Monday, February 14, 2011

Linn Ullman on Death and Dying

After watching the Ingmar Bergman classic, The Passion of Anna, again about the loneliness, guilt and final disintegration of the subjects (played by Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman, of course), I happened across a 2006 article in The Independent about the only child of Bergman and Liv Ullman, Linn Ullman, 45, who I was surprised to learn has become a quite famous novelist in her own right. But what caught my attention especially in the article was a section about her third novel, Grace, about a journalist dying of cancer:

"Although this is not merely or mostly an "issue" book, Ullmann knows clearly, even fiercely, where she stands. "I'm against legalisation, precisely because there's so much doubt. If a society says that the time has come for a doctor to give you a shot and make you die, then it's making ethical choices about a life that it's not society's place to make." Ullmann sees the slippery slope descending fast and terribly: "What about children who are born strongly handicapped? What about people with Alzheimer's? Where do you draw the line once you legalise 'mercy killing' - as it's called?"

The timid Johan's rational choice to preserve his "dignity" - never robust - slides into a conclusion that will give no comfort to partisans. With passion, Ullmann points out that "How you die in society says a lot about that society. How you die in Iraq says a lot about what's going on in Iraq. How you die in old people's homes in Scandinavia, where old people are stuffed away and forgotten about, says a lot about Scandinavia."

Acceptance of euthanasia, she believes, belongs in a toxic bundle of contemporary attitudes which mean that "We are sanctioning the idea that certain phases of life, like the end of life, are not really worthy or dignified or liveable." In contrast, we will avidly worship "strength and beauty and health and lack of pain - and control. All of those things are idealised. And everything else that's essentially human - like tears and pain and sh_t and growing old and sickness - is shunned, and very shameful. We live in a society where becoming sick is associated in many ways with shame."Source: The Independent

The ambivalence in that section is plain, "give no comfort to partisans". But is there also aversion to moral relativism in this matter, the discomfort with the politically correct "position" which would simply dismiss the traditional moral objection to euthanasia?

Is she wrestling with the question with no little angst as her famous father wrestled with his own Lutheran pastor-father who so colored---and hardly always for the best---Bergman's take on religion? I don't know. But I've read enough to want to get the book and read more so that I can make a better-informed judgment.

Update: I finally got the novella. Linn Ullman is a very talented writer if one can judge by this work. Her gift of story telling and the simple elegance of her writing made it a read hard to put down.

Unfortunately---yup, she kills off the hapless and dying Johan; she made "Grace," Joahn's loving physician (!) wife, put him down like a beloved dog under the pretext that he, though wavering about it to the end it seemed to me, once asked her to do it if or when his cancer threatened to strip him of his dignity. The trouble is, as Johan was the first to admit, his life had little dignity---at least so he felt, and the story tells why--- and so he at least wanted to be spared the indignity of soiling himself and the like near the end.

But he was under decent pain management, he reconciled with his estranged son near the end, and was drifting in an out of lovely dreams when "Grace" told him it was time. Told him. Johan seemed to protest, though he could not quite speak the words. She 'did' him anyway. Very disappointing. Until the very end I kept thinking Grace (Ullman) would find a way out. Cruel political correctness. ---Updated 1x

--->The teachings of the Lord, Works of mercy...

--->ABCNews: Non-Nuclear 'Weapon of Mass Effect" Allegedly Found in U.S.': "Shock Confession" ---or mere bumbling reply of nervous Customs Officer...?

After the Bailouts: "There is more concentration and more power in fewer banks than ever before in this country"---Simon Johnson, MIT, Thirteen Bankers

Will the many culprits who manipulated the economy ever face justice? That is, those who knowingly and culpably turned Wall Street into a veritable mega Ponzi Scheme against the working class by manipulating inside information and reckless "for sale" derivatives, and who now expect taxpayers to absorb all cuts and costs. Why are petty criminals filling the jails while mega criminals walk free and getting richer and richer?

