Robbie Low on corporate moral schizophrenia

There may be no listing in the psychiatric textbooks or entry in the Dictionary of Ethics but I am increasingly convinced of the reality of a morbid social condition called ‘corporate moral schizophrenia’. Let me explain.

Like everyone else (or 86 % of the adult population according to recent figures) I have watched, and tried to respond practically, to the unfolding disaster of the Christmastide tidal wave that shattered the shoreline communities of the Indian Ocean. If I was being ‘picky’ I would confess that I am always a little uneasy about the rampant emotionalism and self advertisement that often accompanies the charitable response to such major televised tragedies but rather the danger of that anyday than a cold indifference to the fate of our fellow man.

I bridled at the European Union’s three minute silence as a measure of our grief – 50% longer for relatively few people, whom we could never have known and whose fate we could have done nothing to alter, than for the tens of millions of our forebears whose lives were sacrificed on the altar of the failure of our own nation states. But again, maybe any opportunity for reflection should be encouraged by religious people, even if the standing, staring folk merely reflect on their own mortality and give thanks for their good fortune.

I was moderately irritated by the media’s enthusiasm for God whom, having been almost excluded from His birthday celebrations a few days earlier, they brought back in a big way to take the blame for the carelessness of His creation from all those who, at any other time, do not believe in Him.

For all those little caveats it was reassuring to know that amidst our normal self-absorption we could yet be moved by the death of so many and by the helpless plight of our fellow man.

By the time the story finally dipped off the front page and into the human interest hinterlands of our daily newspapers, the Government had pledged tens of millions of our money and we had given, out of the remaining 55 % of our wages, tens of millions more as the death toll headed for 180,000.

Death row

Scarcely had we recovered from this current enormity than we were recalled to witness the sixtieth anniversary of a far greater disaster whose roots lie inescapably in the sinful heart of man. The train whistle pierced the freezing night air, the tracks were lit with fire and, while the leaders of Europe watched in relative comfort, the elderly prison-pyjama-clad remnant of Auschwitz stood in terrible remembrance of their missing family and friends. You don’t need to have read Wiesel or Schwartz-Bart or stood in the heart-rending darkness of the childrens’ memorial at Yad Vashem to recognise as wickedness a philosophy of eugenics that grades people into worthy and worthless and denies personhood and humanity to whole categories of our fellow man. For the Nazis it was Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped , the infirm. The toll, as we are constantly reminded, was six million souls.

A few days later, in a completely unrelated context, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s adviser let slip, to a House of Lords’ committee that he, personally, was not wholly opposed to euthanasia. Although later corrected by an Episcopal spokesman the initial publicity may turn out to be a fatal concession to the death lobby. The Archbishop’s adviser has been publicly contradicted by the Archbishop himself but he is far from alone in his views. An Anglican vicar, a few miles up the road from me, explained to his local paper that it was his very Christian compassion that enabled him to take a much more sympathetic view of euthanasia. He was, of course, confusing Christian compassion with moral abdication and emotionalism. No surprise to any of us that he is a supporter of one of those liberal groupings with a severely deficient Christology which, in the 2002 Mind of Anglicans Survey, could not muster even a bare majority against either abortion or euthanasia.

While Parliament juggles with the morality of assisted suicide (or murder as we used to call it) and the deliberate culling of the frail by dehydration and starvation in hospital, the judgement of ‘the life worth living’ is passing from the hands of God and a compassionate Christian society into the maw of the reductionist and the materialist.

For a believer the value of human life is God given and can never be at the mercy of utilitarianism or second hand emotions. What the ‘Right to Kill’ lobby fails to appreciate is that, if the value of the vulnerable is set at nought, one of the immediate consequences is that it diminishes us as a society. The gift of the vulnerable is to deepen our compassion and stretch our souls into greater vessels of the love of God. But, while these motives may be on the noble side of selfish, nothing can add to or detract from the central proposition of the presumption of the inalienable right to life. To deny this is the gravest decision man can take. To deny it to whole categories of human being is to unleash a new barbarism which dehumanises the oppressor rather than the victim and unleashes a tide of blood which drenches a generation in blood. If you think this is hyperbole rather than fact, ask the Germans.

