March 3, 2024

Nihilism across the globe

Hi there,

Happy New Year! We’re back – and it has been a sombre week. Apart from the murders in Paris by Islamic terrorists there was the less publicised massacre of possibly 2,000 people in the Nigerian town of Baga by terrorists from Boko Haram, the local affiliate of al-Qaeda.

The violence really made me sick at heart. It was deeply disturbing to see the YouTube video of a young man killing a wounded policeman as he loped down the footpath. The  casualness, the insouciance, the nonchalance was appalling. What sort of warped ideology shapes the brain of a young man to kill defenceless people without a second thought?

And to tell the truth, I also find it disturbing that the world’s leading activist for euthanasia is thinking of launching a new career as a stand-up comedian. Dr Philip Nitschke has been deregistered by an Australian medical tribunal over his involvement in a suicide of a man who was not terminally ill last year. But there are probably dozens of others who acted on his advice and are no longer with us. He will no doubt be using anecdotal material at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August this year. (This is not a joke.)

I think this shows how out-of-touch Dr Nitschke is with public morality. We expect doctors to be saving people’s lives, not joking about killing them. The problem is that he has become desensitized by years of helping people to kill themselves. “I’m hardened to them, he told the tribunal. “I behave to them perhaps on a way which some would see as insensitive.”

There is no comparison between the handiwork of Philip Nitschke and of the terrorists. Except in this: both are deeply nihilistic. Human beings have no intrinsic dignity and death is better than life. We don’t need either of them in a democratic policy.

Michael Cook
What do the Paris killings and Philip Nitschke have in common?