Sunday, 16 November 2008

I'll cough my own way, thank you

Today I have a feeling of impending doom. For over a month I have had a persistent cough, actually not one cough, a number of different coughs. It started as a general tickle causing occasional clearing of the throat, then it turned quite productive and seemed to come from every part of my lungs. An over the counter chesty-cough syrup seemed to sort that out nicely until a few days later when it resurfaced in its dry and tickly form. This was followed by a fever lasting a couple of weeks in which the cough was secondary to an extraordinary phenomenon of sweating profusely through the scalp at night. As soon as that died down, I woke regularly at night for several days with a burning sensation through the lungs and today it is a hacking noise centred around a spot in the middle of my chest which reverberates with a deep hum every time an uncontrollable need to cough overcomes me.

As a smoker of long standing my first thought is of lung cancer. I don't think it is cancer because I'm quite good at spotting people with cancer, they often have a grey pallor and bits of them that look as though they are naturally plump are actually thin; I don't seem to display either of these qualities yet. My last chest x-ray, in 2005, was clear but a lot can happen in almost four years so maybe I should have another. Therein lies the quandary. What if it is lung cancer, what should I do?

I suppose the obvious answer is that I should have a little light zapping if it might be susceptible to that treatment. Yes, that's relatively painless and won't interrupt my life too much. I don't think I'd want any chemical treatment because the side effects are just so very nasty. Although I don't have a lot of hair to lose, the little I have is in fine shape and any feelings of nausea I experience should always be preceded by a good evening on the booze not by a jug full of glowing green gunk squirted into my spindly arms through a hypodermic needle the size of a baby's leg. This is all very well at this stage when the prospect of lung cancer is just a thought, just a theory. How, though, would I react if it were real? What pressures would I feel that are not imposed on me by my morbid daydream?

The answer for all of us is that we simply do not know. Acquaintances and relatives of mine have suffered cancer and chosen different paths. Some have opted for every treatment under the sun and in some cases life was prolonged, albeit at the cost of severe temporary discomfort. Others have weighed the quality of life they would experience in the event of successful treatment and decided that they would rather die sooner than go through both the treatment and the resultant diminution in their faculties. In one instance the person concerned delegated the decision to members of the peculiar religious sect to which she belonged and followed the advice she received. There was also one acquaintance who decided to side-step both treatment and a steady decline by jumping out of a bedroom window and allowing the concrete below to act as his relief from suffering. Different people took different courses for different reasons. None of them was objectively right or wrong because there is no right and wrong about it, or to be more precise there is no wrong about it.

When faced with a number of options about our future we have to decide what to do. Often making one choice will preclude others from being tried later and if the choice we make proves not to deliver the desired result it might be tempting to think it was the wrong decision. In fact it was no such thing, it was the right decision because it was the one we felt was right at the time.

It seems pretty obvious in the UK in 2008 that we should each decide for ourselves whether to seek treatment for a serious medical condition. The same can be said of a decision to take our own lives but it was only in 1961 that committing suicide and attempting to commit suicide ceased to be unlawful. It was just one of many examples of the law changing to reflect changes in the general morality of the country. Where once, and for a long time, suicide was generally considered sinful, the falling influence of organised religion allowed the people to form their own view rather than having one formed for them.

A troubling trend in this country is for views to be formed for us again, just as the churches did for hundreds of years, and for a single approach to certain issues to be the only permissible approach. This new morality is not based on any ascertainable principle but on a moveable feast of temporary political trends. Perhaps the most obvious example is the way the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of race has spawned unprincipled calls for thinly disguised quotas to increase the number of people from ethnic minorities employed in certain fields. It has taken on the cuddly name "diversity" and has become an end in itself in all areas of the public sector while increasingly being forced on the private sector as well. There is no principle to it, indeed it breaches the central principle of non-discrimination. The principle is that you should not refuse employment to someone because of their race, to do so would be unfair and unacceptable. It necessarily follows from this that the best person should be employed for the job regardless of race. If it happens to be the case that all the best people for a particular job are Kurds, then only Kurds should be employed; if all the best people are members of a particular African tribe then they should get the jobs and if all the best people are pasty-faced Brits the office should be full of pasty-faced Brits. To require "diversity" necessarily requires some people to be employed because of their race rather than their abilities and that means people of another race are refused employment precisely because of their race. In other words, the principle against discrimination on the ground of race is breached in order to achieve an unprincipled political objective.

To argue against the "diversity" agenda is to risk being labelled a racist which, in the eyes of the most politically correct, places you in the same category as predatory paedophiles and mass murderers. Because they have a political cause they cast principle aside while pretending they are acting on principle. Only one opinion is permissible and that is the opinion they happen to hold at the moment. The target of their attention can shift in the blink of an eye. Those bored with "diversity" turn to the environment. They take the principle that humans should not pollute the planet and subvert it by pretending that all sorts of harmless or, indeed, beneficial activities amount to pollution. Having lumped drilling for oil along with dumping chemicals in rivers as acts causing pollution they seek to stop the drilling. Having defined carbon dioxide as a pollutant, activities creating carbon dioxide must be stopped regardless of the benefits they provide. The tentacles of these subverters of principle extend into every area of life these days and gullible governments believe there are votes in it so they hand out vast sums of money to support these otherwise unemployable maniacs.

There are signs of them infecting the world of medicine. It is unacceptable to use tobacco, to add salt to your food, to drink alcohol, to eat fat (by which they mean meat); calls are made for treatment to be restricted for those who commit these modern sins. There is no principle behind it, although they claim the principle is that taxpayers should not have to pay for treatment for those who deliberately do harm to their health. Yet if this were the principle they would not allow treatment to anyone injured while engaging in dangerous sports or while driving a car without proper care. They cannot make such a call because it would expose their position for the nonsense it is, so they choose just a few soft targets and seek to impose their one-size-fits-all attitude to our dietary habits. To argue against them is to risk being labelled a reckless murderer of the weak-willed. Only one opinion is permissible.

How long, I wonder, will it be before they turn their attention to the treatment of serious illness and what will be the single permissible opinion? They have shown their hand already in their approach to dietary matters, the prolonging of life is more important than the quality of life. They can measure longevity and claim its extension as a success for their project whereas quality of life is immeasurable and can give them no statistic to use for political ends. Once dedicated to quantity over quality they have only one course to follow, they must require everyone to undergo life-prolonging treatments. Refusal to do so will be unacceptable because it will show that the patient does not understand what is in his best interests. It is far more important for them to use my tortured lungs for their own ends than for me to decide how I wish to live out my final months. Watch this space, choice of treatments will be restricted for our own good.

I had a nice cup of tea while writing this and have stopped coughing, perhaps I might make it to Christmas after all.

1 comment:

Mark Wadsworth said...

There is no principle behind it, although they claim the principle is that taxpayers should not have to pay for treatment for those who deliberately do harm to their health.

That's a perfectly fair principle. My issue is that all the various taxes on fags'n'booze vastly exceed the amount spent on medical treatment, policing and the fire brigade. So really the question is, why should drinkers and smokers subsidise puritans?