Social Normalities and Voicing of Opposition
Brian Crane Throughout history, social norms have dictated the opinions of all members of society to a certain extent. Expressing disapproval of these social norms is a difficult and ambitious task, seeing as one challenging a social norm is essentially disputing, in addition to often disproving, the reasoning and opinions of the majority of any given culture. Take, for example, the ending of one’s own life under the circumstances of terminal illness.
Now, our basic and most common cultural view on the subject is that suicide is not a natural death and therefore a violation of nature regardless of ne’s physical condition. However, it is nature itself that has given us as humans the intellect to contemplate such a decision. If nature has enabled us to develop the intellectual ability to contemplate suicide, then one could argue that choosing to end one’s life is in fact a natural death simply because nature has allowed us to examine the pros and cons of life or death.
However, this is not to say that suicide based on emotional imbalance is in any way Just or morally acceptable. Mental illnesses, which often bring about suicidal deation, can be treated, therefore ridding one of all motivation to end their own life. Generally, those who suffer from mental illnesses cannot be held accountable for their own life because the affective disorder inhibits them from perceiving reality the way they once did.
So, the argument that the time of our death should not be a decision we as humans can morally make is somewhat valid although very misguided. It is wrong to look down upon terminally ill people who choose suicide as their cause of death. The many different circumstances leading up to one’s death akes this topic too complex for one to claim that choosing life over death is morally applicable and correct in every situation that involves the contemplation of suicide.
John West discusses his father’s decision to end his life before enduring the pain, suffering, and eventual death caused by cancer in an excerpt from The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents with Their Suicides. Judging from this excerpt, West and his father seem to be very well rounded, cultured individuals in addition to being extremely open minded and emotionally balanced. West’s father was a very mportant fgure in the world of psychiatry. His knowledge on the topic of suicide is obviously very extensive.
Their opinions and examinations of this topic are indeed equally as rational as they themselves are as people. Dealing with the death of a parent is hard enough emotionally as it is, but the fact that West is grounded enough to grapple with the complexity and sorrow of assisted suicide is a testament to his extreme emotional maturity. He sheds light on a crucial point in support of his father’s decision as he asks the reader, “Should Jolly [my father] have been forced to endure a few more days or eeks of agony Just to satisfy some people’s notions that death should be natural? (33 West) If one were to explore the possible answers to the question West asks above, without an impartial view based on societal influences, it is undeniable that one would agree with the opinion that such a great deal of suffering is not necessary to tultill the requirements ot a morally sound death In tact, it is arguable that West’s decision to assist his father with his suicide and in-turn spare him from such a great deal of pain is actually a more compassionate choice in comparison to xposing him to months of unimaginable pain by denying his father’s request.
Again, West implies that suicide is not a natural death. A supplemental argument to his case is missing. If one were to argue that suicide and natural death cannot possibly go hand in hand, then why has nature allowed our intellect to excel to a point at which suicide is even a possible conception for the human race? Later on in the excerpt, West reflects on his memory of when his father asked him to commit assisted suicide. He recalls: I sat up in my chair. I suddenly felt hot and cold at the same time, as I realized hat he meant.
But as powerfully as his words registered, the idea behind them didn’t seem strange at all. It made sense. He was about to die anyway, so why linger in pain? I knew I’d want to do the same thing if I were in his position. (34 West) Jolly’s contemplation of suicide is undoubtedly a common one of people with analogous situations to his own. Most would find it hard to believe that this wouldn’t cross the mind of a person with a terminal illness that would soon lead to unimaginable pain and suffering, followed by death.
If exploration of suicide is in act a common happening, why is it that the practice of suicide to avoid agony followed by death is not more common as well? It seems as though the answer to this question is quite simple; It is socially unacceptable to commit such an act solely because it is abnormal. Because abnormality is not a sensible or rational reason not to do something, making the argument that suicide is not a morally righteous death is in-turn irrational and insensible as well. Another challenger of social norms is Catherine Newman, author of I Do. Not. : Why I Won’t Marry.
Although Newman discusses a very different topic than West does in his short story, the two subjects are very closely related. Newman is a successful writer with a little too much insight on the role of women in society, and the flaws of this role, to happily accept monogamy and more importantly marriage. She breaks down the history of marriage and its original role in society. Marriage represents a very evil concept that very few are even aware of. Newman describes it is as such: “… marriage is about handing the woman off, like a baton, from her father to her husband.
Also known as traffic in women, this is how men have historically solidified their economic connections to other men and guaranteed the continuation of their Seed. “(Newman 61) Women were more like bargaining chips for men than soulmates. Marriage is the legal bonding of two families, which doesn’t sound very romantic as marriage is made out to be. Although women are no longer owned by their husbands, this ritual is still quite demeaning. Many women experience some feelings of inferiority and in-turn feelings of resentment towards men due to the heavy influence of the media and its bjectification of women.
Newman seems to be a prime example of this. Her additional education on the history of the subject has given her an even greater grasp of the hardships of women in our contemporary society which are overlooked more often than not by the general population. Voicing out against the social norm of marriage is extremely commendable and in addition, a betterment of the mentality ot those who are exposed to the underlying implications ot such an act through ner courageous writing. It seems as though many social norms have become so routine to follow and abide y that we rarely ponder the ideas behind them.