World magazine suggests that the movie version of Lois Lowry’s youth novel The Giver is an important entrée to discussions about human dignity, abortion, and euthanasia.
My wife and I saw it last weekend. Our response to the above: Maybe, but probably not.
The overwhelming message of the movie seems to be about human freedom: If people have freedom, they will make bad choices, but take that freedom away, and the results are far worse.
Certainly a fully engineered, totalitarian society can be expected to commit crimes against human dignity. But the world of The Giver seems so totalitarian-over-the-top that the viewer has an out: nobody would ever stand for that. And indeed, nobody would.
What we are standing for seems rather more insidious, until one steps back and looks at it:
- Autonomy run amok, spreading the assumption that anyone properly holds the authority to determine what lives should end, when;
- Pressure for choice to serve a false sense of what constitutes an “optimal” human being, and applying management principles to those choices in a pseudo-scientific or pseudo-objective fashion, as Dr. Susan Haack pointed out in her outstanding August 23 post on this blog;
- Treating “physician aid-in-dying” as a public health good;
- Pressure to push people to starve themselves;
- Withholding efficacious treatment to save a few bucks;
- Reprimanding a euthanasia clinic for not following the bureaucratic process;
- And yes, unilateral DNR orders at a major academic hospital, something I’m investigating in further detail.
Little of this is being forced on us by a tyrannical government. We’re asking for it or acquiescing in it.
I will admit that The Giver’s “release to elsewhere” euphemism fits much of what is going on in our actual world. But I’m not pushing people to see the movie. Rather, I’m telling them that, if they see it, not to let the otherworldliness lull them into a false sense of security.