--->Phil Angelides, chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, explains why the Great Recession was avoidable...Listen here

--->GOP Approach to Budget: everything the working class, the poor and sick need is "on the table" but the rich and 'our' war adventures (and hundreds of military bases worldwide) will be agitated by no dramatic change. Which is why political Independents must remain independent and target the greed which is killing real human beings, and disfiguring and gutting the whole nation.

--->Obama’s $3.7 Trillion Budget Calls for Military Spending Increases and Deep Cuts to Social Service Programs...See video report here (click). John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine says "The Catholic Church has always said that budgets are moral documents and a budget tells what a government or political entity deems most important" [people or perpetual war] --->

--->Amy Goodman: Cut war spending, not social security funding...

--->John Pilger: The War You
Don't See...

--->A 'Dictator' Governor Sets Out to Cut Wages, Slash Benefits and Destroy Public Unions / Collective Bargaining ...threatens to call out the National Guard if there is any unrest... Or see DN video report...

Not wise or good as is:

1. Foreign Acquisitions of U.S. Companies
2. U.S. Consumption of Foreign made Imports
3. Foreign Ownership of Major U.S. Industries
4. The Percent of U.S. Debt to Foreign Nations
5. Even the NY Stock Exchange For Sale (click)

See the website...

Reverse Technology Movement Gaining Ground. Jobs Over Robots: This nascent movement suggests, for example, that the dismal and annoying automation we hear every day on our telephones ---and CCTV surveillance cameras in our cities, only serves to displace real workers, increase unemployment. One man I heard on the radio wisely suggested we need more flesh-and-blood telephone Operators again and more police on the beat instead of spending millions and billions for technological replacements of workers. Spread the word.

--->Fr Dwight Longenecker: Morality without Religion? Yes. And No...

--->Italy's Berlusconi indicted in prostitution probe...

Jeffrey Anderson--->Catholic League: Jeffrey Anderson, who has made a killing $$$$ suing the Catholic Church, is angry there isn't more money in the Milwaukee Archdiocese for him to milk...(click) Meanwhile, Archbishop Dolan says claim he hid millions from abuse lawsuits is 'malarkey'...

The Brave New Media has long understood the power of music to effect societal disintegration. Isn't it time for us to use creative music for cultural restoration / renovation?

--->Mubarak health rumors include cancer, coma from stroke
, depression...

--->2006: Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions...[Here] (Click 'Skip this Ad' to proceed to report)

Apropos of that, enters Commonweal: "...there is much criticism of the (NY) Times that smacks of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, especially when it comes to the newspaper’s coverage of the Middle East. Still, the paper’s institutional suspicion of traditional religions, especially when they assert themselves in public affairs (?), makes Orthodox Jews as well as conservative Evangelicals and Catholics feel like barbarians at the gates. The most telling comment Tifft and Jones elicited in this regard was from the current publisher, Arthur Ochs "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. He described his personal faith this way: "I have the Times. That's my religion. That's what I believe in, and it's a hell of a thing to hold on to."---April 29, 2010

--->And Apropos of That, blood on its pages...NYT July 7, 2005: "This is a proud but awful moment for The New York Times and its employees. One of our reporters...has decided to accept a jail sentence rather than testify before a grand jury about one of her confidential sources". Proud? Who, pray, was that reporter? Judith Miller of course, called by some the Tokyo Rose of NY, who facilitated the propaganda that ended us in an unjust hegemonic war in Iraq, a land afflicted with starvation, rivers of blood, where body parts flew like eruptions from hell. The source she was protecting was "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Cheney is viewed by many as the actual source. But who can doubt she was making her bosses at the NYT "proud" in all of that? She now works, quite appropriately, for Fox News.

--->Iran: Stuxnet virus targets and spread revealed...

--->Bishops of France reject manipulation of 'savior sibling'...

--->Israeli army 'ready for all eventualities'...

--->Jihadi who helped train 7/7 bomber freed by US after just five years. Release prompts claim Islamist was US informant while assisting London terroristAn American jihadist who set up the terrorist training...

---Young female reporter may have suffered a stroke on air. See video (click)...Update 2.18: Thankfully the episode, it turns out, was not a stroke, doctors say...

"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God must say, 'All right, then, have it your way.' - C.S. Lewis

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