Tuesday, March 01, 2011

If they can't hunt, put them on ice floes, right?

You know, it’s a funny thing. Every so often as I wander around the more religious blogs, I trip over the hair-rippingly stupid idea that atheists and agnostics have no moral center, and that morality is rooted in religion alone. You can occasionally run headlong into the matching idea that only conservatives are moral and upright, and liberals are twisted, evil libertines.

That being said, let me point out that the religious, conservative David Brooks just wrote a column for the New York Times in which he explained that, because money is tight, we should just let old people die and save our money for the young.

In case you think I’m taking him out of context, let me just hand you a towel as I reveal the money shot in the second paragraph.
Trim from the old to invest in the young. We should adjust pension promises and reduce the amount of money spent on health care during the last months of life so we can preserve programs for those who are growing and learning the most.
His mother must be so proud.


Margaret said...

I live in the far north, with Inuit. Now, you didn't actually name them in your headline, but the slander is well known, and they are the ones who live next to ice floes.

So just for the record: the Inuit would never have left elders on ice floes. In a pre-literate society, elders were the library, the knowledge-base, the corporate memory. Nobody is stupid enough to leave them behind. Anyway, elders wouldn't have been on ice floes in the first place; that's where strong, capable hunters go when there's no other hunting; it's too dangerous for whole families.

That doesn't take anything away from your point, of course - in fact, it makes your point stronger. David Brooks in more savage than the so-called savages; less moral than pre-literate nomadic stone-age hunter-gatherers.

His mother must be so proud.

Nameless Cynic said...

And for further reading, let me point to one of my favorite debunkers, The Straight Dope.

"It's a cliche that the Eskimo put their old folks out on the ice to die when they can no longer contribute. Does this really happen? Do Eskimos really abandon their elderly?"

Do Europeans cause rat-borne plagues by killing cats because cats are demon spawn?

Sorry for the iciness, but it bugs me when questions about strange Eskimo customs are phrased in the present tense, as if nothing could have changed since the eighteenth century. But yes, in the past some Eskimos did kill old people when circumstances were sufficiently desperate. Pressure from missionaries and national authorities, improving economic conditions, and no doubt evolving notions of acceptable behavior among native peoples eventually brought an end to the practice. The last reported case was in 1939, but the custom was a rarity long before that. In any case, the common perception of taking Granny out to the nearest ice floe and setting her adrift is wrong. I can't prove it never happened, but it wasn't the usual method.

Groove on the source. Nice long chat involving this concept.

Margaret said...

Thanks for that source. I note assisted suicide is mentioned, which I forgot to. There was a famous criminal trial about that: the charge was murder; the defence was assisted suicide, the accused was acquitted.

I like your blog, man.

Nameless Cynic said...

And I thank you for your kind words, m'lady. We endeavor to provide knowledge to the wise, and offense to the guilty and ignorant.

uzza said...

Just finished reading "Half the Sky" wherein is discussed current practices --Ethiopia is the setting for the examples--- where women who develop fistulas from childbirth complications are set out for the hyenas to devour.

Brooks no doubt approves.