Annual tsunami

It was, of course, the two sets of figures above that confirmed my diagnosis of ‘corporate moral schizophrenia’. They had an all too familiar ring. We were right to be shocked by the tsunami and its 180,000 victims. But there are another 180,000 victims that get no television coverage and whom to mourn publicly invites hissing and contempt. They are not the victims of an ‘act of God’ but of a deliberate state approved slaughter by organisations often boasting charitable status. 180,000 is the number of unborn children murdered annually in the abortion clinics of this country. Six million is the total number of our fellow citizens deemed unfit to live since Parliament abolished the death penalty for the guilty and instituted it for the innocent. In our lifetime there has been a silent holocaust and with exception of the Roman Catholic Church and a few other brave souls in organisations like Life, SPUC and Right to Life, no-one has lifted a finger or uttered a word in protest. For these victims there will be no mourning save in the hearts of the women who have been deceived, like the women of old in the Valley of Gehenna, into sacrificing the future to a demonic philosophy. It was no accident that this was the image that Jesus used so often for Hell. It is both a sign and a consequence of the return to paganism.

What is it, I wonder, about the tragedy of events about which we can do nothing , that so tugs at the heart while extraordinary and inexplicable cruelty in our midst goes unremarked? The ‘corporate moral schizophrenia’ first came to my attention as a student marching in the defence of the unborn. Our silent protest was mobbed by fellow students hissing and jeering and spitting at us amidst a hail of obscenities from faces twisted with fury. I couldn’t help but notice, and not for the last time in this battle, that many of those so engaged were, in all other circumstances, ardent pro-lifers (CND, save the whale, anti capital punishment, anti hunting etc.). It wasn’t just that their compassion was partial or schizoid, they were clearly seized by a deep hatred of anyone who opposed their materialist feminist philosophy. As one female student explained to me, turning language and meaning on its head, ‘trying to persuade a woman to keep her baby, can you imagine anything more fascist ?’ What is it about the unborn of our own species that unleashes such primal hatred against them and their defenders. In a society that prides itself on its emphasis on human rights, justice , egalitarianism and compassion there is this astonishing and overwhelming omission.

Victims all

And moral schizophrenia is not the preserve of the secularist. I have encountered it all too often in the C. of E. From the bishop who invited a leading ‘Christian’ abortionist to persuade his synod of the moral validity of such ‘compassionate’ work (he succeeded) to the ‘Christian’ doctor who told me that he saw it as a way of sending unwanted (and therefore by a jump of logic unhappy) babies straight to heaven. One of my wife’s lowest points as an Anglican was when, on General Synod, she was the only woman called who spoke against abortion.

Now we are moving on to the next logical stage – euthanasia for the vulnerable. The 1967 Abortion Act effectively removed the Hippocratic Oath from British medicine – the short and profound promise to do no harm to one’s patients or ever to procure an abortion – which had underpinned over two thousand years of medical ethics. The consequent morality may yet make unwilling victims of us all. The ‘worthy’ and the ‘worthless’ will be divided up and the sentence passed by lethal injection or agonising dehydration. When our time comes there will be no choice and, on current form, no-one to speak up for us. As in places like Holland the ‘living will’ rapidly degrades into the choice of compassionate relatives with care bills to pay and then to the more anonymous ‘medical priorities’ and finally to state economics. We did not speak for the unborn. They cannot now speak for us. The unborn were, it now seems clear, the Jews of our time.

Post script: I am sitting finishing this, my last article for ‘New Directions’, on a sunlit Tuesday afternoon in February in the ‘Bay Tree Restaurant’ in Glastonbury. Hannah, my waitress, has served me beautifully and with great care and attention and the food is excellent. The atmosphere among the staff is warm and loving. Coincidence or providence? All of them, except the manageress are, like Hannah, Down’s Syndrome or with severe learning difficulties. All of them, in utero, would have met the State’s criteria for ‘a life not worth living’. The joy and graciousness of Hannah and her friends are a living refutation of that terrible lie.

It is sixty six years since our parents and grandparents girded themselves for battle against a sinister system of eugenics and the latest manifestation of the ancient enemy of man. It would be cheering to think that, even this late in the day, we might have the courage to do the same.

Robbie Low lives in Cornwall