The Suicide Of The Toynbee Name And Reputation
Last century, the brilliant Arnold J. Toynbee wrote that civilisations die not because they are murdered, but because they commit suicide. This was a profound insight, the truth of which is plain to all those now living in Toynbee's homeland who open their eyes to see.
Many seem to assume that Toynbee was a Marxist; if so, he's the oddest one I've ever read, because unless I've grossly misread him, the solution he proposed for the crisis of the West was the wholesale re-evangelisation of Europe.
This century, his grand-daughter Polly Toynbee, ever shallow where her ancestor was systematic, ideological where he was objective and frivolous where he was serious, publishes an article in praise of assisted suicide. The irony of this is almost impossible to gauge.
I am sure that bearing an illustrious ancestor's famous name must be a heavy burden at times, closing some doors while opening others; but in this case, it's probably not too strong to say that she should be ashamed of herself, and that if he could read what she has written today, her grandfather would be ashamed of her as well.
She writes in favour of assisted suicide because of her mother's suffering; I write against it through naked self-interest, as the sufferer of an incurable neurological disorder who's a likely candidate for the needle in the arm once 'assisted suicide' rapidly morphs into involuntary euthanasia, just as safe, legal and rare abortion rapidly became social abortion (of course, by that point I'll probably have been branded a political undesirable, greasing my path to the front of the eugenic queue).
That has been the track of modern history; there is absolutely no reason to believe that doctors will not euthanise with the same abandon that they have aborted.
Her reasons for supporting such an assisted suicide law are personal; my reasons for opposing it are also personal, and mine's are as good as hers.
But people like me never get access to the bully pulpit of a 'Guardian' column, and my paternal grandfather, God rest his great and beloved old soul, didn't write great works of historical analysis, but owned a boozer in Townhead; a livelihood to all intents and purposes stolen from him by local politicians of the Labour Party to which he belonged all his adult life.
Regardless of the motivation for its commission, the act of self-destruction is always the consequence of hopeless despair. Where there is life, there is hope. Hope, the forgotten virtue, is anathema to all those like Polly who would make the world in their own image. She really does seem to believe in her own exceptionalism; she would provide her grandfather with a rich seam of material on the folly of hubris.
Those who tout assisted suicide don't believe that where there's life, there's hope; however, they do believe in its converse, that where is no life, there's no hope, and that where they think there's no hope, there should be no life.
Accepting the act of self-destruction when it is perpetrated by others is one of the first steps towards accepting the destruction of everything about yourself; your person, your history, your society. Assisted suicide is not compassionate, but nihilistic. It is not just destructive, it is anti-creative in the same way that abortion is anti-creative. Being anti-creative, those who promote it expose themselves as anti-creative, people who have no fresh ideas. They cannot think of solutions to the problems they face, so they would quite literally prefer to lie down and die; and their pride and arrogance makes them expect the rest of us to lie down and die beside them. Shes not on.
If she were creative, she would expend her energies campaigning for awareness of the horrible suicide rate amongst young men in the Highlands of Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. She would write of the compassion which should be shown to those left behind, and the hideous trauma they have to endure. Her failure to do shows that where her grandfather was part of what he described as 'the creative minority', she is part of his oppressive, uncaring 'dominant minority'. She could have stepped off her grandfather's pages.
Polly is the product of a dynasty; and if civilisations die by suicide, then dynasties always die because the younger members are never as good as their ancestors. I have a grave suspicion that it has been many years since she read a word that her grandfather wrote, if she has ever read him at all; what she has written today is evidence that it's long past time for her to do so.
Dedicated to the memories of Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889 - 1975) & Joseph Patrick Kelly (1907-1984). RIP.