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And, toleration of evil in the name of survival destroys the value to life



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And, toleration of evil in the name of survival destroys the value to life


Callahan ‘73 [Daniel J. Callahan, The Tyranny of Survival: And other pathologies of civilized life. Pg 91-93//delo-uwyo]
That individuals, tribes, communities and nations have committed so much will, energy and intelligence to survival has meant that they have survived, and their descendants are present to tell the tale. Nothing is so powerful a motive force, for self or society, as the threat of annihilation, nothing so energizing as the necessity to live. Without life, all else is in vain. Leaving aside the question of whether we need more enlightened attitudes toward suicide in our society, which we may. it is still not for nothing that suicide has been looked upon with abhorrence, whether from a religious or a psycho- logical perspective. It seems to violate the most fundamental of human drives, and has always required a special explana- tion or justification. The value of survival could not be so readily abused were it not for its evocative power.2 But abused it has been. In the name of survival, all manner of social and political evils have been committed against the rights of individuals, including the right to life. The purported threat of Communist domina- tion has for over two decades fueled the drive of militarists for ever-larger defense budgets, no matter what the cost to other social needs. During World War II, native Japanese-Ameri- cans were herded, without due process of law, into detention camps. This policy was later upheld by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States (1944) in the general context that a threat to national security can justify acts otherwise bla- tantly unjustifiable. The survival of the Aryan race was one of the official legitimations of Nazism. Under the banner of survival, the government of South Africa imposes a ruthless apartheid, heedless of the most elementary human rights. The Vietnamese war has seen one of the greatest of the many absurdities tolerated in the name of survival: the destruction of villages in order to save them. But it is not only in a political setting that survival has been evoked as a final and unarguable value. The main rationale B. F. Skinner offers in Beyond Freedom and Dignity for the controlled and conditioned society is the need for survival.3 For Jacques Monod, in Chance and Necessity, sur- vival requires that we overthrow almost every known religious, ethical and political system.4 In genetics, the survival of the gene pool has been put forward as sufficient grounds for a forceful prohibition of bearers of offensive genetic traits from marrying and bearing children. Some have even suggested that we do the cause of survival no good by our misguided medical efforts to find means by which those suffering from such com- mon genetically based diseases as diabetes can live a normal life, and thus procreate even more diabetics. In the field of population and environment, one can do no better than to cite Paul Ehrlich, whose works have shown a high dedication to survival, and in its holy name a willingness to contemplate governmentally enforced abortions and a denial of food to starving populations of nations which have not enacted popu- lation-control policies. For all these reasons, it is possible to counterpoise over against the need for survival a "tyranny of survival." There seems to be no imaginable evil which some group is not willing to inflict on another for the sake of survival, no rights. liberties or dignities which it is not ready to suppress. It § Marked 14:24 § is easy, of course, to recognize the danger when survival is falsely and manipulatively invoked. Dictators never talk about their aggressions, but only about the need to defend the fatherland, to save it from destruction at the hands of its enemies. But my point goes deeper than that. It is directed even at a legitimate concern for survival, when that concern is allowed to reach an intensity which would ignore, suppress or destroy other funda- mental human rights and values. The potential tyranny of survival as a value is that it is capable, if not treated sanely, of wiping out all other values. Survival can become an obsession and a disease, provoking a destructive singlemindedness that will stop at nothing. We come here to the fundamental moral dilemma. If, both biologically and psychologically, the need for survival is basic to man, and if survival is the precondition for any and all human achievements, and if no other rights make much sense without the premise of a right to life-then how will it be possible to honor and act upon the need for survival without, in the process, destroying everything in human beings which makes them worthy of survival? To put it more strongly, if the price of survival is human degradation, then there is no moral reason why an effort should be made to ensure that survival. It would be the Pyrrhic victory to end all Pyrrhic victories. Yet it would be the defeat of all defeats if, because human beings could not properly manage their need to survive, they suc- ceeded in not doing so. Either way, then, would represent a failure, and one can take one's pick about which failure would be worse, that of survival at the cost of everything decent in man or outright extinction.




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