Cultures of Death

Here’s my deep thought of the day on that intermittent Party of Death meme: the ‘conservative’ spirit recognizes, no less than the ‘liberal’ one, that death is an integral part of life. The difference is that the conservative spirit would persuade us that it is wise not to try to perfect the role death plays in life, whereas the liberal spirit thinks it stupid and naive not to develop and use the knowledge that can help us work toward that end. A ‘disregard’ for human life runs through all faiths and ideologies: we always permit certain people to die, even if we might not prefer that anyone die. But priorities are priorities. The big question about the role of death in life is whether trying to realize the good life requires us to take ever-more-deliberate responsibility for who lives, who dies, and why. It may be superstitious to fear and reject that responsibility. But it may be the only or the best way to avoid great evil. And regardless, it comes with costs for which we would also have to take ever-more-deliberate responsibility.