Boris’ keenness for Winston Churchill, who was first to manage Britain’s decline from global Empire to stodgy Commonwealth. Boris may well be managing the euthanization of the UK. Some legacy eh what?
Me Before You (spoilers)
This is a controversial film featuring the Mother of Dragons herself Emelia Clarke, and er, the guy who was Fennick in the Hunger Games movies. Not a very uplifting story. A rich British white guy who has everything is struck by a motorcycle and becomes a quadriplegic. He can move his face and his thumb and is miserable. I totally feel him, that really sucks. But he is still extremely rich, with parents who love him and who are present, and who enlist the services of Emelia Clarke — who is a chatty, small town English girl with a garishly cute fashion sense* and a sweetness that would be trite if it wasn’t so endearing — to cheer him up. No, not quite in a sleazy way, but in a friendly ‘this is a helper not a caregiver’ way.
She gets to know him after a while and eventually learns that he plans to go to Switzerland to be euthanized. Ah ha, now you see the connection between this and Brexit, a poor decision that means misery to all who have to live with it. Finnick — I forget his name in Me Before You, but am too disgusted with him to take two seconds to look it up — decides that his life as a quadriplegic is too reduced from the life he lived as a rich young playboy that he doesn’t want to continue. I don’t quite fault the film for this, loss is not something everyone can deal with, but I do think the film insults quadriplegics. That is regrettable, because a spinal cord injury is not a terminal illness, and quality of life is not measured by being able to walk. I don’t think anyone can argue with me on that point.
The factor that struck with me again and again through the film concerned money. Disabilities are very expensive, and in the film the issue is avoided by making the guy extremely rich. But most people don’t have the resources to convince a loved one not to die by taking them on a private jet to a tropical paradise. Working in the disability sector as I do I have seen how expensive it is to bring down the barriers and obstacles and enable someone to live a rewarding life, and how worthwhile the effort and expense is. Perhaps the rich guy could afford to simply give up, while the rest of us strive and work as best we can.
That brings me to the final point I want to make on the topic of decisions, which concerns euthanasia. At the moment the Health Select Committee is preparing to review submissions on Marian Street’s Medically Assisted Dying petition, and to hear oral submissions later in the year. This will have implications for the Private Members bill that David Seymour has in the ballot, or perhaps an entirely new bill in the next few years. Like it or not the debate will not disappear. My own thoughts get more complicated with every day, and I don’t have a clear answer as to whether it should be legal or not. I do hope that the selfishness of Me Before You is not replicated by people with disabilities here in New Zealand. Certainly, if I was being kissed by Emelia Clarke on a beach in Hawaii, well, consider the ‘impenetrable silence of frustrated being’ well forgotten.
*I am not being sexist pointing that out, it is actually a very important part of her character.